Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gateway drug

Most people just don't start off loving something like reading. There are those kids who seem to have their noses in a book from day one, but even they didn't just come out of the womb loving to read. I mean maybe they did and simply couldn't express it right then, but I somehow doubt that is the case.

Every kid who grows up to be a book lover started off with something that made them love reading. Whether it was the books their parents read them before bedtime, Dr Seuss, or something they found when they got older, there was something that sparked that love.

I have heard the Harry Potter and Twilight books referred to as a gateway drug of books. It is something soft and fluffy that kids can fall in love with and develop their passion for reading on. It is that step up from kids books and a step into real literature. I of course being an avid Harry Potter fan would argue that they are more than gateway books, but that is a personal thing for me.

For me reading was not and instant love. In fact for me it was a struggle to say the least. After years of being that kid who couldn't read with the genius like brother, I just couldn't make myself have that passion for books. I did not want to read.

Then it happened. I can't even recall how it happened, it just did. I had to have been in late 5th grade or early 6th grade when I discovered what would be my gateway drug to reading; trashy teen horror novels. Yes that is right, I found my love for reading with R.L. Stine. I think the first book of his I read was one of his horror books that was pre Fear Street, but my obsession was with the Fear Street books.

I had been reading some other books in 5th grade that were mystery and suspense books that I enjoyed but I wasn't going out of my way to find more and read them. In 6th grade I started reading books that I loved and moved me, like Where the Red Fern Grows. I read that book until it fell apart. Still I wasn't really seeking books out. I enjoyed the few I had, but I didn't want more.

Then I found the Fear Street books, and I just couldn't stop. I remember in 7th and 8th grade my best friend was also obsessed with these books. She and I would swap books all of the time. I would buy one and she would buy one and then we would switch. Twice the book for half the price. We would sit up late at night giggling and talking about what we had just read and how we wanted to go get another book. I was hooked just like that.

I stopped reading those books shortly after I started high school. I don't know if it was my taste in books maturing, or me thinking it was more mature not to read trashy teen horror and instead read Catcher in the Rye and 1984 in my free time, but they just slipped out of my reading rotation. Every once in a while though I would pick one of them up off of my shelf and stay up until the small hours of the morning reading them again like old friends.

As the years have passed my love for reading hasn't diminished in the least. I read a wide variety of books now never really sticking with any one genre. There are some things I gravitate towards more than others, but nothing really stands out as my favorite. Horror and suspense though have never really featured in my reading life since those early days when I was finding my passion.

Sometimes I wonder if it is because I just outgrew the genre, or if perhaps I somehow don't want to read it again and not have it live up to my fond memories of what the books were like. I am almost afraid to read them and walk away rolling my eyes at how bad they are and wonder how I ever developed into my current reading habits.

Yesterday we were browsing through Barnes and Nobles, not really looking for anything new to read, but mostly just killing some time. I had been looking for a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars series, but they only had volume 2 in the cover art I wanted. I am actually a person who cares about the cover art, but that is a completely different post.

A little disappointed that they didn't have the book I wanted, I wondered over into the teen section. I have really enjoyed some books that fall in the Young Adult genre, and I am always on the lookout for something else I might like. My eyes lit on the shelf labeled 'Not your average Fairy Tale' and plopped down on the ground to see what they had. I am in a big fairy tale phase recently and was immediately taken in by Red Riding Hood, which is either the book the recent movie of the same title was based on, or it was based on the movie. I can't tell yet.

I was pleased with my selection, and as I was about to haul myself off the floor I realized that the other floor level shelf in front of me was the new teen horror shelf. There in front of me, just by where my hand rested, was a largish white book with a bleeding apple on the cover and the word Temptation in large letters. Below that was clearly printed R.L. Stine.

I sat there a moment staring at this name from my past. All of a sudden all of those old feelings and memories came creeping to the surface. The thoughts of laying awake in my bed all night, turning each page with anticipation for what was going to happen next, riveted by every word that lay before me, caught in the spell of the book filled me up again.

I felt as though my hand was trembling as I picked up the hefty volume, which contained three books, and began leafing through the pages. Would I think it was trite and trashy and place it back on the shelf? Would I find that it really was a juvenile fancy that could no longer hold my attention? Would I be disappointed in the love of my youth no longer holding any spark for me?

This was a new story to me. It was a book of his I had never heard of. I wasn't even aware he was still writing, and the last thing I saw from him was a Goosebumps book. I never actually read but one of those books as he started writing them when I was well out of the intended age range. Of course I am well out of the intended age range for the book in my hand, so that probably shouldn't matter.

I began to read the first page and as I flipped to the second I realized something. I still love his work. I don't know if it is that his writing style, his voice, is so familiar and comforting, or if perhaps I will always love trashy teen horror because it was my first love, but it was something I wanted to read. No I needed to read.

If the husbeast had not found me at that moment I probably would have sat there and read all afternoon. Needless to say the I purchased the book along with the Red Riding Hood book that I had already picked out. I have plenty of other books ahead of these two on my 'To Be Read' list. I am actually already in the middle of three books so I shouldn't be getting to this any time soon.

Somehow though I see myself sitting curled up in bed long after the husbeast has fallen to sleep, turning each page in anticipation, until the story is done. Like any good drug, sometimes you just can't wait for the next fix. It has been far too long since I had a taste of this particular one. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kitchen Win: Preacher Peach Pie and then some

When I was younger I can recall fondly eating the most amazing peach pie in the world. It was almost more like a cobbler in a pie crust than a pie. It was sweet and almost cakey and so very addictively good. I hate peaches and I loved this pie.

The recipe for this glorious pie belonged to our pastors wife and she refused to give it to anyone. It was her amazing pie that she used to impress all of her friends and the people at the church. My mother would beg her for the recipe and she always smiled and shook her head no. Then my mother started making a church cookbook for a fundraiser and convinced the pastors wife that her pie recipe had to be in there. Thus was the secret of Preacher Peach Pie shared with the world.

Lately I have been seeing a lot of peach recipes floating around. It is that time of year I suppose, though I normally don't notice peach season since I don't like peaches. All the pictures of pretty peach pies only  made me think of this pie of my youth. I just had to have it. I texted my mom and had the recipe in my possession in a matter of minutes.

I went straight to the store from work, got all the ingredients, went home and started baking. I had to have this pie. Right away. The husbeast thought I had lost it since he knows I hate peaches, but he was placated by the fact that my baking spree meant he could order Wingstop for dinner, and later there would be fresh peach pie.

Let me tell you, it was as amazing as I had remembered from my youth. It was not too sweet, and the peaches were not too peachy, and there was that gooey almost cake like texture to it. I was so happy. I ate pie for breakfast for the next two days.

The baking wasn't out of my system yet though. I wanted to make more pies. You see as I discussed the pie with my mother she was lamenting never having tried the recipe with another type of fruit. She had always thought apples or berries would do just as well as peaches. I started thinking about it, and suddenly I had to know. It just so happened that I had a party to go to Saturday night, so I decided bringing pies would be only too appropriate.

Now internet, here is where you pretend these three pretty pie crusts are actually handmade. Here is where you imagine me making the simple pie dough, and then rolling it out on my counter and getting flour everywhere. Here is where I neatly fold it in quarters and then lay it in the waiting pie tins. I take my time delicately crimping the edges and removing any excess dough. They come out smooth and lovely with just the smallest hints of butter still in the crust which assures they will be flaky and buttery.

In reality I bought frozen crusts. Look I don't have the time to make my own pie dough. I also don't have a suitable space to roll it out. As you can see in the picture my kitchen counters are tiled. The entire kitchen is like that. No place to get a smooth roll on. Besides I have been told by people who are known for there pies that a premade crust is not completely sacrilegious.

 At this point I started in with the fruit. The peach recipe calls for 6 to 8 peaches peeled and sliced. Yea so I discovered that either the recipe originally called for a deep dish crust or the peaches they were using were tiny because I had enough peach for two pies and a snack for the husbest with 8 small peaches. I was actually just glad I didn't have to peel and slice more peaches for the second pie, that was a pain.

I chose strawberries and cherries for my other two pies. I forgot to take pictures of the cherries in their shell for some weird reason, but the strawberries look lovely. Also I admit I used frozen cherries instead of fresh. First of all the fresh cherries looked suspect. Second of all I don't own a cherry pitter and really didn't have the time nor inclination to hand pit enough cherries for a pie. The strawberries are fresh though and organic local grown. That has to make up for frozen cherries and store bought crusts right?

So here is where this pie is different from most pies I assume. The filling. I mean yes there is fruit, but there has to be something that gives it that almost cobbler like texture. You take 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of sugar, 1 egg, 1tsp of vanilla, and 1/3 cup of flour and mix it all together. You should get a batter that is thick and reminiscent of cookie dough.  You take this and spread it evenly over the top of the pie.

I think in retrospect I may have put too much fruit in my shells. I like a lot of fruit though, so I guess it all depends on what you like. As it is though, spreading the batter over the fruit can prove to be difficult. The fruit on the top sticks to the batter and not the fruit on the bottom and wants to slide around. It is an exercise in patience, and you have to get your hands dirty.

After that is done you place the pies in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Put a cookie sheet under the pie or you will have a huge mess on your hands. As that batter melts down into the pie, getting between the fruit, some will drip off the edges. After 20 minutes turn the temp down to 300 for 40 minutes. In the last 5 minutes you should watch to make sure the top doesn't get too brown. My oven runs cool so I actually had to turn it back up to 325 for the last ten minutes to get it brown at all.

In the end I was left with three perfect pies. They looked pretty and smelled amazing. It was really all I could do to keep from sampling before the party. The husbeast had to be placated with a slice of the pie from the day before and promises of more pie later that night. The call of the pie is hard to resist.

The pie was a huge hit at the party. I had several people profess their love for me and insist on hugging me for having created something so divine. The cherry pie was the biggest hit, and was completely gone before I knew it. The other two pies did well, though there was still half of each left when I headed home from the party. How they looked at the end of the night I am not certain. 

So there you have my pie saga. I share with you this amazing pie recipe, unlike the stingy pastors wife, so that you too may enjoy it as much as I do. Go forth and bake!

Preacher Peach Pie

Pie Crust - Store bought or homemade
4-6 peaches (or any fruit really)
1 stick of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup of flour

Clean peel and slice peaches and arrange them in pie crust. 
Combine butter, sugar, egg, flour, and vanilla in separate bowl. Spread batter over fruit in pie. 
Place in oven at 350 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 and bake an additional 40 minutes. Watch for last 5 minutes or so to make sure top does not get too brown. If your oven runs cold turn heat back up slowly during last ten minutes to achieve golden brown.
Allow pie to rest and cool for at least ten minutes before serving. Goes excellent with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, July 27, 2012


I am not a math person. In fact I would say it is safe to say I hate math. I think it is also safe to say I am really really bad at math. Seriously if there is not a calculator handy, I find most basic math to be complicated. I am not ashamed of this. It is just a fact. I suck at math.

This has been a constant through my entire life. Considering I am well aware of my math shortcomings I have always avoided anything that has to do with numbers. I avoided sciences like chemistry since they are pretty math intensive and stuck with things like physiology and anatomy where the most math I had to do was count the number of ribs in the cat I was dissecting.

I took remedial math in college because I failed the state mandated test, and it took me five tries to pass the first section of it. This wasn't all my fault though. Remedial math was taught by grad students and teachers who didn't speak English, so it wasn't a strong learning environment. Once I got out of that I took math and Society which taught me how to balance my checkbook.

We will pretend for now that math doesn't actually play a vital role in sewing, because in my world it doesn't. Alright so there is a lot of geometry in sewing and patterning, however I don't consider that real math. Don't get me wrong, it is real math, but I don't use it like you are supposed to.

Geometry was the only math class I ever took that I got an A in. Oddly I never got any correct answer by solving the problem the way the book said I should. My teacher was convinced I was cheating so she would give me my tests when I was alone in the room, sitting next to her, and she would make up the questions on the spot. I would get the correct answer each time, though I couldn't really explain why. Even though the entire point of geometry is to use the theorems that are in the books, she decided I was some sort of geometry phenom and passed me with a look of awe.

So yes I still use my own weird variety of geometry in order to sew, but I doubt it would make sense to anyone with any math knowledge in the least. So again we go back to pretending like math isn't a vital part of sewing, because my brain just doesn't work that way.

Now with me saying so emphatically that I hate math you would not expect for me to say that I love sudoku. The fact is though that I love sudoku. I play probably an hour or more of sudoku every single day. Sudoku is my go to time killer while I am at work. I play it, I love it, and I am really good at it.

How is this possible? Sudoku is a bunch of numbers isn't it? Well yes it is, and that is a very astute observation you just made there. The thing is though it has nothing to do with math. I know I thought for the longest time it was a math thing, but once I tried it I realized that the numbers are just the simplest object to use in the game.

The game isn't about math or even numbers really, it is about patterns. I might hate math, but I love patterns. I am the type of person that can find a pattern and just fall into it. I love doing things that involve patterns. I will make my own patterns where none exist. Things that other people find monotonous and boring because it is a repetitive pattern, I find soothing and peaceful.

I actually think my love of patterns is why I love certain aspects of sewing. Serging material is about as dull and monotonous as it gets, but I love doing it. I love just feeding yard after yard of material through the serger. I love making seams for the same reason. I know most of my seamstress friends are thinking I am insane right now, but I can't help it.

For years I avoided sudoku for the simple reason that I thought it was math. One day I was bored and there was a sudoku puzzle, so I decided to give it a go. The next thing I knew I had breezed through and entire book. I find that only the hard puzzles or advanced or expert or whatever you want to call them actually pose a challenge for me.

I will play for hours and just get lost in the patterns. I don't think too much about the game itself, it is more of an automatic thing for me. Instead I let my mind wander as it pleases. It is my zen like moment if you will.

Some people do yoga to center themselves, I play sudoku. Everyone needs something to keep them calm and sane. I just find my peace in the patterns.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Today is the sort of day that I feel the need to have copious amounts of chocolate and booze to make the world bearable. Seeing as how neither of those things are good for me or actually available to me, I am going to attempt to increase my calm by writing random things.

Fake it till you make it you know?

So random things:

-Etta likes to wait until the blanket creeps down off my shoulder and then stick her tiny cold nose on whatever exposed skin she can find to help me wake up in the mornings.

-The husbeast is playing a new wargame with gators as the army. He asked my input on what color to paint a bottle. I assumed it was a potion bottle and told him red. Turns out it was more a booze bottle, and because of the label it looks like a ketchup bottle now. He even painted a tiny tomato on the label. Turns out this army tends to eat the enemy. It was a humorous and appropriate mishap. 

-I got myself a lunch bag at Target the other day so I could stop schlepping my lunch around in plastic grocery bags. I somehow feel very grown up having a proper lunch sack. I am just ignoring the fact that I got it in the kids back to school section.

-I got some little magnetic clip bookmarks a while ago when we were at Barnes and Nobles picking up a book for Jessie. They are these adorable little monsters that make me smile. Plus now I don't have to keep up with a sticky note or dog ear the pages anymore.

-I got a new bag at Target a few weeks ago. It was cute and big and very my style. I picked up a couple of notebooks and some nice pens as well. All I need is a salt shaker and some matches and I will be pretty much back to where I was with my old bag that got stolen last fall from my car. I just need to see if my netbook will fit in this one. If so I will be one happy camper.

-I am beginning to think my verbena of doom in the front flower bed might not be a super plant after all. I think that there might be some underground source of water that they are feeding on. There really is no other explanation. My grass looks like straw, there is no way those flowers should still be green and blooming.

-I am trying twitter again. I figure with a smart phone I might be able to keep up with it this time round. I still feel mostly like I am listening to one end of a phone conversation. I also mostly feel like I am just talking aloud to myself. There is also the fact that I just don't under stand hash tags. I may need a tutorial which makes me feel lame.

-I finally called the doctor about setting up an appointment for a physical. Our company has been harping on us to get this done. It is not mandatory, but the way they keep stressing over it makes me fear for the cost of my insurance come next year. Problem is I am a new patient so I am having to wait for them to call me back to set up the appointment. Have I mentioned I am currently unable to receive inbound calls on my cell phone? Yea. Lovely.

-North Carolina is actually hell. It is the bane of my existence. It is full of criminals and degenerates. It robs old women of their money and lies to good people. It also makes it impossible to know that it is full of bad people. I have all of this on good authority from multiple sources. Just ask my mother in law about it.

-I think I am mending a very old personal wound and reforming a relationship via a computer game. We will see.

-July is almost over which means I only have about one more month of freedom before I start working on faire again. Our boss at TRF is building a new shop this year so it means we will probably be doing more prep than normal. TRF starting marks the beginning of the end of my down time. TRF leads right into the busy holiday season, which leads right into Scarby prep, which leads right into Scarby, which ends with June. I am glad I like being busy.

-I still haven't figured out what I want to do with my life, but I am working on it in earnest. It feels good and maddening all at the same time. It is hard to keep doing something you hate once you realize and vocalize that you hate it.

-I think I will make the husbeasts favorite pasta dish for dinner. Nothing like a lot of carbs in cream sauce to make the world a brighter place.

-I still want chocolate and booze.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More than what you see on TV

When I say I work at a Renaissance Festival I always get very strange looks. Some people look at me with excited fascinations while others look at me with a raised eyebrow wondering if I travel around like a gypsy. No one really ever knows what to expect from me when I say this, and most of the time their original idea of what this means is completely wrong.

Here is the thing; I am not a Rennie. While that is the most convenient phrase to use in describing a Ren Faire performer/participant it isn't accurate. Hell I normally wouldn't even refer to myself as a Rennie amongst other people who work at Ren Faires. That word has all sorts of connotations to it that I don't fulfill. I don't travel the circuit, I have a 8-5 mundane job, I have a house with a mortgage, and a number of other things that makes me not really a Rennie.

There is nothing wrong with being a Rennie. I have friends who are very much Rennies, and I adore them. Their lifestyle is not conventional, but it works for them which is all that matters. I think it is kind of cool actually. It is just not my style, and I am not a Rennie.

The thing is, all anyone knows about Ren Faires is what they have seen in TV shows that have a Ren Faire episode, or from having actually visited a faire. There are some documentaries out there, and articles have been written, but none of them are really all that flattering. None of them are really accurate either because they only ever focus on one portion of that world.

Ask most anyone who works at a Ren Faire what they think about any documentary or TV show that has ever been made featuring a Ren Faire, and I guarantee you they will roll their eyes and groan. They always make us out to be these crazy dirty transients who are maladjusted individuals who would never make it normal society. They only seem to focus on drinking heavily, running around naked howling at the moon, wearing far too much patchouli instead of bathing, and being really sex driven and raunchy. They also make us come across as sort of like flaky hippies or completely obsessed with the Renaissance to the point that we only ever talk about it.

Yes most of us are history buffs and could tell you more about Renaissance Europe than a history professor could. Yes a good deal of us are into swords and fighting and will pursue such martial activities in our off time. Yes a lot of us will incorporate design styles into our homes and fashion that can be linked to Renaissance. These typically however are not overwhelming themes in our lives.

We have real jobs and other interests.

The shows never show you that the guy rolling in the mud smacking himself in the head with a frying pan is a CPA during the week. They never show you that the guy you paid to insult your friend is actually a published novelist. It will never show you that the Queen is actually a firefighter. It won't show you that the pirate is an ER doctor, or the village priest is on a surgery transplant team, or that one Earl is a federal marshal or that one Duke is an award winning news editor, or that there are a half dozen teachers out there, and any other number of mundane jobs. Heck most of us hold down some sort of tech related job which is so very not Renaissance related. 

We are also have a lot of other hobbies and interests including tactical war gaming, paintball, photography, beer brewing, writing, gardening, competitive athletics, cooking, visual arts, dancing, improv acting, community theater, music, and so many other things. We are also mostly all pretty hard core geeks loving our sci fi, fantasy, and comic universes. I know plenty of us who would describe themselves as a Browncoat before they call themselves a Rennie.

Personally I think that would all be fascinating to know. I would love to see someone being so seemingly normal during the week and then going off on their weekend to be rather eccentric. Of course what I find interesting and entertaining is completely different than what most people find entertaining. I mean how many seasons has Jersey Shore been on?

Just remember that when someone says they do something weird that is not necessarily all they are. Your first thought of what their lives might be like may very well be wrong. They may very well be right, but you never know. Always ask to know more, and you may be pleasantly surprised by the answers you get.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jeans at Beans

About a year ago my friend Bean started talking about going to the Blathering in Austin. It is a meet up of lady bloggers from all over where they get together, hang out, and talk. It sounded really cool, but honestly I was so new to blogging that the idea seemed out of my league.

I listened to all of her stories from the event and really sort of wished I could have been there, yet at the same time seriously did not feel as tough I belonged in this community. So when I saw Temerity Jane was hosting PJ's at TJ's I once again really didn't feel like this was something I belonged at.

Don't get me wrong I would have loved to go, but felt awkward about even thinking about it. Add to that the fact that it was right in the midst of the start of faire and we were so desperately broke after the husbeasts longer than expected unemployment, and well the decision was really easy. Still I lurked on peoples blogs to read the wrap ups with a bit of longing.

So when about a month ago Bean told me that Elise was coming to visit from the far north and she was going to host her own little Jeans at Beans, I sort of happily threw myself at the opportunity. The fact that this was being hosted so close to my house by a longtime real world friend, made this a very safe way to try out this whole meeting the internet in person thing.

I did my homework reading up on the blogs of the ladies that were going to be there, and I got really excited. I was a little nervous, but I was really more excited than nervous. All of these ladies seemed pretty awesome from what I was reading. Plus I was fifteen minutes from my home so I could escape if I needed to.

Also I won't lie, I was looking forward to spending some time with Bean's adorable baby. Anytime I can snuggle with that adorable little girl I totally will. Sweet baby snuggles make everything better. If you doubt me you obviously have never met this baby.

So yesterday arrived in the early afternoon with some homemade pasta salad in hand, not sure what to expect really. Elise was already there since she had been staying with Bean. Tara was also there with her absolutely precious daughter Eriana. Kammah was there as well and almost tackled me thinking I was Megan.

Seriously it took me about two minutes to realize I had no reason whatsoever to be nervous. These women were all so completely fabulous and I felt at ease immediately. The entire day was so incredibly fun.

There was a lot of eating things that I absolutely should never eat. There was a lot of chatting and giggling. Many stories were told. I got icing all over my arm and boob while we were facetiming with Temerity Jane. What can I say, Penny is distractingly cute and I have trouble paying attention to where I am leaning.

I stayed until the bitter end and got some rather embarrassing quotes stuck on Twitter. I also made some new friends, which really was the most important part. It was a lot of fun and I couldn't have asked for more.

Seriously I can't even really describe this all accurately to let you know how awesome it was. You will just have to take my word for it. If given the opportunity again, I will totally do something like this again.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Table for one

For a short amount of time in college I worked as a waitress at my favorite dive Chinese restaurant. The pay was terrible, we tip shared the miniscule tips we received, the owner was completely insane, the kitchen staff was lewd, and the other servers were not always the most pleasant humans in the world. That being said this place still to this day had the most amazing potstickers I have ever eaten.

During my stint in food service hell I became very familiar with one particular group of customers. They almost all came in during the early lunch hours, they always ordered the exact same thing, they always tipped me under the table so I wouldn't have to share it with the girl who was reading in the closet instead of working, and they were always alone. I loved my solitary diners even if I never understood them.

You see I could not do that. There is no way in a million years I would ever be able to eat by myself in public. I could have a book, or a smart phone, or a trained monkey and I still could not sit in an eating establishment and have a meal by myself. If I am in a restaurant and my dining companion gets up from the table for an extended length of time I start panicking.

I have tried to eat alone, but it just gets ugly. I get nervous feeling like people are watching me. I can't actually eat my food let alone enjoy it. I start having panic attacks and have to make a hasty exit normally just as hungry as when I came in for the meal.

I tried eating alone in the college cafeteria exactly once. The meal ended with me in tears having had about two bites of my dinner. That was probably a poor environment considering it was the dinner rush, the place was packed, and I was forced to sit with a group of incredibly attractive guys who were doing there best not to look at me. Still I couldn't do it.

I can go back to my house, or my cube, or my car and eat alone. Eating is certainly an issue. I just can't do it in public without support. Honestly I don't even like eating around strangers in a group setting. When my office does big group meals, I have trouble eating anything at all.

I have no idea where this particular phobia comes from. Yes I would say it is a phobia. It probably comes from my mother somehow. I don't mean that in a bad way, but I know my mom has issues with eating alone in public as well. It is a thing.

So having never been comfortable with eating alone, I used to always watch my solitary diners with a sort of fascination and envy. I would love to go to my favorite eatery with nothing but a book and enjoy a quiet meal with no distraction from my literature. I would like to be able to go to a cafe with my netbook and work on my writing while enjoying a snack. I would love to not opt for inhaling a fast food burger in my car while out running errands because a sit down restaurant with a salad would give me hives.

My best friend B says that it is a quirky thing she loves to do. I say it is a quirky thing that gives me fits. I envy her. Perhaps some day I will work my way past my fear out of necessity. Perhaps someday I can be that brave.

Someday I want to be ok being just a table for one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sit down you're rocking the boat

When will your life start being what you imagine it to be?

These are the words that were on my lips when I woke up this morning. It is not unusual for me to talk in my sleep, however I am pretty sure this is my most profound slumbering utterance.

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and just repeating those words over and over in my head. I dragged myself to the shower and kept muttering it out loud while I conditioned my hair. I mulled it over slowly as I rifled through my closet for a dress to wear. As soon as I got to where my purse was with my notebook in it I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it during the distraction of my morning.

This was important.

Last night we went to Open Stage  to visit with the circus freaks and watch my kid perform. It was a nice low energy evening that was fun, and yet as we were driving home the husbeast noticed that I was visibly unhappy. I told him I was just tired considering it was 11 at night, but that wasn't really it.

I am tired. I am exhausted in fact. I am just not worn out so much as worn down. I have come to the sad realization lately that work is sucking out my soul. Every day as I sit in my grey little cube it makes me a little less happy with my world.

I don't have a difficult job. I am a Data Analyst, and if that sounds boring to you then you have a good grasp of what my job is. It is tedious and dull and there are vast amounts of time where I have little to no work to do. That being said it is really pretty damn easy, it pays fairly well, and I am given a lot of freedoms in a very relaxed atmosphere. It would sound like the good out weighs the bad as far as jobs go, especially in our current economy.

The thing is that no one cares what I do. No one. My bosses don't care, my coworkers don't care, hell we have been told our clients don't even care. No one cares if our data is good or bad. No one cares if we release on time. No one cares if we do a half assed job. If it is wrong or if it is right someone will complain and we will fix it on the back end.

So why the hell am I here? Do you have any idea how unsatisfying it is to do a job that not one damn person cares about? I can't make myself care if no one else does. There is no sense of urgency or importance and no real sense in any of it.

There are also some other environmental factors in the office that eat away at me daily. Mostly it is having to listen to customer service reps take calls all day long. Not only are these individuals rather negative in attitude, but their calls only involve disgruntled consumers. If you have ever worked in customer service you know those calls will break you down faster than any other. That is all these people do, and simply listening to their end of the conversation over the last 9 months has been breaking me.

I had been thinking I didn't want to go to work because of faire eating up so much time and having no time to do other things in my life. Faire has been done for nearly two months now and I am still fighting with myself every single morning to go to work. I fight with myself at my desk to actually do the work that no one cares about. I actually think I am miserable in my job.

It feels both freeing and sad to say that. I am so unsatisfied and that is a little frightening. I look at the woman who cleans our office and she is always smiling and happy and wanting to talk to you and help you out. I would rather have her job than mine. There is at least satisfaction in a clean toilet. I looked at a bus driver yesterday and actually thought I would prefer their job to mine, and I despise driving.

I went to bed last night intent on writing this post. I wanted to talk about my misery and dismay at my place in life just now. I am typically a happy shiny optimist, but I am having trouble seeing the sunshine in this particular little storm. I wanted to get it out.

Then I woke up with those words on my lips: When will your life start being what you imagine it to be?

It suddenly wasn't about the misery and dismay anymore. I mean yes I am miserable and a bit dismayed about how I feel about my job, but that wasn't all. I am a firm believer in fate, but I am also a firm believer that anyone can change the stars if they truly are determined to.

I don't have to be miserable in this job. This job will never make me happy, and no I can't afford to just quit, but it is not forever. I can have more than this miserable job. I imagine my life to be so much more than what it is. I have a life that I imagine filled with the laughter of children, travel, fulfilling creative endeavors, a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

All I have to do is go out and make that image a reality. It may take drastic changes, it will most certainly take some terrifying leaps of faith, and it will take a lot of thought, but I will accomplish it or at least have the satisfaction of knowing I tried.

So I am putting my life on notice now; I am not happy with it and things are going to change. It is time to upset the boat.

When will my life start being what I imagine it to be?
I am starting now. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Moving = Fried Chicken.

This is an equation that has been true as long as I can remember. Any time we moved anywhere, which was not very often in my childhood but fairly often in college, there would be a bucket of chicken when the day of hard work ended.

I suppose it was because fried chicken was a really easy and filling meal to be had. I mean pizza is always an option, but something about getting it delivered to an address you didn't even know was a bit of a hassle. Running up to the local chicken shack and grabbing some chicken always just made more sense.

I can remember in college when we would be desperate for help on yet another move that we would promise our friends a bucket of chicken and a case of cold beer come the end of the day. I find that almost nothing motivates college students people faster than the thought of free food and beer. The stomach is a powerful motivator.

This past weekend we helped the husbeasts mom move to a new apartment, and afterwards we decided to reward ourselves with a big meal of fried chicken at Babe's Chicken, our favorite chicken place. As we were standing at the UHaul counter checking the truck in I mentioned this plan and the woman laughed. She told us that most of her customers chose to go to Babe's or get fried chicken after a move.

In that moment I realized that our little tradition was not just ours. It made sense in our heads, but it wasn't strange and unique. It was a common tradition to a lot of people. Moving really did equal fried chicken. Sure there are people who do burgers or pizza or spaghetti, but fried chicken really is a pretty normal way to end a moving day.

I am just happy that moving equals fried chicken, but fried chicken doesn't equal moving. I love me some fried chicken, but I despise moving. In fact the fried chicken really is the only thing I like about having to move.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Do you ever have one of those days where you start to write something, get halfway through, and decide it is crap and delete it? Yea I have been having a lot of those lately. Some of it is blog posts, some of it is story work, some of it is letters to people I am trying to talk to. I just can't seem to get anything out and like it.

I have deleted three blog posts this morning alone. The other day I wrote nearly 8000 words on a story and kept none of it. Of course it was only about a 2000 word section which I completely rewrote four times, but still I had nothing to show for it in the end. The words all seem clumsy and ill fitting.

Writing is like any other creative activity when it comes down to it. It takes a lot of work and practice to get it right. When you are cooking something for the first time often you have to tweak a recipe to make it taste right. Sometimes it takes two or three tries to get it right. When you are sewing you make mock ups of your design and will sometimes go through two or three before you even attempt the final product, which inevitably needs to be altered.

Writing is the same way. That is why you have drafts and why you edit constantly. have I ever mentioned that I hate editing. I can't think of it as editing or my brain rebels against the process. I don't have a word for it. Maybe reworking or tweaking. I like those words. My brain didn't seize at the thought of them so we will go with that for now.

Now I have completely lost my train of thought. I was doing so good too. I need to find a place without distractions so I can get something accomplished. Seeing as that will probably never happen, I will just need to learn to ignore the world or be doomed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A gift of the past

I have often been told that I am an over achiever when it comes to presents. I have this habit of finding unique and touching gifts that go way outside the box. It is a skill I suppose.

Now don't get me wrong, I do a lot of generic gifting. There are birthdays and holidays that pass with nothing but tools, DVDs, clothes, and books. These are all perfectly acceptable gifts, even if they are rather generic. I try and make sure that they are something that the person really wants or needs, but generic is sometimes the only option.

There are those bright shining moments though when the perfect gift comes along. Finding a long forgotten childhood memory, a sentimental reminder of happier times, the long sought after final piece of a collection, or just the perfect bit that sums up your relationship perfectly. They are the finds that are heartfelt and bring pure joy to the giver as well as the receiver.

Many years ago, probably about the second year I was married, I found one such gift for the husbeast. When I purchased it I knew it was a cool gift, but I didn't realize how cool it was until I was chatting with some women in my office about what we had gotten our husbands. Several women had bought ties for their husbands, there was at least one tool set which got a good response from the rest of us, and some generic clothes/books/movies sort of fare. Then there was me.

I explained to them that the husbeast's grandfather had been a musician. He was a trumpet player and a big band leader. In fact he had at one time played with Louis Armstrong. The story goes that they were in New York and had a fight over a woman and split the band in half. Louis went to Chicago and formed the New Orleans All Stars and the husbeast's grandfather went back to New Orleans with the girl and formed George Hartman and his Orchestra.

Now the husbeast's grandfather passed away before he was born so he never knew the man and he never heard him play. He did however hear many stories about him from his much beloved grandmother as well as a slew of very famous jazz musicians like Bobby Blue, Fats Domino, and B.B. King. He actually tells a story about Bobby Blue stealing his hand cranked ice cream when he was a child.

Still he never heard his grandfather play.

Well I am an industrious little thing that can use the interwebs to my advantage. After some quick searches I found a copy of one of his grandfathers albums in fairly good condition and I bought it for him. I thought it would make a great gift.

At this point I got the death glare from every woman in my office. Their gifts all suddenly paled in comparison and made them look like inconsiderate spouses. I couldn't help that I was more thoughtful when it came to gifts than they were.

The husbeast loved the record. It was a gift that meant more to him than anything else I could have given him. I gave him a connection to his past that he had never had before. I think he may have cried. There was one small flaw to my plan; we didn't own a turntable. He had no way to listen to this record at all. Still just having it seemed to make him happy, so it was still a win in the gift category. I was the good wife.

For many years now we have been meaning to take the album to a friend of ours so he could transfer the music to a CD so we could listen to it. Of course we have never actually gotten around to it. We will look over at where the record is displayed and make noises about getting that done, and then promptly forget.

Recently I inherited a stereo that had a turn table built into it along with all of my grandmother's record albums. I hooked the thing up a few weeks ago but hadn't bothered to play anything on it. Last night on a lark I decided to test it out. There was an album that was still on it from the last time it had been played, and after a couple of minutes I managed to get it going. The music came out sweet and clear.

Quite suddenly the husbeast jumped up from his painting table and ran for the kitchen. I wasn't really sure what was going on until he came back around the corner clutching his grandfather's record to his chest. Gingerly I took the record and put it on the turn table. I was ever so happy that this thing had an automatic arm as I would be terrified of scratching it.

There was a moment of nothing but static as the album spun round and round as we waited with great anticipation for the music to begin. Then out of the gritty crackling came the strong and vibrant sound of dixieland jazz. His grandfather's horn cut through the room in the sweetest way. It was amazing.

What was truly amazing though was the look on the husbeast's face. He had waited his entire life to hear this music. It was a connection to his past, to a man he never knew, to a woman he adored, to a culture that he is part of at his core. I am not sure if it was a sort of catharsis or just simply bliss, but it was beautiful.


*I just discovered this YouTube selection of his music today. I think it was better though for him to hear it for the first time on the record I got him than on YouTube. But I hope you all enjoy,