Sunday, December 12, 2010

happy birthday, joshua

I hope no one's offended by two birthday posts in a row, but I couldn't ignore (again) acknowledging one of my favorite brothers and the anniversary of his birth.

For the past ten years or more, we've celebrated Joshua's birthday at Thanksgiving, usually on Saturday night with beef stew and apple pie or apple dumplings and early presents.  It's a tradition of which I approve heartily.  It's always more fun to celebrate a birthday in person instead of mailing a present (or forgetting to mail a present) or just handing it over the next time we see each other.  But sometimes the result of celebrating his birthday so early is that the day itself flies under the radar for me.  I remembered the date several times yesterday and made mental notes all over the place to call today.  Since Joshua is the lone facebook holdout in our immediate family, I knew I couldn't count on the internet to remind me either.  The good news is that all those mental notes paid off, and I thought to call early enough in the day that Jess was here to sing with me.  My voice is shot right now, so I really needed someone strong on lead vocals.  For the first time all year, I didn't get screened when I called their house for a birthday song.  I was starting to get a complex.  I had a nice little chat with Joshua, and now I continue the birthday love with my five favorite things about my old, old brother:

5.  Joshua is the black sheep in our family.  Just ask him, he'll tell you.  I'm so thankful that he's taken the black sheep role, so that I can be everyone's favorite.  (Or maybe I'm just thankful that he's so good at making funny black sheep jokes that crack me up.)

4.  Eleven and a half years ago, Joshua added another sister into our family.  Susan fits into our noisy, stubborn family as well as anyone ever could.  Either she's a phenomenal actress, or she actually loves us too.  I've said before that I feel like we won the in-law lottery with Susan.  I know enough people who just tolerate or exist alongside their in-laws, so I feel blessed that Joshua brought someone into our family who I can call a friend.  And the team that the two of them make is a lovely thing to behold.

3. Ring, Pinkie, & Thumb.  Without Joshua, I wouldn't have these precious little brats in my life, and that would be a tragedy of epic proportions. 

2.  Separate from his making me an aunt to his three adorable kiddos, Joshua as a daddy is one of my favorite things.  I never gave much thought to him as a father before he became one (for obvious reasons), but his talent for it was a revelation, if not necessarily a surprise.  He is crazy about his kids, and they are just as enamored of him.  His protectiveness and love is so fierce and intense that I know those kids will grow up never doubting for a second their specialness and value in this world.  Good parenting is a beautiful gift, and my dear brother is blessing his children in this way and receiving heaps of blessings in return.

1.  Joshua is my first and best example that people can get better with age.  Joshua earned his reputation in our family as a high-energy, aggressive kid.  Because of our closeness in age and size and our vastly different temperaments when we were young, he and I were not exactly friends.  In most of our childhood stories, he comes across as the bad guy, and because I couldn't hit as hard and could cry on command, I'm the heroic victim.  But whether or not he deserves the notoriety for his past, Joshua has long since grown from my occasional tormentor into a protective and loyal friend.  I think he was probably always better than I gave him credit for, but I'm so thankful that I finally grew up enough to see all of his good qualities like his tenacity and kindness and humor.  Knowing Joshua gives me hope that someday I can grow into a better person too, and I could look around for a long time and not find a more admirable example to follow.

Happy Birthday, Bub!  Love.

Friday, December 10, 2010

happy birthday, blog o' mine

Has it really only been a year since my extreme hubris got the better of me, convincing me that people cared about reading my opinions?  Some days it feels like I've been doing this--or not doing this--forever.

And I know it's only been seven or eight posts since I took my imaginary readers down memory lane in my 100th post haikus, but milestones are important.  I'm a girl who loves traditions and nostalgia, and I'm not sure if the term nostalgia can really be applied to such recent events, but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to.

Fans of the blog may be aware that I occasionally post birthday blogs in honor of a random sampling of my friends and family.  There's very little rhyme or reason to who gets picked and who doesn't, which is a pretty shoddy way to do business.  Sorry about that, people who feel left out.

But in true birthday fashion, I'm going to tell you my five favorite things about the blog.  I considered doing my five favorite posts or something commemorating favorite comments, but the five general favorite things fits the birthday blog tradition more fully.  So here you go.

5.  I love the little monetary surprise that comes along with the blog's participation in the amazon associates program.  Faithful fans (or anyone who follows that link) will recall that I enrolled in the program in March, just because I'm greedy, and I think it's been fairly painless for us all.  Several of you, who I assume were going to shop at amazon anyway, follow links from my blog to the amazon site to place your orders.  When you do that, I get anywhere from 4-15% of your purchase price, just for referring you there.  Plus it's one more statistical report for me to pore over on a monthly basis.  In the seven months or so since I put the ads up on my site, I've probably made between $30 and $40 dollars, which seems ridiculously wonderful to me for the tiny amount of work that went into setting it up.  I'm banned from looking at my full Associate report right now because word on the street is that someone bought me a Christmas present from amazon through my site, but I can still go to the general account page to check on my balance for the month.  So far in December alone, I've earned $72 in referral fees.  Thank you!  I'm blown away by that amount, and I promise to do something ever so nice with my windfall in your honor.

4.  And since I mentioned statistics, I'll proclaim Google Analytics and its various measures of site traffic as another blogging favorite.  I know I've said this before, but it's insane how much satisfaction I get from knowing how many people come to the site and where they're from, what pages bring in the most visitors, the methods that folks use to find me, and the keywords searched that lead people to the opinions.  In the past few months, the keyword stats have been compromised because after I mentioned things that people googled to find me in a conversation, a couple of avid readers started testing what they could search to bring up the blog.  But Google Analytics fills up a very nerdy place in my heart.

3.  I love how the blog has often given me a sense of purpose and direction this year.  There have been countless ways in which I've come up short from the big resolutions to missed deadlines to time wasted on frivolities to the general disorganization of my life, but there have also been moments and instances when I've followed through and gotten some crap done just so I could share it here.  In a life severely lacking in motivation, I never guessed that this forum would provide a sense of accountability.  But it has.  I hope that this unexpected blessing continues to push me in the next year as well.  Feel free to help in that regard, imaginary readers.  Speaking of which . . .

2.  You.  Of course, I'm thankful, for you, not-so-imaginary readers, from the loyal fans to the casual readers who pass this way.  Without you, I'd have no Google Analytics to study.  I'd have no comments to read and enjoy and hold to my heart.  Without you, I'd just be talking to myself, and as much as I have and will continue to profess all sorts of self-love, if you weren't here reading what I'm writing, I'd be every kind of a loser.  I love that you're here reading these words, and I love that several of you will post a comment and encourage me to keep doing this.  I can say without hesitation that if my precious family and several close friends hadn't come along and created my little fan-base, I would have hung up my blogging hat months ago.  (Hmmm . . . now I want a blogging hat--maybe I'll use my $72 on that.)  And though I don't really think that any of my repeat readers are strangers, it's been nice for those who don't know me in real life to stop by and stay for a while too.  I feel like most of the time the ellen portrayed here in the blog falls into a neighborhood several miles south of likeable, so the fact that anyone sticks around is amazing and special to me.  My cup is full and running over from the blessing that is your presence here, dear readers.  Thank you.

1.  I love having a collection of my writing from the past year.  I know I've been spotty at times in keeping up with things, and in some ways, I thought that I'd have done something more or different.  But overall, I'm just thrilled that I've stuck around at all--that there are at least a few posts from each of the past twelve months.  I should be embarrassed to admit how often I got back and read older posts, but I feel no shame.  I love having a way to go back and review what's been going on in my life.  Often when I need to find an old post to link to something new I'm doing, I get caught up in reading old favorites.  I know it's painfully and ashamedly obvious that I'm completely self-absorbed already, so I'll go ahead and admit to you, that I think I'm a pretty great writer.  I don't love everything I've written here, and occasionally I'm shocked at how mundane the writing can be, but when I'm firing on all cylinders, I'm witty and eloquent and, dare I say, readable.  I never gave any thought to reading my own blog, but as it turns out, it's kind of a lot of fun.

Happy Birthday, ellen has an opinion!  Your name is still ridiculous, but I love you anyway.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

an open letter to flying burrito

Dear Flying Burrito,

I can still remember our first encounter back in May of 2007.  It was a Wednesday, and Lisa bought my lunch as a bribe for doing something I wanted to do anyway.  Even on our first meeting, I was wise enough to choose the chicken nachos, and it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Do you remember those early days when Lisa liked to go and flirt with "the burrito boys" none of whom were actually flirt-worthy?  Remember the nicknames we had for the boys?  I still miss JT and Original Hat, and though I love Normal Guy, he still can't make up for the loss of them.  Remember how Mouth-Breather used to be such a dud then turned fun for about a week and then went right back to his old dud ways?  Why did he have to be the one who worked there the whole time I've been in love with you?

Flying Burrito, you ruined me for any other pick-your-toppings type Mexican food.  Whenever anyone starts singing the praises of Moe's, I gag.  I still believe that anyone who truly likes Moe's has never been to the Burrito.  There's just no way you could experience the perfection of you and ever be content with Moe and his nasty cheese dip.

I always loved that I could come for a visit anytime of day.  On Mondays when I like to eat lunch late, the River Market vendors are always closed, but you're there for me.  I'll never forget that about you.  Your presence in my life enriched my relationships with coworkers.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Mattie and Amelia had an entirely different set of nicknames for the boys.  Our Burrito-love and friendly debate over the best foods there brought us closer together.  Mattie's in London this semester, and I know she's devastated that she'll never get one last burrito when she gets home.

Over the years I've shared our love with countless friends.  Jess and I had our first date there back in August of 2008.  I took Justin there.  Sam the page and I have lunched there together.  I think I introduced Shane to your delightfulness.  You were the setting for a short-lived run of weekly lunches with a few downtown-working church friends.  When Martha moved back and we instated downtown lunches, you were the first place I took her.  And that doesn't even take into account all the lunches I've had there with Lisa or Bob and Philip and lately with the babies Beck.  So many memories with folks from all over my life.  Thank you for those memories.

Sometimes I've tried to stay away, bring my lunch, and save my pennies, but even when I was being sensible, you were my splurge place.  If I was going to go eat anywhere, I would come to you, especially on Tuesdays.  Your double-punch lunch card special ensured that though I was paying for lunch then, there was a free treat in my future.  Thanks for all those double-punches.  And thanks to Normal Guy who on a few occasions gave me extra punches after I lost my punch card.  I'm going to miss that Normal Guy.

I had heard mutterings that you were closing, but I refused to believe them until that Thursday a few weeks ago when I read your closing signs for myself.  I couldn't believe it.  I resolved then to make the most of our time together.  I even had a punch-card schedule worked out so that I could fill my card one last time before you were gone forever.  When I fell a bit off-schedule, Normal Guy came to my rescue again and finished my card for me on Monday, so it was free-lunch ready on Tuesday, our last day together.  I actually made plans over the weekend to introduce one more person to you before you were gone for good.  Lacey was going to meet me after work on Tuesday night for one last hurrah.  I still came to see you for lunch on Tuesday though--and waited in line for over thirty minutes.  I'm not sure how you're not managing to stay in business with crowds like that.  I'll never regret coming at lunch-time that day because when Lacey and I walked over after work, you were already closed for good.  It hurt. 

There's still an ache there.  Never again will one of the burrito boys know I want nachos to go before I even say it.  Never again will I taste the joy of all my favorites piled just the way I want them.  I've tasted my last chipotle sour cream.  I'll never have to explain the recycling system to Bob again or find myself involved in random line conversations.  No matter what other Mexican restaurant reopens there in the spring, it will never be the same.  It won't be you, and without you, we won't be us.  I'm sorry for all the times that I took you for granted, for all the times I didn't ask for guacamole just because it cost extra.  I'm sorry for not savoring each lunch with the knowledge that they would someday end.  I've seen some cheery, feel-good quotation somewhere that advises, "Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."  I think I'll get there someday, Flying Burrito.  Someday I'll look back with nostalgia and fondness for all the good times you provided, but for today, I'm still going to cry.

You'll always be in my heart.