Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lost Hat Found

All is quiet when I walk in the front door of the city’s newest shelter and adoption center. The shelter’s founder, Aaron Blake, assures me that it’s less quiet in the back where volunteers are hard at work, and that I “should have been here earlier, a Little League Team dropped by.”
You can’t adopt a dog or cat here. You can’t pet a snake or watch a turtle have lunch. This isn’t a shelter for animals. It’s a shelter for hats.
Lost Hat Found was opened by Aaron Blake and his wife Sara two months ago after they inherited a great uncle’s hat collection. “I already had eight or nine of my own,” says Blake, “and he gave me twice that many.”
“More than you could ever wear yourself,” Sara adds. All the headgear was in good condition and had sentimental value, so the couple decided not to throw them away, or even to give them to Goodwill.
“We want them to be treasured,” says Blake, “just like we would treasure them ourselves.” They decided to open Lost Hat Found.
The Blakes don’t charge for hats. “This is an adoption center, not a store,” Blake informs some soon-to-be adopters. “We ask for a free will donation, just whatever you’d like to give us to help keep the lights on. The important thing is how you treat that hat you’re takin’ home.”
Sometimes Lost Hat Found gets donations of a different kind. “We had a lady walk in here the other day with about thirty hat boxes all loaded onto a wagon,” Blake says, stretching a hand up toward the ceiling. “All stacked up to here.” And what did they do with them? “A lot of them were real old. Sara’s got a friend at the historical society who took a bunch to put in a museum, but we’ve still got a few here.” A beautiful white and pink cylindrical hat box stands on the end of the counter, and Blake calls Sara out to try it on so I can see. It’s a little white circle with a matching short veil, called a fascinator, which Sara informs me would be the perfect “something old” for any bride’s wedding.
But cocktail hats are not usually what comes to mind when one thinks of unwanted headgear. “We got plenty of all kinds,” Blake says, and waves me behind the counter and into the back room, where Lost Hat Found’s volunteers are hard at work.
“First I wash everything,” Sara tells me as she shows me her work station, which consists of a washing machine, sink, and a table spread with lots of different kinds of brushes and stain removal products. “Not everything can just be thrown into the [washing] machine, but it’s gotta get clean somehow,” she says. Her current project is removing some glue from the side of a bowler hat. “The local high school drama club needs this for a costume, and I want to make sure it looks nice for them.”
Sara’s friend Kathy occupies a spot in front of a sewing machine. She shows me a recent acquisition: a very battered camouflage ball cap that she calls “Ol’ Larry.” “Somebody dropped Ol’ Larry off here yesterday. Said he found it in a ditch next to the stadium while he was out on a run. Probably it fell off a tailgater’s head on the way to the game or something, and it got run over a few times before it ended up in the ditch. Sara washed it, and now I’ll sew it up as best I can, maybe patch it if I need to.” She bends the brim of the hat and smiles. “This old thing’s still got some love left to give, and we’ll help make sure it gets the chance to give it.”
Ol' Larry, before Kathy started her work.
Blake’s cousin Steve keeps track of the shelter’s inventory. “I’m not really a… hat person,” he admits, “but Uncle Eli liked them and so does Aaron, and I guess a lot of other people do, too. The least I can do is to help out.”
Steve shows me several shelves full of ball caps ready for adoption. “Some of these looked pretty bad when they first showed up,” he says, “but Sara and Kathy work wonders.” Steve says they work especially hard when large amounts come in all at once. “A couple of weekends ago a guy dropped off like three garbage bags full of hats exactly like this one,” he says, as he holds out a dark blue ball cap with chartreuse and silver streaks. “This is usually the kind of thing that Little League teams are looking for when they come in. But sometimes the kids get carried away picking out their own hats, and the coaches go ahead and let them wear what they want. I heard one of them say that the kids were matching because none of their hats matched.”
You wouldn’t think there would be much demand for a place like Lost Hat Found, but Sara says that’s not true. “The first week we had a couple of kids in here looking for stuff for an Indiana Jones costume, so we let them have Aaron’s old fedora,” she recalls. “They told some of their friends and the next thing you know we’ve got all kinds of people calling, asking to be put on a waiting list for all sorts of different kinds of specialty hats, just in case we ever get them in. I’ve found forever homes for three different rainbow striped Cat in the Hat top hats.”
Even I found a hat to take home; Kathy finished up just as I was about to leave, and Ol’ Larry turned out to be just my size. Hopefully Lost Hat Found will continue to benefit the community and become what they have found for so many people: the perfect fit.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sinister Spaghetti Shrinkflation Situation

The following may seem like it was inspired by a writing prompt I found on tumblr, but do not be deceived. It is actually a scene that really, truly happened to me last night. I have the leftovers to prove it (though not very many mushrooms are left).

Water was bubbling on the stove, ready for dinner preparation. I had already dumped mushrooms into the sauce, and given in to the temptation of eating one… several times (there were still a few left for my family to eat). Tearing open the box, I dumped the spaghetti into my handy pasta storage container.
I stared at it for a moment, wondering why I even had a handy pasta storage container, since all I seem to do with it is take spaghetti out of the box to put in it, take spaghetti out to eat, then take more spaghetti out of the box to put in the container again. I shrugged and consoled myself with the knowledge that all storage containers are like that; it’s just easier to notice with the handy pasta storage container, since it’s much tinier than, say, my handy flour storage container that can handle a 10 pound bag of flour with room to spare.
There was room to spare in my handy pasta storage container, so I grabbed another box of spaghetti and squeezed its contents into the handy pasta storage container, too. I tapped it lightly on the counter, settling all the shorter pieces to the bottom. Then I noticed something strange. Something sinister. The spaghetti from the first box was half an inch longer than the spaghetti from the second box.
Shrinkflation,” I whispered to myself, and shook my fist in the direction of the store where I’d purchased the offending pasta. Then I turned the boxes over and looked at them. Both said, “1 lb,” and my annoyance receded. “If they both weigh the same, I guess they can cut it to whatever length they want,” I reasoned aloud. “Not like when they pretend that bacon is on sale but it’s only 12 ounces instead of a pound.”
I put the spaghetti in the water.
“Now that’s sinister.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Endless Search

We just moved into a new house. Aside from getting used to the fact that we can’t find anything in the kitchen and daily lamenting that there’s carpet in the dining room, I’m having technology problems. It’s not that the microwave isn’t hooked up right or that I’m constantly having to double check whether my laptop is connected to the internet (though there is that).
It’s that several times per day, I stop, look around, and mutter to myself: “Where’s my phone?”
Sometimes it’s at the top of the stairs. Sometimes it’s on top of the bread maker in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s on my nightstand. Occasionally, I find it other places: the dining room table, the dresser in my kids’ bedroom, the desk in the office. But I have to look everywhere before I find it.
I’m sure it’s just because I’m still getting used to my new living space. I’m sure eventually know where my telecommunication device is at all times, or at least narrow it down so I don’t have to do a full spring cleaning every time I want to text my mom.
Speaking of texting my mom…
Wait, where’s my phone?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

High Five

I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous holidays surfacing in the last few years. It seems like you can turn any random Tuesday into an internationally celebrated event whenever you feel like it. What kind of event? Who cares! We’re humans and this is the internet; there is no shortage of things to party about.
I was thrilled when I glanced at the trending topics adorning my twitter feed and saw this: “#NationalHighFiveDay.” I thought, “Finally! Something ridiculous I can get excited about!” Then I thought, “I’d better make sure that this is really a thing.”
It really is a thing!
And it is! (See link above, or here: really a thing.) Even wikipedia says so!
The best part is, it’s not just a day to high five your bros; it’s actually doing something productive! Though the holiday itself has been around since 2002 (giving away high fives & lemonade on the University of Virginia campus), they’ve been “doing good” in an official capacity since 2010. This year, donations on their website will go toward building awareness about childhood obesity, but in the past, High-Five-a-Thons were held to benefit cancer research, and in 2013, victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
So celebrate! High five one of the aforementioned bros. Donate! (It doesn’t have to be to the NH5D people, any favorite charity will do!) Even talking about it helps! And if you feel called upon to do all three of these things, then I have a very special gift for you (and I’ll bet you can guess what it is)!
(this video has nothing to do with National High Five Day, it's just awesome)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

You Be You

“Never frown, because you never know who may be falling in love with your smile.”

I’ve never liked that saying much. The idea that a stranger could fall in love with your smile might sound romantic, but if you think about it, it also seems a bit creepy. And exhausting. “Smile all the time!! Just in case!”
Some better advice, I think, is to be yourself. Your normal, every day behavior might brighten someone else’s day: when you give someone a compliment, or wear your favorite t-shirt, or perform your usual song and dance routine from the driver’s seat when that one song starts playing on the radio.
You be you… because you never know who may appreciate you for the crazy, wonderful, hilarious person that you are.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Struggle

"Did you find them?" my cousin asked, inquiring as to the fate of my aunt's famous delicious deviled eggs.
"Oh, I know where they are," said my brother importantly, then added, in a self-denying tone, "it's really difficult to keep myself from going and eating them all."
My cousin scoffed in amusement. "The struggle is real," she reported, with a glance in my direction: "#firstworldproblems."