Things That I Need To Get Out

I have several tangents to go on today. If I make it through one of them without forgetting the rest, I will be pretty impressed with myself, considering I can't seem to remember jack squat these days. For those of you who care (I am not sure who that would be other than Aspen and MacKenzie) I forgot dance class AGAIN on Monday night. Flat out, forgot. Just like Sunday, only worse, because Sunday should have been a lesson to me. But no, I forgot dance. It's just as well, really, as Josh pointed out, because Monday afternoon I came home from my first day of work (which was really only three hours, but that's another tangent) to Aspen and MacKenzie in a knock-down-drag-out war. This is the kind of sibling squall that ends up with the nine year old calling the 15 year old the B-word and the 15 year old pinning down the nine year old so she could bite her. What. The. Heck. As I made my way up the front steps, dropping mail and groceries and trash from the front seat of my car along the trek (authors note:large jack-o-lanterns make excellent trash repositories), I hear angry screams emanating from the "play room". The play room that is really more of a WWF ring, depending on occupation. My parents have a "pouting room" at their house, where one or more of their adult children can frequently be found during any given holiday nursing a wounded spirit when we vote against their movie of choice for holiday viewing, or their team loses at Trivial Pursuit because nobody would believe them that Ingrid Bergman was born in Portugal. Since we sport pouting in every room in our house, we have a fighting room instead, where siblings go to destroy each other, without the threat of breaking any of their own precious collectibles. This "Spare Oom", as I whimsically dubbed it, is pretty much as far from the fantastical escape that I had imagined as it could be. Josh and I went several rounds in there about whether a futon or a bed was more practical, since the Spare Oom doubles as a guest room, and as usual, I won. Josh was insistent the kids needed more room to play legos and dress up and rubber dolls and squinkies and every other imaginable thing that can penetrate through the tender point right under the ball of your foot with appropriate placement. I felt that they would be just as adept at constructing their multi-level-multi-family-multi-purpose toy worlds on and around the bed. And they are. If you come to stay here, I apologize in advance for the calico critters in your sheets. Apparently the other day all of Aspen's Calico Critters (which, for the savvy, is the modern name for Sylvanians) were forced to relocate from their box homes into neon colored barbie cars and live transient because of "taxes". This is what election years do. One more plug in favor of the bed-over-futon argument: queen size beds are just about the right size for middle school boxing matches. Just saying. 

But let's leave the fighting room alone until the blood stains and tears on the carpet have dried, and follow up on another tangent: Work. So I started this job. I didn't really need to work, but some Great Friend of mine suggested I apply at a certain outlet store that was opening because wouldn't the employee discount be nice? So I did, and I got offered part time seasonal work, which is really more work than I wanted, but I guess they don't make less than that. As soon as I got the job offer I was overwhelmed by the thought of having any kind of a schedule, but I decided to suck it up for the sake of the greater good (i.e. employee discount) and do it. I started work on Monday, and although I have done retail hardware sales and of course, wholesale customer service stuff (did you need boxes today?), this is my first foray into the wild world of high-end clothing sales. I was hired low-man on the totem pole, as in, the only part time seasonal. Every one else on staff is AT LEAST permanent part time, but most are "lead sales" or "assistant manager" or "assistant to the assistant manager" or... whatever. It occurred to me, about 15 minutes into my first shift, that A) I was only getting paid $9.00 an hour, and B) my coworkers were clearly well-versed in retail employment. This is what I have learned so far: If you are making $9.00 an hour, you should always move VERY SLOWLY, and don't try to figure ANYTHING out by yourself. I worked for three hours, and I was exhausted from trying to keep up with the pre-school pace that the managers were clearly expecting. I have never been congratulated on my ability to assemble a rack so many times. On the second day of work, the managers, who carefully position every employee on very specific repetitive tasks so they don't have to constantly retrain, set me to work with Phyllis (that's not her real name, but she looks and sounds just like Phyllis from The Office, so that's what I call her) building metal 4-way clothing racks. Phyllis had worked with another guy for about 4 hours the day before and they got 4 of these racks assembled. In three hours, and after kindly demonstrating a few more efficient approaches to assembly, Phyllis and I had built 20 more. At the risk of sounding harsh and judgemental, I am fairly certain that my co-workers had found the absolutely most inefficient and difficult way to built a metal 4 way. "Hey - wouldn't it be way slower if we try to screw the casters on the bottom while the unsecured rack is balanced precariously over our heads?" "Yeah, that sounds really dumb! Let's do it THAT way!"  It's Just Not That Hard. I got a little bit of a positive-reinforcement reprimand from the managers when the other three employees were standing around and I taught them how to tag items like I was. Apparently I exceeded the training expectations and they quickly reassigned the other people to less complex tasks as soon as they got back from their hour long lunch. After my first shift I told Josh I might not survive. Which is OK since my old boss at the hardware store said he might be able to find me some hours since I was his Best Employee Ever. But after my second shift at the outlet, I started to see a glimmer of light: mainly that being the picture of me working there alone surrounded by really cool stuff that I could buy at a 40% discount. This glimmer was dimmed only by the realization, after I got off shift, that I had actually made five times as much money on eBay that day as I did at work. FIVE TIMES. 

Tangent #3: The Fire Job Process. I married a paramedic. I knew, when I signed on, that he would not rest until he had a job in the fire world. I knew also, what that entailed. I went through two (and a half) EMT classes, basic wildland and structure fire training, hazmat training, Firefighter Academy and a million other classes so that I could be a firefighter. Fast forward a few years and here I am with a notebook full of certifications and little to show for them except a tattoo, some great memories and an empty pang of regret. It's the one thing that I gave up that I really, really, really wished I hadn't. But it's ok. We all make trades and concessions and if a better lifestyle for my family precludes me volunteering my time to swagger into burning buildings (I say swagger when really I am waddling in all that gear), then I guess I am ok with that. If you can't be one, do one, right? Oh, sorry mom. But Josh has a shot at a job as a real live fireman. The kind that gets paid. The kind that I fantasized about for like 30 seconds until I realized that the amount of time and resources I would have to dedicate to make myself competitive against a bunch of ripped 19 year old guys was not something that I could afford. But Josh has a shot. He has the strength of two ripped 19 year old and the brains of two dozen, not to mention common sense and experience and the maturity of an extra decade that makes him that much more desirable (or potentially so) to a department. In the two years since I have known Josh he has persevered through more than a dozen tests, for which he drives up to three hours and pays sometimes hundreds of dollars to take (just the test!), so that he can make it onto a list where he can pass another test, a physically grueling combination of ladder climbs/hose hoists/dummy drags, etc, etc, etc, just so he can pass that and go on to a series of anywhere from 2-5 interviews with a variety of different collections of supervisors and peers, and if that works out, a psych test of over 500 questions, followed by a psych interview (depending on the department), at least a couple of EMS scenarios (one trauma, one medical), a chiefs interview, and finally, a job offer contingent on background checks. He's made it through over 12 of these processes, not counting the ones where he was dropped along with 300 other candidates because the pool was so large they only kept veterans and applicants with bachelors and masters degrees. One misstep along the way. One transposed number in the math test, one forgotten protocol on the medical scenario. One missed mission statement buzzword in an interview, and there are hundreds of other hungry firefighters waiting in the wings to trample you in the crowd. Josh spent three days memorizing the credo and all of the values listed in the mission of the last department he interviewed for. This morning he had a chiefs interview there. Friday we find out if he is one of six guys out of the ten remaining to get a job offer. This is the last dregs of a list of over 200 guys to start with. This could be his job, finally. I know Josh started this process before I even met him, and had already endured the frustration of being passed over, and the bitter disappointment of getting THISCLOSE and not being chosen. He has continued to chase after this big dream of his, in spite of the cost, in spite of the rejection, time after time after time, being told in as many words that all of his work and passion and experience just weren't good enough. Maybe this is finally his moment. He has earned it over and over again. I would have given up. I did give up, before I even tried. I don't even have to courage to send a manuscript to a publisher because I can't handle being told no. But Josh has taken every blow and turned it into more determination and better results on the next one. Josh will make an even better fireman than contractor, which is saying A LOT. It's his turn, right? If there is justice in the world and karma is real? I believe it is. If not, it might be time for some of these fire big-wigs to step into the Spare Oom with me. 

Tangent #4: about me. It goes without saying that men are really good at taking things literally, and less good at interpreting what a woman is actually communicating. My husband, for all of his perseverant amazingness, is no different. The realization that Josh has read my most recent blog usually comes in his affirmation of one of my (slight) exaggerations. Case in point: We were discussing how I would need some clothes for my new job that were a little more grown up and dressy. When I mentioned slacks (which are clearly one of my favorite subjects) he kindly pointed out that I should just get skirts since "right now you won't be comfortable in slacks, since none of your jeans even fit." The difference between Josh and some other men is really that he hasn't learned when to keep his literal interpretations to himself. I refrained from throwing my laptop at him when he made this innocently stupid comment, and instead pointed out that the comment on my blog was actually an exaggeration, and not only were my jeans fitting just fine, but I had actually been wearing (ok, not super comfortably, but FITTING!) my smaller sized ones. In fact, I had just repaired, by myself, on a sewing machine (see tangent 5) 4 pairs of my size-down jeans so I could wiggle into them and congratulate myself on the success of my coffee-only diet. He was clearly confused and pointed out that since I hadn't been active much he was just concerned about my comfort. SSSSTTTTEEEEEEEEERRRRIIIIKKEEE TWO! For such an intelligent guy, he can be super dumb. Since I am on Prozac, I was able to smile patiently and explain to him that a lot of the things I write on my blog are actually mild exaggerations, because for example Clare didn't REALLY burn off my face - only just the first 30 layers of skin. And It sounds much sillier when I can't squeeze into my jeans than if I am bragging about the 13 lbs I have lost. And I really don't wear sweat pants all day. I feel like I am explaining that a lot. He has since continued to stick his foot in his mouth regularly, but I think he is taking my blog a little less seriously. I guess I will find out tomorrow. "what do you mean, dumb?" 

Tanget #5: Sewing. I think I might save that one for tomorrow. 

Things That Are Delicious

When I was a little girl, my Grandma Schiffman lived in a mauve retirement center. One of her best friends in this pastel paradise of my juvenile fantasies was a lady named Lee Ruckdashel. Lee fell in love with my captivating beauty and magical charm, or at least thought I was cute,  and adopted me as one of her own grandchildren. I spent several afternoons baking cookies with Grandma Lee, the foremost of which stand out in my memory are the famous Gingersnaps that have yet to be matched in absolute yumminess. Grandma Lee passed away when I was still very young, but left to me a Christmas Tree Pin covered in rhinestones along with her immortal recipe, which today, I share with you. Pretty Darn Lucky. 

Grandma Lee's Gingersnaps

1 1/2 cups shortening - she used (yellow) crisco 
(I made these with coconut oil and they positively MELT in your mouth. And cost about 50 cents apiece.)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light molasses (I usually use blackstrap - get your USRDA of iron in a cookie!!)
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp soda (I used three and they were fine)

Cream shortening, sugar, eggs and molasses. Add flour, salt, soda and spices and mix well. Roll in to about 1.5 inch balls and dip in sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake @ 350ยบ for 12-15 minutes, or just a couple minutes after they crinkle. I like them soft so I take them out shortly after the crinkling starts. Makes about 3 dozen.
Grandma Lee's original typed recipe, complete with annotations and cooking stains. from 9-1-84

Josh and I have a fundamental disagreement about whether gingersnaps are a strictly Christmas Holiday Tradition. I maintain that they are year-round appropriate but definitely more appealing in the fall when spices like clove and ginger and cinnamon take on epic proportions in their gallant attempts to transform a variety of squashes into something edible. Apparently Josh associates them with The Holiday, based on a Christmas Party experience and buying bags of the cheap crunchy ones to take to potlucks. First of all, these Gingersnaps don't even fall into the same food group as those, and secondly, if he wants to insist that they are a Christmas tradition, that is fine, but we are starting our celebration early. Break out the Bing Crosby, y'all.

We had a BBQ last night because it was 45 degrees and nasty outside and it seemed appropriate. I made a batch of these cookies and I think everybody sat around the kitchen table and just ate Gingersnaps and discussed politics (much to my chagrin) and living in cults. We also imbibed hot apple cider with cinnamon whisky, and that made the discussions even better. I strongly recommend this drink. Afterwards most of the adults decided it would be a good idea to go over to Mavericks and do some dancing. Apparently we had a really good time because my legs hurt today and I COMPLETELY FORGOT to take the girls to their Irish Dance class. Curses. And here I was all proud of myself for getting up and making biscuits and gravy and stuff. The Heck.  I make a terrible adult. In some ways I am relieved, since my face is sloughing off at an extraordinary rate and while I could pass for a zombie cowgirl last night at the costume-approriate bar, sitting with perfectly manicured dance moms is slightly less cool when you're shedding giant chunks of skin. But I could have made Josh take them. If I had remembered. Someone should take away my grown up pass. I think I will have another gingersnap to console myself.

Things That Excite Me

I cannot begin to describe the fits of giddiness that I was thrown into this morning when The Punch Brothers posted THIS on Facebook.

If there's two things I love it's Holiday Music and All of These Bands. Which is more than two things, but who is counting? ME! But mostly just the days until this thing is released. And yes, I already preordered on Amazon. Go check out Holidays Rule and be cool like me. I can't freaking wait. I should pre-apologize to Josh right away for already boring him this holiday season. What is it with these people and their need for more variety than one multi-artist album can provide? I mean really. 

In other, less exciting news, I got the job at the Pendleton Outlet. Now I have to learn how to dress like a grown up and conduct myself in a manner befitting a retail clothing salesperson. Tips, anyone? I hope they play good holiday music there. Really, it's a part time seasonal position, and already the 15 hours a week is making me claustrophobic. But then there is that dangling, shiny carrot of an employee discount. Visions of throw pillows dance in my head. 

I went for my first in a series of facials with Clare at Luna Healing Studios yesterday. Really it was my second facial with her since she did a test drive Jessner Peel on me a couple weeks ago, but we decided to start a whole thingy to try to fix my face for real. After she got done giving me a "microderm abrasion" I asked her what it was. Turns out, it's pretty much what it sounds like - she sandblasted my face with tiny little crystals and a really sucky vacuum thing. All I kept thinking of as she ran it over my cheeks again and again was Will Ferrel in the mail room in Elf sticking his face to the mail tube. Again, you can tell it's getting close to holiday season when I have the uncontrollable urge to watch Elf. I will wait until after Halloween. I will. I will. Obviously Halloween calls for scary movies like Gaslight with Charles Boyer, or Charade, one of Audrey Hepburn's all time greats - or the ultimate murder mystery - Laura with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews (*swoon). Or, in the case of this Halloween, Snow White and The Huntsman, since Josh is leaving overnight and he refuses to watch anything with Kristen Stewart in it. I really don't blame him, but I have this morbid curiosity to watch her not-act in the movie that was her demise. Or at least a great launch into celebrity villiany. But back to my facial: After Clare got done sandblasting my face, she decided to do another Jessner on me. Ok, I thought. The last one wasn't too bad. It only stung a little and my face didn't totally Frankenstein out like I expected. In fact, I was pretty happy with the results. Turns out, if you sandblast the first 12 layers or so of your facial skin off BEFORE you put the Jessner acids on it, it burns like a sonofablender. I cried like a little girl, but kept telling Clare that I just had something in my eyes which she furiously tried to dab out. I am hoping next time she just takes a blowtorch to my face to save time. My face is still a little burny today, but I am hoping we timed it just right for it to blister over and peel off for Halloween. Mask Schmask. I just slough off my own skin for my zombie costume. That's real commitment. No, in all seriousness though, I am pretty excited to see the results and trust Clare almost implicity. Almost. She really is great at what she does. I am a little curious if she has a facial that's a little more cuddly for the next round. Not that I am a wimp or anything....

Speaking of cuddly - even though I know you all have the impression that I live in my sweatpants under my Smokey Bear Pendleton Blanket (soon to be accessorized by new throw pillows), I generally am up and going at least by lunch time, and since I have to be at High School Cross Country Districts this afternoon, and provide the weekend commute for the cello, and try to vacuum at least a quarter of the Truck hair off the couch before we have a big "end of summer" (what? so we're slow!) BBQ tomorrow with like 4 whole friends, I should probably go take a shower. Plus I am hoping the water will quell the burning of my face for a minute. But first I am gonna listen to all the demos for Holidays Rule again. At least three times. 

Things That I Do Not Do

The Sluggard

by Isaac Watts

Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
"You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
As the door on its hinges, so he on his bed,
Turns his sides and his shoulders and his heavy head.

"A little more sleep, and a little more slumber;"
Thus he wastes half his days, and his hours without number,
And when he gets up, he sits folding his hands,
Or walks about sauntering, or trifling he stands.

I pass'd by his garden, and saw the wild brier,
The thorn and the thistle grow broader and higher;
The clothes that hang on him are turning to rags;
And his money still wastes till he starves or he begs.

I made him a visit, still hoping to find
That he took better care for improving his mind:
He told me his dreams, talked of eating and drinking;
But scarce reads his Bible, and never loves thinking.

Said I then to my heart, "Here's a lesson for me,"
This man's but a picture of what I might be:
But thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding,
Who taught me betimes to love working and reading.

I was raised to believe that boredom is a sin. My years in the cult taught me that it was actually one of the Seven Deadly Sins - namely sloth. Doing absolutely nothing with ones time (wait, does this include Facebook?) is a dangerous pastime, as they like to say - an idle mind is the Devil's playground. I know for me, days of nothingness, with no business to occupy my brain, my mind wanders to all kinds of places it shouldn't, and before long, my Adoring Husband is having sordid affairs with the local bakery, my children have taken on demonic characteristics, and my house has transformed into a shrine to despair and hopelessness. My sister says I should do more dishes, but since I only have my coffee cup to wash, that seems kind of short lived and silly. I could put away the ironing board and iron that I stare at resentfully as it reminds me of the bitter task of hemming MacKenzie's Cadet Corp pants that I accomplished last night. I could go out into the biting chill and plant the bulbs that I have been watching lay by the door for a week. I could go down and switch the laundry to wash that last fateful load of bleachable whites and any unfortunate colored items that didn't squeeze into the last non-bleach load. But I can also do all of those things tomorrow. And if I do them today, what on earth will I do tomorrow?

I have already accomplished so much today. If one considers driving for 15 minutes each way and giving rosy answers to bulk manufactured interview questions in  a process that was strangely reminiscent of pushing cattle through a branding iron line an accomplishment. I also started that last colored load, made myself coffee and emptied the garbage cans that Halle forgot. I have two more appointments today, one of which is less than 30 minutes away, which precludes me from planting bulbs but would still allow me to put away the ironing board. I will consider it.

I know that some of my self deprecating blogs leave y'all with the image of me in sweatpants, lounging on my couch with Bones playing incessantly in the background and a perpetual cup of coffee with heavy cream in my hand, but really that's my fantasy life. My real life is about the frustration of jeans that don't fit and the intense mental debate about whether to try to carry all six bags of groceries from Safeway to the car, or push the cart all the way, and if there's any way to justify buying a latte at Dutch Brothers when all I have had to eat this morning is coffee. I mean, as far as calories go, I can certainly write off at least an Americano with cream as long as I don't get lunch after my facial with Clare. But money wise, since I am pretty sure I will turn down any job I get offered as a result of these interviews that I did mediocrely well at, it's just not fiscally responsible to go cavorting through the Dutch Bros drive thru. Although I do have a free one on my punch card...

I am guilty of NOT staying busy. I am. I am goal oriented and like to organize my tasks in order to meet deadlines. I need something to work toward. (all of these were great lines to throw out in my interviews too, so I have lots of practice saying them.) I planned a barbeque for Saturday JUST so I'd have a compelling reason to clean the house really well tomorrow. Now that more people are backing out than coming to it, I am seeing a Friday full of sweatpants and maybe baking cookies. I did buy that flour just because Grandma Lee's Gingersnap recipe has been whispering to me from my cupboard. (check back for THE BEST gingersnap recipe EVER.) So this is my work out: get up. Pick up that stupid magazine that's been cluttering the coffee table for two weeks. Fold up the ironing board. Put away the laundry. Get BUSY. Ok fine. Right after my facial. 

And Just to drive that one home:

Against Idleness And Mischief

Isaac Watts

HOW doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

*both Isaac Watts poems are from "Divine Songs For Children" - and both poems I was compelled to write  and re-write multiple times as a child. excellent disciplinary tactic. feel free to use it. 

Things That I Pull Off

My cousin called me brave. I'd like to think I am  - except it was so easy. Of course so is falling out of an airplane, which is definitely brave. So I guess I will accept her accolade. A few weeks ago she (my cousin again) fed me her leftover Pineapple Curry, which was so good, I needed to have more. I think it was extra good because I happened to be working on the Wenatchee Complex Fire when she fed it to me and I was really over the camp food. Anyway, I found a place here in Bend that makes it pretty dang close to the original, which isn't really probably the original but since it was my first exposure to Pineapple Curry, we'll just call it the original. For expediency. (if you're curious, try it at Angel Thai in Bend)

So last night, feeling all homebound after lolling around sickly on my couch for two days, I decided to get a little creative with dinner. Let me tell you, I did this with some fear and trepidation, since my cooking efforts lately have not been coming off in Rachel Ray fashion like they usually do for me. It all started with the carmel that I made last weekend. Every year I swear I will boil it longer. I'll wait for that candy thermometer to bump over the soft ball mark. I will be patient. But every year, and especially this year, for some reason, I get impatient and start dipping my apples Too Soon. So I wound up with a 9x13 pan of caramel sauce instead of caramel candies. It's delicious, for sure, and my buddy and I have found a plethera of uses for it. For example: candy corn dipped in caramel is amazing, as are chips ahoy/caramel sandwiches. It also dissolves nicely in hot apple juice - which we use instead of cider because I am either too lazy or too cheap to seek out the Real Thing. I even smothered my last apple crisp (under the crisp part) with caramel sauce and it was amazing. Even though Josh never even noticed. Sometimes I think that his taste buds are all wired wrong and the only thing that tastes good to him is ketchup and chemicals. The man literally lives on Crystal Lite and Ketchup. Gross. Anyway, After the caramel fiasco, which was still redeemable, I got in this great I'm-cooking-from-scratch-for-fall kick, and successfully destroyed two entire pots of beans. How one can actually destroy beans, and more than one batch in a row, is pretty interesting, but lets just say it had something to do with first not cooking long enough, and then reheating too soon, and then overcooking altogether when I got bored paying attention to them. Good thing beans are cheap. And pots. Um.... But really, after spending three days and about $40 in scentsy trying to eradicate the smell of burnt beans (which is something akin to burnt hair) from the kitchen, I am definitely cooking gun-shy. That's what I get for trying to be healthy. And cheap.

Back to last night: I googled myself up a curry recipe or two and decided to make my own Pineapple Curry. I didn't have any chicken on hand but I had this shrimp in the freezer that I had been saving for some unknown occasion when freezerburn would be appropriate. So I made Pineapple Shrimp Curry. And It was good. I threw a little hot chili paste in so it was about 2 stars spicy (I am clarifying what the stars indicate to avoid the confusion I had when my cousin said her Pineapple curry was only two stars and I assumed it was poor quality), but even Aspen liked it. Mostly because she thinks she's awesome when she eats shrimp. I don't know why. Something about they have poop in them and she doesn't care? True to form, I didn't follow any of the recipes I found, but kinda jerry rigged one up myself. And it worked! Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray.

Pineapple Shrimp Curry

2 TBSP coconut oil
1 can pineapple chunks
1 lb shrimp (or however much you think you want?)
2 green peppers, chopped
fresh ginger

1 can coconut milk
fish sauce (a TBSP or so)
1.5 TBSP green curry paste (or red - but I had green)
soy sauce

I stir fried the shrimp, garlic, ginger, peppers and pineapple in the coconut oil with a splash of soy sauce, then whisked all the sauce ingredients together and poured over the stir fry in the wok and let it all simmer a little while. You can thicken the sauce with corn starch if you want but I just served it over rice. You can also add a little of the pineapple juice for more flavor. I added about a 1/4 cup. 

Things That Worry Me

I have an interview today. And for all of my fashion expertise (hahahahahahahahahahaah. ahhhh. hahahahahahahhaha) I am really bad at dressing myself in anything other than jeans and hoodies. As my good old bff will attest, nothing grants as much mid-section grace as a hoodie. Sure, you might look pregnant, but those dang kangaroo pocket obscure things just enough that most people think twice about asking. Except that bimbo in the checkout line. Why is it ALWAYS my cashier that loves to stick her foot in her mouth?

"Ohmygosh! When are you due? Are you SO excited? Boy or Girl? Is it your first?" all comes out before I manage to snap : "Not pregnant. Just fat. Thanks" That shuts her up. Every time. It always seems to happen just after I drop three pounds and I start to feel like I Am Awesome. Pride goeth...

Anyway, back to dressing for an interview, and doing it badly. The worst part about today is that I am interviewing for a classy clothing/housewares store (I know, right? What is that, IKEA/Coldwater Creek? Close!) - the new Pendleton Wool Outlet that's opening here in bend. Josh says I should wear a dress because slacks scream lesbian. I am not sure what makes him say that, other than he is worried about someone of ANY gender hitting on me and I look so dang good in slacks. Especially the kind with pleats. My personal sense is that I should go looking like something that my grandmother would approve of, and I don't have any of those kinds of dresses. So slacks it is. Pendleton Wool always reminds me of my grandma, maybe because she kept a little Pendleton blanket in the back seat of her Volkswagon Rabbit that was really itchy and smelled like her cigarettes, which is somehow really comforting sounding right now. All I really know is that my interview is at noon and if I start dressing now I might have settled on something that I only hate a little by the time I absolutely have to leave. Moments like this I really wish I could have my fashion forward cousin body double for me, or my I-do-professional-every-day sister in law. I don't suppose Pendleton makes hoodies?

I have an interview tomorrow as well. Tomorrow's interview is much more my style. It's a warehouse job that sounds a little bit sucky except people bring their dogs to work, and they said if I dress up at all for the interview they would probably make fun of me behind my back. No really, he said that. Guess who's rocking a hoodie to an interview? The only thing I don't like about this job prospect is that the warehouse is unheated. And I hate being cold. Only slightly less than I hate being hungry or bored, but it still ranks near the top of my Least Favorite Things. Also, this job is potentially full time, and as I discussed with Josh last night, I am really not looking for full time work. I would really be best suited to an on call job - where I can work when I call them and tell them I want to. Which would probably be from like 10 am - 10 pm one day a week. Or like noon to midnight 4 days a week so I don't have to make dinner or help with homework. But only once a month. I am an excellent candidate.

Why exactly, you ask, with such lofty employment aspirations, am I even applying for jobs? Truth be told it's mostly to appease the guilt I have for my impulsive spending habits, and for the employee discount. Can you imagine a whole house of Pendleton awesomeness? I have one Pendleton Blanket. The limited edition Smokey Bear Throw. Of course. It's one of my favorite possessions, obviously, and nothing makes me mad like picking Truck hair off of this gem. That's the trouble with wool. By now my blanket has softened up nicely and it shakes out pretty well, but Truck is well enough trained that if the Smokey blanket is out on the couch he takes one sniff and steers a wide berth around it. Emmy needs some more training in this, apparently.

Anyway, I'll let you know how the interviews go, but if I were you, I'd be rooting for epic fails, because they're way funnier to talk about. Like that time I interviewed for the Buckle. That was awesome. There's nothing like a homely, too-skinny girl with Tammy Faye makeup, patronizing you for your million kids and "crazy busy" job history. Apparently they were looking for focused career types at the Buckle. Someone to really grab jean sales by the horns and look towards retirement. And also someone with more hairspray. Maybe I should have worn a hoodie to that one.

Things That Are Expensive

I have a fetish. Maybe fetish is too sexual. It's really more of a naughty addiction, and only naughty in the sense that it costs money and makes my darling husband mad at me. I LOVE Living Social. Not in the "oh man, I love Bon Jovi!" sense, or "don't you just love Flavor Blasted Goldfish crackers when you are hung over?" but more like "Scott Avett could easily be the LOVE of my life. If he weren't married. And I wasn't, too. Obviously." Kind of way. It's that kind of LOVE. It's the love that compelled me to sign up Right Away for Living Social Plus, where you pay $20 and you get $25 in deal bucks which have to be used within that month on a Living Social deal, or you just pay $20 for nothing. I figured, having this fetish, that I would be spending the $20 anyway, and might as well snag that extra $5 for free. The only trouble is, I have impulsively, or (fair argument) COMpulsivley, bought enough deals on Living Social that they are now stacked up in my Voucher In Box, dangling over my head with the threat of expiration. For instance: We talked all summer about trying that Stand Up Paddle Board thing that is so trendy here. Weeks of the early summer drifted lazily by like the shirtless guys with ripped abs and the bikini clad supermodels on their easily guided 8 ft paddle boards, tempting me into a weakened state when Living Social offered an all day rental for like $20. I jumped on it. And then I left for a fire. And another, and another, until the allure of my all day rental of a clunky 12 foot board in the 40 degree water of the Deschutes River with frost on the ground and my pasty, white hasn't-seen-the-light-of-day knee-to-shoulder body region has become less than enticing. In fact, no thank you. Luckily, I am spared the agony of wasted dollars, letting the expiration of this adventure-in-the-waiting slip by, because I am so GOOD at Living Socially, that apparently at least three of my friends bought the same deal and I got mine for free. No harm, no foul, right honey? (*innocent grin)

In addition to the never-to-be-used paddle board voucher, I also have two different pre-paid, come-and-get-it opportunities to gorge on pizza. I love pizza. My all-time-weight-high does not. But I love pizza. One of our vouchers is for the bowling alley and includes bowling for 6 people. At $25, that was a steal, provided we use it before it expires next week. Plus the bowling will be almost like working off the pizza, right? I refuse to input bowling into my calorie counter app to find out how many calories bowling actually doesn't burn. The other pizza voucher is much more fun, because it includes two beers and doesn't provide the cultural stipulation that you really should Do This with your children, like bowling does. It's actually at one of my favorite pizza places in town, Little Pizza Paradise, which is why I jumped on the offer - that and the two beers. I'd like to fantasize about Thursday night football with my Darling Husband there, except the fantasy is overrun by his protestations that pizza gives him heartburn and he doesn't like beer. Dangit. Thursday Night Girls Football Night? Desi? Anyone? I will NOT let this voucher go unused! Or unappreciated. Little Pizza Paradise has great pizza, but more importantly, they make this Grinder Sandwich that I literally have dreams about. I think that is because I ate it one day at work when I was counting calories and was Extremely Famished since my yogurt had worn off at about 8:15 AM - That Sandwich not only blew my calorie allotment for the day clear out of the water, it was heavenly.

Another Living Social offer that I am suffering a mild bout of guilt for is the second $40 gift certificate to Angelina's Organic Skin Care. The first $40 (which only cost $20!!!) was justifiable, since I was planning to try her Coconut Bliss Masque anyway, but a tinge of peer pressure moved me right over the edge to the second one and now I will have $80 worth of locally made, organic skin products which are totally awesome and equally as hard to explain to my Sweet Husband. This MIGHT be because I was also bewitched by my buddy to spend slightly more on a regime of facials and face products than we just blew on a registered daschund puppy. I, personally, could never have imagined spending two car payments on my face, but somehow, in the heat of the moment, it just seemed right. As if that justification has EVER worked for anything. Except marrying Josh. It was kind of the same rational. So maybe I shouldn't judge it too harshly. Let's just hope that 6 months from now, when my new puppy is potty trained and we've finally been able to have the power turned back on, I will have a whole new face.

I am pretty excited though, looking at my voucher collection on Living Social, to realize that I also got my year long subscription to Cosmo for free (see, I have other smutty friends!) AND a customized phone case that I was feeling pretty guilty about throwing down $20 for. I am gonna keep pushing this Living Social Junk. It works!! (If you love me, buy my Living Social deals.) Maybe If I get enough free crap,  Josh will forgive my newly perfect face. I mean, we only had to sell SOME of his golf clubs to pay the phone bill. And he's got lots.

I'm not gonna lie. Living Social Might be a bad habit for me. But I will also say I have discovered some great local businesses and met some cool people through it. It's so much cleaner and easier than Do Local Deals and I think I will stick exclusively with LS for now. Especially since I messed up my username at DLD and can't ever log in. And I have that $25 in deal bucks to spend! Ooh, that expires soon, huh? go here. Check it out. Or at least definitely click on the offers that I buy so I can get more free stuff!!!

Things That I Would Sell

My vote. Ok, technically, I wouldn't probably sell it - but it might be available to the person who pitches me the best and most believable idea that as a candidate, they are actually a human being and not some robot generated from two opposing sides of a political monster factory.

My Precious Husband is, at this very moment, leafing through the voters guide. He started putting big black EXES through all of the candidates and measures he doesn't support until I asked him, demurely and respectfully, as always (ahem), if he would not do that so I can read about them too. He then amended his marks to smaller notations in the corner. My question at this point is: Can I actually go through this marked up voters guide and not be influenced by the profanities and exclamation points he has laced throughout? And if not, how much of my vote will be determined by the VERY STRONG and VERY CLEAR (and very well marked) opinions that my guy has. We don't agree on several topics in the political arena. There are just as many topics that we do agree on, and then several that I straddle the fence on just because I love how much it gets him worked up; for example, the President.

For Josh, there is simply no question about whom to vote for. For me, I have simply no interest in either candidate. It really isn't even a matter of the lesser of two evils. I can't say that either candidate is as evil as we, as a society, honestly deserve. But thank God - if you so choose - that life is not fair and we don't get what we deserve. What we need, however, is a whole different candidate than we can hope to see in this political environment. We need a Jefferson Smith. We need someone who doesn't have the first clue who his allies should be when he blunders his way into Washington. We need someone with courage, with sincerity, and humility. While I can't ascribe to Obama the sinister intentions that my Dad and My Boy would project, I see him as the impotent mouthpiece of a soft, ineffective left wing. And maybe Romney isn't as idiotic as some of his republican predecessors, but I struggle to stomach the talking head of the right wing, fueled by a religious subscription that turns my stomach. Can I allow my own personal religious beliefs steer my vote? If not then what does? Can I, in good conscience, vote for anyone that is looking forward to an afterlife of chauvenist bliss?  Truth be told, I think that we are all basking in our mess and asking for a heap more of it instead of opening our eyes to make the necessary changes to support the kind of candidate that I could respect. I am the chiefest of sinners. I have coasted on the fatness of the land, refusing to consider the years of famine. I have chosen comfort over longevity, and pleasure over legacy. Maybe we can pick our way slowly and carefully back from the edge of the abyss we are staring into, but as we are now we blindly wallow our way closer to the precipice and expect some politician to build us a bridge before we fall. Not likely. Josh says I am pessimistic about the future of our country, that my outlook is bleak and hopeless. But coming from someone who knows, there is a beautiful, clean side to a fresh start, after all the struggle has stripped away the hardened exterior and newness gives us a chance to redefine who we are as a people. We've seen it from time to time - We've seen the heroes rise like the Phoenix from the Ashes to redeem us. We saw it after the depression when only the best and strongest men kept going, and during the World War when we fought for a cause that was real, was about humanity and something greater than human greed.

Wow. That was a ramble. Not sure where it came from.

Things That Are Worth Doing Well

In addition to my children, a series of failed relationships, my happy marriage and my dog's potty training, there are enough smallish things that I have done incorrectly to make me step back and evaluate how I operate. Thank god most of the mistakes that I make on a daily basis are, for the most part, fixable.

It dawned on me, a couple of days ago, as I was merrily painting my way through some furniture and frou-frou stuff that I have been putting off since we moved into this house (and possibly Much Longer) that I am a master short-cutter. I am a champion at taking the easy way to - well, pretty much everything. A poignant example of corner cutting stems back to when I was a 14 year old in a sewing 4-H club, where the leaders taught us to weight the sewing pattern on the fabric before cutting with a variety of household products (i.e. soup cans, irons, over sized brass jacks) rather than pinning the periphery before a cut. My grandmother, who was an expert seamstress, was livid that we were being taught such shortcuts. And rightly so. Yes, dealing with 15 thousand straightpins around the edge of a stretchy knit 4 tiered flounce skirt is unfathomably annoying. But so is that same stretchy fleece bouncing back under your scissors as it escapes the grip of someones collection of glass insulators. I should have heeded the irate warning of my grandmother then, and taken it to heart, but instead I went on to seek out new ways to avoid anything that annoyed me, including early phonetics with preschool children, anything involving a rolling pin, and yielding any arguable points in a conversation. I taught myself ways to manipulate situations until they were in a spot that I felt I could manage. As far as sewing goes, to this day that spot remains on my sister's sewing table, were I relegate all of my seamstress issues. I avoided uncomfortable child rearing situations by running away to make lattes and sell shoes - all more interesting than "SH two letter SH used at the beginning of a word, the end of a syllable, but not at the beginning of a syllable after the first one except for the ending SHIP". I am not even sure if that's how that one goes.

As far as relationships go, cutting corners is easy. With teenage kids, you just pull out the old "I am NOT even going to deal with this until you change your attitude." And then feign the belief they never change their attitude, thereby removing any obligation to deal with issues. Ever. With the Man In My Life, I have found the fast track to avoiding responsibility for my actions comes in the recurring argument that circles carefully around to a triggered response wherein he refers to my irrationality and I can just be mad that he thinks I am crazy. What more is there to deal with?

I guess what I am figuring out is that taking shortcuts isn't always as healthy as it is expedient. I know that my Loving Husband is getting pretty tired of arguing about whether or not he thinks I am insane. I know that I miss pie crust that isn't "pat in pan" and would like to make a pie with a top crust eventually, rolling pin at all. Some days I miss sewing, but the thought of unlearning my habits of hurrying through the "boring parts" is still overwhelming to me. I am trying harder when I paint or make random things to not settle for "oh it's fine. No one will notice that _____ (any variety of fairly obvious flaws)". I have even considered trying to redeem my perfect 5th grade handwriting that was eaten alive by a teenager focused more on Unique than Technique. I do believe that I don't have to be a Master Of Everything: That I can let my sister be the seamstress, my daughter be the baker and I can be the comic relief. One thing that I will always go the extra mile for is a laugh. At some point around the age of 26 I realized I had to up my personality ante when I could no longer skate by just on my Extreme Natural Cuteness. I aged out of forgivable, adorable imperfection and had to actually start working to be someone that people actually liked to be around. I think I go through seasons where I am more diligent about this than at other times - like perhaps last winter when my Darling Irish Boy called me the "Queen Of Frump". Somewhere in mid February I had forgotten that there were pants that were not sweats, and basically quit brushing my hair altogether. This is the dangerous tar pit of unemployment. I have noticed that I feel better when I try harder - when I actually clean my room periodically and wash the windows more than once a year. I like myself better when I make something that I can display from all sides, instead of hiding all my short-cut mistakes against a wall. I know my husband likes me better when I am not covering my flaws with the veil of false insult, but I am transparent about my shortcomings. But some times, well, let's just say it's easier said than done.

Life takes work. It takes attention to detail and it takes caring. Some days it's easier to care than other days. I know my challenge is choosing more carefully where a short cut won't really matter to our quality of life, and when I am short cutting not only myself but the people around me. So maybe tomorrow I will get up and be a little more thorough. And potty train my dog.

Things I Am Pushing

Just a quick note: Yesterday I went with my buddy Clare, a local esthetician, to use my super awesome Living Social coupon at Angelina Skin Care, a local skin care boutique with products that are all natural, organic and YUMMY! Clare has been working with me at Luna - her studio, to come up with a fix for my perpetually troubling skin problems. Stay tuned for more details about this, as well as a review of the recent Jessner Peel that she gave me. If you live in Bend - check out both Luna Studios and Angelina's stuff.

Also - my new bed is awesome. We went shopping and pretty much bought the first one we laid on - maybe because I feel asleep and felt guilty, or maybe because we're just suckers for anything more comfortable than the mattress we've been sleeping on upside-down because it has a giant wallow in the middle. And by sleeping on upside-down, I mean that both the mattress is pillow-top down on the boxspring, exposing the firmer un-pillow-top side, AND we have been sleeping with our heads at the foot of the bed because we realized the wallow gave us new back and hip pain that was a reprieve from the old back and hip pain, and thereby somehow better. Anyway, the new bed is the "cheap" version of Temperpedic - the "Simplicity Soft" and after one night, I am pretty excited. Excited enough that I might defer a trip to Olympia until I get bored with sleeping on it. I will let you know if my enthusiasm about this un-researched, un-recommended wears off. However it does have a bunch of warranties and stuff so hopefully...

Things That I Disagree With

Mornings. Especially gray/grey mornings (authors note: both spellings of gray/grey are proper - which paralyzes me when prevailed upon to choose. I have decided to always use both). Josh says I have morning confused with mourning and therefore believe I need to awaken in despair. He's probably right, because I can't remember very many mornings before 9 o'clock or so that I didn't feel the heavy hand of death on my soul. Or maybe I just use that as an excuse to sleep later. Either way, today was particularly gloomy, and I probably should have just stayed in bed.

Mournings(sic) like this get particularly difficult when I have to get dressed. Mostly I try to avoid it as long as possible, since the decision making process is so completely overwhelming. This morning I have no pressing reasons to get dressed in the near future, other than a possible impromtu trip up to Olympia where my sister is visiting my mom, so I can crash the visit and steal all of mom's attention for myself. I may as well go, since the kids are going to hang with the D-Bag (bio-dad) for a couple days and Josh has to work pretty much forever. Or at least tomorrow. But then I would have to get dressed.

The only thing that I have established unquestionably to wear on this dark day, is a new matching bra and undie set. This is almost enough to make me cast off my mourning, but then I think about which jeans to squeeze into and my discouragement is renewed. Every time I wear matching underwear Josh gets a little bit suspicious, as if on this day of Ultimate-Self-Image-Despair, I have a secret rendezvous with someone who would appreciate it more than he does. Really, I save the NEW matching undies for days when I feel so gross that having cute underwear is absolutely the only reason a paramedic (other than my husband) would touch me if I was dying in the street from a car wreck:  "Oh Lord - do we have to touch her?" "She's dying!" "Well, at least her underwear are clean. And they match" "Ok, CPR in progress."

Ever since I was little I have had this thing with matching underwear. I think it started with one of the college age girls that lived with us in Portland. I have never fully put together why we had a string of college age girls living with us, and whether they paid us or we paid them for putting up with 4.5 homeschooled kids, or if the arrangement was sans-financing, and they worked off their housing by driving us places like gymnastics classes in little green cars, and buying us snacks of dry roasted peanuts. I have several very brief but clear memories of these girls, and in addition to one of them boiling all the bristles off my dad's toothbrush after "borrowing" it, and a pet parakeet, I distinctly remember one of them INSISTING on the necessity for matching undergarments in case of a medical emergency, just as I described. It really makes sense. I mean, imagine cutting off someone's clothing and discovering the horror of fruit of the loom grannie panties paired with a Hanes Her Way Super Bra that clashed! GASP! I try to make certain, every day, that no such travesty will ever befall me or my potential rescuers. I will not deny that on my "off" days, when I am unmatched, I am an extra cautious driver and would obviously never risk something like a bike ride. Yes, I learned many valuable things from those young women, including how much you can fit into the rear seat of a vintage 70s hatchback, the immortal skill of perfectly feathered bangs, and how to short sheet a bed.

I guess now is that time of the day when I have to decide if I should actually take a shower and move on with my life, or continue my mourning in bed. For the rest of the day. Which doesn't sound half bad, especially with the Madeleine L'Engle books I just bought at a thrift store yesterday. I have a moderate list of productive things I would like to accomplish today, which makes jetting up north all the more tempting. And it's cloudy enough today in Bend that it isn't like I would be foregoing our normal sunshine for Olympia's perpetual gloom. Maybe these are decisions better made in the self confidence of matching underwear.

Things That I Am Terrible At

Riding Bicycles. There is something idyllic about pedaling your carefree way across town, in a pretty sundress with a basket full of daisies and a bottle of wine on the front of your turquoise beach cruiser, right? Yesterday, I needed to go pick up my car across town from Sargent's Stereo where they had installed an iPod port for me, the only thing missing from my blingmobile. I thought, no big deal. 3-4 miles - I did that often this summer, riding to the store, or more frequently, to Cuppa Yo, where the reward was much more worth it. Josh assured me I could make it 20 minutes "tops" since it was an easy 10-15 for him. Show off. Anyway, I waited for the outside temperature to break 45, since I am a wimp, bagged up my yoga mat with the noble intention of going to class after my two wheeled adventure. Look how athletic I am being!! I set out down the street and within 1/4 mile began to regret my optimistic decision. I will admit that part of my downfall on this fateful ride was not taking my husbands well-meaning advice and riding the longer, safer way down a less busy, less hilly, but out of the way street. I decided I was a full grown adult and could manage the traffic. And the hills, which, incidentally where NEVER there before, when I was driving my car. My fingers were numb at about 1/2 mile, which I think was also the 17 minute mark, and about the time I really started cursing my bike loving husband. As I pedalled in place up a hill that was at least 7000 feet, all I could do was mutter to myself about idiots on bicycles acting like this was fun and what a bunch of freakshows they were. I was all but obliterated by a Kia Rio that came screaming through a roundabout and into the crosswalk where I was innocently fumbling with my pedals before she locked up the brakes and skidded to a stop about 6 inches from me. I am sure she heard me cussing out Josh, because clearly ANY misfortunes on bikes are All His Fault. About 3/4 of a mile in I had come to the conclusion that I really really hate my bike. WHO in the world would choose a freaking mint green, 3,000 lb contraption with 4 lane handlebars and a 50 gallon basket hanging of the front. I looked like a behemoth 5 year old who just got off her training wheels. Lets just say balance and coordination on a bicycle aren't my strong points at this stage. I would like to take a moment to credit my mother for this un-skill, and from what I hear it's a knack she shares with my Aunt Janet as well. Mom, like me, struggles to keep a bicycle herded on a narrow path, such as a sidewalk, or a two lane highway, and any obstacle that springs up pretty much demands an all out panic and probably a crash of some sort. Imagine my dismay when my sidewalk turned into two, narrower, multi-level sidewalks that ended abruptly at a big, red fire hydrant. What choice did I have but jump both curbs and land in the busy arterial pretty much on the fender of a police car, and then fall over. Ok, I didn't fall ALL the way over, but I may as well have for the injury to my pride. I couldn't help but get really angry at the smirking motorists who witnessed my identity crisis between pedestrian and cyclist at every intersection. Crosswalk, no crosswalk? Green light with traffic or who is turning and does anybody see me on this monstrous bike? Half of me hoped they did because while I was certainly in a homicidal rage, I wasn't completely ready to die, but the other half of me was mortally embarrassed by my happy-and-carefree looking bike that was so obviously NOT any of those things. I have a chronic internal confliction about the dichotomy of bicycle laws vs. bicycle safety. Is it better to ride on the sidewalk and live or ride with traffic and certainly die?

Josh recommended I take back street A to back street B, which put me on the thoroughfare very briefly. I decided to take main street A to main street B, which changed after two near death experiences and a series of giant elevation gains to back street A, which seemed to be more or less hill-free. After pedaling/coasting for several blocks, crossing the railroad tracks twice, I realized I was going the wrong way, but since it was downhill, I didn't really care. At some point I knew I needed to get back over toward the main drag, and because I was too tired to find another legit railroad crossing, I picked up my bike (one end at a time because the thing weighs more than ghengis khan) and dragged it across the tracks in the dirt. I had half a mind to leave the stupid bicycle right there in the tracks to be destroyed by the next freight train that roared through, but decided against it since I was still formulating more gratifying demolition approaches. Most of the second half of my ride was filled with fantasies of twisted metal and snapping spokes. I wound up in  neighborhood that I recognized as one Josh had recently done some remodeling in, and lost several tools to neighborhood thugs masquerading as schoolchildren. Somehow I had ended up about 5 blocks too far south, but I decided the downhill was worth it. I finally made it to my destination, sweaty, frozen, angry as heck that my husband would consider this harrowing experience "fun". No comment.
the nemesis. Don't be fooled. it isn't as innocent as it looks.

Anyway, I survived, somehow, all 3.4 miles and 15,000 ft climb. My RunKeeper app told me I only burned 143 calories. 143! That's like not even a cookie!! How is that possible. Sometimes I believe RunKeeper exists only to make me feel inadequate. Kind of like kids. And crappy vacuum cleaners.

I even went to yoga, mostly because I wasn't about to let the foolishness of carrying a retarded yoga mat on my back across town be for naught, and I had only burned 143 calories. I still had a scrap of pride left after all, until the yoga instructor spent 70 minutes demonstrating all of the things that my hips Will Not Do. I blame the hills. After all of my minimal-calorie-burning activities, all I could think about was a McChicken. But I was good. I drove home, I unloaded my $200 worth of Costco groceries and even the bike that I swore I would never touch again after jamming it into the back of the Yukon, and ate a little teeny cup of greek yogurt. And 16 candy corns.

We bought a new bed last weekend, and after a series of delivery faux pas, which resulted in 2 free latex pillows, it was just delivered. I am so excited to try it out. Can I just go to bed now?

Things That Are YUMMY

I would have taken a better picture but I was too busy eating. 

Butternut Squash Casserole
I credit Lillian Cross for this recipe, got it at a Forest Service Potluck!

1 Butternut Squash at least medium size
(or pre-cubed from Costco)
3/4 C White Sugar
1 ½ C Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 pinch of Salt
2 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
3 Eggs
¼ C Butter, melted


½ (160z) pkg. Vanilla Wafers, crushed, about 2 cups
 (I used graham crackers -it works!)
½ C Butter, melted
1/2 C Brown Sugar

1.     Preheat oven to 425 degrees approximately 
2.     Put butternut squash into the microwave and cook approximately 2-3 minutes or until soft, making it easier to peel the skin off.  Cut in half, scoop out seeds and cube. (or buy the pre-cubed stuff from Costco - awesome!!)  Cook in boiling water, approximately 15 minutes, until squash is tender and easy to mash. Drain then mash.
3.     Combine 3 cups mashed squash, sugar, milk, vanilla, salt, flour, eggs and the ¼ cup melted butter. Blend with mixer until smooth.  Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish.
4.     Bake in casserole approximately 45 minutes or until the center comes out clean when a knife is inserted. combine wafers, butter, & brown sugar.  Crumble over casserole in the last 15 to 20 minutes of baking.


If making for a larger crowd, double everything, including squash.   To make the casserole creamier, use evaporated milk.  Of course, to make a healthier casserole, use the healthier versions of all the ingredients. (Maple Syrup? I'm going to try that next time)

Things That Are Decided By Weather

Today, it is cold and blustery, and when I walked Aspen to the bus stop, I felt a raindrop. I immediately patted myself on the back for the astute decision to not make the 1.27 mile trek to walk her to school. Obviously I would have had pneumonia from that single raindrop had I undertaken such a feat. Already my immune system was compromised by the sweaty frenzy of searching first for Aspen's "missing since Wednesday" school bag, then her "also missing since Wednesday" "self-manager" bracelet, and then once again for her "missing since 5 minutes ago" school bag, which, incidentally, held her "self-manager" bracelet. I am not sure that enlisting your mother to help you tear apart your knee-deep-in-calico-critters-and-squinkies bedroom, looking for a red rubber bracelet, really leaves one eligible for the "self-manager" accolade, but since she clambered onto the bus sporting her bag, homework folder, AND the bracelet, I guess what her teacher never witnesses won't hurt her. Somewhere about 3/5's of the way through the whole house hunt, I realized that the fact that she had been missing both items since Wednesday obviously made sense since she had not been back to school since early release that day. While I was wondering what she used for the second half of the week to carry her homework folder and hide her self-manager bracelet in, it dawned on me that a half week of school conferences, trips to the swimming pool, pumpkin patch and dance classes had made any sort of mundanity like a school bag nothing but a vaguely obscure memory in the ping-pongish mind of my 9 year old. Thank god I decided against getting out of my sweatpants until some minor emergency later in the day forces me to, because I worked up quite a sweat, especially after the school bag was re-lost on the couch under the sleeping hound dog who seemed bizarrely unconcerned with the stigma of a missing self-manager bracelet. I might have been less moved to helping Aspen in her quest, except for the exasperated, arm flopping, acquiescent "I guess I am just not a self-manager", followed by a fake tear or two. She's good.

Another good reason for staying in my sweats all day is that it really removes the question of whether or not I should shower. Obviously if I decided to shower I would have to take off the sweat pants, thereby removing the whole reason for keeping them on : i.e. utter laziness. At this point I can almost justify never getting dressed by the amount of dog hair that my sweatpants have cleaned off of the couch. Not only am I saving laundry by not hairing another pair of pants, I am doubling as an upholstery-hair-removal-machine. Changing into real clothes would be some sort of indicator that I have an agenda today, or something to accomplish. That is really kind of silly since we all know that I am jobless, schoolless, and all of my online shopping needs can be met in my sweats. It's really a win win situation, until Josh sees the bank statement and the boxes piling up by the front door. In which case I hastily don jeans, make a pot roast and get out the vacuum, so he thinks that I got the hair off of the couch through some movement other than simply rolling from side to side.

I have decided that I am not much good at winter. Or fall. Or most of spring.  I like the IDEA of these seasons, the new smells and colors - and especially layering options. But somehow my attitude never keeps up with my lofty dreams of steaming pumpkin bread and children dressed in plaid and cable knit. I would really like to not get crabby when the temperature drops below 68, but it's kind of difficult. I blame my mother for this, not because I ever saw the ramifications of Seasonal Affective Disorder in her (mom's emotional ranges were very seasonally consistent), but because she hates the cold. Maybe she taught me that cold was something to really get depressed about, entailing suffering and misery and no more flip flops. Maybe I am bitter from the autumns when I had to pack my cookie monster shorts into the summer trunk, knowing that the next time I saw them, they would be Emily's. Oh, the tragedy. Maybe I associate the change of season with claustrophobic turtlenecks and tights that ALWAYS managed to get twisted at the top of my legs so that the crotch seam ran in a nice spiral around my hips, choking off circulation to my thighs and pulling the tights down so that I felt like a penguin when I walked. Yes, fall marks a certain sadness for me, in spite of the resurgent fashion trend of flannel that takes me back to 1993 and my doc martens. It brings back the chronic disappointment I feel that a pea coat always makes me look fat and scarves choke me. Alas. I look forward to the depths of winter when staying on the couch in sweatpants is mandated by snow days and flu season. Bring on the Five Mile Creeks (this is quintessential virus induced television in the Stecker Clan) and Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup. Give me the temperature related justification to only wear UGG boots that my husband hates. All I need now is a wiener dog puppy to lick my nose.

Actually, I love fall. I have this tremendous recipe for Butternut Squash Casserole (see next blog) that is ever so much more dessert than squash. I also found an awesome Baked Potato Soup recipe on Pinterest that is so easy and so yummy it is probably illegal. Cheap too. Really fall is all about the food. And the Flannel. And the memories. Like going to Central Oregon Pumpkin Company with good friends, spending over $100 to get lost in a Maize Maze that specifies you can only use DESIGNATED bathrooms in the maze, but fails to place any locatable designated bathrooms in said labyrinth. Granted, since I am pretty sure I was just going in giant circles until I cheated my way out of the maze (note: if you discreetly hint to the youngest kids that cutting through the corn might be the fastest way out, then you as a parent have no choice but to follow), I guess I probably never crossed paths with the designated toilet. I won't deny that the thought of sneaking into some tall corn rows to relieve myself crossed my mind, but every time I saw a safe spot, three little kids would come bursting out of the corn, followed by adults muttering about darn kids and cheating... Somehow we all made it out alive without having to eat one of us, although I think the general consensus was that we would sacrifice the youngest since they would be most tender for eating and none of us was really hungry enough to need more meat than Aspen and Ryder could have supplied. Fall is also all about football, and finding friends with cable TV and beer for mooching. We have done so pretty successfully, and saved a pretty penny on beer AND cable. Highly recommend.

Anyway, I have to get back to my lounging, I have been way too productive this morning. I think I need to spend the rest of the day watching Bones so that I resist the temptation to cheat on Josh with the new season of The Office on Netflix.

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