I’ll scratch your car, you scratch mine.

Last night was something like a breaking point. My next door neighbors have always been loud and inconsiderate – deceivingly absent until the wee hours of the night when their joyful chorus of profanities, screeching tires, and slamming doors springs to life. Last night I was jolted out of an otherwise blissful sleep by the sound of one of these neighbors backing her car into mine.  At least that’s what it sounded like.  One of her friends, a man whose cursing I have become familiar with in the past few months, was shouting at her from the driveway, “No! Turn harder!  No, the other way! $#@&!”

Normally when these neighbors make a scene outside my bedroom window I grumble to myself, tighten my eyes and roll over in bed.  But last night my dear, sweet, innocent car was in jeopardy!  I jumped to the window and saw that my car was, in fact, a player in this drama.  I was parked legally, peacefully, in my spot in the driveway.  One of the boistrous neighbors, unpresent, had parked their car in a spot that it should not have, and now this other boistrous neighbor was going to attempt to squeeze her car out between them. She would need a can opener. My car was in danger of a healthy-sized scratch, if not a full-on crunch.

I flung my bedroom window open and yelled, “Did you just hit my car?” Aha, suddenly, accountability!  The frustrated woman driver, now also likely panicked, yelled back, “No, that was just snow!” Her friend who had been directing her yelled to me, “Hey, your car is FINE.” I continued to watch from my window as they attempted the impossible.  There was no way she would squeeze between them, but at least now they knew I could see them. Surely they would be more careful, knowing they were being watched. But then I heard the man and woman arguing and the man said, “No, you’re fine.  You need to worry about Jamie’s car, you don’t need to worry &%#$@ about some stranger’s car.” 

Indignant, I shouted down, “I’m WATCHING, you know!”

The man yelled up again, “HEY, look, your car is FINE!”

I watched them struggle in vain to maneuver her car until finally I couldn’t stand it.  I knew they were going to hit me.  “Do you need me to move my car?”

At first they must have thought I was antagonizing them, but they were desperate and the guy said, “You’ll come out here?”

“Hold on.” I tried to convey in those two words how thoroughly inconvenienced I was – how halfway into the sweetest dreams I had been.

I pulled on my coat over my pajamas and stepped into some shoes.  I looked like some frazzled woman from the movies.  My pajama pants are the kind that only come down to the knees and I wore the shoes without socks, so the snow nipped at bare skin as I stepped outside.  And then I was there on the driveway with them and suddenly it was a little awkward, since I had just minutes ago introduced myself by shouting, “Hey, I’m WATCHING you!”

I moved my car so the girl could get out, I pulled right back into my legal parking spot.  The girl rolled down her window and said with sincerity, “Thank you so much!”  She shouldn’t have thanked me – my motive was selfish.  I didn’t care at all if she got where she needed to go – I wanted to protect my car. Realizing this as I flopped back into bed I said, “Oh God, I deserve insomnia.”

Well, after that, I did have insomnia, but at least my car wasn’t crunched.

I wish I had been nicer.  I wish I didn’t think I was better than my neighbors. I wish I would see moments like the one that happened last night as a chance to show LOVE rather than being a grump.

Master of my own domain.

It was a Christmas present to myself. I bought www.easelainteasy.com. I’m working on creating some new pages so this website will eventually (hopefully soon!) be home to my art, comics, music, and as always, blog. (If you are subscribed, the longer wordpress address will still get you here.)

More paragraphs than I planned on.

When we were kids, my friend Rebecca and I used to write stories together and read stories together and do basically everything together. Beck had those mildly gruesome little “Scary Stories to Read in the Dark” books, which I was always a little jealous of, because I probably wasn’t allowed to have them. We would take the instruction quite literally and look for somewhere dark, or semi-dark, to read them, like a tool shed in the back yard, which, with bright daylight peeking through the door, was just the right amount of scary for me. (If we had only known at the time that a teenage boy had murdered his entire family in her kitchen and living room just 40 years earlier! True story!)

I don’t know what prompted me, but I was thinking about this the other day, about when we used to read these stories to each other. Whenever it was Rebecca’s turn to read I would follow along with her over her shoulder and correct any time she read a word wrong or misinterpreted a particular mark of punctuation. Pretty much I must have been completely annoying! I could pick much more amusing stories from this friendship to write about, could in fact probably fill a book of memoirs-turned-blockbuster movie, but like I said, this ritualistic scary-story-reading is what most recently came to my mind.

And anyway, I just remembered what had sparked that memory. Last night Rachel and Molly and I went to see Holly play a show at IQs, which was great except for the smoke (Madison, my lungs and I love you for being smoke-free… Green Bay, get a clue!) One of Holly’s songs has a line about a toy drum, which made me think of that scary story with the toy drum and the gypsy girl and the woman with the glass eye… I remember reading that story with Rebecca and then a few years later hearing the very same story plagerized by some girl in the class above me, trying to pass it off as her own. Can you imagine? Trying to plagerize a classic like “Scary Stories to Read in the Dark”? Is nothing sacred anymore?

My family and I went to see the movie Marley & Me today. I was surprisingly engaged by it, and so, it seems, were all of the little kids in the theater who were sobbing. I cried a little too – partly because I could feel my mom’s tender heart breaking in the seat next to me. I don’t know if anyone loves animals more than she does.

Friday night I was at Holly’s birthday party and got to hang out with a 3 year old princess.  Really, she had two separate princess gowns along with her. She is my friend now. We played magic carpet ride and sinking ship and fort and when we got hungry we ate Holly (“Come here, you Lunch!”) Anyway, it was good for me. I wasn’t sure if I liked kids too much, but my new 3 year old friend proved that I do, or at least that I can.

On Christmas day my family went to stay at my dad’s cabin on the Wolf River. While we were there we watched Alone in the Wilderness, and I was reminded of how attractive it is for a man to know how to build things. I first realized this when I watched The Notebook with Laura and remarked that, “There is nothing sexier than a man who builds a house for the woman he loves!” So anyway, I’ve decided that my dream man will have the skills to build a cabin with his bare hands (and okay, a few tools). He will also play guitar and be kind to animals. There are at least 100 other qualifiers on this list, you can inquire to hear the rest of them.

While we were at the cabin the snow was everywhere and terribly beautiful. My dad has cross country skis and snow shoes hanging on the walls and for the first time in many years I actually felt some desire to go outside in the winterland and participate in some form of sport. Trust me, this is a new development. Being so new, I did not act on it, but I really think I might try some outdoor activities this winter. Considering how winter is just getting started! Don’t tell anyone, but as my family and I were driving through the state this week I said, with my eyes fixated on the gray and white landscape surrounding us, “I like winter.” Who am I? I tried explaining to my mom my theory that winter is the perfect climate for humans to exist (as the miserable beings that we are) and she thought it was kind of depressing. But kind of true?

We visited the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau and checked out the tromp l’oeil exhibit and the illustrated letters exhibit. The latter really inspired me to start writing letters again, and to do so creatively. That was the fun part of a long distance relationship, but of course letter-writing can happen between friends and family as well. I won’t make it an official goal, but maybe in 2009 I’ll do a bit more of this.

Hey, I just made two new friends. They are great. They are characters in my story. I mean, that is the only place that they exist. Is that weird? I brought my sketchbooks along with me this weekend thinking that I’d have a lot of time to get some pages filled. Well, I did have the time, but I am learning that I can’t write when there are people around, or even the option of being around people. So progress has been limited, but I still hope to have my designated chapter finished by the end of this month.

This has been a terrible summary of the past week… it is not chronological, it is not exhaustive, it is hardly descriptive. But considering that I just sat down as a matter of self-discipline and forced myself to start writing I’d say it’s not so bad after all.

2009 is going to be a big year…

Would that I could BCC you. Consider this my Christmas email.

Although I enjoy receiving them, I have not yet become a person who sends Christmas cards or Christmas photos or Christmas letters, although last year I did send a Christmas email. At the time, it seemed there was enough going on in my life to warrant the festively disguised update, as 2007 had seen some fairly major events in my life, most notably moving to a new city, starting a new job, traveling to both coasts and planning a trip to Hawaii (which actually occurred in 2008, so that might have been cheating). I thought about it for a few seconds today, what would I write about in this year’s hypothetical Christmas email (hypothetical because I am probably not going to send one)? There was not very much that happened this year. I am at the same job, in the same city, in the same apartment. I did not get married or even engaged, I did not have any children. I stopped painting, took a few intro-level courses at the community college, decided that now is not the time for graduate school, and started writing a graphic novel. It was a very quiet year, and in some ways a sad year. It was one of those years in which “the Lord takes” and I learned what it means to let that taking, which is painful, bring me closer to God. There was not much that happened this year in the grandiose-event sense of things happening, but I learned a lot. 2008 has been one of my biggest years yet, as far as learning is concerned.

Perhaps because I am simple-minded (or perhaps because I am an INFJ) I like to categorize my life by year. I tend to categorize by age, such as, “23 was my year of adventure, 24 was my year of romance, 25 was my year of heartbreak, 26 was my year of… (yet to be determined!)” but I will occasionally mix it up and categorize by calendar year (I’m pretty zany like that). If I were to do that this year, I think I would simply say that 2008 was my year of growing. And there are growing pains, but they are necessary. Anyway, I realize that every year we are alive we should be growing, shouldn’t we? And probably I’ve been growing all along but have only recently become aware of what that looks like, to change in subtle but monumental ways.

Oh, I get so cryptic at the end of the year. Probably I am feeling a little sentimental because of the holidays. I am feeling a little guilty that I have not been blogging at all about Advent, but I haven’t really been blogging much at all, so I’m not necessarily a horrible Christian, just a horrible blogger (and a mediocre Christian). Okay not really, I mean, this is a busy time of year no matter what holiday you celebrate, if any. It’s unavoidable. All right, that’s a wrap. (And that’s a hint… to what I’m about to go do!)

From the archives…..

Here’s something I blogged last Advent and here is another.

2008 – My Musical Year in Review (but not like a musical revue).

Hey, I agreed that Bon Iver recorded a good album, but I don’t know if I agree with the way that everyone has been gushing about it.  Just about every music blog that I read has to mention him somewhere in their Best of 2008 posts.  If recording something in the middle of a bitter Wisconsin winter is all it takes (because that is the one consistent point that all reviewers bring up) then I’ll plug the mic in tonight – it’s well below zero degrees – and you can tell me where to get in line.  But instead of being a grump about it and taking out a long, frustrating day on poor Bon Iver (it really is a good album) I’m going to make my own Best of 2008 list.  This is based on my very limited exposure to pop and indie culture (compared to the real music bloggers, anyway) and is really just reflective of my own personal experience with music this year. So if that kind of thing interests you, read on!

Deep breath, here goes (in order remembered, no special hierarchy). 

1. Jenny Lewis at Epiphany Church | Chicago, Illinois | September 19, 2008 – This show was partly great because of the adventure that surrounded it, but it was mostly great because Jenny Lewis is great.  I’ll say this item on the list also includes the release of Acid Tongue, but we heard the live versions of all the songs first and the album was a tiny bit pale in comparison (just a tiny bit).  This show also gave my my first taste of new favorite drummer, Barbara Gruska.     …stay for the breakdown!


2. Tegan and Sara at State Theater | Minneapolis, Minnesota | October 11, 2008 – Half the fun of this show, as I said in my original “review” was how funny these girls are!  The grow-to-love-it Twin-Rock was pretty great too, I mean, that’s the thing that gets you there.  Lots of songs from The Con which I love.  

3. The Art Table Reunion Show at The Eagles Club | Green Bay, Wisconsin | September 20, 2008 


– A year in the making, The Art Table finally got together to make gentle the masses still quaking with mourning. This was a fun show, if a bit rough (my crash cymbal stand was stripped and just about useless) and we played a few new songs inluding Door Mat and Break Up River which will possibly someday be recorded.  There is some video from this show that I almost forgot about, which I will put up when I get a chance. 

 The piggy-back to this item is The Art Table mini-show, when Holly and I played a couple songs at Kristin and Nathan’s wedding at The Train Museum.  We both had shiny happy fits of rage…

4. The return of purchasing CDs (forget you, iTunes!  I want album art!) Some of my buys in 2008 included: Jeff Hanson – Madame Owl | Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs | Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago | Nedelle – From the Lion’s Mouth |Dear Nora – 3 States | The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon | Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue.  I would recommend all of them (although I haven’t actually received the Dear Nora discs yet, I pre-recommend them.)  This can also include my list of albums on backorder, The Dears – Missiles | TV on the Radio – Dear Science | She & Him – Volume One | Nicole Atkins – Neptune City.

5. Discovery of old Elliott Smith bootleg.  Increasing love for Quasi.

6. Growing bored of Mates of State, Tilly and the Wall, and Rilo Kiley.  I think this is a significant corner being turned in my musical taste, personally.  Of course it could turn right back just as easily (I’ve been known to fall in and out of love) but for right now the power-pop is a little more grating than it is fun.  Performances like this do not help their case:

Granted I never picked up MoS or TatW’s new albums, and only “acquired” Rilo Kiley’s disappointing Under the Black Light, but the point isn’t that they aren’t still good bands, just that I have started losing interest in them.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Speaking of, check out Milwaukee’s own, our friend Mike Mangione! (I think we saw him at The Cup at some point  in 2008, so he can legitimately be on this list)

7. Threatening to grow bored of Sufjan Stevens… (also here) Of course I will never really give up on Sufjan Stevens, but we had been getting a little antsy for some sign of life.  This was before I knew anything of The Welcome Wagon, though, whose debut Sufjan was busy producing.  Yay, Sufjan!

8. The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon – I really do love this.  I’ve posted enough links to this band by now, but since this IS my exhaustive year-end list I’ll post it just once more.  It’s gospel music!

9. Seeing a free Ra Ra Riot show at The Union | Madison, Wisconsin | I don’t even remember the date.  This just kind of fell into our laps, we had never heard of the band, it was before their ship had taken sail, or at least before The Rhumb Line was released.  It was awesome.  It was totals fun.  The Virgins opened.  

 10. Handel’s Messiah at Christ Presbyterian | Madison, Wisconsin | December 14, 2008.  NOT just because I needed to find a number 10, this really was great!  I’ve always loved the music at this church, and this performance came at a time when I really needed an angel choir to shout praises in my ear.  It’s Advent, y’all!  But ah, I didn’t bring my video camera, so watch some other folks perform it!

Oh, there is one other thing that will make this list (I guess at top 11) but it’s not ready to go up here yet.  Stay tuned.

AWAKE, again.

Um, well, I consumed quite a lot of caffeine today.  Two cherry pepsis, one latte, and one mountain dew, all after the hour of noon.  So, surprise, I can’t sleep.  I also feel a little bit sick.  Who invented my brain?  They forgot to put in the part of common sense.  Don’t drink so much caffeine in a day!!!

So I am going to attempt to kill two birds with one stone…

Wait a second…

What am I complaining about? It’s like 45 degrees out right now. Gas is incredibly cheap (just filled my car for $25!) I have a plane ticket to San Diego. And, whether or not I’m able to get excited about it, once upon a time Jesus was born. Cool!

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