My memory is like Jell-O

I wanted to bring something to Easter dinner at my friends Meg and Harold’s place because they were nice enough to invite me over and save me from spending the day alone, biting the ears off chocolate bunnies. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try the recipe for Jell-O 1 2 3 I’d found on the Internet years ago and had always wanted to try. They stopped selling Jell-O 1 2 3 mix in the 90′s, and since then it’s been the food product I miss second most, right after Almost Home Sugar Cookies.

Let’s just say the experiment did not reach a happy conclusion. Although the end product tasted fairly good, it was only one layer instead of three. I’d also used cherry Jell-O, so it looked like I’d made a big bowl of congealed pig’s blood for dessert. I ended up buying a cheesecake from the store instead and was grateful Harris Teeter is open on Easter. Afterwards I went online to see if I could figure out what went wrong with the recipe. Perhaps my Cool Whip to Jell-O ratio was off? Did I not blend it long enough? I asked Google and when I scrolled down the first page of results I saw this:

PastaQueen's Not-So-Secret Recipes

It was a link to my old blog, an entry called PastaQueen’s Not-So-Secret Recipes: Jell-O 1-2-3. Yes, dear readers, it turns out I not only tried to make Jell-O 1 2 3 before, I also forgot that I’d tried to make Jell-O 1 2 3 before. I’m betting some of my longtime readers figured this out after reading the first paragraph, saying to themselves, “Wait, didn’t she already make that a few years ago?” I was clueless until Google clued me in. I documented the process with images, which is the only reason I believe this must have happened, though I have no real memory of it. In fact, one of the images Google displayed at the top of the search results page was of my own experiment, which I had completely overlooked!

Google images for Jell-O 123

I’ve drawn two main lessons from this incident. The first is, that as disturbing as it might be to admit, we forget most of our lives. Yeah, we remember the important things, the life-changing moments good and bad, the surprises. But the time I spend flossing or making coffee or driving to work etc. etc. is not going to be remembered several days from now. The time I spent making a dessert forgotten by time is not memorable enough to make my life’s greatest hits list. There are a handful of people who have amazing autobiographical memory, called Hyperthymesia, who can remember practically everything that’s happened to them. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I’m definitely not one of them nor are most of us.

The second lesson is that our forgetfulness is one of the single best arguments for keeping a journal or a blog. I like to remember what I’ve forgotten. Had I not blogged about my Jell-O experiment I would have no idea I’d forgotten it. What other things have I forgotten about my life that I’ll never know about because I didn’t document them? One of the things I regret the most about not blogging as much lately is knowing that I am losing the experiences and thoughts I’ve had in that time. The Jell-O post was published five years and seven months ago. I have no way of knowing how I will have changed in another five years and seven months, but I’d like the opportunity to reflect on those changes after they happen, even if the person I am now might be embarrassing to the person I will be. Our past selves are almost always embarrassing in some way, aren’t they?

If I don’t remember the things that happen to me, I seem to be doomed to repeat them. It makes me think of an episode of RadioLab I heard in which a woman temporarily loses the ability to make short term memories. (Start at the 6:40 mark.) She got better within a day, don’t worry. But while she was sick she could only remember the last two minutes, so she got stuck in a loop asking the same questions over and over again and reacting in the same way over and over again. It’s sort of funny and also sort of scary that our reactions to events could be so predictable.

I seem to be stuck in a loop in which I discover a recipe for Jell-O 1 2 3 and think that I should try that. Then I forget and rediscover the recipe and try it all over again. Even if I don’t remember all my thoughts or opinions or how I’ve changed over the years, at the very least I’d like to remember that I should never attempt to make Jell-O 1 2 3 again. It’s a lost cause, Jennette! Don’t do it! Please remember to read this five years and seven months from now.

JenFul Playlist – February and March 2014

Music

Every two months I post playlists of the songs I’ve been listening to recently. You can listen to the playlists in the Spotify players below if you have Spotify installed. If not, the playlists are listed in text below that. As always, you can follow me on Spotify here and view my other playlists here. I’ve commented on a few highlights below.

February 2014

March 2014

Highlights/Comments

My Chemical Romance – Fake Your Death
After this song crawled into my brain and refused to leave I decided to Google the band, which I’d heard of but never listened to before. That’s how I learned this song is “a eulogy for the band” because it’s the last one they wrote before breaking up. Way to ride the tail end of a phenomena, Jennette.

Blondfire – Life Of The Party, The Airborne Toxic Event – Hell And Back, Tegan And Sara – Shudder To Think
I have yet to see The Dallas Buyer’s Club, but the movie soundtrack is pretty good. Three tracks from it landed on my playlist in February.

The Jezabels – Beat to Beat
I’ve enjoyed listening to both albums this band has put out, but there aren’t really any songs that scream HIT on either of them. Somehow the sum of the album as a whole is more than its individual songs put together. They also seem to spell “Jezabel” wrong on purpose, which makes it a bit difficult to search for them online when Google auto-corrects you.

Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up (acoustic)
There’s a good chance you heard the song “Wake Me Up” by the DJ/producer Avicii sometime in the past year because it was a monster hit. It was co-written by Aloe Blacc who also did this acoustic version. I gotta’ say, I think it’s kind of shady that Avicii didn’t at least give a “featuring Aloe Blacc” credit in the song listing. Avicii didn’t credit any of his featured artists in the song listings on his album. So I was left to discover the artist’s name on my own.

The Handsome Family – Far From Any Road
This one landed on my list because it was used as the theme song to True Detective.

February 2014

My Chemical Romance – Fake Your Death
Little Daylight – Overdose
Blondfire – Life Of The Party
Neon Trees – Sleeping With A Friend
Sleeper Agent – Waves
The Airborne Toxic Event – Hell And Back
Bad Suns – Cardiac Arrest
Birdy – Wings
Donora – Champion
Grouplove – Ways To Go
Beyoncé – XO
Tegan And Sara – Shudder To Think
Broods – Bridges
Band Of Skulls – Asleep at the Wheel
Betty Who – Heartbreak Dream
Augustines – Cruel City
Aunt Martha – Steal Back
Ruby Friedman Orchestra – Drowned
The Handsome Family – Far From Any Road
Real Estate – Talking Backwards
U2 – Invisible – (RED) Edit
Cash Cash – Take Me Home [feat. Bebe Rexha]

March 2014

Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better
The Head And The Heart – Another Story
New Politics – Harlem
Aloe Blacc – The Man
Icona Pop – Just Another Night
Jenny Owen Youngs – Love For Long
Sleeper Agent – Be Brave
The Jezabels – Beat To Beat
Lily Kershaw – Good Girl
Phillip Phillips – Raging Fire
Jamestown Revival – California (Cast Iron Soul)
Jake Bugg – Two Fingers
The Wild Feathers – Got It Wrong
Dan Croll – Home
Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up – Acoustic
Mandy Moore – I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week
Charlotte Martin – When the Sun Finds Me

Superstitions

Crossed fingers

If someone were to ask, I’d say I’m not a superstitious person. I will open an umbrella inside with no qualms, and a black cat crosses my path every day (and cuddles me every night). But if I examine the facts I have to admit I might be a wee little bit superstitious. I would qualify superstition as anything you do or believe that has magical, non-scientific reasons for its effectiveness like, oh, these three things:

1) Crossing my fingers for good luck
As a web developer I frequently have to test a web site after I’ve made changes to it. When I’ve made a tricky edit that I’m not completely sure will work, I always, always, ALWAYS, cross my fingers on both hands after I press the refresh button in the browser. I keep them crossed for the 10, 20, 30 or however many seconds the page takes to load and my fate is revealed in HTML destiny. Rationally I know that all this does is make it harder for me to use my keyboard and mouse. Irrationally, I feel like it gives me good juju and will help magically fix any coding errors that previously existed on the page.

2) Knocking on wood
You’re supposed to knock on wood to prevent jinxing yourself if you say something that tempts fate. So if I were to say, “Thank goodness I’ve never been eaten by a pack of wild dogs,” I would follow that up with, “Knock on wood!” to prevent myself from meeting that fate simply by bragging about the fact that it’s never happened. If there’s wood in the room, I will actually knock on it, but if no wood is available I just say the words. Obviously, this is completely insane. If I could summon a pack of wild dogs simply by mentioning them, my enemies would be far more scared of me.

3) Burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard to sell a house
I have never owned a house or sold one, but if I had to I would definitely bury a St. Joseph statue in the yard. According to Snopes there are several theories on how this practice started. I’ve always thought of it as a Catholic thing, but I think it could work for anyone. There is a lot of debate about whether you should bury the statue in the front yard or the back yard and if St. Joseph should be right-side up, upside down, or on his back pointing at something. I don’t know how or where I’d bury St. Joe, but I would do it. Apparently a lot of people feel the same way because there is an entire St. Joseph Home Sales Kit available online.

Of all my superstitions I realize this one is the most absurd because it’s so labor-intensive. It doesn’t take much time or effort to cross your fingers or knock on wood, but this task requires you to buy something and then go dig up your yard. Selling your house has a lot more to do with the current market conditions and whether your house smells like freshly-baked cookies than it does with whether or not you have a plastic statue hidden in the dirt outside. Yet, when a friend of mine mentioned that her house had been on the market for several months my first question was, “Have you buried a St. Joseph statue in the yard?” She hasn’t, and the rational part of my brain knows that her real estate problems have nothing to do with the lack of a plastic statue in her yard, but the other part of my brain really thinks she should try it. I will cut her some slack though because it’s harder to dig up your yard when there’s two feet of snow on the ground like there has been all winter.

So what about you? Do you have any superstitions you know are ridiculous but feel compelled to take part in anyway?

Stickk to it. (That’s not a typo.)

Stickk to it

You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more frequently. (Please tell me you’ve noticed I’ve been blogging more frequently.) I’d like to say this is because I’ve felt particularly inspired and productive lately, but mostly it’s because I don’t want to pay my friend Shauna five bucks every week.

Back in December, Shauna posted an entry that mentioned (in parenthesis) that she wanted to “get back on the writing wagon.” When I read that I thought, I want to get back on the writing wagon too though not literally because it would be hard to write on a wagon. That’s when I proposed the idea that we mutually extort blog entries from each other, though I think I phrased it as “being accountable to one another.” Accountability was an important part of my weight loss success when I was actually losing weight, so I hoped it might work as well with writing goals as it did with weight-loss goals. The best part is that once you’ve written something you can’t un-write it, unlike weight loss where you can gain back what you lost and then everyone acts like it didn’t count in the first place.

That’s why I went to Stickk.com, set up a commitment, named Shauna as my referee, and promised to pay her $5 any week I did not post at least one blog entry 200 words or longer for the first 8 weeks of the year. I had to enter my credit card information in case I failed, which made the stakes seem more real. Then Shauna did the same thing but assigned me as her referee. IT WAS ON!

And it worked rather well. There were some close calls, but we both got our entries online by the deadline for eight weeks straight. Even though there was money at stake, I found myself more motivated to post because I didn’t want to fail in front of Shauna. The shame of not meeting my goal would have been worse than losing five dollars, particularly on those weeks when Shauna got a post up before I did. And vice versa, I would much rather read a blog entry from Shauna each week than to receive her five dollars.

I also liked that we had a third-party service keeping us accountable. If Shauna and I had simply made a verbal agreement to each other (is email considered verbal?), it would have been easy to throw the whole thing out if we failed on the first week. For some reason when I got an email from Stickk.com on Monday morning asking me to report whether I had met my goal, it feel more real and non-negotiable than if I’d just told Shauna I was going to do it and asked her to check up on me.

That’s not to say Stickk.com is perfect. Their interface could be more intuitive than it is. It was also a bit confusing to figure out what power I had as a referee. I had to wait for Shauna to file a self-report before I could confirm that report as true or not. If Shauna had forgotten to file a report even though she’d posted a blog entry, she could have been fined $5 anyway and there would have been no way for me to report her as successful before that happened. I’m also fairly certain that the account user can override a referee’s report if they want to. So if Shauna had gotten sick of our bet she could have said “Screw this!” and reported herself as successful despite what I said as her referee. (I doubt Shauna would do anything like that though since she’s one of the most honest people I know.) Having that power kind of defeats the purpose of the site, though it probably prevents the site owners from getting nasty emails asking for refunds.

That said, the experience has been quite fulfilling….and stressful and nerve-wracking particularly on weeks when I didn’t know what to write about. I felt lucky that I happened to jet off to Punta Cana during this bet and was able to get three entries out of that experience alone. I also know that I wouldn’t have written those entries so quickly (if at all) if not for the bet because they are so time-consuming to put together. I’m glad I had that deadline hanging over me. If I don’t have deadlines it’s much harder for me to get things done. And they have to be REAL deadlines, deadlines I know I can’t negotiate or push back, because those aren’t really deadlines are they?

I also wondered if anyone would notice what was going on during those eight weeks. Shauna used to blog at The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl and I used to be PastaQueen, so we have a lot of shared readers. I imagined someone reading our blogs and thinking, “Hmmm, this is so odd. Shauna and Jennette have both started posting entries on Sundays or Mondays even though they haven’t been blogging regularly before that. Something’s going on here!” Alas, no one figured it out, or if they did they didn’t say anything.

Hopefully I will Stickk with things and continue to write blog entries regularly. It’s good for my spirit and it helps sharpen my writing skills. I don’t know if I can use Stickk.com for this forever, but it’s working well for now. Turns out it’s not as hard to write on the writing wagon as I thought!

The perks of nostalgia

When The Perks of Being a Wallflower came up in my Netflix queue recently I expected to like it because I liked the book, but I liked it even more than I expected for one big reason:

Early 90′s Nostalgia!!

Part of me dislikes that the early 90′s took place long enough ago that they are now nostalgic. (1990 was ten years ago tops, right?) The other part of me thinks it’s cool that I’ve lived long enough to see the world change in such significant ways. When I was a kid, I’d watch Nick-at-Night shows from the 50′s and 60′s that seemed so far away and untouchable because everything happened before I existed. Now I’m old enough that I can look back on older times and remember being a part of them. And yes, that means I’m aging, but it also means I’ve seen some cool shit go down. Experience: It’s a good thing.

According to the IMDB the kids in The Perks of Being a Wallflower are attending high school in 1992. I was in high school from 1994-1998, so the film is set just a smidge before my time, but close enough that it doesn’t really matter. If you too attended high school during the 90′s you might appreciate the nostalgia too.

Mixed tapes

Handwritten cassette label
Dual tape deck

I come from a time when a mixed tape was actually a tape and not a playlist you shared with someone on iTunes. Not only that, I had the same exact cassette tapes that are in the screenshot above! I remember the brightly colored Memorex one in particular because it was a 90-minute tape instead of the 60-minute tapes I usually bought. Not only that, I still have it in my car in case my MP3 player dies, the CD player breaks, and the radio ceases to work, yet somehow the tape player still manages to function. I also loved seeing the playlist handwritten on the cassette label. I still have a Tori Amos rarities mix a friend made for me and seeing the tracks written in his handwriting makes it feel more personal and precious than an iTunes playlist ever would.

Suitcases without wheels

Look, no wheels!

That’s right, kiddos. We used to buy suitcases without wheels! We had to carry them around and they were heavy and we are all much better off now.

Flannel

Flannel. Lots of flannel.

I wore a lot of flannel in high school. I wasn’t into grunge and I didn’t live in Seattle, so I’m not sure why I was always wearing flannel other than it was comfortable and easy to layer. There is definitely a lot of flannel going on in this party scene.

SAT Scores

SAT form

I didn’t remember what my SAT report looked like until I saw this prop in the movie and was like, “That’s exactly what our SAT results looked like!” The blue border, the red type, the maximum total score of 1600. Spot on. Well played, prop department. This is also a great time to brag about my SAT score. 1530 total! 750 verbal, 780 math. I was so proud of this score, yet it serves absolutely no purpose after you’ve gotten into college. It’s funny that I spent so much time studying for and stressing over a test that has such a short period of usefulness.

Trapper Keeper

Trapper Keeper

I think of the Trapper Keeper as an 80′s artifact, but I suppose they were still popular enough in the 90′s. I loved mine so much, even after the plastic cracked.

Ani DiFranco

The real Ani mix

I had a friend who worked at a big-box electronics store and managed to get a copy of Ani DiFranco’s Little Plastic Castle album a week before its release. She snuck it home, made a tape copy for herself and then made a copy for me. This made me feel like the coolest kid in school. Nowadays you can just find a torrent file and illegally download an album before it’s released if your morals are flexible enough, but back in the 90′s getting a pre-release copy of an album was a rarity.

Simply identifying music was more difficult too. In the movie the kids hear a song on the radio that they love, but they don’t know who sings it or what the song is called. These days you can search for the lyrics online or use the Shazaam app to identify a song. Back in the 90′s if the DJ didn’t tell you what the song was, you were kind of screwed. It was particularly hard if it was an older song that wasn’t in heavy rotation. It took me months to find the names of certain songs and when I did I felt like I’d achieved a massive victory. All of this made mixed tapes more precious since it could be really difficult to get a hold of music without the iTunes store or Spotify around. I much prefer how things are today, but part of me misses how those difficulties made the music more precious.

Other stuff

The movie contains various other things that reminded me of the 90′s. They attend a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show which I did once or twice with friends. The cafeteria chairs at their school are like the cafeteria chairs from my school, the kind that would lose the foot topper and cause the chairs to make a horrible screeching sound as they scraped against the tile floor. There’s a copy of A Separate Peace on someone’s bookshelf which was part of our required reading. No one has cell phones or the Internet or Facebook. One kid even has to get off the phone when his father wants to make a call because they have only one phone line.

The only thing that was anti-nostalgic was how it was for gay kids at that time. One of the main characters is gay and in a secret relationship with a football player who is not out. Things don’t go so well for them. I went to a magnet high school, so it was a pretty good environment for geeks and people who wouldn’t have fit in at other schools, but I still only remember 1 or 2 people being out. Many years later I learned that several of my friends and acquaintances were gay, some of them rather close friends whom I had no clue about. I think if we were all in high school today a lot more of them would be out. I know it’s still not safe for gay kids in lots of parts of the country, but in our particular school I think it would be ok.

We did have a Spanish teacher who was a lesbian and it was a secret people whispered about like it was sooooo illicit. “Did you know Senora Schaeffer is gay?” It was as if none of us had ever encountered an actual lesbian in the flesh before. Nowadays I doubt that would be a big deal either.

I enjoyed the 90′s nostalgia in this film because it wasn’t overdone. It had such a natural feeling. I suppose as I get older there will be more and more films that do this for me. I’m ok with that because it triggered memories I hadn’t accessed in a long time and made me remember things I didn’t realize I’d forgotten. Those are the perks of nostalgia.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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