Sunday, January 20, 2019

Better or Worse

I woke up on Saturday morning to tweeted videos of boys from a Catholic school taunting and mocking elderly indigenous people. If you somehow haven't seen this yet, you can find at least one article about it here. The school and the boys are being raked through the coals on social media. The whole event and the seemingly endless stream of videos that have been surfacing has spurred a bunch of debates in a very short period, several of which have been fascinating and sometimes disturbing to follow.

This isn't a political post. It could be--there are plenty of articles being published now about the incident--articles that try to digest the politics associated with the thing that happened. That's fine and well, but while I've watched with horrified curiosity for a dozen different reasons, one of the sub-debates happening has made me think about a topic I've wanted to broach on Stranger for some time: religion. You know. That other thing about which no one has strong opinions.

Whenever religious people are involved in some publicized despicable act, a conversation about religion and whether it's good or bad or something in between often surfaces. I'm usually curious to hear these debates, largely because for a long time I was quite religious.

Growing up Mormon, I was used to spending three or more hours at church every Sunday. Church events took up portions of my weeknights, too. For all four years of high school, one of my daily school classes was a religion class held just at the edge of the public school's property. The home I grew up in had religious pictures hanging in every single room, bathrooms not excluded. As a child I just sort of assumed that this was probably the case with every house in America. I was used to this. The religion wasn't a thing we did; it was a lifestyle, infiltrating every aspect of everything we knew.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Wedding Planning Part II

I'm caught in the the nine circles of Hell right now.  This is because I'm suddenly required on a much more frequent basis than I signed up for to visit or view pictures of places where homosexuals can get married to each other.

Yes. We are in venue-hunting season, and it is exactly eleventy times more miserable than I predicted.

I keep doing this thing where I tell Skylar that I don't care what we do and he just needs to choose whatever he wants but then when he gets close to making any decisions I jump in and make him feel as much doubt as possible about his choice. I don't know why I do this. It's like wedding planning occurs at the intersection of the controlling and apathetic parts of my personality. You know. The one with manipulation right on the corner.

Skylar would likely have elected not to marry me by this point if he wasn't so excited to invite everyone he has ever met in his life to the world's most expensive party. With each passing day I become slightly less relevant to his relationship with this wedding.

But for real. Why do we need flowers? Can fun not be had and nuptials not be formalized without floral arrangements? Can't we just save those for funerals? Did you know that flowers cost $200,000? They do. I don't know why this is the case. They spontaneously grow in parts of my yard for free.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Vegetarian Dinner

"I'm making a healthy dinner tonight, so don't eat."

Skylar said it almost like a threat yesterday afternoon. I've tended to try to avoid these situations with him when I can. Not because he's incapable of preparing edible food, but because of all the commotion that I have to deal with while he's doing it.

We have an ongoing fight about whether or not one needs to follow a recipe to a T while cooking. Skylar starts freaking out because we don't have the exact quantity of an obscure spice in the form dictated by some snooty internet blog. I tell him to just consider the instruction as a general guide, but to use whatever he thinks might taste fine and whatever we have in the cupboard. He screams at me that he must follow The Recipe perfectly or we could die. I tell him he's an idiot. He says he hopes I get typhoid. I throw a pan at him. He goes to the emergency room. It's all very healthy.

And it drives me crazy.

When I cook, I just glance at the recipe and then make something in the spirit of whatever I've read. I'm not a phenomenal cook. But the things I make always turn out fine. People like them. You can rely on me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Fear of Failure

Years ago, when I was living in Palau, I decided to try to write a book. It was a good time to make a first attempt because there are, let's see, multiply by the integer, carry the one, subtract Oprah, 112 hours in a day when you live on a one-square-mile island in a country of 22,000 people on the equator.

Even more, there are only nine things to do in Palau. Five of those involve coming in close contact with sea snakes and the other four are eating.

And you people thought I couldn't do math.

I think I became a much better writer during that year. Typing out 95,000 words will do that. But I was young, and pretty dumb, and moderately to severely depressed, so I really didn't know what I was doing.

By the time I moved back to the United States of God Bless Sea Snakeless America, I didn't really know what to do with those 95,000 words. I did some research about how to get a book published, and I even contacted some people who were kind enough to give me feedback and advice. But that whole process was incredibly daunting and intimidating. So I just sort of walked away from it without really trying very hard.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Magic of Throwing Crap Away

We made the mistake most of you have made when pressing play on an episode of Hoarders last night while making dinner.

We were at Matt's house. Skylar was in the kitchen doing something with fish that had nothing to do with salt or butter or oil or anything that makes life worth living, all because I foolishly told him that this was my Year of Health.

For Matt's part, he's making 2019 The Year of Taking Care of Myself, which so far has mostly consisted of sending Skylar and me 20 selfies a day and saying "look. I combed my hair again."

It's harder to get Skylar to take anything like this very seriously. Last year when a large group of friends went around the table on New Year's Day declaring their themes, each of them emotional, thought-out, and dramatic, we ended with Skylar, who said, "I would like to drink more water this year. No. I would like to try to drink more water this year."

I guess I admire his realism.

Also, in case you're wondering, he did not drink more water in 2018, but he says he did try, so his integrity is still very much intact.

This year is his Year of Abs, he says. When I asked him what he was going to do to get abs in 2019, he laughed and said "that's June Skylar's problem. I'm not even going to think about this for six months."

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Year Of

As you know, because you all did your 10.5 years of assigned reading on Stranger, every January I pick a new theme for myself. I do this rather than make traditional resolutions, mostly because the resolutions never really worked for me.

I would get all excited about my 600 very specific new rules for myself until about January 6th, when I would break the first resolution, and then this would completely demotivate me because "well I already failed."

I know. You people are all better than me. You don't break your resolutions. And you read the Bible and floss every day.

But when I declared 2013 "The Year of Attitude," I found out that there was actually a way for me to hold onto that motivation to be better. Instead of making a bunch of rules, I decided that for that year, I was going to really try hard to think about what it means to have a good attitude. I was going to make a general effort to be more positive. And this actually worked.

I regularly, and often facetiously, told people around me that "I'm going to stop complaining about this because this is THE YEAR OF ATTITUDE." I said that so frequently that friends would sometimes parrot it back to me if I ever seemed like I wasn't living up to my own new standard. If they had done this about a rule I broke, it would have been annoying. But in this context, it was actually really encouraging.

Sunday, December 30, 2018


I sit at my desk at home on this snowy Sunday in Salt Lake City. Two dogs are wrestling at my feet, occasionally humping one another even though both are neutered. Apparently we have perverted pets. Skylar has just made a mess of my kitchen attempting to cook pancakes. And it's time to pen a year-end post.

I started this tradition in 2010. Nearly none of you were around then. I mean, around Stranger. I'm sure some of you were alive by that time. In 2010 I wrote to an audience of about five. In fact, in that year-end post, I wrote that during that year "I blogged and wondered how many people were actually reading."

There have been so many dramatic changes in my life and in yours since I quietly wrote those words eight years ago.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Top Ten Most Viewed Stranger Posts of 2018

It's time for one of my favorite Stranger traditions! MAKING A LIST OF ALL OF THE THINGS YOU LOVE ABOUT ME.

But for real. 2018 has been an amazing year in the Strangerverse. I think I enjoyed writing here more than I ever have before, particularly because it has been so fun to interact with all of you. I'm super proud of the progress we've made on making Strangerville sound not so janky, and I credit my truly exceptional and somehow STILL pregnant, partner Meg the Dragon Voice Walter for much of that.

I love Stranger, and I love you. I'll be back next week for my full year-end post. In the meantime, please enjoy a brief walk down Stranger 2018 Nostalgia Lane with this year's top 10 list of Stranger's most viewed posts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wedding Planning

I had been dreading the prospect of planning a wedding for a while when I asked Skylar to go to hell with me (which is how I refer to getting gay married).

Look. Weddings and I just don't really go together. We have nothing in common. We don't like each other. We're connected by marriage alone.

Skylar almost permanently left me a few years ago when I had a full-blown temper tantrum while preparing for Rebecca's wedding picnic. In hindsight, I blame him entirely for the whole thing. We had been together long enough for him to know that dragging me to a Costco to buy things for a wedding when I hadn't slept well the night before was just begging for a total disaster. 

He combined the two things I hate the most in this world.

He should have totally foreseen the amount of profanities I was likely to scream while dodging shopping carts the size of Mormon SUVs as I held arm-fulls of sliced cheese.

Also, it was really unfair of him to pit me and cheese against each other.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Food Poisoning

Matt said he had food poisoning on Saturday, which was annoying because he was supposed to go to a party with me. Skylar was out of town, presumably because he doesn't love me and needs the occasional break, so Matt's services were especially needed.

I don't trust anyone when they say they are sick. I always assume it's a lie. I think this stems back to the number of times I pressed my face against a hot pad in the 90s right before going into Bob and Cathie's bedroom and saying "I think I have that fever again," like it was just the same one that kept coming back.

Points to Bob and Cathie who never once called me out on that bullshit.

So I drove to Matt's house to bully and manipulate him into just doing the thing he previously agreed to do. But when I got there and wandered the place looking for him, I realized that he either was truly sick or a much better faker than 10-year-old Eli.

Matt was lying on his bathroom floor, moaning, with a large gash on his forehead, which he claims was unrelated to the food poisoning. Apparently he ran into a tree earlier in the day. The point is, maybe don't trust Matt with your fragile antiques or food preparation for the next little while.