January 2, 2011
1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
I turned 30. I was put in charge of a team of people at work. I built a motherfucking gingerbread house with my own stupid hands (I am never building another gingerbread house again).
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did! And I will. At the end of last year my primary goal was to be warmer because I was completely obsessed with the fact that one of my friends told me I was NOT WARM. That is a really shitty thing to tell a person, by the way. At any rate I tried to be kinder and more helpful and a better human being in general and that worked out really well for me. My resolution for next year is to have more parties.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My grandfather died on June 29 and then his girlfriend of 35 years died two weeks later.
5. What countries did you visit?
Just the US. I think I went to Vegas and California and then I went to New York two hundred times after my grandfather died.
6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Last year I said I wanted a promotion and a good local friend. I feel like I got both of those things in spades this year. This year I want more people to share my life with and I would like to finally get my Canadian citizenship.
7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My grandfather’s funeral, when I cried and cried and cried. When my mother let my sister move back to Alaska to do drugs, taking her infant daughter with her. When I finally stopped sleeping with my ex-husband. The G20 protests, which took place where I live and work and which were terrifying and disruptive and incredibly pointless.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
At the beginning of the year the tiny company I work for was acquired by a much larger company and I was miserable for a while. Then I got over it and started to really excel at my job.
9. What was your biggest failure?
There was a particular area in my life that I was struggling with and I had to give it up. Doing that made me feel like a failure but it was also the best idea I have ever had. So, that.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I finally got to the bottom of why I was throwing up all the time and now I feel great. I love everything about being sick in Canada, especially the fact that when I pick up my LIFE-CHANGING anti-nausea meds at the pharmacy it is $5.45 for THREE MONTHS.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I started buying myself flowers every week when I turned 30. Every week they are the best thing I buy.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mine, sometimes. The behavior of a few coworkers in particular — if you don’t have coworkers that make you laugh until you cry you should try to get some. It is pretty great.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My mother, my step-father. They have both been making really shitty decisions for about 45 years.
14. Where did most of your money go?
This year like last year a lot of money went towards helping my sister’s kids stay fed and housed. And listen, I bought way more shit from the Gap than any one person really should.
15. What did you get really excited about?
Editing, talking to people that I love.
16. What song will always remind you of 2010?
I really love this quote when I am overwhelmed by a big life change: you don’t have to do nothing fast.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Last year my answer was “happier, by far” and that’s also my answer this year. I am exponentially happier than I was last year.
– thinner or fatter? Thinner.
– richer or poorer? I don’t know. Probably the same.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
More long walks with my dog, more going to bed early with a good book.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I wish I had spent less time feeling disgruntled and angsty after the company was acquired.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
This year like last year I worked most of the day. The work that I’m doing right now makes me really happy and I did not mind working at all.
21. Did you fall in love in 2010?
In a whole lot of small ways, yes.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Project Runway, again. Top Chef, Fringe, HIMYM. And Terriers, which was canceled after one season because no one watched it — but it was seriously so great.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
24. What was the best book you read?
I read a lot of mediocre books (I am looking at you, Stieg Larsson) but nothing that was truly extraordinary.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Sufjan Stevens, particularly his religious songs.
26. What did you want and get?
27. What did you want and not get?
I’m pretty much over anything I wanted and did not get.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Probably Up in the Air — I loved that movie.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I took a really long walk with the dog and then bought myself flowers. It was a Saturday. The day before I got an ice cream cake at work which was delicious. Super low-key birthday. I turned 30.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If my tiny, charming apartment had a dishwasher OH MY GOD. That would be so great.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Here are some three-season wool trousers! Now let’s go to work.
32. What kept you sane?
My job, business trips, television.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I developed a super-crush on Joshua Jackson.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
I was not super-thrilled that Rob Ford was elected as mayor of Toronto. But seriously. I live in Canada. I have yet to encounter a stirring political issue here.
35. Who did you miss?
My grandfather. He was really such an amazing man.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
I have really enjoyed getting to know my coworker Karen. She is smart and fun and we hate the same things.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I am still not a song lyric person.
PS: these are my flowers of the week.
December 7, 2010
Radvent prompt number seven (I skipped number six): What were your favorite games as a child? What did you like to do with your classmates or the neighborhood kids? How did that affect the person you grew to become?
1. Internet, I am sure it will come as no great surprise to you that I spent a lot of my childhood reading. I was an early, voracious, reader and my first schoolgirl crush was on Jem Finch, or at least the version of Jem Finch that existed in my head. I know now that reading basically saved my life — it gave me something to do and somewhere to hide and even when I was reading the same books over and over it was enriching me.
2. Now, of course, I am an editor and I love it. I mean, I love language and I love being right. Being an editor is my dream job. (Also due to a lifetime of voracious reading habits, I am now extremely good at Scrabble and have been occasionally accused of cheating! To which I say, yes, I am cheating by knowing how to spell a lot of words. I keep them in my BRAIN.)
3. Oh, and I was writing! I was writing the whole time. There are not many stories I can tell about my life where I am not basically writing the whole time.
December 5, 2010
Fifth Radvent prompt: write down the soundtrack of your year so far. Play it for someone who loves you.
I am doing this, but with a caveat: I have genuinely terrible taste in music. Or maybe it is not terrible! (It probably is.) But at the very least, it is low-brow and narrow and self-indulgent. Having said that, these are the songs I loved the most this year.
1. Even The Losers, Tom Petty (live at the Fillmore, 1999).
2. This Is How It Goes, Aimee Mann (live, and not great quality).
3. Gone, Ben Folds.
5. Forget You, Glee (YES THAT IS GWYNETH PALTROW SINGING and I am sorry but I love that song so much. Even more than the original. I SAID I WAS SORRY.)
7. Under African Skies, Paul Simon (the whole Graceland album is amazing, of course. I can hardly believe it’s been in my life for 25 years.)
8. Les Miserables (I have listened to the soundtrack of this show maybe 500 times this year? Mostly while I was at work. And I love it every time.)
The fourth Radvent prompt is about forgiveness: who and what are you ready to let go of resentment toward?
1. When I read this prompt I immediately started thinking about something my mother told me repeatedly while I was growing up — if someone bothers you, it’s because you see something in them you dislike about yourself.
2. When I was in my early twenties I realized yeah, OR MAYBE THAT PERSON IS JUST AN ASSHOLE. Seriously. Sometimes when someone bothers you it’s because they’re a shitty person doing something shitty.
3. In the same way, I assumed for a long time that I was obligated on some societal level to repair my relationship with my mother. Because isn’t that how it works? Towards the end of the movie the characters realize that they have so much in common! And they have been letting little tiny differences get in the way of a real relationship with each other! And they should tearfully make some pie in their artfully lit kitchen! But this summer I finally realized that I am not required to forgive my mother. I do not have to mend things between us or make things right. She doesn’t bother me because we’re so similar or because we have regular-person mother/daughter differences with each other, she bothers me because she’s an asshole.
4. There are other people I am willing to forgive, of course. I forgive my ex-husband for ending our marriage. I forgive those men in China for beating me up and mugging me. I forgive my father for being abusive and addicted and mean and I forgive myself, too, for eating half a jar of dill pickles while I wrote this post, half an hour before bed on a Sunday, which is probably the stupidest thing I will do all month.
December 4, 2010
The third Radvent prompt: write a letter of love to yourself to read in one year.
1. I actually laughed a little bit when I read this prompt because basically every word I write is a love letter to myself. Every entry I post on this site, every story pitch and email and gift guide. Every time I sign my name to a credit card slip I am writing a love letter to myself. It says I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE HERE. I AM SO HAPPY THAT YOU MADE IT. That doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to write myself a love letter, it just means I am aware that for me it is no longer a revelation to be in love with myself. (I am also aware that reading about someone being in love with herself is B O R I N G and sometimes when I am rereading what I wrote on a particular day I want to punch myself a little bit.)
2. Either the upcoming year is going to be full of changes or it won’t. 2009 was a very eventful year; 2010 really wasn’t. When I think about Kate 2011 I want her to be happy like I am now, or happier. I want her life to be full of love. I want her to feel like she belongs in her life, like her whole life fits her like a glove. I want her to be proud and successful and happy.
3. Basically I want her to be me, but better. So when I read this in a year the question I should be asking is, did you do it? Are you better than you were?
December 2, 2010
Today’s Radvent prompt is about organization: Focus on one drawer, table, or surface today and spend 15 minutes making it pretty!
1. I am not going to follow this prompt for several reasons. (One, it just doesn’t blow my hair back, two; I spend my entire life keeping the space around me organized and three, this just isn’t the kind of journal where I take pictures of my desk and show them to you. And yes, I just said journal, because when I started writing online people did not write blogs, they kept online journals.) But I will use the idea of organization as a starting point.
2. I grew up extremely poor in a messy house. It wasn’t 8 PM on TLC-level messy, but my parents were both addicts, my mother was agoraphobic and we had pets. So it was messy. Our entire lives were messy. My father was in and out of jail, my sister was doing hard drugs before she could drive and I don’t think I have talked about this before, but I never graduated high school — my mother made me quit just after my sophomore year ended. Somehow the math works out that if you take a poor kid in a messy house and make her quit high school you will produce one tidy high-achiever who publishes actual, no-shit scientific papers while she’s still in college and then, in her mid-twenties, becomes an editor who corrects and compiles things all day every day. And is extremely good at Tetris. I am not one to brag (yes I am) but I am positive I can beat you at Tetris.
3. There is a part of me that thinks that everything that makes me who I am is a rebellious, tunnel-vision reaction to the awful standards, values and habits I grew up with (this same part then immediately thinks thank god I didn’t come from kind, career-focused, intellectually curious parents because who knows! what kind of asshole! I would be then), but the larger and more sensible part of me knows that many good kids come from good parents and then once in a while there is someone who just gets blisteringly lucky — I mean like surface of the sun lucky — and ends up beating the odds. Right now my father is in jail, my sister is a homeless addict and my mother does drugs and works in a slaughterhouse.
4. So those are the kinds of things I am talking about. When I talk about beating the odds.
December 1, 2010
Someone named meg started something called Radvent (RAD + ADVENT) this year and she’s publishing a writing prompt for herself and others each day of December. When I read about it I thought it was the best idea I had ever heard, and I am super-excited to take part. Here is the first prompt:
What were you doing five years ago today? As the holiday season began? Where were you? Who were you with? What did you want? What did you have?
1. I am pretty sure I have talked about this time before, but five years ago in August I moved to Canada and got married and my best friend died. By the beginning of September I was working as a nanny for a pair of three-year old twin boys which was hands down the shittiest job I have ever held. I mean, the kids were fine (except for being… three-year old twin boys), but the family had gobs of money, treated me like shit and routinely made me feel hopeless about myself and the world. They also had this massive kitchen with black granite counter tops which were impossible to keep clean. I am not kidding when I say I spent an hour each day either cleaning them or feeling crappy and disgruntled after they failed a surprise inspection. As the holiday season started I was full-on miserable at work which was made so, so, so much worse by the fact that instead of giving me a week’s pay as a holiday bonus, the mother of the family gave me a picture of the kids posing with the Santa Claus from the local mall. This was a particularly thoughtless gift because I had dragged the boys to the mall in heavy pre-holiday traffic at the mother’s insistence and we had waited almost an hour in line to see Santa and the mall was hot and full of children and my charges were acting like monsters (actually, it would be more correct to say that they were acting the way that I felt, for which I cannot blame them) and as much as the whole stupid thing annoyed me while I was experiencing it, getting a photograph of it instead of a large check annoyed me infinitely more.
2. So I was miserable at work and then my husband and I got an extremely handsome puppy named Walter. Walter was a very good puppy (and, as I mentioned, extremely handsome) except that he pissed on the motherfucking floor basically every day for a solid year. We were living in a very beige and very boring apartment on the seventh floor of a very beige and very boring apartment building and neither one of us could waver in focus for even ten minutes lest our extremely handsome dog partake in some casual, impromptu urinating just for the pleasure of it. Still, our first Christmas as a family was gorgeous. We both had the day off. Our apartment was flooded with dusty, late-afternoon sun. I came across an amazing Brady Bunch Christmas special that takes place when the kids are grown and have moved away from home on our tiny, rabbit-ears TV. We got the dog some festive tennis balls (to urinate on) and my new husband bought me a couch from Ikea, which he stored in the backseat of his sports car, unassembled, for more than a week. It was not a very large couch. I got my new husband socks, slippers, a wallet and a Swiss Army Knife, which all told were hints 17-20 of the marriage so far that I had actually married my father, although of course I didn’t realize that for years to come.
3. What I wanted, then, not for Christmas, but out of life, was to be happy, to feel productive and lucky and content. I desperately wanted to immigrate to Canada and get a real job; a job that used my brain and made me feel valuable, a job that would never, under any circumstances, involve scraping feces out of a brightly-colored pair of Finding Nemo swim trunks.
4. I didn’t get those things then, of course — immigrating took forever and I spent most of my time alternately terrified, apprehensive, miserable and confused — but I feel that way now, in spades, even though I live alone and have been single so long that my left ring finger is no longer marked by a strip of untanned white skin where my wedding ring used to be. I feel that way in spades. I am the very luckiest person I know. I am full of joy. I am finally where I want to be.
September 12, 2010
1. Here is something wonderful: I walk to and from work every day. I live in a big, crowded city and I see, I don’t know, maybe 500 people each time I walk to or from work. Maybe more? (Maybe I should count one day, because I really have no idea.)
2. For a long time—and I sort of mean the first twenty-eight or so years of my life—when I saw people in passing I would immediately rank them: yes, I would like to be that person. No, I would not. Usually it fell about 50/50 yes and no; everything from a cute pair of shoes to a particularly well-composed outfit could make me vote yes. Anyone with spectacular hair was an automatic yes, as was anyone with a lanky, runway-ready figure.
3. Here is the wonderful thing: I realized this summer that I don’t want to be anyone else. I don’t want to be half of the people I see every morning, I don’t even want to be a single one of them. I don’t want to be you, even if you are gorgeous, even if those jeans make your ass look magnificent, even if you are famous and articulate and well-groomed. I am perfectly happy being myself.
4. I am not sure if everyone else is born feeling this way or you all had to come to the realization gradually, like I did, but it is an amazing feeling. I accept myself. Even though my ass looks terrible in these jeans, even though I’m single and portly and I cried all summer, even though I’m divorced! and my best friend is dead and my dog (my dog) suffers from anxiety.
5. I feel two ways about this revelation. One, I am absolutely delighted. Two, I am terrified that I am one Soy Boy brand not-dog away from becoming an insufferable hippie full to brim with love. And for that, I apologize. I have never been a fan of hippies. And neither have you.
September 6, 2010
1. I got mugged about six years ago, when I lived in China, and it was awful. I was beaten up, I was terrified, I was very nearly deported. At the time I lived alone in a big apartment with seven deadbolts on the door and I was so scared of dying or being assaulted again that I barely slept. I was sad and a little loopy most days and then I started to pretend that I was someone that I loved very much who needed to be taken care of. And it was true, of course, I love myself very much. I need to take care of myself. I just wished it had not taken me twenty years to realize that I should care for myself the same way I would care for someone else.
2. This summer felt a lot like that summer. All summer I have cried and cried; my hobbies included sobbing uncontrollably and weeping uselessly. It’s been a long, sad summer, and when I made plans to visit my aunt in the US her friend said, which niece is visiting? The one with the baby or the one who cries all the time? Usually August is the worst month of the year and this year I felt like I had three Augusts in a row. Or maybe twelve. I took care of myself, of course, which mostly meant lots of trips to the park with the dog and ice cream cones in the middle of the day and completely cutting off people who make me feel like shit when I talk to them. It’s September now, which helps, and I’ve just hired someone to repaint the soffit in my apartment, which I am sure will help as well.
(3. My apartment is long and narrow-ish and duct work, covered by a boxy soffit, runs along the ceiling from the front to the back. The previous occupants painted it a pale, Shamrock Shake green, I think because they wanted to see how long it would take me to either repaint it or kill myself.)
4. Since it is September and I am feeling better I am hoping to post more frequently to this page. I am all done crying, Internet! And as it turns out I have so much to say.
January 7, 2010
1. Last night I put this stuff on my face and it is amazing. It makes my skin feel like the dewy, unblemished skin of a Canadian Teen Pop Star and the first step of the two-step process smells exactly like Mr. Clean Orange Cleaner which is one my absolute favorite smells in the entire world.
2. It is also a total steal at $65 for two 2 oz bottles. Even though saying that kind of makes me want to punch myself in the mouth it is absolutely true. Unless you are already a dewy Canadian Teen Pop Star. Then all bets are off.
3. There is supposed to be a third thing here and I think the third thing is basically me paddling around in a vat of Mr. Clean Orange Cleaner smearing expensive crap on my face.
4. And my apologies.