Back from the time warp

HERE I AM! Rocking you like a hurricane. Or maybe more caressing your face like a gentle breeze. I don’t even know anymore. I have a lot happening right now all the time. It’s all good stuff, but it’s so much stuff that I don’t have time for other stuff. Like blogging stuff. I have missed you all though, I swear.

When I started work two months ago I was all manicured, pedicured, spa’ed out, well rested and excited.

The only record I have of myself where I don't look tired.

Proof! I felt awake once!

Now I have been through training and trial by fire. Adding to that is field season, in that being a biology type person who works on industrial type things, spring and summer are the time when all the critters have to stand up and be counted. I am terrible at that sort of thing, so my job is to do paper work while the more talented among us are out enjoying the sunshine. That suits me just fine; I get to go pick up my kids at 5:15 every day and they’re happy to see me. It makes my life.

May is also stupid with birthdays in my family, along with Mother’s Day, inlaws visiting for two weeks. And me insanely deciding that we have to put our house on the market RIGHT NOW the day our inlaws arrived, and despite no evidence that we are going to be able to get our house in show condition without an intervention from that hoarders show.

Did I mention I am in a beekeeping workshop? Yeah. So there’s that too. Although I hate the snow, I am glad at least that our late spring delayed the bees for a couple of weeks this year so I could catch my breath a bit. My hive from last year gave me a lot of grief and I am just going to do a separate post on that for the bee lovers among us.

I have a beekeeping helper this year

I have a beekeeping helper this year

Did I also mention that I am taking a running workshop? I AM GOING TO LOVE RUNNING, GODDAMMIT. Or I am at least going to do it. Because since kids, I can endure basically anything for any amount of time.

This may have been more than I was up for, but in typical rollergiraffe fashion, I careened right into it. As a result, all of that pampering and pedicuring wore off quickly. This is a recent photo:

Smoking relaxes me

Smoking relaxes me

My kids are totally validating my daycare provider’s assumption that I was really shitty at parenting. When they started daycare they were hot messes and we were limping in every day barely alive. In the last two months they have learned to dress themselves, mastered potty training, learned all the continents and many countries, learned to write their names, done art projects that I can’t even do, grown grass, and learned a whole second language. I worked for TWO YEARS on that potty training thing. So, basically feeling pretty amazing about my daycare picking skills, you guys.

But they’re FOUR! My babies are four, and of all the things I have been through this month, that is the most exciting and fun. They’re so cool right now. I love every day that they come home with something new.

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Fourth birthday at the amusement park

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I'll let you figure out which.

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I’ll let you figure out which.

Anyway, I make no promises about blogging right now, but do know that I do my best to keep up with y’all’s prodigious blogging pace. So tell me, how are YOU?

rollergiraffe:

I wanted to reblog this today to celebrate the fact that so far no one has vomited today. ENJOY!

Originally posted on the rollergiraffe:

We got flooded at Thanksgiving last year and then we had bronchitis and other family disasters at Christmas time. We’ve endured a lot of complicated living situations and crud, so I figured a really fun Easter might turn things around. I was prepared; I had the eggs, the Easter baskets, enough chocolate to put us all in a diabetic coma, adorable Easter cards made and photos taken. I talked the kids into being excited about the Easter bunny, or at least remembering that there is something called an Easter bunny, which they only understood in a vague way. This was going to be the best motherfucking Easter ever. (just like the best motherfucking Christmas ever.. sigh, I should have known).

Everything looking promising

Then on Wednesday night just as I was drifting off to sleep, early for once after weeks of being an idiot watching episodes of Mad Men all night…

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On being at home with the kids

My time at home with my babies is over. Four years ago, almost to the day, I was heavily pregnant with twins and left my job with only a vague idea of what was to come. I had notions of heading back to work as soon as my maternity leave was over. I was all “I am woman, hear me roar” about it and there was no way I was going to give up a career I had worked so hard for.

That didn’t happen. A different kind of feminine notion took hold in the minute between the first and second of my sons was born. In an instant, holding them both in my arms for the first time, I grew up, got wise, and became the fierce mama I am.

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This. This is when it happened.

Being a stay at home mom has been an experiment in extremes, punctuated by life events that were completely out of control and all the expected things that kids bring, but double the intensity. The highs are higher and the lows are lower with two, and we have ridden that rollercoaster 1398 days now.

My boys are wild, loud, beasts who will take over the world some day with sheer force of abandon. My Unicorn has imagination beyond compare and an incredible depth of kindness. My Engineer has an aptitude and precociousness for figuring out how the world works and he does it with wit. These are things I already know about them, and I know in my heart who they will be long before they get there. And so I don’t worry for that; I know that they will be themselves, and if they’re lucky, be happy at that.

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The Engineer and The Unicorn

And tonight, tonight it hit me with the force of a speeding railway, after they were snuggled into bed, after all the dishes were done, and the wine drunk, the relaxing over. Tonight, as I went to check on them before I turned to bed myself, I realized that tomorrow we will wake up and be a different kind of family. I will be a different kind of mom.

I know that the fact that I had a choice to stay home and now go back to work was a great luxury, so I won’t dwell on it. But I will grieve a little for this shift in my universe; this separation that I never wanted. I will still do all the mom things that moms do everywhere every day. I will still be there in the morning and at night and every minute that I am able. They will still need so much from me.

And oh my god, I am grateful, so profoundly grateful that I had nearly four years to spend with my little folk and grateful that I found it in me to do it, because I was so afraid that I didn’t. I am grateful for the things that they have given me; the patience, the knowledge that time passes whether it’s good or bad, and how to find joy in those small moments even when the day has been hard.

Summer 2012 645

Like this. This was hard. OMG I HAVE CLEANED UP SO MUCH SHIT IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS.

So tomorrow I send them off into this world a little bit in a way I am not prepared for yet. I will have to approach it the same way I approached becoming a mom; vague notions and blind faith that it will all work out alright. And it will, because I am armed now with the knowledge that as long as those two little goofballs are in this world with me, everything is ok.

Must See NYC: Chess

So way back in October we went to New York. We saw many fabulous sights, including Broadway Shows, a taping of the Daily Show, a concert at a bowling alley in Brooklyn, and a lot of people buying toilet paper in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. I am told that last part worked out fine.*

All of those things were very exciting and deserve a long post about how much I love New York. But I am here to talk to you today about Chess Tourism.

Background

All my knowledge is courtesy of Mr. Giraffe, who spent his youth playing chess. Needless to say, (and thankfully) we don’t run in to legions of old girlfriends.

Tournament goers are very diverse, but tend toward eccentric. The one thing that they have in common is that they are brilliant with the sixty-four squares and seem to enjoy sitting. Forget your notions of ornately carved wood and comfortable leather chairs, this is low rent but serious business.

A typical chess trip is something like this:

1) Study chess. This requires reading books full of diagrams like this:

This is something really exciting that someone famous did.

2) Cram into car with as many chess players as you can fit (they’re more flexible than clowns this way due to budgetary concerns).

3) Check in to crappy hotel, and prepare not to see the sunshine for four days.

4) Sit with your head in your hands for six hours without movement, food, or breaks, occasionally moving a piece as needed. Other player observe in silence and occasionally nod in approval or defeat.

5) Hope to repeat #4 as often as possible because that means you’re being successful.

6) Review games with other players and fret over all of your key mistakes in life.

Anyway, because of all the hours invested into such things it was natural that when we hit New York we were going to fulfill a lifelong dream to hit all the chess landmarks.

There are three.

Washington Square Park

This is where the chess players play outdoors in all the movies. We met a charming man named NaShawn at Washington Square Park who held his own against Mr. Giraffe for many hours on a sunny fall afternoon.

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A chess player would look at this board and instantly tell me who is winning. I am telling you it’s a chess board.

This gentleman kept me company while Mr. Giraffe was playing and insisted I take his photo.

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Steeze

I assure you there was nothing untoward, as he was mostly showing me pictures of his girlfriend on his iPad complete with Barry White soundtrack. Their living situation is tragically complicated by his parole conditions, but I think those two are going to make it.

The Chess District

South of Washington Square Park in the hopelessly complicated maze of streets that is Greenwich Village, there is the largest chess district in any urban dwelling. There are over two stores packed to the rafters with chess books, sets, t-shirts, clocks and any kind of chess related paraphernalia you could ever imagine. My favourite part was that I was allowed to use the bathroom there because Jesus Christ, where does anyone go to the bathroom in Manhattan? Are you all chronically dehydrated? Is there a special brand of Depends for Manhattanites that gives you all pert asses?

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This is not the one I used the bathroom in.

Marshall Chess Club

Two blocks north of Washington Square Park, inhabiting a beautiful townhouse in Greenwich Village, is the Marshall Chess Club. Some enterprising chess guy dedicated an expensive piece of Manhattan property to the pursuit and study of chess. The door is so elusive it will only appear to you if you know what a Spassky is. Grandmasters from all over the world have honorary memberships. This inspires a bit of class warfare between them and regular members who pay steep dues only to have their asses handed to them at tournaments. Even chess players have problems.

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Elegant old world charm accented with cheap $4.99 chess boards. Chess players care not for aesthetics, only for symmetry of the board. Or something.

Chess Tour Notes

Mr. Giraffe had thoughts about all of this ranging from awe to being underwhelmed by certain aspects. Unfortunately, I don’t play chess. Instead I contemplated the socioeconomic implications of the down and out players at Washington Square who eke out a living hustling chess not knowing that the high falutin’ Marshall Chess Club existed only blocks from them. On the whole, the players at Washington Square seemed to be having a better time.

The Rollergiraffe recommends the NYC chess tour for those who enjoy chess, chess history, and chess politics. All eleven of you. It may also be of interest to those who enjoy wafts of pot smoke, observing racial and socioeconomic tensions, conversing with ex-convicts, and watching old white men attempt to wrap bologna sandwiches in wax paper. Bathrooms are located in the Starbucks at NYU on the east side of the park, in the chess stores and NOWHERE ELSE IN MANHATTAN.

Summer 2012 440

There is a lot of this in my future.

*Hurricane Sandy did not work out fine at all. Please catch up on ongoing relief efforts at http://sandyrelief.org/

This post was inspired by the redoubtable Carrie Rubin, who braved a magic convention with her son. She also wrote a book while still being a doctor and a bunch of other stuff, and I am more or less convinced she’s actually Wonder Woman.

Back to Work

Alternately titled: Extended leave from the hardest job ever of being at home with the kids

It’s been almost exactly four years since I waddled off the job seven months pregnant with twins. A year later, I would be fired by voice mail when returning from mat leave, all of my stuff would get lost, and I would vow to never go back to consulting again. After a stunning existential crisis I have reversed this decision and decided this is the best possible move. I have a life path! Probably full of landmines! So freaking freaked out about it, you guys. Here’s why I am doing it:

1. I am only reasonably sure I brushed my teeth today.

I had a sock on inside out today. Sometime in the intervening hour the sock was turned right side out. I can only reasonably conclude that I did that myself, but I have absolutely no memory of said event. Therefore, I think it’s safe to infer that the habit I have every morning of my life happened, but I have also forgotten to use deodorant on multiple occasions in the last year, so who can be sure? Anyway, what I am saying is, I think that going back to work will provide a little structure and force me to pay attention to myself a little more.

2. Cash money

I thought being a kept woman would be delightful. Turns out I am not very delighted. Despite the fact that Mr. Giraffe has learned does not seem to mind when I spend his money, it doesn’t feel good to not earn a salary. I know that stay at home parents provide a gazillion dollars worth of service every year and all that shit, but guess what? No one shows up with a goddamn cheque. Not even a funny novelty one as a thank you. I think that would have been nice. So now I can earn my own money. And use that money to buy more bees, thus ensuring an exit strategy from the workforce when I one day quit to address a looming honey over-supply problem.

3. I have a theory that time outs are going to be effective in the workplace

If there’s one thing motherhood has afforded me, it’s a firm hand for discipline and zealous need for control. This will either make me the best worker ever or completely unbearable. Or maybe I will relish the fact that my coworkers can do up their own pants and just kick back. My emotions are a totally unknown quantity here. Adventure awaits at every turn.

4. No one will yell at me in the toilet

I hope. I had a job once where the boss got very mad when I used the washroom, but she also had a piece of popcorn stuck in her hair for 3 days once so I don’t think that was a typical experience.

5. A job will probably solve my ongoing cell phone crisis

I have been trying to pick out a smart phone for about 4 years. I am guessing that my new company will make my decision for me and I will be grateful. That is one aspect of communism I think I would really enjoy.

6. If I have to make one more meal in my life I am going to lose my shit

I recognize I still have to cook food for my family to reject and ferry everyone about, but it’s not all I have to do forever.

7. This year is ALL ABOUT ME

There, I said it. Say what you will, but I feel like I am going to be healthier, happier, and a better parent by going out into the world and bringing new stuff back to my family. And I will delight in each uninterrupted lunch hour like Nichola Tesla gazing upon his pigeon. If you’re not familiar with Tesla, trust me when I sat that is quite a lot of delight.

(Probably) Next up: The Rollergiraffe has a crisis over abandoning her kids at a daycare while she goes to a fulfilling job every day. I CAN’T WIN AGAINST MYSELF.

Snowy Sunday Misadventures

It looks like this outside this morning.

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Stop focusing on the fact that my Christmas lights are still up and look at all that stupid snow.

That is some major bullshit. To some of you southerners this might appear like the end of times, but up here in Canadaland we just call this “March”. It’s Sunday so people will still go to church if they’re really dedicated, but less people will go shopping and we shall collectively roll our eyes and generally endure.

So anyway, that’s happening today. I may have over-imbibed a bit with the neighbors last night and my kids have the sniffles so I was really looking forward to a movie day. Maybe some baking. If things got wild, I’d make popcorn. You know, really earth shattering type stuff. But nothing that would require me to put my winter jacket on because I am totally done with that fucking thing. I am really serious about that.

You can imagine how delighted I was to wake up to the following conversation:

Engineer: Mommy, get the gray thing out of my mouth.

Mommy: (launching self out of bed) WHAT? What grey thing? What did you eat?

Engineer: The grey thing. From playgroup.

Mommy: (stabbing at eyes to make eyes work before remembering to put on my glasses) WHERE DID YOU GET IT?

Engineer: (Points at desk)

I surveyed my desk. Grey things include: paperclips, staples, tacks, money, BATTERIES. No grey things that seemed like a good idea to eat. Maybe I am not being imaginative enough, but I can’t think of any grey things that seem like a good idea to eat. (Google says buckwheat noodles. I’ll give them that.)

Mommy: (In shrill, shrieking voice) Where is the grey thing?

Engineer: In my tummy.

And so in a flurry of coats and hats and boots and car seats, we found ourselves at the Children’s Hospital before breakfast. Not to cast aspersions on our local Children’s Hospital, because they are wonderful people who have given us excellent care over the years, but they were NOT AS PANICKED AS I WANTED THEM TO BE. In fact, they barely registered any alarm at all. They directed us to the waiting room where we sat next to the poster full of “Actual Items Swallowed by Children”. The actual items were glued to the poster and included things like buttons, pennies, small toys, a safety pin, magnets a KNITTING NEEDLE. Not one of those little crochet hooks, either; this needle could have been a bonafide weapon.  I am not shitting you. This informative poster did nothing to make me feel better.

There was virtually no waiting time because not many children were committed to self harm on a Sunday morning, so it was us and a few pukers. The Engineer informed the doctor that a grey thing was in his tummy and he wanted a picture of it, so off we went to x-ray. By the time we got to the x-ray, I was kind of didn’t know what to wish for. I kind of suspected that this could all be a lie, and here I was calling his bluff by shooting him with radiation. I had only a couple of seconds to ponder the risks of either proposition though, and decided on the balance it was better to find out what he ate.

The Engineer was a superstar about it and laid as still as he has ever laid for five seconds at a time. And we learned just a few minutes later that the kid was completely full of crap. Literally and figuratively. But no dangerously sharp, life threatening metal objects that were going to poison him and shred his insides, as I had naturally assumed.

Then we braved the blowing snow and crappy roads home. I am sure that the worst part for the Engineer was the twenty minute lecture, borne out of complete gratitude that he was totally fine and this was just a misadventure. Now we can get started on doing absolutely nothing today.

Winter 2013 063

Resume regular programming. MORE OF THIS TODAY, CHILDREN.

 

13 Years in 6 Songs, Plus one for the future

I first started dating Mr. Giraffe in January 2000, after he chased me down in the food court that our office buildings shared after being egged on by his friends. True story. Thirteen years later we are married with twin boys and a wayward dog, and we owe it all to the eerie yellow glow of the subway sign.

A major theme in our relationship has been music. Apart from chess and spreadsheets, it’s what drives Mr. Giraffe. He plays music, better than he would admit to. In high school he resembled Neil Young in both hair and guitar. A thousand times I heard the songs he taught himself guitar to, never lessening in my admiration for his talent. It still makes me swoon a little, even though he doesn’t know that.

He saved me with the lyric: “I am lonely, but you can free me all in the way that you smile” a million times over.

At first it was Miles Davis that we had in common. I listened to the album in my grandparents’ basement a thousand times when I was in high school. We would go on to jazz festivals in Montreal and Monterey. We’d go to smoky clubs, we’d see Maceo Parker in the sweltering summer, still in our fancy clothes and faces still creased from sleeping in the car the night before after a wedding in the country.

We hit the record store downtown and found Hang Up your Hangups. Mr. Giraffe recorded it on our answering machine. It was on there for so long that I called the CBC and begged them to broadcast it for a final farewell. It stayed on until we moved though. Later, we would meet Herbie Hancock at the Monterey Jazz Festival just before we watched him rock a keytar, and I had nothing to say anything other than “Sir, you were on our answering machine for 4 years”. Security whisked him away.

We raced around music festivals; the Calgary Folk Music Festival being the highlight of our year. We spent my 30th birthday in the dust and heat of Bonnaroo. Mr. Giraffe discovered Old Crow Medicine Show and learned to play that song, and performed it with friends that year.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, we got married. With a party band at our wedding, where all of our friends and family, some lost or forgotten now, danced all night long and we were still singing on the bus to our hotel.

We danced to Sweet Virginia the morning that Mr. Giraffe proposed to me, in the kitchen of our old house. We danced to it on our wedding day. We went to California and Austin for our honeymoon. “Thank you, for your wine, California. Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit

After the honeymoon we went to Iron and Wine. I nearly fainted at the concert. I would find out days later that I was pregnant, months later with twins. “Mother remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body, So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten, Sons are like birds flying upwards over the mountain.

And then our lives as we knew them ended.  We’ve been to our Folk Festival, we’ve been moved to tears by Gillian Welch. We’ve been to Monterey. But kids have taken all of my focus and attention. I let myself get too far in one direction, away from you. My valentine to you, Mr. Giraffe, is the promise to try to recapture some of that energy. The stuff we’ve lost in the flood, the drudgery of having kids, and general weariness of age. Because really, that’s where we’ve felt the best and been our best; when the music is good.

rollergiraffe:

I answered all of Jon’s with all the integrity of Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong combined. And the hilarity of Kim Jong Un. Now we’re BFF’s, Read it!

Originally posted on Brother Jon's Page:

It’s time for another Blogging Celebrity Interview! This week’s interviewee comes to us from Canada, the land of Eskimos, Sasquatch and maple syrup. Roller Giraffe may be one of my favorite persons ever – and I’m not just saying that. (I’m saying it because she said the same thing about me on my Birthday. Well, actually she used the word favoUrite.) Well, let’s get on with the show. What do you say, eh?

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Weekly photo challenge: Illumination

I confess, I am not a very diligent WordPresser when it comes to things like the Daily Post. In fact, I think this is the first time I have actually read it, but right now it fits because the days are getting longer and I feel lighter.

I also confess that I just got back from a Disney Cruise and Disney World. I think you all know me well enough to know that I am a bit too jaded for these kinds of things, but I was drawn in by promises of legendary service and the prospect of sun in the middle of a bleak winter. And it paid off in that way; I had to do very little thinking. I got vitamin D from all the sun. I got to sit and watch the ocean go by and ponder the acidification from all the carbon dioxide we were emitting. Ok, so anxiety doesn’t make trips relaxing.

But my sons; to them this trip was all light. Disney did its magic and filled their heads with stories and characters and fantastical sights.

This is my little unicorn, rocking out in a family night club on the ship in his Buzz Lightyear pyjamas. The music was blaring and he had the dance floor mostly to himself. To him all the lights were light sabers and the pounding music a soundtrack to his own personal Star Wars movie.

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I don’t have a picture of my other son watching fireworks for the first time. We were finishing dinner when the fireworks started and the waiter let us sneak out the back door so we could watch the show. My little unicorn sat up on Daddy’s shoulders, while I held the engineer on my lap. His face filled with wonder watching the sky explode to music. That look, watching his face light up filled a need I didn’t even realize that I had. It undid a little bit of weariness in me. I don’t need a photo of that; I’ll carry that light around with me for some time to come.

It’s not you 2012, it’s me.

2012; you’re going away today and I have to be honest; I am not that sad to see you go. I don’t really blame you, 2012. Well, I kind of do, but I realize that you were just the wrong time in the wrong place in my life.

We had some good times, 2012. I had some great times this year with my friends, not nearly enough time with my family. You introduced me to a lot of good people, like Le Clown, Madame Weebles, The Ringmistress, on top of scores of other bloggers who feel like friends to me (like really, too numerous to mention.. I love you all!). I even got to meet some in real life, like Love and Lunchmeat and Lame Adventures. Both of those meetings were as great as I expected them to be and affirmed how much I love meeting new people. I went with you to New York for the first time, I got to hang out on the beach in PEI for a week. I watched my beautiful kids turn 3, surrounded by dinosaurs and bikers. I fulfilled my lifelong dream of keeping bees, which is something only you gave me, 2012. I will always be grateful for that.

Rockin' the freezies like a boss on my kids' birthday.

Rockin’ the freezies like a boss on my kids’ birthday.

But mostly 2012, you were a bit of a downer. Admittedly, 2011 being such an asshole didn’t help your cause. My expectations were too high for any year to come along, being as naive as I was about how house floods and insurance and all that kind of baggage that 2011 left behind. When I left 2011, I didn’t realize how much of a mess I was and that wasn’t the best way to start my relationship with you. You were a bit of a rebound, really. I was just so excited for 2011 to be over, I was ready to just jump into the next year without any forethought. That’s my fault 2012. I could have predicted you wouldn’t be the year for me, but I was blind.

But man, you made 2011 look like a goddamn saint. I mean, within the first two months of you I had been sued, accused of insurance fraud, and had to pay for a second round of renovations for my house because 2011 delivered me the worst, most malicious contractor in the world. You brought along illness and disease. You claimed our dog. Then you claimed Mr. Giraffe’s aunt. We tried to fix things by going on holidays with you, but you were just an emotional vortex, 2012. Seriously. Everyone I know who was involved with you says the same thing. Even when I tried to relax you threatened me with Superstorm Sandy, and you seriously affected some of my friends with it. I take that kind of thing personally, 2012. No holiday went unpunished this year, no weekend unsullied by your constant pressure. You even delivered the worst kind of experimental jazz at every opportunity you could, ruining a whole music genre for me, and waited until I was on my own traveling with twins to give us all a stomach virus. Way to go, 2012. I feel like you could at least clean the puke out of my van, but I just want you to go.

Anyway 2012, I know you’re moving on, and I am glad because I think we aren’t good for each other. If indeed time travel ever does become possible, please don’t call. Don’t write. Just pretend that you never happened. Don’t try to undo all the shitty things that happened this year, 2012, because we both know that would be a lie. Even if you could change how things went, you can’t change who you are, 2012. You were just full of negative energy. If things were different, I might be tempted to go back to you and I think that we both agree that our relationship is pretty toxic.

Instead, just gently let me go to 2013. I am moving forward with lowered expectations, a bit more calm. I am just going to embrace whatever 2013 brings and not try to change 2013′s ways, like I did to you. And with that I say adieu, 2012. Go fuck yourself.

I want this exact statue on my grave when I die

This will be my permanent attitude in 2013 and beyond.

And to all my readers, I hope 2013 is brilliant and kind to everyone. Happy New Year!