stomach self-pumping.

A warning to those with weak stomachs: this entry is all about vomit.

Monday night was really the first time I'd ever been sick by myself. I've lied half-dead in bed alone during the day and I've certainly had my share of rotten colds, but I've never been all-out sick and alone. No boyfriend, no roommates, most importantly no mother.

I know some people who relish being alone when they are sick. Granted, most of these people have children. But some people just like it anyway. This is not my family's way of being sick. We got blankets, juice, pats on the head, sodas, and best of all, sympathy. We didn't have to do anything to take care of ourselves, or anything at all. Our job was to be miserable. This is not to say that we were smothered. Unless we wanted to be smothered, and then we most graciously were.

We had a vomit pan. I'd always kinda figured that this was universal, that every family had a vomit pan. I've come to realize that more and more things that my family did are not universal. Casey was completely appalled at the idea of a vomit pan. Particularly when I told him that it was a regular pan that we also used for cooking. I mean, really, we washed it.

It was always the same pan. My mom has a set of pans, I think, because they're all kinda the same, but different sizes. The vomit pan was chosen as such because it was just the right size to be sure and not miss, but without being cumbersome. And if you ever threw up more than the vomit pan could contain, then you had more problems than just a mess on your hands. The vomit pan had a dent in the bottom, about the size of a quarter.

When I'm well, I can still stick my face close to that pan and feel a little queasy.

The most miserable part of Monday evening was that after I'd emptied the contents of my stomach into the pan, I had to go empty it myself and then get my own drink of water. It was insult to injury. It was in the middle of the night, so I couldn't really call home and get some sympathy and then allow my mom to offer to come take care of me, which I would refuse to let her do. No one even called me a poor sweet baby.

My life is so hard.

And then I went home and was sick again. (Go ahead, ask me how Christmas dinner was.) But this time, I did it in style. It was the middle of the night, and I was staring at the dent in the vomit pan, wondering if my stomach was actually going to follow throw with its threats to hurl. And then a new worry entered my mind: what if Mama didn't hear?

My mom used to wake up at the slightest noise. If a kid threw up in the night, she woke up and came running. She woke up when we got up and got a drink of water, she woke up when we came in from being out with friends. It might be a mother thing. But lately, she's been sleeping more heavily or something. Maybe Daddy's snores drown the other noises out, in which case, if the fire alarm ever goes off, they are in trouble. She no longer woke up when I came in from being out, and I wondered the other night if she would wake up when her poor sweet baby was sick.

And then I finally did throw up, and I heard the sweet, sweet sound of my dad's tie rack banging on my parents' bedroom door as it was opened quickly followed by stockinged footsteps. And when I was done, I laid back and waited to die while my mother emptied the pan, got me a drink of water, and patted me on the head.

If one has to get sick, this is the way to do it. I just wonder how old I have to get before I can't get away with this anymore. I'm going to have a hard time selling Casey on the idea of keeping a designated vomit pan around, even if I promised never to cook with it. Could I train my children to do this?

And now you know why I haven't written in a week. I wrote most of this in my head as it hovered over a pan with a dent in the bottom. Now don't you feel bad about all the threatening phone calls?


wonderful granddaughter, special girl.

When my grandmother sends me a card, it's always one with a pretty picture on the front and a nice message on the inside, sometimes a message so long it's a wonder anyone ever stuck around to read it. But I always read it, no matter how long, even if it is written in loopy script that is very attractive and hard to read, because I know that my grandmother read it and that she meant every word that the card-writer wrote.

She writes "Dear Sandra," at the top, before the message, as if she wanted to write me a letter, but happened to find this card which said everything she wanted to say anyway. If there are important parts of the message, she underlines them for emphasis. Usually the underlined parts say things like "wonderful granddaughter" or "special girl" or something else complimentary.

At the bottom, she will usually add her own message, words that she wanted to say, but apparently could find no card that said it. They tell me that she loves me and she hopes I am doing well, and usually something in particular about an interest of mine to show me that she remembers little things about me and that she cares. She may call me wonderful and special a little more, and underline her own words.

Then she signs it in her nice grandmother handwriting and sends it to me, where I receive it. I read it, the whole thing, and it makes me smile at the sweet way that my grandmother sends cards.

I don't send cards with long messages. I put those down without reading them all the way through in the store. I send cards that have a joke or maybe a silly picture on them. I never underline or put a greeting at the top.

I think someday, maybe when I am a grandmother, I will send cards with long messages with underlined parts. I may underline random things just to see if my grandchildren are paying attention. And then they will get them and read them all, even if the card happens to contain Hamlet in its entirety, because their grandmother sent it.


getting crabs.

Yesterday, Ashley and I took a day of Colossal Christmas Shopping. And since it is the holidays, that pretty much means retail shopping.

We headed down to Winston-Salem, where they have a mall that is bigger than any mall needs to be. I won't go into the time we spent trodding around, looking at half a million handbags with initials on them, wondering if a big group of Catherines, Claires, and Cindys had come through just before us and taken the bags she could buy for her sister. Just so you know, things with your first initial on them are so in this year.

We were in the bottom corner of the mall, the very last few stores, when I saw this little booth in the middle of the hall that proclaimed "HERMIT CRABS". I was fascinated. It was true that I had not yet bought anything for my nephews Sidney and Lincoln. It's true that I'm really not even required to buy them anything, cause they're little and I'm a slacker college student. But I really wanted to buy them some hermit crabs, because that is exactly the kind of thing a Cool Aunt Sandra would do.

These crabs, they had a gimmick. Their shells were painted. Some were solid color, but most of them had a picture of Santa or Spiderman or whatever on them in very bright colors. The man running the booth, a young Latino in a Pink Floyd shirt, tried to help me pick out a crab by pointing to the ones that little boys would like. But those shells were so unnatural, I couldn't bear to get one. I managed to find two crabs with seashells that looked like seashells instead of billboards. I got two because that was the deal: two crabs, a little food, a sponge, and a small cage. It only occurred to me after I left that I may have overpayed, as it was a booth in the mall and I probably could have shopped around and bought a couple of crabs for less. But hey, overpaying is the spirit of Christmas, and I think the boys will love them, so it's all good.

I am fascinated by these crabs. I never knew hermit crabs to be quite so active, or even quite so ugly. I set up their cage last night and and then just watched them for a while. They hide in their shell if you move around, but after a few seconds they pop out and walk around, accepting you as part of the scenary.

Now I want to keep them. I'm not going to, because I really don't have room for them. And I don't have a great history with pets, although the pet you feed every couple of days is probably the best choice for me. But I'm going to be strong and hand them over to my nephews to be fascinated with.

Now I am going to go to a couple of thrift stores and see if I can't find a bigger aquarium. And some presents for people who probably do not want hermit crabs.


plu 4080 peru.

I'm trying to focus on the fact that after Tuesday, I can sleep til noon and then lie around in my pajamas and eat ice cream all day long if I so desire. I'm taking a break from the pathetic attempt at studying Calculus that I made earlier to write a little something before I make yet another pathetic attempt to study Calculus. I'm going to throw up some little tidbits tonight, not anything of real value or even things that go together.

I've been collecting asparagus bands. Asparagus comes in bunches when you buy it at the store, and the stalks are held together by these colored rubber bands that say the produce number, hence how I know the bands are from asparagus (It's 4080, for all you produce trivia buffs out there). Every weekend, usually on Sundays when the produce truck comes, I find these bands lying around the restaurant. The first time I wore one on my wrist and gave the others I found to other servers, since they are the exact perfect size to stay put on my wrist without cutting off any circulation. We made an asparagus club. I also made some remark about how they look like the rubber bands they use to castrate goats and was rewarded with looks of absolute horror from the guys. Now I just pick them up and put them on out of habit. And now that it's officially a collection, I'm stuck with them. And really, what do you do with purple rubber bands that say "PLU 4080 PERU" on them? I myself put them in a jar on my desk.

I have bought exactly one Christmas present, a hideously tacky belt buckle for Nick which he will love and Ashley will hate. I know what two more presents are going to be, but I'm at a loss for the rest of them. Casey in particular is always difficult to buy for, not because he doesn't have any interests, but that they seem to be of an expensive nature. I told him I was going to get him a fiancee for Christmas, and then he asked me if she was going to be hot. Such a funny boy. Anyway, I'm planning on wandering around some stores later this week in hopes of stumbling onto something appropriate for anyone on my list, otherwise everyone is getting a pretty wine bottle. An empty one.

The slow business is starting to weed out the servers at work. A few people have already quit, and several more are talking about doing it after New Year's once the holiday rush is over. I've resigned myself to working there til I graduate, but it's sad to see all these people go. I can understand it, though. Today, four servers sat on the steps down to the sunroom for about two hours and whined, until Josh got the idea to walk down the street and buy us all fudge. Joe and Lynn didn't even realize he had been gone until he came back laden with fudge. The day wasn't a total waste, as I did get to go home early after making my $14.

I didn't send out Christmas cards this year, which is very sad. There really just wasn't time. I write a personal message on all of them, and sometimes it takes a minute or two to be witty, even for me. Plus, I write a holiday message to the postal workers on the envelopes. I blame this habit on my mother for two reasons: 1.) She is a postal worker, and 2.) she is part of the reason I'm goofy like that. But anyway, all that takes time, and I was too busy with silly things like class projects and papers. I feel vaguely guilty about it, but they never send cards back anyway, the jerks. I'll make it up next year by sending everyone an asparagus band.

That's it for tonight, folks. Hope you learned something.


from my head down to my legs.

So there's this party this evening, actually, it's more of a get-together. A potluck get-together, where there will be people I know and like. A true Methodist never says no to potluck.

I guess it's a Christmas deal, but I decided to make devilled eggs, because they're good, because they are what make potluck. Plus, they look easy enough.

Now, I've never made devilled eggs, but I have my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with the red gingham cover that will tell me what to do down to the simplest part, just in case I have to consult it on, say, how to hard-boil eggs. Plus, Ashley is here, and she can stand by and make sure I don't do anything stupid.

The point here is that I don't cook much. I really don't cook ever, and while things I make generally taste good, they look a bit rough and take about three times the amount of time to make than they should. But I'm getting there.

I was also undertaking eggnog. Someone suggested it, and I volunteered to bring some, thinking I would just pick some up at the store. Then they said it was much better to make it, and I was stuck. Then there was a lengthy discussion on salmonella, and I, with my great love of cookie dough and cake batter, did not partake. I have strong opinions regarding raw eggs and their consumption, and I didn't want to hurt any feelings.

So Ashley and I made a list of what we needed and headed down to the Winn-Dixie to pick up our items. We bought 3 dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, paprika, whipping cream, and nutmeg, which, by the way, is ridiculously expensive. But I was feeling the Christmas spirit and only grumbled when I didn't think anyone could hear me.

And then the joyous ritual of making holiday party food began. Except not. It would be inaccurate to say that I had two left hands in the kitchen, even with apologies to all the southpaws that such a phrase would offend. It would be much more accurate to say that I had no hands at all.

I'm pretty useless. But I try hard, and I want to do it. But still, Ashley did most of the work. She showed me the best way to peel hard-boiled eggs and the proper way to fill the eggs. I'm not sure who teaches her all these little tricks, but I sure would have appreciated it if they taught me some. I tried to do as much as I could, but in some cases it was near hopeless. After crushing the first egg in my hands, I separated one egg successfully to prove that I could and then let her take care of the rest.

We were both frustrated by the end. I felt like I was about five years old. I would try to do something, and she would ask if I knew how. Which would make sense, if I were not cutting eggs in half. There's a difference between inept and mentally disabled.

But you have to give her credit for doing so much of the work and remaining relatively patient making food for a party she wasn't even attending. And I would like to have done it all myself, but it would not have turned out as nicely as it did. If I were just making it for myself, that wouldn't matter, but others probably don't find egg shells in their food as charming as I do.

The egg nog will be tricky. It's chilling right now, but I have to finish it myself, since I'll have to do it at the party itself (Notice my frustration with not being able to do enough and how well it goes with my fear of doing anything by myself). I'm preparing to make a big fool of myself, so I'm going early to limit the crowd. We'll see.



why your coffee cup is empty.

Public radio was on while I was cutting a piece of cheesecake, not for me, for the lady at table 32, though I had high hopes of being able to scrape some cake off of the knife I was using when I was done, and Josh came running out of the kitchen, grabbed me by the hand and told me to come on, that there was Irish music playing, and we ran together to the back, the two of us until we passed Matt and I grabbed his arm and it was the three of us, a chain of running servers in matching white shirts, black pants and pinstripe aprons, except for Josh, because he never wears his apron, and then we got to the kitchen and did Irish jigs and also some Russian ones once we ran out of Irish jig moves, and it's days like these that I love my job.


the cream of the crop.

I think the kind of people that stack creamers are very special people indeed.

Maybe I am biased. I am a creamer-stacker, always have been. But every creamer-stacker always has been, for those who stack creamers are born, not made.

For those of you who have been trodding clueless through the past two paragraphs, allow me to explain. By creamers I mean those little tiny cups of half and half you get at restaurants with your coffee. You generally get two or three. I always ask for more, because I like my coffee how I like my men: pale and sweet. Some people let the creamers sit there while they look out the window or talk to someone. How they manage to concentrate on anything else while there are creamers there, so little and so stackable, is completely beyond me.

I find myself unable to resist the creamer stacking temptation. I may not reach for them as soon as they are put before me, but eventually I'll look down and realize that I'm fidgeting with one of those little packets of half and half goodness. And then I'll make a tower. If the server has already brought me the multitudes of creamers that I no doubt asked for, then I'll make a pyramid.

For the extrememly neurotic, me for instance, there are specific ways one must stack a creamer. I think this is where you can tell the serial-stackers from the bored. On these creamers, there is a narrower end which makes the base. The top, which is where you pull back the paper to open the creamer, is much wider. When you stack a tower, you must stack base to base and top to top. When you make a pyramid, all participating creamers must be top-down. It is only correct.

To be honest, before I started working breakfasts, I thought I was crazy and alone in my creamer-stacking madness. You may now feel the same. But I tell you, I'm not alone. I tend to overburden my customers with creamers, as when they ask for more, by golly I give them a couple of handfuls worth, to make up for all the servers who gave me one or two when I clearly needed a bushel.

I had a customer proudly show me a set of double towers two weeks ago. Yesterday, a guy made a pyramid while the creamers were still in the bowl I served them in, which was smaller than the base of the pyramid. I knew I was in the presence of a master.

Since I have discovered that there are others in the order, I have taken heart. No longer will I hide my dairy-building secrets. No more will I knock over my skyscrapers of coffee-enhancers to keep hidden the fact that I am an adult and I play with food products. We are a special breed, the creamer stackers, and I am proud to stand among them.


all the krystals.

So, the lack of writing the past few days.

Actually, I've been writing quite a bit. And if you get a big kick out of reading code, then I will be happy to post some up here. It's pretty neat stuff.

But I'm taking a break from the frustration of debugging to tell you about the phone conversation I just took part in. I answered the phone, as I will sometimes do. It was actually ringing this time I answered it, so I had someone to talk to.

He asked if there was someone named Krystal that lived at this residence. I replied that yes, there was, but she was not in right now. He asked if I had talked to him earlier, which I had not.

He then explained that he had sat next to a girl on the AppalCart yesterday and all he had found out about her was that her name was Krystal. But he liked this girl, and he wanted to see her again, but apparently had not taken the opportunity to ask her out yesterday on the bus ride. So he went to the ASU student search engine and found the phone numbers of seven Krystals. And now he was calling all of them.

Krystal doesn't ride the AppalCart very often. I'm not even sure if she left the apartment at all yesterday. So I was pretty sure it wasn't my Krystal that this fellow wanted to make his. But I asked him to describe her, just to verify.

"Well, she was real petite, and had dark hair about shoulder-length and this great smile."

That description was the whole reason I wanted to tell this story. This guy had to be pretty taken with this girl to tell me, a complete stranger what a great smile she had. It was sweet and made me want to help him find her.

But I just did my part, and told him that the Krystal that lived at this residence had long blond hair. Considering that he had seven Krystals to look through, I did do one-seventh of the work. After I hung up, I wished I had told him to make sure and check for all the Crystals.

I did tell him good luck. I hope he does find her, even if the whole calling every possible girl thing is a little creepy. There's a fine line between sweet and creepy sometimes.


3 clicky solid blue pens with handles.

Pens are valuable items in a restaurant. There are never enough to go around. It didn't take me long to learn the basic pen rules of a waitressing job.

* Get the clicky kind with a handle. The handle part should be obvious - you need to be able to hang these pens on your apron, shirt, notebook, whatever. You can't be digging through your pockets all the time. It looks a little silly and wastes valuable time. Trust me, that absent-minded thing is only endearing with professors and not at all with servers.

As far as clicky vs. capped, this one was only obvious to me after the first day, the day I brought in capped pens. There is no graceful way to uncap a pen while holding a book. And if you leave it uncapped, the pen will go dry, and that's no good either. Plus, the handle is usually attached to the cap, and the pens come loose from their perch too easily when the caps come off and then you lose the handle altogether. Some old lady is likely to slip and fall on the handle, and then you lose your job, all because you didn't get a clicky pen. Think, people.

* Find your magic pen number. That is, the number of pens you need on a daily basis to be able to have some for customers with credit card receipts to sign, but still keep one for yourself. Obviously, the ideal situation would be to have a row of twenty pens lined up like an adorable pen army on your pocket. But that's not practical or even necessary. It is rare that you will ever need more than a certain number of pens, even if there is more than one credit card receipt out at a time. At most, you may have to give a customer the pen you use to take orders. But in the short amount of time it takes someone to sign their name, it is unlikely that you will have to take an order than you can't remember. On those rare occasions where the magic number proves to be not enough, it is allowed to temporarily borrow a coworker's pen with the promise of immediate return.

My magic pen number is three. I have to borrow a pen from someone once every month or so. Once I tried carrying four pens. I lost a pen, the only pen I have ever lost in all these months of waiting tables, on the very first day of the four-pen experiment. I found it about a month later in the employee parking lot, looking like it had been run over a dozen times, though it did still work. Rather than put it back in my pocket, I took the incident to be a sign that magic pen numbers are not to be messed with.

* Get matching pens. This is practical just to prevent pen loss. If someone finds a wayward pen, they'll know it's yours because it looks like all your other pens. There is no room for confusion here. Plus, it just gives a more professional look about you, you with your little row of mathcing pens peeking out of your pocket, ready for order-taking action. It definitely makes up for the marinara stains on your shirt. My pens are all solid dark blue, thin basic pens.

There you go. Even if you never have the experience of being a server yourself, pay attention to your next server's pens. A lot more thought went into those than you'd ever think. Unless they break all the rules, then either your server is a very bad one, or they're just not as anal-retentive as I am. Both are equally likely.