Josh had been talking about me making potato rolls for a while. He talked about it for so long that he eventually switched over to talking about doing it himself, which meant that he was tired of waiting on me. It's not that I didn't want to bake him delicious bread treats, it's that all the recipes called for potato flakes. I don't use potato flakes for mashed potatoes, so why should I use them for potato bread?

I made the dough the night before my car died. It was supposed to sit in the fridge overnight or up to five days. I was planning on making the dough that very next night, but I spent the weekend at my sister's instead, letting her drive me around to car dealerships so they could tell me that they didn't have any cars. Josh was out of town, down in Florida with the band. My sister dropped me off at my house on Sunday night, and I made the rolls. I didn't want to, because I was tired and stressed at the prospect of being vehicle-less for a while. My motivation was that Josh was coming home that night, and wouldn't he like some nice warm potato rolls? Plus, I was worried about the dough. Sure, the recipe said five days, but I did not want to push it.

Frankly, it was lucky I hadn't scrapped the dough entirely the previous Thursday night. I had finally found a recipe that used real, live potato-y potatoes. I peeled, boiled, and mashed them just like I would if I were going to slather them in milk and butter and garlic (and sour cream and more butter and more garlic and is anyone else hungry right now?). Then I mixed them in with the flour and eggs and butter. Only when I pulled the dough out of my mixer did I notice that there were lumps. I felt like such a doofus. Lumps are great in mashed potatoes, but they are not what you want in potato rolls. One thing I don't trust about potato flakes is the lack of lumps, but in this situation it was starting to seem like an advantage.

But the dough was mixed and there was nothing to do about it but let it rise anyway. I would let it rise for a day, then make the rolls Friday night. If they turned out lumpy and weird, I could just make another batch Friday or Saturday, and no one would ever be the wiser. This was the plan.

My car did not respect my plan.

Sunday night, I was rolling out the dough in big circles, just like the directions said. As I worked the dough, I noticed no lumps. I gave those doughy mounds a thorough exam, just like the OB/GYN told me to do to my breasts every month: no lumps. I can only assume that the yeasties ate them. Yeasties know good mashed potatoes when they see them, and good mashed potatoes have lumps.

The rolls were supposed to be crescent shaped, and in a couple of cases, you could tell what they were supposed to look like. Mostly they looked like fattened envelopes. I figured I could get better at that part with practice. They were resting, still warm, on the stove when Josh came in. I proudly showed them to him and invited him to admire the fresh-baked smell, the delicious potato flavor, but not the dumpy shape. He told me he had just had some Bojangles and wasn't hungry.


I was watching TV in the living room, and he disappeared into the kitchen to get something to drink. He came back with two and a half potato rolls in his hands, the missing half in his mouth. He began to sing the praises of the potato roll, crescent-shaped or not. I basked in his admiration.

"You should take these to Thanksgiving," he continued enthusiastically. I froze.

"I can't do that. We always have BFYRs*."

"These are better."

"Maybe, but that's...that's...no, we can't do it. I can't usurp BFYRs."

"It could be the new tradition."

"We can't do that."

"Well, alright. But take them to your family sometime. They'll see."

Colleen's Potato Crescent Rolls
Note: I use butter instead of shortening. I am also experimenting with how many slices to cut the dough circle to get the best crescents. So far, I like cutting three circles into 12 slices better than cutting two circles into 16 slices. I still get mostly misshapen rolls, but I think that might be my own problem.

*Big Fat Yeast Rolls


read my lips: no more snoopy.

When I had my first boyfriend in middle school, he used to buy me stuffed animals. It was a logical move on his part – I was a fourteen-year-old girl, after all, and that’s what the other guys bought their teenage girlfriends. After about the third such animal, I realized that I was going to keep getting those things until I drowned in them. I told him that I was not really into such things. They were nice, I appreciated them, but they were taking up space and I was not that type of girl. I was really nervous about telling him, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Honestly, he seemed relieved. After that, he only bought me one stuff animal ever again, a little bean bag Snoopy, which I loved and kept on my bed. I still have it, as opposed to those first few bears with hearts on their tummies, which have long ago been given to Goodwill to be bought by other young puppy lovers.

While I was not a plush toy kind of girl, I was definitely a Peanuts fan. For a while, I had quite the Snoopy collection. My mother, sister, and I all collected the stuff. When I started thrifting and yard saling, I found lots of opportunities to expand my collection. My boyfriend, happy to find something easy he could get me, gave me Snoopy jewelry. Once our relationship became serious enough that I began receiving presents from his family, his mom got in on it, too. She herself was a huge Wizard of Oz fan, and her house was littered with figurines and books and more Dorothy-related objects than you even knew existed. I think she liked the idea of another collector, and she gave me some really nice Peanuts stuff at Christmas, expensive things that I never would have bought for myself. I was afraid to take some of it out of the boxes, because they were meant to be collector’s items. And I had that familiar feeling of unease again, where I could see that if I didn’t take action, I was going to have a house full of cartoon characters and not much else. I didn't want to have a bunch of stuff that I had to leave in the box. It seemed so pointless. But if you think it’s hard to tell your sixteen-year-old boyfriend to ease up on the stuffed animals, then imagine how much harder it would be to tell his mother that you’re not ready for Snoopy to take over your life. I had a really good relationship with her, too, and I didn't want to ruin it. To be fair, she never told me not to take the stuff out of the box. In fact, she would have sat on the floor and played with them with me.

I chickened out and mentioned my dilemma to the boyfriend instead, hoping he would drop the hint. He didn’t seem very thrilled about the idea, though he understood where I was coming from. As it happens, we broke up, which indirectly solved the problem. Maybe he did end up telling her, because if I remember correctly, she gave me a nice set of wine glasses at my last Christmas at their house. I still have those glasses and I still use them, well, except for those three that I broke. The ironic thing is that while I keep four in the cupboard, the rest stay in the original box, waiting and hoping for the day that I break another one.

What was I talking about?

Anyway, the point is, I used to have a lot of Snoopy stuff and I used to be actively seeking more and more. But I’ve cut back a lot. I have some items, but if you only saw one or two rooms in my house, you might not notice. I still periodically buy more at yard sales, but I am much more selective than Sandra of years past. Lots of people like Peanuts and have a mug or a pair of socks. Sure, if you listed everything I have, it would seem excessive. If I died tomorrow and you went to my estate sale, there would be a small but thriving Snoopy section. But scattered throughout the house the way it is, I think I have it in check. It doesn’t look like the Peanuts gang is the only thing in my life. I also have Muppets in my life, and books, and bad movies, and a musician, and funky lamps. Mine would be a great estate sale. I'd love to go to it, if I weren't dead.

A friend from high school visited me a few months ago, and she mentioned that I obviously still had something of a collection going on. She remembered the Sandra who never met a Charles Schultz item she didn't want. I felt like defending myself and telling her that it could be much, much worse. But I let it go. I just didn’t let her play with the Snoopy bean bag, the last stuffed animal ever given to me by a boy.


yard sales, oct. 24.

Yesterday, we yard saled to the limit.  I know the season is almost over and I am giving it all while I still can.  Josh had a show last night, so I got to bed at 4 AM.  Yet my body knows when it’s Saturday, and I woke up at 8:05, immediately alert.  Monday thru Friday, I hit the snooze button half a dozen times before I can drag myself out of bed.  I don’t even set the alarm on Saturdays.  If I could go to yard sales for a living, I would never go back to the cube farm. 

I’m going to go in chronological order of our day, so you can see how the car got fuller and the wallets got emptier. 

Picture 105 First, this puzzle.  This is the second Peanuts item I’ve shown you this year, and I intend to address why a twenty-six-year-old has so much Snoopy.  This reminded me of the puzzles in the nursery at my old church.  I’m sure some small child has chewed on Charlie Brown’s head.  I was thinking of just using the pieces to make something to hang on the wall.  It was fifty cents.

We hit an estate sale downtown, which was very good, but made me sad.  These people were selling lovely heirlooms.  While I am happy to buy beautiful old things, I would hate the idea of selling my family heirlooms.  If I had any, that is.  All my heirlooms are from other people’s families.  If I had a German grandmother who hand-made a huge tablecloth, I would probably hold on to it.  But maybe these people didn’t have any use for it.  I hope someone bought it and loves it.  I seem to hope that a lot on Saturdays.

As it happens, I bought a trash container instead.  It used to be a taters and onyuns container,  but the people had been using it to keep their trash.  They explained it to me, and I was completely sold on the idea of it.  Now, it needs a little work.  I could redo the paint job, though I’m sort of interested in what might be underneath the paint.  This was $10, which is kind of on the high end, but the people were so nice that I didn’t mind it.

Picture 093

Picture 097 Picture 098

A place for my trash

Detail of the door – ducks!

The gaping maw of my new trash receptacle – I always wanted something with a gaping maw!

We pulled up to the next estate sale, and I saw a big metal cabinet from the 50s from the road.  I went, “ooooooooh” and nearly hit their mailbox.  Once we got in the driveway, we also saw a beautiful solid wood dresser that had already been sold.  Again, I was sad that I didn’t get it, but okay with the idea that someone else got a really fantastic deal on an amazing piece of furniture.Picture 075   Based on the prices of the other things, it probably was very reasonable.

In fact, the oooooooooh-worth cabinet was only $5.  Just when I thought I didn’t have any more room in my house for furniture, I go and bring home this.  Since I anthropomorphize everything I own, I imagine my house heaving a big sigh everytime it sees me pull in the driveway on Saturday afternoons.  Then it sort of girds its loins and prepares for my new treasure.

Like the trash container, the cabinet needs a good, thorough cleaning.  I’ve left it outside until I can give it one.  I sprayed some 409 on it and the grime just started running down the side in streams.  I have yet to decide whether to put it in the pantry to store canned goods or perhaps in the living room to contain movies.  Or maybe some yet un-thought of use.  I just love those handles.

Once I decided to buy it, I started discussing with the seller how I might get it home.  I was going to try my darnedest to put it in the car, but I recognized the possibility that it might not happen.  After all, the cabinet was easily five and a half feet tall.

“What are you driving?”Picture 080

“It’s a small car, a Honda Fit.”

“Oh, I’ve got one of those.  It’ll fit in there.”  His confidence and status as a fellow Fit fan boosted my motivation.  We were going to get this thing in my hatchback.

And by gum, we did.  We had to push the front passenger seat up, so Josh would have to ride in the back, but it went in there, and we could close the hatch and everything.  We still had the trash bin in the back, too.  Once we got it in there, we joked that the Honda people could have been filming us and used the footage for a commercial.  Assuming they weren’t actually doing that, here’s my official endorsement:  People, if you want a great yard saling car, get a Honda Fit.  This message has been approved by me, Josh, and that guy who sold me a cabinet.

Again, these people were terribly nice and helpful.  They also had a pair of gorgeous and sweet-natured English pointers.  I frequently see pets at yard sales, and I’m pretty good at resisting the urge to fawn all over them.  In fact, depending on the animal, sometimes it’s more of an effort to resist kicking them.  But I went ahead and gave each dog a good pat on the head and scratch on the ears.  They were pretty, pretty dogs.  I’m only guessing at the breed based on web pictures, since I didn’t actually see them point at anything, nor could I determine if they had British barks.  I wonder if you could train a pointer to find good yard sale deals for you.

The next sale on my list was one I had been excited about for ages.  The Korean Methodist church in Cary had been advertising their sale on CraigsList for six weeks.  In fact, one time I went to it, after finding the ad but not verifying the date.  I assume if you advertise during the week, then your sale is on the upcoming Saturday.  And that’s how I end up in empty church parking lots, wondering where all the stuff is.  I’ve been much better about checking dates after several of these incidents.  Anyway, the long-awaited Korean yard sale was finally happening.  I am always excited about church sales, but after our last Korean church sale, I didn’t even care about what stuff we might find.  I was just looking forward to the food.  We didn’t buy any of the clothes or mugs or whatever they were selling, but we did buy sushi and spring rolls.  As we left, we wondered whether you could, I dunno, steal a little old Asian lady and have her cook for you.  I could take out the shelves of my new metal cabinet and she could live inside there.  That would be awesome.  I am enamored of the idea of homemade exotic foreign food.  It makes me wonder if the people who eat at the KFC in Seoul would like to try some Sunday dinner fried chicken.

Check it out, I brought my camera so I could show you why you should always go to a Korean church yard sale.

Picture 069Picture 067 

As we drove to the next sale on the list, Josh said, “I wish I had talked you out of buying this cabinet thing.”

“What?”  This is not what I want to hear.  Five dollars or not, I don’t need buyer’s remorse.  He had seemed enthusiastic enough at the time.

“I just don’t like sitting back here.  I wish we hadn’t bought it because it’s inconvenient for me right now.”  Well, at least he’s honest.  I like having him next to me so I can reach out and touch him, though he looked awfully cute in the rearview.  I know you’re supposed to check your rearview every few seconds or so, but I think I was checking it more frequently than usual.

As it was, we only had one more sale on the list that was close.  I had several more written down, but they were in Durham, and it was about 11:00.  Most days, that wouldn’t stop us, but we had already bought quite a bit, and I could easily be talked into packing it in early.  Plus, the Durham sales hadn’t sounded particularly interesting.  They didn’t even have any sushi.

We went to the last sale.  Josh reminded me that we could only buy very small things, because the car was absolutely full.  It wasPicture 071 a pretty standard church sale – big room full of tables covered in stuff, divided by sections.  Josh immediately went over to the electronics table, while I headed for the tables.  Here’s something I did not buy, because fake hair creeps me out.  I’ve probably seen wigs at sales before, but it’s a fairly rare item.

I was examining some bags of mismatched greeting cards, when Josh came up behind me and mentioned the stereo.  We see old stereo equipment all the time, some of which he has bought.  He mentioned once that he wanted some huge honkin’ speakers.  I made a face as I imagined my future home, being overtaken by speakers.  I mean, they make really good tiny speakers now.  Why can’t he use those little marvels of modernity? 

“Big ones?”

“They sound the best.” <Insert long dreamy speech about how good unnecessarily large speakers sound.>

“But where will we put the baby?”

“What baby?”

Picture 090 The conversation got sort of side-tracked after that.  Anyway, my future with this man apparently will feature giant speakers, just like his future with me will be well-lit with many ridiculous lamps.  Life is full of surprises, n’est-ce pas?  He has a stereo, of course, but he’s been looking for a nice, new (to him) one, and had a very specific idea in his head of what he wanted, down to the color and kind of buttons.  But the one in the corner was apparently what he’d been looking for.  It had big, though maybe not quite honkin’, speakers.  The problem was that it was marked $50.

“It’s worth that, too.  Well, not to me.”  I felt a little proud to hear him say that - a true yard saler, that one.  I have trained him so well. 

“Would you pay $25?”


“Well, they will probably mark things down or have a bag sale at some point.”  We went to the cashier to inquire about the schedule.  I don’t really like to do this, just because some people seem to find it rude.  I assume these are people whose only yard sale experience is volunteering at the ones their church holds.

Church sales are my favorite of all yard sales.  They draw from lots of different people, so there is a lot of stuff, with good variety.  Their prices are generally cheap, because at least one of the volunteers knows what the market is like.  They are often indoors, and therefore can happen even in inclement weather.  Church people are generally pretty friendly.  And usually, there is a giant slashing of prices towards the end of the day.  Sometimes they simply do half off, and sometimes they give you a bag and tell you to stuff it (the bag, I mean) for a dollar.  Maybe I miss out on the good stuff by not waiting in line for the doors to open, but I love to hit a church sale just when they’re starting to hand out bags.  Sometimes if we hit a church sale early in the day and decide that it’s a good one, we’ll come back later just for the mad rush of the bag sale.

The cashiers told me that starting at noon, we could fill a paper grocery bag for $3.  Honestly, I would prefer $1 to fill a plastic grocery bag, but you take what you can get.  They seemed a bit put-off to be asked and I felt like they were looking down on me for even trying to get a better deal.  Ah.  One of those kind of sales.

Once, we went to a gigantic church sale in Chapel Hill.  It was afternoon, so it was prime bag-stuffing time.  This sale was divided up into sections in the education building – women’s clothes in one classroom, toys in another, and so on.  Each individual room had its own volunteers and cashiers, which made the pricing inconsistent.  The electronics might have been marked down by half at 9:30, while next door in children’s clothes, a bag sale starting at 11.  One room was labeled “boutique,” which meant nice women’s clothes and accessories.  This room was run by a pair of uptight old ladies.  I was browsing the racks, when a woman came in and asked if there was any special pricing.  The cashier said yes, priced as marked.  I immediately stopped looking so I could listen.  After all, I wasn’t going to pay a full $5 for a dress, even a really nice one, when in every other room around me, people were stuffing bags to their heart’s content.  The customer left, and the lady sniffed to her co-cashier, “I think the prices are plenty low already.”

That made me mad, and I walked out of the room without buying anything.  I wanted to report the incident to someone, as if there was a Yard Sale Council that regulated everything (I would love to be on the Yard Sale Council).  I went to the “White Elephant” room instead, where I was handed a paper grocery bag.  I could see to the other side of the room, where Josh was carrying a giant (no, really, GIANT) box full of books.  As I stuffed any item that looked even vaguely interesting in my bag, I thought about all the things I’d like to tell that old woman, but since I’m not that confrontational, I’ll tell you instead.

Look, lady, this sale is going to be over in an hour.  It’s been going on for two days now and you still have 50 feet of racks stuffed with clothes, some of which are very nice, but most are nothing special.  In an hour, when you have to close the doors to your swarming public, you are going to have to take all these clothes, pack them up, and drive them all down to the thrift store.  Not only will you not get $5 apiece for them, you won’t get anything at all but a tax write-off and a smile.  The more you sell, the less work you have to do later, and the more money your church gets. 

So yeah, I tend to get a little miffed by workers who don’t understand the yard sale scene.  Back to yesterday and the stereo dilemma:  Josh and I discussed our options.  It was still 55 minutes until the bag sale began.  The stereo was not going to fit in a bag anyway, so it was possible there would be special pricing for large items.  I didn’t think he was going to be able to negotiate for it, not after the cashiers had been semi-snippy.  As we talked, I continued to poke through bags full of cards.  Unless the price per card is very low, I like to look through each card to decide if buying the bag is worth it.  These bags were marked $2 apiece and each contained 10 to 15 cards.  Most of them were ho-hum, though there were a couple featuring Norman Rockwell paintings and some with drawings of fruit on thick card-stock.  I didn’t necessarily want to wait an hour to get the cards for cheap, though if Josh wanted the stereo, we might be hanging out anyway.  He was nervous, as various other interested men examined the stereo, pushing buttons, checking out the speakers, standing back and scratching their chins.

A volunteer, a fluffy-looking lady with black bushy hair, walked up and offered to mark the bags of cards down.  I hadn’t sought herPicture 073 out or even looked at her, she just knew what was up and was looking to make some deals.  Ding!  This was the lady we needed to be talking to.  As she remarked the bags, I gave Josh a meaningful glance, then asked her how pricing would work on items that were too large for bags.  She said she didn’t know, but mentioned that they probably would not mark down the antique sewing machine (priced at $300).  I pointed out the stereo.

“Oh, that I don’t know about.”Picture 087

“It’s marked $50 right now,” Josh said.

“Really?  I thought it was more like $30,” she replied.

“I’ll give you $25,” he answered, my sweet yard sale champ.  Men who can negotiate are hot.

“I’ll have to ask.”  She went and talked to someone else and then came back to say our deal had been accepted.  Score.*  This goes to show that the cashier is not always the only person you can talk to.  Pick a volunteer, ask them.  If they aren’t willing to make you a deal, try again with a different one.  Look around to see if anyone is randomly marking down prices for greeting card enthusiasts.  Thus ends your yard sale lesson of the day.

Our total, with the stereo, three bags of cards, and three books, was $29.75.  After emptying our wallets, dumping out all our change, and raiding my car for my secret cash stash, we had exactly enough.  If we had stopped for a soda earlier, which we sometimes do, we wouldn’t have had enough.  Then, we went outside and somehow managed to fit the receiver and two giant speakers into the Fit.  Empty wallets, full car, we called it a day.  Went home, ate sushi and spring rolls, took a snuggly nap.  Perfect Saturday.


* I priced the stereo online when I got home.  People have been able to sell the speakers for $150 - $200, while the stereo receiver seems to be going for $100 - $170.  Maybe big speakers aren’t so bad after all.


lobster ravioli.

My code wasn't working, and I didn't know why.

I'd gone over the easy stuff. Nine times out of ten, or even some higher, less often used percentage, the reason code doesn't work is some stupid thing. I know you're not all programmers, so I'll try to explain. It would be like if your email wouldn't send if you had a typo, or if it got delivered to the wrong person if your grammar wasn't quite right. Is that a good analogy for the non-programmers among you? I don't know. I don't remember how to think like a regular person.

If it wasn't something easy and obvious, it was something mysterious. My code was calling other people's code, and there was some secret in that other code that was making my code not work. Like if you were forwarding an email with a spelling mistake in it, and that mistake caused your email to send itself 300 times. I'm just confusing everybody with these bad analogies here.

In college, we had a class where we spent the entire semester on one program. Rumors of this class scared the pants off the underclassmen. Up until that point, we wrote programs in two week cycles. They did things like draw geometric shapes. The program would ask you for a number and a letter, and then draw you a square. For extra credit, you could program it to give you the option of drawing a triangle.

# shapes.exe

Please enter a letter: b

Please enter a number: 3

Would you like a square (s) or a triangle (t)? w

Bad Input. Would you like a square (s) or a triangle (t)? t



Does that look like extra credit work to you?

To go from that to writing an interpreter for the PDP-11, well, it was a jump. Not as big of a jump as going from writing small programs from scratch in college to maintaining someone else's decade-old code in the real world, but a jump nonetheless. Some of you don't know what a PDP-11 is, and that's okay, we didn't either.

We were given weekly assignments, each one adding new features to our program. My partner and I were doing great. We'd kept up with the assignment and it spit out the correct response when we fed it the test data. But during the last week, the very last assignment, we hit a wall, a heuristic fence post. The last feature did not give the right answer. It was an additional dozen lines of code. We looked at it, messed with it, played with it. It would not work. We despaired. We had run into a truly mysterious bug, the first of many in my life.

I was thinking of that project this afternoon, when a dozen lines of code were giving me fits. So I was trying things. I was changing how the code did what it did, hoping that I would somehow circumvent the mysteriousness. The regular people among you are probably a little frightened at the guesswork in it. If something doesn't work, shouldn't I be able to tell why? Do people really go about taking shots in the dark?

You poor, poor people. Your computer has bugs, every piece of software you have ever used has bugs. There will always be bugs. It's not that the computer is not totally logical, it's that sometimes the picture is bigger than we can see. There is logic, but heck if we can find it sometimes. It is an odd thing, this modern faith.

I knew my code wasn't working because I got emails that told me so. Isn't that nice? Rather than my code just spitting out the wrong thing or crashing the application, an outside force sent me reminders that I still hadn't found the answer. My code was sending a message to some other computer using different code. The other computer's code sent me emails that said "FAILURE" or "ERROR" or "GEEZ, YOU SUCK." It was expecting the messages from my code to look a certain way and say a certain thing, and my code stubbornly refused to be accommodating. I had a failure email from 1:59 PM, 2:03 PM, 2:04 PM, and 2:07 PM. Each one represented a new try. The first one I changed this line, the second one I changed another.

The email I received at 2:25 PM said "Holy Lobster, Batman! It works!"

I did not write that email message. The system administrator did. He's as weird as any techy person, but the whole lobster thing, well, it's my fault. During some other semester of my college programming days, I had to write test data for a program. I'm not the kind of girl who can just use "Mary Smith 123 Main Street." I like to inject some creativity into my programs, because otherwise the right side of my brain cries at night. This way I can convince myself that it wasn't a mistake to become a well-paid soulless code monkey instead of a pure and starving writer. And so I used "Lobster Ravioli" somewhere in my data, probably because that had been the special we'd been serving at the restaurant that week. The words "lobster" and "ravioli" are inherently funny, like "underpants" or "macadamia". And this week, when I had to come up with some test data for my code to send to the other computer's code, Lobster Ravioli came through for me again.

I had not anticipated the system administrator to a.) see it, and b.) mention it every time he saw me.

Regardless of the silly way that the 2:25 PM email said it, it did say that my code now worked. It was sending the right message. The trouble was, I didn't remember what I did. If it's upsetting to think that sometimes the computer mysteriously doesn't work, is it even scarier to think that sometimes it mysteriously does? And at that point, the programmer slowly and quietly steps away from the keyboard, afraid to touch anything lest she disrupt whatever cosmic force fixed the problem?

Back to that semester-long project, that almost correct PDP-11 interpreter. We gave up on fixing the bug. Even as young and naive students, we were prepared to accept that sometimes the computer, in all its infinite wisdom, works in mysterious ways. To make up for the bug, I was going through the working code and adding comments. I never used comments in college except when the program was broken. It was my way of sucking up. I was also doing a little clean-up. Like when you read back through your email and add a couple of carriage returns for readability.

I finished up and ran the program with all the test data again to make sure I hadn't broken some new thing. And suddenly, it worked. I had changed some little thing in a completely unrelated piece of code that we had written months ago, which had never given us any problems. And suddenly the thing that hadn't worked before did. Holy Lobster, Batman.


yard sales, oct. 17.

Sometimes I think that I should start taking my camera to yard sales so that I can snap pictures of interesting things I see, but do not buy.  Given the amount of stuff that I've been putting on display the past few weeks, you might be surprised to find that there are things I actually leave for other people.  But it's true.  You can find lots of things at yard sales that are not lamps, Star Trek movies, or wicker soldier helmets.  But then I think about how I would have to carry around my camera all the time, and I sorta kinda on purpose forget my camera every Saturday morning.

teapot_giraffeI wish I had not remembered to forget my camera this morning, because there was something awesome, and I did not buy it.  Why didn't I buy it?  Because I can't even play the freaking accordian, that's why, and $125 is too much for an instrument that I don't play.  Now, $50 would have been mighty tempting.  If it had been $50, I would have looked longingly at it for a long time, carefully examining the felt-lined case, caressing the cherry red finish, and then offered $30.  Sometimes it is a blessing that things cost too much money, because otherwise I would buy them.  And then I would have to store it in the closet next to my unicycle. 

The people who had the accordian had lots of other cool things, most of which I did not buy.  IPicture 081 only bought a book and a purse.  I didn't even buy the giraffe-shaped teapot.  You guys should be so proud of me for resisting the teapot, especially considering that my resolve was so weakened after not buying the accordian.  Only at a yard sale will you ever think the thought "Well, I didn't buy the accordian, so I can treat myself and buy this giraffe teapot."  I think the people must have shopped at vintage consignment stores.  Their prices were too high for them to be yard salers.  

We hit one sale that had 15 large boxes of DVDs for a dollar apiece.  I don't consider myself to be particularly movie-savvy.  I'm about average, really.  But I had not heard of 95% of those movies.  They were mostly modern American movies.  I can only assume that they were really terrible, the kind of thing the studio makes in two weeks on a really small budget because they're bound to make enough back just by selling 10,000 copies from the Wal-Mart discount bin.  A long time ago, people used to make terrible horror movies in, like, days.  They didn't have to be good, because they were cheap, and people just wanted something to see.  You could be depressed that there is a whole industry based on making something that only has to be good enough, but the silver lining here is that we will never run out of bad movies to make fun of.

As it was, we picked up some old baddies. Picture 086
Invasion Inner Earth
How Awful About Allen
Hercules Against the Moon Men
The Witch's Curse
Missile to the Moon
Dementia 13
Carnival of Souls

I bought a huge box of dishes for my sister, who has been looking for some lightweight, hardPicture 074 to break Corelle dishes so that her children can finally start earning their keep and setting the table.  I (or rather she) got 16 dinner plates, 16 cereal bowls, and 8 bread plates for $35.  I described that event all in one little sentence, but in actuality it took half an hour to call her up, ask if she wanted them, try to describe them, take a picture of the plates with my phone and send it to her, then discuss how much she was willing to pay, and finally make the deal with the seller, who was probably amused by the whole spectacle.  And she won't even get them for another month, because she lives in Tennessee.  I told my mom about this score, to which she replied, “You’re a good person to know.”  When she makes these sort of odd and sweet statements, she reminds me of my grandmother, who pretty much only says odd and sweet statements.  Will I be like that when I’m old?

Picture 067 And here are some random purchases.  I've taken an interest lately in kitchen linens.  I like their homey scenes and the fact that they feel soft, as opposed to hand towels, which is what I had been using in the kitchen.  I’m going to paint the paper towel holder, as right now it looks like someone was using it for a drop cloth.  I also got a silver tray, which I have absolutely no use for.  I mean, in all honesty, no one in the world has ever needed a silver tray.  But these things happen at yard sales.  Sometimes things call to me.  It is actual silver, made by Oneida, and was $.50.  It may end up in the Goodwill box in six months, or I may find a use for it yet.  Maybe someone I know desperately wants a silver tray just like this, and then they, too, will think that I’m a good person to know.


You probably don't know what this is, but this is Sputnik.  It's actually a little paper holder than youPicture 070 can put on your desk or wherever, but it's meant to look like Sputnik.  How do I know this?  Because I already have one that I bought from the Kansas Cosmosphere.  I paid twelve whole dollars for it, but Josh got this one for a quarter.  How many people had already passed this thing by without even knowing that it was the thing that launched the Soviet Space Program?  Sometimes the things you find at a yard sale feel very serendipitous.  We were uniquely prepared to appreciate this little desk thing, and it sat there waiting just for us to come along and buy it.

Aside from the accordian, I had another yard sale first this morning:  a shoes-off sale.  It was an estate sale, and the people had white carpeting.  They asked that we remove our shoes when we came in, which made me feel like I was at a very authentic Japanese restaurant.  If only someone had tossed knives around, but maybe some other time.  The lady had some fiesta ware.  I know a lot of people collect this stuff, but it's never really interested me until today.  Maybe it was the seventies orange, maybe it was the funky rounded-square shape, maybe it was seeing a whole set together as opposed to random individual pieces, but I really liked it.  She also had a seltzer bottle like what a clown would use as a spray gag, which was very tempting to Josh.

The lady liked cats.  Usually, when I say that someone had an estate sale and they liked cats, that means that the house had an overpowering stench.  But this was not the case here, so maybe the cats had to take off their shoes when they came in.  She did have several pieces of cat artwork and lots of feline books.  It reminded me of being age nine or so, when I was in the full throes of a little girl cat obsession.  Some of the art was neat - vintage ads for cat food and the like.  But some of it was just pictures of cats.  The little girl in me would have loved all of that, because to me, the quality of the product didn't matter, but if felines were involved, then I was all over it.  I like to think that my tastes have matured over the years.

It also reminded me that my niece, who I hear is very interested in kitties, has a birthday coming up.  I couldn't bear to buy her any of the art, though.  She probably would not appreciate the vintage ads, and I couldn't bear to buy what looked like a framed calendar picture.  And trust me, I know what framed calendar pictures of cats look like.

We did see one other thing worth mentioning:  the most amazing lamp ever.  It looked like a giant flowering plant, and after studying it for five minutes (while I was taking pictures of dishes with my phone), even Josh thought it was awesome.  He originally dismissed it as being hideously seventies.  I wish I could describe its incredible beauty to you, but I cannot do it justice.  Luckily for me, it had already been sold, no doubt for upwards of $100.  If I had to choose between that lamp and the accordian…that’s a choice that no yard saler should ever have to make.

I have got to start taking my camera along.  So that you may see amazing lamps, even when I can’t buy them.


empty knight.

I didn't make it to the phone in time, but even in my groggy state, I knew that a call at 7 AM couldn't be good. While not nearly as ungodly an hour as 3 or 4, 7 was still too early to be making social calls. I fumbled with the display to see the caller id. I couldn't see the buttons in the dark, but I was determined not to turn on the overhead light. Turning on the light would mean that I was awake. I might be up walking around and taking calls, but I was not going to be awake, by gum.

After lots of random button pushing, I was able to see the number. I recognized it as my mom's cell phone, and anxiety set in. Why would she call me at this hour? Had something happened to Daddy? Grandmother? A sibling? A nibling?

I had to turn on the light to find the phone, but I was not worried about my sleepy eyes now. I never use the phone in this room, and it didn't seem to work. I turned it on, but just as I began to dial the numbers, it would beep, flash a cryptic "ERROR," and turn back off. My frustration mounted and I repeated the same steps and got the same result. I heard my cell phone ring in the other room, and as I dashed back to the bedroom, it occurred to me that it would have been easier to use that in the first place.

"Hello?" I answered and listened anxiously, trying to hold my head perfectly still in the one spot of my room where the reception is good. I could hear people in the background. She was someplace busy. The ER?

"Hello. I'm at the Ruritan yard sale right now - "

For Heaven's sake. She was calling me because she found something at a yard sale. I've made dozens of calls like this, but it was always after 9 or 10. I would have sighed in irritation right then and there had I not been so interested in what it was she found that was worth calling me about. At 7 AM.

"-and there's a suit of armor here. I'll buy it for your birthday if you want. It's about four and a half feet tall."

A suit of armor. My mother must think I am some kind of weirdo. Tell me, do your mothers call you at 7 AM and ask if you want a suit of armor for your birthday? Where would I even put such a thing? I mean, well, okay, it could look kinda cool at the end of upstairs hallway.

Technically, Josh already has one. It is back at his mom's house, and it is fully six feet tall. It's neat, but also gargantuan and a trifle ugly. It taught me an important lesson: there are suits of armor that I do not want in my house.

In the end, I said no to the suit of armor, because it was $30 and I didn't feel comfortable telling her to go for it without seeing it. I imagine there are some crappy looking suits of armor out there. And then I would have this lame empty knight in my house, which I would have to keep because my dear sweet mother bought it for me. I felt bad, because I know she would have been excited to give me, her huge weirdo of a daughter, such a novel gift.

Later, as I was driving around to my own set of sales, I started to feel the pangs of a lost yard sale find. This only happens occasionally, when something is too expensive or has already been sold. I reminded myself of the armor in Josh's childhood bedroom, which I didn't like. And yet a nagging feeling told me that there were probably really cool suits that would be welcome to stand around in my house. Without seeing it, I could never know. I could only hope that someone bought the armor and that they loved it and treasured it always.

Two hours after that first phone call, when I was on my way to the third yard sale of my Saturday, my mom called again. Someone working at the sale had caught her eyeing the armor and had slashed the price in half, so she bought it for herself. I wondered if that was what she wanted to do all along. I've done that many times: I really want to buy something but can't justify the purchase for myself so I try to come up with someone, anyone who might like a random gift. I was happy that someone had indeed bought it who will love it and treasure it always. Then I wondered - if two important people in my life own suits of armor, does that say something about me?

Next month, I will see the suit of armor that could have been mine. I just hope I'm not jealous.


yard sales, oct. 10.

Yesterday was kind of a bust.  While those days are always disappointing, they seem to be part of the natural ebb and flow of yard saling.  Some days you have crazy good luck, and some days every sale you hit is all baby clothes and Danielle Steele.

Some day, I will want to buy baby stuff at a yard sale.  It will be a momentous occasion, I’m sure.  I will feel like years of yard saling had prepared me for that moment, when I finally wanted to come away with a giant bag full of onesies.  Right now, however, it’s a little annoying.  People who have baby stuff always seem to have A LOT.  You wonder how one baby could have possibly used so much.  Was the kid wearing five or six onesies at a time?  We passed one lady yesterday that had so many tiny clothes for sale that it looked like she had just gotten rid of her baby altogether.  You can tell when someone has decided to get out of hamster ownership, because they are trying to sell every hamster accessory known to man as a set.  Instant hamster kit, right here!  That’s sort of what this woman looked like.  She had decided that babies were too much trouble, they smelled bad, and after that last time it got loose in the house and they could only find its droppings for three days, she was done.  There was even a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting along with it, a book that was apparently so popular that no one cared that the word play no longer worked for the sequels, What to Expect During the First Year, What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding, and What to Expect At Your Post-Baby Yard Sale.  Just so you know, only one of those titles is a joke.

But anyway.  I’m still in the point in my life where I can walk up to a sale, look around, say “I don’t have kids” with a shrug and turn around and walk away without anyone feeling insulted about the quick way I rejected their stuff.  People seem to recognize that there are others out there who have no need for a Pack n’ Play, if they don’t realize the same applies to stirrup pants and brass candle holders.

a box of jarsEnough about what I did not buy yesterday, let’s move on to what did come home with me.  First, a box of quart-sized canning jars that I will give to my mother.  As she read that sentence, she hoped to herself that they were wide-mouthed.  The answer is that one-third of them are.  We dug through three boxes of jars to find the four wide-mouth jars.  They were all a dime apiece.  Yes, I could have gotten more, and my mother would probably have appreciated them.  But sometimes there are only so many dirty jars you want to deal with, and twelve was my limit yesterday.  Besides, that was all that fit in the box.  I mean, I could have gotten another box, but…I’M STILL A GOOD DAUGHTER, DANGIT.

Picture 082We also picked up this lovely 70s yellow-orange ironing board for $2.  Josh mentioned getting one after he got his job and started having to wear a black buttoned-down shirt every day.  When I waited tables, my solution to a wrinkle-free work uniform was to buy polyester shirts that couldn’t hold a wrinkle if they tried.  But I guess he wants to look neat and clean without having giant collars.  I cannot recall having seen an ironing board at a yard sale before, but I’m sure they’ve been there.  I just haven’t been looking for them.  This one was pretty serendipitous, though.  We will have to buy a new pad, although I could feasibly make one.  Oh, and if anyone is keeping track of such things, go ahead and add “ironing board” to the list of things which fit in my new car, no sweat.

Picture 066 To say that yesterday was kind of a bust is unfair to these exciting red ski boots.  Josh’s dad likes to take us skiing every winter.  I’m cool with that, but paying $30+ a day to rent equipment hurts my frugal heart.  Josh’s dad recommended I go buy new stuff at the end of the season, where I could probably get away with spending only a few hundred dollars!  And I thought, hmm, let’s try it another way.  So I’ve been picking up stuff as I find it.  Last year, I found some ancient James Bond skis.  They seriously look exactly like what Roger Moore’s double wore in…that one Bond movie where he went skiing.  No, the other one.  However, I realized that there is a reason so few people wear skis from the 70s.  Ski technology has come a long way.  I was able to ski in them, but it was a lot more work to not end up face-first in the snow, and I didn’t enjoy myself.  I’m not interested in handicapping myself.  I just want to have fun and not fall down too much.  I didn’t want to admit that, of course, because that would be disloyal to my whole secondhand lifestyle.  Earlier this year, I found a pair of skis that were actually made this century.  And now I have new boots.  The ones I had before seemed to have trouble snapping, like something was caught in the mechanism.  These are in better shape, are a better brand, and were only $2.  Maybe I should have been suspicious when the woman acted relieved to be getting rid of them.  Perhaps they are cursed.  Those were Sonny Bono’s boots!  I prefer to think that they were her husbands and they just had a messy divorce.  Yup, that’s me.  Wishing messy divorces on complete strangers.

Picture 072 And finally, well, I guess I had better go ahead and come clean.  Josh and I have gotten ourselves hooked on Star Trek.  It started a few months ago when my company took everyone out to see the new movie in the theatre (on opening day, no less).  The movie is actually quite good.  I’d never seen any Trek at all, so I was surprised that I enjoyed it.  We went home and started watching The Original Series on Netflix and CBS.com.  And now we’ve gotten through them all and are ready to proceed to The Next Generation.  We found the first six movies on VHS for fifty cents apiece.  We’ve already watched two of them.  I know, I know.  I am doing no favors to the reputation of programmers everywhere, but I can’t help it.  I like Star Trek.  I like William Shatner’s dramatic pauses and Leonard Nimoy’s eyebrows, and I don’t care who knows it.

Oh, and Josh bought some books.  See?  Not much of a day.  Nothing to blog about, but if I didn’t blog about it, then how else would I get the opportunity to take a picture of a cardboard box full of empty jars?



To be honest, I was only there to watch my brother act like a chicken.

My sister-in-law had invited me to their church on a Saturday night. The church was celebrating its bicentennial, and one of the members had written a play about its history. The play was just as much about the general history of the Methodist church in America. It talked at length about the circuit-riders, preachers who would ride their horses to a different church every Sunday to preach. And when the preacher came to town, a chicken had to die, because chickens are delicious, especially when fried by a Southerner. And that's what my brother was doing. He was acting like a chicken, who was in turn warning other chickens that the preacher was coming to town and they'd better run.

I'd been to the church before for a random Sunday service and once to eat salty boogers. The church might be 200 years old, but the sanctuary had been added in the last ten years. The old one stood nearby, now called "the chapel." I sat in the back and felt mild unease at the newness of the room. The stained glass windows were lovely, the giant cross at the front was impressive, but it all felt very sterile. The walls were perfectly antique white, the carpet, that thin stuff they use in schools, a soothing blue. It reminded me of the houses I toured when I was looking to buy one. They were nice, but you couldn't tell one from another by standing in the kitchen.

I grew up in a tiny church in rural North Carolina. The sanctuary was old. The ceiling tiles had discoloration from leaks, the windows were a bit grubby and from an old style that is no longer in vogue with church designers. Everything, the pews, the doors, the walls, creaked. The carpet was thick, deep red and had wax drippings from long-ago candle services.

This church used to be in rural North Carolina, but then Raleigh grew and started slurping up areas around it and calling them the suburbs. That's why this church was able to build a new sanctuary after its 190th year, while my little home church has been around for 234 years and still fits quite comfortably in "the chapel." I assessed all this while waiting for the drama to start. I was impressed with one detail, the giant solid wood cross on the front wall. My sister-in-law told me that when they built the new building, they had to cut down a grove of old oak trees. One of the members of the church was a woodworker, and so he took the wood from one of the trees and made the cross. The Raleigh area is full of huge and beautiful oaks, and I hate the idea of cutting them down when they, too, have already celebrated their bicentennials. I was glad that they were able to pay tribute to the trees, to acknowledge their roots. As I looked around, pews filled up around me as parishoners greeted each other warmly. Had I been at the church in Lenoir, I would be shaking hands and giving out hugs to old friends, but here I was a stranger.

The house lights went down. The "play" was more of a series of vignettes. Various characters in the church history, either actual figures or amalgamations of generic townsfolk, came out front and talked for a while. Periodically, a group would stand up and sing a hymn. I found myself enjoying it more than I thought I would. The script was simple, but there were moments of levity generously scattered throughout. My brother the chicken, for instance.

It was all very familiar. The songs were ones that I haven't heard in years, and somehow I remembered the words and tunes enough to hum quietly to myself. My sister-in-law and niece favor contemporary churches, where the music is new and modern. But I love the old hymns that have already stood the test of time. They seem imbued with history, as if you can hear the devoted parishoners from every generation of the past 200 years singing with you. Those songs are like the giant and beautiful oak trees; they have roots.

And the actors, well. I didn't know any of them, except for that one chicken, but I recognized them. They were good Southern Methodists with varying comfort levels regarding being on stage. Some of them took to it well, speaking loudly and clearly. Some of them understood their parts and inflected their words just right. And others were nervous, quiet, stumbling, just trying to make it through because the director had asked them to help in the church drama and they had wanted to be involved. My own church does a Christmas drama every year, and it always made me smile when the three magi said they came from afar. Judging by their accents, "afar" meant Piney, Sawmills, and Dudley Shoals.

At some point, they trotted out some children for the cuteness factor: two little girls in matching ivory period dresses and giant pink bows in their hair. They recited some little verses into the microphone, and I didn't understand a word they said. But I got the point, which was that they were adorable. I'm sure it was even better for the church members who remembered when those little girls were born. I've played that part, and there still are little old ladies who remember when I was born and how adorable I used to be.

Towards the end of the service, the preacher got up made some remarks. He asked all of those who had been baptized in the church to stand, and we applauded them. Then he asked for those who had been married in this sanctuary (or perhaps the chapel) to stand. Teenagers in old-timey clothes walked around and handed long-stemmed red roses to the standing couples. Finally, the minister asked those who had loved ones buried in the cemetary to stand. More roses were passed, these were white. The woman in front of me, who was roughly my age, had stood each time. She was not the only one who held two roses. Clearly, there was a community here, a family. There were people like me, just visiting, and people like my brother, who had moved to the area a few years ago and started attending, but there were also folks who had planted themselves here long ago.

Finally, the preacher recognized the playwright, a middle-aged man that had been sitting behind me the whole time. He had been baptized there, had family buried there. My brother's family lived in a development that had been built on land that had been in the playwright's family for years. It had been a cute little drama, a series of vignettes and old songs to explain to everyone just how much history they were sitting on. But it was a love letter, too, to the new sanctuary, the old chapel, the uprooted trees, the silent headstones out back, and generations of adorable little kids, nervous actors with thick accents, little old ladies who remember when everyone was born. He was just paying tribute to his roots.


stray cat strut.

The first poster that I noticed was the Stray Cats. I thought this was a great choice. Deciding to put up an 80s poster is easy, but deciding which band is tricky. You want something that most people will recognize, but you don't want to go with the too cheesy choices. You want people to see the poster and go, hey! The Stray Cats! I haven't thought of them in years! You don't want them to go, hey, look, another Thriller poster.

I looked more closely at the poster, because I have a special place in my heart for the Stray Cats for a reason that has nothing to do with music. In the 1980s, cats were pretty much all I ever thought about. Some little girls liked ponies, and some liked Barbies, and I liked those things, too. But really, it was all about felines. The Stray Cats first gained my love simply by calling themselves cats. And then once I heard the song "Stray Cat Strut," well, I gave them my heart to keep in a jar under their little cat beds.

Closer inspection revealed that the poster was signed. Then I noticed all the other posters in the bar. The bands were sort of all over the map, but each picture was marred by scrawling Sharpie marks. My first thought was that the bar owner must have an eBay account. I mean, this was just a little bar in Virginia Beach. How exactly did they get the Stray Cats? Not to mention Urge Overkill, Ben Folds Five, and Nine Inch Nails. Sure, those guys all probably started out in little bars all over the country, but it seemed unlikely that they all came to this one.

Then I realized that the autographs were made out to the bar. I guess the bar owner has an eBay account and a Sharpie. Well, okay, maybe all those bands had played here. But something still wasn't right. The only way the owner would know to hang those specific posters is if the bands had already hit it big. So either he had the bands sign their names before they were famous or the musicians sent them after making the big time.

I imagined a giant filing cabinet full of posters, the posters of every band who ever played at that bar in the last forty years. Every week, when the new Billboard top forty list came out (does anyone still look at that? is Billboard still around to make such lists?), the owner would look and see if any new bands had broken in. Then he would check his filing cabinet, which was very well-organized, by the way, and see if any of the newly-famous had ever played in his little bar. If so, then off to Wal-Mart to buy a new frame. Maybe he'd have to take someone else down from the wall to make room. Goodbye, Emerson Lake & Palmer, the Stray Cats are the new hot band.

That scenario seemed unlikely at best. Plus, I didn't like to think of the implications of the filing cabinet theory when Josh and his bandmates had not been asked for their John Hancocks. So maybe even famous rock stars remember the small town clubs and bars that helped them along the way. Perhaps the bar owner was a prodigious letter writer, who wrote to bands and demanded that they remember the little people. He could probably write to anyone and claim that they played there once; who remembers every pizza place/bar that they played at in years of touring?

I studied the Nine Inch Nails poster with particular interest. Like the Stray Cats, this band holds an odd sort of sway with me. I never owned one of their albums, and their songs were fine, but when I was in middle school, I had a crush on a boy with burgundy hair who was really into them. I never talked to this boy, it was more of a silent long-distance pining than a crush, and so any information I could glean about him, from stickers on his backpack to designs on his t-shirts, was added to my knowledge bank of longing. And then the boy I dated for eight years or so had a minor obsession with the band, too, and so I began to wonder if liking Nine Inch Nails was part of "my type," like being thin and a musician. The music is dark, and the man behind it is mysterious. Even his name, Trent Reznor, has a certain spookiness about it. Who really trusts the letter 'Z' anyway?

This particular poster was from an early era, back when I had a crush on a burgundy-haired kid on the boys' basketball team. Underneath the signature was a parenthetical statement, "(Isn't this poster really f**king gay?)".

Folks, I cannot begin to tell you how happy those words made me. They made me realize that Trent Reznor is, or at least was, self-conscious about his posters. Most likely, the record company designed them and he hated them. He just wanted to make sure that everyone, even small town bar owners, knew that he did not pick out that poster. In fact, he thinks it's totally gay. Also, Trent Reznor calls things "gay," just like middle school boys (and high school boys and college boys and, okay, girls, too). Next time I hear anyone speaking in reverent tones about Nine Inch Nails, I will snicker inside. And probably a little bit outside, too.

The mystery is gone. Trent Reznor can be spooky if he wants. I know the truth. Now if I could just find out some secret about the Stray Cats, I'll be set.


yard sales, oct. 3.

Solid day yesterday.  I know the day will come soon when I’ll look in the paper and see only a few ads for yard sales, but the season is still going strong in Raleigh.  Josh was in town again after missing out on the last few weekends.  He made up for his absence by buying a lot of books.  That’s pretty much what he does anyway.

When we started dating, he went to yard sales with me because I was his new girlfriend and he wanted to impress me.  He was not used to getting up at 8 AM on a Saturday.  Love is sweet like that.  I was glad to have a buddy along, but I figured there would come a day when the honeymoon was over and he would tell me to have a good time before he went back to sleep.  This hasn’t happened yet.  In fact, I suspect he likes it now, and mostly because of the books.

Books are cheap and plentiful at yard sales.  Most of them are popular fiction novels, and he’s not interested in those.  But sometimes you’ll run across a seller who has good taste in literature.  Now he’s mostly interested in the old books.  It’s pretty cute to see a man get excited about a disintegrating copy of O. Henry’s collected stories.  He found a set of those this week at a Methodist church sale.  He actually already had part of the set from some previous sale, but now he has completed his collection.  They’re in quarantine right now, which means they’re sitting in a bunch of ziploc bags to kill off any wee beastie feasting on their pages.  He said he found them sitting innocently among the Robin Cooks and Dan Browns, and he was terrified that someone else had already claimed them.  The poor dear doesn’t realize that most people are far more interested in Dan Brown than O. Henry.  He was grabbing them when a woman came up and asked if he was going to buy all of them.  His heart sank, because he just knew that she was going to tell them that they were already sold.  Instead, she offered him a box to make them easier to carry.  Methodists are such nice people.

From across the room, I saw him in the book section, carrying a box and I sighed.  Every time he brings back a box of books, I have to tell myself that I have only myself to blame, because I introduced him to this thrifty habit. 

Of course, at the time, I was also carrying around a box, because I have a weakness, too. 

Picture 098 I found a box of greeting cards for a buck.  I poked through them a bit until I verified that some of the cards were interesting, and then I claimed them.  I picked up more at later sales.  Finally, at an estate sale, I got a set of Hummel stationery.  I will not be keeping all of these cards, only the ones that are worthy.  I cleaned out my stationery collection a couple of weeks ago, and I got rid of enough cards to fill that box twice.  Of course, I kept enough to fill three or four (or five or six?) of those boxes.  My excuse is that cards take up a lot less room than books.

Picture 069 I picked up a couple of jewelry storage devices.  Josh calls the earring holder on the left an illuminati jewelry box.  It spins, just like a department store display.  The tiny coat rack is for when tiny people visit during the winter and need someplace to hang their tiny coats and tiny hats.  Until then, I’m hanging necklaces on it.  The earring holder was fifty cents and the necklace rack was a buck.

The earrings you see were picked up at yard sales this year, though not all this week.  I love yard sale jewelry:  cheap and interesting.  The ones in the tip row are little pink cameos.  I took pictures of them, but no good ones came out, and I was too lazy to try again.

Picture 078 Some wavy teal metal guys.  I wear these with things that don’t have any teal in them at all, because I’m edgy like that.

Picture 084 And cute little bathroom signs.  I don’t usually care much for earrings which don’t exactly match each other, but I make an exception for these.  Look, they’re dancing!

And here’s a bunch of other stuff. 

Picture 102 The thing in the middle is a pouring pitcher with a cork.  I don’t really understand what the cork is about or why the neck of the pourer is so short.  But it’s a charming little thing. 

Picture 106These are a couple of vintage book covers.  I know I said last week that I don’t like book covers, and I don’t.  But these were so groovy looking and cheap, I bought them with the purpose of giving them away.  The covers are sitting on a lap desk, because you never know when you might need another lap desk.

Picture 103 The canisters contain puzzles of old stamps, organized by type.  One has Historic Landmarks, another Ecology and Natural Wonders and the last has American Presidents.  Jigsaw puzzles and stamps:  two dorky hobbies combined!  I got those at a church that was having a bag sale, so I just stuffed everything that was mildly interesting into a paper grocery bag and paid $2.  I also ended up with some sweaters, wooden spoons, a cheese slicer, more greeting cards, some old linens, and a few VHS tapes.  Josh found some carved Mexican chess pieces.  We spent fifteen minutes trying to come up with a complete set.  Considering all the pieces look like Easter Island heads, it was a little difficult determining what a king should look like.  The horses were easy, though.  Even on Easter Island, horses look like horses.

Picture 111Picture 113

And my favorite thing from yesterday is this lamp.  It was $2 and the woman said she had owned it for 25 years.  I know there are people in this world who are able to resist that kind of temptation, but I am not one of them.  Right now, it’s in the guest bedroom, illuminating the unmade bed.  I took more pictures of it, but these were the ones that showed the least amount of messiness.  Like the old adage says, it’s easier to crop a picture than to clean your house.


mysterious bruise.

I found a bruise on my thigh this morning, a vaguely purple area barely visible in my pale fleshiness (or was it my fleshy paleness)? I poked it, which was dumb, because it hurt and what did I expect? I suppose that's what I was trying to find out. If it was still tender, that might tell me how long it's been there, which might help me remember how I got it. I had a sudden recollection, but it had nothing to do with whatever harm came to the blood vessels in my thigh.

Instead, I remembered sitting across the table from my sister Rita as she asked me "Do you get a lot of bruises that you don't know how you got?"

And I remembered saying, "No," because I didn't think I did. This was after I showed her a still-healing burn on my forearm. I had a run-in with the oven. She showed me a red area on the exact same place on her arm. Her oven is mean, too. Maybe I do get a lot of mysterious bruises. How many is a lot?

I didn't used to think I was a klutz, but maybe it's true. Everyone has their clumsy moments, right? Is that just what cretins like me tell ourselves? I don't know how to compare my experiences to anyone else's without living in their body for a while. Are there people who never ever burn their forearms on their oven doors? What are they doing differently? Being clumsy seems to be a lack of noticing, a certain obliviousness to your surroundings or to physics, so maybe it's the opposite. Maybe they never burn their forearms on the oven because they take particular care when they are pulling the tray of rolls out. Or maybe it's seamless and subconscious, like noticing a change in temperature. They can tell when to lower their arm because they can sense the oven wall is too close. Where are my oven wall sensors?

Maybe it's not me at all. Surely everyone burns themself on the oven every once in a while. I never noticed that I had a lot of accidents. I'm still not sure that I do. How many is a lot?