Gift Wrap Goodness (Or Presents for People I Love)

I like presents.

I like giving them, I like getting them, and I LOVE wrapping them.

Since we’re just ending the holiday season, I thought I should show you some of my giftiness.

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This was a book for Dan.

Dan is from Minnesota (where the moose hang out). Dan likes Jameson, books, and bread pudding. I didn’t have time to make him dessert, but I did make him dinner on Christmas day, so there’s that.

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This was a bartening book for Tim. (He asked for it.)

Tim can be grumpy, but he always brings me clean socks, new shirts, and salad without tomatoes or raw onions because he knows I hate them. He has like 32,000 dogs, so I had to wrap his present in pugs. (Also? I garnished his gift with a lamb’s ear covered in liver paste for one of his beasts.)

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My boss, Brian, likes bread and recipes, so this was for him.

It was a soup recipe book because he’s bonkers for soup. I added some holiday flair in the way of bulbs to counteract his seasonal “Ba-Humbug” situation.

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This naughty nugget and his gift were for Lauren.

Lauren is my dog’s fairy godmother. She lets him sleep with her whenever he spends the night, and we both love her to death.

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This little mouse and his books were for Jody.

Jody and I have been friends since we were 19 years old. We met while we were having meltdowns in edit bays in Ann Arbor, and the rest is history. 20 years later, we’ve been together for funerals, birthdays, Christmas Mass, and everything in between. This is a stack of Narnia books for her son, Connor, who just happens to be my birthday buddy. 

Jody attended my church Christmas Tea in December, and I gave her a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Connor was HOOKED, so I bought her the rest of the series.

More on the church Christmas Tea later….

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Tax Time Again (Or the Ghosts of 2017)

It’s tax time again. That means I’m facing the sins of 2017 head-on.

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God, help me, I swear this mess makes sense.

So… yeah… I had my confession with my accountant this morning, and it went reasonably well.

I haven’t been too bad a girl in 2017… REALLY… honestly….

While adding up my receipts, I came across a few that were related to Phil. (I always write names on my receipts at the time so I don’t have to wonder months later why they’re relevant.) For some cruel reason the Phil pile was the pile that kept adding up incorrectly, so I had to count it three times. I didn’t break down crying. I didn’t lose my mind… but if I’m being honest with myself and you, it was a little sad when it set in that those receipts memories are all things of the past.

Phil’s name won’t show up on a receipt in 2018 — or any year in the future… because THE STUPID FUCKING DICKHEAD IS DEAD.

Sorry…

I was maudlin for a minute…

And I was mad. (I probably still am.)

But, since life is about picking yourself up and moving on, I’m going to eat my CPK salad, drink a glass of wine, and be glad I have all kinds of amazing people in my life.

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Like this cute crew…

They are everything.

Okay, that’s all.

The end.

Bye.

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Phil

 

Somewhere in the middle of 2016, I met Phil.

It’s hard to know where to begin telling our story, and I’m not sure I can do it justice in a single post.

This is Phil:

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 He is a stupid dickhead for dying in 2017.

If I sound cold and callous calling him names, you must understand that dickhead was one of his terms of endearment, and it also sums up how I feel about him checking out on all of us.

Went big with the beard

It is a colossal waste. 

The world is a lot quieter without his big, boisterous laugh.

My phone isn’t filled with funny messages or pictures of his dog, and my life has been forever changed by another man who couldn’t see past his pain.

My feelings shift from rage to disbelief and from regret to sorrow, sometimes all in the same day.

Phil broke through the barriers to love that I had built over the years. He was the first and only man in five years who did, and even though I miss him every day, I will be forever grateful to God for sending Phil my way.

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He and his big heart opened mine.

So many songs have brought me to my knees since I heard the news, and perhaps no other one more than this:

See, it all started when Phil drove me home — or rather it all changed the first time he drove me home. It all started when he kicked open the swinging doors of the Saloon.

No one is easy to love, least of all me. I can be aloof. I can be opinionated. I can be intimidating, but Phil was never scared of me. He was a force of nature strong enough to meet mine.

I celebrated the first hours of my 38th birthday with him watching videos on his cracked iPhone screen. He was my first kiss at midnight in 2017, and my best hug of the year. The last day he held me was July 3. If I had known then what I know now, I would have chased him and his stupid Uhaul all of the way back to Minnesota. I would have booked that flight I kept pricing. I would have told him I loved him.

I’m not saying I could have saved him with my words or my actions, but selfishly, I think it might have made this mess just a tiny bit easier for me if I hadn’t held back here and there.

There are so many things that were left unsaid between us, and maybe the only thing I can do now is promise myself I will never hold back the important words from anyone else who means as much to me as he did.

I missed his funeral because I got the news a few days too late, and I’ve been looking for ways to find my own closure. I took up a collection from our friends to send his parents flowers. I’ve been trying for weeks to write his parents a letter. I bought Modelo tall boys from the liquor store where he bought them for us the night we rearranged the rulers and t-squares mounted on his wall.

It all sounds so small, but the best memories often are.

Phil never hesitated with me — or in anything — even death.

God, I wish he had hesitated just that last time.

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If he had, I wouldn’t have to sit on a sidewalk outside his office and cry in his favorite beer.

Cheers, Phil.

“Have good times” in heaven.

I love you.

Beauty in Unity and Resistance (Or My Fight)

Yesterday I didn’t march. I regret it a little….

OK, maybe I regret it a lot.

Seeing the inspiring photos of my friends making history all across the country made me slightly ashamed I was only experiencing a powerful movement via my Facebook newsfeed.

I’m working a TON right now, and Saturday was my only chance to get groceries, make food for the week, and take down my twinkle lights… so I stayed home.

I realize how hollow those excuses sound.

That said, I did have a wonderful day embracing beauty and diversity in my community.

See, I decided to walk to Trader Joe’s to get groceries and on my way I came across an absolutely incredible acapella quartet outside of the Pantages Theater.

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Tremendous soul is a serious understatement.

They made my day.

They were like Boyz II Men x 10.

I stopped to watch them a second time on my way back because I loved them so much. (I donated twice. #duh)

I also took a video of their performance and shared it with my family. On a day when we were divided by politics, I felt blessed I could share something that unites us like good music. Everyone loved it — Republican and Democrat alike.

You just can’t deny soul, after all.

While I’m never going to back down when it comes to my beliefs, I’m never going to turn my back on good people who disagree with me either, so I was happy to find something that could unite us. I love my family, and finding our common ground is crucial to me.

As if a surprise serenade weren’t enough, I also met a talented homeless man making art out of palm trees.

He was only asking for donations for his work.

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I totally bought the cross.

I shared the photo — and the story — with my family. While politics and faith divide us, art unites us, so I was happy I could share this as well.

After I returned home, I made tomato soup, jammed to songs of resistance, and then I went to work at the Saloon.

If you want a taste of yesterday’s playlist here are a few highlights, in no particular order:

Fred Hammond, No Weapon

Dixie Chicks, Not Ready to Make Nice

Yolanda Adams, Never Give Up

Things (Or I’m Writing Again)

I took down my Airbnb listing recently and cancelled my last reservation today. Long story… but it was time.

I’m not sad about it. Airbnb was a zany experience to say the least, and I had a longer run than I had expected when I set out on the adventure.

I’m incredibly glad to be home and within arm’s reach of all my shoes, so there’s that. (The things we take for granted….)

In other news, I’m still having fun waiting tables at the Saloon, I started writing a new pilot, and I’m looking forward to an incredible Michigan football season.

The Wolverines destroyed Hawaii 63-3 last Saturday, and our preseason #7 ranking rose to #5 as a result. I’m going back to Ann Arbor for the Wisconsin game on October 1, and the crew making the pilgrimage to the Holy Land is growing daily.

Plus?

My entire family will be home for my Nana’s birthday that week, so I’m going to party at the cabin with the rest of the Russell Clan while I’m in Michigan. #winning

So this was an inane non-post post, but my head has gone other places.

I could tell you about the (working) actor who comes into the Saloon and tells me, “You have comedy in you. You should do stand up,” but I suspect he’s hitting on me, so I take THAT with a grain of salt. I’m just going to keep writing my new pilot instead of planning to participate in an open mic night with people who are actually funny…..

This is me writing at the moment. I’m sweaty from a rather ill-advised walk to Trader Joe’s with a laundry cart. (Don’t ask.)

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It’s probably better I’m a bit out of focus.

Back to the pilot.

More later.

XOXO

On the Couch (Or Confessions)

Remember LAST spring when I rented my place on Airbnb for the first time? Remember when I thought it was going to be a short-lived experiment?

Well, 15 months later I’m still renting it to travelers from Egypt to Australia and everywhere in between.

It takes a toll on me. I’m not going to lie.

Even though my friends are awesome for letting my big beast and me stay with them, it’s hard not to be home. Sure, I have streamlined my packing process and my after-hours check in procedures so I don’t have to wait for international travelers at all hours of the night, but if I’m being honest, I’m ready to stop for a while.

I’m ready to finish the repairs and upgrades my place desperately needs, to have a proper dinner party on my yet-to-be-christened mahogany table, and I’m ready to know all of my shoes are in my closet instead of a bag on the floor.

So, I finally rejected a couple of requests from Parisians and blocked a week off my calendar. Now I can stay home to deal with my place… and the mail that gets neglected when I’m living like a nomad.

I tackled the refrigerator upgrade last weekend with middling success (see injuries here), and now I’m ready to replace my couch.

My parents bought my current one for me when I graduated from USC, and it had two removable slipcovers back then. Four rescue dogs, 45 international travelers, and 13 years later, I’m down to one slipcover that is absolutely in tatters.

It’s time for an upgrade.

See?

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Horrifying furniture AND photography.

The challenge is finding a sleeper sofa I don’t hate for under $1,000. I found one that wasn’t bad at Cost Plus, but it didn’t have removable (read: washable) cushions, and it only pulled out into a twin, which won’t really work for a lot of reasons.

It was CLOSE to being right, but…

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Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

I found another option I don’t despise online, but it’s hard for me to commit without seeing it up close.

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OBVIOUSLY not with those atrocious throw pillows. Source

Also? It only comes in pebble which wouldn’t be catastrophic, but I think I want dark gray.

I’ve been scouring Craigslist for over a month, but that has been a bit of a bust thus far.

So… I confess I’m not quite sure what to do about the couch, I’m a bit sick of renters, I’m tired of living like a refugee… and my other confession?

I have writers block.

I know that sounds crazy considering I wrote two blog posts this week, but it’s really just procrastination because I don’t know what to do with my pilot, my second feature, or the first feature I’m converting into a novel.

I’m just not feeling that inspired.

Now that I’m home and rejecting rental requests for a while, I’m going to make myself write.

Hold me to it, K?

Thanks, internet.

Forehead and Forearms vs. Fridge (Or I Lose)

Eight years ago I bought a used fridge when I moved into my place. A few years into our relationship, I painted it with stainless steel paint to hide its glaring whiteness.

In the process of pulling off the handles for painting, one hit me in the face.

Hard.

I had a massive contusion on my forehead for a few weeks. (I had to buy a ridiculous hat from H&M to hide it.)

That fridge served me well for years (minus the forehead assault), but it has been on its way out for the last year or so. I refused to buy a new fridge for a place I’m renting on principle so I started scouring Craigslist for a replacement.

After a month, I found a candidate… in Compton.

Yes, Dr. Dre’s City of Compton.

Apparently, the guy had been trying to sell it for a while but everyone bailed on him when he told him where he lived.

People are idiots.

I mean, maybe I’M an idiot for driving 21 miles south to the hood to go to a stranger’s garage with him, but considering the deal I got on a stainless steel situation I’d say I won.

The only catch?

I didn’t have anyone to help me haul it.

I didn’t think that was going to be a big deal because I moved my last fridge by myself with a dolly. I figured I’d just rent a truck with a ramp and a dolly and I’d be fine.

Yeah, not so much…

I didn’t realize how heavy the fridge was because the guy who sold it to me put it in the truck for me. Maybe the grimacing and the sweat on his brow should have tipped me off, but he was kind of small, so I didn’t really think too much about it until it was my turn to haul that thing solo.

I struggled to tip it on its end to roll it, but I finally managed. As I held it at the edge of the ramp, I grimaced in pain as the weight of the enormous appliance rested on my forearms.

OMIGOD, it hurt.

Once I was sure I had the wheels aligned properly on the edges of the ramp, I started the slow descent to the street. By this point, my arms were aching, and I was grateful my thighs had the strength to keep the fridge (and me) from flying uncontrollably into the street.

I survived that ordeal and made it across the sidewalk, but I was absolutely out of breath. It turns out stainless steel weighs A LOT more than whatever my last fridge was made out of (clouds and cotton candy?!?).

Totally spent and in pain, I looked at the two small steps standing between me and my building. They weren’t that big. They should not have been daunting, but my forearms were already aching from the ramp. I couldn’t face steps alone.

So I started my SOS texts.

I generally try to avoid damsel in distressing it, but this situation was out of my hands.

My friend Lauren, who is an absolute angel, called me back and offered to come over. While I waiting for her to arrive, my neighbor Mel came upon me sitting on the steps, looking a bit bruised and pathetic.

It turns out his grandfather had owned a moving company back east and he offered to help.

Long story short (too late), Lauren and Mel are absolute angels and they bailed me out of a situation wisdom probably could have prevented in the first place, but now I have a fabulous fridge.

(I bought them gift cards to the bougie pet store up the street because I know when I’m indebted to incredible people, and they both have rescue dogs who deserve pampering.)

So, anyway, here’s the appliance that almost killed me and my arms:

Welcome home, fridge. Thank you for hosting my bacon and my beer.

Welcome home, fridge. Thank you for hosting my bacon and my beer. You’re worth it.

Now I’m adoring it while icing my arms because moving it all but kind of killed me.

Repurposing an already indispensable item = winning.

Winning with wine pacs.

If you can handle gore, this is why I need the ice:

Fridge > forearms

Fridge > forearms

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I swear the only abusive relationship I’m in is with a large appliance.

It’s actually a little worse today than it was when I took these pics last night, but I’ll spare you those pics

Instead, I’ll conclude with this: both fridges did damage to my forehead and my forearms, but I’m grateful for cold wine… and the angels who helped me haul the pretty new one into my place.

My crew rules.