Being an only pet, Remix does not get to play with a lot of other dogs. It's too bad, because she is a great playmate. I mean, okay, she's kind of enthusiastic. It may be because she's not yet two years old, but she can be very energetic. Her encounters with older dogs remind me of being a little kid and always wanting to play with my older siblings. Hey! Wanna play? Wanna play? And she's also pretty big, without being very aware of her own size. So little dogs can end up a little bruised.

But she is not aggressive, and she doesn't try to bowl the other dog over.

I am happy for every opportunity for her to play with other dogs. She loves it so much. To see her running in frantic circles makes me realize that not only am I not exercising her enough, I'm probably not even capable of exercising her as much as she could take.

As it happens, we live next to a goldmine of playmates. Remix has limited interaction with them. They bark at her when she goes out. She wags her tail and cocks her head to the side while not barking, as if listening very closely. She does "play" with one of Gail's dogs, a little black one. They run around in their own yards, then come back and sniff at each other through the chain-link fence. It's sort of pathetic to see them do it, but of course, they're dogs, so they think it's great.

I mentioned one time to Gail that it would be nice if one of her dogs could come over for a playdate sometime. It seemed like a waste for her to have all those eligible playmates over there and poor Remix all alone with her yard full of stick toys. So she picked up the little black dog and dropped her on our side of the fence. That's how I met Brownie, who looks a lot like a similar black dog that my uncle had, named Blacky.

The thing about dogs is that they know and play different games. My sister has border collies, and their favorite game is called Herd. Remix enjoys Chase, and so she and the border collies are able to combine their games in a way that each thinks they are playing what they like. Brownie seemed to enjoy Run, which also can be played in tandem with Chase.

When you get Remix with another dog, you can tell that she does not get a lot of dog interaction. She constantly bothers them, hey hey hey. When the other dog gets tired, Remix will sit next to them for a second, then go back to hey hey hey. Brownie quickly revealed that she gets plenty of dog play, but she sure would enjoy some people time. I sat outside and watched them run in circles. Every five laps or so, Brownie came up to me to get some affection. Remix is not a jealous dog, so rather than try to get in between me and Brownie, she would just try to start up another game of Chase.

At one point, I went into the house for a minute or two. When I came back out, the book I had been reading was on the deck, rather than on the railing where I left it. It had chew marks. I sighed, but it was a used book anyway, so I just decided to pretend that it had come that way. Then about a foot away, also on the deck, I saw my smartphone. The protective cover was off, and so was the battery cover. I alternated between cursing Brownie and saying hopeful prayers as I replaced the cover and turned the phone on again. Luckily, it worked just fine. Lesson learned: do not leave your stuff outside with Gail's dogs.

After a half hour or so, when I was ready to go back in the house, I picked Brownie up and dropped her back into her yard. Despite the phone incident, I considered the playdate a success and thought it should happen again the future.

However, Josh is afraid that this is our first step into animal hoarding. He is afraid that by encouraging Gail's dogs to come and play, we are encouraging them to come over and stay, that Gail will want to give us dogs. I am not worried about this at all; it would never have occurred to me. Gail is pretty self-conscious about her menagerie. She knows that she has an unusual situation and is far more worried that her dogs are bothering us. But he is convinced that we are going to end up with ten dogs, six chickens, three cats, and a bunny. I told him that the only way that could happen was if we let it happen. If she tries to give us a dog, we can just say no.

One night last week, we were sitting on the back porch, enjoying the mild weather. Remix was sniffing around the yard. A minute or two later, Gail's brood noticed her presence and started up a ruckus. When this happens, we just shrug our shoulders and put Remix back in the house in the interest of neighborhood peace and harmony. Gail called out to us through the night, "Want me to drop Brownie over the fence?"

I didn't want her to, because we were only going to be out there a few minutes. I looked at Josh, who was wearing a tired sort of I-told-you-so look. I sighed, then called out, "Nah, we're just going to be out here a little while." Gail responded, "Okay!" Josh smiled, happy to not have an extra dog in the yard and also not to have to be the one to say no.

I still think it's a good idea.


buying happiness.

Our most recent book club choice was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The author spends a year researching happiness and trying to find small ways to boost her own. She has a chapter on money and the old question of whether you can buy happiness. She comes to the conclusion that you can. She tells about meeting a woman who disagreed very strongly with her on this point, explaining that she had no money because she spent it all to buy a horse, and that horse brings her so much happiness. Rubin responds that she just proved that you can buy happiness - the lady bought a horse, which made her happy. The lady vehemently said no, she was happy even though she had no money, because of the horse. BUT YOU BOUGHT THE HORSE.

I can imagine getting into an argument with the horse lady. YOU BOUGHT THE HORSE. WITH MONEY.

I agree that you can buy happiness. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that you can buy some happiness. I'm not saying that more money equals more happiness, nor that anyone's happiness comes entirely from things that were bought. I'm saying that you can exchange money for things that make you happy. Money is a tool in our world that can give you access to things or experiences. I bet that for everybody, there is something that could be purchased that would make them happy. My house makes me happy. I need a place to live anyway, and it is also a long-term investment, but my particular house just makes me happy. The silly things that I buy at yard sales make me happy. That ridiculous sarcophagus makes Josh happy. Every time he sees it, it gives him a little burst of joy. Other things that he did not (and could not) buy make him happy, things like tall, goofy girlfriends. The fact that a bought sarcophagus makes him happy does not diminish the happiness that I give him.

Like the lady's horse, my dog makes me happy. A pet is a great example of a bought-happiness situation. Remix costs money. I paid to get her, I pay to feed her, I pay to keep her healthy. She does not bring anything tangible to the household. She does not do the dishes, she gets fluff all over the place, and she eats the furniture. She does lick the floor clean, but I'm not sure that counts as paying her way. I feel better having a ferocious pitbull in the house, but thus far there hasn't been a situation where she has actually protected us. She brings peace of mind and entertainment and compansionship. We pay for happiness in the form of a slobbering goober dog.

The relationship between money and happiness is complicated. There is no simple equation that explains it. For one thing, if you have no money, such that your basic needs are not being fulfilled, you're likely to be unhappy. A lack of money can correspond to a lack of happiness. Rubin compares it to good health in that way. When you are not healthy, it's hard to be happy. But being healthy doesn't necessarily mean that you are happy. So it goes with money.

What's also interesting is that you can feel happiness by giving money away, like by giving it to charity or buying someone a gift. And money itself, rather than the things you buy with it, can also make you happy. I am happy that I have money in the bank. It's like a pitbull in the house.

Money is not good or evil, it's just a tool that can only be what we make it. You can worship it, and many people do. You can pin all your hopes on it, only to be disappointed. You can use it to try and buy happiness and fail. Or, you can buy a horse!


explanations in charity.

“From 15 to 18 is an age at which one is very sensitive to the sins of others, as I know from recollections of myself. At that age you don’t look for what is hidden. It is a sign of maturity not to be scandalized and to try to find explanations in charity.”
-Flannery O'Connor

While it has a certain touchy-feely niceness to it, I declare the practice of finding explanations in charity to be logically sound. So, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you can yell and holler and call that guy a jerk. It's very easy to assume that because that guy cut you off, then he is just a jerk all-around. He is not a nice man, not even his dog likes him, he will probably die alone. Or you can find an explanation in charity, like he is hurrying to his wife at the hospital, or he's distracted because he just got some really horrible news.

Now, which way you choose to feel about it makes no difference to the guy whatsoever. He is off in his car, in his thoughts, maybe cutting other people off, too. He can't hear you call him a jerk. So you can pick the one that makes you feel grumpy and generally hateful to your fellow man, or you can let it go and hope that whatever situation is making him behave that way goes away before he causes an accident. Advanced users can even feel grateful that they are not having whatever kind of day makes you cut people off in traffic. I can't imagine ever being that zen. I'm just trying to not let people who cut me off ruin my day. Bad moods are contagious, but you can always work on boosting your immunity.

But hey, it works the other way, too. Because someday, you will have a crappy crappy day. Your wife will be in the hospital or you will get some terrible news or maybe you'll just oversleep and miss your morning cup of coffee. You will give other people reason to believe that you are a jerk. You should hope that they are practicing in explanations in charity for you.


ladies' book club.

As part of my general effort to get out more, I joined a book club.

Book selection is pretty democratic. From what I've heard, this is a necessary part of a successful book club. If one person chooses all the books, then there is certain to be grumbling by people who routinely do not enjoy the selections. In our group, we hold periodic nomination evenings, where everyone brings a book, talks it up, and then the gathered group votes on eight favorites. Then a poll is posted online for the whole group to pick what we'll read for the next four months. I've never been to a nomination meeting, since I've only been in the club for four months. I'm a little shy about what book I would bring and also about having to give a little report to the group about why they should want to read it, too.

The selections have been hit-and-miss for me. It was maybe lucky that I really enjoyed the book we read for the first month I joined, because I wasn't impressed with the two after. It's funny how the reactions to each book are different. When I go in feeling pumped about a book, I find that a lot of the other women couldn't even get through it. And then when I go in ready to rip the book up, there are people there who give it the highest ratings. And that is why you need a democratic nomination process.

Even when the book doesn't do much for me, the discussions are routinely great. The one thing we've got in common is being women who like to read and then talk about it. There are so many backgrounds and a very wide age range. We all bring our own perspectives, without even meaning to. By doing that, we expose the others to the myriad of ways to approach life. Sometimes it's amazing to me that we actually read the same book, because I came away from it feeling completely differently.

The variety of perspectives is great, but it wouldn't work if the group didn't also have a very open and accepting atmosphere. You can tell that there is disagreement, even if no one really says anything, but it's all taken in stride. And people do disagree, but they do it in a just-my-two-cents kind of way.

Aside from meeting new people and being exposed to ideas that I might not come across otherwise, the book club is giving me practice in discussion. I am rotten at it. I tend to just sit by, maybe crack a joke or two, but I never join in to say anything of substance. I get very anxious and upset, so much that I can't speak without my voice shaking. It's a highly physical reaction, like an allergy. I hate it, and I am tired of it. So my first step in getting better is participating in discussions in these open and welcoming environments. Then, eventually I'll be ready for more aggressive ones. I don't seek those out, but I would really like to not freak out when they happen. I would like to be able to say something if I feel compelled to give an opinion. I do not want to be trapped by my own anxiety.

It's goofy, I know. I want to get over my discussion anxiety so I joined a ladies' book club. But I think it's working. We are all coming to the table with the same amount of knowledge, because we read the same exact book. And I know that the women will be nice about disagreeing. I can be nice about disagreeing with them, even though sometimes they say some crazy crap. That gives me permission to say my own crazy crap. Each time I go, I feel more confident about speaking. Pretty soon, I'm going to be obnoxious! I can't wait.



During the first couple of years at my job, I spent my lunch hour playing board games with a group of three or four others. This period was a lot of fun. I learned a lot of crazy new games, which I have been introducing to my brother's family on fortnightly game nights. I also got to play board games with people, which doesn't seem like a big deal until you consider that I spent my childhood playing them by myself. The only not-fun part about playing with others is that you do lose sometimes, but the upswing is that I got a lot better at that. I'm proud to say that I'm now an accomplished loser.

But then the guy who owned most of the games was laid off. We switched to playing Mario Kart during the lunch hour. I also hold those hours in a special place in my heart, because I finally found out what it was like to be good at a video game. It's not a major life accomplishment or anything, but I feel more a part of my generation. Plus, I got really good, and it's fun to be good at something, even something useless. But then we had to stop playing that, because some of the other people were not accomplished losers, and maintaining good working relationships with my coworkers is more important than that elusive perfect game.

I have turned to a solitary activity during my lunch hour now. But like the others, I have found myself relishing and looking forward to the noon hour. I've been reading.

I always feel like I don't read enough, particularly since I have so many books. For years, I've been picking up books based on their cover. When they cost less than a dollar (sometimes less than a quarter), you pick up anything that looks remotely interesting. It's easy to buy cheap books, but hard to read them. I tried reading at bedtime, but somehow I fell asleep every time. Then I would abandon the habit for a week, and by the time I got back to the book, I'd forgotten what it was about. I had several books on my nightstand with a bookmark about 25 pages in. And then I'd just feel guilty for having all these books and never reading them.

It's something I enjoy when I do it, but somehow I never make time to do it. Why do I need to be made to do something I love?

So I started taking books to work. After eating leftovers at my desk, I go into a rarely-used meeting room with squashy chairs. Lo, and behold, I discovered that I love to read. I think I knew that already.

This system works great for me. Besides making sure that I do make time to read, I frequently get so interested in the book that I pick it up again when I'm back home. No more lonely dog-eared books, I finish them, usually inside a week. I mark passages to copy down later in a little book, otherwise they would probably all start blurring together. When I finish, I either keep it, give it away, or put it in a bag bound for the used book store. And since I'm reading now, I have an excuse to buy more! I just feel...happier somehow. I feel like I am challenging myself, like I am broadening my horizons without having to go outside.

Like the board games and the Mario Kart before it, I am becoming a better reader. Josh told me once that I read like a scientist. I really had no idea what that meant, but even then, I suspected that it wasn't a compliment. I skim more than read, picking out the important stuff while leaving the details behind. Details are pretty and all, but I want to know what happens! I follow what is happening, but I don't really savor the language or the writing. With a lot of books, like most of the books I read in school, you can still get a lot out of reading that way. But when I tried to read something that was slower and less plot-driven, I struggled to get anything out of it.

These realizations have only come lately. For a long time, I did not know that I read this way. I didn't know there was any other way to read.

Recently, I was reading a travel journal written by a guy who went into British Columbia to talk to old prospectors and see the last of the wilderness before it disappeared. Man, nothing happened in that book. I liked the part where he told stories about local characters, and I liked the history of a place so shaped by a long-ago gold rush, but I struggled with the rest. It was a slog, which seemed appropriate considering it was mostly about travelling to places where there were no roads to get there. One night, when I was reading, I couldn't focus. I was skimming to the point where I couldn't have told you what the last sentence had said, because nothing had happened in the last ten pages. In an effort to pay attention, I made myself reread a passage several times. And then finally, something clicked. There was a line in there about a wall full of filleted salmon hanging up to be smoked, like a wall of leaves in autumn colors. I realized what a beautiful image it was, and as I kept reading, there were more and more. There was a whole chapter about salmon. All they did was swim upstream, but I was riveted.

By then, I was more than halfway through the book. I realized that the parts that I had considered a chore were also probably full of such lovely writing, but at that point, the memory of the slogging was too strong. I finished the book wishing that I had paid more attention to it in the beginning. But it was worth it, for the little bit that I got out of it and also the realization that I needed to slooooow down. It was like discovering reading again, not just for the story or the ideas, but the transportive feeling you can get from it. Before, I was learning about the British Columbian wilderness, but now I felt like I was there. It's more than a little sad that it took me so long to figure this out, as I've always considered myself a reader. It makes me wonder what I've been getting out of reading. I swear I loved it before. I bet I wrote college scholarship essays about how much I loved it. I bet I used the word "voracious."

So yeah. I discovered, at the age of 29, that reading can open your mind and transport you to other worlds. I could've saved myself a lot of time and just listened to LeVar Burton, but I guess some people have to learn things the hard way.


evidence of my idiocy.

I've been a regular journaller for a long time. So in addition to what goes here, there are pages and pages of handwritten stuff hiding in my closet inside various books. It's boring, daily writing. A lot of it is just what-I-did-today kind of stuff, plus a fair amount of relationship drama, though sometimes I try harder to have actual thoughts. I never write about events larger than my own world; the words "Arab Spring" just haven't come up. That's right, folks, what you see here is the exciting version.

I use a wide variety of books. I have stopped buying them, because I already have a couple in reserve, waiting to be christened. The first thing I do when I start a new one is to number the pages, so that later, if I need to reference an earlier thought, I can do so easily. I always feel weird writing about intensely personal or negative stuff on the very first page, as if it sets the stage for the whole book. I have associations with some of my books. There's a spiral-bound teal one that I associate with a lot of crying and a lot of red wine.

I don't go back and read them, unless I want to look up something specific. This is rare. The few times that I have done it, I always remember something anew, which is one of the selling points that a door-to-door journal salesman will use on you. They never tell you that it's not all good memories.

In fact, I probably avoid going back, just because I am afraid of what I will find in there. I know what I will find in there: undeniable proof that as recently as this past July (when I started the current one), I was an idiot. I didn't even try to hide it. Instead I went on and on, leaving page after page of evidence of my complete and total idiocy. And I keep doing it, as if this time it will be different. It will be such a pleasure to go back and read this book, the one where I stopped being an idiot.

Logically, I know that we are all basically idiots. My writings are an indication of my humanity. It's also a sign of growth, that I can see the flaws in thoughts that were sincerely held. But then I read them again, and I'm like, gah, shut up, you moron.

I am a little obsessed with my audience, namely who it is. Obviously, Future Me, who, having grown out of Current Me, is very judgmental. But who else? Children, grandchildren, strangers who come to my estate sale, county dump workers, no one. My ex-boyfriend used to say that when he died, he wanted all his notebooks and letters destroyed immediately, like before the body got cold. He gave an example of some famous guy that was like that, too, though of course the heirs of the famous guy completely disobeyed his last wishes and published the unfinished works and correspondence instead. What's the point of being an heir if there is nothing to inherit? This ex-boyfriend would probably be appalled to find out that I simply threw his old letters in the dumpster, rather than burning them. In my defense, it was in the middle of the summer. Also, burning seemed too melodramatic for a shoebox of mementos that I just wanted to stop carrying around each time I moved. I wanted to move on, not have an exorcism.

I suppose he had the goods on me, too. More evidence of my idiocy, I mean. Maybe he burned them, or maybe they all got tossed one time when he moved. Or maybe they gradually escaped, one spring cleaning at a time.

I have had a lot of pen-pals over the years, so I've done a really good job of distributing the evidence. I came across some letters from a girl in upstate New York that I corresponded with during my middle school years. I read one where she told me about her first kiss, and being on the soccer team, and all the silly little things that fourteen-year-old girls care about. Her letters were really sweet. Then I thought about my letters being in the bottom of her drawer wherever she is now, and I was sickened. I know that I was a complete blockhead at that age. She was sweet, but I was just an idiot.

I'm just embarrassed to admit that I'm just winging it, all the time, making it up as I go along. And then documenting it all, for whatever reason. Maybe so I can go back and say, well, at least I'm not that stupid anymore.



I never had any sort of affinity for sloppy joes until one fateful evening in college, when my roommate Krystal decided to make sloppy joes and I decided to eat them. I will forever hold her in a special place in my heart just for that one meal.

I felt like I had never really known sloppy joes until that moment. My experience up until then had been with Manwich, which came in a can and had a silly name. I think this was what my mom served. Actually, she probably served some sort of generic alternative, maybe Misterwich. It was okay, but I wouldn't recommend eating it without pickles. It just can't stand on its own feet. We also had sloppy joes at the public school cafeteria, and I don't know if there is a better definition of mystery meat than something that can be scooped and plopped onto a bun.

Krystal was a pretty good cook, but she didn't do it very often because there were so few opportunities to cook for more than herself. I feel her pain. Now, I like to cook and I'm not bad at it, but it's really hard to muster any amount of enthusiasm for cooking for one. I cook very regularly, until Josh goes out of town. And then it's fried eggs every night or cucumber sandwiches if the skillet is still dirty from the night before.

Anyway, Krystal made sloppy joes, not from a can, and I found out why anyone ever bothered to make a product such as Misterwich. To have a successful canned product, you must first have a successful homemade product. Otherwise, people will notice that what you're selling is pretty crappy, actually, rather than feeling it is a convenient approximation of something they had once back when they were small.

I had dreams of Krystal's sloppy joes, though she never made them again, probably because I ate all the leftovers (a clear violation of roommate protocol, though I see it as repayment for the time she was going through a bad break-up and drank all my liquor). A couple years later, I decided that I was ready as a chef to tackle the daunting task of browning ground beef, so I asked for her recipe. It was:

"ketchup, brown sugar, maple syrup, garlic powder, onion powder, worcheshire (sp?), beef and green olives."

Now, if you are looking to make sloppy joes, this is a good solid recipe. Brown the ground beef, add in the saucy stuff to taste. You don't even need pickles. To me, it tastes like a basement apartment in a cold mountain town, with a dash of roommate bonding. If all you've ever had is Misterwich, it just may change your life.

But just as Krystal's sloppy joes made me go "Wait, they can taste like this?", I naturally began to wonder just how good they could get. I wanted a definitive recipe, one that would make a can of Misterwich hide in the corner, too ashamed to be in the glow of a truly awesome sloppy joe. I scoured the internet.

I first tried this recipe, and I found it wrong, all wrong. It was sloppy, but it must have been some other dude. I got on board with the addition of vegetables, but I could not abide the sauce. It was delicious and tangy, but just too strange. I was so distracted by its non-joeness that I couldn't enjoy it. These were sloppy alberts or something.

I despaired. Woe! Would I ever find a sloppy joe for my very own?

Once I discovered that I could make my own very excellent barbecue sauce, I decided to try it as a sloppy sauce. I used the vegetables and browning technique from the sloppy alberts recipe, but went with my own sauce. And then I just kept doing that. The result is probably not really a sloppy joe either, but something more wholesome with a certain spicy smokiness. It is still sloppy. Maybe sloppy rogers?

I have started a small tradition with myself of making these when Josh goes out on tour. You see, he did not have a special moment with a plate of sloppy joes, and he is so-so on them, even though the ones he gets are about as fancy as Manwich can get, like Monsieurwich. So I wait until he is gone to make them. I forego the cucumber sandwiches for a night and go through the arduous task of chopping an onion and grating a carrot and browning ground beef. It takes like a whole hour, just to cook dinner for one measly person! However, I do get to eat all the leftovers by myself.


waste not.

Note: I'm about to say "poop" a lot. Just embrace it. It's a funny word.

One thing that I never anticipated about dog ownership was how much you have to think about poop. Not poop itself, but the last time poop happened. In addition to the regular clock that tells you when you have to go to work or meet a friend for lunch, you have to keep track of the last time the dog pooped. You've got a poop clock, which probably will need to be reset before you go to work or meet a friend for lunch.

You do also have to deal with the poop itself. Remix does a lot of her business in the back yard. I'm sure a lot of poop has happened back there. Luckily, there is a thriving circle of life back there, because I don't have to see very much of it. As soon as she lets it go, a bunch of wee beasties are there to, well, whatever they do with it.

We also take her on walks around the neighborhood. And there you have the need for poop bags, a first-world invention if I've ever heard of one. People do not like for your dog to poop on their lawns. I guess verdent lawns are not the home to the kind of wee beasties that get rid of dog poop. I have a yard full of dirt and leaves. Whatever lives in the leaves loves poop, but whatever lives in the grass does not. So the owners of lawns get mad at your dog, when they are the ones who ruined their own poop-recycling environment.

Thus the need for poop bags.

At first, we used plastic grocery bags. These worked pretty well, except that sometimes there were holes in them, but you didn't realize it until it was too late. Newspaper or produce bags worked better (less likely to have holes, better shape for the purpose), but they were harder to come by. I used to grab an extra produce bag or two every single time I went to the grocery store. It was kinda stealing. But we were bagging poop every day, sometimes twice a day.

I am perfectly aware that you can buy poop bags by the hundred. But if you thought that I wouldn't try to get out of buying something, then you haven't been paying attention.

I mentioned my woes to my mother. She laughed at me, because they could hardly be called woes.

But the next time I saw Mama, she gave me two large bags full of newspaper bags. She gets two papers every single day, which is two poop bags. She was thrilled to do this, because she personally was overrun with newspaper bags, perfectly good plastic bags, that she had no purpose for. But now! She could give them to me. They were no longer going to waste, they were containing waste. She even told one of her friends about it, who also started donating newspaper bags to the cause.

I'm sure you can see the connection between the mother who refuses to throw anything out and the daughter who refuses to buy special plastic bags.

The problem was that we no longer had a problem - we'd found another solution to all the poop. When we walk Remix, we just direct her to poop in one of the many wooded areas that are scattered around the neighborhood. These areas are owned by the same people who own lawns, but for some reason, it's okay to poop in the woods; even bears do it. Plus, those wee beasties take care of it right away.

So now I have lots and lots of poop bags, with no need for them. I use them when I need them, and I recyle the rest. I'm happy, lawn-owners are happy, my mama's frugal heart is happy.


the little things.

"You know. It bugs me that you never wash my clothes. You just wash yours."


"When you do laundry, you only wash your clothes and never mine."


"I know it's because you don't do laundry until you need work clothes, and-"

"Well, yeah, I have to wear a uniform to work, and-"

"And all your work clothes take up a whole load, so-"

"I only wash mine."

"Right, I know. That's why I haven't mentioned it until now. It just bugs me."


"Just throw some of my socks in there. To make me feel better."



the scenic route.

I don't know why it's so hard for me to get off my duff and walk the dog.

Especially when I walk out my front door and this is out there, waiting for me.

There's really no excuse for such laziness.

Even when it's 7:30 in the morning and 40 degrees out.

Okay, maybe then.


friday night's alright for things.

Thing 1: Wish fulfillment
I came home yesterday to find an unexpected package. Rather than call the Department of Homeland Security, I took my chances and opened it. Inside was a biscuit cutter set and some wide-mouth jar lids - the weirdest terrorist attack yet. Apparently, when you whine on the internet about how you're too cheap to buy yourself a biscuit cutter, your sister takes pity on you and buys it for you. Had I known that the world worked this way, I would have asked for something fancier, like a jukebox. However, it probably only works when your wish list is pathetic enough to include jar lids. I celebrated by throwing away two years worth of olive jar lids.

As for the Harry Potter DVD, the price went down to $6 on Amazon, so I just bought it for myself.

Thing 2: Classic!
From a yard sale listing on CraigsList: "Classic, approx. 25 year old VCR that still works. I actually paid $1200.00 for it because they had just come out."

I sincerely hope that they mention this just to make conversation. Too often, when someone mentions what they paid for an item, they are using that to justify what they want you to pay them for it. I should start replying, "Yeah, that's why I shop at yard sales."

Thing 3: Futon privileges
I got home today and immediately saw too much fluff. Remix had ripped into the futon and strewn its contents around the floor. She went into submissive mode because I was obviously mad. Honestly, I had been expecting this one to happen for a while. One of Remix's favorite things to do is de-fluff from that which is fluffed. A futon is one giant ball of fluff, protected by a thin piece of cotton (actually, most things are basically a thin piece of cotton to a pitbull). Still, the fact that she had not yet turned her teeth into my most expensive stuffed thing had lured me into a false sense of futon security. It is a smallish hole, near the seam. I can fix it, but all the same: ARGH. Tonight, as punishment, she has lost her futon privileges. Of course, her tiny doggy brain cannot connect the punishment to the crime, but I feel better about it.

I wondered if it would have happened if I had gotten my lazy tail out of bed early enough to walk her this morning. Josh is on tour, and so she is alone in the house for nine hours while I'm at work. If I had exercised her this morning, maybe she would have been too tired to rip open the futon. I used the semi-drizzle as an excuse. She doesn't like the rain. I had to go out with her into the back yard just to get her to go off the back porch and pee; otherwise, she would have just sat by the back door and waited for me to open it. I guess I probably wouldn't like peeing in the rain either.

But when I went out with her to make her go, she looked up at me like we were on a grand adventure. Where are we going today, boss? I bet there are squirrels about. Remix doesn't care where we go or whether she gets enough exercise. She is happy just to be with her pack.

It is a funny thing that when you take care of simple-minded creatures, you blame yourself for their mistakes.


spherical map.

When I brought home the fire extinguisher lamp, Josh was suddenly filled with dread. Hidden upstairs was my birthday present. It had been there for the better part of a week, but I had agreed to not peek. He did not quite trust me on this point, one day accusing me of looking, claiming there had been fingerprints on it. I declared my innocence. He asked if I had looked inside.

"There's an inside? With another present?" I guess that convinced him that I had not looked. I think he just randomly accused me because he figured I would cop to it if I were guilty. Men and their mind games.

Josh is nervous about giving me gifts. He thinks I have high standards. I think that if he did not want me to have high standards, he should not have given me such good gifts in the past. If you do not want your girlfriend to expect gumball-machine-level-excitement every year, then I guess you should give her scented soaps or something.

So while he was pretty excited about this year's gift, the super amazing fire extinguisher lamp that I bought for myself made him wonder if his gift would be overshadowed. I told him there was plenty of room for many ridiculous and wonderful things in my life, including him. Actually, it was pretty cute, as I watched him think to himself about what he had bought, and his face gradually revealed his confidence in the present.

Throughout the course of the week, he let drop several clues.

  • You can put things inside it.

  • Made in Italy

  • He saw one in a rich person's catalog when he was little

These clues were pretty much useless.

Finally, on Sunday, he went upstairs and came back down carrying a liquor cabinet globe. A spherical map. That you can put things inside. Yes, please.

Now, we already have a liquor cabinet made out of an old stereo console. That stereo sat in the living room for a year, looking mid-century and cool, but not doing much more than take up space. But then we had the idea to put booze in it, and Josh fixed the sound, and hey, presto! Custom liquor cabinet. We call it Jeeves (we've gotten in the habit of naming our appliances). So we will have to come up with something else to put inside our globe.

We did find the perfect place for it, though we had to shuffle some things around. It's sitting next to a bookshelf in the living room, which is chock full of our random crap. On top of the bookshelf, on the side next to the globe, we have a globe of the moon that I inherited from my uncle Johnny. The placement was unintentional, as the moon was already sitting there. But the effect is like a little model of the earth and the orbitting moon, except that the moon is 3/4 the size of the Earth and the Earth has a hinge where you can open it up and make it talk like a planet puppet.

I am taking suggestions for other things to keep in the globe. It should not be too valuable, as it's not really a secret compartment. And anything roughly bottle-shaped would work well, since the interior is carved to fit that shape. It could be a wine holder, but I already have two of those. I have a lot of things.

In any case, Josh can feel satisfied about his gift giving, at least until next year, when he will curse himself for setting the bar so high.


i love lamp.

A month or so ago, I saw an antique fire extinguisher at a church yard sale. It was battered and silver with a thick layer of basement dust on it. They were selling it for $40. It even had the hose still attached. I looked at it, thought it was amazing and neat, then didn't buy it. What am I going to do with an old fire extinguisher? It is not useful and it takes up space.

Last weekend, I saw another antique fire extinguisher. However, this one had been turned into a lamp.

You may not know it, but I have a serious weakness for lamps. This weakness is actually a general one for decorative items that are useful. I have many stuff-related weaknesses, and they are pretty much all utilitarian things - lamps, clocks, dishes, linens. Of course, when you have a strong desire to collect such things, the fact that you have 50 of them makes them a little less useful and a lot more in the way. I have to be picky. Thank goodness I have a high tolerance for clutter, or I'd have to be really picky.

Picky or not, I had no chance of resisting this lamp. A month ago, I hadn't even known that an antique fire extinguisher was something one could have. But now that I knew that not only could you have one, you could have one that provided light while you read in the evenings, then it had to be mine. At first I was in denial. I took pictures of it, so that I could show people the crazy thing I had seen at an estate sale. Then I walked away from it to go look through the rest of the house, thinking that it would surely be gone by the time I got back around to it. And then I lugged it downstairs and wrote out a $45 check for it.

Forty-five dollars is a lot of money for me to spend on something, hence my indecision. But then I thought about the retail stores, and the kinds of lamps that millions of people buy in those places for $45. Those lamps suck in comparison to this lamp. If one is to pay that much for a completely unnecessary light fixture, it might as well be freaking amazing. That is not good logic at all, but I really just wanted to buy the lamp.

I guess if I were a more creative person, I could have seen the lamp possibilities in that first fire extinguisher. I'm not and I didn't. Perhaps this will teach me to think more of this in the future, to go to yard sales and think about what crazy things could be lamped, which would then make them useful and give me a reason to buy them. That's probably a bad idea, actually.

My silly purchase was redeemed later when Josh came home and saw it. Our tastes do not always align, so I'm always worried when I let my inner lamp lady have control of the checkbook. Luckily, he proclaimed it amazing, too. We cleaned it up, but decided not to polish it because we like the patina. The body is copper, with brass details. For a ridiculous lamp, it's quite handsome.

The neatest part about this thing is the label. We also have two modern household fire extinguishers in the house, and they have instruction labels on them. How to make the stuff come out, where to point the stuff (at fire), where not to point the stuff (at eyes). These labels are brightly colored plastic stickers. On the antique one, the label is made of brass, like a plaque marking a historical building. The instructions tell you how to make the stuff. I never knew it, but modern fire extinguishers are the fire-fighting equivalent of Bisquick. In the olden days, you had to mix it yourself.

See? It's educational, too. And it's a lamp!


birthday money.

A few days before my birthday, I sent my mom a wish list. We are the kind of family where you can just ask for presents. While Josh was horrified the first time I just came out and asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he was very happy with the results. Surprises are nice, but so is getting exactly what you want. My mom used to send me an email at the beginning of October, which basically asked if there was something specific that I wanted or if she should just send money. That's the kind of straight talk that you can expect from my family.

I guess I asked for the money too many years in a row, because she is just sending cash without asking these days. The trouble is, there are some things that I want, but don't want to buy for myself. Basically, these are things that I'm unlikely to find at a thrift store anytime soon and I kinda really want them now. Here was my birthday list:

  • a set of widemouth plastic jar caps - I found a boatload of various wide-mouth jars at a yard sale and replaced my entire storage jar collection with them. Unlike my previous collection of hodgepodge mayonnaise and pickle jars, they did not come with lids. I have some of the canning lids, but those are kind of a pain to deal with.

  • biscuit cutters (double-sided, with both round and fluted edges) - I had one biscuit cutter and I managed to lose it. I do not like using jar lids or drinking cups for cutting biscuits, they just don't work right. You can find these at estate sales once in a while, but they seem to be the kind of thing that people mostly hold on to.

  • Harry Potter and the Dealthly Hallows, Part 1 DVD - I just want it.

  • I even sent the list with helpful Amazon links, telling her she could just pick and choose what was in her budget (secretly hoping that she would just go over budget and buy them all). But she responded that she had already sent the money.

    And that's a bummer. Because while it is one thing to know that you have birthday credits coming and ask that they be dispensed in a certain way, it is another to have the money in your hand and actually spend it on jar caps and wizard movies. I already had the money to buy those things for myself, but not the inclination. I would instead look at the jar caps and then look at the price, all the while calculating that I could probably spend as little as a dime a cap (maybe even free), if only I could find someone to sell them to me.

    So when the money came, I just folded it up and put it in my cash stash. I will probably pull it out next month to stuff in birthday cards for my niblings. Maybe I will buy those things for myself. Maybe I will wait until I find them used, and my secondhand lifestyle will be redeemed. Or maybe I will wait so long that I will forget that I ever wanted them.

    Anyway, Mama, thanks for the birthday money.