In Memory of Zelda Brown, Beloved Cat & Daughter

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Zelda conducted herself with bravery and aplomb, even in her final days.

Zelda Brown passed from this world just before 10 a.m., Saturday, June 4, at Hill Country Animal Hospital. She was 2 years old.

For a creature who produced several metric tons of allergens, Zelda was loved by all who knew her and made a practice of wooing those who were otherwise wary of her species. Her gentle spirit and myriad, progressively bizarre noises won over even the most cantankerous soul, most especially her stepbrother, Snoopy. Zelda cooed like a pigeon, ooked like a chimpanzee and still made time to purr at greater volume than her petite 4 pounds should have allowed.

Zelda’s hobbies were vast in scope, but primarily included: vigorous early-morning meowing, spreading litter from the bathroom to Hays County, staring at interesting walls and competitive not-moving with her stepbrother, Snoopy. She was also a connoisseur of fish broth and both a constant companion and obstacle to those who wished to read.

Zelda will be remembered and missed by her family forever, which, coincidentally, is how long they’ll be finding bits of litter among their belongings. She could never be replaced in the hearts and minds of those who knew her. Whatever awaits her in the next life, we hope it’s filled with stinky food and soft blankets.

Zelda is survived by her father, Thomas Brown, and stepmother, Nicole Hill, as well as a sister, Midna, and a stepbrother, Snoopy. Her extended family includes her grandparents, aunt and uncles, and several canine cousins, as well as her biological father, who was a cad and a rogue. She was predeceased by her biological mother, with whom she was not close.

To honor Zelda’s memory, her family asks that you consider donating to the Austin Animal Center from their Amazon wish list, or to the animal rescue organization of your choice. 

2015: This Time It’ll Be Different

Now that the buzz of the champagne has worn off (kidding: the bubbly’s in my fridge on the reg) and our collective hope for a better future has faded once more, I figured it was time to start thinking about my New Year’s resolutions.

The ones I might actually accomplish.

Because don’t fool yourself: The resolutions you make in December are delusions sparked by mixing a year’s worth of disillusionment with eight slices of bundt cake and four moose-head glasses of Aunt Sally’s spiked nog. They’re never going to happen.

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Instead of pipe dreams, why not sit back for a few days and let the euphoria of buying that new calendar wear off. Then you can think clearly about what you can accomplish in the upcoming year.

Here is the list of aims I have arrived at. May the Force be with me.

Do Good

I had my first experience with fostering a dog over Thanksgiving. Lacey was an angel with a gentle spirit and the backside of brood sow. My Snoopy is very much like me and very much used to being mostly an only child. Sharing is caring, and he’s not good at either.

But not only did we give Lacey a nice temporary home for Thanksgiving (she’s since been adopted!), she taught us a few lessons: in flexibility, how to bull-rush your way anywhere and, mostly, in the benefits of being kind.

Exhibit A:

Told Snoopy repeatedly she was too much woman for him, but he was putty in her paws by the end.
Told Snoopy repeatedly she was too much woman for him, but he was putty in her paws by the end.

Snoopy and I felt good doing good. And we hope to do more of it, or, more accurately, make it more fully a part of day-to-day life. And maybe in the future, the laces on my houseshoes will survive the ordeal. So, in a week, if I haven’t turned in the library volunteer application that’s been collecting dust on my table or taken the mound of donations in my closet to Goodwill, someone publicly shame me.

Innovate, or The Great Chipotle Caper

If I’ve discovered one thing during my first few years in the workforce, it’s the sensation of your brain oozing out of your ears.

When I crawl home to my lair at the end of each day, I feel worn or dulled. I’ve been ON for 8 to 9 hours, and now I want to turn OFF. So I sit and I vegetate and I look up and I’ve watched all four seasons of Dinosaurs.  (Newsflash: There were four seasons of Dinosaurs!)

This is not healthy. I am a person with ideas, or once was and can be again. It is time to act, and to do so, it makes sense to start with the problems that are staring you in the face. Which brings me to Chipotle.

I am what you’d call a frequent flier at Chipotle — a veritable VIP of its fine build-your-own wares. (Attention, Corporate, the Archer Road establishment in Gainesville, Florida, is my Cheers bar and they always have my clementine Izze waiting for me at the register, so promotions may be in order.)

That said, Corporate, we need to have a talk about cheese. Namely, its placement in the assembly line, an astonishingly efficient — if, as you’ll see, slightly flawed — process that, I’ll grant you, Henry Ford would have given his left lug nut for.

For the pagans among you, the manufacturing order at Chipotle goes something like this, from left to right:

Rice –> Beans –> Meats –> Salsas –> Sour cream & corn –> CHEESE –> Dat guac –> Lettuce

The ingredients run from the essential hot base to the cold toppings, and reasonably so. But there seems not to have been enough consideration about the place of heat-affected ingredients: namely cheese. When you layer on cheese on top of your salsas and sour cream and corn, it cannot fully make contact with the piping hot beans and sustainably raised meats. It cannot melt. You are missing out on mouth pleasure. Whereas if you’d just move the cheese ahead of pico de gallo, it might stand a fighting chance of bonding with your barbacoa and creating a more perfect bowl.

#YOLO

“So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain tumblr.com

I said last year was the year of the YOLO, because the long-awaited trip to New Zealand finally happened. But my resolve petered out by the end of the year, and all I could muster were tiny out-of-character moments, like somberly performing the theme to Fresh Prince at karaoke. That’s how little stamina I had for that YOLO life.

Well not this year, damn it. I’m going to live. I’m going to do things that excite me even when the rest of the world scratches its collective head. I’m going to wear what I want. I’m going to throw raging parties. I’m going to sign up for the GRE. I’m going to try to suck less at arts and crafts.

I'm going to suck less at arts and crafts.
“Help me.”

To be honest, I’ve already bought a new bedspread. So how hard could the rest of living dangerously be?

Write

This may sound rich from someone with a journalism degree, a personal blog and a blogging side gig, but I don’t write enough — nonfiction and fiction, personal and professional. I miss the days when I churned out long feature stories weekly (and it doesn’t help that every day I read some of the best feature stories around for a living); I aim to weasel my way back to doing that this year, somehow. Of course, that tends to involve more brainstorming, and for that, see earlier entry on brain oozing from ears.

Oh, and my novel? Let’s not speak of it, or the epic failure of motivation that was NaNoWriMo. I’ll just let my submission to the “Worst Sentence You Wrote Today” forum speak for itself: “Their daughter had the natural grace of a dog on its back in one of the sofa’s valleys.” That’s not even to speak of the abandoned short-story-ideas file on my desktop.

Any and all ideas on how to make time to let the creative juices flow are appreciated. 2015 has to be the year of the pen, because I’ve already ruled out all other creative outlets, like doodling, as viable.

Previously unreleased Snoopy valentines.
Previously unreleased Snoopy valentines.

Communicate 

In addition to writing for work and pleasure, I’ve become incredibly lazy about keeping up with my loved ones, largely because Facebook messaging is Sisyphean torment. It’s a chore, when communicating with your dearest friends should be a joy and a privilege.

So, folks, be my pen pal. Let’s bring back the art of letter-writing, the personal, deliberate, thoughtful act of informing others of your goings-on and learning of theirs. Plus, it gives me the chance to use these puppies.

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Be Happy

You’d think this wouldn’t need to be an item on an agenda, wouldn’t you? Tell that to Big Internet — and apparently Big Science. A cursory search for “happiness” on HuffPo turns up 604,000 results, including “This Is What Happiness Looks Like, According to Scientists,” “20 Ways to Choose Happiness,” “This Is Scientific Proof That Happiness is Choice” and “This Is the Mathematical Formula for Happiness.”

Shoot, happiness requires math and science? It’s remarkable I’m not the cover image on a Maxine greeting card.

You really would think it wouldn’t take a listicle to remind you to be happy. It should come naturally, without work, without a degree, without much in the way of resistance. Of course, it doesn’t. Happiness can be hard to bottle, and no matter how much you manage to suckle from the teat of Life, you can never get enough.

But it doesn’t mean we should stop trying. This year, I’m setting out to acquire some happiness any which I can, whether it’s finally buying the glow-in-the-dark stars for my bedroom ceiling that I never got as a child, or learning something — the banjo! ceramics! ancient Mayan! how to end a post! — or not reading the comments section on any article on any website ever, ever again.

Let’s all be nice in 2015. You do you, and I’ll do me, and everything will be beautiful, and nothing will hurt.

Naughty List: Christmas’ Musical Underachievers

 I can hear the bells. The silver bells, the jingle bells, the sleigh bells  — they’re all here. Are your ears ringing yet with all that holiday cheer? Me, I’m nine Love Actually viewings in and simply having a “Wonderful Christmastime.”  It’s a musical time of year. It has been since 12:01 a.m. Nov. 29. But for every work of seasonal art like “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “Please, Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” (yet to be fully appreciated in the canon), the radio DJs, shopping malls and automated online streaming services of this great nation are keen to trot out some Christmas cudgels.

These are the songs that get played just because they have been played before. Ad nauseam. The ones that have you frantically scrambling for the skip button. Below are five of the wintry jams I find most repulsive and how they could potentially be bettered. (Left out in the cold are the Chipmunks, whose musical outing has no hope for improvement.)

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

Step 1: Attain aging pop legend (or Nick Lachey).

Step 2: Attain young female songstress.

Step 3: Place them in front of a microphone and pretend like this has never been done before.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” suffers from two main deficiencies: its ubiquity and its quasi-creepy situational lyrics. No means no, you nymphomaniac. Granted, scrapping this ditty might well put Harry Connick Jr. out on the streets, but I’m willing to chance it.

Possible improvement: Lorde takes the mic for the pleading parenthetical vocal (all the “But baby, it’s cold outsides”) and does for a tired old duet what she did for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Meanwhile, for the sake of traditional yuletide vocalism, Josh Groban is the frail fretter worried about his maiden aunt — acting here as the Rihanna to Lorde’s Eminem.

 “The 12 Days of Christmas”

Launching into a recitation of the 12 long, arduous days of Christmas is like setting up the beer pong table on a Tuesday: It sounds like a good idea, it’ll take longer than you expect and everyone in the near vicinity will be aggrieved. Normally, I’m a fan of rote memorization, but this ish isn’t even realistic. The last time Christmas lasted a mere 12 days was sometime in the 19th century — also the last era in which a live, forested partridge was the piece de resistance of holiday gift-giving. Now, ABC Family starts the Christmas countdown at 25. Corporate America starts the advent calendar somewhere around Sept. 15. “101 Days of Christmas” is quickly veering into “Alice’s Restaurant” territory.

Possible improvement: A less generous beloved would be a start, or a RiffTrax-esque version with these two trolls.

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“Santa Baby”

Eartha Kitt’s original isn’t so much the problem, because Yzma is fabulous. But the subsequent covers of the sole “sexy” Christmas song have attempted to do for winter’s favorite holiday what the costume industry has done to Halloween: Sassy Mrs. Claus is being pimped out by The Man leaning on a candy cane.

Possible improvement: Drag queens. (Challenge idea, RuPaul!)

“Frosty the Snowman”

Bored.

“Frosty” is such a boring tune not even Jimmy Durante’s best staccato pirate rendition can save it. Central to this dilemma is the aforementioned snowman’s distinct lack of charisma. He is vanilla. As far as moistened troubadours go, Sam the Snowman (and banjo) is clearly the brand-name superstar.

Possible improvement: Frosty needs soul. Burl Ives has sopped up the snowman-folk niche, so Frosty’s got to up the ante. He’s got to sing the blues as the meltable Muddy Waters.

“The Little Drummer Boy”

There has been exactly one acceptable version of “The Little Drummer Boy.” It is this mind-boggling pairing.

 As an addendum, I would be more than OK with those two performing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” together.

But this song is the percussive pits, serving only as one long, lazy rhyming exercise. In most instances, I applaud alternative storytelling, but good grief, couldn’t it have been the Little Maracas Boy?

Possible improvement: Either resuscitate Bing Crosby and pair him with Tilda Swinton David Bowie or call it a day.