hostage holiday.

After my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, my sister told me that she had long held reservations about him because he never attended our family's Thanksgiving. I think that was partly my fault. I asked him to come, but I didn't insist. I never opened my eyes wide and told him that it was really important to me. It was important to me, and like my sister, his resistence nagged at me. But of course I never said anything, I just let it bother me.

We had some communication issues. Or maybe I had some communication issues.

Thanksgiving is a Big Deal to us. We don't give two craps about Christmas. Okay, that's not true. But we don't have Christmas traditions, unless you count going to the home of your in-laws a tradition. Most people have to juggle which family they'll visit for Christmas, but that's never been a problem for my siblings. Since Thanksgiving is established as our big yearly get-together, we're happy to let other people have that other holiday. Just give us Thanksgiving.

I guess if I had to do it over again, I would be much more forceful about "inviting" my boyfriend to Thanksgiving. "Listen, pal, once we get married, you don't ever get to see your family at Thanksgiving again, unless they happen to show up at my family's house, to which they are of course invited. We officially are holding the holiday of Thanksgiving hostage. You might as well get used to it." That sounds terribly harsh and uncompromising, but that is exactly the way I feel about it. I understand that relationships involve lots and lots of sacrifice on both parts. But sometimes each person has the right to be, well, unreasonable. And the other person has to recognize that time, cede the point, and mark down in their ledger that they can have an unreasonable moment of their own sometime.

I don't actually have a Reasonableness Ledger.

I told Josh about how his predecessor's continued absence at Thanksgiving had hurt him in the eyes of my family members. He immediately took that to mean that he would need to attend the very first available Turkey Day. This happened only a few months after we started dating, which I honestly thought was a bit hasty. I hadn't intended to ask him to come that year. I was just letting him know that I had learned my lesson about not communicating to boyfriends about the significance in participation in annual family gatherings. But somehow I'd thrown down the gauntlet.

We also have some communication issues. They're just different ones.

And so we went, and he did great. He played basketball with my brothers and seventy-year-old dad. They did not go easy on him. I'm sure when he was standing underneath the goal, trying to determine how best to play strong defense without hurting the reckless and already bloodied septegenarian that was barrelling toward him, he might have wondered whether I was really worth it. But he came back the next year, and he keeps coming back, so either he decided he likes me a bunch or he's banking that there won't be any more basketball.

Someday, I expect his family to invite me over for Thanksgiving. And I'm going to have to explain about the hostage situation my family has with the holiday. I'll tell them they can have every Christmas until kingdom come, but that magical Thursday in November is reserved for us. I'll say it nicely, but very clearly. I don't want there to be any communication issues.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.


break room candy.

One thing you can be sure about in this world, that's free candy in the break room after Halloween. I think the parents steal it from their children. I'm not sure how it works, really. The parents might stealthily take some of the candy after the kiddies have gone to bed, thinking that they'll never notice that they now have a grocery bag less than they did the night before. Or maybe they charge a "Mommy Tax," forcing the children to donate some of their haul. Maybe the parents take it all away, which seems sort of cruel. Why go trick or treating at all? If I were that kid, I would have a hard time putting any heart into it at all. "Trick or treat. You might as well give me the licorice, because I'm not gonna get to keep any of it anyway." If the parents are really good, then the kid might think that is the point: to get candy and then give it to your folks. "Yes, dear, Halloween is an ancient tradition where the children go out and collect candy for their parents. It pays tribute to the fact that the parents have to buy things all year long for the children. Now give me the Smarties." As long as that kid never talks to any other kid ever, it could work. Something to think about, homeschoolers.

In any case, the break room candy definitely seems to be the result of a night spent begging on front doorsteps. It's a wide assortment, so it's not as if some parent bought too much candy for the evening. If that were the case, they'd be all Hershey bars or all chewy Wonka candy. But you've got a little bit of everything, and it's all sitting in a plastic grocery bag on a table in the break room. The parents must be very concerned about the sugar intake of their little ghouls. However, they obviously couldn't care less about the sugar intake of their coworkers.

When I was little, I was under the impression that adults didn't really like candy that much. I had a lot of stupid ideas about being an adult. What's worse, I knew that my mom had candy hidden in her bedroom. But being a child and therefore very self-absorbed, I thought she was just hiding it from me so I wouldn't eat it all in one sitting. Which is true, she was hiding it from me so I wouldn't eat it. But I figured the reason she didn't want me to eat it was because it was bad for me. In actuality, she didn't want me to eat it because then there would not be any for her. That sort of thing never occurred to me.

And so for those of you out there who labor under the impression that adults do not eat candy, well, it's just not true. We can eat the heck out of some candy. But we do it differently from children. If you set a bag full of candy in front of a group of children, it won't last long. Leave the room for five minutes, when you come back there will be a bunch of noisily-munching kids with sticky fingers surrounded by a bag with only a couple of pieces of licorice inside. However, adults pace themselves, either out of will power or out of shame. Me, it's all shame. I don't want to be caught taking twenty pieces of candy from the bag in one go, so I just grab a piece or two, a mere piece or two!, every time I go in the break room. Man, I sure seem to have a lot of reasons to go into the break room lately. And then I have to unwrap each piece very stealthily at my desk, in case my neighbors might notice the amount of cellophane crinkling going on. Luckily, I grew up in a proud, church-going family, so I have years of practice in this art.

You gotta hop on the good stuff first, because they won't last at all. Of course, as the bag gets lighter, what is the good stuff changes. The first day, there might be mini Heath bars in there, and you're not going to waste any time with Starburst or Blowpops when there is toffee to be had. But the next day, when all the Heath bars are gone (perhaps into your own belly), you may reassess the Starbursts. Some things never seem to leave, and by the end of the week, you wonder if the poor little packs of licorice feel like three-legged puppies at the pound.

And now, because I can't think of a good way to finish this post, I'll leave you with a little joke I read on a piece of Laffy Taffy:

Q: What did one ghost say to the other ghost?
A: "Do you believe in people?"

That's some very advanced humor for a Laffy Taffy wrapper, folks.


yard sales, nov. 21.

Picture 004Let’s just add neurostimulator the list of things you can get at a yard sale.  I did not buy this, not even for a measly $10.  I can lick electrical outlets for free.

Picture 031So what did I buy?  Well, for starters, this set of Pyrex/Corningware canisters.  They were $1 for the set.  I initially passed them by, because I really don’t need any canisters.  But I like both Pyrex and Corningware.  There are a lot of thrifters out there who collect Pyrex stuff, as I found out from reading thrift-based blogs.  When I read those blogs, I ooh and aah a little bit, but I’ve determined Picture 020that I do not want to get into collecting bakeware.  I don’t want to have to buy a hutch just to hold all my Pyrex.  I’d much rather buy a dresser to hold my greeting cards.

That being said, I also saw this Pyrex bowl set.  I liked the colors, but not the price of fifty smackaroos.  That’s why the picture was taken from the sale, not from my house.

I was unable to pass up this WWII board game for a quarter.  A former coworker of mine used to bPicture 039e a serious games collector.  He got rental insurance for his apartment just for the sake of insuring his games, which he estimated to be worth about $4000.  I’m not even kidding.  One day, I said something about my Saturday morning habit, and he asked if I ever saw board games at yard sales.  There are board game forums online where people report what kind of secondhand games they find, and he was always skeptical that anyone ever really found anything.  In an effort to educate the world about yard sale possibilities, I offered to look up some good sales in his area to send him to.  I found three massive church sales near each other, sent him the addresses and bid him happy hunting.  He came in Monday morning to report that he had found half a dozen rare games for a couple bucks apiece.  He seemed to think it was beginner’s luck.  Some people just don’t want to become believers.

Anyway, in this game, you try to either prevent or cause World War II, depending on which country you are playing.  It appears to be in great shape.  Beneath the giant word “ORIGINS” is the phrase “Avalon Hills’ trademark name for its 1935-39 international diplomacy game.”  Kids, don’t let your lawyer design your game box.Picture 003

I paid a whopping $8 for this.  I’ve wanted a Dutch oven for a while, no thanks to the Pioneer Woman, who periodically gives away one of those shiny Le Creuset ones.  But those suckers are very cha-ching.  Even the off-brand one that  my mom bought at Wal-Mart was $40.  This one was made by Cousances, which is an old French brand that used to be one of Le Creuset’s rivals, before they bought them out.  The Cousances are very well-rated and this one is in good shape.  So I’m happy about the purchase.  Now I just need to decide what to make in it.  For more info about Cousances, you can read this article.  I can think of four of my readers who will click that link.

Picture 033 Here’s a hodgepodge of kitchen stuff I got.  Guess what?  I bought yard sale spices, and I’m going to use them.  I was going to pass those by, but then I noticed the jar of saffron.  Saffron is crazy expensive and even a bit hard to find, at least at the places I shop (meaning grocery stores, not yard sales).  Also, I’m good on toothpicks for a while.  If you folks want to come over, I’ll cook you something with saffron in my Dutch oven, and afterwards we’ll all sit around and pick our teeth.  There’s also an oven mitt and some tiny loaf pans.  I find that I can always use an extra oven mitt, due to my habit of setting them on fire with the stove.

Now that I’ve taken the plunge of buying used food items, it seems likely that I will probably do it again. 



Can you tell what this is?

Picture 035Picture 037

It’s a honey drizzler!  When you pick it up and press on the lever up top, the bottom becomes unstoppered and your honey will drip out (provided you have put honey inside).  I’ve never seen anything like this, but it was well worth the $2 I paid.  I told the lady that my dad kept bees, and she was really excited for me to get this.  If I had told her my boyfriend was a musician, do you think she would have given me a discount on the $3600 grand piano they were selling?  I haven’t been able to find anything like this in a few moments of Googling, but I may not be using the right search terms.  Josh calls it my Faberge honey jar, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the right term at all.

I also bought one other thing, but I can’t tell you what it is until Christmas, when Josh opens it.  By then, you’ll have forgotten all about it anyway.


not your typical yard sale.

INDOORS from 1pm to 4pm! Not your typical yard sale! (Raleigh near NCSU)
This is not your typical yard sale. First of all, you don't need to get up at the crack of dawn. Secondly, it's indoors! Thirdly, we have a lot of really nice stuff.

I'll address the points in reverse order.

Thirdly (or first of all?), most yard sales have some nice stuff. Lots of them have exclusively nice stuff. A yard sale to the person who wrote that ad is a fat guy in a lawn chair next to a card table covered with old Hummels and dusty snowglobes and a pile of rotting stuffed animals on a tarp. You will find lots of name brands listed in the ads of yard sales, because name brands are mostly what people buy. Therefore, that's what most people have for sale. This ad tells me that the people hosting it have never ever been to an actual yard sale. And that tells me that their prices are going to be too high. I've been to yard sales with rotting stuffed animals, but I've also been to sales where they try to sell Gap sweaters for $5 apiece and Pier 1 end tables for $20. I'm going to walk away empty-handed either way. Of course, I'm not even going to this sale at all because they've started off our relationship by insulting my sub-culture. Hrmph.

Secondly, lots of sales are indoors. Really. I promise. In fact, "garage sales" by definition are indoors. Again: a glaring lack of sale experience.

And finally, let's talk about the crack of dawn. It's cute how they try to tell you that it's for your benefit. YOU don't need to get up early. It's so sweet of them to think of our beauty sleep needs. I'll see an ad about once a week for a sale with non-traditional hours. It indicates that the sellers are outside the yard sale culture, which we have already established in this case. But it also strikes me as kinda stupid. The people who go to yard sales are going to be up at the "crack of dawn," because that's when the sales are. They're not going to be out at 1 in the afternoon, because by then most sales are over. They're going to be at home on the futon, passed out from all the good deals. So the sellers have cut out a big chunk of their potential customer base right there. Then they are down to the people who don't usually go to yard sales. And that's fine, except that those people aren't reading the CraigsList garage sale ads. Of course, the sellers can put up signs, but if I see a yard sale sign at 2 pm, I would assume it was already over. Even if the time is written on the sign, I'm likely to dismiss it without consulting the time at all, because by then I'm ready to go home and hit the futon.

Hey, it's a free country, and people are, of course, more than welcome to try and get $5 for last year's sweaters any time they want. But they are going to miss out on a lot of traffic by having late hours. Or, they are going to have people pounding on their doors at 8 AM anyway.

I don't mind the early hours. Sure, I'd like to sleep in on Saturdays, but at the same time, you get your yard saling down and out of the way, and you've still got the rest of the day. You know, for napping on the futon.


immediate meeting.

My boss came around and told everyone there was a meeting immediately. Immediate meeting could be trouble. We had an immediate meeting after a couple of people were laid off in March. But this immediate meeting was about benefits. Last month, we had all been given enrollment applications to two different health insurance plans. My boss explained that the cost of our plan was going up 17% this year, and we were going to be shopping around. Funny, the exact same thing had happened the year before: the 17% increase, the enrollment forms, the immediate meeting. We had ended up staying with the same company last year by negotiating some new deal or other. I wonder if the health insurance marketplace is one where you can negotiate terms, provided you make a bunch of people write down the medical history of each family member three times.

We were told that our coverage was getting just a little bit worse. No big deal, an extra $5 on your copay and a higher deductible. The insurance representative reassured us that we would only pay more if used the copay. Sure! And if you don't go to the doctor or get any prescriptions at all, the coverage is completely free!

He also told us about high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, which he indicated we might switch to next year. It was a bit confusing, being given a handout about one health plan and then having a completely different one explained to us. Not that insurance benefits aren't confusing as heck anyway. We learned that we were actually benefitting from a age and gender advantage. Everyone turned to look at me, one of two XXs in a sea of XYs. Apparently the insurance company sees women as walking time-bombs, liable to produce another wet and screaming risk at any moment. Perhaps the actuaries feel that I am 17% more likely to get pregnant this year. The discussion overall was interesting, though it was clear that the agent had some strong opinions about the way healthcare should work.

It started slowly. Someone asked a question about why rates were increasing, another person made a joke, and pretty soon we were having the health care debate right there in Conference Room A. Two or three people were talking loudly across the room about government-run health care in a manner that reminded me of Sunday afternoons from my childhood, my dad in his recliner, watching the McLaughlin Group. "Not now," I muttered, not in any mood to listen to oversimplified quippy answers to real problems. I was sort of surprised to see the vitriol. Fine, I listen to NPR, but I knew that a lot of people were against the health care legislation. Then I realized that while two or three were making a lot of noise, another twenty were sitting silently. A couple of them even seemed to be doing that same tense squirming in their chairs that I was doing.

I already gave myself away here, but I'm one of those bleeding heart liberals. And it's funny, I didn't care a bit about healthcare reform until last October, when Josh took a spill off his bike. He did not have insurance, which meant that they took him to the hospital across town rather than the one two miles away from the curb that caught his head. The bills kept coming in the mail, each from a different department or billing office, all of them confusing. Stitches cost a certain amount, but then there is the cost of the person to put them in and the anesthesia and the time he laid in the bed as they sewed up his face. As the debt mounted, I realized what it was like to have an emergency for those outside the safe, clean walls of employer-provided health benefits. I had no idea what anything cost, because everything was $15 to me. It turns out that things are pretty darn expensive.

Ambulance ride, emergency room visit, a couple dozen stitches, CT scan: $12,000.

That is all behind us now, or at least there hasn't been a bill in nine months or so. If you pay within 90 days, you get a 50% discount. Which is sizeable, but I get the feeling that most uninsured cyclists don't have $6,000 lying around. I don't know the answers, and I don't feel comfortable making proclamations about incredibly complicated and nuanced problems that I don't even know all that much about. But the existing scenario does not make sense. The hospital sends you a bill for an amount, but it's not the actual cost, because you get an instant discount? So what is the actual cost of stitching someone up? Also: $12,000? Are you freaking kidding me?

I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, nor am I even trying to start a discussion here. That should be clear, as I've barely put forth an opinion other than "Bike wrecks are expensive." I just had kind of a weird meeting this morning, and I haven't written much lately, and I thought it might be nice to write something relevant once in a while. I'm glad something is being done, even if I don't know what the right thing to do is. I don't expect the first bill to be passed to be perfect. But it is encouraging that most people recognize that the system as it exists is broken. It might be a while before we get it right.

Until then, wear your helmet.


yard sales, nov. 14.

Today when I sat down to write this, I failed to muster any enthusiasm at all for photographing what I bought.  I spent $5 yesterday and then another $5 today at an estate sale.  What did I buy?  Books, greeting cards, picture frames, Christmas lights.  Nothing interesting at all.  But then I thought about how disappointed you all would be if I didn’t post anything at all about my yard sale day.  I know how you live vicariously through me.  Why you can’t just go to your own yard sales, I don’t know.

I did take some pictures at a pair of estate sales I visited.  It’s fun when rich people die, no wait, that’s not it.  It’s fun when rich people have estate sales!  You get to see what rich people purchase to console themselves over the fact that they can’t buy happiness or love.  I don’t buy much at these sales, because it’s mostly very expensive.  Don’t worry, poor people, I like your estate sales, too. 

The first estate sale – well, these people were only kinda rich.  They might be people you know from church or something.  They had some really beautiful furniture, as well as lot of nice glassware and silver. 

Picture 167


This buffet had already been sold for $150, which seemed like a pretty good price.  I mean, I barely know what a buffet is, much less how much you should pay for one. 




Picture 169

I really like the iron inlay on this table.  The silver is nice if you care about that sort of thing.  I can’t say that I do.  Silver seems pretty useless to me.  I have my share of useless stuff, but I have gumball machines and giant beakers.  Silver’s not my thing. The table came with the chairs you see in the background with the velvety fabric.  I think the whole set was $400.



Picture 174



This lamp has a neat little fake fire going on in the base.  It was only $10.  I went back to this sale this morning, and everything was half off.  A woman who had been there Saturday apparently came back today to buy this lamp, but it was already gone.  Always a tough call.  I had come back to maybe pick up a horse picture for my nephew, but it was also gone.  Sorry, pal.




Picture 170



I was pretty tempted by this medical stuff.  In the end, sanity won out.  So if you need someone to check your reflexes, you’ll just have to ask someone else.



Picture 172


More tempting medical stuff.  However, in this shot, you’ll observe something that I would NOT buy at a yard sale.  Do you see it?  Can you pick it out?

Did you find it?

Take your time.

The little blue packet on the counter:  Rectal thermometer.  I don’t care if it’s in a sealed package, forget it.   I guess I’m just close-minded that way.

Anyway, I came back to this sale today and got some greeting cards.  I did some hard negotiating, my friends.  I got 93 cards for $5.  They were divided into Ziploc baggies.  Each bag was marked $5 - $8, which is pretty silly.  The bags I got were priced at a total of $29.  But I think the lady realized that the sort of suckers who buy greeting cards at estate sales were running out.  I’m not keeping all of them, of course, but there are some good ones in there.  You know, if you’re the type to get excited by greeting cards.

The other estate sale I visited – well, those people were filthy, stinking rich.  You do not know these people from church.  They go to a secret rich people church.  You don’t even see them at the grocery store, because they send their servants to the store for them.  Their house was for sale.  I looked it up later, and it’s priced at $1.9 million.  It’s a newish place, built five years years ago.  Whenever I go to a insanely expensive house like that, I can’t help think that I would buy a different house with my $2 million.  Like my mom says, I’d love to have the money to buy it, the joke being that I wouldn’t buy it, but I’d like to have the money.  Picture 183


Still, 9,000 square feet, and a built-in expresso maker!  The other half is very well-caffeinated.






Picture 179



The entryway was very impressive.  There was an equally giant painting on the opposite wall.  There were a lot of paintings actually.  Most houses seem to have prints or pictures, but these were real, live artwork.  They weren’t particularly to my taste, but I appreciated that they didn’t look like they came out of a hotel room.




Picture 184

There were a ton of built-in bookshelves all over the house.  However, these leather-bound books were the only ones in the house.  They were priced based on size:  small, medium, large.  Which seems like pretty vague pricing to me.




And here’s some rich people furniture.  The house was chock full of this stuff.  You know where you have a chair or a table or a nightstand?  These people have those things, but they’re valuable antiques.  The buffet was $1,000, and the hutch was $3,000.  I could have taken dozens of pictures of furniture like this, but you’d probably get bored of it.

Picture 186

Picture 187 Picture 181



And the little red…whatchamacallit was really the only piece that I actually liked.  Maybe I’m just not meant to be one of the super rich.

So yeah, sorry about the lame yard sale day.  Remember, I’m the one who actually lived it.  Perhaps you should live vicariously through someone else.


yard sales, nov. 7.


Yard sale vodka! 

Not really.  I have had yard sale wine, though.  One time, we came up to a sale after it was over, and the guy was just throwing everything in a free pile on his curb.  He must have been some sort of wine rep, because he had a lot of vino paraphernalia, including about twelve one-serving bottles of White Zinfandel.  I felt like pointing out that he could seriously get arrested for just leaving booze out on the curb for any unsuspecting six year old to get into, but he didn’t seem real eager to talk to the kind of people who paw through free piles.  Instead, I did the responsible thing and took all the wine for myself so no kids would get into it.

There is no vodka in this box.  However, I really like the way the company used the Metric system as a selling point.  New!  The Metric System!  It’s European! 

No, this box contained greeting cards.  Because throw a bunch of cards in a box, and I will buy it.  What’s worse, my sister told me A mess of cardsthis week that she will take my card rejects for her scrapbooking projects.  I don’t need more justification to buy cards.  What I need is a bigger container to hold the ones I have.  Do you know what I’m using to store my cards now?  A dresser. 

These appear to be mostly Christmas cards.  Some of them even come pre-signed.  From Bruce and Margaret!  There are also a lot of notelets with pictures of fruit and recipes for mountain home cookin’.  Every recipe has the word “Appalachian” in the title, so now I know how to make Appalachian Apple Pie, Appalachian Pear Relish, and Appalachian Mango Salsa (just kidding on the last one).  Out of the box, I ended up keeping 31 cards and about a hundred assorted envelopes.

So coming your way at Thanksgiving, dear sister:  a couple hundred old greeting cards, sent with love from me, Bruce, Margaret, and the Appalachian FrPicture 124uit Council.

This little table was at a church sale, and it is a darn good thing that someone got there before 8:30 to buy it.  I can barely resist buying every 50s dinette set I see, and I already have one.  I wish I had a house with fifty dining rooms so I could have a different dinette set in each and every one.  So there is no way that I could have resisted a tiny one, especially for only $5.  FIVE DOLLARS.  Think of the TEA PARTIES!  And then I would have brought it home, and Josh would have gotten all freaked out, because one week his girlfriend turns twenty-seven, and then the next thing he knows she’s buying miniature furniture.  How would I explain to him that I don’t want actual children, I just want to buy them tiny retro kitchen pieces?

I spent two dollars on a picture at an estate sale, and I felt like I was splurging.  Once, my sistPicture 178er-in-law complimented a purse of mine, and was oddly happy to hear that I had bought it retail.  Of course, I felt ashamed to admit that I had spent $7 on a brand new purse because I’m supposed to be some sort of frugal zealot, but she thought it was great.  She was glad to hear that I was spending money Picture 181on myself.  I think that’s nuts, because all I do is spend money on myself.  My hobby is to buy useless crap for myself.  I write long blog posts about all the self-indulgent spending I do. 

Anyway, she’ll be happy to find that I bought this for myself, just because I like it, which is the basic reasoning behind anything that I buy.  In case you can’t tell, it’s a picture of birds.  However, the frame has a birdcage painted on the glass, so it looks like you’ve got sweet little pet birdies.  It’s got a little old lady flavor about it, but I bet I could put an updated print of birds in there that would make it look hip and modern.  Or, I could put a picture of Josh in there when I am angry at him.  The bottom is a mirror.  Either that or a portal to another universe where there lives a girl who owns a camera just like mine.


Here is something at that same sale which I did not splurge on.  Is $25 a reasonable price for something that makes me shudder every time I look at it?  How do you even factor in something like that?

Picture 132 Picture 136

Picture 166I felt sort of obligated to buy this Pac-Mac puzzle, because the nostalgia value is so very high, but it’s actually pretty cool.  I love the pixelated graphics.  Remember back in the 80s, when everything was really blocky?  It’s “over 500 pieces” and measures 18” x 23” when fully completed.  I was planning on giving it away to some other child of the 80s, but I might end up keeping it.  It was $.50 at a church sale.  I do not yet know whether all the pieces are present and accounted for.  If I keep it, I’m going to want to apply that puzzle glue stuff and then hang it up.  And I hate to admit that I am the kind of person that would ever display a completed puzzle, because the only thing dorkier than enjoying doing jigsaw puzzles is using them as artwork.  I also hate to admit that I’m even self-conscious about something like that, so I have this back and forth turmoil where I want to hang up a puzzle, yet I’m embarrassed to, which makes me want to hang it up all the more so I can get over myself.

The solution, of course, is to write about it on the internet.  Internet, I own puzzle glue.

Enough about my struggles with my inner dork, and back to the yard sales.  I like to make grab-bag type purchases, as you can see with the box full of cards (and the box of cards from last week and the week before that).  Aside from feeding my raging stationery habit, it’s also a great way to accumulate sewing anPicture 163d crafty things.  I am not particularly crafty, but I do sort of want to be.  Particularly when I look at other thrifty blogs and people have taken crap they bought for a quarter and made it awesome with some glue and rickrack.  The cigar box is full of rickrack and bias tape and was fifty cents.  The bank bag is full of sewing odds and ends, including elastic thread, which sounds sort of exciting.  There are various oddly-shaped needles for very-specific, unknown-to-me tasks, and lots of labels that say things like “Homemade by Mom” and “Hand Knitted with love.”  It also contained 42 crochet needles.  I am not exaggerating.  I counted.  42. 

I also just like the bank bag.  The Colorado Bank and Trust Company is still around, which is saying something these days.  However,  their Delta branch appears to be closed.  The whole bag was a buck, which is 2.38 cents per needle.  There is also a little golf pencil in there which says “Readers Digest 1,000,000 Winners.”  That works out to be $23,809 per needle.

I bought a mysterious piece of stereo equipment for Josh.  He was in Florida yesterday morning, and the bum did not even stop atPicture 185 a Florida yard sale to buy me a present.  Wouldn’t that be neat?  To have something from a Florida yard sale?  But no, nothing.  That’s it, he’s going in the bird cage. 

The trouble with going to sales without him is that I see things that I think he would like.  But I’m not sure that he would like it, but then it’s really cheap and I feel guilty if I don’t spend the money to find out if he would want it.  So I picked this thing up and examined it about three times, hoping the seller would tell me what it was or how much he wanted for it, before finally asking.  It was a dollar, which as it happens, was my upper limit for buying electrical equipment that I don’t understand.  A little Googling told me that this item sold for $40…in 1972.

Picture 171 These trays are pretty silly.  They’re like the old trays you used to carry your lunch in elementary school, except way more hippie-ish.  Maybe they were used at one of those experimental schools where they don’t give out grades.  The brand is SiLite, which seems very appropriate.  I mean, if you had to guess what SiLite made, wouldn’t you think of something like these goofy trays? 

Like many of the things I buy, I am half-hoping that someone I know will happen to tell me that they have been desperately seeking this exact item, so I can give it away and not have to figure out what to do with it.  Then I look like a good person to know.  I got the pair for $1.  Does anyone need some trays?  Or maybe some crochet needles?

At the same sale, they were also selling this.

Picture 137As it happens, I did not need one.  Well, at the time, my morning coffee was kicking in and I could have used one, but I didn’t need to buy one, not even a very patriotic one.  And you know what?  This is not the first yard sale toilet I’ve seen.  I’m just guessing that you, my reading public, have never seen a yard sale toilet, so I’m bringing that image to you.  I tried to be very sneaky about taking the picture.  It’s some kind of weirdo that sells a toilet at a yard sale, but it’s mega-ultra-super-weirdo who takes a picture of it.  By the way the people were standing around and whispering immediately after my little photo shoot, I suspect they saw me.  Or maybe I was just being paranoid about having taken a picture of a toilet on someone’s lawn.  Things I am self-conscious about:  1.) Owning puzzle glue, 2.) Taking pictures of lawn toilets.

I have saved the best for last, my friends.  And oh my GOODNESS, I am so excited about this next item.  It is better than a three-dimensional bird picture, it is better than a vodka box of cards, it is…as good as a tiny dinette set.  You could also call it a splurge, even though we’ve already established that everything is a splurge, because I need exactly none of it. 

Picture 186 For several months, I’ve really been wanting an electric ice cream maker.  I’ve seen all these neat recipes for homemade ice cream on the web.  I see ice cream makers at yard sales all the time, but they are usually the old ones that look like bathroom trash cans from the 70s.  I went so far to look on Amazon to see how much they cost new, because I hadn’t found a good one used.  I came very, very close to asking my mom to buy me this one for my birthday.  And then today, I found that exact machine at a yard sale – new in the box.  A lot of people will tell you that the thing they’re trying to sell you has never been used, but this thing was still packed in styrofoam.  It was marked $15, but I paid $10, and I was happy to do so.  I immediately stopped feeling guilty about buying the little bird picture, because this machine had cost five times as much, which was still less than 25% of what it would cost new.  That there was a lot of math, so I hope you’re keeping up.  This will be the kind of thing I’ll mention when I’m trying to sell yard saling to the skeptics, because I do feel like a bit of a yard sale evangelist sometimes.  They don’t care how many great ugly lamps I bought or how cheap used stationery can be, but they will be impressed by spanking-new Cuisinart.

And that was yesterday.  It was splurge-ful.


fall into november.

I was driving along on this gorgeous fall day, and I have to say: November, I never knew you had it in you. Sixty degrees, blue skies, and multi-colored leaves? This is a November I can get on board with.

I passed an intersection, where a row of cards was waiting to turn right. I noticed that they were all convertibles, Mazda Miatas in fact. In a neat little row of color, they all pulled out behind me, one, two, three, four, five. They were flashy colors. I mean, my car is RED, but it's hatchback red. These were sports car colors. Some of the cars were red, some were blue, some were white, all of them shiny clean. The tops were down, as the passengers let November rush through their hair.

And wait, what's this? In front of me, one, two, three, four, five, six! Six Miatas in front of me. I was in the middle of some kind of mid-life crisis parade, and it made me laugh and laugh and laugh. It was the kind of day where a hatchback in the middle of a convertible procession was the funniest thing in the world.

Another mile down the road, and the head Miata signalled a left turn. Eleven turn signals, and as I headed straight, I stuck my arm out the window and waved. I wondered if they even noticed me, or if anyone we passed along the way thought it odd at all. Maybe it was just me or maybe I was drunk on November or maybe it's not so odd to find such joy in eleven Mazda Miatas and one Honda Fit.



Six bottles of bourbon sat on the kitchen island.

I respect bourbon, though I don't care to drink it. Josh does, and his brand is Jim Beam. My ex-boyfriend drank it, too, but he preferred Maker's Mark. A few years ago, I joined the Maker's Mark Ambassadors, which is just a free club for bourbon enthusiasts. I joined it for him so that I could give him the free stuff that comes along with membership. We broke up before the complimentary glasses and stirring sticks came in the mail. Now, I get a free gift every Christmas and somewhere in Kentucky is a barrel of bourbon with a plaque bearing my name. I even have a certificate. And all because I used to date a guy who liked bourbon.

Now I date a different guy who still likes bourbon, and I bought him a Jim Beam mirror a couple of birthdays ago. I found it at the Goodwill in Clemmons for $6. It's a nice mirror, like the kind you see hanging in bars. I gave it to him knowing full well that it might someday end up at my house. I don't generally care for the use of alcohol in decor. It reminds me of college, where empty liquor bottles sat like trophies on top of mantles and bookshelves. I associate it with excess, with people who think that finishing a bottle of Old Granddad is an accomplishment of some sort. I am a stick in the mud.

But I excused the mirror, because it was nice, because it was a great price, because it was his brand, because it sat serendipitously in the Goodwill waiting for me. How can I resist secondhand fate?

Back to the kitchen island. We were at this guy's house. He was a friend of the band who had asked them to come play at an outdoor bar for his birthday, but the night had gotten rained out. We were going to go to the Farmhouse later, but until then, he wanted us to taste his bourbon. He was an older guy, maybe mid to late thirties, and he'd recently become a connoisseur. Did you know there was such a thing as a bourbon connoisseur? To be completely honest, I didn't realize it either, but it makes sense. After all, there is good wine and good beer and people who know the difference, so why shouldn't the same apply to liquor? Despite the brown bag connotations, there is science in the creation of spirits. You take some plant matter, let it ferment, distill it, and you have a different product based on the plant and the methods and even the barrel used to age the stuff. Maybe people wouldn't find it so interesting if it didn't make you feel better about life for a while; after all, I don't know any milk connoisseurs.

He brought out the bottles and talked about touring the distillery. He set out six bar glasses with ice and poured a ounce or so in each glass. Glasses were passed around (I waved one away, saying I would sip out of Josh's), and five non-connoisseurs swirled, smelled, and sipped. They talked about bourbon.

There was a kid there, who I didn't know but had already decided that I didn't much care for. Everything he said was full of bravado, his ballcap carefully turned to just the right angle, seven degrees askew. He interrupted conversations to turn them back around to him with unrelated statements like "I'm having an affair with my boss." He assumed some sort of familiarity with the band, though Josh didn't know his name. The band always has these hangers-on, people who happen to be at the bar where they're playing, decide to come to the after-party, and then the next time they show up and act like old pals. They're like band barnacles. They come up to Josh and give him the thug handshake and hug combo, but later, when I ask who the heck they are, he shrugs and tells me that he has no idea.

For all the glamour of being a rock star, it sure does seem to involve a lot of pretending you know complete strangers.

This kid was trying to talk about bourbon. So as the connoisseur described each bottle, comparing it to other liquors, the Barnacle would say, "Oh yeah, man, that's like 80 proof." He did this for each brand that came up in the conversation. I have no idea if he was right, and no one corrected him.

Back in college, when I was first being introduced to the world of alcohol, the proof of a liquor was interesting to me. At that time, that seemed to be the only difference. They all tasted bad, but some of them got you more drunk than others. As I got older, I realized that there were differences - in taste, in smell, in mouthfeel. But also, the idea of getting drunk sort of lost its novelty. I don't care what will get me drunk the quickest. Efficiency is not the goal here. This kid was clearly still in that stage, where drinking high proof alcohol was a statement of manhood. He probably had some empty bottles on his mantle. There was a certain plea in his statements, though, as if he was offering us the only contribution to the conversation that he could come up with. If I hadn't already been sick of him, I might have felt sorry for him. But then I looked at his cap, seven degrees askew, and rolled my eyes.

The rest of us sipped. I thought I could tell the difference between various types, but maybe I was just imagining. If someone gives you a glass of wine and tells you it has hints of vanilla, you might think you taste them, whether they are there or not. I could tell that one bourbon was different from another, but I couldn't tell why. It was like when I used to go to wine-tasting class, and I felt the disconnect between what I was experiencing and how to describe it.

And we talked about ninjas. That was the Connoisseur's way of describing the kick that straight liquor gives you. You sip it, you taste the flavor, and then BAM! You realize that you're drinking poison. Those were the ninjas; they sneak up on you. A drink with a strong punch had a lot of ninjas. The Barnacle was surprised to find that it was not all about proof. Most of the talk was about ninjas or comparing this drink with the last. Some of the guys restated what the Connoisseur had told us, probably feeling like me in that if they were told some flavor was there, they could find it.

But Josh, ah my sweet, that man has a way with words. He described the flavor, he described the way it felt in your mouth, he described the whole experience. It was beautiful, and listening to him made me want to try each one again, so I could have the experience he painted for us. The Connoisseur lapped it up. He was sharing his expensive special liquor with a bunch of people who didn't get it, but it was probably worth it just to hear Josh talk. He got it, Josh got it, they bonded. This was the guy's birthday present. If you have never met someone who can make a conversation seem like a gift, then you are missing out on one of life's best free highs. Call me a connoisseur of conversation.

Afterwards, the men went out to smoke, and I was left standing in the kitchen with the Connoisseur's wife. It was too cold to go outside if you don't even smoke. I was very brave and bold and talked with a stranger, because I wanted to prove to myself and the world that I don't have to be aloof and I can be a fun and interesting person, even if I am a stick in the mud.

Why is this so hard for me? I struggle with the kind of talk that happens when you first meet someone. It's like there are rules I don't know or a script that I don't have a copy of. And it seems like nothing is ever said. I've cultivated that view for so long that if someone does not impress me within a few sentences, I have written them off. That sounds like more of a conversation snob than a connoisseur, and actually just a terrible snot of a human being. Having finally recognized this tendency, I am trying to make myself talk to strangers. There is always an opportunity to glean something worthwhile in a conversation, to learn something from someone else's experience. The white Zinfandel may be too sweet and the Chardonnay too acidic, but they can still have their charms. The woman was pleasant, and she worked in a fertility clinic, which was fascinating, so after a while, I didn't even feel like I was making myself do something for the betterment of my character.

The men filtered back in, though Josh stayed outside with the Barnacle. I could tell from Josh's pacing and gesturing that he was in lecture mode. Please know that I mean it affectionately.

I went outside, mostly to selfishly drag Josh back inside (so I could be with him and warm), but also partly to see what he found to talk about with this obnoxious person. Remember, I know intellectually that the kid has value, but in real life, I just want to straighten his hat and tell him to shut up. Josh was explaining something about the way the world works, and it would contribute a lot of good detail to this story if I could remember what. Maybe it was about the economy, maybe it was about bourbon, maybe it was about God, I'm sorry, but I don't know. The Barnacle was nodding slowly and thoughtfully as he listened, periodically saying "Yeah, I see what you're saying." Again I could see that sad sort of earnestness in his stance, that person inside him who just wanted to be accepted and thought making a jerk of himself was the way to go. It was clear to me that the kid had made some statement, probably off-handed that he thought was clever or bold, and Josh had calmly and patiently and completely taken him down. I can recognize that state, having been on the receiving end of many of Josh's lectures. He's good at telling you that you are wrong without you resenting him for it. In fact, you end up respecting him.

I do not have this gift. If I bother to argue with you, meaning I haven't just dismissed you and your stupid point of view, I may not convince you that you are wrong, but I will convince you that I think you're an idiot. I promise I don't just go around calling people morons to their faces, but somehow that message gets through, even when I don't even think that. The old me would retort that people shouldn't be so sensitive. But having witnessed Josh in action, I can see that there is a way to disagree without conveying disdain. I wouldn't even have bothered talking to this guy; I had been done with him a couple of hours ago. And I know for a fact that Josh thought the Barnacle was kind of a tool, but he still took the time to have a discussion with him.

In many ways, Josh is a better person than I am. It's very irritating.

We left soon after to go continue the party at the Farmhouse. I girded my loins, preparing for the onslaught of happy drunken strangers who would soon want me to be happy and drunk with them. I felt bolstered by the bourbon, by the successful conversational navigation I had done with the Connoisser's wife, by the knowledge that most people just want to be liked. Alone in the car, my last few minutes alone with the only person I would want to talk to at the Farmhouse anyway, we talked about the Barnacle, about ninjas, about bourbon.


forced woo-ing.

When I was a junior in high school, I was a part of a terrible play. It was not the fault of the playwright, but that of the players. We didn't know our lines. Each scene was punctuated with long dead silences as those on stage looked blankly at each other. A performance that should have taken up no more than ninety minutes of anyone's life stole nearly three hours of time from each poor soul who was foolish enough to buy a ticket.

Before you start to feel sorry for those devoted patrons of the arts, realize that they were only our parents. Yes, they were miserable, but it was for a good cause. They had to be miserable. That's what parenting is all about, right?

During the third night or so of our run, a friend of mine told me that her dad had been laughing very loudly on purpose during the previous night's show. It was a sweet gesture. There really were some genuinely funny moments in the script. They were just hard to catch, what with us mumbling the wrong lines all the time. But he knew the story and was trying to help. He laughed to encourage the other bored theatre-goers, and he laughed to encourage us. Maybe it would have worked if our problem was low self-confidence rather than a lack of preparation.

Now, I had heard of this sort of thing before. Someone had told me that there were planted audience members even on Broadway. The director or maybe the producers would hire someone to go to a show and laugh, guffaw, and slap their knee. The theory was that other, non-paid viewers would catch on to this laughter and enjoyment, giving the impression that this was actually a good show after all.

Surely that doesn't work, right? I mean, people can't possibly be that stupid. Besides, that seems wrong somehow. It was dishonest, that's what it was. Cheating, even.

And then my friend's dad did the same thing. True, he wasn't paid to do it. He wasn't trying to increase the producer's profit or the director's reviews. He felt sorry for us, even though we had brought it upon ourselves. It wasn't cheating, it was charity. I doubt it worked, because the show was just so bad. Everyone probably just thought he was crazy.

I don't do all that much at Josh's shows. I carry some equipment, I help break down the drums. But I don't sell merchandise, and I don't walk around with the email list, bullying people to sign up to receive free mp3s and tour information. However, I am very active in crowd encouragement.

Every show is different, of course, but sometimes the people need to be told when to clap. They haven't been paying attention and those jerks didn't even notice that the song was over. So I clap, and I go woo. And then they suddenly notice the woo-ing and they give the required clapping and half-hearting woo-ing. An unenthusiastic cheer is not much, but it is better than indifferent silence.

Sometimes the audience, at least part of it, is paying attention. Not only are they hearing the music, they are listening to it. They are noticing the melody, they are trying to make out the words. They might even be looking at the band! They know when to clap and woo. I still clap and woo with them, because every voice counts. In this situation, I will even woo in the middle of songs when one of the guys has a solo. Sometimes other audience members get in on it, and sometimes they don't.

And I dance, if you can call swaying and toe-tapping and head-bopping dancing. It's nothing much, but I try to be positioned towards the front. This encourages others to come up and dance. People are self-conscious about being at the front of the room, even if there are three guys on a raised platform with lights pointed at them making a ton of noise who are most certainly even more at the center of attention. By getting over myself and being in front of them, even though I'm frequently by myself, I give them confidence to come let go a little bit too. I suspect that this move has extra power because of my femaleness. Men in bars like it when girls dance, even when they're tall, goofy girls like me. They don't hit on me, they don't even talk to me, but somehow by grooving in my own awkward way, I make the party more fun. They come up closer to the stage, they pay more attention to the music, they do their own swaying and toe-tapping and head-bopping. When this scheme of mine works, I feel like a freaking saint. Perhaps this is setting the feminist movement back a few years. What's worse, I'm doing it out of love for a man.

It doesn't feel like cheating and it doesn't feel dishonest. I'm not paid to do it, like those Broadway guffawers, and I am genuinely enjoying the music, as opposed to my friend's poor stout-hearted and faithful father. I'm just bridging the gap between performer and audience. When no connection is made, it seems like charity, like a stubbornly optimistic cheerleader on the sidelines of a blowout. But when someone does come around, I feel like I'm helping, like I'm earning my share of the free beer. Maybe it has nothing to do with me, and those people would connect to the band anyway. It never hurts to try.


yard sales, oct 31.

There were a lot of strikes against us yesterday.  It was drizzling, it was a holiday weekend, and the season is starting to die down.  I wasn't sure whether there would even be any sales happening at all.  While Halloween is not a huge sale breaker, it is the sort of distraction that would prevent people from having a sale.  And of course, the trouble with rain is that many yard sales are...in the yard.  We ended up following signs to several invisible yard sales.  I guess people put out their signs optomistically and then forgot to take them down once they decided not to have the sale after all.

But we did go out and we did get a few things.  I grabbed a couple pairs of earrings at an estate sale.  One is just a pair of silver oPicture 108ld lady hoops, and the other is amber, I think.  I'm not wild about the settings, but I do like amber stuff quite a bit.  I’d just love to show you a great, in-focus shot of those earrings, but my career as a jewelry photographer is in dire trouble.  I also picked up  this set of C.S. Lewis books at the same sale.  The case is in sad shape, but the books are pristine.  One book is missing, Mere Christianity.  Luckily, I happen to already have it.  I haven't read any of these, including the one I already have, though I have read A Grief Observed, which he wrote after the death of his wife.  And hopefully I will someday get to reading all of these books that I have but haven't ever read.  I give Josh a hard time about collecting books, but truth be told, I've got a little bit of a habit myself.

We only hit one church sale today, where I got an old timey dress (which ended up not fitting, so I didn’t take a picture of it) and a pack of note cards.  The cards are pretty nice and include lined envelopes.  ThePicture 095 label on the box said “Notelets $2.”  I only paid $1, and the learning of the word “notelet” was absolutely free.  The notelets feature pictures of flowers and some French words.  After a bit of Googling, I discovered that they’re vintage labels from some old French soaps made by a fella named Victor Vaissier.  They’re sort of generically girly and European, but I know some people who appreciate that sort of thing, and a couple who might even know something about old French soap. 

Josh bought an old trunk, because he likes things you can put other things inside.  I think he picked it up in the first place with the hope that there would be a musical instrument inside, but no dice. 

Picture 115

But enough of all that crap, let's get down to the real find we had yesterday.  We stopped at a sort of sad and sagging little house in a neighborhood full of such places.  Have of the stuff was covered up with clear plastic bags, and the rest of it was just wet.  There was a lot of baby stuff, some Confederate memorabilia, a couple of old DirecTV boxes, some watches, and then this.

Picture 099 I'll just tell you what that is.  It's a dummy cartridge used to teach newbies how to load the big guns.  We found several on the internet.  They don't appear to be particularly valuable - looks like you can pick on up for less than $50 - but they are pretty neat.  The top cone comes off and there is a compartment inside, I guess for explosives.  Or you could hide the key to your saPicture 106fe deposit box in there, I suppose.

We were marveling at it, and the woman said her husband had found it.  He's an electrician, and it was just hanging around in the crawlspace of a house where he was working.  Seems like there were a few details missing, like whose house it was and whether they knew he was taking military relics from them.  But he brought it home to sit in their living room.  Now they were finally coming to terms that they had no real use for it, and so they intended to sell it to someone else who had a living room that needed a giant bullet to complete its decor.  You know, someone like us.

A neighbor lady was there to help cover the rest of the stuff with more plastic bags, and she said, "Have y'all ever seen Pawn?"  She then started explaining the show, which apparently sounds a bit like Antiques Roadshow or something, where people bring crap lying around in their crawlspaces in the hopes that they can sell it for enough dough to quit their jobs.  The only reason this conversation was in any way remarkable is because of the lady's accent.  With the way she talked, it sounded like she was asking, "Have y'all ever seen porn?" which seemed like a non-sequitur at best.  The show is actually called Pawn Stars, which indicates that the producers know that members of its audience have thick country accents.

Anyway, we ended up with the cartridge in exchange for a mere $4.  I was concerned it would be more, because the lady's other stuff was overpriced, and what with the conversation about porn Pawn, she might think it was actually worth a whole bunch.  Luckily, some older man came out and told her to price it at four or five dollars.  We picked four.

And that was it.  Short day, not much of a haul, but a fun morning anyway.