On a year without Ponche

If I recall correctly, this is the first year of my life in which I've had no Ponche at all.

It's one of those strange epiphanies: you catch yourself thinking a small, unimportant thought, like a dead leaf. Then you wonder about it and the closer you look, the more you discover about it. You get to wonder how on earth you missed it this whole time.

Why is it that I didn't get any Ponche this year? It's usually served during the Posadas (the nine days before Christmas) and I didn't attend even one. Other years I celebrated them with my brothers in their respective schools, with my mom at her work, with my friends at their homes. Some years, when I was more religious, I spent several days on small comunities in a spiritual retreat of sorts, and they celebrated like no other.

That's not to say I was sad and curled up in my bed these days (well, some days I was). I wrote more than any other year during NaNoWriMo and planning the next one. I focused a lot on beginning a serious commonplace book and a personal quotebook. I was busy with the guys in the local Wikimedia chapter. I kept doing things. I just never tried going to a Posada this year, so it didn't happen out of the blue. Simple as that.

This small realization made me see how things really aren't the same anymore and even though I'd like to, a lot of these changes are a product of my choice. I chose to do what I did (and I chose not to do or not to choose some other things). Two and a half years living alone in this city and I'm still learning about it.

So I'm grateful for having learned a bit this year. I'm grateful that I'm still living and that I'm reasonably in good standing. 

So this is what I've done, e2-wise:

Happy New Year, e2!

The past is dead. Long live the future.

Truly, we live in an age of the miraculous, and I don't mean statues that weep milk or the steady march of progress, but I suppose there's been a fair amount of that too.

Yes, the new Pope is doing strange and holy things in faraway Rome; yes, self-stabilizing cutlery is helping sufferers from Parkinson's regain a sense of dignity by enabling them to feed themselves again.

Yes, the fucking wars may finally be over soon, or at least our parts in them; and St. Snowden finally had the fortitude and integrity to do what many have considered but never followed through with. The burning light and trumpets of Revelation are causing stars to fall in Washington, and the reflecting pool is turned to blood. Deep in the Earth, the Beast is stirring, and awaiting his parole.

But all of that pales in comparison to these hot dog flavored potato chips. For years they've been at work perfecting them. These are not the hot dog flavored potato chips of days gone by. That would be comparing the grainy, scratchy, slightly mis-tuned television of 1928 with the latest 4k laser projection IMAX.

Absolutely uncanny, you see. Definite, distinct flavors of hot dog meat warmed over charcoal starter fluid; cheap Fourth of July weekend ketchup; YELLOW-type mustard; oh, and the perfect amount of relish. The good relish. The kind you usually only get out of the filmy tubs fastened to the stainless steel side panels of a tired pushcart on the outskirts of Humboldt Park in Chicago. And all of that without being too salty.

Despite illness, unemployment, a general malaise with my country, and the occasional audible pop from the disintegration of another thread in the seams that hold my family together, I am enraptured by the prospect of a whole new year full of snack food discoveries.

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of  life within the boundaries of death - however mutable man may be able to make them - our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the  darkness, we must supply our own light.

Stanley Kubrick, from an interview by Eric Nordern, Playboy (September 1968); later published in Stanley Kubrick: Interviews (2001) 1

The holiday season has come and gone, we have boxed up our decorations and stored them in the attic, and now I'm focused on the coming year. While I use the middle of the summer  to reflect on my contributions for the year here at everything2, I do enjoy reviewing the last 12 months and creating new goals in the week between Christmas and New Year's.  2013 proved to be one of the most memorable years of my life. Some bad things happened, and many, many good things happened, and most importantly, I sit here after another  revolution around the sun able to reflect, still alive and kicking in an indifferent world.

Notable events from 2013

  • The year of us - My wife and I emphasized our relationship this year, for the first time using babysitters to watch our daughter two or three times a month while we went out and  had numerous adventures as a couple. From a few adult Cards Against Humanity games we played with friends that resulted in a lot of nakedness (house rules) to late-summer  cookouts that ended with skinny dipping, we stretched the bounds of our previously conservative social structure and intentionally sought out new friends more open about living  life to the fullest. 

  • And a year of our daughter - We did not neglect our daughter however. In 2013 she has grown in so many ways. We concentrated on a few specific skills, and now her reading  (something important to both of her parents) is markedly above her age level. More importantly, we seem to have been successful in instilling a love of reading and books in her.  Between weekly trips to the library, bedtime stories, driving alphabet games, and allowing her to stay up 15 minutes past bedtime to read on her own, this is one thing we hope will pay lasting dividends in her life. Other milestones this year included  getting her first bicycle, which we would take to the walking trail in the summer evenings, moving up to the next level in swimming lessons at our community center, and  beginning her final year of daycare. Every day with her has been a blessing.

  • A step closer to financial stability - Our move from the countryside to the city is finally complete. On Halloween day we sold our other house finally (FINALLY) and now live in  the smaller, older foreclosure we bought in 2012. While our old home easily fit within our budget and we loved the red brick monolith with its flat open yard, by moving into the  city we opened so many opportunities for our daughter and reduced our monthly expenses by almost 75%. The trade-off comes in the form of performing house upkeep much more  frequently, and getting by with less space. But these haven't really been a noticeable problem, and certainly are outweighed by the amount of things we can do at the drop of a  hat now and by the amount of money we save month-to-month. I have started dumping almost 60% of my net income into investment accounts, and if that holds up without issue, I  intend on increasing the number as high as possible. Early retirement extreme may not be entirely in my grasp, but at the very least I can provide a solid financial foundation  for my family, or at least as much as anyone can at this moment in history.

  • Gaming again - Either through a private message or in the catbox here at everything2, a few months ago, in response to my referencing the now decade-long arm condition, a user  queried about foot keyboards. At different points over the past 10 years I have tried to improve my computer setup. In the past, I was unable to identify anything that might be  a good solution for me related to foot controlled keyboards. While I have continuously improved the voice recognition software, pen tablets, and braces I use, it has been a long  time since I even attempted to find something foot controlled. But this e2 user's message (who I now cannot remember) prompted me to look again. A few weeks later I received a  package from China, and voilà! I now have 3 foot pedals mapped to my mouse buttons. This allows me to control the movement of the mouse with the pen tablet and arm brace while  actually doing all the clicking with my feet. THIS IS AMAZING! Since 2001, any kind of computer gaming has been extremely limited for me. But now, thanks to this random everything2 comment, I can play any of the older computer games that solely rely on a mouse for control WITHOUT ANY ANY ANY discomfort to myself. This is a big deal for me. I'm  now playing one of the games I love over a decade ago almost every day. Each evening, sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes for a few hours, I roam the servers of Ultima Online killing dragons or sneaking into dungeons or just using a Team Speak server to chat with friends. And I love it. So thank you now forgotten e2 user.

Looking ahead to 2014
Here are the things I'm going to focus on next year:

  • At work, my goal is to take zero personal leave hours until the end of May, and to finish the required certification for my position.

  • Financially, my goal is to put on paper my Investment Policy Statement, follow it, and establish the other two legs of my three fund portfolio.

  • At home, my wife and I have decided to take our daughter to Disney World this year.

  • And personally, my goal is to, in addition to the frequent random books I pick up or borrow, read five of the books in my backlog pile. And in response to the gloominess and  depression that hit me at the end of this year, I will approach life more joyfully. In the words of my daughter, I'm going to be more like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle  Raphael, who is a "party dude." Seems like solid advice.

Happy New Year Everything2! 

May your stomachs be full of nourishment, your beds be full of loving bodies, and your eyes be full of smiles.

-- corvus

1 http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Stanley_Kubrick,retrieved 12/30/2013.

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