Mer, rhymes with bear (merriehaskell) wrote,
Mer, rhymes with bear

"Holy crap, was that a decade?" (Part I)

Ah, the passage of time. There is no simple meme that can cover a decade, at least, not a personal one. Because, seriously, when you're talking about a decade that spans such important years as age 24-34, how do you sum that up in "What song reminds you most of your mid-twenties to your mid-thirties?"


In the past decade, I have lost one parent and both maternal grandparents; gone back to college, and graduated; gotten married; written three books & started a writing career; quit my job to go back to college; gotten two other jobs; moved house; become a home-owner; traveled to some foreign countries; attended my first science fiction conventions; started and quit graduate school; driven halfway across the country and back; watched my stepdaughter grow from a saucy four-year-old into a saucy fourteen-year-old; visited something like 20 new states; learned at least one new language (well, for to read in, anyway); &c. I suspect some decades are not quite as jam-packed with such explicit changes, but I would be surprised that my list would be any shorter or less varied in 2019 as it is in 2009.

However. I have been writing online journal entries in one format or another since 1999, so I do, in fact, have a decade's worth of blog posts to look back on. The online archive prior to 2002/2003 is spotty; most of that stuff is happily offline. (And, having gone and looked at those early 1999-2000 entries, I'm really, really glad they aren't widely available.)

Anyway. My very first online entry began like this:

I used to write diaries, as a child, as though I were writing for an avidly interested public. As a teenager, I wrote things that to this day I would blush if anyone else read. (And often, upon rereading, I blush anyway.)

It was titled "The Alpha Entry" and I have apparently lost the metadata for it. But the entry clearly states that I am 25 in it, and there is a later entry nominating December for "The Worst Month of the Year 2000."

So, let's do it, shall we? The Retrospective Decade Journal Meme, as far back as you can go. Take either the first sentence or the most compelling paragraph from each month of each year of the decade (or whatever mix works best) and slap it down with the date. Comment on each entry--if you wish--or don't.

This is going to get long, and I'm probably going to spread it out over a couple of days

From the lost online journal:

November 2000
I'm agitated about this freakin' election, too. Argh. This morning when I woke up I thought it would all be settled, but no, it's still a big mess.

December 2000
I don't know if it's November or December this year that wins Mer's Worst Month of 2000 award. October certainly did not suck as much as it has in years past, so that's new and different, but always one part of the fall catches me by the shoelaces and trips me on purpose, then laughs happily while I hold my broken nose. But this year it might be December, because I look at the holidays, and think of how my grandfather won't be here, how my father still isn't here, never really was, and never really will be, and how I may not have a lifetime of Christmases with Dann to look forward to.

I was in a bad place. I've tended to believe I've grown more pessimistic and cynical as the years have gone on, but honestly, it's looking like the opposite.

January 2001
I know there's a piece of that 14-year-old girl still inside of me. I miss her. She had high hopes. She infected people with her optimism and energy the way people have since infected me with their myriad of depressions and hatreds.

This is my meditation, my prayer: Bring me back to her. Let me find the path. Let the way be not lost. Let the story begin again.


February 2001
This diary is a big southern-fried pile of my stupidity and mixed emotions. It's like I can write all of the deepest unhappinesses in my life here and they kind of just stay here, most of the time. Occasionally I carry them away with me, but for the most part, it's a lightening of my load to ramble on here. In real life, I'm much happier than it appears here.

Well, that's something, I guess. I can barely stand reading these entries.

March 2001
I may not be the smartest, brightest, prettiest, funniest, most insightful, etc, etc, but nevertheless, in spite of constant feelings of inadequacy, I like being Out There, Where People Can See Me. I'll never make an anonymous charitable donation in my life. I just can't.

That's certainly changed some in 10 years. Not enough, but some.

April 2001
I would like to detail some advice for my daughter, who is not even a glint in my eye yet.

"Maddy (or Isabelle...)," I'd say, "the reason I don't want you to have sex with the first man you love is not just because I think you'll be in love too early, and hence will be stupid and not really understand the importance of birth control... it's that I think the first time you think you're in love, you usually aren't. And even if you really are, it's just as dangerous. Girls like us, girls like I've raised you to be, are girls who don't have enough armor in love. Girls like us walk into what we think is love, and before we take our clothes off (because that almost seems incidental to the greatness of our love, right?), we strip down to our bare souls, and love immediately, uncomplicatedly and without regard for what having a bare soul does to a person.

"It would be wrong of me to say don't love like that. Because I still do."

May 2001
My expected contribution to my college tuition next year is... about exactly the amount of my college tuition.

June 2001
No entry found. I know some existed, but I can't find 'em.

July 2001
I spent the whole of last week looking forward to some alone-at-home time. Then, on the way home, musing at the sunset (which looked like nothing so much as a large, bifurcated globule--or a butt in common parlance), I suddenly got those alone jitters.

This always happens. I look forward to being alone-- I get a little kooked out when it finally happens. I think it comes from not having a dog anymore.

August 2001
I really hate being in that panicked, terror-filled place, where the whole center of my being just fills with emptiness. And most people can send me there with a simple "Do you love Jesus?"

An entry, which in retrospect, fully describes PTSD wrt to Christianity.

September 2001
I've been working on this forever, so here it is-- I feel it needs work, so if you have ANY suggestions, definitely let me know. Jane Austen Character Selector

October 2001
No entry found

November 2001
Why are biological concepts all the funnier when you use Dr. Evil's voice?

Try it. Say your favorite piece of the skeleton as if you are crooning softly to Mini-me.

"Nuccal torus. Occipital bun."

Here's where I switch over to a much happier, much less angsty journal--Dark Laughter on Blogger. I was back in college, and I'd gotten over the worst of a bad situation.

December 2001
Kayla is such a sweetheart. We go to the grocery story after I pick her up from after-school. She takes my hand and sighs contentedly. "I'm so glad you brought me here. I love Busch's. It's my favorite grocery store. How did you know?"

January 2002
I started my "I must post" thought with a long-drawn out scenario not worth relating, prefaced by, "If my life were a character-study, and not a plot-driven novel, I'd..." But then I realized, regardless of what my crazy thought was, my life is a character study.

February 2002
Shiveringly, I made it into the studio, where the natural state of affairs was reversed-- it registered 95 degrees on my dial thermometer. I immediately shed a few layers, and then went on a chemistry hunt-- but we were out of both D-76 and Dektol. I found the dry powder and the directions for mixing, but had a sudden image of mixing up the powder (which is normally the lab assistant's job-- the one who yelled at me for "usurping" her studio time, though that's a different story, and I'm pretty sure it was she who attempted to usurp), somehow doing it wrong, and then being taken to task for ruining everyone's pictures who used my foul developer. So, I called Mike (the prof), who told me to go ahead and mix the chemistry (why can't we just call them chemicals in photo-speak? Why?). I felt like a dolt, especially when he said, "I really didn't expect anyone to go in this week at all." Oh. Well, look at me, Miss Prissy-pants.

and also

Three engagement cards today. Kind of surreal. I still have a hard time believing it. It seemed like a such an easy thing, to be engaged/married, until I stood up from the table, ring on my finger, wine going to my head, and had that moment of blinding clarity about it. I'm going to marry Dann. Disorienting, that kind of clarity. Frightening, but also kind of good.

March 2002
Well, I was on a roll last night (with making webpages). Unfortunately, the roll appears to be gone, and I'm left holding the bag of homework. Tonight: "Language, History and Identity: Ethnolinguistic Studies of the Arizona Tewa." Which is surprisingly interesting reading (for example, they got pissed at their Hopi neighbors and put a "linguistic curse" on them, which is pretty ingenious as curses go...).


I am allegedly supervising Kayla's shower this evening, which is mostly just listening to the water and the patter-- she breaks into song "You gotta have frie-e-ends" and then dives into Princess Diaries dialogue: "Me, a princess? Shut up!" My office is right across from the bathroom, so that's easy enough.

April 2002

My final conversation with the photo prof started out really hurky-jerky: "What do you think you've learned this semester, Merrie?" "Uhm, well, that I'm not really good at photography." "What do you mean?" "Well, I'm really bad at the technical side of things, and my artistic side is unexpectedly poor as well." "That's not quite what I mean by 'learn.'"

Hm. He wanted a meta-analysis of my performance (should have remembered I was in the RC, right?). So, after much delving into what I've been taking pictures of, he pointed out all these fabulous things about my "art" that I hadn't ever thought of. "I should thank my subconscious, then" I joked. He nodded. "Subconscious work is usually the more powerful anyway..." He pointed out all the intricate swirls on Kati's wedding dress, and how they matched the swirls on the world-map I photographed her in front of. "And you chose to turn this blurry photograph into me," (the one with all the matching swirls), "which says that you are more interested in form than perfection, which is great. Embrace your inner blurriness!"

I wasn't sure if I was happy or sad with the whole thing, but whatever. Then he spent a lot of time talking about the hand-coloring I had done. "It speaks volumes about how you see the world." (I spent 45 minutes coloring in a photo of some flowers, which everyone, upon seeing it, goes "you colored that?")

So, that's me. I'm a woman who hunches down and hand-colors the blurry details of everything.

May 2002
Interestingly, I can understand French spoken with a Japanese accent better than I can understand French spoken with a Spanish accent-- strange the things you learn about your language skills when they are actually put to the test.

June 2002
Every time we passed a shop window in France, there'd be something to ooh and ah over. We liked a lot of the things we saw. It got to the point where I said to Aunt Carol, "I think I only like these things in France... if I got them home I'd probably hate them." Examples include denim Empire waisted dresses sewn over with silver thread, and cross-pollinated peasant-style/Juliet-style sheer shirts. I can't tell you if I would hate them now or not-- from my mind's eye, I think so. But I'll tell you what I definitively know I hate from the trip, that I did bring back with me: We found Sephora. I got Kayla one of each of the little bath oil beads, because they came in the most amazing array of shapes-- not just frogs and fish, but things like dragons and snails and caterpillars and cats. They had about 50 scents, as well, ranging from the normal things like sandalwood and vanilla to things like sodapop. I thought I fell in love with "Sun" and "Lagoon"-- but I put on Sun yesterday and about gagged (it pretty much smells like the old kinds of suntan lotions my mom used when I was little-- but it's too sweet or something and gives me a headache)-- and today, I put on Lagoon and I'm like "Damn. I smell like a wet dog that just got out of the ocean."

July 2002
In other, even less news-like news, I don't want tomorrow to be Monday, the U screwed up my paycheck, when I played The Sims last night, I think my maid stole my dining room table though I have no proof, I'm having an HTML-tastrophe with one of my blog templates, and I've not written enough stories. Also, I miss my mom.

Also the month that my grandmother died, but the entries surrounding this are not compelling.

August 2002
I used to dream about being an herbalist. Like, as a career. This was obviously one of my post-apocalyptic career choices, but as Y2K was a disappointing thud on the apocalypse radar, and the ebola monkeys are mostly imaginary, I'm stuck with using Dann's tool room as a nearly useless and unattractive still-room, and owning far more herbal manuals than any one person needs.

Fortunately, I suppose, I have made at least two or three characters in my novels into herbalists as well, so all this knowledge is not gone to waste.

Furthermore, last night, when I was weeding the garden and began (inwardly) shrieking in pain and ran inside to scrub my skin due to aforementioned pain, I was able to diagnose stinging nettles as the culprit. There were good pictures in no less than 5 of my herbals.

September 2002
This compelling sentence: "I thought I was in love, but it turns out I was just concussed."

Did I say that? Did one of my characters? Or are we all just a bunch of plagiarists?

October 2002
I've Been Watching the Anna Nicole Show, and I Admit It

If you're still reading after that confession, let me say why.

During the tenure of the "bad" emperors in Rome-- though that's a misnomer of sorts, since there are the "good" emperors and then everyone else-- but I mean the really, really bad ones, Caligula and Nero and such, there was a surreal fear, an almost Big Brother Orwellian fear, that ran rampant through the Empire. The common man's fears were probably only slightly heightened during these times (though I don't really know, as the common man very rarely weighed in on the subject of how much he feared the Empire). Conscription, death and taxes-- plebes in the Roman Empire didn't get much respite from that, right? Ok, I'm talking outside of my area of knowledge right here. But the higher ups lived in absolute fear when the bad ones were in power-- with the good ones, Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, &c., you had a chance that maybe you didn't screw up so badly that you weren't going to be made the example of the week. But under Caligula, you might never know why the soldiers came for you in the middle of the night, nor what you said in front of whom. Persecution wasn't even based on something as frivolous as race-- it was based on whether the emperor had twelve bowls of crazy flakes that morning, or just ten.

There's no point to this little lecture except to set up the world of Ancient Rome. Read The Satyricon some time. It was (they think) written by one of Nero's favorites (once holding the title "arbiter of elegance")-- who ultimately was ordered to die by Nero. Petronius' big objection about Nero's regime wasn't the sex (even the deviant raping-the-sisters sex), the drugs or the rock 'n' roll. It wasn't even about the neglect of Rome, the waste of resources or the general abuse of power. Just the specific abuse of power, which caused reality to come into constant question. No one within a certain degree of closeness to the Emperor could ever know which way was up. It was terrifying. You not only didn't know when you might die, nor even why, but you might not even know if you were dead, things were so upside down.

Petronius was a smart, well-educated guy. Probably more so than the makers of The Anna Nicole Show, but let us not cast aspersions, at least, only ones based on percentages. To be as educated as Petronius was back in the day vis-a-vis proportion of the populace, the producers of The Anna Nicole Show should hold PhD's, by rights. But let's be clear-- the show knows who is ridiculous and who they are mocking. You are not meant to be cheering for Howard the Lawyer, even as he attempts to punk out the stupid designer guy. Cheering against, almost certainly. What you're actually s'posed to think about Anna herself-- well, let's just leave that for another day. I don't have all night, and the time change is catching up to me.

And, in spite of all of the drastic revocation of certain rights and liberties by the terrified goverment, we're still not in Ancient Rome. Bush is no Nero. He might just be Claudius, but again, that's another story for another day. So, the people aren't the same. But there are social and technological forces in motion (that have been in motion for decades now, so it's not a new thing) that blow the mind of the Average American. Which is not to say either that The Anna Nicole Show is for the Average American. But watch it sometime. If you are not gasping and reeling and floundering, it's because you aren't really comprehending what you see. In The Satyricon, Encolpius is fooled a number of times by convincing frescos on the wall-- he thinks he's going to get bitten by the painting of a dog, for example. The book is about illusion, disguise and voyeurism. There are tropes written into the text that you wouldn't believe-- illusion within illusion within illusion. Labyrinths are also a common theme. It's a surreal maze, and you aren't sure if you the reader are ever going to get out. It was a commentary on Nero's (and thus Rome's) excessive abuses of power, and hell if I, a voyeur at a rather base level, can succinctly diagnose which of Anna Nicole's (and thus America's) excesses are being commented on.

But anyway. I don't know what it says about America or E! that they've colluded to pay Anna's salary for another year (the show was picked up for another year). If I had more time to really think through my argument, I'd probably come up with an even lengthier essay on why it doesn't signal the downfall of civilization. But it doesn't. Anna Nicole Smith is merely a vehicle, a Satyricon for the modern world. And keep fiddling, Nero-- there's work to be done.

November 2002
Kayla slays me. She's so serious-minded, in spite of her great love of frivolity. "Mer," she told me two nights ago, as I slaved over a Mississippi Mud Cake for my boss' birthday. "I think, once your boss tastes the cake, she'll like it, but until then, she might not want any."

"And why is that?" I asked her.

"Because it's a mud cake. Now, I know it's not really mud-- it's chocolate-- but still. The name..."

December 2002
It appears that many have caught the Christmas Grumps. Not sure if I was the plague carrier in this case, or what. But the Magic of Friendship has been worked upon me, and even if I'm not infected by the Spirit of Xmas, I am at least in a far better mood.

January 2003
Sunday, I got up at a more or less reasonable hour and went with Dann to retrieve my cousin Doug at the airport. He'd had quite a time in Romania, and regaled us with tales throughout lunch.

February 2003
Instead of seeing "the impressive human ability to waste energy" as some sort of outcome of the advancement of human cultural evolution, Pfeiffer sees it as a possible catalyst.

March 2003
Yesterday I was looking at our wedding registry on-line and noticed that someone had bought us something. I told Dann, "We can't call off the wedding now, someone has bought us something."

April 2003
When did I decide that my mom should only see the sweet, happy side of me?

May 2003
I started writing: "I think religion trying to explain 'how' is unnecessary. Religion should concern itself with 'why.' Science works much better for 'how.'"

And then I started to elaborate, and realized the whole thing was going to get out of hand. But here are some sketchy thoughts:

Religion addressing "how" has gotten us to some very strange places, like women being turned into spiders and deities performing routine surgeries. Religion addressing "how" almost always lead to myth at a later date, when that religion is no longer practiced (think Roman myths). I don't know necessarily that religions which address "why" have more staying power, but it seems like they do.... and even if they don't, just think pragmatically about it all: would you rather be a participant in a religion that believes humanity arose so that we could do some great work, or would you rather be a participant in a religion that insists that it doesn't matter what humanity's destiny is, as long as no one believes we came from monkeys?

June 2003
Yeah, really, I can no longer say "There's no Mrs. Fuller here" when telemarketers call. Or rather, I can, but I'd be lying.

I do remember the vows and such. So that's good. With startling clarity, even. I remember most everything, right now.

July 2003
And then, one of the students mixed up a pitcher of Kool-aid. In OfficeJulie's pitcher that she mixes up her Miracle-Gro in.

Of course, she didn't notice until several glasses were pounded (I abstained. Too much sugar.) by the student staff.

"Whatareyoudoing?You'redrinking FERTILIZER andnowyou'regoingtodie!"

August 2003
It's a gorgeous night, warm and rainy.

I'm thinking in French poetry and smiling to myself.

September 2003
My curiosity overcame me, and I dyed my hair Egyptian Plum. I really like it. It's really bright. It makes me feel young and irresponsible and devil-may-care and not particularly attractive in any conventional sort of way. I'd post a picture, but I don't like the pictures I took. My lipstick looks pink in these pictures, and I assure you, it's not pink, it's a garnet-ish shade that Chanel calls Jewel and someone else calls Jezebel, and it has frequently looked like dried blood in person, but never pink. Perhaps my hair is just too dark now, and has cornered the market on looking like dried blood in photographs. In any case, the purpley-red ("purpundy-burgle" as I said at work when I was announcing My Plan) makes my eyes look greener. It'll wash out soon, but in the meantime, my hair says: "Late twenties! Desperately trying to hold on to the twenties, in complete denial that 30 is coming!" I'm quite fond of my hair at the mo'.

October 2003
My mom once posited that the real reason my dad married her was because my grandmother cooked so well.

November 2003
Went to see Boris Godunov yesterday. I couldn't help but draw parallels to Richard III the entire time, which I wonder if Pushkin did on purpose or if it's all just a matter of history repeating itself.

It was performed in Russian with supertitles, alas, so I think I missed a lot of the best stuff. I was constantly either missing words or actions.

But the beginning was superb; you came in to sit down while a row of Orthodox priests chanted and waved a censer, filling the air with smoke. It lingered through the whole play, and now that is the scent of Russia for me.

December 2003
We are swimming in cookies.
Tags: about me: in ten years' time, end of year

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