5 Problems Only People with Multiple Cats Will Understand

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  1. You’ll never know who had diarrhea in the litter box.
  2. You never know who shat out a red string. Or a gold thread. Or a rubber band (or two).
  3. You don’t know who left the surprise pile of puke in the kitchen. Or the hallway. Or in the precise place you step when you get out of bed in the morning.
  4. You’re not sure who ate all the dry food. Or the wet food.
  5. You’re not sure who left those scratches on the fake leather ottoman. Or the new leather chair.

The bottom line is there is a shitload of uncertainty and mystery. Unless you install hidden cameras all over your house and watch them, like a psycho stalker (no judgement), these animals co-exist with us, often active when we’re asleep and we have to find the zen with this lack of control and knowledge. I imagine the TV reality family, The Duggers, with their 19 children, had to also acquiesce to this kind of lack of ungovernability.

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On the flip side, multiple furballs have definitely translated to multiple bliss. Watching the interaction between kitties is equal to watching an older sibling hold the baby’s hand. There are moments of a feline fairytale, which cuddling cats, echoing purr sessions, and lick-fests, which I call kiss-fests. The love you get from one cat is exponentially more from two cats – or three.

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Additionally, cats have a biological need to roughhouse, scratch and bite (LOVINGLY). When cats have sister/brother/roommate cats, they have buddies with whom they can get their aggression out. I recommend getting cats in pairs because innately they are animals who are most content with their pride. They feel happier, safer and more social with cats around them.

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Frequently Asked Questions

I found this site because I see hearts everywhere – LITERALLY! I came in search of what it all means or else to connect with humans who are experiencing this [not at all] phenomenon. At the very least you thought you’d find HEARTS. Instead, there are words, words, and more words. (Curses too!) Where are the hearts?

I started this blog with the intention of collecting photos of hearts everywhere because I too, found myself spotting the iconic symbol of romance in the clouds, in the rocks, in the leaves. However, I’m a writer and eventually this blog evolved into a platform for me to share autobiographical essays as I documented my life.

I spent 2016 in a self-imposed 365-day writing project called Life Clubs: Imaginary Threads of How We Connect to One Another. As virtual members of theoretical clubs, we are all linked by the life experiences that bind us.

I’ve lived through 4 decades of stories – joining many clubs along the way. The Immigrant Club, The Tattoo Club, The I Lived through 9/11 Club, The Parenthood Club, The Divorce Club, The Co-Parenting Club, The Getting Remarried Club, The My Aunt Died Club, The My Modern Family Trumps Yours Club. We have all inadvertently joined a club, and until your official initiation, you can’t understand what it’s truly like to be a member.

Through these stories, I tried to tell stories of the human conditions using examples of my life. I vulnerably spilled my soul in order to find other humans who would say, “Me too!”

So if you are looking to connect, I guarantee there is a club here for you. I’m still finding hearts in the world, but for now, I’ve dedicated my life to finding (and writing) the hearts in the stories.

I love photos and I have a goal of adding photos to all of the stories in the 365 Project – slowly, eventually … (see I am a Procrastinator Club). In the meantime, I’ve picked up my Instagram activity here.

Want to see some heart doodles? Click here.

Did you have an editorial calendar for 365 Project?

I had talked about the idea of “life clubs” for years, since I became a proud member of The Divorce Club in 2005. I decided to use Nora Ephron’s quote, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim” as inspiration and I took the reigns at dictating the narration of my life. I made an initial list of about 150 life stories but quickly realized life narrated faster than I could keep up and the project evolved organically.

When I struggled with liberating the long-dormant tales of my adolescent angst, I found myself writing about what was pressing today rather than delve into an uncomfortable past. It’s easier to write about the now, harder to live in it. (Feel free to quote me.)

Did you really write every single day or a few days in advance?

I really wanted to develop the habit of writing every single day so I did. Some days I wrote more than one piece, but I always wrote at least one a day from scratch.

How many words did you write?

250,702. Apparently, this is the length of four average [first] novels.

What were your goals?

This was the first time in my life I had ever written down goals for anything. Ever.  Surprise: it works.

  • Become a better writer – physically become more effective at sitting down and prioritizing writing. See this through to the end, no matter how grueling, annoying or failing it may seem. One year without excuses!
  • Purge the floating stories from my mind and set them off on a sea of words, letting go, and ultimately alleviating panic attacks.
  • Learn to forgive myself and liberate myself from my own judgement.
  • Stretch my memory muscle. As I embark on this memoir-writing project, tapping into distant memories, I want to enhance those detail-grabbing skills from the distant past.
  • Finish something – in addition to dozens of scattered, incomplete notebooks and journals, I have two books that sit unfinished. While the ultimate goal is to have a comprehensive piece of work, I hope that this exercise helps me finish my other abandoned writing projects.
  • Reestablish an online voice and expand my portfolio
  • Own it. Value my words, my writing, and myself as a writer. Give myself one year without doubt. For 365 days, I will think, “I will sell this house today.”

Did you accomplish your goals?

HECK YES. Here was my last piece about the Lessons Learned.

What was the hardest part of the challenge?

Life’s intervention. Going through this year showed me a new kind of strength and resilience. The world didn’t stop for my 365-project. In fact, it seemed the world intensified. Life heard I was documenting the year and the earth reverberated with material. Life gave me two weeks in Hawaii, but also took my aunt and my grandmother two months apart and flooded our apartment, sending us into a 4-month unexpected, life-halting renovation. In one year, I went to the Emergency Room with every member of my immediate family and I used every day to cope with life, with words (publicly).

Did you successfully form a habit?

Yes, and more than one. I didn’t realize I had formed a habit until I was allowed to stop writing on January 1st. The most important habitual training was when I had an idea, I immediately wrote it down because I was going to need a story that day – or if not that day, the next. When I suddenly didn’t have to create a piece a day, I couldn’t resist the desire to write down my ideas. In addition, my thought process had solidified such that everything that happens to me still feels like fodder for another Life Club. The habit has become celebrating shitty experiences while spinning them into stories.

Do you recommend doing a 365 Project?

I needed something extreme to jostle my brain and prove to myself I could. In retrospect, this was one of my extreme ideas which felt like a strike of brilliance, which was going to help me “write my way out” Hamilton style. I thought if I pushed to such an extreme, the reward would be literary agents falling at my feet begging me to publish my stories. (I didn’t write that as one of the goals, and clearly, should have.)

For others, I would recommend adopting more of an “everything in moderation” philosophy. I would recommend a 260 challenge (weekends off). The body needs a chance to rest, though it was truly hard to stop the internal writing even if I wanted to.

Do you have a favorite story?

Not yet. I plan to make a list of Top 10 – or 50. Eventually. See I am a Procrastinator Club.

Please drop me a note and ask any other questions and I will add them if they’re pertinent.

Baba’s Eulogy

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My beloved aunt died on November 25th, and two days later I delivered my first eulogy at her funeral. Two months later, on January 25th, my grandmother died, a few weeks after a bad fall, at age 86. Here I was writing the second eulogy in two months. Only this time, I focused more on celebrating her life more than lamenting her death.

Here is the eulogy I wrote:

My Baba Maya knew where she wanted to go and she figured out a way to get there. She got things done. She was our matriarch, our fearless leader, with a ferocious dedication to her friends and family. She was a trailblazer, a first generation feminist, a card shark, an infamous cake baker, a loan shark, a mama, a wife, a tyawtya, a sister, a friend, a Baba, and a 5-time great-grandmother. People knew Maya Nudelman and when I told them I was her granddaughter # 1, I beamed with pride. For me, like for so many others, she was a significant lifeline whose absence will be deeply felt.

When I think of Baba, I remember the cakes. The constant hum of twirling mixers and tasting buttercream directly out of the star-tipped piping bag. Baba’s cakes were at the forefront of confectionary design in 1984 amongst Brighton Beach and Forest Hills where Bat Mitzvah and wedding cake orders piled in and where she sold her treats to the Russian stores, gaining local notoriety for her “Kievsky torte” and “Mister Eex.”

For 4 decades, through my eyes, one of her main reasons for living was to feed people, especially grandchildren. She asked you if you wanted an orange three times in a row after three insistent “No’s”, a peeled orange would appear in front of you, which you’d obviously eat and so she’d obviously say, “See, I knew you wanted an orange.”

When it came to her granddaughters, she was ferociously devoted to getting to see us. She made her way, by whichever means necessary, even with a police escort, to visit Michelle in Binghamton, with blueberry bleenee – enough for her and her college friends. Or the time I lived on Wall Street, around the corner from the Stock Exchange with crisscrossing traffic patterns she somehow ended up in the high-security rotary in front of the Exchange. In broken English, she convinced the NYPD to rotate the rotunda, for the first time since 9/11 I think, because “her granddaughter lives right upstairs.” When my sister had her first art exhibition at Rutgers University, my grandmother showed up, greeting my sister who was sporting royal blue dreadlocks and proudly posed for pictures with the photos of Reena’s mutilated dolls in the background.

My grandmother perpetually preached the importance of speaking Russian and was my first teacher. I would sit on the gray and white folded table while she assembled layers of cakes and crushed nuts with rolling pins, and I would stare at the “Novoye Ruskaya Slova” in front of me and ask her letters, one by one. “This backwards ‘R’ is ‘ya?’” I would ask? Yes, “ya,” which means “I” is last in the alphabet, she would remind me. That’s how I was taught to remember it – always put yourself last.

Baba was the original “say yes” woman. When invited to a party, she always went. I remember flipping through old photos, stumbling upon strangers or distant relatives and thinking, “who are those people?” She never doubted her need to be there, to share in the celebration; if she was invited, she went, and always brought a generous cash gift.

She never forgot a gift. She felt obligated and called it such, “Ya tyebye dolzhjana.” If it was my birthday or my kid’s birthday, even a month later, she would emerge from the back, cash folded in her hand, our little not-so-secret, secret.

She wouldn’t throw anything out if it wasn’t ripped apart or completely annihilated. Why do you need more towels if the ones you have still function to dry you after the shower? This theory also applies to sheets, couches, pans, plates, clothes. This is a way of life which you cannot beat out of a person. She had cash in the back which she gave readily to her granddaughters as gifts, but she lived in the same apartment for nearly her entire life in America.

On my last visit, I asked her, “How are you, Ba?” and she answered me in the same way she always had, “loochye vsyeah,” better than everyone else. “Vsyaw bootee horosho” she always said. Everything will be good.

Beyond the profound loss of our leader, we grieve an end of an era, a shutting down of an apartment which was a portal to our childhood, to those early days of America, brimming over with innocence and ignorance, possibility and promise was enough to be blissful and hopeful. A youthful joie de vivre, a rose bud yet unopened. We were a family at the brink of opportunities, challenges, American dreams – and she spearheaded it all.

She left this world in peace, nothing left unfinished, unafraid, no debts unpaid, no journey incomplete. She leaves behind a legacy of anecdotes, a lifetime of memories. She has penetrated into every one of us – buried herself deep in our hearts where she will forever smell like sweet cream and be wearing her soft, weathered house dress, and the glasses she often no longer needed but wore for decoration, and her bold red lipstick. I’ll never picture her without her red lipstick.

She’s coming to you now, Deda, no GPS needed. After all, she was our Ultimate Navigator.

“Mourning Celebrity Deaths” Club

“There have just been so many deaths this year,” I said to my therapist earlier this week as she tried to break me down and understand the root of my paralyzing fear of death.

“There are so many deaths every year,” she said, dismissing my statement. “It’s no different.”

Reflecting on the year, I’ve considered whether life seemed more intense because it was a leap year or because I was carefully documenting each dayThe list of celebrity deaths seem more prevalent than ever, but are we just chronicling and socially mourning more than ever?

It’s strange to mourn the death of someone you’ve never met, someone who you don’t depend on for your everyday life yet we collectively feel a dagger in the heart every time we get the CNN Breaking News alerts on our phones. Another death. Who now?

Yes, the potential for more “entertainment” from the celebrity is halted, but many of the deaths are of people who haven’t produced for many years. (At least David Bowie had the courtesy to leave us with one last album and Carrie Fisher was able to finish her Star Wars VIII scenes.) Yet our human tendency projects others’ dramas onto ourselves and somehow their deaths hold a mirror up to our own mortality.

Here is a comprehensive list of all 2016 Celebrity Deaths, but highlights include: 

David Bowie, 69

Alan Rickman, 69

Glenn Frey, 67

Garry Shandling, 66

Prince, 57

Muhammad Ali, 74

Elie Wiesel, 87

Garry Marshall, 81

Gene Wilder, 83

Leonard Cohen, 82

Florence Henderson, 82

Alan Thicke, 69

Zsa Zsa Gabor, 99

Carrie Fisher, 60

Debbie Reynolds, 84

The media’s coverage of famous deaths can have us believing this year is worse than ever, but the real statistics tell us it’s all status quo on the rate of dead celebrities.

The way we grieve as a culture – within our local communities – or on the Internet is different now. Because of the abundance of over-sharing in our culture, we inadvertently partake in a public pity party with the invisible connections on the other end of our phones and keyboards. I’m not sure if it makes our personal grief lighter, but somehow we’ve taken on celebrity grief as real, even though their lack of physical presence will not actually affect our daily lives.

We’re not even sad for the dead person, we’re sad for ourselves; what was taken FROM us. As if we were entitled to them anyway, as if they were a possession. When our bodies depart this earth, who we’ve been stays behind. The us we’ve sprinkled into our partners, children, friends; through our creations and our jobs and contributions to our communities. The mark we leave behind will last longer than the time we have here.

We are a piece of meat flying on a rock in the middle of the galaxy. It’s a miracle we don’t explode and burst into dust. We can’t worry about the little things and certainly, celebrity deaths should be the easiest for us to tolerate. Notorious figures live on indefinitely in their art and in the ripple effect they have on the population as their fans absorb pieces of them by osmosis. We can’t leave actual pieces of our bodies behind and possessions will deteriorate eventually, but we can leave behind stories. We can leave behind memories. We can leave behind lessons. Celebrities are just the lucky ones who die with an eager audience waiting for their eternal endowment.

“Be Here Now” Club

There were just three days left in my 365 writing project and my daughter is home on winter break. My husband, off to work, suggests I put on a movie for her so I can write. He knows I feel the impending heat as I am inches away from typing an imaginary “the end” on a non-traditional manuscript in a category of its own: organically, unplanned, spontaneously-transcribed, incomplete pseudo-memoir in essays. 

Today, though, I stared into my daughter’s big brown eyes and committed to spending a day without breaking eye contact. All year I’ve prioritized my writing and I vowed today would be all about her. I lingered in each drawn-out moment of her day and stayed with her for as long as it took for her to eat breakfast because she had a five-minute story in between each bite. I played the Princess Cupcake game with her, having mini imaginary adventures as we assembled the rubber cupcakes. We played six rounds of Connect 4, where she claimed victory five of those times. We colored together, side-by-side, in one of those thin-lined, adult coloring books filled with details, where the pages seem impossible to complete. We ate string cheese, literally one string at a time, and drank ice water, eating crushed ice one at a time. We watched My Fat Greek Wedding 2, me explaining some of the vague reference but then using the infamous, “it’s Greek to me” when she asked about the sex references. I painted purple glitter polish onto her nails and icy blue with silver swirls and dots onto her toes. We Skyped with my sister in Maine where my daughter modeled her new Hamilton t-shirt and showed off her custom-ordered Hamilton-quote necklace.

I didn’t bother with my phone all day and saved my writing until later. I lived completely in every minute, savoring my daughter, who exhibited perfect behavior, appreciative and cooperative all day. 

At day’s end, I reflected on how I successfully lived in the now all day. Something I’ve perpetually struggled with my entire life felt so zen, yet I didn’t recognize the sensation. On various vacations throughout my life I’ve dipped my toe into the realm of relaxation, but it’s a foreign, uncomfortable feeling. However, had I spent the day on my default multitasking setting, stressing about what needed to get done, or focusing on writing while ignoring my daughter, I would have not only short-changed my experience, I would have inadvertently diluted the light I exude. Another by-product of being fully present was time stood still. I was not as obsessed with the ticking because my attention wasn’t directed at the time; it was on being.

Being in the now is a philosophy, a religion, a practice, a habit, a way of life; kind of like being vegan. My husband, the Eagle Scout, loves to recount the Native American philosophy of eating, which should be done in silence to dutifully honor and respect their food. Truly being present means tastes are saturated. Being in the now means I should focus less on the perpetual loud ticking of life pressuring me to hurry up, write more, accomplish more, travel more places, get more massages and manicures and focus more on directing all five senses towards BEING RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW with every single thing I do.

I’ll chalk today’s epiphany up as an another example of an intangible profitable consequence of writing every single day. In fact for the rest of my life (or perhaps just the foreseeable future), I imagine there will be many occurrences where I will find myself saying, “I learned this from writing every day…”

“Learning to Say ‘So What?'” Club

At today’s therapy session with my brain doctor, she tried to “break me down.” I felt like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting in the scene where Robin Williams, as his therapist, repeats “it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault” until he broke down and cried. I didn’t break down and cry because it’s not near the end of the movie for me yet, I’m still in the beginning stages where I stay in control, even in therapy.

Also, my brain doc, wasn’t convincing me it wasn’t my fault (that’s impossible, it’s clearly ALL MY FAULT, because, despite my other insecurities, I think I can somehow control the universe). Instead, she wanted to understand my deepest fears; the same ones which rear their ugly head to cause my pesky panic attacks.

In our first session, she taught me to “say yes” to emotions rather than suppress them or fight them. Don’t try to end the panic attack, ride the wave. Don’t try to get rid of the nauseated sensation, just move on with your day, because no one has ever, and I will not be the first, to die of a panic attack.

In our second session, she wanted me to confront my fear of death and realize “not wanting to” was different from “being afraid” and when I accepted the inevitable, my body would react appropriately and not secrete quite so much ‘fight or flight’ hormone.

Today’s lesson was “so what?” No matter what I said – no matter how extreme – her answer to me was SO WHAT? Being the worst consequence to any scenario for me is death when I finally answered “death,” she said, SO WHAT? This obsessing, worrying, over-dramatizing, over-analyzing and overall desire for perfection causes me secondary suffering, which affects my everyday life and doesn’t need to be there. If my apartment is not immaculate when guests come over? SO WHAT? If my latkes aren’t the best they’ve ever had? SO WHAT? If my present isn’t the one they rave about for years? SO WHAT? If I don’t finish everything? SO WHAT?

The reality is none of the potential hypothetical ramifications I work through in my head are worth the emotional weight I give them. SO WHAT if I’m having a panic attack?  I have to stop trying so hard to make them stop coming. This is just what I get – like eczema and apparently, it’s not so much about eliminating the attacks altogether, it’s about learning not to give them the power to slow me down – or take me down, for that matter.

As I move into 2017, I realize on top of learning to meditate, do yoga, and master the art of doing nothing, I now have added “learn to truly NOT GIVE A SHIT” onto that list. Or at least I have to practice not giving a shit enough for the neurological pathways in my brain to cement themselves into highways which become habits. Until my instincts say “so what” instead of “what if?

“Join the [Life] Club” Club

I’ve written about “Life Clubs” every day for the last 360 days. While some Life Clubs are joined voluntarily (Marriage Club, Motherhood Club, Tattoo Club), others are more like a military draft and you get inducted into the club whether you like it or not (Alcoholic Mother Club, Aunt Died Club, Apartment Got Flooded Club). The guiding principle for all Life Clubs is you join by overcoming experiences which you can only truly understand after going through them first hand. You imagine what it’s like to have a baby until it’s nothing like that at all. Also, unless you’ve dealt with insurance companies and contractors, you can’t exactly relate. But if you have, you are high-fiving another person who really understands. And while we’re at it, a tattoo is worse than ant bites. Membership to most clubs is irrevocable and permanent.

Life clubs are how we can connect to one another and they transcend sociological, economic, and religious classifications. They are invisible fraternities and there are no pins to wear on our jackets to let others know “hey, we’ve been there…join the club.”

It has always been easy for me to have conversations with strangers; I can find something to discuss with just about anyone. Maybe it’s my college journalism training, or it stems from my innate curiosity of fellow humans but I’ve been fascinated with stories (or gossip) since I was a toddler. I love seeing inside strangers apartments, hearing about their innermost disappointment and heartbreak. We all relate to sad stories and rally around the underdog. I believe our intuitive empathetic tendencies are strong. We read blogs and memoirs of strangers, get wrapped up in their lives all because we can somehow relate. Reading about other tragedies keeps us grateful; at any time, anyone of us is grieving or suffering in some way. We cry at movies not because we mourn the loss of a fictional character, but because we’ve imagined ourselves in that scenario. Seeing a great love story plagued by cancer onscreen makes you hold your loved one that much tighter in bed. We seek validation from others to remind us that we are not alone, that we are OK, and that someone else went through it and came out the other side…Stronger.

At the beginning of my commitment to writing every day, I imagined I’d write about a different club every day, telling the story of my life up until now. What I quickly learned was life dictates stories faster than I can transcribe them. Anything I went through, no matter how frustrating or disappointing, felt different because I knew it was just another club to join – to write about, sure, but more importantly to add it to my roster of things I know about from the inside. 

I was always afraid to take on the title “artist” yet for 360 days this year I became a performance artist putting on a written show for an invisible audience. I created the art and was its subject. I wanted to control it all but instead, it organically took on a life of its own and I had no choice but to smile and join the clubs.

“Not Fearing Death, Just Not Wanting It” Club

“Cowards die many times before their deaths.

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear,

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.”

I joke about how this tiny speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is the only thing I ever memorized which I still remember. We were required to put this tidbit to memory in Mrs. Feldman’s 7th grade English class, yet in the last 30 years, I’ve recited these 46 words hundreds of times without truly understanding them.

I have been that coward for three decades, wincing in the face of fear, shortchanging myself out of living as fully as I could have.

It wasn’t until this morning, when my brain, subconsciously still processing Tuesday’s therapy session, sent me this bit of Shakespeare as if on a stone tablet from up above. I spent a majority of my hour discussing death with my brain PhD therapist. She wanted me to dive into my fear of death, something that’s plagued me since fourth grade, when I used to be scared of closing my eyes at night, afraid I wouldn’t wake up the next day. The therapist started out by pointing out how death is inevitable and as someone who is even more anxious about wasting time than of imminent death, I had to realize I was wasting time terrorized by the inevitable. This ironic irrationality stopped me in my tracks. If I was terrified of snakes, I could technically avoid them, but there was nowhere I can go where I can avoid death.

I’ve learned the best ammunition we have against the Grim Reaper is to live as hard as we can every fucking day because no matter how cliche, none of us can predict our last day.

After I divulged to the therapist that the pain and suffering associated with death is not what I’m actually nervous about, she asked me what it was and I realized it wasn’t that I was scared; I just didn’t want to. This critical, yet minor differentiation and clarification, alters which hormones my brain secretes in reaction. My brain reacts differently to “I don’t want to leave the party” than it does to “I’m afraid of leaving the party.” There is nothing scary about leaving a party, I just don’t want to miss out. This is called “FOMO: Fear of Missing Out,” and we have scheduled to discuss this in next week’s session.

The clock continues to tick as loudly as ever for me. As the days flip on the calendar, I age, and no matter how much I write, or how successful I am, it feels insufficient. While I’m trying to savor it all, it’s slipping away faster than I can hold onto it. I may be on my way to easing my fear of death, but I can’t imagine ever coming to terms with leaving the party of life. I just don’t want to.

“2016: FOAD, but Thanks for Everything” Club

Eight is my favorite number, yet 2008 wasn’t so great. I had thyroid surgery in January, broke my knee in February, got audited in April, and lost my job in June. During 2016, another multiple of eight, every member of my immediate family landed in the emergency room, my mother was in the hospital twice, our apartment got flooded, a scary clown craze damaged our business, and my husband and I both lost an aunt to ovarian cancer.

This morning over breakfast, I tried a final attempt to lure my artist hubby into a last-minute holiday card. I had a funny idea which I thought might hook him:

“How about a toilet bowl showing 2016 flushing down the drain?”

His eyes looked up and he played along for a second. “Yeah and we can show Prince and David Bowie and Gene Wilder…” His voice trailed off, he looked away.

“No?” I knew he wasn’t biting.

“No,” he said and carried on with the loud chewing of the over toasted sesame bagel.

The other day a friend texted me: “2016: FOAD” (Urban Dictionary.com confirmed the acronym is telling 2016 to F-off and die.) “Amen,” I wrote back.

What a year for everyone. Our country endured a public political showdown which left half of us miserable about the outcome. Some are rallying to come together, some rally to call congress people, and I’m hoping to get through each day alive. 2016 had countless heartbreaking deaths, robbing us of geniuses famous and familiar. There wasn’t a person I met who didn’t have a health crisis, a career transition, or a relationship catastrophe yet somehow we’ve made it out, with a week to go, to read and write about it. Survivors. Collectors of life stories. Joining clubs; laughing and commiserating with fellow humans.

I am filled with gratitude for the year I was given and the stories it allowed me to record for posterity. Here are some of the happy highlights:

“I Don’t Do Holiday Cards” Club

I don’t do holiday cards. I did once. No, twice. I feel the tug, though, as beautiful cards fill my mailbox. I desperately want to be part of the “Holiday Card” club, but find once again, my perfection paralysis prohibits me from playing at all. I’m chock full of ideas, but they usually involve hand making one of a kind cards, which doesn’t work well when the holiday card list includes everyone from the doorman to Aunt Sadie.

The first time I did cards was the year after my son was born. I purchased ice blue high-quality paper which I hand cut with crinkle-cut craft scissors to fit inside the quaint coordinating color (but not size) envelopes. On to each card I adhered a painstakingly, cut-out snowflake (from white vellum paper) with a thin white satin ribbon tied in a perfect bow on the (ruler-measured) top center of the page. Inside I attached my thoughtfully crafted holiday greeting, printed on the translucent white paper with the fancy shears. I hand addressed each envelope and each completed card felt like a piece of artwork. I saved one for myself and recently came across it. My brain had remembered all of the work its creation involved, but the final product felt lackluster. Maybe this is why I never ventured into the holiday card club again. I could never meet my own standards.

The second time I attempted holiday cards was with my husband, the year we moved into our current apartment. This will be the 12th holiday season my husband and I spend as a couple, and we’ve only done the one card. My husband (Christmas Card Scrooge) agreed to do cards because I lured him in with the challenge of using his creative design skills to mastermind a dual function card: part “Happy Holidays,” part “We’ve Moved.” With some graphic design ingenuity, my husband laid out the cards to say Happy Holidays on one side and We Moved when flipped. His inner poet also stepped up to write a clever Dr. Seuss-like poem, creating a relic of holiday card genius. Perhaps this creation has left him feeling insurmountable. I, on the other hand, feel he’s limitless; we can create holiday card gems yearly. Here I sit next to an artistic ball of ideas and talent and he doesn’t want play in the holiday card game.

The truth is writing every day this year has monopolized any free moment, and even bubbled over into non-free moments. Holiday cards are the extra credit I didn’t have time for this year. I’m aware I don’t have to be so extreme about it. I could have settled on a happy medium by sending out purchased cards. Only I’ve never done well with mediocrity, which sounds and feels and awful lot like medium, so I’m an all or nothing kind of girl.

Next year, I have big plans, though. Huge.