Tag Archives: year in review

Best of 2018


A disclaimer: Glen over at the Scenic Writer’s Shack wrote this up for AI a solid month ago, and due to some truly epic foolery and lameness on my part, well, it sat in the posting queue for all the intervening time. So while it’s a little bit late for a year-in-review post and we should be on to the bigger, better things 2019 is sure to bring, the fault here is entirely mine. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t do to have a voice singing my praises go unheard, so — here’s Glen!

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It’s time again to unfurl the star-spangled fan-flag and heap praise where it’s due.

I’ve always believed every five-star, Michelin rated blogger deserves their own personal cheerleader. From 14 000 km’s away I just happen to be Pav’s. The U.S / Australian alliance has been going strong since at least as far back as World War II and there’s every reason to think that a list such as this one can only further bolster those relations.

Matt, the Atlanta-based chief notions officer and gifted scribe behind ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED, and I have never met. It’s also unlikely we ever will meet. But that hasn’t stopped me two years running now (read last year’s honour roll list HERE) from honouring him and his Halydron Collider of Ideas superblog with a pick of what I consider his twenty finest posts during the year.

Ready?

Time to enter Matt’s hallowed sandpit.

Let the countdown begin… 

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1.  (Sorta) Safe landings, or Hell Week in the Theatre (April)

In the kind of truly majestic extended metaphor only Pav himself could conceive, we are treated to a white-knuckle cockpit view of the staging of a High School theatre production – complete with all manner of organised chaos including actor’s laryngitis, sprained ankles and ill-fitting costumes. Trying to land a rickity Cessna light aircraft during a violent thunderstorm seems a walk in the park by comparison.

REMEMBER IT HERE

2.  Bend One Over For Me (August)

The pro’s and cons of library book enrichment – the practice of marking pages by folding over the top corners or even inscribing words in the margins – are uproariously unpacked in this classic post. Matt admits his librarian wife may not share his enthusiasm for what he terms “marking the trail for others.”

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3.  Canine Curling (April)

Because Pav’s dog follows him from room to room in their house she gets labelled an Attention Whore Dog. When the neighbours have a yard sale complete with all the accompanying noises of cars coming and going, doors slamming and muffled voices from the driveway – noises his dog associates with Matt and his wife coming home from work – the results are high-grade comedy.

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4.  Word of Mouth (July)

Vampire flash fiction you can really sink your teeth into. Any story that includes a character named ‘Thierry’ is welcome by me.

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5.  A Buffet on Cheat Day (August)

Our Matt finally sees the light does a glorious tango with the joys of non-fiction reading. In the process he rolls out perhaps his best analogy of the year – something about a salad bar, leafy greens and piles of mashed potatoes.

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6.  A Foolproof Method for Decluttering Your Home (July)

Self-confessed clutter expert Pav details a nine-point plan to home-treat your inner hoarder. This post came with a picture of our budding pro-author’s bedside table playing host to nine books, a pack of highlighters, his keys, a tape measure, a pair of socks, two notebooks, a pair of socks and several headphones. Expert indeed.

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 7.  Hammer Time (A Scientific Study in How Dumb You Can Be) (March)

While trying to drive in a nail he bangs his hand with a hammer. Accidentally. In front of a student. We shouldn’t laugh. But we do. A lot.

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8.  I am Not The Target Audience (June)

Our Acccidentally Inspired ‘host with the most’ applys his considerable film critiquing abilities to that classic of children’s cinema The Little Mermaid (1989) but concludes he probably shouldn’t examine kid’s movies so forensically. He freely admits to messing with his son’s head when called upon to answer questions from him relating to the movie.

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 9.   Honk if You… (August)

Pav gets honked at while he’s out jogging by an early morning motorist intent on delivering an unprovoked ‘thrill beep’ designed to unsettle and unnerve.

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10.  Lots of Time, Not Enough Time (June)

Different surroundings and routines while on vacation play havoc with Matt’s writing process. Top shelf analogies come flying thick and fast including the restaurant reservation one, the swanky gym on the opposite side of town one and the behind bulletproof plexiglass one.

REMEMBER IT HERE

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Channeling his very finest Star Wars ‘Jawa’ chic, dress-up Matt posted this photo of himself early in the year. It’s mysterious, quirky and ‘awkward-author-ish’ enough to easily earn my Pic of the Year Award.

11.   It’s Still There (August)

Matt liken’s the feeling of getting back to work on writing the novel he hasn’t touched in a while to turning on a cobweb-covered tap around back of an old abandoned farmhouse and finding, to one’s relief, twisting the faucet still produces cool, fresh water.

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12.   It’s Begins (Again) (August)

Eight years in the job allows Matt to reflect that teaching is an occupation with a built-in automatic renewal system called ‘Summer Break’ that allows employees to annually ‘degunk’ themselves.

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13.   Just One More Page (August)

Our doyen of the priceless quip acknowledges some books are more sleep-inducing than others before going on to concede Stephen Hawking’s A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME (1988), though intellectually stimulating in the extreme, is, excitement-wise,  definitely no edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckle thriller.

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14.   Kids with Guns (March)

Eight year old with a toy gun on the loose in a public playground. “BANG BANG YOU’RE DEAD.” Scarey. Not Funny. Real.

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15. Things not to Say to an Atheist (January)

Continuing to mine the more serious vein of ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED, this post impressed for its sheer degree of restraint in the face of one-eyed religious zealousy. Matt receives an intelligence-accosting comment on his post from a god-fearing church-goer who claims to pity him for his lack of bible-centred faith. Logic and a cool head win over flapdoodle every time. Praise be the Pav!

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16. The Spell is Broken (March)

Pav slaps his own wrist for overusing the phrase – ‘The Spell is Broken’ in his novel. Bad Pav will need twelve umbrella drinks and a good lie down to get over his own chastisement.

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17. Caveat Pre-Emptor (Or, Why it’s Okay to Brag a Little) (February)

Never one to toot his own horn, Pavman does the hard stuff, invents a way to claim significance for just about anything and cites one of his literary heroes Douglas Adams in the process. And as a finale worth reading to the end for, unceremoniously boos off stage so they never want to come back disclaimers, self-sabotage, false modesty and the pimple-faced rat that is the wholly wretched practice of knocking yourself down before you’ve properly gotten up. Empowerment came gift wrapped and placed neatly outside our doors in this grand post.

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18.  It’s Like This (November)

A spot on a favourite jacket. A conspicuous spot on a favourite jacket. Into the corner it goes. Fhthump!

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19. An American’s Guide to Canadian Food (May)

Fresh back from a vacation in Canada, self-confessed non-foodie Pav concludes the stuff to eat there is weird. Beware: this post comes with a harrowing account of what ‘Dulce’ is.

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20. The Trooth Fairy (September)

Reading this post was like pulling teeth. A LOT like pulling teeth. Includes the completely glamorous use of the word ‘unmoored’. Because he can.

REMEMBER IT HERE

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Accidentally Inspired Year in Review


When Orpheus went to retrieve his beloved Eurydice from the depths of Hades, the resident god allowed it with one caveat: he could lead her back to the world above, but he couldn’t look back, or she would be lost forever.

Which is a little bit the way I feel here on the last day of 2017. Like things are just on the brink of being okay again, but — when I inevitably turn to look back — it’s all gonna turn to sharknado.

I know I’m not alone in this. 2017 has been a bumpy ride for us creative types: it’s hard to focus on the art when you fear for the world as you know it. Production is down, frustration is up. If I had to put an estimate on it, I’d say the average word has gotten 77% harder to write this year, and good sentences are 183% harder to come by. The brain just isn’t connecting right — there’s too much fog, too much distraction.

Add to the strife and struggle that most artists were feeling in general this year the added stress of our summer-long move (seriously, we started the process in March and didn’t finish until July — just in time to go back to work), and the end result has been a donkey kick to the balls of my creativity. Progress on the edits of my novels stagnated, to the point that one of them stalled out completely and I’ve had to abandon it like an iceberg-struck cruise ship. My daily word counts have bottomed out like a Formula One racer pulling into a Wendy’s. Even my posts around here have tapered off like the back end of a dolphin. And if you notice that there’s little rhyme or reason to those similes, well, see the previous paragraph.

And like the finely-tuned but ramshackle Rube Goldberg machine that, when one element misfires the entire contraption goes sailing off the rails, as goes the writing, so goes the rest of the ship. My exercise routine and the motivation to keep it up has cratered. Work — my actual money-making job — has felt harder despite, by outward appearances, becoming easier. Feels like my parenting skills are in the ditch because they kids are always fighting and screaming and stretching us to the limit. Needless to say, I’ve packed on a few pounds, so add that into the equation for some good, old-fashioned self-loathing.

I am more than ready, in other words, to see the back end of 2017. But doing that properly entails taking a look backwards, like Orpheus, so that I can fully appreciate the sharknadostorm.

So.

Current novel project status:

  1. Accidentally Inspired: still querying. I’m behind on sending out letters (go figure), but I’m still happy with the book.
  2. Untitled time-travel project: trunked. I spent many months making not a lot of progress in the edits and it just wasn’t working. Maybe I’ll come back to it one day, but there’s only so much good time I’m willing to throw down a hole.
  3. Untitled superhero project: rebuilding. I’m in the midst of rewriting a chunk of the middle of the book, after which I’ll move into proper edits. Many good feelings here, even if the progress has been slower than I’d like.

If I had to put a total word count on what I’ve written novel-wise this year, I’d put that number around 40,000. Not great by any stretch. But I’ll temper that by noting that I wasn’t drafting much if at all this year; all my work has been in edits. Which is a bummer, because there’s nothing like the thrill of raw creation that comes with drafting, but there it is.

State of the blarg:

having fun GIF

Posts are down, which means readership is down. Interestingly, I have more unique visitors than in years past, but less views per visitor, which is both good and bad. Good: more people seeing my stuff. Bad: not as many clickarounds to read what else is on offer. I could make some excuses for this, but I think it comes down to tone. I’ve done a lot of grousing about how hard things have been this year, and people can only take so much of that. Hell, I can only take so much of that. I also suspect that the more time I spend splashing around in my mudhole of despair, the more despair I get on me, which demotivates my writing, and *begin 2017 death-spiral all over again*.

I look into my stats and I see that some of my most popular posts were my Terrible Reviews, which is a category I’ve neglected this year, and also a thing I quite enjoy writing, so getting back to more of those wouldn’t go amiss.

I also think, in a psychological mind-gaming myself into less effery kind of way, that my standards are hurting me. For a while, I prided myself on getting my average post length up over 1000 words. Which is great when it happens, but also — who has the patience to sit there and read 1000 words of drivel on a blog? I’m guessing not a ton of people, to say nothing of the time it takes to churn out 1000 words — especially when I could better use those words on my novels. The blarg still serves, I think, as a release valve for creative energy and is a solid way to Just Keep Writing, but it’s felt like a job somewhat. That doesn’t strike me as a formula for fun.

And this sharknado is supposed to be fun, for fargo’s sake.

John Goodman’s exterminator in the aptly-named Arachnophobia was a teetotaling sort. He brought a flamethrower to deal with a subterranean basement infestation, which, y’know, plus ten for total domination, but minus a thousand for good thinking. Still, when asked what to do about the problem of wood rot in a basement early in the film, he offered this gem: “Cut out bad wood. Put in good wood.”

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Easier said than done, probably. And the spiders totally got him in the end. But marvelous in its simplicity, and some advice I’m gonna try to live by.

In fact, I’m gonna take that quote, change one letter (okay, FINE, one letter TWICE) and make that my mantra for 2018. (Not a resolution, because resolutions are bullsharknado, but a mantra.)

“Cut out bad word. Put in good word.”

Maybe not poetic, but a good thing to aim for.

face off GIF

See you in 2018.


Accidentally Inspired Best of 2016


The blog had a few hits over 10,000 this year, and even factoring in (or, rather, out) the unprecedented and unexplained 2500 or so hits from Taiwan late last month, that’s over 2000 more hits than last year. And considering that this blog gets promoted … not at all, but only through repeat visitation and people stumbling across it, I’ll take that as a pretty good sign. (Also — thanks for reading!)

Since it’s growing, and since I have at least a few regular readers and commentors, I thought I’d try something different. I’ve not done this before, but all the cool kids are doing it, and it got me thinking: as much as I spin my wheels around here, I have written a few things that aren’t a total waste of time here at Accidentally Inspired. I mean, granted, 2016 has turned into a total sharknado-show here in the closing months, but it hasn’t all been bad. So what better time than the end of an arbitrarily-defined irregular orbital period to take a look back at some of those posts?

Here, then, are the best of 2016.

Most Popular Overall: These are, in descending order, the most-viewed posts on the site.

  1. Do You Wanna Go To Target? I guess it should be no surprise that the goofiest thing I wrote this year would be the most-read post I’ve ever had here. Lesson learned: start a youtube channel.
  2. Why Mickey Mouse is the Worst Kids’ Show. Kids go through phases, and my kids were in a doozy of a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse phase. It was lodged in my mind like popcorn between the teeth for months, and this was the result. I stand by every word of it, months later.
  3. Orkestra Obsolete. I did something here that I rarely do, which was to re-post a video that I saw and thought was awesome with very little commentary. Somehow, searches for that band ended up directing some visitors here, and still do occasionally. Still a great video.
  4. Why I Am an Atheist. I decided this year I wasn’t going to pretend I wasn’t an atheist any more. I’m too old for that sharknado. This was my coming-out post. Not a bad read if you’re interested in the guy behind the curtain.
  5. More Riffing on Light and Dark. Just a little post about symbolism that I may revisit some time, because it’s everywhere, but we don’t pay all that much attention to it. I think I was high on the scene where (SPOILER!) Han Solo dies in TFA at the time.

Most Popular Flash Fiction: I haven’t written as much flash as I used to (and I need to work on that — it really is great exercise), but I still do from time to time. These stories had the most views out of the lot.

  1. Pegasus Intelligence. A funny bit of fluff about a stymied writer. Funny how that’s a motif across my work.
  2. A Laughing Matter, Ashore, and The Dark Fairy. Three stories in a collaborative flash fiction challenge. Links to the other authors’ contributions are contained within each of those pages. The germ for the first story (A Laughing Matter) came from my Storymatic, which has proven to be a pretty awesome little tool.
  3. The Apocalypse Ticket. A lesser-known superhero races to save the world but is bested by bureaucracy. I think it’s no coincidence that I’m at my best when I’m adventuring in the absurd.
  4. Overtaken. A weird little piece I wrote in the wake of the Olympic games, but not a bad one.
  5. The Cloud Conspiracy. A genre mash-up that I actually quite enjoyed: climate science fiction and noir.

Honorable Mentions / My Favorites (in no particular order): A handful of pieces I particularly enjoyed for one reason or another.

  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma, Egomaniacs, and the 2016 Election. This one very nearly cracked the top 5. I imagine all pre-election pontification looks pretty silly in retrospect, but I was proud of this piece. I particularly liked the precept of using logical problems and thought experiments to structure some entries, which is a thing I may return to.
  • An Open Letter to the Creators of FreeWrite. The FreeWrite is a product I have decided to love to hate. I absolutely adore the idea, but it’s so self-important and overhyped, it’s almost ludicrous. It still pops up in my facebook all the time, and while I would love to own one, there is no way in hell I’m swallowing the $499 (!) price tag.
  • Chick Magnet. I absolutely loved this bizarre little story about a guy who, despite his wishes, is loved and pursued by a flock (haw) of avian suitors.
  • I Hate Everything, Even My Own Birthday. Because it’s true.
  • On Losing, or Why Art Competitions Suck. A little treatise (read: rant) on why it’s bottom-line absurd to compare your art to anybody else’s.
  • No Such Thing as Coincidence. Not a revelatory post or anything, but a little spotlight on what I would consider some tremendous personal growth: earlier in my life, a setback like the one I suffered would almost certainly have had me throwing in the towel for good. But not this one, not me, not now.
  • Star Wars Owes You Nothing. Despite overwhelming positive reception, the haters were out in force over Star Wars VII, and I think that’s idiotic because, well, Star Wars (or any other beloved bit of media) owes you nothing.

Bonus: My Favorite Search Terms for 2016: Unfortunately, Google apparently hides the searches that bring people to the site, and Google is obviously the overwhelming king-daddy of search engines, so that’s a pretty big missing puzzle piece. Still, I get to see some of the terms, and some of them brighten my day.

  • “giving my son an enema” led a few visitors to what is still one of the most-viewed pages of all time on the site, and I have mixed feelings about that. Pity that I don’t actually tell the story. It’s too unpleasant.
  • “sw7 sucks”. Blasphemy! My review is most definitively in support of TFA. Also, as noted above, Star Wars owes you nothing.
  • “are dreams useless?” and “dreams are useless”. Yes, they are.
  • “the meaning of the word babyloading”. I don’t know what this word means, but it does, in fairness, seem like exactly the sort of thing I’d talk about.
  • “‘hadn’t pooped in five days’ diaper”. Again, you’ve come to the right place.
  • “what do you mean by locker room talk”. Oh, you know. Just a desperate attempt to legitimize a serial abuser of women.
  • “bouts of gratuitous whining”. I think I have a new subtitle for the blarg.

I guess that pretty much does it for 2016. So as Han Solo said to a guy who was really just trying to help him out: I’LL SEE YOU IN HELL.

And as we go into 2017, remember our daily affirmation:

Image result for donnie yen i am one with the force

(Thanks imgur.)


2016 in Review


*peeks out of his apocalypse-proof bunker*

*looks both ways for passing trains, heart attacks, or plagues*

So, uh, 2016, huh? Been a bit of a treacherous road, hannit? I mean, we say that at the end of every year, and certainly every year has its share of ups and downs, celebrity deaths, breakthroughs and disappointments. But it’s hard to deny that 2016 feels different, especially owing to the recent spate of deaths.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, text

Not least among them of course is Carrie Fisher, whose passing hit me harder than any this year. Probably because I’ve been a Star Wars kid for the entirety of my functional memory (all I can really remember before I was 14 or so is locking myself in a locker at the high school while my dad — a teacher at the time — was playing basketball, shooting the light bulb in my bedroom with a squirt gun until the bulb exploded [it didn’t take long at all], and watching Star Wars and Back to the Future about a hundred times).

Then there’s Trump getting elected, which fills me with more despair than I care to even think about, so I’m just going to bury my head in the sand and forget I even mentioned it today, lest I fall down another diatribe rabbit hole around here, and NONE OF US WANTS THAT.

Point is, the last few months especially have been rough, so it only makes sense for the rest of us to keep our heads down until 2016 has run its course.

Of course, the end of the year isn’t just for turtling up inside our shells, it’s a time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, and I’m happy to say that 2016 was a decent year for me personally. I overcame my nerves and self-doubt and finally got my first novel submitted and out in the world. (No leads yet, but that’s okay.) I lost my mind and ran my first obstacle course race, which was awesome and I’m already registered to repeat in April (thanks to my wife, who is ever-indulgent of such dalliances). I started my new job, which, while a little more taxing than my old job — and more demanding of my time outside standard working hours — is also a lot more creatively fulfilling.

Running-wise, I haven’t looked at my metrics in a while, but the nice part about running with gadgetry is that I don’t have to think all that much about how much I’m running — the technology tracks it all for me. Apparently, I’ve run 596 miles this year, up from 460 last year. I’m pleased with that — the number could be higher, but I was lucky enough to spend most of this year not dealing with injuries. Most of those miles have been comfortable and pain-free, so to get almost 600 there is encouraging.

Writing-wise, I finished up the first draft of novel #2, completed a third edit on novel #1 (and finally started submitting it) and have completed about 60,000 words of novel #3. That’s somewhere in the range of 8,000-10,000 words a month, minus a month’s worth for those edits; call it 90,000 words. For a guy like me with a full-time job and two full-time kids … well, I was going to say that’s respectable, but seeing as that’s a sliding scale, I’ll content myself with saying it makes me happy, at least.

Then there’s the blarg, here. I’ve not been quite as prolific as in years past, but I still get about three posts a week, for anywhere from 500-1100 words on average, with the odd outlier (*COUGH* Force Awakens Review) pushing 2000. Wordpress tells me I have 172 posts this year, and if the average is, let’s be conservative and say, 600? That gives … damn. 103,200 words. On the one hand I feel bad about that; it seems to recommend that I’m more productive here than in my capital “W” Writing, and I can’t say I’m pleased about that. Then again, a thing I read over and over is that all writing is good writing — it all sharpens the iron, as it were — so in that case, any productivity is good productivity.

All that is to say that I’ve produced something like 200,000 written words this year, run about six hundred miles, and taken some real, concrete steps to actually getting my writing out there in the world. None of which is a small thing; altogether, it’s pretty damn encouraging. Furthermore, if a guy like me can do it, then literally anybody can do it, and given that resolution season is upon us, what more motivation do you need?

Next up: a review of some of the year’s top posts.


I Hate Everything, Even My Own Birthday


Yesterday was my birthday.

The big three-six.

And instead of making a big deal about it here on the blarg, I wrote a dumb review of Ghostbusters.

That’s not my way of trawling for birthday wishes. To be honest, I’m not particularly arsed about birthdays. I’m five years older than my wife, so any mention of getting older in general just reminds me of how young I’m NOT anymore.

The fact is, birthdays kind of suck once you’re past your early twenties. You certainly don’t have any privileges to look forward to at my age, and nobody is impressed at the number of candles on my birthday cake or the fact that I can blow them out all by myself.

But having a summertime birthday, especially when you work in a school, is the double suck, because you don’t get the workplace shout-out. No company-wide e-mail goes out. No cupcakes in the breakroom. No pranks pulled while I’m at lunch. Nope, it was a day just like any other, pretty much.

Still, it’s a chance to reflect, and that’s a thing worth doing no matter how old you are. So, in the last year, these are some things I’ve done:

  • Finished, finally and for truly, my work on Accidentally Inspired (at least until I go back to work on it some more).
  • Started the truly harrowing task of submitting my novel to actual real-life literary agents.
  • Received my first rejection of said novel within hours after submitting it.
  • Finished the first draft of another novel entirely.
  • Started a new novel.
  • Posted, like, 200 times to this blarg.
  • Tried twitter and sucked at it.
  • Ran about 550 miles (impressive, considering the injuries I can’t seem to kick).
  • Applied for, interviewed for, and accepted an offer for a new job, all in the space of less than a week.
  • Lost about 10 pounds.
  • Gained 10 pounds back.
  • Lost about 5 pounds.
  • Gained 3 pounds back.
  • Pretty much stopped giving a sharknado about my weight as long as I don’t go above 185.
    • Not in that order.

Which is all pretty awesome, maybe. And that leaves out entirely any of the awesome things that I did with the family, or the awesome things that the family did that I got to bear witness to.

All of which is to say that, while the day itself isn’t something I would make all that much fuss about, the time spent getting here is worth being proud of.

So with that said, I’ll leave you with the electronic exchange of birthday wishes between a good friend of mine and myself, because it sure as hell made me laugh. (This friend is a touch older than me, and wiser, and one of my biggest cheerleaders. But she does know how to take me down a peg.)

D: Happy birthday.

Me: Hey thanks! I’m at that point where I prefer to forget about it 😛

D: I’m never going to forget tho, so maybe I can be a pleasant reminder that at least you aren’t 2 1/2 years older?

Me: I guess I’ll take it, but I would still rather forget.

D: Ok, I’ll resist next time.

Me: We’ll see!

D: No I promise… I always yield to the requests of the aged.

Me: Dammit.
Seriously. Nobody cares when you turn 36.
Which is as it should be.

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