Thursday, December 26, 2013

Cold and Flat. And Cold. Did I Mention Cold?

Oh, hey, look! I have a face.

Look at that.

Also wrinkles.

(Have we discussed how much I am not ready for wrinkles?)

In any case, I am livin' it up in Illinois right now; if 'living it up' means 'going to bed at like 9 pm because my brain thinks it's past my bedtime and waking up at 4:30 am because in South Carolina Jason and I would be waking up for work now...'

It's like living it up. I'm a party animal, clearly.

Christmas Eve I took two plane rides - one from Greenville to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to Bloomington, Illinois. The first ride was mostly uneventful; it's the shortest plane ride, you're really only in the air for about half an hour, other than takeoff and landing.

I always warn my seatmates prior to takeoff that I am, shall we say, a "bad flier". My seatmate, who looked about five years younger than me, turned wide eyes at me upon hearing my warning and said, in a soft timid voice, "... this is only my second time flying."

I looked her in the eye and said, "Well, then I'm really sorry for this."

Then takeoff started.

It was a fine ride, and I really only made her a little bit nervous. The second plane was... a touch more interesting. There were lots of interesting smells from people who just don't feel like taking care of their personal hygiene, bless their hearts, and a baby who cried about 75% of the trip... only falling into blissful, silent sleep three and a half minutes before we landed.

My seatmate for the second flight had her phone out through most of landing, even though you're not really supposed to do that. However, when the plane was coming in I looked outside and I had just about enough time to think, "Woah, usually we're farther back on the runway where that big silo looks like we're BEHIND it before we touch down - " before our wheels hit the runway and the pilot slammed on the brakes.

We all jerked forwards, and my seatmate hit herself in the face with her iPhone. It was a supremely satisfying moment.

Then we were off the plane, and the most important thing happened:

I saw this little girl in person.

Well, and also my sister and father and mother. But also my little niece, who is rapidly turning into my not-so-little niece as she insists on getting older while I'm away.

We killed some time running last-minute errands (and lunch at Steak n Shake! Because there is no post-airline food quite like chili and cheese fries, and that's not a joke) before we came back to pick up my brother and finally, the VanHoorn family was in one single location. It's been awhile. Bryan and I both do this crazy thing where we decide to live whole states away. It's madness.

Christmas was its usual flurry of excitement, mostly because I get to watch my little niece discover presents from Santa (and the crumbs of the cookies they put out the night before, the empty chocolate milk glass, the evidence that the reindeer had a carrot-y snack...) and watching her open our presents is always awesome. I think I did pretty well on the gifts I got my family this year... I was pretty proud of myself.

I received some awesome gifts, too. Actually, that first photo up there is me wearing a present from my Mom and Dad (the shirt, from Boden, my favorite brand in the whole world right now) and the necklace was a present from my friend Sarah, who knows my intense love of hamsas.

So, the quiet mornings waiting for other people to be awake give me plenty of time to blog, although obviously I kind of wussed out on that by just posting a photo yesterday (as my cousin Beth reminded me, ha), so... here you go.

I'm in Illinois.

It's very flat.

It's very cold.

There are still dregs of snow.

There's my parents, and my sister and brother and brother-in-law, my family in general and my little niece in particular in all her wild glory.

Wouldn't trade it for the world.

Although it would be nice to rediscover the ability to sleep in.

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Am Truly A Profound Philosopher

Blow-drying your hair is kind of ridiculous, as a concept, right?

I mean. I get out of the shower, squint at myself, and then plug in a big hot fan that I point at my head for several minutes, while frantically brushing to keep the tangles from just taking over and turning my whole head into the patch of thorns the hyenas throw Simba into in the Lion King. Eventually, when I can't stand it anymore, I turn it off, hope my hair is dry, and go eat breakfast.

I do this every morning, mostly.

It takes several minutes. By the end of my life I'll have spent hours drying my hair.

Probably whole days.

When really, I could have spent that time getting five or ten extra minutes of sleep. I'd tell you I could have spent that time learning quantum physics or disproving the law of gravity or something, but let's be honest here; I'd just go back to bed and we all know it.


Rather than stay in bed - that nice warm place where I would happily spend every morning until around 9 am if our mortgage company would start accepting hand-drawn doodles instead of money as payment - I drag myself up, take a shower, and I point a hot fan, making an unpleasant noise similar to the vacuum monster, at my head for ten minutes.

Really... it's baffling.

Monday, December 16, 2013

5 Things - The Cotton, Constellations, and Christmas-y Edition

1. This cotton boll wreath DIY, from Anne at On Sutton Place.

I saw a photo of a cotton boll wreath posted by Garden & Gun (which everyone knows is my all-time favorite literature-soaked-in-booze-and-blues magazine of the South) and got to thinking... I want to do that.

Not that I don't love our current wreath, which is a little bit more traditionally Christmas-y (and also very, very fake)... but I kinda like the idea of this white-flecked wreath instead.

Hers may have a little too much going on for me, too much in the way of sunflowers and color and such.

I may just want that fluffy white ring. Of course, that also makes me want to paint our front door a nice, deep brick red.

I want to paint everything brick red, lately.

Jason, can I paint our front door brick red?

You can find other DIY's on how to do it if you click the link-through to Garden & Gun's DIY (which also includes a tobacco wreath), or here at Cottage in the Oaks. 

There are lots of pretty prints in the shop, but this polar bear print caught my eye. I love the moody colors and the constellations themselves. Would love to have this hang on a wall in the guest room, right above the bed.

So pretty.

Also Ryan is based out of Chicago, Illinois, so let's show some home state love here.

3. Time Magazine names Pope Francis the Person of the Year.

I realize everybody else is already talking about this, or already has, and there's nothing new to say about it or anything. I'd still just like to go ahead and give a high-five to Pope Francis up there. You know the Pope is doing the right thing and saying what needs to be said when he's already being decried some kind of Marxist-Communist-Socialist-Fascist by political media (note, guys: you can't be all those things at once. Pick one name to call the guy and stick to it.)

Can't help it; I like this guy. I liked him from the start, and I like him more for shaking things up in a stagnant atmosphere of overwhelming luxury in a religion that claims to care most for the poor and downtrodden. He replaced the traditional Papal "throne" with a simple wooden chair. He refuses to drape himself in the gilded cloth his predecessors wore. He has fired officials who would not reign in their luxury. He's made the most important point of all; we miss for the forest for the trees when we argue so much over tiny details and don't realize there's this whole world of people out there who can, and should, speak to each other rather than shout.

Time's Person of the Year is always an interesting selection process to watch; it's not meant to be an honor, exactly. Remember that Adolf Hitler once graced Time's Person of the Year cover, and it wasn't because Time magazine admired him. Time looks to find people changing the world.

This time, at least, they found someone who appears to be changing things for the better. I definitely support that; so much that I went out and paid for a copy of the issue, which I don't usually do. I usually read old copies at my in-laws' house when we're over there. But I wanted to support this choice, so I bought it.

Well, and a National Geographic and Mother Earth Living magazine.

I need airport reading for next week.

Which reminds me; I'm leaving for Illinois in eight days!

Time to start freaking out!

4. My outfits have officially become Christmas themed. Someone help me.

This was last week. I'd turn it into a Tomboy Style post, but I managed to get some kind of thing under the lens on my camera, which we haven't quite figured out how to open up and clean yet. Once we do I can go back to regular photos, but until then we're stuck with this cell phone magic here.

I doooon't think the cell phone photos are quite good enough to carry a post on their own.

So here you go - shameless outfit-plugging in a Five Things post.

Don't hate me. I just love sweaters.

In Case You Want to Recreate This Mess:
Sweater: L.L. Bean, here.
Skinny jeans: Old Navy, old. .
Evil Boots: Target, here.
Scarf: Gift from my mother-in-law and her exceptionally awesome taste
Poinsettia Pin: JCPenny, ancient (had it since high school).


I don't even have anything to say about this except SHARK SLIPPERS. SHAAAAAARK.

One day you will be mine, slippers.

One day.

So will these.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Always Remember to Thank a Teacher: Repost

Last year, on this Friday, the Newtown School Shooting happened. A few days later, I wrote this. I'd like to repost it, because it fits pretty much entirely with how I'm feeling still.

Originally posted here, on December 19, 2012,
Editorial cartoon link here.

A teacher may stand for your child when they are in need.

It's essentially the same thing I put on facebook, and yet...

Everyone wants there to be a "magic fix". We are mired so deeply in the need for justification and for there to be an easy equation of "If we do this, the bad stuff won't happen anymore," that we can't see the forest for the trees.

It's deeper than that, and deep down, we know it.

Without acknowledging the complexity of what goes into such a tragedy, we will continue to hack at the Gordian knot with a kitchen knife.

The problem is not God being taken out of the schools. I loathe that idea with a passion, because i loathe the concept of a God so unloving that He would allow carnage to occur as, what? Some kind of punishment? Was He punishing the six-year-olds? What sort of explanation is that?

It's not because there are too many guns or not enough. A gun is nothing without a finger pulling the trigger. Don't mistake me on this; I am not comfortable with guns, and am a staunch advocate for better regulation of the firearms industry. I support a ban on clips with more than ten bullets and a ban on assault rifles being sold to the public.

But I also have friends who own rifles, and pistols, handguns and shotguns and all sorts of things. I have loved ones who hunt. I have loved ones who have taken me to a shooting range, invited me to try it out despite my discomfort. They have tried to educate me. They are knowledgeable, and careful, and work hard to combat the idea of gun owners as crazed killers just looking for their chance.

A gun is nothing without a finger to pull the trigger, but it is designed for one horrible purpose nonetheless. To cause harm to a living thing.

There isn't any one problem.

The truth is that we don't know how to fix this. There isn't any one way. Our culture glorifies violence too heavily, ignores or victimizes the mentally ill, makes needing help a kind of shame. We glorify and demonize firearms in the same breath. We are clearly wrong, and have been wrong for much longer than most people want to admit to. There is no "good old days". The "good old days" are just the time when the terrible things weren't reported, depending on who they happened to. The "good old days" are just the days when it was easier to pretend, when the memories are rosier and your mind wants to focus on the positives and not the negatives.

All that said, there is something much more important to do.

Go thank a teacher for the under appreciated and overwhelming work they do, often underpaid.

Go thank them for three hours after every school day spent planning their lesson for the next or helping out students in need. Go thank them for every time they've bought a kid a backpack when they couldn't afford one, every time they've been there to buy lunch for the kid who goes hungry. Thank them for their patience, for their work, for serving the greater good of the community.

Thank them for standing between children and the world.

Thank Victoria Soto for hiding her children, for being the one thing that stood between them and horror.

Thank the teachers of Sandy Hook who lived, and those who died. Thank those who read to their students to keep them calm while gunshots popped in the hallway, and those who tried to confront the gunman and lost their lives in the process.

Don't say his name.

Say the names of those teachers, and their students.

Say them over and over and over and over again, until they are the only names left in the news. Until we have forgotten him.

Until we remember that the most important thing we can do now is make sure we remember them.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Worst Kind of Call

Kind of a weird week.

One of my coworkers died, very unexpectedly, Monday night. When my phone went off at midnight, I couldn't swim up out of sleep fast enough to answer it. To get a call after 10:30, though, has always meant the worst for my whole life, so I knew it wasn't a good thing.

Bleary-eyed, I stared for what felt like an hour at the local-area-code number. Normally I know my boss's phone number, but I wasn't even awake enough to grasp that.

Voicemail ping.

I blinked.  

It's midnight.

I also had three text messages, all sent within minutes of each other, by a coworker.

I ended up tip-toeing into the bathroom to listen to the voicemail (I keep my phone on vibrate, so it wasn't loud enough to wake Jason, too). I sat in there, staring at the text messages, blinking stupidly as I tried to process what it meant.

How strange and surreal the next day was.

There was a sense of constant motion and also a sense of sitting very still; of phone calls that needed to be made, endless phone calls. Emails, emails, emails. People in and out asking for details, asking about it, confirming rumors they'd heard from this person or that one. Running up to the site he worked at, to the post office, here and there... and at the same time business as usual proceeding, along this sort of surreal order. Answer phones. People come in to meet with my boss at their scheduled times. Greet those who pop in to ask about it. Dust something. Rinse. Repeat.

Discover that the monthly event at the site my coworker ran, which we are canceling out of respect, was published in the local newspaper that morning before we were able to get the notice out. To-do lists and phone calls.

Discover today that a different local newspaper also published the event. That'll mean more phone calls.

Today was similar to yesterday, although a bit less hectic; more phone calls, fewer people actually stopping by.

Tomorrow is the visitation and the service.

I hadn't actually seen him too often lately; while he's a coworker, he works at a different site than I do, so except for when he needed to drop something off we didn't really get to talk that often and lately he'd been pretty busy, or I had been on vacation, or he'd been on vacation, or all those things together at once.

I keep thinking it was such a cheat, because he had Christmas vacation coming up and he'd been counting the hours down to it. He was close to retirement, he was counting days. Such a cheat, to him and to his family. Such a loss and it just feels like I should be able to write in some kind of complaint about this, to say, give him a year with his family, damn it. He'd more than earned some time, he'd more than earned his retirement.

So, yeah.

Kind of a weird week, and a sad one.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Winter "Wonderland"

Endless raindrops
Can you hear them?
in the road
the puddles glisten
Watch cars swerve and cyclists dive
as everyone forgets how to drive
and tell yourself it's a Winter "Wonderland"

South Carolina, there should be sunshine
Instead, this gray and gloomy time
still, we hang lights off the trees
on Main Street and McBee
in celebration of this Winter "Wonderland"

In Illinois, the land would be frozen
Although that means our cars would slide right off the road
but in Illinois we'd get to build a snowman!
... while waiting for our car to be towed...

Later on, we'd drink hot cocoa
I guess we also do that here, so
it's still cold here, too, although
my socks are soaked through
thanks to this gray and rainy Winter "Wonderland"

When it snows
once every four years
We race to get a picture
Frantic Facebook updates
to show all seven snowflakes
Just like a Winter Wonderland

It's been rainin' for a week
and that ain't grand
So don't tell me
it's a Winter

This song brought to you by Jason and I's chilly Christmas shopping trip yesterday.

Yes, we sang the lyrics out loud as we worked on them while walking down Main Street.

Yes, some people stared at us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Weird Ones

Photo from an Alice-in-Wonderland Halloween party at Katy's house. I'm the doormouse in the back.

I read a lot of memoirs where the writers talk about being the "good kids" in school, looking askance or with outright fear at those punk kids outside smoking. They talk about being afraid of the goth kids in their dark eyeliner and darker clothes clustered around someone's locker in the hallway. They were intimidated by the oddballs who never spoke in class or the other oddballs who spoke too much.

They pull their backpacks closer and hurry by, in the books and the movies, and sometimes those weird kids stop to look at them and sometimes they don't. There's always this sense that there is some deep danger inherent in eye contact, that those oddball rejects will cause some kind of trouble if one of the good kids looks them in the face.

It's kind of funny, I think, because of how jarring it is to me to read those things; they're kind of high school cliches, aren't they? This idea that the kid in nice, sensible tennis shoes and a T-shirt would be afraid of the guy with the safety-pin stuck through his nose. It's been the cliche in a thousand movies and books.

We take these things for granted; it's a shorthand way for the writer to say, I was normal in high school, so very normal that I was scared of those who were not normal like me.  I was average. I did not stand out. I was normal, when compared to those who were not.

We all know how it feels, or I should say most of us do, to stand slightly off to the side; intimidated, sure and certain that we do not stand out, and they do. That those kids with blue hair and mohawks and piercings must be supremely confident and sure of themselves, standing on their own solid ground.

If I ever wrote a memoir dealing with high school, it'd have to be a little bit different.

I'd have to start with, I was one of those punks you were all so afraid of.

Well... sort of.

 Prom. Aw, we're so cute. I'm... the one with the hair in the back.

I wore studded belts and chokers, sure; spiked when I thought I could sneak it without our Dean of Students noticing. My eyeliner was caked on so thick I had raccoon eyes, drew little swirly designs with it like Death from the Sandman series. I wore men's blue plaid pants with zippers sewn at random all over them and straps hanging down my legs, Sex Pistols T-shirts I bought in size Youth Large so they'd be fitted. I bought clothes at thrift stores and cut sleeves off the shirts so I could wear a men's button-up as a vest, wore thrift-store suitjackets like eighties armor. My favorite pair of shoes I've ever owned in the whole history of my life was a pair of black boots absolutely coated in buckles, knee-high leather, with a five-inch platform; they were a gift from my then-boyfriend's older sister after a horrible car accident made them impossible for her to wear.

I dated boys with blue hair, tall natural-blonds who wore lots of black and listened to heavy metal music (well, so did I, but still). One of my exes, still a good friend later, pierced his own ear with a safety pin while we sat in our school's theater waiting for after-school play practice to start. He "sterilized" the pin by holding it over a flame from his lighter. I was endlessly impressed when he barely flinched.

We were the lurkers in the hallway. Teachers assumed when something bad happened, someone like us had done it. When there was a trouble kid, it was never those good kids in their T-shirts they looked at first, it was someone like us. There was an endless bafflement among adults because half our group of friends was made of those kids in the T-shirts and sensible shoes, and the rest of us wore safety pin necklaces and black eyeliner and sarcasm. 

We knew we looked like trouble to the grown-ups; they never made any secret of assuming we were. Some of us even decided that if the assumption was going to be made, we might as well live up to it.

Technically, this is move-in day at college. But I'm wearing the punk pants. So there you go.

We - are at least some of us  - were those kids in the movies and the books, the ones used as backdrop scenery to show, not tell, the main character's discomfort, to put him or her on the outside of a cloistered circle. Maybe I didn't smoke, but some of my friends did, and sometimes I stood outside with them. Sometimes we watched other kids hurry past, shoulders tensed against some kind of assumption that we would mess with them.

We were those weird kids.

But we were also good kids.

We read lots of books. I spent almost all of my high school career driving a truck borrowed from my family's farm, a blue-and-white Ford with keychains of Belle and Animal from the Muppets swinging and chiming; when Dad needed to use the truck, he would take it back and have to change the station from the heavy metal rock station to the country he preferred. The cheerleaders and football teams got drunk on the weekend, while we ate popcorn and chips and drank pop and watched movies at someone's house.

My mother and father knew where I was all the time, and that was true for the vast majority of every single one of us, whenever we were together. Our parents knew where we were, knew who we were with. My parents trusted me; I was treated like someone who had already earned their trust, and in turn I made sure they had no reason to ever take it back.

I am the queen of leaving detailed notes with phone numbers, addresses, names, and timelines. I started doing that in middle school, and I've never stopped. 

I'm not saying I was a saint; trust me, high school is way more fun when you're not. I'm pretty sure saints don't swear like roughneck sailors, and I picked that up around age 12 and never quite managed to stop. I'm not saying that we were angels; some of those same friends I trusted with my life were the bane of every teacher's existence, were kicked out or suspended for one thing or another. But when it came to each other, we were good kids. 

It's just... sort of hilarious, to me, to read writers constantly using this memory of the scary kids with black clothes and punk hair and piercings, all aloof and cool and rebellious, looking down from on high at the main character's awkwardness. Confident and serene.

It's funny because we were uncomfortable, too. High school is discomfort and sometimes agony personified for so many of us; those who swan effortlessly through are the rare exception to the rule. We were uncomfortable, too. We had, mostly, been treated shabbily by peers when we were younger and had developed who we were as a response. Sometimes home wasn't great, sometimes it was; many of us had been dealing with bullying and hostility for years. We developed our own code.

Anyone who knew what to look for could look at us and know.

We are not normal, and we don't want to be. You can come be not-normal with us. We are not average; we know that because we have been told over and over and in a thousand ways by adults and other kids that we do not belong, that we are lacking, that we are not good enough for them. So here; take one good long look, and see how we don't belong. We didn't want them or their approval, anyway.

We had, for the most part, been branded as odd or different or unacceptable in some way by our peers long before the black clothes, eyeliner, the swearing, or the apparently unacceptable music came into play. I've written about my worst teachers before; I think a lot of what formed who I was in middle school and who I became in high school was my developing a personality that could stand as a defense against those upcoming teachers or the other kids before they could even get in the first blow. It was more than just me that had been targeted young. We had, as a group, been put outside the "good kids" long before there was any reason to do so, and we decided to make that who we were.

It was never a surprise to us to see the kids in the sensible shoes scurry by without making eye contact; we were wearing our armor for a reason, for exactly that reason. Because they would scurry, while we pretended to be confident and aloof. We had each other, and the cool and standoffish look was all the other kids would ever see.

I was one of those kids that you were so afraid of, memoir writers.

We were good kids, too.

I just wish that we had all stopped to talk once or twice.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hair Day

There are days where I look at my hair after I finish blow-drying, but before I brush it, and I think... 

"Maybe I should just walk around like this and see how long it takes someone to say something."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ice & Expectation

While my parents were here, South Carolina had an honest-to-God cold snap. Well, our version of a cold snap, anyway.

My parents, Jason, and I would walk around town watching the populace bundle up in their parkas, their children looking like tiny round balls that consisted entirely of winter clothing layers. I had to wear my winter coat occasionally. I wore a sweater every day.

Jason took to wearing sweaters, something he fairly rarely does.

We had to snuggle under roughly all our blankets at night.

It was wonderful.

That cold snap is over with; it's been warm, but also rainy and miserable and gray and foggy nonstop for almost three days now and I'm really ready to hand that back over to someone else. I am not a person made for gray skies. The thing I miss most about the central Illinois landscape is those cold, clear days in the middle of January where you can go stand by yourself in the midst of a plowed-under cornfield, dirt crunching under your feet, and feel the weight of the sky on top of you, the sun everywhere but without warmth.

Still, we had those cold days and I loved them.

I got up one morning to see frost just everywhere, patterning up the table on our deck, even on the railings and covering the nails.

I had to snag a few pictures. It was just too pretty not to.

I received a Seed Savers organizational catalog in the mail a few days ago, and now Jason and I are full of starry-eyed dreams for next year's garden full of open-pollination or heirloom varieties of everything. We already get a weekly delivery from Mother Earth Produce (which I heavily suggest anyone in the Upstate and western NC look into!), but I still think it's be cool to do a few rows of the Three Sisters in the backyard, some new herbs and peppers in the front.

We'll have to replant the basil - we shamefully let the last harvest before the hard frost go to waste and didn't freeze or dry it, just letting the plant die. We are bad, bad people.

I wouldn't worry about us too much, though.

We may dream about gardens, but we haven't quite hit the "let's get chickens" stage of homestead lunacy just yet.

Goats, yes.

Not chickens.

It's less than 20 days until I fly out to Illinois to see my family for Christmas. It's no fun to be leaving Jason here (he couldn't quite pull off taking the time off work - my medical thing back in July used up his time when he stayed home to take care of me for a few days - boo surgery), but to see my niece and my sister and my brother, my parents and my extended relatives and the farm, too, which is its own kind of relative...

I won't lie, guys.

I'm pretty excited.

Sad that my two families - my family and my in-laws - can't all live just a wee bit closer to one another so we could all do Christmas together, but still excited!

I'm liable to have my bags packed two weeks early, at this point.

Maybe this is just a sign that I need to win the lottery so I can fly everyone out to have Christmas all together.

I'll get right on that.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Oh, hey

Well, you may have noticed I essentially disappeared for several days.

My parents fly in every year for Thanksgiving, and I got so wrapped up in enjoying the weekend that I really hardly took any photos of it. I will say that I am immensely glad that one of the photos I did manage to get was of the delicious banana pudding my mother-in-law made for dessert.

It was a good weekend, all of it, every inch.

Thursday we picked up my parents at the airport and drove straight to Thanksgiving lunch. Food, Food, 'n More Food, surrounded by my awesome in-laws. SO MUCH FOOD. I made two stuffings - the oyster stuffing from Real Simple's 10 Ways to do Stuffing a couple of years ago, and a Chestnut Apple Stuffing out of the Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving catalogue. It... seems to have been popular. There was also broccoli-cheese casserole, a sweet potato dish, other food... honestly the clearest memory I have is of the banana pudding, though.

That and the pumpkin cheesecake.

Which I may or may not have eaten alongside the banana pudding.

I admit nothing.

Friday my parents and I wandered Greenville's downtown while Jason worked. I stopped by Mast General and Southern Fried Cotton to look for ideas for Christmas. We grabbed beef jerky from the new jerky place; super excited to try all of it, especially the buffalo jerky - I am a giant dorky beef jerky fan. We even grabbed some popcorn from Poppington's. Locals - my favorites are the Greenville mix (two kinds of cheese + caramel) and the jalapeno & white cheddar blend. Those are the BEST. Except maybe for the others, which are also good. I will selfishly eat all of both bags and then make Jason buy more if he wants to eat any.

Mine is an evil laugh.

Saturday, we drove up to Asheville, North Carolina and did something super cool -

We met up with my childhood best friend and mind-meld partner Rikki, for the first time in something like seven years!

That's... actually a really old photo, on the left. I just like that we never stopped being adorable.

That's a scarf Rikki made that I'm wearing, by the way. It is super awesome.

We met Rikki at Early Girl Eatery for lunch, a place that I knew was popular, but I didn't realize how much. We waited an hour to be seated, but it was definitely worth the wait. I had a great catfish sandwich (Jason had one too) with fried eggplant on the side, Rikki had a tofu scramble that I was definitely eyeballing for next time, my dad had the meatloaf, and Mom a tempeh reuben. Seriously. Try that place. (Only make sure you put in your names with plenty of time to wait without being so hungry you eat your own arm).

Because it was Small Business Saturday, I made a point of purchasing a couple of items - I snagged a book on the Vanderbilt family's fall from fortune and Sarah Bessey's new book from Malaprop's (my favorite bookstore of all time, just puttin' that out there), got a pretty art print (not this one, but the same artist) from ZaPow Gallery, and Jason bought beautiful cutting boards that are really more serving boards, they're so lovely, at the Woolworth Walk.

Finally, we had to bid farewell to Rikki and to Asheville (although not for nearly as long this time - that's a promise) and head back to Greenville.

Sunday was a little more leisurely; we were able to hang out at the house, took Mom and Dad on a walk around Furman's lake with the dog. Had a great dinner at the Bavarian Pretzel Factory, which is rapidly becoming Jason and I's new favorite restaurant in town now that it's actually near enough to be convenient for us to go eat there. Seriously, guys. German food.

You know it's going to be food when half the people eating are speaking German when you enter.

Today, Jason was back at work and Mom and Dad and I hung out for a while, had some lunch at Southern Culture (so I could send them off in true southern style!), and then I dropped them off at the airport.

I'm about to make soup for dinner, using the leftover oysters from my stuffing.

It's... less exciting now, with them gone.

On the other hand, the dog literally passed out three minutes after eating dinner, so maybe we could use the recuperation.

Less than a month until I set my feet back on flatland soil!


Hopefully I'll have recovered from Thanksgiving by then.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


That's right, I'm hopping on one of Kaelah's post ideas again. This is what she gets for asking readers to join in. People like me decide to be involved.

READING: We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickinson Rich. I picked this up on somewhat of a whim while I was browsing, tossed it into my cart, and figured it would be interesting if nothing else. Louise Dickinson Rich was a pretty well-known writer in the forties, and her signature self-deprecating, humorous style went well with the short essays she often had published in magazines.

We Took to the Woods was her collecting some of those thoughts into a book on her and her husband's choice to live in backwoods Maine, at a time period when that meant no plumbing, no electric heat, and a phone line they only had thanks to the goodwill of a local lumber company that owned all the land around them.

Oh, and also no road out; they have to take a boat up the lake for that. Or, you know, in winter they just drive across it. Like you do.

Louise starts things off right, letting you know right off the bat that while she admires people who have purpose, and know exactly where they're going in life and how they're going to get there, well... she is simply not one of them.

I'm about halfway through the book. Her style is breezy, quick, jumping from story to story. Each chapter is headed with one of the (many) weird, slightly rude, or just ignorant questions that "city people" have asked her since they made their move. The chapters themselves start with her (sort of) answering the question, meandering around stories and anecdotes and interesting things, and wind themselves back up at the end. Then we hop to the next chapter.

I can see why this book, first printed in 1942, has been reprinted something like 18 times. It is immensely accessible; even the old-fashioned language, where it pops up, is hardly old-fashioned at all. It's a little like getting the chance to listen to your grandma's stories when she was 28, still full of the enthusiasm of it all happening now.

LOVING this book. I wasn't sure I would, but I really, really do. Louise and I would have gotten along smashingly, if I could have given up Starbucks long enough to ever meet her.

I'm not going to do a full review on it, because frankly my review mostly consists of: BUY IT. BUY IT NOW.

WEARING: My winter coat, unfortunately. 

Each year I play a game with myself - how long will my Midwestern blood rankle against all the Southerners I am surrounded by, bundled up in their hooded parkas in 55 degree weather? How long can I go without wearing a coat?

I had hoped to make it to December, but we had a serious cold snap along with sopping rain for two days straight. The kind that shuts down holiday travel the day before Thanksgiving, but never gives you the benefit of pristine white snow on the ground (because, you know, this IS South Carolina).

I didn't even make it to Thanksgiving. Two days before, I was forced to wear my winter coat to work.

Sigh. Oh well.

Maybe I'll make it longer next year. The upside, I guess, is that I get my choice of my two favorite hats in the world - one made by my friend Shelly, and one made by my friend Stevie! The Stevie-hat won the day here. I just love that royal purple.

Luckily, I am guaranteed to look vaguely cute today while spending the day surrounded by my parents (YAY!) and my in-laws. Mostly because I am still trying to impress my in-laws the way you always kind of vaguely try to impress your boyfriend's parents when you're a teenager.

So I try to wear nice things.

I have this vague notion that I'll look cute enough tomorrow or Saturday for a Tomboy Style post, but don't push me here.
We're lucky I'm not wearing pajamas to family Thanksgiving.

DOING:  Cleaning. Cleaning forever.

We have cleaned every room in the house. I've even rearranged the unruly pile of magazines on our coffee table to be a bit more... ruly, I guess?

Is ruly a thing?

It is now. 

Most of our magazines are issues of Garden & Gun - I subscribed to it shortly after we moved here and fell in love with it afterwards. It's a southern lifestyle magazine, soaked in good bourbon, fine music, and fantastic food. If I was only allowed to keep a single magazine subscription, that would be it.

Hence why we've kept every single issue. I'm going to build a little magazine holder on of these days. I swear.

EATING: Jason and I had this utterly bizarre moment at our respective jobs the other day, where both of us were starving. Starving for no reason. We had both had enough food, but we just couldn't seem to eat enough. I ended up going for Subway (the little town I work in has... limited food options) and Jason ended up at Fresh Market.

Where he bought Super Crab Dip.

So breakfast this morning was sauteed spinach and eggs with crab dip slathered on top.

There was much rejoicing.

DRINKING: Coffee. So. Much. Coffee.

LOVING: That I'm lucky enough to have this weekend with my parents, and even luckier than that - I get to turn around in a month and spend a week with my family in Illinois for Christmas! I'll see my niece for the first time in a year, my sister and my brother, aunts and uncles and my grandpa and grandma. 

It's gonna be awesome.

Why is this photo of Jason playing video games?

Well, I love him too.  

And I don't have any photos of my parents or family from super recently to use.




I'll talk to you guys later.

Links in this post are affiliate links - any proceeds from them will be used to help redesign this blog in 2014. Otherwise, I'll try to learn how to code myself. You... really don't want to see the results of that.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Katie Talks Books: Packing Light

Semi-recently, while in the bookstore I picked up a couple of books at random, just because between the cover and the synopsis on the back, they caught my eye.

One of those books was Ally Vesterfelt's packing light: thoughts on living life with less baggage.

By the time I was about five chapters in, I signed up for her email newsletters and was following her blog. Her newsletters and the book itself have collectively been one of the influences pushing me to consider just how much of our stuff we really need.

I finished the book this morning, and figured it could be the next in the Katie Talks Books posts I do now and then.

Especially considering the fact that I haven't had much to say over the past week; too busy, at work and at home. At work we put together a bulk mailing, which involves a truly exciting series of steps - We put address labels on 2,000 postcards. Then I organize the postcards by zip code. Then I count the postcards so I know how many there are in total, as well as in each zipcode. Then I fill out forms. Then we take 'em on up to the post office. Then I sigh with relief until next time. So that kind of filled my brain with math, which as we know means there isn't any room for anything else.

At home, we're preparing for my parents' annual Thanksgiving visit, which means panicking over little things going wrong, complaining about how messy the house is, and then playing video games until the guilt becomes too much and I dust something.

Then, on top of that, our cats are having some issues right now so we're up a little earlier than we plan to be, and not waking up in an easy way.

And now it's raining.

So... there you go. That was my week.

You see why I've decided to do a book review.

So, right. Packing Light.

Overall I'd probably give it about 3.5/5, unless I can count her emails and links and blog posts, in which case I'd knock the whole thing up to a 4.5.

Ally and her friend Sharaya, who in the beginning of the book isn't a terribly close friend, just one of those people-you-know that we all have, decide to go on a road trip.

To all fifty states.

The plan is for Sharaya, a somewhat struggling musician-with-a-day-job at the beginning of the story, to play in venues while Ally does merchandising and support during the shows. This also gives Ally time to write.

Parts of this book are simply memoir, and I found those parts the most facinating. The arguments and insecurities and friendship that she and Sharaya share due to their constant proximity, when their car inevitably breaks down in the middle of nowhere, their disappointment in actually seeing that Mount Rushmore isn't nearly what they thought it would be... all of these were wonderful anecdotes and kept things moving.

The ends of each 'section' of story, where Ally sort of caps things up with advice or more general thoughts on what these experiences may mean for life or for her readers were less interesting for me, in no small part because often I felt that the stories and memories themselves made those points very clear without needing her to reiterate them so openly. I would have appreciate a more straight-forward memoir, perhaps with a wrap-up chapter at the end dispensing advice, with less of it interspersed throughout the book itself.

Just before the trip, Ally meets a guy named Ben who she starts to fall for immediately. She decides to go on the trip anyway, and while I won't give away what happens I will say that this book is not a storybook romantic comedy in any way, and the story of Ben and her relationship with him is a strong backbone to the rest of the trip from Ally's perspective.

Overall, I definitely liked it.

Obviously I like Ally's writing - I wouldn't have started following her online presence otherwise.

I think the story of their trip stands on its own quite strongly, and I would like to have read a version with a little more detail on the trip and little less generalized advice or thinking-out-loud.

That said, her regular emails (and the free e-book I received when I signed up for them) have rapidly become things I happily check for every day and enjoy. Sometimes it's posts by her, sometimes it's link roundups of things she's found around other blogs, but I always enjoy them. I feel like they sort of support the book, as well, as they give her sections-of-advice in the book a little bit of context.

I will say, above all, that the most important and awesome thing I took away from the book was almost at the very end, where Ally, feeling some insecurity, tells Sharaya that she's not sure she can tell people she's a writer, since she doesn't feel like she's "made it" yet. And Sharaya replies to her that Ally's the only one who didn't already know Ally's a writer, everyone else knew that a long time ago, and to just own it.

Ally does, and where that takes her ends the book on an incredibly upbeat and satisfying note.

As I said above, I definitely do reccomend it. It's a book that makes you think, and I think it'll be good for more religious folks my age hitting their quarter-life crises, so to speak; that age where you realize none of your plans worked, nothing happened according to your timeline, and what do I do now?

Good book - and, fitting with the book's theme, there is a page on the very back suggesting you 'pack light' by passing this book along to someone else who you think will like it, each of you filling your name and the date in as the book leaves you and moves on to someone else. I loved this as a little inclusion on the back page. I'm going to stick my copy in the Swamp Rabbit Cafe's take-a-book-leave-a-book box outside, and hope whoever picks it up likes Ally and her writing as much as I did.

links in this post are affiliate links - all proceeds made from orders purchased after clicking on said links will be used towards a new blog design in 2014.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

20 Facts About Me

 When we saw UP in 3d in theaters. We are super cool.

Kaelah Bee, who you may have noticed is one of my favorite bloggers, just did a "20 Random Facts" post and invited her readers to do their own. I decided to take her up on it. Those of you who are personal friends of mine or who 'liked' the blog's Facebook page have already seen a couple of these, which I decided to go ahead and include because I'm lazy. But... that still leaves lots of random facts about me you might not know!

Or do you?


1. I don't like to look people directly in the eye while talking to them. It used to be something I essentially NEVER did, until I joined speech in high school and our main speech coach, Mr. Deloriea, made me sit down with him and give a five or six minute speech without ever once breaking eye contact. It was the most uncomfortable thing I ever did, and I started out almost in tears, but afterward I found out that while I still don't like it, I am capable of it for short periods of time. In fact, the more I had to give presentations in speech, the better I got at it (although I am always doing so consciously; I still have to remind myself to look people in the eye when speaking to them).

So while with friends and family I still generally don't do eye-contact, when in a professional setting or when trying to look more grown-up, I can maintain eye contact for a few seconds at a time without becoming visibly nervous.

2. I have recently begun to notice that clothing is fun and may be used to decorate oneself, not simply worn as a means to avoid arrest. My bank account is now sad.

 Bridesmaid in my sister's wedding. I have a feeling my mom wanted me to show off the Converse.

3. When I was 18, I had a list of 5 things I absolutely wanted to do before I was 25. I am going to be 28 in March and have accomplished two of those things. Eh.

4. I get 'bored' with food if I eat the same meal too many times in a row. Like, Jason can happily eat a sandwich for lunch every day for a year and never care. But I have to switch things up every two or three weeks by randomly having us do something (ANYTHING) else. Otherwise I will start having to choke the food down and will get physically sick to my stomach while eating it. It's... weird.

5. I was stung by a bee once, when I stepped on it while down the street at someone's house. I was maybe five or four when this happened. I had incredibly vivid nightmares about being stung by a swarm of bees, a word I didn't even have available to me yet, that would send me sobbing into my parents' room constantly. Eventually I was told I couldn't sleep with them anymore (I don't blame 'em) and I instead made myself a bed out of blankets and pillows on the floor outside their door, because just being near them seemed to keep the swarm at bay.

6. Have I mentioned that my anxiety disorder surprised no one who actually knew me?

7. I've been hit on more since I started wearing a wedding ring than I ever was while single or just in a relationship. I can't figure out why someone would see a ring on my ring finger on my left hand and be like, "Surely that one's available..." but it happens. I mostly just talk loudly about my awesome husband until they go away. Gross, people. Gross. That ring should be a giant flashing "NO", but for some reason people just don't see it that way. Or at least people in bars don't.

 About a year before we got married, I think. I have no idea why this picture happened.

8. I have a detailed list of everything I'm going to do if I ever win the lottery. The first four things on the list are - pay off my student loans, pay off our house, build my parents their dream house, set up a trust fund to pay home taxes on that house forever. I'm a very boring daydreamer.

9. I hate that hair is a thing. I have no idea what to do with it, so I just kind of threaten it with a comb every morning and hope that suffices. I have recently begun blow-drying my hair. This seems to have terrified it into submission.

10. On a related note, I baffle the people at Great Clips who cut my hair, because every time I walk in they ask what I want and just sort of wave my hand at my hair and go, "Less of whatever that's doing." I think they would hate me if it weren't for the fact that I am a really good tipper.

11. One time I had really bad headaches for a week straight and could not figure it out. These were debilitating; I nearly went home from work more than once and I think I did leave work early at last one day. Eventually, I figured out that I had accidentally been making decaf for like a week and a half, and the headaches had been caffeine withdrawal. You'd think that would have encouraged me to cut down on my consumption or, you know, maybe consider that a sign of some kind about my coffee intake.

You'd be wrong.

Holding my niece on Christmas Eve six years ago. She's a month old here. I am terrified of breaking her.

12. The first thing I do upon arriving home almost every night is change into pajamas. I feel no shame.

13. Something everyone knows; I hate the color pink. While people know this about me, most people do not realize the depth of my hatred. I loathe the color to the point that an entirely pink room makes me physically ill. People always tell me "you grow out of that", but since it has yet to happen, I doubt it. For this reason, I dread having a girl. I won't buy her a single pink thing, but I guarantee people will think they're being "helpful" and shower us with pink frilly stuff and I will just stare at it. Like it's a demon. And then lock it in a box at the back of the closet that we never open, because that is what you do with demons.

14. I am the Queen of Soup and Empress of Casseroles. I blame the latter on my Midwestern upbringing, where there isn't an occasion that doesn't call for some mixture of delicious savory ingredients tossed into a baking dish, on a thousand church potluck experiences, on the simple truth that no matter how gross it sounds, Taco Casserole really was one of the best things I ever ate. I don't even know about the soup thing, though; it's like how some people are double-jointed. I can take any series of ingredients and turn them into delicious soup.

15. I always, always empathize with the villain if it's even conceivably possible. People like me are the reason villains are given redeeming characteristics, because if they, I don't know, like puppies or something I'll make it to the end of the movie all sad because the bad guy's about to lose and Jason is like, "THEY ARE SAVING THE WORLD FROM AN ALIEN INVASION, KATIE" and I'm all "BUT LOKI JUST WANTS TO BE LOOOOOOOOVED" and... well. It goes on from there.

Last year! I totally voted. It was totally awesome. 

6. Jason and I don't often hang out in the same rooms at parties, but will instead mostly stay separate the whole night. We do this because if we are near each other, we will end up being so disgustingly cute that it becomes a problem for the people talking to us.

17. I am already working on packing for my week home to see my family at Christmas. It will take about that long to figure out how to fit my entire week's worth of necessities in a single carry-on bag. Because it is all necessities.

18. Anytime I travel for longer than two days, or maybe only longer than two hours, I take at least three books and three to four magazines. The books will usually be all different genres, because I'm never sure what kind of book I'll feel like reading, but I know I will read.

19. My work bag weighs so much that my coworkers have expressed concern for the state of my spine. This may or may not have something to do with fact 18.

 I wish I could say things have changed, but... there I am. 

20. My coworker and I have had ten minute conversations that essentially consisted of nothing but quotes from the Simpsons. There are three or four episodes that I can recite, from start to finish, without missing a single line. I won't say I'm proud of this, exactly, but... you know, it might come up in my resume once or twice.

Or four times.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

State of the Animals

Everything is a game, even when we tell him no.
Especially when we tell him no.
Then 'no' becomes its own even more exciting game.

Sanna is his bestest best friend in the whole wide world.
He thinks he is a cat now.
Maybe he always thought he was a cat.
It's not clear.

Cranky old lady. 
Hates posing for photos. 
Hates the new cat.
Hates everything.
Is undisputed queen of the bed.
Loves snuggling.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tomboy Style, of a Sort: It's LIKE Dressing Up

So, for our Christmas presents to each other Jason and I just pick out stuff we want, and then say 'thank you' when the order goes through whatever website each of us picks. It may not be the most romantic system, but for now it's working pretty well for us. I received a small bonus check from work and we decided to split some of it between us for our presents for each other.

So... I got some presents.

One of them being this jersey polka-dot skirt from Boden. I had ordered this gorgeous orange sweater to go with it, and when the sweater arrived there were some... issues.

1. It had giant voluminous upper-sleeves and very tight sleeves at the wrists.

2. It was also huge huge huge across the narrowest part of my waist, but then became prohibitively tight around my hips.

3. It was way, way thinner than I expected.

4. What had looked like effortless, slightly casual cool on the model looked like I had described a sweater I might like to an alien, over the phone, when said alien had never seen a human body before.

In short, I looked like a flying squirrel who didn't have enough fur to keep herself warm.

So, back the sweater went!

I kept the skirt, though, reasoning I had at least a couple of things I could convince myself to wear with it. I decided to test it out on church this morning. Also I think I was one of two people wearing a bright color at church. I felt like a peacock, and not in a good way.

Also also I was one of like four people under the age of 30 NOT there with parents. So there was a kind of errant-toddler-peacock thing happening.

I think that's kind of what I get for going to the 8:45 service, though. I think that's kind of a choice I made.

A sleepy, sleepy choice.

I wore the skirt with this bright green shirt and the Evil Boots, so called because I had told myself I wouldn't buy any shoes at all until next year... until I saw these online. At which point they seduced me, which is why they are Evil.

I dragged Jason to Target the day they were listed for in-store sale, only to discover that they were all in the back and not out on the floor yet.

I was about to leave in disappointment, until Jason convinced me to ask at Customer Service if they could help me, and they sent someone to dig them out of The Back and bring them up front, and the light shone down and all was well with the world.

Having worked retail, I am not exactly drowning in faith in The Back; it's usually space about two by six feet with three boxes, a mop, an employee catching a quick nap during their 15-minute break, and an aura of depression you find nowhere else, minus maybe hospitals.

That day, though, The Back worked for me.

No judgement, guys. We're still working on that "posing" thing.

In Case You Want to Recreate This Mess:
Skirt: Boden, Swishy Jersey Skirt in Raven Spot
Shirt: Eddie Bauer, Favorite 3/4 Sleeve Scoopneck in Palm
Boots: Target, Kayce boot in Brown
Necklace: Jason bought it for me at an apple festival in North Carolina a couple of years ago

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thought Heard Said Read, Vol. 2

(The first Thought Heard Said Read is here and is also funny, and you should go read that one, too)

"You know what? Country music in no way prepares people to accept that sometimes relationships can just end."

As soon as I saw my son's friend's dad, my arms began to rise like a hungry zombie, “We are going to hug you, Semi-familiar-Dude-in-the-grocery-store!”, and my brain was like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!”. So my arms were indicating they wanted a hug but my face was implying that a hug was a really bad idea.

"Ugh, why won't this stupid truck just drive FIFTY-SEVEN MILES AN HOUR LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?!"
"Well, what's the speed limit on this road?"
- We drive past a sign clearly marking the speed limit at 45-
"... Ignore that. That's a typo."

I bet it would be really fun to own a herd of goats for like thirty minutes. I wonder if you can rent goats. Would you rent them by the hour or the day? Oh man, I am never going to ask someone if you can rent goats by the hour. I think if you ask questions like that someone calls the cops.

"So when I got stuck behind this black Escalade..."
"Did we already talk about this?"
"No, I'm pretty sure I'd blocked out the memory until now."

 "We had a woman come in at like 9:15 the other morning? It's the first time I've seen someone that early in months. I think she was a little disturbed by how surprised I was."

I have listened to nothing but James Bond theme songs for five days. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Which I Cause a Code Adam at Walmart (Well, Kind Of)

One day, when I was still very little; maybe three or four? Old enough to have vague memories of the incident in question but young enough to be really, really stupid... Mom and Dad took me to Walmart.

(Much of this story comes from what I've been told by Mom and Dad. I'll add in the bits I remember, which are vague and mostly include how cool circular racks of clothing were.)

This wasn't particularly unusual; I generally accompanied Mom on trips "to town" (IE, usually to Bloomington-Normal, the closest place with both grocery stores AND restaurants to grab lunch at) and honestly kind of enjoyed it, especially those days the Big Kids (my brother and sister) didn't come and I had Mom all to myself.

The only unusual bit was this kind of ramped-up level of excitement involved because my dad went with us this time, which didn't happen all that often. Considering our grocery shopping trips could take an insanely long amount of time (to a four-year-old's brain, at least), I didn't blame him.

It was still pretty cool to have him along for this one, because my dad is just about my favorite person in the whole world, and this was especially true when I was really little and convinced he was some kind of Superdad. I was pretty sure, at the time, that my dad was better than everybody else's dads.

I'm actually still pretty sure about that.

According to my mother, Dad was supposed to be holding my hand while we were in the main aisle, Mom pushing the cart. Dad tells the story slightly differently, but we'll just gloss over that.

In any case, I saw something interesting; a circular rack of clothing, completely full, the perfect place for a game of hide and seek. I have an incredibly clear memory of this rack of clothing, which I suppose goes to show you what my priorities were.

I ducked away from my parents, into the dark circle of clothes, and I hid.

I hid... and hid... and hid.

When it wasn't fun anymore I peeked my head out, expecting to find them standing there with the expressions of loving exasperation and vague bafflement that I had come to see as the definition of familial love, there was nobody there. Well, there were people there, giving me funny looks.

Just... not my people, and not the funny looks I was expecting.

At first I just wandered aimlessly away. I remember working very hard to look like I was very busy. Since I was still pretty much a toddler, I'm sure this consisted of singing some kind of song that I had been taught so I would look like I was practicing.

My little brain raced and raced and raced to figure out what to do now, because my parents were lost somewhere in the store and I didn't know where.

Then, it came to me!

Mom always went to the crafts section when we came to this Walmart, and I knew exactly where that was! Walmarts are huge and confusing, especially to small children with no sense of direction, but we always went the same square around the store, and I knew exactly where to go.

I just had to head into the very, very back corner, farthest from the entrance we had come in, and that would be where crafts was, and she would be there, and she'd be mad a little bit but not too much and everything would be okay.

Full of optimism, I found my way back there. A few people looked at me, but nobody seemed to know anything was wrong. I figured I must look like a little girl who knew what she was doing, which it turned out was exactly what I was trying to look like. I was winning at life.

Meanwhile, my parents continued on, unaware of my little game.

Because of my dad tagging along, this was the one time Mom decided not to head to the Crafts section, so they turned away and continued to a different part of the store.

At which point Mom realized my incessant rambling can't-you-just-tell-she's-the-baby babble-voice had stopped, that she had not had to say, "Katie, don't touch everything Katie don't pick that up Katie that does not go in your nose," at all in at least four minutes, which meant something was very wrong.

She looked around.

No child elbow-deep in whatever she's not supposed to be touching right now, or running in little circles, or randomly turning a couple of shoes into dinosaurs and bashing them into each other. No sign at all of a little blond head, little green eyes.

No sign of her youngest child, the one most likely to go off and do something dumb.

She asked Dad where I was. He looked around.

They couldn't find me.

There is a very special panic in the heart of every parent who loses their toddler child in a busy store full of people coming and going. It happens to parents everywhere every single day. Those of you who have gone through this panic are probably nodding your heads along, feeling your own hearts beat a little faster just remembering how it felt.

For some people, these stories don't end well. For us, they did, I imagine mostly because anyone who had picked me up would probably have tried to give me back very quickly, after about five minutes of listening to my latest "story".

Readers, I am proud to say that I am the only child in our family to make my parents feel that particular fear. Bryan and Christina were apparently born with some sort of innate instinct that told them not to do stupid things.

Whereas everything seemed like a good idea to little-kid Katie! Especially wandering away from your parents!

Mom and Dad, trying to keep calm, headed back the way they had come from. It was a good plan, except for one thing; I had, in my quest to make sure I went to the craft section, headed to the back of the store first, then walked along the very back wall.

My parents and I probably passed each other, just far enough apart and behind enough shelves that we couldn't see each other.

With no sign of me, Mom and Dad gave up and went to the front of the store. I think this was before there was an official Code Adam, but kidnappings were all over the news in the 80's and early 90's and things like the Adam Walsh case had to be at the back of their minds. Walmart did have some kind of regulation in place, because I remember there being  voice from the ceiling saying something that seemed important that I couldn't quite understand, and that just afterward the people wearing blue and khaki in the store were moving around much more quickly.

I sat myself happily on a bench (Walmart used to have benches in the aisles here and there), swinging my little legs, waiting for my parents to get done shopping so they would come back to the crafts section and find me. I was beginning to get impatient, though, because it seemed like it was taking forever!

Here's another point of pride in my own memory-priorities; I have another very clear memory of this incident, which is that I really liked some light-up shoes a different kid had on as they walked past me. I remember those shoes the way some people remember a romantic wedding proposal.

I imagine that the calmness on my face, the way I didn't look lost - because I wasn't - meant that at least a few workers went right past me, assuming that I wasn't the kid in question, maybe my mom was just an aisle away and I'd gotten tired of standing.

My vague sense of I-did-something-wrong worry was starting to ramp up into real fear. It had been way too long; she should have come to the Crafts by now. I began to wonder if, somehow, they had simply forgotten they had a third child and left without me. I had nightmares about this sort of thing as a little kid, surprisingly often, despite the fact that my parents were insanely loving people who never in any way gave me any cause to have such nightmares.

In retrospect, my anxiety disorder isn't terribly surprising.

Then, just as I remember starting to get scared enough to try and look for them myself, one of the women wearing blue and khaki walked up to me.

I was vaguely aware I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, but that had never stopped me before and it wasn't going to stop me now. Besides, she had a nametag. She had to be safe.

She leaned over, hand on the bench, and asked if I was lost.

"No," I replied, a little offended. "I'm in the crafts. I'm waiting for my Mom. We always come here." I paused. "My Dad came this time, too," I added.

She told me that they were looking for me up at the front of the store, and could I come with her? With no sense that she could have been lying, trusting wholeheartedly in the promise of that nametag, I put my hand in hers and happily followed her up to find them.

I was pretty certain I couldn't get in trouble for this; after all, they were the ones who were lost.

I knew exactly where I was the whole time.