Saturday, August 31, 2013

That Would Be Worse

When I was sixteen or seventeen - I don't remember exactly, but I was still driving the old farm-truck I had been allowed to borrow from my paternal family's farm, so I have a rough idea - I drove home from visiting my boyfriend in Minier one night.

It was late, 11 pm or maybe later since my curfew wasn't until midnight, and the drive was about fifteen to twenty minutes of country roads, as winding as roads in a totally flat land can ever be.

There was a creek you drove over, about two-thirds of the way through. That was an exciting change compared to everything else. Sometimes you might even see a deer. Granted, you'd see the deer from a mile away, but...

That's neither here nor there.

Where were we? Right. Teenager Katie driving home.

Fog had already begun to collect, that late at night, clinging to the bushes and trees.

In South Carolina, the fog seems to move in and recede thanks to the constancy of hills, where you are often going up or down. In Illinois, the fog simply settles a few inches above the dirt and sits there.

I left Minier and drove into it, leaving the occasional lit window or business sign behind. I passed my high school, barely visible, surrounded by cornfields and a few trees where cattle grazed during the day.

There was no one else on the road.

At a certain point, fog becomes kind of lonely. It isolates you from the outside, dampens all the sound. I had the truck's radio going, playing the random metal station I'd taken to listening to. The farm truck came from before the time of CD's  and the only cassette tape that existed in the truck was an old country crooner my grandpa had left in there.

I wasn't going to listen to country crooners. Well, except Johnny Cash. But he's his own genre.

The music played, and I drove, and it began to occur to me that maybe the fog would never lift. I would never make it home, just keep driving in an endless fog listening to the same six metal songs over and over, like the tortured heroine of a Stephen King novel. There would probably be some kind of evil ghost in there somewhere.

I would just drive in the fog, hardly able to see the sides of the road, let alone any houses I might pass. Just empty cornfields, gray mist, and me, for as long as it took whatever evil the novelist had come up with to find me.

Obviously I made it home, still in that strange daydream-y place, and crawled into bed in a house already dark, my parents already asleep. I had dreams about the fog, about being lost in it; not nightmares exactly, just oddly unsettled dreams.

Whenever I drive in thick fog, like this morning for example, I kind of get back into that place and remember that drive. I remember thinking maybe I would just be driving forever, half-blind to the world, listening to terrible popular rock music, the eternal teenager in a farm truck.

The fog this morning was pretty exceptional; cars seemed to appear out of it suddenly, nothing and then something in less than a blink. It didn't help that almost none of them had their lights on, which I had assumed was something most people knew to do when it's foggy. I was apparently wrong.

The car in front of me seemed to be in a somewhat different mindset; the driver would be going the speed limit and then would quite suddenly brake to less than 40 mph. I could see the driver craning his head, straining to see the houses set just off the road, to see the cows grazing in the pasture down the hill. Then he would speed up to normal, and a mile later slow back down again, this time to try and see the goats on the other side of the road.

By the time we made it into the mountain town I work in, I was about ready to just push him along with my bumper.

Trust me, sir, whatever the goats are doing is not. that. interesting.

I realized, during this drive, that I could do much worse than driving a farm truck forever in the dark. There are worse hells than me and the mist and the awful song off St. Anger that is the only Metallica song I truly hate.

Oh, no.

It could be way more intolerable than that.

 I could be stuck driving forever behind someone who needs badly to know what everyone else is doing and who cannot keep a constant speed to save his life, the kind of man who must squint at goats or who brakes because it looks like the guy who lives at this particular house hasn't quite fixed his fence yet and we clearly need to come to a complete stop to look at that... a man who needs to memorize the house numbers of every. single. house. we drive past.

I could be stuck behind that guy.

That would be worse.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Carl Just Missed the Tow Truck Guy So Much...

So yesterday morning, my car wouldn't start.

I turned the key in the ignition. No response. Complete silence and immobility from my usually-reliable Carl the Car.

(Don't look at me; my brother-in-law named him. I think.)

I tried a couple more times, jiggling the gear around, trying to get some kind of response and... still nothing. I gave up and called the dealership where Jason works. My friend Sarah, who also works there, picked up the phone.

"Guess who's car won't start today?" I sing-songed by way of greeting.

After a slight 'oh-god-a-crazy-person-is-calling' pause, Sarah replies, "Okaaaay, what kind of car is it?"

This is when I realize she doesn't recognize my voice right off the bat, because my car is famously one of those cars that mechanics swear were designed by the devil just to make their lives tough. Sarah and Carl have met before.

I decided to just keep talking, trying to decide how long it'd take her to figure out it's me. Turns out all it takes is the words "2000 Mercury Cougar" leaving my mouth.

There aren't that many out there besides me. I always wave at the others. They wave back. We're like a badly-designed gang.

Sarah says she'll send the tow truck out, and that's that. Jason calls me when she tells him what's going on, and I walk him through the issue. We both sort of verbally shrug at each other, and I settle in to wait.

... and wait.

Then I waited some more.

I received phone calls at 8:15, 8:45 and 9:20, each time the towing company apologizing for the wait and explaining that they were dealing with an insane amount of demand, and they'd get somebody out as fast as they could. I stayed inside at first, but... there was a problem with being inside.

I had already crated the dog. I couldn't be sure when the tow guy would show up, and I hesitated to take him out only to have to shove him right back in. At around the 8:50 or 9 AM mark, the dog started to cry because he couldn't understand why he was still locked up if I was home. Dogs crying is a terrible sound and I have a very soft heart.

If you think at this point in the story I let the dog out, you misunderstand me. I have a soft heart and a really small tolerance for wrangling Indy when he doesn't want to go inside. Both at the same time.

So I waited outside where I couldn't hear him.

I tried to tell myself I was enjoying the morning sunshine, but really I spent most of an hour day-dreaming about what it might be like to live in Northern Canada this time of year.

I continued, every few minutes, to try to start the car. Carl remained silent.

Sometime before 10, although not by much, the tow truck guy showed up. He also tried to start the car. Carl all but stuck his tongue out at us.

So he had me get in behind the wheel, planning to shift it into neutral so he could push it. I turned the key in the ignition just as he went to push, and...

my car started.

The tow truck guy and I met eyes in what can only be called mutual consternation. We decided to take it in anyway, since he was going to get paid for the tow regardless, and I didn't want to drive to work and then promptly discover the car wouldn't start when it was time to go home.

Around 10:30, I ended up at the dealership, hanging out with Jason at his desk while they tried to figure out what was wrong with my car. I went to lunch with him at noon, and we still didn't know. We decided to have them throw new back tires on, since I was deeply and desperately in need of them and we were here anyway.

I figured the tires would be ready when we got back and I could leave shortly after lunch. We ate at Panera, and it made me deeply want to work in the same city, so we could always have lunch together. Which is kind of smooshy and sappy, but deal with it.

My blog, my marriage, my sappy love songs.

When we got back from lunch... there were no tires. The tires for my car apparently live in Greer and someone had been sent to go get them. He would be back shortly, I was told. So I shrugged and figured I'd settle in and probably be out by 2..

You're probably already guessing where this is going.

Around 2:30, we realized no one seemed to know where the tire guy was. He hadn't ever come back. My car was forlornly static and sad in a mechanic's stall, awaiting them. We discovered when the poor guy returned that he had been slowed to a standstill by two seperate wrecks on the 'shortcut' he'd taken to get there.

The unnervingly cheerful tech started working on my car, and I was outta there...

at 4:30.


I made it home a half an hour earlier than I would have normally for my regular workday, let the dog out, and shoved him out into the yard to let him run before dinner.

I told Jason that this was basically the worst, most unwilling version of not being at work ever. When you're sick, at least you're home. There are floors to sweep and doggie faces to snuggle.

The worst part was, I kinda wanted to be at work. All I wanted to do was go count postcards for our mailing and be done with it. It is a very sad day when you are not at work and you actually want to be there.

On the other hand, though, I spent my day talking to Jason while he did his work, laughing, spending time with my husband. That was definitely awesome and more than made up for the being stuck there, since I was able to be stuck there with him.

Okay, that's the end of the smooshy stuff.

There's a Starbucks on the way between my house and my doctor and I had a follow-up from the medical thing this morning, so on my way back I had my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season. The barista, when I asked her if a ton of people were taking advantage of them being out early this year, for some reason thought that I had asked what the drink was like, and started trying to describe it to me.

I held up a hand to stop her in the middle of the description of the color of the syrup. "No worries. I have made this drink seven hundred different ways in a bookstore across town. I have had my weight in pumpkin spice lattes. Trust me. I know this drink. We are acquainted."

I drank it quite happily all the way back home to throw on real clothes and go to work for the day.

I'd start every day with a pumpkin spice latte... if we didn't have a mortgage to pay. Well, no, I probably wouldn't. That much sugar would probably make my pancreas do a hideous tap dance of failure.

But I would definitely have one way more often than our budget (or said pancreas) would ever really allow.

Oh, and as far as why my car wouldn't start? The official diagnosis, in the end, came to we don't know. Jason thinks Carl just missed seeing the tow truck guy. Now they've had a chance to visit and hopefully that'll be the last time.

But hey, I got really nice new tires out of it... that counts for something, right?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tomboy Style, of a Sort: Itty Bitty Little Legs

What I wore to work yesterday.

It was blazing sunny at noon, and my photos were all terribly hurried. I couldn't use my favorite spot because the sun was too bright, so I tried to find another place where two branches met in a tree that I could shove my camera into.

Except that I had a really hard time figuring out how to be in focus. I should really just give up and get a tripod already.

You may be wondering why I don't just take outfit photos at home.

This is why.

I didn't like my photos from work, so I tried to snag a couple at home, but Dr. Indiana Jones felt that he should be the star in this picture. Which, if we're honest, he kind of is.

In any case, I got a couple of new pairs of pants and decided to wear one of them right away, along with a new shirt. The pants need hemming and I haven't done that just yet, but I wore 'em anyway. Because I am a daredevil. In the interim, I will just have tiny short legs and somehow survive that terrible misfortune of fate.

I was a little bit inspired by Patterned Love wearing her colored pants just a couple of days ago. Hers is a bit more refined than my version, but it just made me realize that I had these red pants sitting here that I hadn't worn yet... and it was time to rectify that problem.

My basic rule of dressing is that if I can look like a complete color explosion, I must do that. Neutrals are for people, to be sure... other people.

The red of the pants is way more faded in real life than it appears on camera. It's a faded orange-y red, almost a bright Montauk red, not super-saturated like it seems in pictures. I pretty much knew exactly what outfit I would wear first when I looked at them.

While I was taking photos outside, a thunderstorm was rolling in. It was taking its sweet time, so I figured I had plenty of time to take advantage of the slightly dimmer light.

Then the wind started to blow.

Well, I can make that work, I figured. Wind isn't so bad.

Then it rained for exactly six seconds, and one of those raindrops within that six seconds was blown directly into my eye by the wind, exactly when I hit the camera button.

So that's why I don't take outfit photos at home.

Outfit Details

Shirt & pants - Eddie Bauer
Shoes (old) - Old Navy
Bracelet - Liz Daly Designs, downtown
Socks - Smartwool (duh)
Necklace - thrift store somewhere back in Illinois

Friday, August 23, 2013

I Wouldn't Be A Very Effective Ghost Anyway

So, yesterday evening when I left work, my coworker and I walked to our cars, chatting as we usually do at the end of the day. I hit the unlock button, opened the passenger door, leaned in to toss my work bag and purse in that side... and jerked back like I'd been stung by a bee.


My coworker looked up from where he was tossing his own things into his car. "What?"

"My car smells like gas!"

I looked underneath, but there was no leak. The smell was nothing until you leaned your head inside, and then it was so strong I was all but dizzy immediately. My coworker walked over and frowned, sticking his own head in. "It really does smell like gas." We both pulled back, standing and staring at it.

Then... I knew. I actually felt my eyelids flare in recognition.

The look I turned on Coworker must have been something, because he almost flinched when he turned to look at me. "What?"

"I'm gonna kill him."

That didn't seem to reassure Coworker at all. He took a step back.

"You're going to kill who?"

Instead of answering him, I popped the trunk, threw it up, and pointed.

"I'm gonna kill him," I repeated.

Coworker, while keeping a safe distance from me, leaned over to get a better look.

Then he whistled.

Inside, lying on its side, was a glass bottle with the top blown off of it. Originally, that bottle had been moonshine from our favorite distillery, but after we emptied it out, Jason had been using it to store fuel for the forge.

As I've mentioned, Jason is a trained and schooled blacksmith. While he's not able yet to make a living on it, he often does demonstrations at a local gristmill outside of the little mountain town I work in. It just so happened that the Saturday before had been one of those demonstration days.

At some point, the part where I have to park my car in broad sunshine on good days had heated the gas up until the air had to escape. About two-thirds of the gasoline was still in the bottle, fume-y but intact. The bottom of the stopper was floating around in the gasoline quite cheerfully, the rest of it was on the entire other side of my trunk. The smell was... powerful, now that we were up close.

I dumped the rest out on the pavement so that it would evaporate without hurting anything in my work's garden, stuck the bottle back upright, and looked at Coworker.

"Is it safe to drive home?"

He laughed. "What do you mean, is it safe?"

"Will my car catch on fire?"

"... No, Katie. Your car will not catch on fire because there's some gas in the carpet in your trunk."

"You're sure? There's no chance a tiny spark will light on the carpet and then I'm a fireball?"

"I can pretty definitely say I'm sure that won't happen. If it did, I would be as surprised as you."

"You know, that's not actually very comforting to me." My very serious tone only made him grin wider.

"It'll be fine. Geez, you had me worried there."

"I was worried! It's not like my car often reeks of gas!" There was a moment of silence, both of us paused in getting into our cars. I looked my coworker right in the eye and instead of saying goodbye, said, "If you're not telling the truth and I turn into a flaming car of death, you will be the first to know."

"I'd think the firemen would know before I would," Coworker said amiably.

"Oh, no. You'll be first. Because I will start haunting you immediately." I pointed two fingers at his eyes, then back at my own, then back at his. "I will haunt you forever. You will rue this day."

Then I got in my car and drove home with the windows down, the music up, and the wind in my hair, and nobody rued anything.

Well, except for Jason, who kind of felt some rue when I came in and mentioned my car smelling like gasoline. At least, he moved like someone feeling regret.

I had to drive to work and then back home with the windows down, too. It is all fumes, all the time in there.

This makes me sad.

So... maybe there's some rueing after all. Only it's me doing it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tomboy Style, of a Sort; My Kinda Shine

Why is this post ready so early?

Thanks to the magic of sick puppy!

Indy apparently ate something awful. He got me up at 3 AM whining and carrying on. I let him out, thinking maybe he just needed to go, but after he came back in he threw up all over the place. He then was able to go mostly back to sleep. I managed a good hour more myself and he's woken me back up again.

It looks like he ate something that didn't agree with him; not to the extent of actual poisoning, but his body needs to get rid of it. So... go on, little pups. Don't make me see what you do and go do it in the yard where I don't have to clean it.

I'll keep an eye on him. Good thing this is Sunday night, because I would hate to be trying to drag myself into work today on this little sleep.

ANYWAY, the whole point here was actually an outfit post.

If you tilt your head and squint, this photo is a little bit better than my first attempt at a full-body shot..

But only if you squint.

Look, I just haven't mastered the "delicately balance my camera in the fork of two tree branches, set the ten-second timer, and run like the dickens" skill just yet. We're working on that. Now, you might say that maybe I should just get a tripod for my camera. That, my friend, would involve buying a tripod.

IE, I would have to plan ahead to buy a tripod, remember to go to a store that sells them, and somehow recall what I went to that store for. Usually, when I try to do something that, I end up just walking out with more lip balm.

So I think we'll just keep trying to figure out the tree.

You couldn't see them very well in the full-body shot, but the tank top I'm wearing under the cardigan is covered in tiny sequins sewn on the front.

It is very, very shiny in person.

So shiny.

Less so in photos, but I suppose you get the idea.

In any case, I wore that top to a party in like January maybe and then never wore it again. By all the rules of fashion, I should have thrown the silly thing out, but I just couldn't seem to.

I saw an image on that bane of productivity, Pinterest, of someone wearing a cushy sweater with a sequined tank and decided to give it my own spin.

I work Tuesday through Saturday, so Saturday ends up being my "Casual Friday". I dress down a little bit, but cardigans are still my very best friend, since they elevate basically everything and make a "blue jeans + shirt" outfit look juuuuust classy enough.

I got this dark orange (not quite pumpkin, it's darker than that. Almost a burnt umber, but more orange-y. Why yes I'm an artist trained in the color wheel, why do you ask?) cardigan from a J. Crew final clearance sale at our mall a couple of years ago. There were selling these cardigans for $20 down from nearly $90. I could not lose.

I snagged up the prettiest two colors, a desaturated Hunter green and dark orange. They are perfect during SC's short but amazingly gorgeous fall season.

Since they're also my go-to in spring, summer (obviously) and winter, I tend to look like I've wandered in confused from another hemisphere.

Maybe I traveled back in time from a future fall season. Did you ever consider that?

Well, maybe you should.

I took these pictures standing in the garden during my lunch break, on a miserably cloudy day. The light was completely terrible, and I spent about an hour screwing around with these, trying to get them to look better, and this is about the best I could do.

I'm not complaining, though - those clouds are the reason we had an awesomely cool weekend wherein I was not sweaty. Not at all. Not even a little.

In South Carolina in August, that is a gift. One must cherish the moment.

Look at me cherishing.

Outfit details, on the off chance you want to emulate this madness:

Tank top (old - similar) & jeans: Old Navy
Cardigan: J. Crew (old. This year's design/colors..)
Shoes: Privo, bought in Cape Girardeau, MO a few years ago. Similar from Privo.
Necklace: Fiore Boutique at my local mall.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

5 Things - I Won't Even Pretend There's a Theme Here

1. This blog post by Rachel Held Evans, one of my new favorites in the blogging and writing world, entitled "You Don't Hate Me, You Hate My Brand". She recently had a small post she'd written for CNN go viral, and this post is dealing with the personal fallout that comes with your "brand" being mistaken for you.

(For my atheist/agnostic/uncomfortable with religion friends and loved ones, she is very much a religious Christian blogger, and her thought processes are very much channeled through that. The post may discomfit you if you don't like reading things from a Christian/religious point of view. Just a warning.)

It may resonate more with other bloggers, but on the other hand it may resonate just as much with everyone who reads it. We all, in our lives, spend plenty of time being reduced by or reducing to stereotypes those around us. 

This is why the comments sections on the internet are such dangerously lunatic places. With no face and no real name, people turn into frothing caricatures of themselves and imagine everyone else is just the same, spitting rhetoric and vitriol they would never say in person, letting out the absolute worst of themselves because they can hide behind a screen.

There are more than a few sites I avoid entirely because the rage and the frothing and the words are so damaging, not just to their intended targets but to everyone who might even see them. ANY political or religious post on CNN, for instance, will devolve into mud-slinging, obscene rage, and trying to virtually shout over each other while insulting, demeaning, or outright threatening the other side.

What Rachel talks about, in essence, is that there really isn't an "other side". There's just us. We're all people. To briefly quote her post, "The truth is, that dude whose blog posts totally rub you the wrong way may be the best person in the world with which to watch a football game or talk theology over beer. That acquaintance on Facebook whose pictures make her life seem perfect may struggle with self-doubt, depression, and fear. "

Go read the post. It may resonate with you. It did with me.

2. This ink drawing of a whippet by Justine Osborn over on etsy. Her shop is called Paint My Dog, and seriously, go look at the other drawings and paintings, too!

She has got some absolutely gorgeous work.

Maybe I need a painting of Indy for Christmas...

3.  This song has been all over the radio. The problem is, since I listen to NPR basically exclusively, I really hadn't heard it until just recently, when NPR tragically was down for FOUR WHOLE HOURS and I thought I would faint of grief.

So I listened to normal radio on the way home, and it was painful. But somehow I muddled through.


Imagine me dramatically sighing and... I don't know, putting the back of my hand to my forehead whilst fainting onto a chaise lounge or something. Is that what people who listen to NPR do?

I feel like there isn't enough just happy, peppy, stomp-your-feet-and-clap music out there. Everyone wants to mope about being sad about things. I like this song because it's just some guy belting out how much he loves someone.

Plus, hey, when did decent music become popular on the radio? I haven't heard decent music in years getting on popular radio, it's why I stopped really listening to it in the first place. What happened? Did we all spontaneously decide to stop listening to trance-pop or dance-rock or whatever we were calling it back in 2006?

4. Kaelah Bee, another blogger I like, did a post on what she's packing in her purse prior to her trip to Vegas coming up. She asked if anyone else had done any photos like that recently, and I thought... why not?

Heaven knows I purposefully carry around purses as large as my entire torso, and pack them full of an insane amount of stuff.

So, in my bag today:
  • Two books that I'm taking to and from work to read on my lunch break:
  •             - Evolving in Monkeytown by the aforementioned Rachel Held Evans (this is the second read, where I mark the whole book up with pen by underlining what I like. It's a bizarre habit.) I was almost done with this one, and finished during the day, so I also brought...
  •            - The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, by Elna Baker. I love hilarious, self-deprecating memoirs, can you tell? This is like my fourth read of this one. It's just nice and quick and an easy read at work.
  • Cell phone. 
  • Comb 
  • Advil, because ibuprofen is the boss. 
  • Aleve, for when ibuprofen is not the boss.
  • Deodorant, because if I've learned anything in life, it is to be prepared at all times for southern heat.
  • Car keys, with my eleventy-billion key chains.
  • Makeup I never wear. Seriously. I've worn it like three times in the past six months. I find makeup baffling.
  • Two lip balms, both from Burts Bees, which I ALWAYS wear, because one is never enough. 
  • Tiny bottle of water I am always sipping from at work.(not pictured)
  • Another comb, for some reason. I forgot that one was in there.
  • A blank notebook for scribbling stuff in. I tend to always keep one of these on hand. Currently it contains two poems and a list of pre-op questions and answers from my medical thing. And I drew a pony.

5. This turquoise and metal necklace by arrok.

For one thing, I love the jumping rabbit, as I've been thinking and sketching and doodling and considering stylized animals for a while now.

I also love how substantial this necklace is. This is a piece of jewelry with some weight. Another piece in its favor is that, no matter what my birthstone tells you, turquoise is the best stone in the entire world. I gravitate towards any piece of jewelry with lots of it. Cool turquoise and silver is basically what I would like to just coat myself with in an ideal universe.

I chose this particular product photo because it shows the clasp as well, a little bit more of the metalwork that went into making this. I've got metal on the mind lately, as Jason has been able to work a little bit more on getting things going with his own metalwork, which is always exciting for us. He and I both have some fun art stuff in the works.

Those last two awful years of being in stuck in our college town threw us way off our art game. Well, that and the fact that we both graduated right as the recession got underway, which... wasn't great for anybody trying to make a living, really.

But lately we've both been wanting to get back into things.


Well, this started out about a rabbit necklace and turned into something else entirely. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Ballad of Four-Eyes VanDoesn'tGetIt

When I was in third grade, I started wearing glasses. I pretty much haven't taken them off since.

As I remember it, the problem of my absolute bat-blindedness was discovered when my teacher seated our class alphabetically. As my last name began with V, I was seated near the back. When called on, I would just complain about how I couldn't answer her because I couldn't see, duh.

Which led to a visit to an eye doctor and me discovering that trees are supposed to have visibly different leaves even when you're more than twenty feet away from them. That blew my fragile little mind.

So, glasses. Glasses forever.

A year or two after I gained this new, but permanent part of my face, I was walking in the hallway towards the bathrooms. I was trying to both read my book and move in a straight line at the same time when one of the nastier boys in my class stopped me.

He was one of those kids that had been given the short stick in life and had chosen to hit everyone around him with it. In my class, which was just absolutely filled with small children who were endlessly discovering new ways to be mean to one another, I happened to be one of the easier targets.

"Hey, four eyes," he said, with a sneering smile on his face.

I blinked at him, stumbling to a stop. I was still swimming up out of whatever I was reading. Knowing me, I was probably just re-reading Black Beauty or My Friend Flicka for the seven-killionth time.


"I said, hey Four-Eyes."

Another, long blink. "I have two eyes, Timmy**."

"Yeah, but you wear glasses." His grin stretched even wider. I remember him looking like I imagined evil kids in the Goosebumps books looked.

There was a moment of silence, while I tried to figure out what he was doing.

I wasn't sure what reaction he had been looking to get, but it was pretty clear that my blank stare wasn't it. I was running over things in my head, trying to figure out why he looked so mad all of a sudden. Timmy mad was never a good proposition. "I do, I guess. What did you want?"

Timmy was trying to help, but he wasn't giving me anything except his eyebrows rapidly drawing together in rage. All I had gleaned was that he was angry and growing angrier at me, and that he smelled really really bad.

Had he smelled like that before lunch?

I found that I really didn't want to know what he had done during recess.

"I'm calling you a name," He replied, but at this point he sounded pretty helpless, like even he couldn't remember whether he actually had or not.

"Like, making fun of me?"

"Yes!" The relief in his voice was audible. Finally, I was on the same page as he was.

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, then shrugged. "Oh, okay." Then I  stuck the book back in front of my face, walked into the bathroom, and by the time I came back out he was gone.

He was sullen in class for the rest of the afternoon (although he was always sullen, so I suppose I should say that he was exceptionally sullen that day), and it occurred to me, albeit only quite a bit later, that I had beaten him. That we had waged some sort of strange child-war, and I had won without even knowing I was supposed to pick up a spear.

My odd victory came entirely by virtue of having so little common sense that by the time I had figured out he was making fun of me, the moment for him to actually get any sort of triumph or good feeling out of insulting me had passed, and he had been left only with himself and his own thoughts as I walked away.

That, and the look that Andy, another kid from our class, had been giving him while he stared at us from his spot at the water fountain.

The moral of this story is that some battles are won not because of cunning, strength, or intrigue, but through absolute obliviousness.

** Names have been changed to protect someone whose life may be very different now.

Monday, August 12, 2013

On What My Worst Teachers Taught Me

So, my sister is a teacher. She's an awesome teacher.

In fact, I know a lot of awesome teachers; my cousin Melissa, my cousin-in-law Beth, my friend Liz, other relatives and loved ones, friends and family members. I know a lot of good teachers, a few really great ones. I've had teachers who I found inspiring, teachers that gave me the belief and the courage to break through and keep learning even when I didn't think I could do it.

But I'm not really here to talk about good teachers.

I was thinking today about what I learned even from my worst teachers, those that I loathed, that could not teach me, those teachers who phoned it in or had long since given up or had never really seemed to be trying at all.

From the first teacher in elementary school who told me not to try and check out chapter books, because "the class" wasn't ready yet: I learned that sometimes you have to ignore those who tell you no and believe in your own capability. And also that the librarian will wink at you when she lets you check them out anyway.

I also learned that when the teacher says that you are "the only one" reading ahead, it's never true; there are always four or five other kids in your 30-kid class who are as far ahead as you or farther. You're all being told you're the only one, but there are others, and you have to seek them out and help each other.

When you are asked, "Why can't you just get this?!" by a teacher who doesn't realize you will never grasp anything beyond the basic fundamentals of math, what you should take from it is this: Sometimes, you can't 'just get it'. It's not weak to ask for help, even if you have to ask someone other than the teacher.

From the teachers who ignored or excused those who bullied me or treated me and my friends abominably: I learned that sometimes no one will come to your aid, and it's up to you to stand up for yourself and for those you care about. Sometimes those who do wrong are excused or defended, and those who speak up are punished, and that that truth should never stop me. There are always going to be those who don't want us to rock the boat, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't.

From the teacher who accused me of cheating because I finished a typing exercise too quickly: I learned to stand up to authority figures when they are wrong, and to take the resulting punishment with good humor and pride... and then to come in the next day ready to do it all again.

The teachers who expressed disappointment that I wasn't as good as my sister (you know who you are): from them I learned that standing in someone else's shadow is the perfect way to feel unworthy forever. Make your own voice heard. I joined every extracurricular I found even remotely interesting, I spoke up in my history class until my teacher told me to stop answering every question and let the other kids have a chance, I wrote poems with every ounce of who I was in my English creative writing class, sometimes staying up way past when I should have been in bed, just to impress a teacher who had expressed confidence in me. Make your own voice heard, and people will remember you and not a faded copy of someone bright who came before you.

I learned that being able to work in a group, even if you hate every single person there and feel like it's a huge burden, is as important as being able to work alone. One day working as a group will almost certainly be how you make your living, and if you don't learn how to deal even with those you don't like now, you never really will, and it will only make things harder in the long run.

From a specific administrator who held a grudge against me from the time I was 7 until she saw me again at 12: I learned that sometimes people will not accept that we change, and that it's not up to me to please everyone. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and just understand that some people will never see who you are now, they will be too blinded by who you were then.

From the grad student who tried to teach the labs for my one college math class: I learned that even the most brilliant mathematicians (or anthropologists, or scientists, or writers) sometimes are not cut out to teach, because teaching involves a set of skills that many of us will never master, and that this is okay; not everyone is made for it. It's not an easy job, even for those who are. After all, without teachers there would never be a neurosurgeon, an astronaut, or a physicist.

From the administration at SIUC: Jason and I both learned that sometimes you have to discover how to cut your losses and stop taking abuse just for the shining, shimmering reward held always just out of reach, that is moved farther each time you take a step closer. There is a whole world out there, and running in place in no way helps you discover it.

I think the most important lesson that bad teachers ever taught me was that nobody's perfect. Those teachers or administrators who were less than kind to me had families too, and in some cases were responding to me from positions of sadness, distraction, or anger that was really at a situation in their own lives.

The grad student who had trouble teaching my math lab in college had done some incredibly courageous things; he had immigrated from a nation with a whole different language and set of cultural values and was working as hard as he could to learn how to teach freshman who had been trained to learn differently than he had. He was simultaneously getting an advanced math degree and was bogged down in his own classes and homework. I should have realized that then, and been kinder to him in my frustration.

The teachers who told me not to read ahead were drowning in large classes, trying to figure out how to give each kid the attention they need, a concept that is patently impossible when you're staring at 32 different faces and only seven hours of school day.

My sister has a work ethic and a drive that I have never been able to match, and this was even more true when I was in school. Teachers comparing me to her were expressing their disappointment that I would take so much more extra effort to grasp even the basics, adding to the load they were already under, making their jobs even harder. It really wasn't about me.

The teachers who looked away when I and others were bullied had most likely spoken up before, and been reprimanded or outright punished for it. I didn't realize this until years later, when I began to hear and to read stories from teachers who would talk about the danger of protecting or standing up for the bullied kids. If the bullies were popular, the children of wealthy parents, or the administrators felt some need to protect them, the teacher would often find him- or her-self in trouble for speaking up. After a certain point, they learned not to if they wanted to be able to pay their bills.

It hurt when they stood by idly, but if they had tried to protect me, maybe I wouldn't have learned to defend myself.

The simple fact is, I had some teachers I loved. I have teachers I love now that I still learn from, even if I'm far past being in their classes. I had the aforementioned English teacher in high school that I worked myself to the bone for, mentally speaking. I did that because he treated me with respect and talked to me like an equal. At sixteen, I needed that so badly, and I was willing to work hard for anyone who could give that to me.

I had some great teachers, and I had some good ones.

I had some bad teachers, too, but they weren't bad people; often, they were great people.

They just... weren't perfect. Nobody is.

Whatever else they did, they taught me both to rely on myself when I can and to look in unconventional places for help when I need it. I learned to speak up and to forge past barriers. I learned that the world needs people willing to rock the boat by themselves if they have to. I learned that the world and my life would not wait while we ran towards a goal post moved ever further away. 

Those are invaluable lessons.

So really, they weren't that bad at teaching me after all.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


EDITED 3:48 PM Eastern Standard Time:

My mother's eagle eyes noticed that I was quoted in Outside Magazine! They recently did a "Pick the best little city in America" contest, and Greenville was one of the choices. In their feature on Greenville, they used one of my quotes from my contest entry!

Obviously, I am destined for fame and fortune.

Friday, August 9, 2013

5 Things - It's All About Art

It's raining again.

Basically, that's the story of everything here in Greenville right now. If it's not raining, wait an hour. The river I drive over on my way to work has officially flooded its banks, creeping towards the back door of the people who live right off the road.

For this 5 things, I just threw some stuff together back on Monday and I'm callin' it good.

It's been one of those weeks.

1. I want this print from Hannakin in my life.

This print from Hannakin basically is my life.

Upon further reflection, everything this woman does needs to be in my life!


2. Hyrule Historia, for the truly obsessive Legend of Zelda fan.

The full history of Hyrule! Never beforeseen concept art! An exclusive comic!

It makes me want to dig my brother's old Nintendo out from whatever closet it might have found itself in and lose myself all over again.

It was the first video game I ever beat, the game that made me fall in love with gaming, a love I still have. Legend of Zelda; Ocarina of Time was a game I played with my friend Rikki when her family had moved away and I went to visit them, and it's probably the most completely engrossed I've ever been in a game in my life.

I feel like this would be a full-on nostalgia blow to the brain.

I want it.

3. This necklace, from Rasa Vil Jewelry, is basically a work of art. I watch her shop on etsy just to see what appears there. I am endlessly impressed by her jewelry work. Bright, artful, intricate... her work is absolutely beautiful.

4. This NPR article on Paducah, Kentucky's attempts to create an artists' environment that also helps fix up some of the worst neighborhoods in town. 

I lived about an hour away from Paducah when I was going to college, and we went into town once or twice, and I won't lie; there were parts of it that weren't entirely pretty or safe-feeling. But it has become noticeably better, and I had wondered what was happening that brought the resurgence.

This is a really cool idea, and I'd love to see more cities try it out; they are taking some of the worst neighborhoods, with the most empty houses, and selling them for a dollar to artists and artisans, for them to fix up and use as studios and/or living spaces.

And it worked.

I love it when these things work.

5. I wanted to end on something happy and sweet.

Therefore, here's "The Enamored Whale", by Albert Cerriteno.

Absolute sweetness. This is just perfect.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I've Always Depended on the Kindness of Farmers

This handy little cup is the reason I survived my first two days back at work.

It's really weird. I was telling this to my boss earlier (and to Jason last night), but I spent the last week of being home feeling like I totally had the energy to go back to work, trying to clean the house when I could, thinking that it was time to start painting, and cut up my gourds, and do some drawings, and work on my plans (I have something exciting planned for the new year!), and do everything. I can do everything.

Then I went back to work yesterday, and by the time I came home, a measly five hours later, I was so exhausted that I became too tired to sleep. Have you ever lived in that too-tired-to-even-nap place? Because it is a terrible place.

I let the dog out, laid down on the couch, and tried to nap, but no dice. I read for a little while, but the words were just buzzing and not landing anywhere in my head.

I got up and tried to clean, since Jason plans to have people over on Friday, but I was too tired to do that.

The dog, meanwhile, is sort of dancing around me with his Kong Extreme toy we bought him (for anyone with a chew-happy dog, I highly recommend it; that thing is the best toy we've gotten him yet), and I can hardly even stand to play with him.

So, that is a weird part of recovery. Which I am apparently still doing.

Jason likes to remind me, whenever I get frustrated at not being allowed to lift more than five pounds still or that I just can't seem to keep going with the same amount of energy I had before, that even if I can get off the couch... I'm still in recovery. I still had (the easiest possible version of) major surgery less than a month ago, and I need to respect that.

So basically right now I am running on caffeine and gritted teeth. I'm going to try a whole day tomorrow; if it isn't any more tiring than the half-days have been, then I think I'm back full-time. I want to be back full-time. I like my job, and I like my coworkers, and I'd really like to be done with all this silly recovery nonsense now please thank you.

Driving up to my little mountain-town job was kind of an adventure today. It dumped rain, in the kind of overturned-bucket way that meant that even with my wipers going at full blast, I was crawling at forty miles per hour at best.

I kept driving past place where the ditches were starting to well up into the road; not enough that I actually had to drive on water, but definitely enough to make me nervous about the return trip afterward.

Which, by the way, was fine. It was mostly just drizzling on my drive home, and I didn't have any issues. But anyway, back to my story.

On my way in, I actually had to stop because the road was closed. I was so very close to work, and I didn't know any other way to actually get into town at this point other than turning around and adding almost twenty minutes on to what's is only really a half-hour drive. I was sitting there talking to a coworker  on my cell phone trying to figure it out, with my hazards on, about a quarter-mile from the pile of cops and tree-cutters working on the road closure.

A blue truck pulled up behind me, and just kinda sat there. After a minute, I got off the phone with my coworker and walked in what was now a light drizzle over to the truck.

"Do you know another way to get into town?" I asked him.

He was an older man, elbow out the window even in the rain, every inch the picture of every elderly farmer I've ever seen in my entire life, right down to the seed-corn-brand hat. He grinned at me. "I was wonderin' how long it was going to take y'all to come ask me!" He said cheerfully. I feel like I should note here that his dialogue is, as close as I can recall, word-for-word exactly what he said to me. I am not making one little bit of it up.

"... what?" I'm not always witty, folks; that was the only thing I could think of to say.

"Yeah! I been sitting behind you waiting for you to ask; you seemed a mite confused. I didn't get the feeling whoever you was talking to on the phone was helping you very much."

South Carolina, man.

If I were back in Illinois, there would have been a man stopped behind me because he recognized my car and knew I was Randy's youngest, or maybe might have recognized me as Laura's daughter, or sometimes I get recognized as George and Audra's granddaughter with the red car, and could probably use the help. I actually have had people stop when they saw my car break down and just ask first thing if I've already talked to my dad or if he was still in the field.

Here, a man I have never met and who knows no one else I know pulled up behind me, stopped, and waited for me to get off the phone and come ask for help, because he thought I looked like I wasn't getting any from whoever I was talking to.

So I answered that yes, I could use the help, and thanked him until he was vaguely annoyed by my gratitude. Elderly farmers (and all farmers), I have found in my life, do not like too much attention being drawn to anything one particular thing they do.

He jerked his thumb at a line of cars that had built up behind us in the minutes we were talking. "I figure if I pull out, and you follow me, that whole mess'll just get in line with us. Let me back out first."

I hopped in my car and pulled out after him. A white SUV followed me, and three or four trucks and one small car followed that guy, and we made our way into town in a convoy of confused people and one very knowledgeable old man in a blue truck. Once we hit the first stoplight on the road I had to turn left, and he went straight. He waved at me as he drove away.

Even his wave was cheerful.

So there you go.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Seriously. It Takes Two Seconds to Verify These Things.

Something that happened to me today that my friends on my personal Facebook have already seen, but I thought worth sharing:

 I periodically get e-mails from employment agencies because of my profile on Monster. While I haven't been actively searching on it for almost two years, I do keep an updated resume just in case someone comes along and decides to offer me an ideal job with a cushy paycheck and possibly maybe the capability of working from home three days a week.

It could happen.

I just received an e-mail, from an employment service that I've never really used but who has me on their list because of Monster. It was from a cheerful young woman passing along a job opening at a call center she thought I would be just perfect for! Multiple shifts! Great pay, with more for later shifts and less for early! Benefits! Go check it out! They even give you vacation!

I did.

It's the same call center I was working at two years ago, the one I quit in six months because it was one of the most poisonous environments I'd ever worked in, the job that led to my long hiatus from this blog due to being abjectly miserable and not knowing how to write about it. It's the job that looked me in the eye when I asked for time off to see my family at Easter and said, "When we give you that vacation time, we don't actually expect you to use it. The computer decides who takes vacations, all the stuff we tell you about how to ask off doesn't actually work." The job that, the day after I had that meeting with my supervisor, I also learned that my coworker, who had asked off six months in advance for her own wedding day, had been denied with the same reason.

This is the point at which I found a better job and quit.

(I also went back to Illinois to see my family at Easter, and cried when I got off the plane because I was so grateful to be there. And also I hate flying. But mostly gratitude.)

That call center the most unhappy at work I've ever been, and that says something, since I've got some amazing work stories about hostile environments from the time we lived in Carbondale.

This was the best photo I could get of what my approximate reaction was to realizing she had e-mailed me an opening to the worst place I have ever worked. It's not even hidden.

It clearly shows that I worked at this place in my resume, if the happy young lady on the other end of the computer had taken the time to look at it.

So of course I e-mailed her back, with this:

Dear (Nice Lady's Name Redacted),

(Insert Location Here) and I dated before. We broke up due to irreconcilable differences. (Insert Location Here) never wanted a break from the relationship, wouldn't let me go out of town, was isolating me from my friends and family. 

I decided to find something new, that really respected me and was interested in the things I liked. I am now happily committed to a great job that just let me take three weeks off for surgery recovery. We're thinking of making it a lifetime commitment. Have a great one!

Not Even a Little Bit Sincerely,

Katie (My Last Name Here)

 I forgot to add the last bit to the Facebook version of this story. I fail at copy & paste. And also spelling; in the original, I spelled irreconcilable in a distinctly creative way.

If anyone asks, tell them I did it on purpose.

Spelling is a creative art, after all. Or it used to be, before that Webster guy came along and ruined everything.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stomping Grounds

Puppy face!

That's always the best way to start things off, I think, with a cute puppy.

Puts everyone in a good place.

Yesterday, Jason did a serious ton of work on a project he's working on. I picked up a pile of home decoration books at the library and otherwise spent most of my day the way I've spent most of the last two weeks; engrossed in a book.

I knew I wanted to go out for dinner last night; although we're a little bit broke right now thanks to the surgery (only a little bit, but I am the personification of nervousness so I'm still preoccupied with staring forlornly at our bank account), we definitely wanted to actually go out for an anniversary dinner at some point, even if it wasn't exactly American Grocery or Roost levels of extravagance and what the kids call 'making it rain'.

Although both restaurants are amazing places to have dinner (in the case of Roost, also brunch). I need an excuse to eat at American Grocery sometime...

Greenville just did a revamp of their tourism website, so I was clicking around to see what was new, and they've added a restaurant section.

I figured, why not pick a place to eat out of there, some place we've never eaten before?

Then I saw a coffee shop and wine bar in Greer.


The place is called Stomping Grounds, and it's located right in downtown Greer, which is going through somewhat of a revitalization lately. I hadn't been there in a while, so it was nice to see how they're sprucing up the buildings (and Greer has a gorgeous city park right off downtown).

We wandered into Stomping Grounds through the back entrance. They have their own parking back there, which was kind of a lifesaver, because it turns out everybody else also wanted to eat dinner in Greer last night, and all the city parking lots were full up.

It's a comfortable place, with tables up front where you can people watch out the big glass windows, couches in the middle, and more seating towards the back where the live music sets up on the weekends. There's some kind of in-house bakery, although it was closed by the time we got there for dinner, but definitely looked promising. I am nothing if not a fan of baked goods. It took all my willpower not to take home some of the black cherry kuchen they still had in their bakery case.

Kuchen, guys. The German in me cries out for more kuchen in my life.

We were greeted cheerfully, and I ordered coffee, because what could possibly be wrong with ordering strong coffee at 7 p.m.?

The appetizer was that most southern of foods; pimiento cheese.

I have not even tried not to talk about my love of pimiento cheese. It's in some grocery stores in the Midwest, but people just don't buy it the same way they do down here. It's a staple. You can get pimiento cheese grilled cheese sandwiches at Tupelo Honey Cafe, order it at Southern Culture or Everyday Organic (my favorite place to eat in Greenville), and here it's one of the "nibbles". It was great! Not mayonnaise-y at all, and the pita bits were super warm and it was just cheese heaven.

Note: that is not the full pimiento cheese plate. We were over halfway through it before I remembered to take a picture. I've turned into that person who takes phone pictures of her food.

For dinner, I had the veggie wrap with hummus and carrots on the side, because I had kind of a big lunch and felt like I should have something light with at least some nutritional content for dinner. It was lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, provolone cheese, pesto and... something else in there. The whole thing felt very healthy. Sort of. Except for the mountain of creamer I put in my coffee.

Jason had a club sandwich, and he was very happy with the amount of bacon present.

Behold its magnificence.

After dinner, we ran over to Lowe's to pick up some supplies for Jason's project, came home, and I, who you will remember was highly caffeinated, chattered at Jason while flipping through DIY and HGTV magazine and watching nature documentaries until midnight.

Because at our house we have a rockin' fun Saturday night. We're like Vegas, but with movies about the evolution of raccoons instead of strip clubs.

Stomping Grounds was a really good place! I want to go back when I'm able to drink wine and really sit back and enjoy, hang out for a couple of hours. Or go some morning when we could enjoy the bakery and wander up and down downtown and around the park.

Today's plans involve working more on Jason's project, which I will be helping with today, and painting. I had left off painting while recovering, since I paint best either leaning over the painting while it's laid out or sitting down with it, and neither of those things was even remotely a good idea before.

But first -



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tomboy Style, of a Sort: I'M NOT WEARING YOGA PANTS

The title says it all.

Is this outfit something to write home about? Probably not. It's literally a T-shirt and jeans outfit that I wore yesterday, nothing more. On the other hand, it's the first outfit I've worn in two weeks during the day that didn't mostly consist of yoga pants and an over-sized T-shirt and a blanket to wrap myself up in. For the three times I left the house for any length of time, I just wore yoga pants that kinda looked like normal pants and called it a draw.

I spent the first two days home in the hospital in sweaters. In July. In South Carolina. So that tells you something.

I tried rolling my skinny jeans up to make them sort of cuffed ankle pants, which I will say was about 60% successful, except that I mostly learned that I don't like ankle pants. Which I already knew, so really it didn't even teach me that, it just reinforced it.

The T-shirt is from the Lands' End store inside our local Sears (it's this style), and they had this and a green shirt that are both perfect fall colors (and it turns out I basically only want to wear fall colors, no matter what season it is) and I waited and waited and waited and finally when I went to buy them, they didn't have my size in the orange. I loved the color so much I bought it anyway.

This is a size up, so it's a little baggy, but honestly if I'm wearing skinny jeans I want the shirt to be a little baggy. Also I like the word 'baggy'.

It's like 'scuba'.

I realize this will all probably end with me getting a lecture about how not everyone is meant to wear skinny jeans, but I don't care because these are the most comfortable jeans in the world. Don't judge me. Bigger ladies like wearing skinny jeans too.

 The necklace Jason bought for me after going to an apple festival up in Hendersonville a few years back. The bag is one of my birthday presents this year, I bought it from Monday Morning on etsy. The bracelet was also mentioned in this post and I bought back in college, the ring is from a local artist whose work I sell in my gift shop (I wear this ring a lot), those shoes are like Walmart clearance shoes from five years ago, and my hair is what happens when I style a cute side part and then spend less than ten minutes outside in the heat and humidity.

I was unable to get a photo of both ring and bracelet in which my hand didn't look some sort of crazy-stumpy Hobbit hand, so I thought, why not let everyone see why I never became a concert pianist?

Well that, and the part where I didn't try to learn piano until I was 12.

... also I didn't really take more than four lessons, didn't really practice, and only really liked playing Disney songs and really old church hymns.

Don't you love it when you learn things about me?

So there you have it, my unreasonable happiness at being able to wear jeans. And leave the house.

Both on the same day.

Thursday I wore jeans for a while, but just to read one of my new books on the couch and take pictures of the cat.

Which actually just sounds really sad when I type it all out like that.

Let's all pretend I did something cooler than that, shall we?

Thursday I wore jeans while I fought robot space aliens!

It was super cool.

You guys should've been there.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wood & Stemware

Five years ago today, I got married.

It was a humid, sweltering hot day in Southern Illinois at a little vineyard we loved. My the time the ceremony started around 11 AM, it was 94 degrees.

We were married outside, with a gorgeous view of the little lake the vineyard stocked with whiskery fish you could feed if you put a quarter into the feed box.

My brother-in-law officiated, because he's an incredible writer and I wanted someone I loved to marry us, before God and our families.The ceremony itself was something like ten minutes long, and then we had the reception inside a room in the (air-conditioned) vineyard's receiving area, and some people drank too much wine and some just enough. We had catered Cajun fish and corn and potatoes and I got more compliments on our choice of food than anything else. 

The day before the wedding, we had moved into an apartment we would be living in with a roommate, but nonetheless the first home we were able to share together. 

By the end of that day, by the time the heat had settled into a constant baking feeling coming off the sidewalk and all the speeches had been given and we had opened presents, thanked everyone for coming, and collapsed in exhaustion, we were married.

So the last five years...

They've been awesome.

That is all.

Happy anniversary, sweetie.