Thursday, January 31, 2013


My toes are cold.
Animals grow thicker coats when the weather turns cooler. They migrate to warmer places to keep from freezing to death. Some even curl up in their dens and sleep until it’s a decent temperature again.
Humans put layers of clothing on. Those who can travel to a less snowy area of the country for the winter months. And even though it’s usually pretty hard to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, it’s way easier to make excuses to stay in it when it’s cold out, simply because your bed is so much warmer.
Animals keep themselves warm out of instinct. Humans are animals too, so why don’t we obey our instincts and just snuggle up for the winter? We do ridiculous things like get out of bed in the morning to go to work. We force our cars through the snow to get to our destinations. And we wear sneakers outside, thinking that we’re only going to be out for a little bit as we’re getting into the car and then out of it when we get where we’re going.
I’ll just put my boots on next time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Writing Prompt: Movie Pitch

The city council in the small rural Ohio town really only needed two words to agree to the movie producer’s pitch to film in their community: increased tourism. It was going to be a romantic comedy, and that always brought in more people. Just look what Bridges did for Madison County. It had quite a big budget, but they figured that most movies cost tons to make, so it wasn’t that odd. It would be a wonderful opportunity for their out-of-the-way village, and a wonderful story: a graphic novelist and a marine biochemist meeting and bonding over charity work at a puppet show for a children’s hospital.
The first screening was attended by the entire city council and the prominent members of the community, and to say that they were a bit surprised would be an understatement. There certainly was a love story, but it took a back seat to all of the explosions. The scene that was the most normal was the rehearsal for the puppet show, when the protagonists met for the first time and flirted, playfully maneuvering their puppets to “bite” one another. At least it was normal, until the puppets leaped up of their own accord and chased away the children in the audience. They weren’t sure how a Zombie Batman coming to life out of the drawings of the graphic novelist would increase tourism, but the scientific laboratory that was invented by the screenwriter could perhaps paint the community in a good light: the female protagonist, a local girl, worked there, and if it weren’t for her unsanctioned experiments attempting to make sharks fly, the zombie Batman and the cannibal Muppets would never have been defeated.
They weren’t quite pleased with the characters constant conversation about how lucky they were to be in a rural area. They would have been if not for the fact that the reason was that it would give the protagonists more of a chance to unleash the flying sharks to stop the zombie Batman and cannibal Muppets before they reached a more population-rich area.
It was an entertaining movie, and if it had been shot in any other place in the country, most of the audience members would have been able to enjoy it quite a bit more. As the credits rolled and the city council chairman got to his feet, he cleared his throat to address the rest of the council about what would be their next step: an angry letter to the movie studio or a lawsuit? Though, when he began to speak, the mayor, who was gathering up his coat in the seat next to him, leaned over and said, “Well, I guess Godzilla movies don’t exactly keep people from visiting Japan.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

He's the One

I was sitting on the steps of the Union waiting for my husband’s class to get out so that we could have lunch. The front of the Union is a great place to people watch: that guy needs to wash his hair, that girl is definitely making a statement with that outfit (“my parents can’t tell me what to wear anymore”), that person is attractive.
These were the things I was thinking as I waited for my husband. I looked a bit harder at that attractive person, and decided the reason that I thought he was attractive was because his haircut was similar to my husband’s, and his gait resembled the long legged, confident stride of my husband’s. I smiled, happy that I had the cutest husband in the world and that I only noticed other people because they were similar to him. I couldn’t wait to tell him about it.
I looked away and continued to wait, letting my mind wander, and a bit later, looked back at the person I had been assessing before, realizing that he was carrying his backpack the same way my husband did. The backpack reminded me that I needed to get something from mine, so I turned and dug into it.
When I looked back, I saw that he was much nearer than he’d been before, and that he was actually walking toward me. I grinned.
He walked up to me and said, “What should we get for lunch?”

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sneeze if You Need To

My dad, my brothers, and I sneeze in response to bright sunlight. We always have. It’s like sneezing is what is going to get us used to the light. Sneeze twice, then you’re good. My mom has always chuckled whenever it happened, or whenever we mentioned it to one another, “You don’t have to sneeze.” We shake our heads at her, knowing that we do have to sneeze, but there isn’t anything we can do to prove it to her.

Except watch Veggie Tales.

Photic sneeze reflex?! That’s actually a thing? I’d always known that I was right when my mom was telling me I was being silly, but I didn’t know there was actually a clinical term for it. According to wikipedia, there are still many things we don’t know about it, but it does effect 18-25% of the population, and the first known mention of it was by Aristotle.

In conclusion: Ha, Mom! Take that!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Was Your Daughter Switched at Birth?

The best part about giving birth is that first moment when they set the baby in your arms. You get to look down at your child, and marvel at the miracle of life. It’s only a moment, and then the nurses take your child away to bathe it, measure its weight, height, and head circumference, and you get a few minutes to rest. They bring your baby back later, wrapped in an adorable blanket, and you get more of a chance to bond with your child, to admire its features and point out which of them looks most like you. Most mothers have at least one moment that they stare hard at their child, just to make sure that the baby in their arms is really the one they brought in with them in the first place. For some mothers, this question gets considered later, when the child is a little older.

For those mothers, I have compiled this helpful how-to.

How to Tell if Your Daughter Has Been Accidentally Switched at Birth With an Inhabitant of the Forest Moon of Endor:
That's no baby.

1. She’s a cuddly little teddy bear
2. She sings a little tune whenever she’s working or playing
3. She growls at and is wary of strangers
4. She is unnerved by small changes in your appearance
5. She brandishes a primitive spear when alarmed
6. She is a feisty and determined fighter
7. She worships a primitive god that resembles an annoying protocol droid

Any one of the above could be a reason to suspect that your daughter was accidentally switched at birth with an inhabitant of the Forest Moon of Endor. Unfortunately, these reasons are usually not enough for most lawyers to file a suit against the hospital where your daughter/Ewok was born. In most cases, families have learned to love and accept their Ewok as part of their family, and they are often easy to teach and learn new things quickly. They may still have a tendency to aid rebel forces or to attack intruders, especially if they arrive in an All Terrain Scout Transport.

Keep following this blog for many other helpful how-tos, including “How to Raise Your Wookie Right” (hint: you can’t always let it win!) and “How to Battle Traffic on Coruscant.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Enjoying Austen

In 2004, I was roommates with a wonderful girl whom I had nicknamed “Lindy.” There are tons of different ways she had an impact on my life, and just one of them was introducing me to the works of Jane Austen.

Of course I knew Jane Austen was a novelist, and wrote in England during the beginning of the nineteenth century. I knew she had been and still is wildly popular, but I had never read any of her works, nor seen any of the many television programs or movies based on her works.

Lindy owned a copy of the BBC 1995 miniseries Pride and Prejudice, which she watched (in addition to many other things) over and over. Several years later I could be found on the couch in my mother in law’s living room, watching her copy of it; my husband would come home from work and remark, “Is she watching Pride and Prejudice again?”

I had already seen the movie Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow (and also Clueless with Alicia Silverstone, but that hardly bears mentioning). My mother-in-law also owned a copy of Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. There is nothing I love more than a film adaptation that stays true to the original writing, so before watching Sense and Sensibility, I decided to see how close that the movies I’d seen had managed to get. I tromped off to the library and came home, arms laden with Austen.

I smiled through Pride and Prejudice, blinked through Emma, and yawned through Sense and Sensibility. Sitting down to reflect, I decided that I had liked reading Pride and Prejudice, and that the BBC had done a wonderful job when transferring it to film. There were a few things that they left out that I would liked to have seen, but I was overall very satisfied with it.

I only managed to get through Emma because I knew what was going to happen; I would find myself mumbling as I read, “Get to the point, yes, she and Frank are having a good time, whatever, when is the next thing?”

There were several times that I almost abandoned Sense and Sensibility entirely. I would say to my husband, “they’re just sitting around! How did she manage to get this published?!” Immediately upon finishing it, I rushed upstairs to watch the movie. “Yes!” I declared as the credits rolled at the end. “That is how it should have been paced!” The movie left a couple of things out that it didn’t have to, but at least things were happening in a timely manner. I don’t honestly care how many times the Miss Dashwoods went to dine at Sir Middleton’s residence or what Mrs. Jennings said to anyone; I felt like I was waiting forever for something to happen.

The one thing Jane Austen’s novels do give us is an accurate representation of the times. In those days, people (with the means to do so) sat around and passed the time. When I read one of her novels, I often feel the way I’m sure I would have had I been sitting there with the characters: “I’m so bored! When is something going to happen?!”

Several months later I sat down to tackle Persuasion. “What are you reading?” a friend asked me, seeing the disgusted look on my face. I told him, adding, “I’m five chapters in and nothing has happened. I’m not even sure who the main character is supposed to be.” He rolled his eyes at me. “...Then why are you reading it?” I put it down. I dug around through the entertainment center until I found my mother-in-law’s copy of the 1995 film starring Amanda Root. I decided that I might enjoy the book better if I watched it first.

And I did. The movie helped me to enjoy the book. When I would have been languishing with Ann in Uppercross, I waited patiently because I knew that soon Captain Wentworth would come. Instead of being tricked by Mr. Elliot’s fine manners, I knew he was bad news all along.

I decided to take on Mansfield Park without watching a drama adaptation. It was a mistake. I waited all through Mansfield Park for her to get to the point. I kept thinking, “surely something will start to happen soon.” I should have expected that, since that’s how I felt while reading all of her other novels (even at times during Pride and Prejudice), but the thing I didn’t expect was the heroine: she was completely unlikeable.

It was the first Austen heroine that I didn’t feel up to rooting for. Elizabeth is so sassy and independent that you can’t help but hope that she ends up happy. I liked Emma for the same reason (but on the other hand she is terribly manipulative and that’s not at all something I admire). Elinor is happy and vivacious and continues to at least pretend to be even when her more vivacious sister is not. Ann is quiet and strong, accepting everything her terrible father and sister put upon her without complaining. But I couldn’t understand Fanny.

Fanny is quiet and nervous. Her manner almost invites her aunt’s ridicule, so it’s hard to feel sorry for her, even though her aunt does nothing but criticize her. She doesn’t stand up for herself, doesn’t put her cousins in their place when she thinks they are wrong, and doesn’t say anything when the man she loves borrows her things for the use of the girl he likes.

So while she (and I) sat around waiting for something to happen, I had plenty of time to ponder: “Is this really an Austen heroine?” The only thing she has in common with the other heroines is that she eventually ends up with the guy she wants. 

I disliked Mansfield Park so much that I’m not sure that watching a film adaptation would make me like it any better (though that was how I felt about Sense and Sensibility when I finished it). As much as I like the eventual outcome (which is for the main character to end up with whoever she was meant to), it sure seems like it takes Jane Austen a long time to get there. That is why dramatizations are so nice. They trim down things that I don’t have to wait around for the plot to show up.

I didn’t want to shout all my opinions about Jane Austen’s work without having read all of it. So for my next trick, I will attempt to enjoy Northanger Abbey. It’s downloaded, ready and waiting on my kindle, and my plan is to keep track of the things I like (and most likely more often don’t like) as I read it to see if it follow the same trend or is different than any of her other novels. I think it will be pretty interesting to do it this way, since I have read all of her other works and can compare it to the rest of them as I go along.

[Insert interlude]

Since writing the above, I have done quite a few things, including watching a dramatization of Mansfield Park, reading through the entirety of Jane Austen’s works, watching a film adaptation of Northanger Abbey, and then another read-through of Northanger Abbey.

My opinions haven’t changed much.

The Mansfield Park that I attempted to enjoy was the 1999 version starring Frances O’Connor. While her Fanny was infinitely more likeable, the main problem with her was that she wasn’t Fanny. Austen’s Fanny was quiet and weepy and submissive. O’Connor’s Fanny was quietly rebellious and sassy, but still respectful. I disliked the whole slavery aspect that they added to the plot, despite what respected literary critics may think; Sir Thomas may have been away in Antigua, but I don’t believe that Austen was trying to make any kind of statement about his business there, rather it was just a convenient way of getting him out of the picture so that his children could behave the way they wanted to for a while. Really, the best part of the whole movie is when Fanny finally gets the man of her dreams. Her attitude while listening to him is just like the reader’s when Austen finally gets around to mentioning that the two would finally be a couple: distracted and slightly disinterested.

The explosion in the 1999 version of
Mansfield Park
My final thoughts on this particular novel’s chances of being dramatized in a way that would be true to the book are that it couldn’t be. In my opinion, there would be no point to getting Mansfield Park on film. It is dreary, the main character is boring, and nothing interesting happens quickly enough to keep a film audience interested in watching it. Maybe if they added some explosions.

Now to relate my thoughts on Northanger Abbey. I am an Austen fan on my own. I haven’t really read anything about what other people think about her novels, but you hear things. Obviously, I know that everyone loves Pride and Prejudice. I’ve also heard that Mansfield Park is held to be a perfect snapshot of the age, fawned over by critics. But the collective assessment I’d managed to glean about Northanger Abbey before reading it was “Ugh.” I was easily able to ignore this opinion, because of the way my own opinion clashed with everyone else’s about Mansfield Park. I decided I would form my own ideas about Northanger Abbey, so I did.

It was a delight. Sentences in, I was checking to make sure I had the right book, and hadn’t gotten ahold of something else by mistake. Catherine’s name was right there, seven words in; I didn’t have to search for it or wait for it to become clear. Her family was loving, with no quarrelsome mother to be found, and though large, not impoverished like the Prices. Though she wasn’t naturally clever like Elinor, she wasn’t under the impression that she was God’s gift to her acquaintance (you would never have heard of Emma blushing at such a sad compliment: “...she is almost pretty today”). The thing I found most amusing in the first chapter was Austen’s determination to turn Catherine, who seemed the least likely canidate for a heroine, into one worthy of the name.

I enjoyed all the characters in Northanger Abbey. Isabella’s determination in every instance, John Thorpe’s love of appearances and his willingness to bend whatever truth he felt necessary to ensure that others (and sometimes even himself) thought the best of him, and Catherine’s hopeful ignorance, or as Austen puts it, “her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is.”

Without a doubt, the best part about Northanger Abbey is Henry Tilney. I loved his sarcastic humor and his witty teasing. He didn’t mind that Catherine was ridiculous, and realized that her wild fantasies about the death of his mother may have been partly his fault, for indulging her imaginings about the mysterious abbey in the first place. He follows her home as soon as he hears that she has been sent there, and does everything he can to correct her misconceptions about her stay at Northanger and her unceremonious exit.

Adorable, right?
I also enjoyed the film adaptation that I watched, the 2007 version starring Felicity Jones. Her face was exactly as I imagined Catherine’s to be: sweet, innocent, and often confused. I enjoyed the film, and wasn’t distracted by any changes the screenwriter had made. Probably the best thing about the film was the casting. Catherine Walker is sweet as Miss Tilney, Carey Mulligan gorgeous and flirty as Isabella, and J J Feild handsome (but not too handsome) as Henry Tilney.

I loved Northanger Abbey. It was refreshing and fun and not at all like Mansfield Park or Sense and Sensibility, and had more of the whimsy that Austen shows in parts of Pride and Prejudice. But maybe I was only able to appreciate it because I had already suffered through the long evenings with Elinor and Marianne. Maybe I was only charmed by Catherine’s innocence because I had already tried so hard to find Fanny likeable. Maybe, by the time I read Northanger Abbey, I had finally learned to appreciate the way life was when Austen wrote her novels, and what to expect. I had to watch dramatizations to enjoy all of Austen’s other novels, but I didn’t watch Northanger Abbey until I had enjoyed reading it.

For Christmas, I gave my cousin a tiny ‘Complete Works of Jane Austen in Five Minutes.’ “They’re pretty good,” I told her, “if you have the patience to sit through the boring parts of some of them. If you read this first, or watch the movies, you’ll at least know what you’re waiting for,” which pretty much sums up my feelings about the works of Jane Austen.

They’re not like anything else being written today. In the twenty first century, we’re all about action, a twist in the middle, and an extra twist at the end. We want things to happen in the books we read and the movies we watch; we don’t want to wait. That’s why it’s sometimes refreshing to pick up a book that’s paced the same way things were at the turn of the century 200 years ago. Jane Austen’s heroines were willing to wait for things to happen, and so were her readers. Today we have dramatizations to make the waiting easier, but the novels are well worth reading, if you don’t mind waiting along with the characters.

After all, “when a young lady is to be a heroine... something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Apparently There is No Clinical Term for the Fear of Elevators.

I’m not terribly claustrophobic, but I do get a bit uncomfortable in small spaces. Like elevators. The size of my anxiety depends on the size of the elevator and the amount of people inside it. If it’s a small elevator, I’m good riding with a couple of people, or several people if they’re small. I don’t usually notice the amount of people in a big fancy elevator, or if the walls of said fancy elevator happen to be transparent. But a small elevator packed with people will get me doing an impression of a naughty child: nose in the corner.

The worst elevators in the world exist on city campus at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. They all share the same cramped “made to carry only three people at once” aspect, no matter which building or how old the building happens to be. I was once trapped in one for an hour and a half at Kaufman Hall, which was brand new at the time. Strangely enough, there were only three of us. Maybe the additional weight of the thirteen inch gaming television, the Dreamcast, the N64, and the PS2 put us over the limit.

In general, I don’t mind elevators. I can usually take a deep breath, remind myself that it’s only a short ride and I don’t have long to wait, and in really crowded instances, I close my eyes until the door opens again.

Of all the terrible elevators on city campus at UNL, the worst of all is located in Oldfather Hall, smack dab in the middle of campus. I guess I should say, “the worst three of all,” because there are three elevators in a row in Oldfather Hall, and they are all equally terrifying. Oldfather is probably the busiest building on campus. The reason for this is that the fourth through twelfth floors are offices for the administrators and professors of various programs (history is on six and foreign languages on nine).

There aren’t many hours of the day that the wide hallway in front of the elevators on the ground floor doesn’t look like the skinny enclosed space between shelves in the stacks at Love Library. Oldfather’s hallways have lots of space, and the ceiling on the ground floor is higher than you’d expect in a stuffy old college building. It’s spacious. But right in front of the elevators, it gets so clogged with people that even if you’re not a bit claustrophobic, you almost consider taking the small, confined staircase to the ninth floor. But a professor’s office hours last only so long, and it’s harder to talk to them about the grade on your quiz when you’re trying to get your breath back from lugging your backpack all that way. So more often than I wanted, I would find myself waiting with the horde for one of the rattly elevators.

The elevators in Oldfather didn't stop on the
2nd and 3rd floors. There were classrooms
 there, and as far as the administration was
 concerned, students could brave the stairs
to go up one or two floors.
Even alone on one of the elevators in Oldfather Hall, I was nervous. Not because I could stand in the middle with my arms stretched out and touch the front and the back of the tiny box at the same time, or even because it was bound to stop at least three times on the way to wherever I was going, which meant that one to four more people would be joining the upward journey each time the doors opened. It was because I could hear every sound it made. Maybe it needed more sound proofing in the walls and ceiling. Maybe it needed some kind of elevator grease on the rail brackets. Or maybe it needed various parts of it to be updated so the people inside it couldn’t hear every single working of the elevator on the outside. I knew that if something was wrong, the elevator would be shut down for maintenance, but it didn’t keep me from irrationally wondering if we were going to plummet at any moment.

My least favorite part about the Oldfather elevator experience was a culmination of everything I hate about elevators: standing in the already small space, closing my eyes as it stuffed with people, listening to it rattle as it ascended, peeking hopefully at the door every time it stopped to open, scrunching my eyes shut again as more people pushed their way on. The only way to deal with the increasing pressure was to try to stop wondering if it was at my floor yet, and to breathe deeply while pretending to be looking out at the pasture on the west side of 310th Street after having ridden my bike as fast as I could all the way down 2nd street to the edge of Murdock. There are no smelly college students there, no chance of plummeting to my death, and my heart rate was about the same in both situations.

The last time I was in Oldfather Hall, I snapped a picture of my name on the Dean’s List, which was hanging on the wall across from the elevators. That wasn’t the best part of the visit. It was knowing that since I was a graduate, I’d never have to set foot on one of those elevators ever again. Maybe it was all part of the college experience. Study hard, enjoy your classes, and be blindingly terrified at the thought of the elevators.

To this day, elevators are not my favorite. The stairs are usually less crowded, and unless I’m in a huge hurry or carrying something heavy, I usually head that way. I don’t mind getting in an elevator with others, but I prefer if they’re people that I’m sure won’t mind spending the better part of three hours with me if we happen to get stuck.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Writing Prompt: Antler Posse

Herman went out recruiting for his Antler Posse every Tuesday afternoon. When the idea first came to him, he had hoped to form a sort of social club with his friends in which to discuss, admire, and perhaps try on various pairs of antlers. But when he received the scorn they so plentifully heaped upon him, there was no other choice: the Antler Posse would have to be comprised of those who truly appreciated antlers as much as he did. After six months, he had only managed to recruit a few caribou to follow him around occasionally, and even they were a bit baffled by his insistence on wearing the antlers of an elk or deer as though they were angel wings. Herman reluctantly came to the conclusion that there was likely no one who shared his fervent love of antlers, but decided that spending time with those who appreciated them was better than spending time with those who scorned them.So every Tuesday afternoon, Herman went out recruiting for his Antler Posse.

Some days, I got nothin’. As far as writing goes, that is. Either I’m too distracted to think of an idea or there’s so much going on in my house that by the time I get to sit down and write I feel like relaxing instead.

Sometimes I get ideas from the internet. Usually from things people are talking about on social media like facebook or Google+, or stuff my friends are talking about on Skype. But I wasn’t feeling anything I came in contact with in those places today (the inauguration wasn’t inspiring me).

So I googled “writing prompts,” and found a wonderful tumblr (a blogging website that has an element of social networking to it): It is maintained by a humanities teacher who posts pictures, phrases, or questions to prompt writers to produce material. I never liked the question style writing prompt, because it was usually, “if you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be, and why?” but I think I could produce an interesting answer to the prompt, “If you had to live the rest of your life as a Spartan, Viking, Knight, or Roman Soldier, which one would you pick?” I was never really inspired when asked to share the reason I would enjoy living on the moon, but for some reason, “This houseplant is dying. Tell why it needs to live” just gets my creative juices flowing. And I can’t resist a strange picture! Even if there aren’t any words to prompt me, I’m asking the questions myself. What are the subjects of this picture doing? Why are they doing it? What could have happened to bring them to the place and time that the picture was taken, and what happened after it was taken?

When I first looked at this picture, I was formulating some story about a secret agent infiltrating a gang of roving reindeer when my husband walked by. I asked him, “what are these things? Caribou? Elk?” He identified them, informed me about the relationship between caribou and reindeer and the similar relationship between pumas and mountain lions, and then he pointed out that one of these things was not like the others. One set of antlers in the picture was not caribou in origin. So that got me thinking about why this guy would be standing in a group of animals, and why I couldn’t see the one animal that was different in the picture.

Herman’s Antler Posse was born.

I’m sure most things that I will produce in the future in response to a writing prompt will be silly, but I don’t mind. I’d rather write something silly than not write anything at all.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Of the Bread Machine

My husband is of the bread. You know what I mean. Sort of like “Robin of Locksley” or “Gene Simmons of KISS” or “Poseidon, God of the Sea.”

Bread gets expensive when you have a husband and progeny who are “of the bread.” When you’re going to the store every other day to make sure your family has enough bread, it gets pretty silly. They probably could have run me a tab at the Lookout Road King Soopers in Boulder.

The last couple of months, my husband of the bread has been talking about getting a bread machine. The first several times he mentioned it, all I did was glare darkly at him. Then I got used to hearing him talk about it, and so when my family started asking what he wanted for Christmas, I passed the idea along.

There’s a bread machine on my counter right now. Mixing Italian bread for dinner tonight. And it will be awesome.

The strange thing is that he hasn’t used it once.

That’s right, I use it, with my hatred of bread machines melting away like the butter does into a warm slice of bread, fresh out of the bread machine. I don’t have to hit the grocery store tri-weekly to make sure my kids can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a snack, and I don’t feel guilty about using three fourths of a loaf to make garlic bread when we have spaghetti. It’s because I can always make more. And don’t get me started about how much money we save this way. I started to track how much a single loaf costs to make, but got cross eyed when I began to think about how much three fourths of a cup of milk would cost when the gallon is around three dollars. Turns out that one five hundredth of three dollars is one six hundredth of a dollar... The main point is that we’re saving money.

When your family is of the bread, one thing you may have to resign yourself to being is “of the bread machine.”

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Ideal Space

Everyone dreams of the perfect space to craft in. Sewers have sewing rooms, with fancy machines and stacks of fabric. I have seen pictures of private hoards of yarn that would make some craft stores jealous. And there’s a million ideas on Pinterest for organizing and decorating your crafting space.

I'd love to have a space like this. It's clean.
Right now, my ideal crafting space would have two things: a comfortable chair and restricted
access (no tiny mess-prone persons allowed). I’m currently using the dining room table as my crafting space, but the chairs are not really worth the name and the phrase “it’s no use crying over spilt milk” doesn’t work when the spilled milk in question ruins something I’ve put hours into making. I want my own space to spread out my projects. My own shelf to store things necessary for crafting without having to worry about them being carried off or used to cut little sister’s hair.

My dad’s got an extra desk at his office, and there’s a nice writing desk waiting in my parents’ garage for me. I even have an empty room to spread out and work in. All I have to do is bring all of these things together and I’d be able to work in peace whenever I wanted, find things where I left them, and not worry about having to clean anyone else’s mess out of my own mess.

My only concern is that once (if) I do get this space put together that I’d never use it. The main reason I do my crafting at the dining room table is because I can see my children playing from where I’m sitting, I can easily get up and go do chores if I need a break, and there’s tons of light that floods in from the windows along one wall. In a room on my own, I’d always be wondering if my children were getting into mischief, I’d have to leave seclusion to get any other chores done, and I’d have to drag in all other sorts of light sources, since the room I want to use only has one tiny window.

Maybe someday I’ll have my ideal crafting space. But for now, it’s something nice to daydream about it while I try to sponge milk out of my yarn.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kid in a Candy Store

Occasionally I get the urge to ruin my dinner. I know everybody likes candy, but as an adult you’re not supposed to get excited about it like you did when you were young. It’s not considered mature behavior to jump up and down about your favorite confection like a kid in a candy store.

When I was a kid, my candy store was called The Incredible Bulk. I didn’t know anything about comic books, but the sign above the door was big and green and just beckoned to kids. Inside was a hallway lined with bins with every kind of candy you could possibly think of. Gummy bears (and worms, and sharks, and peaches, and strawberries, and etc.), ropes of red licorice, and jaw breakers as big as your fist. There was a stairway to a loft above, which was cool but also kind of uninteresting because that’s where all of the sugar free candy was. My main destination was always the alcove in the back, three walls covered in bins stuffed with jelly beans. Specifically, Jelly Bellies.

Jelly Belly is a gourmet jelly bean company. Some people don’t understand. They think, “What could possibly be gourmet about a dumb jelly bean?” Well, we’re not talking about your cheap gas station jelly beans here, Sally. Instead of having five flavors (red, green, yellow, orange, and black licorice), Jelly Belly has fifty official flavors: fruity flavors, flavors based on different sodas (including Dr. Pepper and A&W Root Beer), ice cream flavors (sponsored by Coldstone), and a whole line specifically for sour candy lovers, each bean with its own distinctive look. There are many different types that are red, but the different hues help differentiate them. For instance, one can easily tell the difference between a Strawberry Cheesecake (whitish with red splotches), a Strawberry Daiquiri (mauve with occasional maroon spots), and a Strawberry Jam (translucent dark red with maroon splotches). And where a gourmet jelly bean exists, the existence of a jelly bean connoisseur is also possible.

When I was a kid, I was a jelly bean connoisseur. I’d go to The Incredible Bulk just for the pleasure of scooping different flavors of beans into a bag, picking the best kinds, and sometimes adding a bit from one of the bins that had different types already mixed together to try something new. When I got home, I’d dump everything out and sort it. Juicy Pear (the best kind!) would go in a pile next to Kiwi and Peach, Cotton Candy would be next to Green Apple and Very Cherry (the kinds that were good, but not my favorite), and Buttered Popcorn, Watermelon, and Toasted Marshmallow would be grouped in the same general vicinity, to await their doom (as my least favorites, they were most often given to my brothers).

These delicious treasures were meant to be hoarded, enjoyed, and savored individually. If I shared my jelly beans with someone in high school, it was a sure way to tell that I valued their friendship. It was also a good test to see if I would offer my prized jelly beans a second time: once, after offering some to a friend, I watched, gasping in horror, as he scooped up a handful and dumped all of them in his mouth at once.

I still like them, but I can’t sit around and chomp on Jelly Bellies anymore. I can eat about twelve before I start thinking about a good place to hide them so that my stash will stay intact until I want to enjoy them another time. I still get that giggly feeling when I sit down to grab a handful out of the bag and push them into piles: “awesome,” “okay,” and “bleh,” and I still want to cackle like a super villain when I return them to their secret hiding place. Eating Jelly Bellies makes me feel just like a kid again, like I’m standing back in The Incredible Bulk trying to decide just how many Blueberry to scoop into my bag and whether I should chance getting any from the assorted bag just to avoid the Chocolate Pudding ones.

Even if you’re an adult, it’s nice to feel like you’re a kid in a candy store every once in a while.

And if my husband is reading this, here’s a special message for you: Don’t even bother looking; you’ll never find them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


A hashtag is a way for bloggers and (mostly) twitter users to link their posts. If you want to know what the twitterverse thinks about cheese, all you have to do is search the hashtag #cheese, and you’ll know what the internet has to say.

This morning I was buckling my child into her car seat and grumbling to myself. To take my kids anywhere, I have to stuff them into car seats and strap them down. When it’s cold, I have to loosen the straps to accommodate their increased size, or rather the addition of a puffy coat, which is necessary to keep them warm. I was thinking about how it was such a pain to shove uncooperative little arms first into coats and then safely into car seat straps. I sighed as I fastened the belt, and thought, “#firstworldproblems.”

#firstworldproblems is a hashtag that is used when a person wants to complain, but is fully aware that their complaint is ridiculous and chooses to complain anyway. Usually the ridiculousness comes from the fact that they have everything that anyone could possibly want but there’s one little thing that’s slightly annoying them at the moment but they’ll probably get over it in a minute. And since we live in a day and age that we are able to report every little whim to the internet, we do. For instance, here are a few tweets that I grabbed when I searched the hashtag on twitter: “My car finally heats up when I reach my destination. #firstworldproblems” “My diamond earrings keep scratching my iPhone screen. #firstworldproblems” and “#firstworldproblems There’s either not enough chips or not enough salsa.”

I was annoyed this morning that it was a bit inconvenient to keep my daughters warm against the cold, safe in a moving vehicle that we own, able to go quickly to visit my mother at her house that would take me an hour or so to walk to (not counting whatever holdups I would have trying to drag my daughters along with me while still keeping them moderately warm).

When you feel yourself tempted to tweet or post something that could easily have a hashtag like “#firstworldproblems” attached to it, maybe you should think twice. By sharing something like that with the world, you are saying, “I have no right to whine but I’m going to anyway, just because I can.”

Instead of focusing on yourself, you could think of those who aren’t as advantaged as yourself, realize how petty your momentary discontent is, and be thankful for what you have.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I awoke this morning to the sound of my three year old’s voice, informing me that her baby sister was “dying, Mommy.” In my slightly sleep-addled state, I leaped out of bed and dashed into their room, hoping to be able to save her. Upon arriving, I found my eleven month old sitting in her crib. She grinned at me and at her big sister and raised her arms up for me happily, knowing that Mommy cannot refuse to pick up a cute baby. I turned my eyes on my eldest child, but without my glasses, couldn’t tell if her expression was one of innocence or of mischievousness.

I thought, “The only way this kid is dying is in the same sense that we all are: not in any immediate way, but slowly, gradually, and eventually.” I squinted at my three year old.

It reminded me of a day last week that she informed me, as I was drying off her newly clean sister, that “we are all animals.” I was surprised, wondering if her three year old mind had discovered that human beings are animals, so I asked her, “who is an animal?” “Baby Sister,” she replied, “and Mommy,” and as she added herself to the list, I wondered if she’d run down the list of her whole family, uncles and grandmamas and cousins and all, when she finished her monologue with: “And Daddy is a zebra.”

These are not my daughters.
I coughed out a laugh, and realized that she wasn’t talking about the human race as a whole, but a game we often played when getting out of the bathtub. Hooded bath towels don’t do much for drying a kid off, but they’re cute, and the woman who handed hers down to me probably realized that. My daughter loves them, though, and our game usually started with her making the animal sound of whichever hooded towel I’d placed on her head. Her baby sister would be wrapped up in a duckie towel, and she’d wear the sheepie one around the house, baaing like one of the flock. I don’t have any animal print towels, so I’m not sure why she decided that I should be a cow, but our after-bath activity for several weeks had been baaing and mooing at each other while I brushed her hair. And since everyone else had an assigned animal role, my daughter decided that my husband was missing out and designated him the noble zebra, though she would never answer my question: “what sound does a zebra make?”

So even though my innocent three year old has not yet realized that human beings are animals or that we will all die someday, sometimes she tricks me into thinking that she has. Eventually she’ll really know, but until then, I’m sure she’ll continue to say things that make me do a doubletake and think a bit before answering. That’s a kid’s job.

As long as she doesn’t do it while I’m still technically asleep.