Thursday, December 22, 2011

All of the Things

I got my hair cut today, so the chunk that was burned away and the hair around it are now one length. I consider this some kind of victory.

I spent five hours last night making origami Christmas cards in order to avoid knitting on the sock.

A few days ago, I cast on for the sock in order to avoid knitting a certain sweater.

I have now made cards for everyone I can think of, and handed them out, so even the extra stuff I made up to make more Christmas prep work for myself after I already finished all my Christmas prep is now finished. I am out of luck. I guess Christmas had better come soon, before I decide to repaint my bedroom in holiday colors.

These cough drops make me want to throw up.

I am not throwing them away, though, because if I do, I will not have any cough drops, and I'm not buying more.

I just took my second dose of antibiotics. So hopefully, there will soon be improvement...

This is my last day of work until next WEDNESDAY. This is a mini-Christmas Vacation for me.

I have yet to watch The Muppet's Christmas Carol, and that makes me sad. I cannot find a copy to rent or to buy. Tragic.

In other Christmas news, Jennifer showed me THIS:

And I love it and want to make one. It is the bestest Christmas tree ever.

Then, while I was reading the various blogs I follow, I discovered this hilarious abridged version of Jane Eyre by YA author extraordinaire Sarah Rees Brennan. She is so very funny.

My favorite part? The Helen Burns section. "HELEN BURNS: Would you like to be friends? I love you, Jane, and I also love Jesus." And, "HELEN BURNS: HERE LIES HELEN BURNS, DEAD OF NARRATIVE INEVITABILITY."

Dead of narrative inevitability. Best way to die, ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas! Have a Sinus Infection!

Sunday I woke up and felt blech.

Monday I woke up and felt a little more BLECH. Then I ignored it, went to work, went to Fort Wayne with Jennifer, forced her to open her Christmas present early, and went back home to collapse in bed and pray for a miracle overnight cure.

Tuesday I woke up and felt slightly better. Except I could not breathe. But other than that, better!

Then today, I woke up and felt Sinus Infection.

"Crap," I said to myself. "I feel Sinus Infection. Merry Flippin' Sinus Infection."

Then I had a glass of milk, because it was morning and that is what I do in the morning, since coffee makes me strung out like a junkie.

Then I listed my symptoms.

List of Laura's Symptoms
  • Severe Sinus Pressure and Congestion
  • Serious Chest Congestion and Cough
  • Multicolored Mucus (ewwwww)
  • Fever that Came and Went (which means sinus infection 'cause the cold is over)
  • Can No Longer Hear Anything Except YELLING
Then at the end I wrote, "Laura has HAD HER FLU SHOT" and handed the list to Mom.

"Please help me," I said. "I will be at work all day, so I cannot call the doctor and wait for calling back and call more. Will you call and beg for help?"

"OF COURSE," said Mom, because she had wanted me to go to the doctor yesterday and also today.

"And can you tell him I love Z-Paks? They are the bestest."


And then I went to work. And I puttered around and did things, and my coworkers told me they thought I sounded (sound) like a three-pack-a-day smoker, and I said, "Gee, thanks so much for that."

THEN the doctor called and gave me my Christmas Present.

I get to have MEDICINE for my various infections. At dinner time, I get to go to the pharmacy and pick up the prescription he sent over for me, because he knows I am a Diseased Sort of Person.

Doesn't it look festive?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's so Magical About the Magic Hoodie? (Or, How I Accidentally Flashed my Mother)

This is the Magic Hoodie.

I first snatched this up when my friend Bailey told me how amazing it is. And I thought, I own no hoodie. Maybe I should own one hoodie. I will try that hoodie on. And I loved the hoodie so much, I instantly bought it (and so did Rachael). Then Bailey and I named a book blog after it.

The Magic Hoodie is magical for many reasons. Firstly, it seems to go with anything. The plain version (without big letters all over it) originally came in a few colors, all of which seemed to blend with anything in my closet. I picked the color you see above because I knew I would love it with blue jeans. And I do. In addition to the glory of color-coordination, the Magic Hoodie has never gone all rough on the inside like some sweatshirts do after a few turns in the washer and dryer. No balled-up fleece inside this hoodie! And the material has always felt relaxed, like your favorite old pair of jeans. Only in hoodie form.

But my favorite part of the Magic Hoodie is the zipper. It is not a full-zip, which I hate, because if you're wearing a sweatshirt cardigan, why not just wear an actual sweater-cardigan? And it is not a pullover, which I hate because those always seem to make me feel like I'm being strangled, and there's nothing as nerve-wracking as thinking your clothing is trying to kill you. No, this hoodie is a half-zip, which allows for optimum temperature control and allows you to pull it on without screwing up your hair. Or temporarily blinding yourself. Or getting stuck inside the sleeve.

Before you go out to buy your own, know this: There are no more Magic Hoodies. American Eagle Outfitters doesn't make them anymore. Which is grossly wrong and should be remedied. Do you hear me, AE?

Last night, I had come home from work wearing my Fancy clothes, then switched my sweater for the Magic Hoodie, leaving on the tank top that I'd worn under the sweater. So my layers were as follows: undergarment, tank top, Magic Hoodie. It is important to remember that.

After an evening of making crafts for Christmas, I came out of my room to get a cookie, then went over to pet Darcy and chat with Mom. Darcy has pulled a muscle in her little doggy leg, and she is quite pathetic. So I rubbed her tummy and tried to make her feel a little better, then sat down across from Mom. I was extolling the virtues of the Magic Hoodie, because I was feeling particularly comfortable that evening.

"This hoodie is the Magic Hoodie for a reason," I said. "There is no hoodie better than this one."

"What makes this hoodie magical?" Asked Mom.

"THIS," I said. Then I unzipped the zipper.

My intention was to show Mom that the zipper only unzipped halfway, making the hoodie Magical for all those reasons I told you about before. What I really did was show my mother my breasts.

"DID I JUST FLASH YOU MY BREASTS?" I gasped, zipping the hoodie back up as quickly as possible.

You see, the tank top had worked its way down, so the neckline of the tank top was...well, let's just call what happened a Wardrobe Malfunction and move along. Because Mom wasn't the only person in the room, and I'm not referring to the dog.

Paul had walked in just as I was covering my nakedness like Eve in the Garden. He has plainly heard me shout my question to Mom, and now he could see the two of us crying because we were laughing so hard. Paul's a smart guy. He put two and two together.

"This is how you should meet men, Laura," Paul announced. "You should walk up and say, GENTLEMEN, BEHOLD!" Then he pantomimed unzipping the hoodie and flinging it open for all to see.

He used a funny voice, too. Paul is a funny guy.

"GENTLEMEN, BEHOLD" only made me laugh harder. I was crying and gasping for air at this point. Mom was wheezing and calling for her inhaler. So now Paul will have a new bit, which is using "GENTLEMEN, BEHOLD" every time there is any hint of my liking or dating anyone. I can tell that will happen. It is too hilarious to not use it.

I will never live that down. I don't so much care. And I'm really glad if I flashed anyone during my Indiana Girl's Gone Wild impersonation, that person was my mom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Name Change

Yeah...I changed the blog name. It had been bugging me for a while, because this may have started as a knitting blog, but it really evolved into something more...humor-centric. Because I fall down stairs. A lot. So I impulsively changed it.

The web address will remain the same (so no need to update in Google Reader or anything), unless you would prefer I change it to match the title. Let me know in the comments!

Dear Blogger (and Google)

You know how I love using you? Well, I do. You let me write, you search for things, and you're an all around neat sort of...something. Internety thing. You know what I mean.

But here's the deal Blogger/Google: You think there are more of me than there is. There is one of me. And back when I started my Blogger account, it wasn't connected to Google the way it is now. It was DIFFERENT. And then you became one. And that was fine, no problem. But then you created G-Mail, Google Docs, and Google +, and in the process of doing that, I was forced to create another e-mail address so I could use all of those things.

Then you told me to link up Blogger with G-mail, but you wouldn't let me link it to my G-Mail address, because you think I'm two (three?) people, so you made another address for me, so now I am three (four) people. And that created another problem.

Because my original e-mail address is now associated also with a G-mail address, but said G-mail address is not, for whatever reason, allowed to post comments on any of the blogs I follow (explain that to me, please), I now cannot post comments on any Blogger blog. Which would be no big deal, except that IT IS A REALLY BIG DEAL.

So you tell me my account isn't allowed to post things, and that I should log into another account, except the first account that should work is linked to the bad account, and I would have to start all new blogs if I used the other account(s).

Are you confused yet? Because I am.

I tried to solve the problem by allowing myself to be logged into two accounts at once. That's a really good option to give people, Google. If it worked. But it doesn't, because each of your sites forces me to log out of one account in order to access the other, even though they are both me.

I tried to solve the problem by inviting my other personae to write and post on this blog. Nope.

So what I would like to see happen is this: I would like for you to invent a way for me to put my various login information from all the accounts into one little program, then let me click a button and make the button merge all those logins and passwords and accounts together, to create a kind of super-account, one that would be under one e-mail address so I could log in just once and I wouldn't be forced to delete the other accounts and possibly prevent my getting-at documents saved on Google Docs by one account or a blog started by another.

Confused? So am I. That means you should fix this, right? I would really like that.



Friday, December 2, 2011

Guess what?

Toilets FLUSH. Not at my house, but when you go to other places that aren't my house, they FLUSH. Also you can flick light switches, and lights come on. Again, not at my house, but STILL. And some houses (not mine) are WARM. They have things called vents, and hot air comes out of them because the houses have these things called FURNACES that make cold air into hot air. I thought only political candidates could spew hot air that effectively, but I have seen the light. Furnaces are the way to go. And SOME houses even have working refrigerators, and you can put milk inside them, and then, in the morning, you can have cereal.

It's fancy.

Also, today my hair is dry without having been set on fire. That's handy.

Why am I in such a brilliant mood?

Jennifer rescued me. I did not have to stay in the third-world of my house last night. I stayed in the FIRST world, the developed world, where there were lights and Lego Harry Potter. And it was fantastic.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's that burning?

Peru, apparently, exploded or something, because I have been without power since Tuesday night. There is no heat, there is no running water, there is no toilet-flushing, no liquids after 5:00 p.m., no internet, no Burn Notice, no lights, no refrigerator, and, above all, NO REASON TO LIVE.

"Laura, you're being dramatic!" you say. 

I say, "Try being a one-bathroom family of four when no one can flush the toilet unless they travel to the nearest town, which is 30 minutes away by car, and buy water. Talk about flushing money down the toilet."

But if all of that wasn't bad enough, there is this other problem. I have to go to work just like I do every day. Which means I have to find a way to be clean, which means washing my hair with bottled water, which is sometimes icy cold, like it was this morning.

Cold water is really cold.

Also there is no internet, so for all I know, one of the Republican candidates has already declared war on Iran. Hey--it could happen.

Not having electricity means I can't blow-dry my hair. So I came up with this ingenious solution yesterday, because I remember reading about someone doing it in Little House on The Prairie or maybe in Little Women. It was Little everything back then, apparently. And they also would wash their hair, sit by the fire, and dry it out.

Well. I was totally trying that.

So I fired up the gas fireplace a bit higher, and I tried it. IT WORKS AMAZINGLY. Especially if you are like Jo March post-train ticket, and your hair is super-short like mine. So I did it again this morning.

But between yesterday and today, something must have...changed. Maybe it was the distribution of product in my hair. Maybe the fireplace had been turned up too high for too long. It's anyone's guess. All I know is that as I was standing over the fireplace's vent, I heard a sizzling sound.

It is important to note that at no time was my hair actually touching fire OR the vent itself. My hair was touching AIR ONLY. Hot air, yes, but air all the same.

And that hot air from the fireplace totally scorched my hair.

I have like, two inches of hair? Maybe a little less in other places. But really, I cannot afford to lose hair to the fireplace or the hot air it produces. There is, quite simply, not enough hair to set fire to. Still, as I smelled that tell-tale scent of crispy-fried hair, I knew.

Now, some girls might be actually upset by the loss of hair to flame, but those girls can flush their toilet after they use it without walking down to the river and using a bucket to fill the toilet tank, and I am not one of those girls.

So, I dried my hair the rest of the way, put in the goop I use to make it look all cute and tousled, and went to work like a good little soldier. Because walking around work with fried hair is better than sitting at home with no electricity.

Happy winter, everybody.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Guess What?

Today was Thanksgiving! I have stories, I really do. But until then, why don't you join me in playing Hipster Dress Up, because that's how far I've regressed after the trauma of post-Thanksgiving-dinner conversation.


I made a little Laura! She is wearing clothes I have, although in different colors. Does that make me an accidental hipster? Hipster Laura knitted her own scarf and her cardigan. She needs those glasses to see, so she's not being pretentious. She's wearing her skinny corduroy work pants, and those shoes she saw on Zappos and loved but couldn't afford! Isn't she adorable?

And here she is modeling the dress she couldn't afford from Modcloth! Notice how the dress actually fits her!

And here is casual Hipster Laura, ready for a night out with her friend, Hipster Jennifer! Notice Hipster Jennifer, wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt JUST LIKE NORMAL JENNIFER DOES IN REAL LIFE.

Hipster Jennifer is frowning, because she disapproves of being called a hipster and because she's been made into a paperless paper doll. I thought it would be more realistic this way, because Real Jennifer is probably making that face at Real Laura right now.

And you play this game all while listening to happy music a la Juno. Don't you want to play?

Go on.

Today I am thankful for computer games, frozen pizza, and the early Thanksgiving Jennifer and I had on Tuesday. Best Thanksgiving ever, Jen. I am also thankful for my wonderful friends, my family, and my dog and cat. And for Twitter, Pinterest, and this blog, which means I am thankful for YOU. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This Is What Gun Control Legislation Is For

When guys think of hunting, they think of this:

Image courtesy

When I think of hunters, I see this:

When hunters think of deer, they see this:

Image courtesy

When I think of deer, I see this:

These mental images were unchanged today, after the visit we enjoyed.

I was showing Mom some adorable dresses I was attempting to con her into sewing for me when someone knocked on our door. Our FRONT door.

No one uses the front door. It shouldn't even be there, it is like an afterthought. The door sucks, it hardly opens, and every year a swarm of ladybugs squeezes through the crack in the seal around the door, dies, and we cart out the vacuum, suck up the bugs, and wish the people who designed our house had just left out the front door altogether. No one even has a key to this lock, by the way. If that were the only door into our house, we would never get inside.

So we knew whoever was knocking was a stranger. The last batch of knocking strangers we had were selling meat out of a truck door to door. Who sells meat out of a truck? And not a good truck, like one with refrigeration and a covered back with a door you open. No, this was a random pickup with a cooler. For all we knew, the guy was selling chunks of his latest victims, hacked up after his latest spree killing.

My response to him had been, "No, thank you. We're vegetarians."

We aren't vegetarians.

I am a liar, and probably going to Hell, but I didn't want truck meat, and neither would you.

THIS time, Mom went over to answer the door, because she had brushed her hair after her nap and I hadn't. That is the way we make decisions in our house.

I overheard bits and pieces while I sat on the floor, keeping Darcy from running over and barking at Random Stranger. Random Stranger was taking an awfully long time talking with Mom.

I wondered if the Random Stranger was one of a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses. In that case, I thought, I would get out my eyeliner and draw an eye on my forehead, then grab some of the sage from the kitchen, light it on fire, and start dancing around in the front room where they could see me through the picture window, just to discourage them. They would, I thought, believe our house was a total lost cause, since a heathen girl with unbrushed hair was dancing around waving sage to ward off evil spirits like the pagans do.

Random Stranger was not a Jehovah's Witness. He was a hunter. And he was, charitably, about 12 years old. Okay. Maybe he was 14. I know this because when he was leaving, I caught a pretty good look at him as he got back on his bicycle and rode away down the road.

"He asked if he could hunt on our land," Mom informed me as I caught the last glimpse of Random Hunting Stranger Boy as he pedaled out of the driveway. "I told him no."

"Of course you did," I said.

"Our house is on like two acres," Mom said. "And there are no deer here. And also we walk around, and he would shoot us through the windows."

"He would," I nodded.

"And then," she said. "He asked if there were any other places he could hunt around here, like in the field between us and the neighbors, or across the street or something. I told him there were no deer there, and also that I walk there every day with the dog."

"You do," I agree.

"And then he told me why he was looking for a new place to hunt," Mom continued. "Which pretty much would have convinced me never to have let him hunt anywhere near our property, even if I had been inclined to say yes, which I wouldn't ever do."

I looked up from petting Darcy, curious.

"He was in this tree stand he'd put up on someone's property," she began. "He'd gotten permission from this man to hunt on his land. And he was watching some deer that came nearthe stand, until a cat came and scared the deer away. Then, he shot the cat because it scared the deer."

I stared.

"But the cat turned out to be the land owner's pet, and the man said he couldn't hunt there anymore."

"What a complete [ANGRY WORD]," I fumed. "What kind of a flipping [BLANKITY-BLANK] would shoot a cat because it scared deer away? And why would he ever think telling you that was a good idea? He is such a total [NAUGHTY WORD]. If he ever tried that here, I would take his gun away and shoot him with it, because he is such a [HORRIBLE AND BAD] idiot-slack-jawed [TOOTHPICK BRAIN] who deserves to be [HURT IN A NAUGHTY PLACE]."

"I KNOW!" Mom exclaimed.

"And what kind of world do we live in if a kid can have a gun and shoot random household pets from a tree stand before he is legally allowed to drive a car or vote?" I proclaimed. "If you are still young and stupid enough to think shooting a small furry creature will bring the skittish big furry creatures back toward the sound of the loud banging, then you are too dumb to be allowed to swing a gun around in the first place!"

"YES!!" Mom said.

"And what would he do if he actually got a deer?" I asked. "Would he strap the poor deer to the side of his bicycle and ride home, dragging it along with him like the Old Man from The Old Man and the Sea

"This is upsetting me now," Mom said.

Then we both hugged Darcy. Then we found the cat and tried to hug her, but she wasn't interested in hugging, so we waved politely and gave her some space.

And that was Sunday afternoon at my house.

*Images not attributed were pictures I found everywhere and all over. I did not take the picture of the adorable deer or the scary picture of Charlie Manson, and I'm very glad I was never in the position to photograph him so closely.*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mom and Laura Have a Night Out

Mom and I went to Bloomington this weekend, partly to look around at the pretty and partly to see if I felt like Bloomington was a livable place. We had tons of fun, as we usually do together.

But whenever Mom and I go to a new city to visit, there is this thing that happens.

We first noticed it when she emerged from a Union Station bookstore in D.C., a victorious look on her face, a plastic bag clutched in her hands.

"Look!" She proclaimed, "It's a walking guide of the city!"

So Mom led Paul and I on an hours-long walk. It was like the walks that end at a mass grave site, only this time there was no open chasm awaiting us, just crippling leg pain and a lost child at the Vietnam Memorial. See, the book was great, it just didn't account for the huge amount of construction going on at the various memorials when we took our trip. They had totally blocked off something like half of the mall, so you had to walk around the blocked portion, waving at Mr. Lincoln from far away, then skirting some kind of arts fair, a giant hole in the ground, and the site of that weekend's fireworks.

We walked most of the day and were still unable to complete 3/4 of the "walking tour." I think that walking tour book was for backpackers, or Everest-climbers, or HEALTHY people, and I am a dedicated lounger, not a hiker.

There were even tears on this walk. TEARS. Not mine. Mom's, what with the Vietnam Memorial, and the lost kid cried, but STILL. TEARS. Tears and the kind of agony that makes you fall when you try to get out of bed the next morning.

But D.C. was nothing to London.

Mom looked out of our hostel and saw the Tower in the distance. We, I should mention, were staying in a former dormitory for a boys' choir near St. Paul's Cathedral. We walked and walked, but the Tower never got any closer. We were along the Thames, and there were these little docks, and bridges, and still, no Tower. As night fell, we turned around and trudged back.

I later found out that tons of hideous, gristly murders have taken place right along the river walk. Isn't that lovely? Really, watch some BBC! You will be as horrified as I was. This is where my mother takes me, to go get murdered on the river walk!

This seems to happen to us every time we go on a trip. We try not to let it happen, but there we are, walking ten miles because the good pastries are on THAT street and we want GOOD pastries.

On our Bloomington trip, it started either with the lady at the crosswalk saying, "Five or six blocks...?" Or with me saying, "Nah, let's just walk it. We don't need to get the car."

We were looking for a pharmacy, because Mom had a headache and wanted some Ibuprofen PM. So we walked. And five blocks became ten. And ten blocks became fifteen. And still nothing.

Lesser women might have given up. But no, not my mother and I. We kept going. Because we knew after 15 blocks, we would never sleep without some kind of pain reliever for the new agonies we discovered on our walk.

Meanwhile, I had a different dilemma. I was wearing adorable shoes. You know what that means. So while my shoes were being adorable, they were also not being very functional as shoes. I had to arch my foot to keep them on, and I STILL kept falling out of them and into holes. There are a lot of holes in Bloomington.

We stopped at a Waffle House, where Mom and Dad had enjoyed meals back when they were in school at I.U. But seriously, the Waffle House looked abandoned, like there was a natural disaster we didn't know about. It was a Ghost Town Waffle House. I think I saw a tumbleweed in the parking lot.

Armed with more directions, we went on. Still, after several blocks, nothing.

Now: Where was the flippin' pharmacy? College students need pain relief, right? I mean, I know I had headaches back in college, and stomach aches, and other aches, and I went to the pharmacy to get treatments for my various maladies. But nooooo. I.U. kids don't get sick. They're too busy being awesome.

We followed still more directions, passing under a bridge. I fell in some more holes. Then Mom leaned over to me.

"I think it smelled like urine down there," she whispered.

"We walked UNDER A BRIDGE," I replied. "What did you expect?"

We laughed so hard, we could not breathe. Then we found the CVS, got medicine, walked back, and collapsed in the hotel room, an hour and a half after we'd set out. My calves still feel like they're about to explode.

The moral of this story? Always pack your medications before you leave home. Or at least spring for a map.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


You know all those things I've been ignoring? Like not checking my personal e-mail, not blogging, not spending the weekends running around doing fun things I can blog about later? After the week of November 14th, I will go back to doing them.

If you've been waiting for my attentions, I apologize. My life is insane. Just a few more weeks. That is my new mantra. I say it all the time.

Thanks for your patience.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dear Jennifer,

You are killing me right now. I hope you know that.

Sure, you were the one who was rammed by a giant 10-passenger van. Sure, you're the one actually looking at cars, picking a new car, and paying for the car...but STILL.

I think you KNOW I am sitting here at work, while all the little kiddies are at home, putting on costumes, being adorable and not at the library. I think you know I have nothing left to do today. And you are drawing out my curiosity for as long as possible.

You know I am unhinged, right, Jen? You have been around me enough to know that, right? Because I am totally unhinged, and right now, I am so curious, my entire body is vibrating. I don't think I'm even sitting on this chair, I am HOVERING ABOVE IT.

Please, please, please text me a picture of your car. Or come visit me with the new car, if you find one. Or call me and tell me you can't find a car. Or that you hate car shopping. I don't care.

The thing is, I don't actually have a life of my own. So I need to live through yours. I thought we'd talked about this--I am a hopeless case! I will spend every day curled up in front of my laptop, knitting. The only way I can see or experience anything is if you go see and experience things and then come tell me about all the things.


Only you can make this curiosity go away. ONLY YOU.

Your friend,


P.S. I am making this face.

It is my staring face. I will stop staring when you tell me what is going on.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Crying at the Circulation Desk...Again

I have the best parents in the whole entire world.

Enough said.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad, and thank you for everything you've done for me!

Heat Wrap Love

I decided after the misery of my last post, I owed you something relatively amusing. My funniest story I can't tell you because it's library-related, so I new I'd have to pick something else. So I have decided to tell you about my heat wrap.

(I love my heat wrap.)

Almost two weeks ago, I woke up Monday morning to find my spine had, somehow, turned to dust in the night.

I could not remember a creeper coming into my bedroom and stabbing me repeatedly in the spinal column, but clearly that was what had happened. I slithered out of bed onto the floor. The process took fifteen minutes. The process of readying myself for the day was sheer agony. I could not reach down further than my knees, because bending at the waist was impossible. I was forced to grab the heating pad from the foot of my bed (where it stays to keep my toes toasty) and sit on it until the pain abated enough for standing and walking.

That day at work, I tried to spend as much time as possible leaning against walls. That was the only non-painful activity. By the afternoon, I was dying. I slithered home, napped, woke up, took too many ibuprofen, slept some more, and by the next morning I was sure I was already dead.

"You need to go to the doctor," Mom said.

"What would they DO?" I asked. "Nothing is broken. It is a muscle spasm. They will tell me to use a heating pad and to rest. I am doing both of those things."

"Yeah," Mom replied. "You're right."

In the afternoon, the pain from my lower back had spread to include the spot between my shoulder blades. This meant no reaching forward. My arms needed to remain at my sides, so I could flex my shoulders backward, which relieved pain.

I was a walking corpse.

"Why are you so pale?" One coworker asked.

"You should go to a chiropractor," another advised.

What I really wanted was to be suspended from the ceiling by my ankles, so everything spine-related could slide back into place.

Then Mom walked into the library with a CVS bag.

"This is for you," she said. "It is like a heating pad without the cord."

She handed me a box. On the cover was a man wearing what looked like a bandage around his lower back. The bandage appeared to be giving off some kind of radiation.

"Doesn't Michael Jordan do commercials for these things?" I asked.

"No," Mom said. "He does commercials for the name brand ones."

So I took my knock-off heat wrap to the bathroom and fastened it around my lower back. I nearly needed to call in reinforcements.

Within an hour, the hurting had faded. Two hours took even more agony away, and soon I was creaky, but without pain! I could touch my own toes, and I hadn't done that for DAYS. Not only that, I could bend over the circulation desk and check out books. And I could SHELVE! When I got home, I celebrated my pain-free back by putting on socks.

"I love my heat wrap," I told Twitter. "It is like wearing a hug. It is the best invention of all time."

The person who invented the heat wrap should win a Nobel Prize. Seriously.

These things are fantastic. They never get too hot. They are like magic. Everyone should try them. I think they should come with Happy Meals at McDonald's.

What was my life like without the heat wrap? It must have been a cruel, wicked existence filled with lots of pointless suffering. Sort of like life before I was allowed to listen to mainstream music (thanks a lot for those years, Dad). Or life before I was allowed sugar (shudder).

The only sad part is that you can't just live in the heat wrap. It's an eight-hour time limit kind of thing. It might have to do with the muscles around your spine starting to cook after a while, or maybe it's the freaky chemicals they use to make the air warm up the wrap, but who cares? A little cooked-spine and dangerous toxins are a small price to pay for eternal happiness.

I have written several short songs for my heat wrap. But no, I am not going to sing them for you.

I think they will have heat wraps in heaven. I think the reason everyone is so happy in heaven is because there are heat wraps, and. therefore, no more suffering. No one feels pain, because they are nestled in heat wraps all the time. Pillows should be like heat wraps, too.

I love my heat wrap.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Air Machine Jerkwad and the Puddle of Suck

I had lunch today in North Manchester with Rachael and our friend Katherine, and as I pulled away from the coffee shop, I thought, "Gee, my tire seems funky."


Remember how my brakes crapped out? And how they cost $180 to fix? Well, then I discovered my tires had also crapped out in response to the brakes crapping out, which cost me ANOTHER $180. When you are a librarian, you do not make a lot of money. This was $360 I did not really have. Part came from my birthday money. Happy birthday new brakes. And then the rest came from the money I would have spent on food. Skinny Laura.

So, I thought it was all okay. I thought I could drag myself out of soul-crushing poverty (brought on by student loans and medical bills) and maybe not live from paycheck to paycheck. Nope.

Because my tire was funky.

An Afternoon with Laura

I got out my tire pressure checker dealie and used it on my tire.

It only had 10 lbs of pressure or air or whatever the heck tires have inside them left. It was supposed to have 35 lbs. That is 25 lbs of empty tire. I poked it with my finger and it went SKOOSH.

Now, that means Tire Repair in my book. And, since the last time I had tire repair, it was $180 of hunger, I was Not Happy.

Add to this the happenings of various other aspects of my life that I can't talk about here (hence my silence of late), and I became a quivering ball of stress. I wanted to crawl under a desk and read The Name of The Star, but instead I was drooled on and then rained on.

I have decided rain should be called "sky-drool."

Then the random Twitter Stranger of Car Tires told me in his or her tweet that car tires should be replaced in pairs. And I was like, "I hate my life and I am covered in sky-drool. Can I go home and sleep now?"

I am always stressed about my car because Dad so often becomes fatherly, walks over to me, and asks me, "Are you checking your oil?" or says, "You should change your oil ever 3000 miles, otherwise your engine will freeze up and then explode." When he sees me do something to help my car, he becomes very proud and hugs me, which he does not do so much anymore since I grew up.

People-Pleaser Laura takes these things to heart. People-Pleaser Laura was now VERY stressed out, because if the Car Tire Twitter Stranger said two tires at a time, chances were that was what Dad would say, and then I would feel like a puddle of human suck because I cannot afford two tires, I can barely afford even one.

The Air Machine Jerkwad

On my drive home, I knew I would have to stop to add more air to my tire, but I decided not to stop in the town where I work because I might encounter one of the potential-rapist town residents that I see all the time at work. At the very least, I would be changing my tire in complete darkness, because none of the area gas stations have their air machines under any kind of security light. They are off to the side of the gas station parking lots, next to the pay phones. Who the frack still uses a pay phone?

Potential-rapists, that's who.*

So I pulled my car into the parking lot of our local gas station/convenience store and pulled right up to the air machine, which is mounted on the side of the building right under giant lights. The store was also still open, and the lady working could see me through the window that was directly between us, above the air machine.** I parked my car across like three spaces, so I could access my tire, because if I had pulled straight into a spot, it would have been difficult to reach my back tire. I was being Smart.

Earlier that day, I had placed a quarter in a secure location within my purse to be used for air. But now the quarter was gone. I started searching.

My phone rang. It was Dad. "Your mom is worried!" He said. "You haven't come home yet!"

"Dad," I replied. "It is not even 30 minutes after work. I won't be late until after 8:30. Tell her to start worrying then. Now, where is my quarter?"

Finally, I found it. I opened my car door and saw a man.

He had, apparently, pulled his car in right behind me. So close that, in my rear-view mirror, it looked as if he had scraped the side of his car into my car as he parked. Then he darted out, locked his car, and put a quarter in the air machine and struggled to yank the hose as far as it would stretch to reach his back tires.

I should note, at this point, that there is no freaking way anyone could have seen my car parked as it was and NOT thought I was there to use the air machine. I was even angled so my rear tires were closer to the air machine than my front ones. No one parks as badly as I had without having a REASON.

I watched the man struggle. Then he walked over to my car. And he knocked on my window. I looked up.

"I can't reach my back tires," he reported through my closed window.

"You want me to move now?" I asked.


I couldn't. He had pulled in so closely behind me that I could not move my now-wedged car without colliding with his clearly-expensive sedan. He unlocked his car and backed it away. Then I pulled out and around in a giant circle, so I could then re-pull up and use the air machine once he had finished cutting in line.

He locked his car again. Who, in the empty parking lot, was he worried would steal his car? ME? He was standing right next to it with his keys in his hand!

He carefully checked the pressure on each tire. He put another quarter in (he'd wasted the first one). Then he quickly gave two of his tires about a half-second of air. Then he hung the hose back up and pealed out of the parking lot in his fancy car, which I now saw was a Lexus.

He did not even NEED air in his tires, I thought bitterly as I put another 10 lbs of air into my further-deflated tire. Don't people know how to be nice to each other? Was he in such a rush that he could not wait in THE LINE FOR THE AIR MACHINE? He had to use his stupid quarter to cut? No one is kind to each other anymore, ever. They just cheat with their cheating quarters and charge five dollars per month to have a debit card.

Then I drove home.

Puddle of Suck Laura

It is worth noting that when I get angry, I cry. I also cry when people ask me if I'm okay when they think I'm not, even when I actually am okay. Their concern makes me cry. Ball of Stress Laura was no different, except that it was, if anything, easier to tip over from choked up to full-on ugly-crying and total self-loathing.

I walked in the door. I must have looked angry or stressed or both.

"Are you okay?" Mom said, putting down her knitting.

I spilled out the horror of the day, starting with the story of the Air Machine Jerkwad and moving backward to the other miseries of my life, highlighting the drool, the soul-crushing poverty, and the likelihood that Dad would want two tires, not one, and that there was no freaking way I could ever afford it.

But because I am in my household, a family that, for some reason, is filled with people who really care about each member's feelings, that was not all. Minutes later, Paul walked into the room and asked me if I was okay.

"I'm fine," I said.

"Are you sure?" Paul said. "You sound angry." (It should be noted that, to Paul, I have two emotions: happy and FILLED WITH ALL-CONSUMING RAGE.)

"I can't talk about it," I said, eyes welling with still more tears. "I will tell you later."

"Okay," Paul said. He stood in my doorway for several agonizing minutes, staring at me and waiting for it to be later.

Because closed doors don't mean anything in my family, Paul left my door open instead of closing it again after he walked out.

Dad came in. Dad, who would certainly try to convince me I should buy two very expensive new tires, to whom I would have to explain my poverty. I focused on Twitter.

"How did it go at the gas station?" Dad asked.

"I put air in my tires," I said.

"You know," he continued. "The tire place has a payment plan. You can get both tires and then pay them back a bit at a time."

I exploded into more tears.

"I cannot owe more money," I said. "I owe too much already, especially with that bill from the doctor Mom lost that is now overdue.*** I know that you want me to get both tires. But I can't. I can't even get my oil changed and it REALLY needs it. I know you are disappointed in me. But that does not change anything. I do not have the money. Where would the money come from, Dad? Where would it come from? I am sorry you are disappointed."

"What?" Dad said.

"You want me to take care of my car, but I can't, because I am a disappointment and I suck."

[Cue the touching, family drama music, just like they used on Full House]

"Aww," Dad said. "I'm not disappointed in you! And you don't suck!"

"Yes, I do," I said. "Because I cannot take care of my car. And now I am a Puddle of Suck and someone needs to find a rubber sack to store me in until I re-congeal into a person."

"Awww," Dad said. He patted me on the back. "You don't suck. You can just have them FIX the tire. Or you can replace the one you need to, and take care of the other one later."

And then he said more soothing things, because I somehow ended up with a TV dad. And then there was a father/daughter hug, because that's the only way a scene like that could ever end.

So now you know, I ended up the only mean one in a family that should be featured on ABC family for being so well-adjusted and supportive.

Also, that dude from the gas station was a total piece of crap for making me dissolve into stress-tears like this. He needs to be tracked down and set on fire.

*Certainly, there are people who are not potential-rapists who use pay phones. Other examples of people who use pay phones: Old people, drifters, prison inmates, terrorists, international travelers...

**Someone to call the cops should the local serial killer decide to pick me up and take me to a shack and chain me to a wood-burning stove.

***Mom called me at work on Monday to tell me she had found a bill of mine shoved in with a pile of her paperwork. The bill was, naturally, past-due. She then called the doctor and explained it was all her fault and they put a note in my file so I would not be called by creditors about a bill I never knew existed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You May Have Already Heard This Story, But...

I feel like a complete idiot.

So you get to hear it again.

I wanted ice cream. I really did. And we'd had ice cream at work! It was in the freezer. So I decided to get some ice cream and eat it, to add to happiness levels. I opened the freezer door, because yummy ice cream is yummy. The only thing better than ice cream is unexplained bacon.

What I should have known is that, since the library is filled with other employees, and many of them enjoy ice cream much as I do, the ice cream would certainly be gone. But in my brain, if I'm not the ice-cream-eater, that means the ice cream remains as pristine and untouched as the driven snow.

The ice cream was gone.

Did I mention I had a teen program that night at work? Because I did. A whole herd of teens were coming in, and I was going to do some talking. And people were going to look at me. Keep that in mind.

When I was young, I wore glasses.

My glasses were rather strong, because my family is characterized by sight problems and hearts that suddenly explode. And also pale skin (but only on Mom's side).

One of the reasons PE was so freaking hard was peripheral vision. I didn't have any.

And my teachers seemed to have this philosophy, this teaching strategy, that I absolutely hated: If you don't feel like planning a lesson, just make the kids play dodgeball!

I hate stupid @#&*%*! dodgeball. You know what dodgeball is like for a kid like me? It is like a minefield, or like a firing squad. Dodgeball is giving the evil jocks permission to use nerds for target practice. Think hurting people is fun? Dodgeball is the game for you, and many of my school's future federal prisoners practiced their tactics for upcoming murders on hapless dorks like me.

The only thing funnier than raising welts the size of bowling ball on the extremities of your victim is making a welt fo the same size--on the FACE. See, giant arm-bruises can be covered. But two black eyes and a bloody lip? Not so much.

Would it surprise you to discover I once went through three pairs of glasses in one school year?

I did.

Because my face made such good target practice, my school churned out a few college athletes, and several psychopaths*.

While losing glasses can get expensive, it was nothing like the cost of having reconstructive surgery, so life went on. Glasses offer some protection.

But not when you're 27 and hungry for ice cream.

Can you see your nose? Right now, staring at this page while you read, do you see your nose? Just a little bit, I bet. But before I mentioned it, I bet you couldn't. Because your brain filters out your nose when it interprets what you see, so you don't walk around all the time, staring at the weird bump you have that people like but you hate.

Standing there, in front of the empty spot where the ice cream used to be, I kind of accidentally forgot I had a nose.

I closed the door to the freezer with frustration.

And then pain.

Blinding pain, the kind of pain that makes your eyes water. I curled over, leaning on the shelves next to the fridge. I waited for my nose to start bleeding (it didn't). I waited out the pain.

Then I opened the door again, took out some ice, stepped back super-far, and closed it.

That's right. I slammed the freezer door on my own nose.

Now, I totally lucked out. Because my nose bent sideways and TOUCHED MY CHEEK. If I had hit it higher, I think I would have broken it. Lower, there might have been cartiledge damage. But no. I was okay.

Meanwhile, my coworker (she'd just finished pouring vanilla extract down her body in a tragic baking accident) discovered my plight. Her response? She rolled her eyes and said something to the effect of, "Only you." Then she left me there, huddled against the cabinets, struggling to breathe through my rapidly-swelling nasal passages.

I expected my whole face to swell up. Instead of a nose, I would have a lumpy, purple-black tennis-ball-sized protrusion. But no. The only evidence was a little purple dot of shame. The dot has faded to a green dot of shame.

My question is this: How does a girl come back from this sort of thing? How can I ever trust myself to safely operate a door again?
Was this too much to ask for?

*Schools are now beginning to ban dodgeball. A-freakin'-men, people. Either that, or maybe the government could fund schools enough to let them spring for some flippin' FOAM balls instead of having kids play dodgeball with BASKETBALLS. Because basketballs HURT.

**You think I'm joking? Not so much. Behold the jewel of Jennifer's graduating class. See?

Photo: "Vanilla Ice Cream Cone" by Steven Depolo 2009

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

That's Just Disturbing

I cannot take naps. They do evil things to my brain.

"It's not forever," I explained to Paul. "It's not noise or mold. It's the sun. When it's summer, I can't sleep. In the winter, the angle of the planet lets me sleep, because it's darker and not lighter, and my brain likes that. Winter is to sleep the way summer is to awake-ness."

I didn't even know what the heck I was saying. When Paul nodded and backed slowly made sense. I would have backed away too. But I was stuck. My brain was inside me, and that meant I was stuck with it and its crazy analogies.

Paul was just trying to be nice. Paul is always nice. That's why when I get angry with him, I feel like I'm Satan, except human and a girl. When someone is nice to you all the time, and you aren't always a nice person, you tend to feel like you're evil and horrible in comparison.

Paul, thinking that my problems with insomnia were caused by external things (noise, allergies, and the like), had offered to switch rooms with me so I could have his much-quieter bedroom. But noise is not why I can't sleep, unless you count Dad's morning I-Just-Got-Gutted-By-a-Fillet-Knife Yawn, which would wake anyone up no matter how well they slept. Evisceration is loud.

What I was trying to do was explain that I go through spells of sleeplessness, but they pass if I'm patient. Somehow, I don't think my meaning was coming across, with my semi-paganistic ramblings.

I had come home so tired, Mom told me to go to my room and sleep. This was because I fell asleep with my head on my purse while sitting at the kitchen table.

But, as I mentioned, naps don't go well for me.

When I woke up, my brain had become soup. Everything I said was, essentially, Word Salad. Did I feel any better? No. Of course not.

If anything, I felt worse. For one thing, no one could understand me. Not even me.

But, to make matters worse, I'd had a terrible nightmare, something so bad it was beyond imagining, and it was all Dad's fault because his dream self was so disturbed and clearly evil.

Let me try to describe it for you.

Michael Flatley.

Dogs of the Dance.

Dream Dad, spurred on by his love for Irish music and his adoration of our dog, Darcy, had decided to, as a Christmas present for the family, take us all to see Michael Flatley's new musical masterwork, Dogs of the Dance*.

Think Lord of the Dance, except instead of people, there were dogs, all of them in traditional Irish costume.

Even if Dream Me had been able to handle the absolute torture of sitting through dogs dancing to Irish music, it became apparent to me from my seat in the theater that the dogs were looking mistreated. Apparently, the humane society had not been present during rehearsals, because those poor dogs looked hungry and sad. I wanted to rescue them. But before I could, Mom was waking me up, so the dogs were abandoned in the horror of my nightmare.

Poor dogs.

It was a bad dream.

I spent the rest of the evening trying to stay awake for a few more hours in order to improve my mood so I wouldn't fall asleep and be plagued by more nightmares involving dogs dancing to Celtic music.

No more naps for me.

Sadly, I can't let this go, because I want to know where Michael Flatley came from. I get the Irish music. Dad plays the Irish whistle. I even understand dreaming about dogs. I love dogs. But why Michael Flatley? WHY?

The only thing I can think of is that Maureen Johnson's Riverdance story emerged from my brain after a year of percolating in my subconscious. But who can be sure?

I'm a little afraid to sleep again.

*Let me make this clear: The REAL Michael Flatley is, to my knowledge, not planning any Irish dancing with dogs at any point in the future. It will not be coming to Broadway or to anywhere, because having dogs dance like Michael Flatley is a horrible, horrible idea and probably impossible.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Brown Driving Mocs

I love my brown driving mocs.

I found them at Target years ago, for, if I remember correctly, around $20. They reminded me of the J. Crew driving mocs I could never afford (unless I sold off some major organs), and I snatched them up and ran to the check-out like I was being pursued by rabid shoe-eating demons.

Women's Merona Micaela Moccasins from Target. Picture yoinked from Kaboodle, your source for shoes you wish you could still buy. Like these.

That is what they looked like back when they were all new and pretty.

They served me well. I wore them nearly every day for...more years than I probably should have.

See, I have this thing with fashion. I like fun, quirky, different things, and I like classic designs. That's normal, I suppose. The thing that may someday get me drug out to face Stacy and Clinton, though, is my firm belief that if I like it, and I think whatever article of clothing or accessory is cute, fun, and ME, then it is in style and no one can tell me otherwise.

Take that, Fashion Industry.

So when Target stopped selling knock-off driving mocs, and J. Crew stopped selling not-knock-off driving mocs, and all the other places stopped selling any kind of moc, except for that Minnetonka Moccasin place, I still kept right on wearing my brown driving mocs. Because I loved them.

The think with the little mocs was, they weren't made to last a girl five-ish years. Or six...and that's about how long I've had them.

They stretched. They got dirty. I cleaned them, added an insole, and kept wearing them. The insole rubbed my heels funny, so I got those little heel cushion things you stick on the inside of shoes, and that fixed it. They were fine...until the "suede" of the shoe absorbed the adhesive of the stick-on heel cushions, leaving dark marks on the back of each heel. Sticky dark marks.

I was very sad.


Clearly, I needed to replace the little brown driving mocs.

There was only one problem: No one wanted to sell me replacement mocs. No one. Not even Ebay.

I was ready to pay for these mocs, folks. I was ready. I had already planned it out. See, my love for the mocs was so great, I was willing to pay double, triple, or MORE for a new pair, a nicer pair, one that would presumably last me decades into the known future. I would pay for good shoes and then care for them like the children I don't have, with the kind of love a person only gives to their spawn (or their little furry dogs).

But no one was selling the adorable driving mocs. They were only selling bizarre, animal print ballet flats.

What was up with those? I am glad they are gone now.

The next year (because yes, we're talking years, here), I searched again. This time, I discovered that the flats had become solid colored, but still of the ballet variety. I gave up and bought a pair of those. They hurt.

So at the start of summer, with only the same, boring, solid-colored flats to be seen, I gave up and bought a nice black pair that didn't hurt my feet, thinking that they would be good enough to fill the yawning hole in my heart left behind by the driving mocs.


But then, just after I'd given up hope, I found them.

Frye Reagan Campus Driver in Saddle, via Zappos.

These are not exactly identical to my Target mocs, but they are very similar. In fact, I like these MORE.

So if you catch me admiring or petting my shoes in you know why.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poor Mom Can't Drive

Mom still has no driver's license.

First, it was because she had her car's brakes die. Then my car lost its brakes. Then Mom had a week of migraines. Then it was the week of my vacation. Last week.

Mom and I went up north to stay with my grandpa, where we planned on eating tons of awesome food (especially my current favorite sandwich place, Penn Station). When you live in the middle of nowhere, you plan your vacations around where you get to eat (And shop).

I drove us the 2.5 hours north. Then I drove us around while we ran errands for Grandpa.

The next day, when Dad called to announce he was having chest pains*, I drove Mom to get dinner out to distract her.

The day after that, I drove us back home, and then, the next day, to pick Dad up from Parkview. Then I drove us to Biaggi's, where we celebrated Dad's return to the land of the healthy by eating things covered in cream sauce.

During all that, Mom realized how...impractical it was to not have a driver's license. So we resolved to renew it on Monday. That was the plan. Nothing could interrupt the plan.

Except for maybe this.

And this.

Do you see it?

Here's a hint. We went on a Monday.

Which means the hour we spent sitting, stuck in traffic was all for nothing.

*Dad is totally fine. He had a HEART SPASM, which he claims I've been giving him for years, so this one is no different from any other day of the week except for the fact that we got this one on an EKG.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Making Cake

Once upon a time, Rachael brought cake to knit night. Raspberry buttermilk cake. She said she brought it for everyone, but I think we all know, deep down, that she really brought it for me, so I could gobble it down like a pig, then beg for the recipe so I could eat the cake at home, thereby hiding the shame that comes from eating an entire cake by myself.

I realized this Monday that I'd purchased buttermilk for another recipe, which meant I had buttermilk LEFT OVER, and in my life, that means I get to make that cake again. This time, I would throw in some of the blueberries we have frozen. I took out a cup and thawed them.

Then I measured out the flower. Then the sugar, then I grabbed an egg, the buttermilk, and I reached for the butter.

We had no butter.

Well, we had a little tiny butter lump, sitting on a butter dish, fused to the dish by the butter Mom had melted when trying to get the butter soft enough to spread.

I could not make my cake.

I really wanted that cake.

Maybe if my urge to bake came at, say, mid-afternoon instead of at 7:00 p.m. when the convenience store has already closed, I would have been able to leap into the car to go GET the butter, but I was screwed. There was no butter to be had unless I went to an actual grocery store, and, as I've complained before, the nearest one of THOSE is 30 minutes from my house.

I really wanted cake. IMMEDIATELY.

Then I remembered: The heavy cream!

As some of my fellow country-folk will remember, back in the fourth grade, butter-making was kind of a THING. See, in fourth grade, if you live in Indiana, you learn Indiana history (as opposed to New Jersey history or Oregon history). And learning about Indiana history means herding together a group of ten year-olds, dressing them like pilgrims, and making them SQUARE DANCE. We also learned things like where the Indiana capitol USED to be (who cares?) and teachers try to convince us that, even though Lincoln was totally from Illinois, he was secretly from Indiana, since he lived here for like two weeks or something. After that there are funnel cakes, and you can go home and hurl your bonnet across the room, confident in the knowledge that, no matter how tasty, you will never be forced to pull taffy again.

At any rate, in the fourth grade, somebody had the brilliant idea to teach us how to churn our own butter, something they accomplished by handing out glass jars filled with cream and a single marble. They then forced us to shake the jar around until the marble made the cream turn to butter.

How well did that work, you ask? NOT WELL AT ALL. Imagine getting a group of kids, forcing them to dance, then promising them taffy and a funnel cake, if only the butter could be churned first. Then imagine ten kids, shaking glass jars around vigorously, and, fuelled by hatred (they did have to square dance), imagine the children leaping, running around the table, and jumping up and down rather than continue the shaking, because NOTHING WAS HAPPENING.

Cut to Laura, age 22, sitting in the backseat of a car with her parents. You see, it was Christmas time, and Paul couldn't leave home for whatever reason (probably so he could cling to whatever shreds of dignity he still had left), and we were all headed to Connor Prairie.

If you're not from Indiana, you likely have not heard of Connor Prairie. It is a refurbished farm from way-back-when, and locals are hired to dress up and pretend to be from 100 years ago. Basically, a museum, only the exhibits work and are operated by people acting like they have no idea what a cell phone is, even if they likely have one stored on their person, perhaps under their corset.

It's actually pretty fun.

The church had given us a trip there as our family Christmas present. They thought since Dad secretly believes he would have been a tough-guy mountain-man who trudged through the wilds with a flintlock rifle and killed wolves with a club and a hunting knife, he'd get a kick out of seeing what life was really like back then. And we all got to go along. The church is so sweet to us.

So we drove to Connor Prairie and met up with our guide, a 60-something man who was just snarky enough for me to like him. We spent the evening, along with a few other families, cooking a meal the way meals were made in ages past, then eating our handiwork. I spent my time quoting literature back and forth with our guide in a rather epic verbal-sparring match. It was fun.

The second we walked into the kitchen, they'd handed Mom a butter churn and sent her to the corner. My job had been to shred cabbage. It took like five minutes. Probably less, because, well, I can use a knife. Then I went to help Mom.

To say that the entire group was waiting for Mom to finish churning the butter would be an understatement. No matter what she did, NOTHING HAPPENED.

"Do you think the cream is defective?" She asked. "Maybe it's bad cream."

We decided to take turns.

"The fire is too hot," I said. "It's making the fat in the cream stay liquid instead of becoming solid!"

"The room is too cold," Mom said. "It's making the heavy cream whipped instead of separating it!"

It must have taken 45 minutes to churn that flipping butter. Eventually, the cook took pity on us and grabbed the churn. She had butter in 30 seconds. I think maybe she used magic.

After that, she showed me how to press the remaining liquid--the buttermilk--out of the butter, so it would be ready for consumption. She also showed me how to mold it into a pretty shape.

And after that, I decided butter-making was pretty darn cool.

So when I discovered we were out of butter and spied the heavy cream, I thought, "We are in business."

I broke out the electric mixer. Butter-making is much easier with an electric mixer, I have learned. I dumped the cream into a bowl. Then I cranked that mixer up high.

It should be noted that, when using a mixer to make butter, a splash guard is...handy. In my case, my laptop served as a splash guard, as did my shirt, the fridge, and the wall. It's also helpful to have your bowl chilled to start with, or so I've been told.

As I churned my butter, I noticed something strange. The mixer was dissolving in my hand. Well, not exactly dissolving, but the casing had come un-cased, and the motor was exposed. So instead of the bowl, I started holding the casing together as well as the handle of the mixer. And if you've ever used an electric mixer, you know how important it is to hold the bowl. Oops.

I needed 1/4 cup of butter. My cream yielded 1/4 cup of butter. Exactly.

After all that, the cake went together rather easily. It finally came out of the oven at 10:30 p.m., but it was good cake. And it had vanished by morning.

Make your own butter.

Make your own cake.

Just try to start a little earlier than I did.

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Car Is Trying to Kill Me: Part Two

Read the first half of this saga here.

I made the mistake of thinking everything was going to be okay.

My car has what my brother has affectionately termed, "ghetto brakes." The name comes from his former roommate, Jerome, who grew up in what Fort Wayne has that passes for a ghetto. Since I have a friend who was shot in the face just for opening his front door in Fort Wayne*, I'd imagine it sort of does have a bad part of town, and if Jerome says he grew up there, I suppose I believe him. But I will never let him pull my teeth when he becomes a dentist, even if he does think up ingenious solutions to problems. This is because, despite his claims, pouring a cup of water on the floor and stomping on the liquid does not count as washing the carpet. I don't know what the tooth equivalent of that is, and I don't want to find out.

My brakes got their nickname due to the squeaking. Screeching, really. I had them taken apart and reassembled three times before I gave up and accepted the noise as a part of life. According to Expert Opinion, the screech occurred due to dirt and grime that became trapped in the rotors. They would get cleaned out, but the screech would come back a few days later. You would have given up too, if you had to go without your car so much.

Noisy or not, they were good, reliable brakes. They worked well, even if they were so loud I stopped going through drive-thru windows out of shame.

When Mom's brakes went out last Saturday, I got into my car with confidence, knowing that MY brakes were loud but TRUSTWORTHY. My car would never hurt me. My car LOVES me.

That is a lie.

Today I left work to drop off my car payment. See how responsible I am? But after I handed off the check, I noticed a change in the behavior of my brakes. By that, I mean they weren't behaving. At all.

Again, when I pressed the pedal, it swooshed down to the floor of the car with no resistance. The car continued to roll forward determinedly, leaving me grinding my teeth down to nubs from my place in the driver's seat.

"This can't be happening," I said out loud. "It is too much of a coincidence for my car and Mom's car to fail within the same week."

But sure enough, it WAS happening. At the next stop light, which was (mercifully) green, I continued to roll into the intersection. There I waited to make my turn, then made my way into a parking spot at the library. Once there, I applied my emergency brake, put the car in park, and turned it off. Still sitting inside, I started making phone calls.

The first was to my dad, as it is each time a horrible car-related thing happens. Who knows why. It isn't as if he can fix cars or tow them or even offer reassurance, but he changes a mean tire, and his jumper-cable skills are legendary throughout the county.

I reached his voicemail, and the message went something like this:

"Hey Dad. You know how Mom and I have identical cars? Well. We also have identical car problems, because that brake thing that happened to her car is now happening to mine. My car is like death on wheels. It is like one of those Loony-Tune giant snowball things, only in summer instead of winter. I don't know if you want to pick it up and drive it home or have it towed. You can do either. But I wouldn't drive it if I were you. You shouldn't drive it. Just have it towed. Don't drive it. It's deadly. I am not even kidding you. This car will kill you dead. I'm parking it and leaving it. You shouldn't touch it. Anyway. Bye."

Then I hung up the phone and called my car guy. I reached his voicemail.

"Hello!" I shouted into the phone because my car guy is basically deaf, which is why he could not hear the screeching and therefore why the screeching was never repaired. "It's Laura! Kelly's daughter! You fixed my mother's car! But now my car is having the same problem! Can you come tow it?! It is at the library! Call me back if you have questions!"

Except the instant the beep sounded, the voicemail box said, "Goodbye." And I talked for a few seconds and moved the phone from my ear, only to discover the voicemail box thing had hung up on me while I was talking. So it recorded nothing.

I stared at my phone. Then I called home. Mom answered.

"Mom?" I said. "My brakes failed just like yours. And now it is at work. But I will need a ride home at five."

Of course, Mom cannot drive anyone anywhere, including herself, because she let her license expire.

"Paul?" Mom called. "Can you drive Laura home at five?"

There was a mumbled response.

"Paul will come pick you up at five," Mom said.

"Thank you," I told her. Then I hung up. I then sent Dad a text message.

"I called the car guy, but his voicemail box must have been full or something, because it hung up on me. So I didn't reach him. But I will try again. But maybe you should try too. And you can call me back at the work number. But make sure you ask for me so they will transfer you. Also I have a ride home."

It must have been longer than that, because it sent as three text messages and not one.

Moments later, I was calling my car guy again. This time his voicemail let me leave a message. "It's Laura. Can you pick up my car from the library? It's Laura. Kelly's daughter. The pastor. That Kelly." It went on for a while after that, including references to Mom's car, brake lines, towing, and how to properly reach me via the library phone system ("call the library. Ask for Laura and they will transfer you. Or you can ask for the Children's Room. That would work,too. But make sure you don't just talk to the first person who picks up, because they will have no idea what you're talking about...").

Then, Dad called back. "I will come and get you," he said.

"No," I replied. "Paul is coming. And anyway, I am not going home until five."

"Oh," Dad said. "I will try to reach the car guy. But he might be in Indy. He goes there practically twice a week for auctions."

"Okay," I said. "I will just leave my car here."

"Good. We shouldn't drive it around like that."

"No," I said.

"But I hate to tell you this," he continued. "You're going to have to leave your car unlocked. And put the keys under the mat."

Now. The library isn't in the most horrible neighborhood on Earth, mostly because this is not a big town or even a small one. It is more a settlement than anything. We are lucky to have a Walmart. Or a zip code. But what we do have is drugs, and lots of them, especially heroin. You would be shocked to find out how much drug activity there is in this area. SHOCKED. Needless to say, if anything of value is left in a vehicle in our parking lot, and, if said vehicle is left unlocked, the thing of value will no longer be there when its owner returns to the car.

The good news would be, if someone stole my car, it would be easy to find. My car would be a block or two down the street, wrapped around a tree or telephone pole, or embedded in a shop window or brick wall.

"Dad," I said. "I can leave my car here. I can leave my keys inside. But I cannot leave my keys in my car if I want to come back and find my car again. Either it will be stolen, or people will get inside it and smoke and drink and maybe do unspeakable things in the backseat."

"Okay," Dad said.

"We can drop the keys off tomorrow. And I will leave a set here inside the building with a note on them."

We hung up. Then he called back, the car guy was going to try to come today, before five. This was good news. Then he called back again to tell me the car guy was on his way. This was better news.

As of now, I have a set of keys in my pocket, ready to be handed off to the car guy the instant he comes for them. Hopefully, I will get my car BACK before I need it for something important, but it has grounded me for the weekend, trapping me at home with Netflix and Star Trek: Voyager instead of allowing me to do what I'd WANTED to do, which was head to Best Buy to use my birthday money to get the radio fixed. Now my birthday money might go toward replacing the brake lines. Yay.

Grown-up birthdays are no fun.

*This was a couple of years ago. He made a full recovery. The motive was robbery. The guys stole a VCR. Really. Not even a DVD player

Birthday cake picture © Will Clayton

My Car Is Trying To Kill Me: Part One

Mom let her driver's license expire, so I was playing chauffeur. This involved me driving to the grocery store, first stopping at what Mom calls her "craft store," which is actually a little gift shop that sells rustic-style decor items, like the giant crocks Mom now uses to hold the potatoes and onions (and no, I do not mean those hideous shoes).

(I wish.)

I drove, and I spent most of the time talking about horribly depressing things, which seems to have become my new habit, likely because there are so many depressing things happening to people I know lately.

Mom and I have invented a new driving game, a game that certainly would work nowhere on Earth so well as it does in our part of Indiana. You see, there are these giant metal stars...who knows where they come from. And people take these stars and they mount them on the side of their barn or their house, and then the neighbors see the star and think they had better do the same, so now there are billions of stars all over Indiana, firmly attached to any building that stands still long enough for someone to approach it with an electric drill.

The game we have invented involves those stars. When we see one, we half-heartedly swat each other on the arm and announce, "STAR." It is a rather stupid game. Mostly it is to keep a running tally of the number of these stars, in much the same way as the game "How Many Dresses?" kept that Jennifer Love Hewitt show from being as tediously boring as it was. Her character had clearly suffered a psychotic break, to see dead people all the time like that. I forget the name of the show--Mom and I just called it "How Many Dresses?" (It is worth mentioning that no one WINS these games. They only exist to pass time.)

I think all the stars originated from this crafty store, though, because stars are everywhere inside. They were also playing the most horrific country music of all time that day, this man with an absurdly low voice, singing about how it's the end times RIGHT NOW, and we are about to be raptured at any second.

When Mom and I had finally escaped (with a rug for the kitchen floor), we hopped back in the car to drive across the parking lot to the grocery store, because it was nine billion degrees outside and no way were we walking.

As I drove from one parking space to another, I noticed something was WRONG. Very wrong.

I would press on the brake pedal and push it all the way down to floor. Then we would start slowing down. I discovered this as I pulled into a parking place, so I wasn't SURE there was a problem. It just felt strange, stopping.

When we'd gotten our groceries, I drove the car up toward the store to pick up a tank of propane for the grill. And was the car stopping? Not so much.

I knew the problem was serious when I stood on the brake pedal, only to have the car roll forward several more feet before beginning to slow down.

We did the only thing we could do, given the circumstances. We called Dad and told him to come rescue us.

I don't mean to tell you that Dad can FIX cars...because he can't. What he CAN do is DRIVE a car when you think that driving it will lead to your untimely death. So we stopped at the county's school administration offices and waited for Dad.

And he arrived.

And he added brake fluid.

And nothing happened.

He then drove the car home with Mom as I followed. I had warned him that the car pulled into the opposite lane when the brakes were utilized. What I didn't know was that the brake light on the passenger's side wasn't even bothering to turn on when the pedal was pressed. Basically, half the brakes were not even getting the signal to stop. This was a...problem. To say the least.

So we drove home slowly, Dad jerking to the left each time he applied the brakes, me following with my emergency flasher-dealies going just in case people didn't get the hint from our shockingly slow pace.

The next day, Car Guy came and towed the car away. Mere days later, we were alerted that the car was fixed, and it came home.

Everything was better.

Stop Sign photograph © Kt Ann

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's (almost) my birthday. Now what?

Next Wednesday is my birthday, everyone. Yay.

For the first time in my entire life, I feel well, apathetic about my birthday. I have no emotion about it whatsoever. I am not excited, because I have to work that day from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (with two special programs during the day), which does away with any possibility of fun. I am not unhappy, because I really don't care how old or young I am. I am nothing.

That's what I find depressing.

Shouldn't birthdays be fun? Shouldn't I be excited about it? I feel like I SHOULD be. But that's not happening. Does this mean my birthday will not be happy?

I feel like a complete downer. Sorry. I promise I will be funny again, when I am less downtrodden by the summer reading program and miserable heat.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Toys Jennifer Should Waste Money On

Sometimes I find toys I think Jennifer should have in her house. They are always dorky, always musical, and just nerdy enough to make me excessively happy.

Usually, I forget to show these things to Jen, and when I remember, the little limited-edition toys are gone forever, and Jen is without things I think are very necessary to her happiness and well being, if not her very survival.

It's like regular ice, except COOLER.

This was the first toy I found while at Target, and the only one I think you shouldn't live without. The others are cool, sure, but this is YOU, Jen. I can see you with your guitar, playing and singing, drinking chai you stir with a guitar ice-cube-stirrer. OR you could put juice in the little trays and have a guitar popsicle. The possibilities are endless.

Cool Jazz Ice Cube Tray, Amazon and Target stores, by Fred

Earbuds with Personality!

Here is an obvious example. These little ear buds look like the volume knobs on an old record player! Aren't they fantastic? They're musical and they play music!

Volume Knob Earbuds, Target stores, Urban D├ęcor Collection

Musical Pans (for nephews OR music teacher aunts)!

Who said wooden spoons had to be boring? Now they can be REAL INSTRUMENTS, because they are drumsticks, see? Just like band class, only you can flip these around and use them for eating! Well, serving. But still! It makes every food cooler--would you rather have a salad, or a ROCK AND ROLL salad? What band nerd wouldn't want to play with these?

Fred Mix Stix Spoons: Amazon and Target stores, by Fred

Too much of a good thing? I think NOT.

Really, why should you just have fun when you're COOKING? You should have fun while you're eating, too! With chopsticks. DRUMSTICK chopsticks! Don't you think dinner would taste better with these? I do, Jen. I do.

Beat It Chopsticks Set: Amazon, by Fred

Give Piece a Chance.

It's a peace sign cake pan! So you can have a piece of cake! Get it?

Peace of Cake Novelty Baking Pan: Amazon, by Fred

(This is when I just started playing on Amazon and the Fred and Friends website.)

Your Father's (or MY Father's) Next Birthday/Christmas Present...

Now, I'm not going to pretend I don't want these too, because I do. Still, you don't have a gun and neither do I, but your dad does, so I thought this would work for a gag gift for him. They are, frankly, hilarious and completely made of awesome. Think of the puns. Mobsters say they're going to "ice" someone, and they mean KILL.

They have brains too, Jen. Ice cube BRAINS. And sinking Titanics. That's IRONIC. And those weird stone heads from that ancient civilization, and coffee beans (cool beans, get it?), and jewels! They even have Lego ice cube trays! I get a strange kind of joy from these. JOY, Jen. Why can't ice be used to make us all happier?

Freeze Handgun-Shaped Ice-Cube Tray: Amazon, by Fred

Behold the Adorable!

Speaking of presents for people you love, how about these for your nephews? Aren't they cute? SO CUTE. Won't that help them eat their veggies? Maybe I'll try getting Paul a set...

Constructive Eating Utensil Set: Amazon, by Constructive Eating