Thursday, November 28, 2013

Currently

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 Amazon.com, 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.

BUT I WILL HAVE THEM.

I WILL HAVE PICTURES OF MY PARENTS IN ROUGHLY FOUR HOURS.
AND I STILL HAVEN'T SWEPT THE KITCHEN.

Uh...

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.



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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?

LET'S FIND OUT.

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



Sanna
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.


Indiana
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.


Tstertsta
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?"
"It's FIFTY-FIVE!"
- 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.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Intention, Resolutions, and Paintings I Hate

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, 1915, Oil on Canvas. I hate this painting.

I mentioned on my 5 Things post that I've been reading a lot about minimalism lately, that I've been really interested in the concepts involved. Now, let's not labor under the delusion that "minimalism" will ever describe me; I love colors and patterns and knick-knacks and books and coffee mugs and things far too much. A black square on cream nothing is the epitome of boring to me.

I am not ever, ever, ever going to be minimalist.

For instance, I have too much jewelry - I have gobs and gobs of necklaces - and yet I am still eye-balling this gorgeous bird-and-leaf piece on etsy.


You should all stare at it, too. Because it's wonderful.

You should also stare at this sweater. I live in South Carolina and already own like four million sweaters, but... you know... this one is pretty, too...


... anyway...

One thing I've been trying to start focusing on more heavily is what they call "mindful thinking". I know that's sort of a hipster phrase now, but I mean it more in the sense of working harder to really think about purchases before I make them, trying to fit them in with an existing wardrobe instead of buying an awesome shirt on clearance at Target just because I like it, only to find out that it's kind of unwearable in my closet as-is.

... which, yes, totally happened. I ended up donating it, having only worn or two or three times in more than a year, because it... just didn't work.

I buy magazines, too, far more than I should; magazines and coffee and all kinds of things. This is all well and good, and it does make me happy in the moment, but in the long run it's basically just throwing money into the air and declaring I don't really want it anymore.

But I do. I do want that money.

  Jo Baer, Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue. 1964 - 1965. I hate this, too.

So I've been reading some more minimalist-mindset blogs - both the Assembled Haphazardly posts (and the wardrobe inventory post is inspiring me to do the same thing (as well as Wardrobe Oxygen's post here), so I can really grasp how many different items I have) I mentioned in my 5 Things, as well as this post on minimalist ideas that I both agree and disagree with here, as well as a few others that catch my eye as well. There's a lot about minimalism that I will never like - I want my life to be full of color, I want to have little things on my shelves that remind me of people or places, I want my cupboard to be full to bursting of coffee mugs that don't match (Jason has a slightly different opinion about that), I don't buy that always buying something at full price is the way to go, etc...

But there are still things I can kind of take away from it.

Paring down my little-things purchases, especially magazines and coffee, is a huge thing I'm going to try to do. Fewer impulse-buys of clothing is another; just because something is a great price doesn't mean I need it, and it doesn't justify how many labor-rights abuses go on in the name of fast fashion.

 Laying out carefully-written monthly budgets and to-do lists is something I'm going to try, but can't really guarantee since I know what my follow-through record is like. Recording purchases so I get a better look at exactly how much I'm spending and on what, that's something I think I really can do.

Kenneth Noland, Beginning (1958), magna on canvas. Okay, this I like.
And there's another thing, inspired by Kaelah over at Little Chief Honeybee, one of my absolute all-time favorite blogs (I only came across her last year, but she rapidly went to the top of the list once I did).

Kaelah's been doing Weekly "Intentions Lists" - see her posts on the subject here, here, and here. They're not really purchase-related at all, just a kind of no-pressure to-do list, things she'd like to get done this week or that.

While they don't have much to do with minimalism (and I definitely wouldn't call Kaelah a minimalist - there's a reason I like her so much and it's not because she lacks color in her wardrobe, let me tell you Internet), they do line up nicely with what I'm about to try and do with "mindful thinking" and more thoughtful consumption.

Because if I can focus more on what I'm trying to do, I might be able to focus less on what I want, especially if it's things that don't really help me gain anything in particular, and are just items that either disappear without anything tangible coming from them - like coffee - or things like magazines, where I can only really keep for so long.

So, I thought I would make a list of intentions for myself for this week as well (and hopefully every other week after this, but... again, I know my own record on following-through with things.)

So here's my list:


Seems easy enough, right?

(The cleaning ones Jason and I will do together. So really it's even less than it looks!)

Plus, it gets me thinking about how I'm spending my time, which will hopefully help me ensure that I spend it doing or making something instead of buying something. Other than Christmas stuff, I'm hoping to pare my purchases down to the bare minimum in preparation for my New Year's Resolution - which is to go the entirety of January and February without buying a single non-essential item.

The library (and my French press) are going to be what saves my sanity, people.

Although 'sanity' is kind of a relative concept when it comes to me.

Friday, November 8, 2013

5 Things - The Breakfast Pie, Leaves & Other Fall Things Edition


1. LEAVES (and boots). GLORIOUS LEAVES (... and also boots). GLORIOUS, WONDERFUL, DELIGHTFUL LEAVES (did I mention I love my boots?).

I've said it before and I'll say it again; while South Carolina has all four seasons, the timing's a little bit off. Roughly seven months of blistering summer heat, a couple of months of fall, three weeks or so of actual winter, a couple months of spring.

Autumn is late, compared to when my internal clock tells me it should be. But once it's here... things get pretty awe-inspiring.

Driving home is even becoming its own special distraction; my drive takes me past some of the local mountains, swings up and down hills, gives me these gorgeous views of trees all on fire before our three weeks of winter hits.

If I end up in a ditch one of these days, you can rest assured it's because I was staring at a tree.

... like I do.



2. THESE SOCKS. THESE WONDERFUL SOCKS.

I really need to stop typing my first sentence in capital letters. The enthusiasm would be deafening if this weren't text. I WOULD BE SHOUTING.

Tania has a shop on etsy where she sells these absolutely beautiful knitted socks. I love each and every pair. She even has a knitted sweater vest that I would definitely own if I ever had occasion to wear a sweater vest. I may just have to come up with such an occasion.

Go click through!

I know, I know, clicking through socks seems immensely boring, but her Fair Isle-style patterns are gorgeous. And I told you to go look. So now you have to.

Because I said so. 

 

3. This post over at Assembled Haphazardly about cataloguing one's clothing purchases. Although most of what she says holds true for purchases in general.

One thing I'm trying to do with my wardrobe this past year and into the next is calm it down a little bit. I own a lot - I mean a lot - of clothing, but I don't really wear all of it. Recently I decided to institute the "One More" rule that we use for coffee mugs and other such things I love to buy too much of on my clothing as well.

This led to me giving away a giant box of clothing to Goodwill recently, because I'd been placing one item in the give-away pile for every new item I bought for something close to a year.

Turns out I buy a lot of clothes, way more than I thought I did. A big part of this is actually just that I'm trying to replace a lot of the really cheap clothing I've bought at Walmart or Target, the stuff that pills or falls apart or fades within a few washes, with higher-quality clothing.

Part of it is just that I like buyin' clothes.

Reading AH's post, and some of her other posts about mindful spending, I'm trying to start cataloguing my own purchases a little bit better. My New Year's Resolution for this year is going to be to go two straight months without buying anything (except, if I meet friends for coffee at Starbucks or another place I can buy a plain coffee. But nothing fancier.) We'll see how well I can pull it off, but mindful spending is something I want to really start paying more attention to.

I have a tendency to nickel-and-dime myself, to buy magazines here or coffee there and not realize how it adds up. So I'm hoping that going two months without making those kinds of purchases will let me sort of "reset" myself.

The beginning of the year seems as good a time as any, right?



4. This photograph with a fall prairie scene within the shape of my original home state, by Heather Marshall at OogieBee.

I've mentioned having been more than a little bit homesick lately; holidays tend to do that to me. Right now it's Thanksgiving, because I'm sort of constantly remembering all the Thanksgivings as a kid, at my Grandma VanHoorn's house and then later at my parents' house. I have a feeling these memories are a lot rosier for me than they are for my parents, since for me it was all day-off-school and sleeping-late and for my mother it was all frantic-last-minute-cleaning and trying-to-wake-up-her-lazy-kid.

So... we probably remember those holidays very differently.

For me, though, I kind of miss them.

My parents are flying in for the holiday, though, so I end up getting to combine just a bit of my two families, my parents and my in-laws, and that helps.

Plus my in-laws are awesome.

I should tell you guys sometime about the time I accidentally swore really loudly while Jason was on the phone with his mother, then died of embarrassment and couldn't talk to her on the phone for weeks because I was convinced I had ruined all my chances of a harmonious relationship because I swore. I think I made him apologize to her on my behalf.

It was pretty shameful.

Well...actually, that's pretty much the whole story right there.


5.  Spoiler alert - I am in no way preppy.

(I swear this is relevant.)

I'm sure that's going to come as a shock, but somehow I know we'll muddle through this confusing and distressing time together.

For some reason, though, I find preppiness fascinating. I don't mean the basics of it, the monograms and Oxford shirts  I'm thinking more along the lines of the name-your-obligatory-golden-retriever-dog-Scout-and-discuss-the-merits-of-lobster-rolls kind of thing.

So there's this blog I read called The Daily Prep, run by a woman named Muffy Aldrich (I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING, EVEN HER NAME IS PREPPY) and she sort of endlessly dissects what clothing brands are "prep" and what clothing brands really aren't. There's a snobbishness to it that makes it sort of fascinating to me, because I can be the same way but about such different things. I've never dissected what creates "the perfect Oxford shirt" in my life, but on the other hand I have spent a few hours picking apart the perfect comic-book movie.

So I find all these posts on Lily Pulitzer and Oxford shirts and Ralph Lauren and their intricacies and what is acceptable vs. what isn't sort of baffling, and completely fascinating.

That isn't, however, why I read the blog.

Most of what she writes is more about this Old Money New England lifestyle, something very much foreign to me but with some things that always ring true; self-sufficiency whenever possible, quality over quantity, things like that. I love reading about sailing, which I've never done and don't really ever want to take up, or crunching in the snow in boots and a giant wool sweater (probably not something I need to worry about any longer), and these interesting towns they visit and eat interesting things in.

Also their dog (yes, the obligatory Golden Retriever) is gorgeous. Or they are gorgeous. I haven't paid enough attention to know how many there are.

What I wanted to link you to if one of her more recent posts, and it's a recipe for... apple pie for breakfast.

I. Am. Sold.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

You'd Find It in Your Hair For Weeks


So here's the problem with November; it leads to December.

December leads to Christmas.

It means I have two months (more like one and a half! Aaaaaugh!) to pull Christmas together and I have basically no lists from anybody yet, so I'm debating throwing our whole Christmas budget into a giant vat of glitter confetti to throw at people whenever I see them, as punishment for not giving me lists.

Besides which, isn't Christmas about bringing joy to the world?

Throwing sparkly confetti at people would definitely lead me to feel joyful.

So there you go.

I think I know what everyone gets for Christmas now.

Monday, November 4, 2013

These Are The Questions I Ask Myself

If a black cat crossing your path is supposedly bad luck...


Does that mean a white squirrel running across the road as I drive out of the library parking lot is good luck?


Friday, November 1, 2013

Death By Narrative: Or, Your Face Will Look Like That Bird's By the Time You Finish This Post

 

I have a great many varied and exciting fears; we've discussed that sort of thing before.

I am basically a person made entirely OF fears, a rich tapestry of worry and nail-biting.

Planes are, of course, among my largest fears; when Rachel Held Evans wrote a blog post on a truly harrowing plane ride she was recently on (one scary enough for her that it took her several weeks to be able to write about it), commenters all crowded in to tell their scary, crazy, or weird airplane stories, myself included.

One thing I mentioned in my comment is that while I have your standard anxieties - bridges, heights, planes, thunderstorms, all very normal (well, relatively speaking) things to be afraid of... I have kind of a weird one, too.

I fear Death by Narrative.

Let me explain, as I did in Rachel's post, by using an example.

Several years ago, my niece was born in mid-November, when my sister and brother-in-law were living in Minnesota. I lived in Southern Illinois at the time, four hours from the vast majority of my family and a whopping twelve hours away from Christina (and, by association, from my brand new niece).

I was working retail at the time, but managed to essentially emotionally blackmail my manager into letting me go home for Christmas (I was doing almost her entire load of daily, weekly, and monthly paperwork. I told her I wouldn't keep doing her job if I didn't get to see my niece. I made sad faces. It worked.) The tradeoff was that I could not leave until after the mall closed on Christmas Eve.

So I, who do not like to drive in the dark, packed up my things and finally left town around 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. There was snow on the sides of the road, in the fields, but the roads and sky were clear. I drove far too fast on highways and interstates that consisted almost entirely of me and what seemed like the same three semi-trucks the whole way. Otherwise it was empty, and clear, and cold.

The longer I drove, the more worried I became. I could see the newspaper headline in my mind:

"College Student Killed in Fiery Crash on Christmas Eve: "She Never Even Met Her Niece," Sister Cries."

It began to weigh on me more and more.

The headline was too perfect. It was too spot-on. It was exactly the sort of tragedy people pick up a newspaper to read about. I became more and more convinced that it was almost certain to happen. The roads were so empty it might take a couple of hours for anyone to notice.

I could go flying into a telephone pole next to a cornfield and would have to hope a semi-truck came by and noticed the flaming wreckage.

This was almost definitely going to happen, and I was powerless to stop the Narrative.

Obviously I made it home safely (and I made a four hour drive in three hours and fifteen minutes!), I met and was able to hold my baby niece for the first time.

 

(This is Christmas morning. Note my awesome penguin Christmas pajamas. 2007-me is so super cool.)

But Death by Narrative is something that lurks constantly in the back of my mind, like Narrative is a capricious god; Fate moving the bit players in the play.

It's like I think God is Arthur Miller.

Another example:

When Jason and I got married, we had our actual wedding and one reception in Illinois. Most of his family was able to make the trip, but we knew it was a little much to ask everyone to drop their lives and drive ten hours to Illinois, so a separate reception and visit to South Carolina just afterward was planned. We loaded up Jason's family, friends, me, my maid of honor and her 1-year-old son, and made the drive.

I could picture that headline, too - Couple Run Off Road Day After Their Wedding, Taking Family and Maid of Honor With Them. The perfect, terribly movie-like timing of it all made me nervous.

Obviously, we made it there in one piece, with literally no problems whatsoever.

Didn't stop the worry from being just as bad on the way back, though.

So, it's things like that; vacations or weddings or anything where travel is involved, both for me and my loved ones, brings that idea to mind. It's probably just an effect of reading too many books and watching too many movies, where things happen in terribly cinematic fashion and for reasons which advance the plot. In real life, of course, you make the plot yourself or somethings things just happen.

I know that, I do.

And yet...

I will next board a plane on Christmas Eve, once again heading back by myself to see my family (Jason and I have got to work figuring out how to both be allowed to celebrate holidays at the same time, let me tell you internet). This time it will be me and my old nemesis, an airplane.

And I guarantee I will spend that whole flight thinking about whether or not today is the day the Narrative gets me.


... okay, it won't be the whole flight.

I'll spend like a third of the flight scrutinizing a series of increasingly more meaningless fashion magazines.  But the rest of the flight I will worry about Narrative.

And before you wonder at what kind of strange creature I must be, keep in mind that there were other people on Rachel's post that are also scared of Death by Narrative, that for the first time I found other people with this same fear.

So at least we can all go be crazy together.

If I ever meet them I'll offer to buy them a drink, except that we would probably all be too nervous to be in the same room.