Buried in Berries: Chapter 1

To My Darling Daughter on her Young Adult Birthday,

Hey sweetie. How’s it going? You overwhelmed yet? It’s okay. I was, too. Hopefully your Dad and I are still around to help you out a bit by the time you get here, but just in case, and to give you a bit of extra support, I thought I’d write you a letter; a little instruction manual if you want to call it that. You’ve probably noticed I haven’t been the most present and attentive mother. My career is really demanding and I know things get hectic, but I want to make sure you know how much I love you, how proud I am of you, and how prepared I am to help you succeed. I haven’t lived the most perfect life, but I will say I’ve learned a few things along the way that might be useful for you to know. Some things you have to learn the hard way, but hopefully not everything, so here’s a few tips, life lessons, and pieces of advice to help smooth the way. If I can save you from making even one of the mistakes I did in my youth, I’ll call this a success.

Rule #1:  First things first:  Redecorate!

2 Redecorating

Your home needs to feel like home. It should suit you. This is me in my first place in the fashion district. It was cramped and everything broke constantly. Any food placed in the fridge immediately tasted like ice chips and mold, and my neighbor, Penny, had a more audibly active romantic life than any one person has a right to have. However, I slapped some minty fresh paint on the walls and a slipcover on the sofa and it suddenly became mine.  There’s something really special about your very first apartment, and I’ll always remember mine fondly.

Rule #2:  Don’t eat the fruitcake!

6 You'll Eat it and Like It

It’s a family heirloom (The recipe or the fruitcake itself? You be the judge!). It was very thoughtful of them to bring it. You don’t want to offend the neighbors. No matter how many compelling reasons you can come up with to bring that fork to your mouth, I guarantee you that you will regret it! Instantly. Make them a salad. They’ll be grateful and think you’re a good hostess and you can put something in your mouth that doesn’t taste like a stale, breaded, gummy bear.

11 What Am I Eating

Rule #3:  If you have to ask, it’s probably complicated.

7 Are You Two Together

You may recognize your Uncle Akira there. In another universe that would have been your father. He almost was. But see the pink-haired lady in the beret? That’s Miko. You could have cut the sexual tension between those two with a knife, and they lived together. But of course I had to ask, and they quickly and fervently denied that they were a couple. And thus began weeks upon weeks of awkwardness. Those two were meant for each other and I just got in the way. I almost got in my own way, too, as you’ll soon find out, but the point is:  don’t go there.

I realize that one’s a little nebulous, so maybe we should just make the rule: Don’t date the neighbors. I think that’s pretty solid advice, too.

Rule #4:  Grinding happens.

14 Logic Wah Wah

Skills. You need ‘em. Get yourself a fancy mood lamp and get started. Not every moment of your life is going to be worthy of a livestream, and that’s okay. It helps to have a nice view.

15 Nice View Though

Rule #5:  Mischief is a solid life skill

16 Easily Influenced

I know you may not necessarily see the benefit of all those pranks your Mom pulled on you, but check this out: If your neighbor refuses to leave, dare them to streak! Voila! Peace and Quiet! Your beloved is trying to get up the courage to ask for a promotion? Instill them with false confidence! False or not, he (or she, Mommy loves you either way) will be feeling fantastic regardless. Low on cash? E-mail marketing schemes may or may not have gotten your Mommy through some tough times. Just saying.

17 In Good Company

Rule #6:  A Nemesis is a good and useful thing.

21 Enter Marcus Flex

That particular musclehead has a name you’ve heard spoken in our house on more than one occasion, always in a tone dripping with venom and loathing:  Marcus Flex. You’re old enough now to know the reason behind my deep hatred of this individual, and I’m finally ready to tell you. He’s eating a delicious meal of sweet and sour eggplant in this picture. A meal he neither ordered nor paid for. While I was distracted telling Geoffrey Landgraab a highly interesting and credible conspiracy theory, Mr. Flex swooped in and scooped it up and began shoveling it into his stupid face.

You know your Mommy is a vegetarian, and also a less-than-awesome cook. Finding proper sustenance at food carts is a challenge, and that Sweet and Sour was my only option that particular evening. He took it from me. And without a shred of remorse.

22 How Dare You

Nevertheless, my instant loathing of Marcus came in handy. In order to complete my life goals I needed people to dislike me, and after what I said to him that night he definitely did (and does! Enemies for life!). Later on, I’d need somebody to bind a voodoo doll to, and I already had a perfect candidate. See? Handy! You don’t have to like everybody, honey, and the ones you don’t can still serve a very valuable purpose in your life, I’m telling you.

Rule #7:  Embrace the mystery.

23 Then This Happened

I will never know what happened here. It just happened. And I’m okay with that. Sometimes it’s just nice to wonder.

Rule #8:  History Repeats Itself

24 He Did It Again

What you see here is Marcus Flex sitting down to enjoy the SECOND plate of Sweet and Sour Eggplant he stole from me that evening. THE SECOND!

Naturally, I was not going to stand for this.

25 The Last Straw

Which brings me to Rule #9:  Violence has its place . . . .

27 I Did Not Win

. . . but work out a little first.

Rule #9:  Feeding Yourself Is Harder Than You Think

29 Stupid Marcus

Stupid Marcus. Oh, man. But look how flat my stomach is in that picture! It does not look like that anymore. Rule #9.5:  When you’ve got it, appreciate it! It does not last!

Rule #10:  Try to Love Your Job

30 This I Like

While I don’t wish you the particular joy of a workplace staffed entirely by members of the same family, I hope you can find a career as fulfilling for you as mine has been for me. I know the hours are long and we have a lot of weird lamps in our house because of it, but science has really been my passion and I’m so grateful to have discovered it. You can put up with a whole lot of struggle in your life if you get to go to work in the morning and order a robot around and make your co-workers drink tainted serums. Just saying.

Rule #11:  You are Your Own Best Test Subject

33 Bottoms Up

Speaking of tainted serums, sometimes you can’t find a willing co-worker and you have to just take darn thing yourself. I’m speaking metaphorically here. I know you’re not going into science like I did and I’m fine with that. (Really! It’s fine!) I’m just saying, IN GENERAL experimenting on yourself is the best research. No matter what happens, you’ll have learned something new, and you should never stop learning. Maybe that’s the rule. Rule #11, revised:  Never stop learning. That sounds better anyway, and less sinister.

Rule #12:  The B in BLT is for Bacon

36 The B is for Bacom

Something useful to know before you go chowing down on snacks from the work vending machine. I know you’re not a vegetarian (which is fine!), but you should know what you’re getting into. The sandwiches are the only thing in there that won’t put you in a bad mood, and they’re chock full of dead, cured, pig meat. I realize you don’t share my eating values, dear, (and I’m fine with that!) but think of the nitrites! The microwave pastries are always cold in the middle. Always. Ditto on the microwave meals. Soda will make you jittery. Just say no.

Rule #13:  Take Time to Celebrate Your Victories

37 Guess Who Got Promoted

Your coworkers will want to invite you out every time you get promoted. Say yes. It’s okay to pat yourself on the back sometimes, and heaven knows you won’t have time once you have kids. Take the time while you can.

Rule #14:  Personal Hygiene

40 I Am Foul

Enough said.

Rule #2 (re:  fruitcake) Goes double for leftovers.

41 What Even Is This

Probably also a good place to reiterate Rule #9. I’m telling you. Feeding yourself is a complicated issue. It will take some figuring out.

42 U Okay Bro

No rule on this one. Just demonstrating how awesome it is to be a scientist. Freeze ray! He wasn’t even mad once he thawed out! Eric Lewis is still one of my best friends, and a darn fine Ufologist, even if he does spend half the workday smooching his wife.

46 One

This was my first element. First of many. I cannot even begin to count the hours I spend on the phone with the Geo Council or hunched over my chemical analyzer, attempting to complete this collection. It was hard work, baby girl, and some days my mailbox was full of nothing but a lot of Goobleck, but if you just keep plugging away, eventually you’ll get where you’re going. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Just put in the work and you’ll get there. I promise.

47 Troll teh forums

Rule #16:  Don’t Feed The Trolls

As a dedicated and accomplished internet troll, I can tell you without hesitation that attention and you getting upset is exactly what we want. I’m not particularly proud of this part of my personal history, but it was a tough time in my life. I was lonely, hungry, and poor. I had nothing else going for me and making people angry on the internet made me feel powerful. Also, it was fun. Don’t hate me.

49 Lonely

Look at that face. You can’t hate your poor Mom with that sad face, can you? Nobody even stole my eggplant that day and I was still miserable. Don’t worry, though. This story has a happy ending and you already know what it is.

I’ve got loads more to say, but I’ll cut it off here for now because your Dad just called me in for dinner.

Love you to bits!

Your Mom,

Creme D. Menthe

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