Sad Cone

I don’t remember if we were driving or running the first time Alex called my attention to him, lying on his side in a muddy puddle. We couldn’t figure out what his purpose was there. There was no logic to his being placed by the side of a running path in the center of a collection of rainwater where it was unlikely anyone would step, whether he was there or not.

“You know what I feel sad for?” Alex asked, pausing before gesturing to the side of the road and answering himself. “Sad Cone.”

Photo of a bright orange cone lying on its side in a puddle of water.And it was. It was so sad. There he was, lying face down in the muck and the freezing cold and the rain. And no one cared about Sad Cone.

Except Alex and me. We cared about Sad Cone.

Sad Cone lived in a puddle by the side of Alex and my running route. We would also regularly drive by Sad Cone. We always made note of him as we passed, checking to see how deep his puddle was or whether his mud coat had climbed higher. Sad Cone became a character in our lives.

During our runs, I told Alex about running mantras and how sometimes internally repeating such a mantra can keep a runner moving when they think they can’t go on. One day, during a particularly difficult stretch, Alex said, “I AM NOT SAD CONE!” and thus was born a running mantra.

(He also sometimes uses, “OUTTA MY WAY, JERKASS!” complete with flailing arms and shoving, but I prefer the Sad Cone mantra.)

We kept Sad Cone company all fall and he gave us a smile every time we ran passed him. We noted when his puddle seemed particularly cold or dirty. We commented when tire tracks appeared around him. His mantra pushed Alex to run when it was hard. We were contemplating bringing a Sharpie on a run so we could give Sad Cone a face and share him with the other runners on our path.

Then, just as Sad Cone’s puddle shallowed and started to ice over so that we could start thinking about reaching him, we drove past one day and noticed that someone had saved him. He was still on his side, but he was on dry pavement on the other side of the road. By the time we went running the next day, Sad Cone was gone entirely.

We didn’t even get to say goodbye.

We’ve been running a few times since Sad Cone left and it’s just not the same. We’ll never know who put him in that puddle or why and we don’t know who took him away. Sad Cone is gone, but we will always remember him.

Stimey at the Movies…and, You Know, on My Couch Too

Because it is Golden Globe night, I almost called this “Stimey’s Golden Globules,” because every time I hear about the Golden Globes, my brain changes it to Golden Globules, but then I decided that would sound weird and upsetting, so I decided to call it this other thing instead.

Anywho.

You know how every time I post here, I’m all, “Yeah, I’m not doing anything at all. My life is totally boring”? Well, that is not entirely true because I have been consuming enormous amounts of pop culture.

I decided that I have thoughts about all of this pop culture and that you should hear them. (Feel free to click away now.) But if you’re looking for something with which to kill some time this week, I have some ideas for you.

You should know, however, that I am a very non-critical sort of consumer. If I were a movie reviewer, most of my reviews would probably start out with, “Yeah, it was pretty good.” So if you go to see these movies or buy these books or whatever and you hate them, don’t blame me.

Movies I’ve Seen in Theaters This Fall:

Gravity: Yeah, it was pretty good. Actually, let’s say really good. I really enjoyed this movie and thought it was beautiful, both visually and metaphorically.

Twelve Years a Slave: I worked so hard to see this movie. I was going to go on the one day in December that my kids were in school and I didn’t have plans. The only problem is that it turns out when I showed up at 11 am to buy a ticket that I had misread Fandango and the showing was actually at 11:05 pm. I finally went out the day after Christmas by myself to watch it. It was showing in a small theater, but it was entirely packed. I don’t think I heard a single sound from the audience throughout the entire movie. It was an attention-demanding movie and perfectly acted and directed. There was a moment when Chiwetel Ejiofor’s face filled the screen and his eyes looked directly into the camera that felt like a direct demand of accountability of everyone in the audience. It was an intensely powerful movie that I think everyone should see. I am rooting for it for best picture at every awards show this year.

American Hustle: I tell you about this movie with the caveat that because of my friend and my late arrival to the theater and the theater’s entirely full capacity, I saw this from the first row, so I may have been looking at the right side of the screen and missed something crucial on the left side. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a movie from the first row, but I wouldn’t recommend it. My friend actually got motion sick. Regardless, this movie was a ton of fun and almost made me want to live in the 70s what with their discos and science ovens and all. Plus, I love every single thing Christian Bale has ever done as an actor, so there is that too.

Anchorman 2: I wanted to like this movie so much. I really, really did. I liked the first Anchorman and every review that I read said that this one was great too. There were moments that were good but I think this movie relied on one of two tactics for most of its laughs: (1) It slightly altered something hilarious from the first movie so that the joke in this movie would remind you of when you loved the scene the first time and you would laugh, and (2) the writers seem to believe that if something is shockingly offensive it is automatically funny. Too often in this movie, it just wasn’t.

TV Shows I’ve Binge Watched This Fall:

The Walking Dead: Zombies are one of my things. I’ve been into them for a long time. Like, I had to admit that I read “zombie literature” back when it wasn’t cool to do so and I will continue to consume all the zombie pop culture I can find long after everyone else considers them to be Over. Needless to say, I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since it premiered, but somehow Alex got interested in it a few weeks ago and we watched the whole series together and are now gleefully awaiting the second half of season four. The best part of watching this with Alex was looking over at him during scenes with lots of the undead and seeing him with his eyes closed AND his hands over his face. “I don’t like the zombie parts,” he would explain. I would respond with a blank face. Because…dude? It’s a show about zombies. (But really, as zombie stories always are, it isn’t always really about the zombies.) Also, Alex had lots of questions and opinions about the zombie apocalypse, and it was really fun to finally find a subject matter where I am more knowledgeable than he is.

Vikings: Alex discovered this History Channel series when he was out of town at some point last fall and kept talking about it and after he agreed to watch The Walking Dead with me, I had to agree to watch this with him, but I was sure that it was going to be boring as hell, because, c’mon, who’s heard of the History Channel breaking ground with scripted dramatic series lately? Turns out that it’s pretty exciting and fun and even though Alex originally wanted Sam to watch with us, he fortunately declined before the second episode when one of the vikings and his wife invite a priest to join them in a three-way.

Sons of Anarchy: I’m getting a little tired of this show. When I started watching it from season one about a year ago, I wasn’t sure I liked it. Then I really started to like it. Now I end up rolling my eyes at it more often than not, but at this point, I kind of feel like I have to see it through to the end, which is…I don’t know. I think they just keeeeeep making more episodes.

Orphan Black: Entertainment Weekly kept telling me that this was an awesome show, so I finally buckled and watched the first season of it this fall while I ran on my treadmill. EW was right. I’m totally hooked. It turns out that it is great fun to watch adorable clones and their friends.

Dexter: I was watching the last season of this on DVD without realizing that it was the last season (I thought there were nine seasons. Nope.). I am one episode away from the end and am sorry to see it go. Now I have to find another series to keep me busy while I run.

Books I’ve Read Recently:

The Interestings: I was kind of annoyed at this book from the beginning, but it was well written enough that it totally kept me entertained. I was way more interested in the peripheral characters than the main characters though and I was also highly fucking irritated at the book’s portrayal of the father-son relationship when the son in question was autistic. Honestly, that very minor part of the book annoyed me so much that I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?: God, I loved this book. It was funny and delightful and heartrending and truthful and now I want to go to Antarctica even more than I did before. Highly recommended.

The Divergent series: This is a young adult dystopian blah, blah, blah. I liked it though. It was fun. I loved The Hunger Games too, but I feel a little bit like Katniss was not an active participant in propelling the action. In this one, the main (female) character seemed much more proactive.

The Day by Day Armageddon series: Again, zombies. I find this trilogy interesting, because the first book was self-published at first and then became successful in the genre and the dude got a publishing deal. By the third book, the author is a much better writer (and features better copy editing), but the story got a little too broad for him to handle, I think. It’s not my favorite zombie fiction (that would be World War Z—the book), but it’s a decent way to kill some time. I’d read the first two a long time ago and had to reread them before I could read the third. It took me a long time because I couldn’t read them in waiting rooms and stuff because I was too embarrassed to be seen reading them in public.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: I’m reading this right now. This is, sort of obviously, a running memoir. I try to read a lot about running to help keep me motivated. If you’re new to running literature, though, you should totally start with Born to Run. I think that one is good for runners and non-runners alike.

Also, even though I haven’t read it for several months, I always say that if you haven’t read Life of Pi, you should. It’s one of my all-time favorites and a repeat read for me.

So, there you have it. That’s what I’ve been up to. I’m not sure if I should be proud or embarrassed.

Now, I want to hear from you:

What TV shows can I binge watch after I finish Dexter?

What books should I absolutely not miss?

What was your favorite movie this year?

To Do: Write Excellent Post and Fix Blog

Do you ever have those days weeks months when your to-do list grows and grows, but every single day it seems like you have 14 spare minutes to do everything on that list and consequently your blog stagnates in a mostly undesigned and terribly ugly state and you get more and more panicky that something is slipping between the cracks because instead of dealing with the way you decimated your website or working your way through the foot-high stack of papers you have to deal with on your desk, you instead just write more to-do lists on little pieces of paper and throw them on top of the pile?

I do. You know, just sometimes.

It’s freaking me out, people.

One of those little cards has a note reminding me to call back the dude from Quinn’s gymnastics class. I’ll let you know how it goes. Thank you so much for all of your thoughts on that, by the way. It was really helpful.

I was hoping to get something accomplished today, but I spent several hours at a cultural arts showcase for the public schools instead, where people who want to put on assemblies or presentations at schools perform a 15-minute bit of their show in hopes that you’ll hire them to come to your school. There were storytellers and musicians and puppets and authors and singers… I watched a lot of performers.

The mime was funny.

That was four hours straight sitting in a folding chair in a school building. That was followed by a PTA meeting this evening. I am the secretary and take the minutes, so I have to go. Yay! More folding chairs and cafeterias!

So, tonight, I was sitting in said PTA meeting, Hour Two, and looked down to find myself drawing this:

Meetings suck.

I didn’t even realize that I was drawing my sad electrocution until I was already done.

Consequently, no awesome post or improved website design tonight. But I have written down on a little piece of paper that I have to do both of those things, so I should get around to it by December at the latest.

******

I do have an actual deadline to meet at White Knuckle Parenting, so I managed to get my post over there get written. It is October, so I wrote about finding Halloween costumes for my kids. Also, evidently in that post, I made it sound as if I made all of my childhood Halloween costumes all by myself, without my mother’s help. I am aware that I made it sound like that because I got an irate email from my mother letting me know that I, in fact, did not make them all by myself. Consider yourself notified.

Spirituality and Nyan Cat

So you all know Nyan Cat, right?

In case you don’t know, I will quote at you from Wikipedia:

“Nyan Cat is the name of a YouTube video uploaded in April 2011, which became an Internet meme. The video merged a Japanese pop song with an animated cartoon cat with the body of a Pop-Tart, flying through space, and leaving a rainbow trail behind it. The video ranked at number 5 on the list of most viewed YouTube videos in 2011.”

Also, this:

Why? What were YOU expecting?

Count yourself lucky if you haven’t experienced Nyan Cat. OR! Count yourself lucky if you’ve experienced Nyan Cat, but your autistic kid hasn’t decided that THIS PARTICULAR MIND GRATING THING is what he wants to obsess on for the rest of time.

(Right now he is looking over my shoulder saying, “I want to watch Nyan Cat. Please? Please?” He was alerted to the topic when I accidentally opened the video to link to it here and the three seconds of Nyan Cat music traveled across the house to his waiting ears. If you don’t want to experience that, just imagine that picture above, but with the stars passing by and the most obnoxious music you could possibly think of.)

(And NOW he is sitting on my chair, giving me suggestions on what to add to this post. NO, JACK! I WILL NOT TELL THE INTERNET THAT YOU HAVE SPIRAL EYES!!!!)

(Curses. I played right into his hands.)

Jack’s eyes were opened to the existence of Nyan Cat when Sam had a friend over who cued it up on our computer before we even knew what was happening. Seriously, y’all, don’t ever let children out of your sight when they’re online. You could end up with a kid in the clutches of predators, or you could end up with a kid with a dangerous Nyan Cat obsession.

Also, he could end up perseverating on the name of that first video he saw: “Nyan Cat on crack! Nyan Cat on crack!” over and over, which is less bad than some of the stuff he ended up scripting during that brief, ill-fated period when my husband decided it was okay to let Jack watch Futurama, but still it’s not what I want him to bust out with at school.

He did, however, infect every kid in his camp class with the Nyan Cat bug. Sorry about that, other parents. To pay me back, one of the teachers told him about a Nyan Cat iPhone app.

Well played, vengeful teacher, well played.

The reason I am telling you all this, other than to complain, is to give you the backstory for the conversation we had in the car the other day. Quinn has been talking about our late cat Izzy a lot lately and how she is in heaven, which is cool, I guess, even though I’m not a big believer in heaven myself.

Well, Quinn’s heaven sounds awesome, full of Izzy cats and rainbows. It is not your conventional heaven though, and maybe I should invest in some theological teaching for my kids, because based on the conversation that followed, something is getting lost in translation for them.

Quinn: “Do you know that when cats go to heaven, they become Nyan Cat?”

Sam (outraged!): “Not unless the last thing they ate was a Pop Tart!!!!!”

Then came the vigorous debate over whether Izzy had ever eaten a Pop Tart and whether Nyan Cat was actually real.

(No. And no.)

I’m not a religious person, but even I know that this is not the usual track that conversations about heaven are supposed to take.  Sometimes I feel like I am failing them in the “teaching them options about religion” area and sometimes I just want to make shit up so that they say crazy things when their friends talk about heaven.

Although I’m guessing they might not need any help in that department.

I’m Having Trouble Working From Home

Hi again! I’ve been having trouble getting stuff done, what with these kids all up in my business all day every day. It’s a problem. Not surprisingly, this is what I wrote about for White Knuckle Parenting—Working While Parenting.

I’m still working on my offline project, which is of no interest to you, but it is keeping me from writing during my infrequent time when I’m not taking care of my kids. I plan to be done with it this weekend, so I’ll be back happily typing away before too long!

The Aftermath

An hour and a half after my last post, my power came back. I was so very, very happy. We’ve had power for three full days since then, but there are thousands who still do not. My heart goes out to them. And now it is raining outside and I swear to God, if my power goes out, I’ll…well, probably cry a lot.

First of all, I should let you know that the name of my “power” company (and I use that term loosely) is PEPCO. This information will make it easier for you to know what I mean when I write, “Fuuuuuuuuuuck you, PEPCO.”

I had a whole depressing paragraph all written here about the storm and its aftermath, but I deleted it. It’s been a bad week for the DC area. Instead I decided to follow my motto: When you have a choice between laughing and crying, try to laugh.

Like on Monday when I was at a friend’s house when her power came back and her son had the TV on within seconds and exclaimed, “I would hug the Wii if I could!” It was adorable. Let’s focus on the adorable.

Or inanity. We can focus on that too. For instance, I was coiling up jumper cables on Monday after jumping my broken car when a PEPCO meter reader walked by. When he saw me, you know, standing in the heat trying to make my car work, he doubled back and asked me to make sure to trim back the shrubbery in front of my meter to make it easier for him to read it next month.

It took everything I had to not punch him in the face.

Seriously. That guy needs to work on his timing.

Oh, and if it’s not bad enough that PEPCO was out reading meters (and making and airing pro-PEPCO television commercials) when hundreds of thousands of people didn’t have power, they also stole our fireworks.

That’s right. My county has called off all county-sponsored fireworks on the fourth so they can focus on storm recovery. Because if you don’t have power, it’s a better idea to stay miserably at home than pull together as a community at a holiday celebration. I’m blaming this on PEPCO.

This includes the fireworks that are two blocks from my house. You should have seen my kids’ faces when I told them. They’re little kids and they already hate PEPCO. I feel like I’m raising them right. But I don’t know yet what I’m going to do for them to make the fourth special.

It looks like this is turning out to be Camp Stimey: Crushing Disappointment Week.

*****

Because I couldn’t think of anything else, I wrote about how we got through the power outage over at White Knuckle Parenting.