A Dangerous Living Arrangement

Scarlett Johansson is living in my basement. She’s hiding inside a tiny corner of my utility closet. I didn’t notice her at first, because she was very quiet and unobtrusive. A few days ago, though, I had to go downstairs to check on some pipes. After I turned on the light and moved my face closer to the floor, I caught a peek. I was startled at the sight of her, but I think she was more scared than I was during the whole interaction. As soon as she noticed my presence, she scurried away, escaping under a piece of wood at the corner of the closet. I went about my business and, I assume, she went about hers, then we both went our separate ways. I mean, I went my separate way and she stayed there.

A few days later, I went back downstairs and opened up the closet. There she was, a few inches away from where’d she gone to escape me the first time. I thought if I’d let her be, she might rest a bit and travel along. Nope. She’s taken up residence. Turns out, I don’t have a guest, I have a roommate.

Since we were apparently going to be spending some together, I took a closer look at how she was keeping up her portion of the home. She’d done some redecorating, and it wasn’t quite to my taste, but everyone has their own preferences. I let it go. Until I saw that she’d brought a friend to stay with her. I was just getting used to have one additional roommate. I wasn’t sure I was ready to have four of us living in this house. I tried to meet this new friend, who looked like a smaller version of Scarlett, but he wasn’t moving. At all. I was beginning to think this fourth roommate was a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.

After some further investigation, I determined that he was, in fact, too quiet. He was dead. ScarJo had either brought a dead friend into her new home (I know I said I was open to other opinions on decor, but this was taking it too far) or she’d lured a friend into her room and killed him (While there’s no specific no-murder clause in most leases, I feel like it’s a fair expectation). This was getting serious. I was starting to think my new roommate wasn’t so kind and unassuming after all.

I haven’t confronted her about the incident. Who can say how she’d react? I think it’s clear she’s capable of a violence I’m just not sure I can defend myself against, so I decided it’s safest to calmly maintain status quo. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the arrangement, but she’s laid her cards on the table—and she most definitely has the upper hand. I’m not the one who sleeps next to the carcass of my best friend.

So I have officially stepped down. ScarJo is now the boss-lady of the house.

The shorter way to tell this story would be to say we have a black widow living in our basement and we named her Scarlett Johansson.*

*Yes, this was the cheap way out name-wise, but the new comic-book movie trend really is infiltrating all aspects of our lives.

The Meaning of Yesterday

I was looking back at old drafts I wrote on this blog to see if I had any interesting ideas I might want to expand upon. Ultimately, I didn’t find anything worthy of deeper analysis, but the exercise was not entirely regrettable. I got to reminisce about time last year when the country panicked over a massive Netflix outage, reconsider whether robo-bees could solve the world’s pollinator problems, and dig deeper into important topics like the kind of squash in your cans of 100% pumpkin (hint: probably not pumpkin). It’s possible there’s a reason these ideas stayed in the drafts folder—but I have ignored that reason and shared them with you now, because I’m a rebel like that.

The most mysterious post, though, was one that said only: Yesterday. It didn’t have a period at the end of the word, but I had to put one there because I’m not a maniac.

I don’t know what that draft post means. Was I so distracted by something amazing that happened the day before that as soon as I started to write about it I went into a daze? Was I so horrified by what had happened I couldn’t write anything more? Did I start writing a post and then get hit in the back of the head by a stranger who was trying to hide the truth?

We’ll never know for certain. So let’s all just agree that I probably became aware of some significant international espionage secrets and decided to share them with you on this wide-reaching blog. As soon as I started typing though, the spies who had been following me realized I was going to let the cat out of the bag. They sprung into action, snuck up behind me, put me to sleep with some classified gas-like substance, and deleted everything I’d written—everything but the first word. Before they could erase the entire post, I woke from my stupor, and they rushed to disappear back into the night. Now, all that’s left of those valuable state secrets is just one word: Yesterday.

Basically, I’m Jason Bourne, but instead of trying to track down answers, I’m just going to eat toast and read a book. Like Jason wishes he could do.

My Firewall Needs Reinforcement

I keep getting ads on Facebook for audiobooks that I am VERY uninterested in. It’s really throwing off my groove when I’m just trying to watch videos of puppies running down stairs and listen to women telling their stories of badassery.

Here’s the series that keeps popping up:

  • How to Build Self-Discipline to Exercise: Practical Techniques and Strategies to Develop a Lifetime Habit of Exercise
  • How to Build Self-Discipline: Resist Temptations and Reach Your Long-Term Goals
  • Self-Discipline Dieter: How to Lose Weight and Become Healthy Despite Cravings and Weak Willpower

This is extremely uncool. I don’t know what Facebook knows about me, but if you’ve been following along the past week, you know my phone has also been really judgmental lately. Between my phone’s food-shaming alerts and Facebook’s ads for what seem to be phony self-improvement audiobooks, I’m not sure what kind of vibes I’m sending out into the world. I’m not specifically looking for these kinds of things, but I feel like I might need to reassess a few things. This is not what I’m about, and yet, it keeps finding it’s way to me.

Is it because the internet world knows my demographic and believes I’m obsessed with my own self-discipline? Is it because I sometimes like to watch fun kickboxing videos while I flail around embarrassingly in my basement? Is it because I google a lot of dessert recipes and Google-search engineers think I have a sugar addiction?

I mean, sure, I may have uncontrollable cravings, weak willpower, and an inability to resist the temptations of my couch, but I don’t really feel like those are issues that rank higher than taking down the patriarchy, destroying racial inequality, and righting our world’s economic wrongs. I’m offended that this is what the technological world thinks I need to see. I know I played a part in bringing this craziness into my feed. I’ve read about insane celebrity diets or weird cleanses online, so somewhere an algorithm has led this nonsense to me. I can ignore it, but I’m more bothered because there’s someone else out there getting these ads and feeling worse, feeling like they probably need to buy some self-help tape to curb their eating habits, feeling like they probably should join Weight Watchers if their phone keeps pulling up the ad.

I’d like to enlist the help of a kind billionaire to right this wrong. If someone could fund a massive ad-spamming project that only sends out messages of self-worth and joy, that might make a dent in this ridiculous trend. Here are some of my ad ideas:

  • Feeling kinda blech? It’s ok. We all are.
  • You are awesome, even if that person driving behind you on the freeway doesn’t agree.
  • Eat what makes you feel good because you’re going to die eventually anyway.
  • You are right where you need to be. Unless you’ve been kidnapped. If you’ve been kidnapped, call for help.
  • Don’t think too much about that weird thing you just did. There will be a different new weird thing for you to think about soon enough.
  • It’s ok to be alone on a Friday night. At least you don’t have to listen to Fred explain his theory about the ending of Lost again.

Anyone know a benevolent advertising executive?

I Didn’t Even Know I Was Sneaky

This week, Dianne Feinstein released a transcript of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The founder of the intelligence firm that created a report on Trump had been interviewed about the dossier they created and various subjects that had come up during their investigations. Feinstein says she released it to prevent further circulation of misinformation and efforts to undermine a certain investigation currently taking place.

People have a lot of opinions about her decision. Unsurprisingly, Trump is one of those people.

He shared his thoughts as he usually does—on Twitter, with the grace of a wobbly wheelbarrow full of tiny, angry potatoes. I’m mostly uninterested in the substance of what Trump tweets, but I’m very interested in the root of these messages and what people glean from the outbursts.

There are a few things to unpack in his tweet about Senator Feinstein, but his nickname for her hit me hardest. Trump has given all sorts of nicknames to people who he believes have wronged him. Some are basic schoolyard taunts, like Sloppy Steve Bannon, and some are straight-up racist, like when he calls Senator Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas. Trump has named Senator Feinstein “Sneaky Dianne Feinstein.”

This nickname is not about her ninja-like ability to navigate complicated legislative systems or her poker face while playing political chess. It’s not even about Trump feeling like she went behind the back of other Senators, though there are people who would tell you that is it’s foundation. This term is about something much deeper. It’s about shining a spotlight on what makes Dianne Feinstein an “other” in a way that’s mostly invisible to people who don’t share that opinion. It’s a way of saying out loud what we know shouldn’t be said. It can be harder to spot these underhanded knocks, but make no mistake, this adjective is directly and consequentially connected to Senator Feinstein’s Jewish identity.

These kinds of cloaked messages aren’t new. In fact, writers have been using Jewish characters as devious villains in literature for decades. Shakespeare’s Shylock is a money lender who is so bent on forcing his rival’s death, he furtively assigns a “pound of flesh” surety to his next loan. Charles Dickens’ Fagin exploits orphan boys to get richer and secretly hides away his profits. George du Maurier’s Svengali, a man who controls and exploits a young girl, has become such a well-known character of manipulation, the term is used as a legal defense to protect defendants who have been beguiled into bad actions.

It’s easier to dismiss these statements as the ramblings of an incoherent, defensive man prone to tantrums. Those things are true. But language matters. It matters that, when insulting someone who he feels opposes his actions, the president sends quiet signals to hate groups and their ignorant audiences. It matters that five million Americans are reminded of their otherness when the president snaps at a fellow politician—and that they then become targets of discriminatory language and actions that have been further normalized.

It’s possible this stereotype is so deeply entrenched in our language and culture that Trump, like so many others, naturally falls back on it when he throws out insults, but that entrenchment merely means the belief exists—that it is living inside him and anyone else who gingerly tosses hate into their conversations.

But I think Trump knows who he’s talking to when he says these things. He realizes there’s a rapt audience online ready to lap up his thinly veiled call-outs. He knows they will respond to the bait. And respond they have. Helpful tip to anyone hoping to hold onto their faith in humanity: Even if you’re writing a tiny but critical blog post about hate language on social media, don’t search for that very language on Twitter. It will not end well.

Enough With the Judgment, Tiny Computer

For awhile, whenever I came home my phone would ask me if I was at Pizza Hut. It happened for two weeks straight and every time it drove a stake of disappointment into my heart. I wasn’t, in fact, eating pizza. I was just sitting at home in my pajamas trying to figure out which leftovers to warm up.

The restaurant carries some good memories for me though, so I wasn’t hating the mistake. I started daydreaming about my elementary school days, when I could read books, log my pages on a placemat-style map, and earn a free personal pie at Pizza Hut. I, along with the rest of my peers, could fill in a certain number of boxes on a paper that looked like black-and-white Candy Land board, and when I’d completed the whole board, I could turn it in for a pizza coupon. I spent a lot of time reading as a kid, but it still took me awhile to finish each map—you needed a ton of pages to color each block.

I shared memories of my hard-earned meals with Dave, who informed me that his school also participated in this program. His class, however, had a much more student-friendly coupon redemption program and he just kept racking up the personal pizza trips. In fact, I don’t think they followed the guidelines at all, which just goes to show you that the world is inherently unfair. He also read The Hobbit over and over again instead of choosing a new book, but that’s basically the same as reading The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings trilogy, since they’re identical stories, so I gave him a pass.

Anyway, that was a major distraction from the point of this post, which is that my phone thought I lived inside Pizza Hut for two weeks. After getting multiple alerts, I started to wonder if my house was built on the ancient ruins of a pizza shop.

Just when I was coming to terms with the idea of being haunted by the ghost of a dead pizza chef for the rest of my life, my phone started to make a different assessment about my whereabouts. And things took a real judgmental turn.

It started to ask me if I was at Weight Watchers when I got home. That’s when I knew my phone didn’t have my back. It wasn’t trying to warn me about my new pizza-ghost friend, it was becoming that passive aggressive acquaintance who asks if you’re doing ok when you aren’t wearing make-up. It was that girl who bakes cookies for you but won’t eat any herself. It was that guy who says he likes a girl who can eat, but also says he can’t help that he’s just attracted to thin girls. My phone was a jerk.

So I did what I always do when faced with someone who’s being rude and judgmental. I walked away.

I came back later because I’m not a maniac. Duh. I need a phone. How else would I do my crossword puzzles on the bus and text my sister good morning? I just asked Dave to turn off the locator alerts. TLDR: I showed that little know-it-all mini computer who’s boss.

Words Just Sound Better Out of Oprah’s Mouth

I’m writing this while watching the Golden Globes. I’m not very committed to award season events, so the first thing I had to do was figure out whether the Golden Globes and the Oscars were the same. They’re not.

That’s probably good because then more people can get trophies, which I’m told is a joyous occasion. I’ve only ever gotten one trophy and it was tiny and plastic and given to everyone on a childhood soccer team on which I was an unhelpful member for one season.

More important than the awards this year, however, was the consistent message of equity, parity, and inclusion. All the movie and television people wore black to call attention to rampant cross-industry sexual abuse and remind people of their new #TimesUp movement—meant to shine a spotlight on gender-based harassment and abuse, continue what was started by the #MeToo movement so many years ago and rebirthed recently, and set up a legal defense fund for women who don’t have the money to file suits against their abusers.

It’s also about famous people taking the reigns of an important social movement for a moment, which can feel disingenuous and ignite some defensiveness. But I don’t think it’s malicious. I don’t think they mean to appropriate and regurgitate this message. I think they feel moved. I think a lot of them have been hurt too. I think we’re all just trying to do what we can with what we have. And what they have are fancy dresses, cameras, and well-followed Instagram accounts.

It’s easy to feel jaded and dismissive of a group of powerful, privileged people claiming to champion the rights of the rest of us. It can be frustrating to rally against a beast for so long only to have a new hero, one with shiny armor and a powerful horse, show up to join the fight. But I say we embrace this for what it is and give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they were fighting another head of the same beast—a flashier one that dropped jewels on them as they fought it, but a dangerous beast all the same.

So let’s not throw shade their way. For feminism to be successful, it must be inclusive. And inclusiveness doesn’t just mean embracing those of us who are less privileged, it means embracing those of us who have more privilege—which can sometimes be even more challenging.

Plus, we all know pretty people make our words easier to hear. So, I say, let all these pretty people shout our words into the sky. They become more normalized each time they repeat them. And you never know who’s listening.

On that note, here are some words I enjoyed hearing last night:

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
-Margaret Atwood, A Handmaid’s Tale (read by Elizabeth Moss)

There’s no prerequisites to worthiness. You are born being worthy.
-Viola Davis

But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue.
-Oprah Winfrey

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

It’s dangerously cold here. And by dangerously I mean I am at risk of morphing into a pile of fleece and hair and never leaving the house again. Also people who don’t have a warm place to stay are in actual, serious bodily danger. Plus sharks are literally freezing to death, which is sad and terrifying. But mostly it’s about the resulting and inevitable slide toward my natural state of being—an amorphous, speechless hermit.

To battle this inevitability, I’ve been trying to trick myself into leaving the house by planning activities that can only be done in places that make me happy. I had to go to the library to get my new books. I needed to drive to the ice arena in order to ice skate. I had to go outside to order the giant egg rolls we obviously needed to eat on the last day of 2017. It’s worked intermittently, but it’s not been an entirely pleasant process.

After all that struggle forcing myself to act like a real human in the midst of this insane weather, I’m now wondering whether it’s really necessary at all. Who was it that decided we should still have to go to work and act like adults when it was five degrees Fahrenheit? That person probably hated being at home and had a miserable life, so now we all have to suffer. Or maybe they were a firefighter, which is very brave and self-sacrificing. But I’m not a firefighter, so what’s with all this pressure to buck up and face the wind?

I haven’t encountered anyone at my office who is happy about their cold, uncomfortable commute. No one standing at my bus stop feels emboldened by their choice to be outside. We’re all shivering and depressed together. I feel like we need to stop with this madness and just accept that now is the time to sit at home and read books and watch Netflix and eat soup.

Basically, I’d like the rest of you to push yourselves a little less so I don’t have to feel guilty about my need to legitimately hibernate for the next month. Please do your part.

This Little Piggy Went… To Mind His Own Damn Business

I sometimes like to scroll through Instagram feeds of adorable animals, because I’m a human being with feelings. I recently found Chowder, a pig who has been raised with what seems like a pack of friendly, elderly dogs. His owner takes pictures of them all lined up in her backyard and posts videos of them playing together.

Well, Chowder isn’t what you’d call svelte, cause, you know, he’s a pig. Apparently a bunch of people said he was too big and stirred up a big ruckus regarding his eating habits. I know what that’s like because one time I went out to dinner and ordered a salad (gross, I know) and a random person I was with turned to me and said, “Did you seriously eat that whole salad?” Then I smacked her right in the face—with my smack-down glare. So I understand the pain Chowder must have felt when his owner read this cruel commentary aloud to him. Very uncool, internet people.

Our beauty expectations have really shot to new levels. How do any of us stand a chance against the trauma of rigidly enforced socially constructed standards of attractiveness when poor Chowder, an actual pig, is subjected to this kind of body shaming?

We don’t, unless we stand up for one another. So, you do you, Chowder. Go on and eat that whole salad.

Free Your Mind Of Doubt and Danger

A lot of people are meditating now. We’re all very stressed and we just don’t know what to do with all this pent up frustration and uncertainty. As a group, we seem to have decided the best way to quiet our minds is to sit silently for a set amount of time and then tell other people how silently we sat. I’m not convinced people even know what meditation actually is. I mean, some people definitely know, and to those people, I say “Ok, already. We get it. You’re better than us.” On the other hand, I don’t believe that all the men in beanies and women in overalls currently sitting crosslegged and humming in a charming Brooklyn studio have got it figured out.

Admittedly, I’m no expert. My entire experience with meditation consists of an app I once downloaded on my phone and a half-hour session with some very kind monks. I know it’s not the best range, but it feels sufficient enough for me to form a strong and unwavering opinion.

First, I downloaded a popular app. It tried to get me to breath in time with its visual aid, but I couldn’t sync up with the system, so it just turned out to be very stressful and I started to hyperventilate after messing up my natural breathing patterns. Then it kept trying to convince me to buy better versions of the app. That’s when I really started to see the truth in this whole business.

Still though, I was willing to give it a second chance. Last month, Dave and I spent the night at a beautiful Buddhist monastery in the mountains of Japan. As part of our stay, the monks offered to teach us how to meditate. I thought, “Well, a monk has to be a better teacher than a tiny robot computer.” So off we went. We sat on little pillows and learned how to hold our hands, cross our legs, and guide our thoughts. He was a pro and very kind about the whole thing, so I felt like I was in good hands.

Our monk told us we had to keep our eyes half-opened and half-closed, both to represent the space between this physical world and the universe and also to keep us from falling asleep. Because, he said, a lot of people fall asleep. Not a great selling point, sir.

Besides that, there were a few key things that really threw a wrench in my success.

Apparently, I was off on the wrong foot from the start. I was talking to Dave after the experience and sharing with him my disappointment in my own performance. He said, “Yeah, it was really difficult to focus on the letter A the whole time.” I said, “What? What about the letter A?” He said, “The monk told us to think of the letter A. It’s the holiest letter to them and their focal point for meditation. He told us all about it.” I replied, “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.” So I guess I can add “poor listener” to my list of faults.

I also couldn’t keep my eyes in that half-way state. It gave me a headache and that seemed very counter to the goal of the exercise, so I gave up. (Also probably giving up is counter to the goal of the exercise?) Instead, I stared at the fire in front of us. Not because I was trying to find an otherworldly image on which to focus, but because I was just really cold. I was dreaming of making s’mores, grabbing a flannel blanket, and what I would do if the fire started to spread across the room at a rapid pace. The fire inspired a lot of diverse reactions in me, none of them sanctioned meditative thoughts.

Most importantly, it was impossible for me to quiet my mind. At any given point, I have three to seventy-eight thoughts swirling around my brain. It’s not an easy storm to weather, but it’s mine. This is exactly the thing that drives people to meditate. It’s supposed to cure people like me from the harrowing effects of our spiraling minds. But this seems like nonsense to me. Put me in a quiet room with nothing to do and tell me to think about a sound? Does that seem like a recipe for success for someone with my infliction? It’s not. It is a recipe for disaster.

I was an absolute and complete failure. I know, I know, the whole point of meditating is to eventually get to the point where it works, but at what cost? How long must I suffer in order to get there? And is it really worth it? Who ever said a quiet mind is better than a cluttered mind. You can hide a lot of cool stuff that you or someone you know might need one day inside a cluttered mind.

Here are some of the things I thought about while I was supposed to be focusing on the letter A, counting my breaths, and considering my quiet connection to the universe:

  1. It’s pretty cold in here, right?
  2. Aren’t all these other people cold? How can they not be cold?
  3. They’re probably cold and just pretending like they aren’t. Maybe I look like I’m pretending. Ugh, just another example of us all pushing the facade of perfection on one another.
  4. I wonder what we’re going to have for dinner. I hope there’s soup. Noodle soup would be best, but if it’s just regular soup with rice on the side, that would be fine too. Who invented soup? Probably someone who just accidentally spilled their water glass all in their food but was super embarrassed about it so just pretended like that’s how he wanted to eat it.
  5. These monks are very good inn keepers. Maybe some of them really just wanted to run a B&B, but they didn’t have the start-up capital, so they’re were like, “Well, guess I better go be a monk at one of the monk inns.” That seems like a big sacrifice for your dreams, but you know what they say—nothing comes between a man and his innate need to provide warm and comfortable lodging to strangers.
  6. When are we going to walk through the cemetery? It’s probably haunted. Maybe this whole place is haunted. What would a monk ghost be like? Probably super chill. He’d just sit quietly next to you and listen to you sleep. Wait, that’s creepy. I bet he’d respectfully sit outside your door while you sleep. This is definitely the best place to be if you’re going to get haunted.
  7. Monk would make a terrible monk. He’d be super good at the rituals but super bad at sitting on this pillow forever.
  8. Is Dave really doing this? He hasn’t moved at all.
  9. That fire looks a little precarious. What if it falls and spreads? These mats seem pretty flammable. The people in the back seem like panickers. That doesn’t bode well for us all exiting in an orderly fashion. But maybe I could break the paper walls and escape on my own. Would the monks be mad if I ripped their fancy walls? How could they be? The whole place will be on fire. They’ve got bigger fish to fry.
  10. Is Dave seriously still doing this?
  11. Someone moved. Ha. At least I didn’t move.
  12. Someone else moved. These people are so weak.
  13. I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be comparing my meditative state to these other people. Even though I’m obviously better at looking like I’m meditating.
  14. Is Dave actually dead? Can you die sitting up?
  15. If you die sitting up in a room this cold, could you just freeze that way forever? How would they put you in a casket? Who cares. Caskets are really not eco-friendly. Why do people still do that? Who wants to be lined up in the dirt with a whole bunch of strangers. I hate strangers. I don’t even like sitting in a line with these strangers here right now. I am not interested in being stuck next to more strangers for all eternity.
  16. How long do these monks meditate each day? Do they wish they were watching tv instead? Or eating pretzels? Can monks even watch tv? Do they watch Monk?
  17. I wonder if I have any pretzels in the room. I should bring them on our cemetery tour.
  18. Is it disrespectful to bring snacks to a cemetery? It probably is.

And on and on and on. Overall, I would say I failed miserably at meditation. And if I can’t do it at a Buddhist monastery with a master teacher, should I really even keep trying? The monks say, “Yes, you definitely should. You will not master it in one day. That’s why it’s called a practice.” But what do they know.

A Long Time Ago, We Used To Be Friends

It’s been awhile, but I think of this blog and my throngs of readers as very good friends—and we all know you can neglect your real friends for huge stretches of time and they will just come back to you with love. No? You can’t? You need to be responsible and caring and thoughtful with the important relationships in your life or they risk shifting into something you never wanted? Damn it.

Well, here I am. Just a girl, sitting in front of the computer, asking you to sorta half-read this nonsense while you’re browsing for new towels or watching Real Housewives.

A lot has happened since I’ve been away.

First, the world is basically on fire (literally and figuratively, yay for global climate change!). We’ve got a president who is completely unqualified for the job and a government that is exploiting his ineptitude and arrogance for their own self-centered agendas. People are afraid of nuclear war again. White supremacists are still killing people in the streets, but this time the leader of our country isn’t condemning them. Women continue to be assaulted and exploited. Police officers are shooting people for no good reason and getting away with it. Civil wars and unrest around the world have forced families into danger and starvation.

I could keep going, but I’m finding myself falling into a spiral that’s not going to help any of us. Basically, a lot of very bad things happened last year.

It’s not all terrible though. Some good things have been rumbling around this planet. Women supported one another when we spoke up about the harm done to us. The hole in the ozone layer is shrinking. Scientists keep doing cool things like inventing insecticides that won’t kill bees, discovering planets that might support life, figuring out how to pull water out of low-humidity air, and proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. We met Fiona the hippo. Guinea Worm and polio are taking their final lap. More countries reached marriage equality.

Things have happened in my own life too.

I bought a house and embarked on a tumultuous but compassionate five-month-long relationship with a CB2 customer service manager. I visited Japan and Hawaii and Disney World and Cleveland and Banff National Park and Boulder and Michigan and Toronto. I survived a triathlon and suspected food poisoning (not at the same time). I tried to make vegan challah again and failed again. I learned a new series of bus lines in my city. I rode in a helicopter. I rode on a bullet train. I swam with a sea turtle. I marched on Washington and heard Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Janet Mock, America Ferrera, and Cecile Richards speak. I cheered on some badass women during a roller derby match. I wore my Chewbacca onesie in public twice. I stood in the rain for science. I stayed alive while a doctor put a camera down my throat into my stomach. I played soccer with a lot of random children. I saved a father and son from getting swept away into the ocean. I spent the night at a Buddhist monastery in the mountains, where I massively failed at meditation. I heard Steve Martin tell jokes and play the banjo. I bought cartoonish leggings in Harajuku surrounded by stylish teenagers.

I also wrote about some cool stuff for National Geographic, including a piece trolling Donald Trump that earned decidedly lukewarm reception on social media. A producer on The Walking Dead and the official comic book account tweeted out something I wrote about zombie tourism (not tourism for zombies, which is a piece I have now put on my brainstorm list), and we all know virtual pats on the back from famous-adjacent people are the real currency in this new world. I interviewed survival experts on how to prepare for disaster, told people what I love about Michigan, and wrote stories about outdoor skills in the apocalypse and adventuring like a Game of Thrones character. But mostly, since I officially became an editor, I spent a lot time helping other people write things, which is good since Cher Horowitz taught us “tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” Just kidding, it’s a mutual relationship, ’cause I gotta feed the content beast that is the internet. You people are insatiable.

So, here I am again. I’ve got a year’s worth of stories to tell you that have been taking up space in my brain, a year’s worth of opinions sitting on my chest. I hope you’ll come back to read them.