escape from FUCK NO Island

One of my coworkers is always coming up with ideas for company outings. Most of them don’t come to fruition because our boss has weird ideas about how we should be ‘in the office’ and ‘being productive’, but that doesn’t stop said coworker from dreaming.

Most of the suggestions are pretty innocuous and well-received. They usually involve going somewhere other than the office and eating / drinking, sometimes with the addition of low-key outdoor activities (like, kick-ball or Frisbee golf. We’re totes not a rock wall climbing crowd). And to be fair, I feel the commitment to the cause of getting paid to do fun stuff on company time is admirable.

Their latest suggestion, however, is enough to make me want to run screaming. They have suggested that we do an escape room.

Escape rooms are pretty much what they sound like: a group of people gets locked in a room and has to try to figure out how to escape via solving puzzles and/or riddles within the room, within a certain time limit. If time runs out, you fail.

You may recall that I did True Dungeon, which is a somewhat similar thing, with my friends back in the summer and a good time was had by all. The key word there is ‘friends’. Friends are people I choose to spend time with because I LIKE being around them. Coworkers…not so much. Don’t get me wrong, most of them are fine in small doses, but the idea of being  TRAPPED IN A ROOM with a bunch of them makes my throat feel like it’s starting to close up. Call it anxiety, call it anaphylaxis…either way, it gets filed under D for ‘Do Not Want’.

Also? The idea of this particular group of people trying to problem-solve their way out of anything is borderline absurd. Most of the people I work with are sales reps who work on a commission-only basis. They have literally no motivation to work as a team – in fact, up until a few years ago, they were actively encouraged to compete against each other. Plus, there are a lot of strong personalities at play. You don’t take a commission-only job in a competitive environment unless you’re pretty confident and most of my coworkers are no exception. So, imagine taking six people who are very used to trying to best each other and sticking them in a room with nothing but some vague clues to part of an even more vague larger puzzle, and leaving them for hours. It would be like a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Office.

No fucking thank you.

my garland is fucked

A couple years ago, before we moved into the place we live now, I had this garland I used as part of my extremely low-impact holiday decorating scheme (the entirety of the scheme is: decorate a tree, hang up any cards we get in the mail, hang the garland. That’s it. It can all be cleaned up and put away in less than an hour. Life is short and I don’t want to waste any more of it cleaning than I have to). The garland was kind of fake-pine looking and it was pre-lit with a string of twinkle lights. It looked nice draped (artfully, I liked to tell myself) across the tops of our bookcases, or hung up swag-like between some little hooks on the wall. Every year when I was done with it, I’d stuff it all back into the box it came in and chuck it in the hall closet. No muss, no fuss.

Until the mice got into it.

Our old apartment was a frigging mouse superhighway, and the hall closet was their on/off ramp. Over the course of the several years we lived there, I tried everything from snap-traps, to those sonic deterrent things, to attempting to train the dog to catch them (no dice. He made it clear very early on that Maltese are not a working breed. Unless you count barking at everything that moves as work. He’s got that shit on lock), to stuffing any holes I could find with steel wool (surprisingly effective, but only if you can locate every single hole ever. Otherwise those sneaky little fuckers will always find another way in). The only thing I didn’t try was poison, because while I apparently don’t have a problem with a spring-loaded metal bar snapping a mouse’s neck once they’ve been lured in by the smell of a delicious snack, I can’t stand the thought of them eating poison and then getting a bit of a poorly tum before dying.

Whatever. I contain multitudes.

ANYWAY.

So those little bastard mice got into my garland box, chewed all the wires, built a nest, and had a shit-and-piss-athon the likes of which I have never seen before (and hope to never see again). Needless to say, that garland ended up in the dumpster when we packed up to move to our current, blessedly mouse-free abode. Last year I meant to buy a replacement garland but I got distracted with…who fucking knows, probably BREATHING, knowing me…and never got around to it.

This year when I pulled out the holiday decorations I remembered the garland again, and I wrote it down on a LIST. If something makes it onto a list, I have about a 40% higher chance of actually remembering it. That still only bumps the total chance up to about 47%, but still. So it was on the list and when we went to Walmart on Monday night (which is another story in and of itself, oh my fucking word), we found a replacement garland. Happy happy, joy joy! I set it off to the side in the living room when we got home, intending to hang it up the next day. Which didn’t happen of course, because “hang up garland” wasn’t written on a list anywhere and I fucking forgot. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Wednesday afternoon I finally remembered I had bought the garland and decided to hang it up. The plan was to string it around the opening between our living room and kitchen. I call it an opening rather than a doorway because a) there are no doors and b) if there WERE doors, it would take like 3 doors to fill the opening. Tangent: is there an actual word for that? When there’s a hole in the wall that is clearly a transition from one room to the next but isn’t a doorway? It’s not a hallway or a passage because it’s not, like, its own space…it’s just a much-wider-than-a-door-shaped hole in the wall. Jesus, I’m making it sound like it has sheetrock and wires hanging out of it and shit, which it totally doesn’t. It’s finished and painted and whatever.

Sorry, back to the story.

So, Wednesday afternoon I went to hang up the garland. Now, before I go on, I want you to look very closely at this picture and come up with a good solid  mental picture of what you would expect to come out of this box:

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Spoiler: this box is full of lies.

You would expect an 18 foot length of fake pine garland with a string of  clear twinkle lights incorporated into it, just like the picture shows, would you not? Granted, the picture only shows a couple feet of garland, but you would expect there to be roughly 18 continuous feet of fake greenery with lights in / on it. And probably a cord hanging off one or even both ends. That would be a completely reasonable expectation for this product.

Unfortunately, it would also be completely wrong.

The garland definitely did have lights incorporated. I’ll give it that. And it WAS green. And the lights WERE clear. But, as I unwound the garland from the cardboard it came wrapped around, something was amiss. Instead of 18 continuous feet of garland, what I ended up with was about three feet of cord with a plug at the end (reasonable), maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, four more feet of bare green cord with a plug and socket (like the normal two-sided kind that comes on twinkle lights) in the middle, then another maaaaybe six feet of lighted garland, and three more feet of cord with another plug (which is the only other reasonable part of the whole bloody thing).

So I thought I was buying an 18 foot garland but REALLY what I got was two six foot garlands strung together with a GIANT FRIGGING BLANK SPOT IN THE MIDDLE. If the blank spot had been at either end, I could have just ucked the extra bare cord in behind something and been ok with it…but in the MIDDLE? Come the fuck on. I ended up kind of half-assed doubling the garland over on itself so that it would stretch across the top of the opening (seriously, tell me if there’s a real word for that, it’s really bothering me) and hang down a little on each side while disguising the NEAR ENTIRE THIRD of it that’s just bare green cord.

It looks exactly as weird as you’re imagining. Possibly worse. It was embarrassing enough that I didn’t take a picture of it, so that should tell you something.

The morale of this story, I think we can all agree, is to not buy garland at Walmart.

Or, if you’re going to buy garland at Walmart, open the box and check that it is what it says it is.

Or, just eschew garland of any kind.

And don’t let stupid incontinent mice get into your stuff because they’ll ruin everything. EVERYTHING.

AND…there should be a word for a doorway that contains no doors. The doorway, I mean. Not the word. The word can have door in it, but I don’t really see how that could work unless it was like…non-doorway…and that’s really not any better of a word for what I’m trying to explain.

Ok, I gave myself a headache. I gotta go.

impotent rage…and holiday cards!

On Mondays we still have some of the after-glow of the weekend to get us through. Wednesday are the mid-point in the work week and we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Thursdays often involve starting to plan for the impending weekend. Fridays practically ARE the weekend – any time after noon on Friday is pretty much gravy.

But Tuesdays…Tuesdays are for impotent rage, I’m convinced of it.

On Tuesdays you can’t just throw your hands up and blame shit on still being hung over from the weekend, and you have way too many days left in the week to just bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. If Monday is a dumpster fire, Tuesday is the fully involved three-alarm structure fire that the flash-over from the dumpster has caused. It’s not just a little smoke and the lingering smell of burnt hair…it’s your propane tank blowing up in an eye-searing blaze while you stand at the end of the driveway clutching your shivering dog and wondering what the fuck went wrong.

I don’t like Tuesdays, in case that wasn’t clear. And this particular Tuesday has been especially rife with fuckery of highly non-amusing sorts (although my propane tank didn’t actually blow up or anything, thankfully). It’s mostly work stuff so I can’t really get into it, but just trust me when I tell you that if I could procure a boat right now, I’d name it the S.S. Fuck Right Off, pack it with as many boxes of Pop Tarts and bottles of Rex Goliath merlot as I could afford, and shove off from the nearest dock to start my career as a small-time pirate queen. Imagine an obese female version of Jack Sparrow. That would be me. I’ve already got the eyeliner and the struggling to remember words down pat.

ANYWAY.

I need to do something to counteract the angry. Sending people mail makes me happy, so tonight I’m going to go home and address a bunch of holiday cards.

If you’d like a holiday card from me, you can add your mailing address to my address book here and I’ll happily send you one.

Although, caveat: if you’re international, the card may not get there by Christmas because I’m very bad at judging how long international mail takes to get from point A to point B and also sometimes I have every intention of getting my ass to the post office but then get distracted and end up carrying a bunch of cards around in my bag for an extra week. Just so we’re all on the same page.

Also, you have my solemn oath that I will not sell your address or use it for any other purposes, nefarious or otherwise.

And if you don’t want to give me your address, that’s totally cool. I still love you, and I’ll just beam you holiday cheer with my mind instead.

I should probably pick a specific day and time to do it though, otherwise you’ll spend the next few weeks wondering if every random warm tingle and whiff of gingerbread you notice is me beaming you that cheer I promised you.

Or you might maybe start to worry that you’re having a seizure or a stroke, and I don’t want to do that to you, because after all, I might be a small-time pirate queen, but I’m not a dick.

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Mmm, cheer.

random word-like sounds and a poorly rendered owl

Guys, I bought a sweater in my regular size online last week and when I put it on this morning it was ENORMOUS, and it’s certainly not like I’ve shrunk any so I’m kind of thinking either someone was asleep at the wheel when they cut the pieces out for this sweater, or the person writing up the descriptions on the website forgot a crucial part about how “this sweater is cut extremely generous, to the point where the sleeves will completely cover your hands and you’ll kind of wonder if your arms shrunk a couple inches in the night, and also the bottom of it will hit halfway down your thigh even if you’re five foot ten. If you’re a shorty, you can wear this sweater as a full-on dress”.

I’m not complaining. It’s super soft and comfy and I actually really like the longer sleeves because I prefer to be able to hide my hands and the shanks that I may or may not be holding at any time. That’s not true, I don’t even have a shank, but still. I prefer my hands to remain as enigmatic as possible. If you don’t KNOW I don’t have a shank, you might be slightly less inclined to mess with me. In theory.

Anyway, what’s new? I know I was quiet for most of November. Originally it was because I was raring to go on my very first NaNoWriMo project. Then we took a road trip to Philly (which was mostly super fun), and I came back with the plague just as the election was happening. Then I spent a couple weeks basically wanting to just run away to Tazmania and pretend I’ve never even heard of the United States (that’s still a lingering thing, to be fair). Then it was Thanksgiving and I was like “OMG PIE FOREVER”, except the pie never lasts for more than a couple days because I will eat it for every meal until it’s gone (notice I do NOT say “until I make myself ill”, because even that doesn’t usually stop me. There are no stomach aches in Pie Club). And basically that whooole time from right after we got back from Philly until now, I haven’t managed to even LOOK at my NaNoWriMo project. In the past I’d have beaten myself up for that, called myself a failure, thrown my hands up and wailed about how this is why I can’t have nice things and be a writer because JFC I can’t even write every day for a whole week straight let alone a whole month….but I’m not letting myself do that this time. I’m attempting to actually be kind to myself instead, to look back and say “Hey self, you were REALLY sick and then you were REALLY down in the dumps and then you went through your first official big holiday without your Nana around. That was all kind of rough and no one else is going to hold not sticking to NaNoWriMo against you, so you shouldn’t either.” And it’s…kind of working? I can’t say that I feel super OK with the whole thing, but I’m not actively beating myself up and that’s several steps in the right direction and I’ll take it.

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I also bought myself a set of watercolor pencils off Amazon because they were like 65% off for Black Friday. This weird derpy owl was the first thing I attempted to draw with them. I think his name might be Phil.

We don’t need no stinkin’ Pilgrims

We don’t go around the table saying what we’re thankful for at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

We don’t say grace, we don’t make toasts. There’s no pontificating about the ‘founding fathers’ at our table because that’s not what Thanksgiving is about for us.

Our Thanksgiving is about laughing as much as it’s about eating.

It’s consistently sitting down to eat at least an hour after we said we would, no matter who is doing the cooking…and being totally fine with that because no one has anywhere else to be.

It’s dogs begging for table treats and people picking at leftovers long after they’ve proclaimed they couldn’t eat another bite.

It’s my husband and my dad watching football together – except my dad falls asleep about ten minutes after he sits down.

It’s my mom and I putting away leftovers and immediately doing all the dishes because that’s how my Nana rolled when my mom was growing up and some habits are worth keeping.

It’s three kinds of pie when we said we were only going to have two, because come on. More pie is ALWAYS better.

Pilgrims and Native Americans don’t factor into our Thanksgiving in the least. Some people might say that’s wrong – that we’re not remembering why we’re here in the first place, that we’ve lost the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t feel the least bit bad though, because I’ve got the three most important people in my life at my table eating and laughing together for another year. Life is short and often brutal, and time is our dearest commodity. Spending it with the people I love is always what I’ll be most thankful for.

Also, did I mention the third pie?

You CAN’T feel bad when there’s three pies available. Well, not mentally, anyway. Physically…maybe.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends…whatever that means to you.

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This is one of the holiday cacti I inherited when my Nana passed away in September. This one was in full bloom for Thanksgiving. She always did like to be on time.

I don’t want to talk about it…

…you know, that thing that blew up in everyone’s faces just about a week ago?  So, I’m not going to.

Instead, let me tell you about this terrible cloud of stench that’s following me around today! Don’t worry, it’s not a fart story (yet. I’m pretty good at devolving any story into a fart story if given enough time, so I make no promises about where this will end up).

I’m very sensitive to smells. Side note: my husband might argue that if I was truly sensitive to smells, I’d make more of an effort to clean out whatever is currently making our fridge stink like a kimchi experiment gone wrong, but that’s a smell I can get away from simply by shutting the refrigerator door and thus I’m not particularly motivated to fix the situation. Don’t like the smell? Just shut the door! I’m a problem solver. 

Anyway.

Smells that I can’t get away from are an issue for me. Strong smells will often give me a headache, bring on the asthmatic Throat Tickle Of Doom, and wreck whatever small semblance of concentration I may have tenuously pieced together. As such, I don’t wear perfume or heavily scented personal hygiene products, I buy either unscented or only very lightly scented laundry soap, I tend to clean with white vinegar because it’s way less smelly (to me, anyway) than chemical cleaners, I’m anti car-air-freshener…you get the picture.

When I suddenly can’t find my preferred brand of a normally scent-containing thing and am forced to buy something different on the fly, a whole ridiculous process ensues. I’ll spend at least ten minutes sniff-checking every scent variety of the thing I need.  I’ll talk to myself in the middle of the store aisle, muttering about how Option A smells like mothballs and cat pee but Option B smells like vanilla extract and death. I’ll make up my mind, then see another interesting option, sniff THAT, and end up changing my mind 17 times. All this while having random coughing fits because of the aforementioned asthmatic Throat Tickle Of Doom. I usually end up getting so pissed off about the whole thing that I end up just chucking SOMETHING in my cart in the interest of not having to live out the rest of my days twitching and coughing in the health and beauty aisle.

Which is exactly what happened when I was grocery shopping on Saturday and, to my horror, couldn’t find my preferred brand of deodorant. Ten minutes into my Sniff All The Things routine I was finally so fed up with my inability to JUST FUCKING PICK ONE AND MOVE ON that I ended up tossing the one I currently had in my hand into the cart and stomping off.

Without sniff-testing it.

I didn’t shower on Sunday, so the horror of what I had done didn’t become clear until this morning when I was getting ready for work. I popped the cap off the new stuff, turned the dial to raise the product, and got my first whiff of it. It was a fairly inoffensive fruity smell – I think it was trying to be pomegranate or something? I don’t know. I was running late as usual so I just rubbed it on my pits and then went to get dressed. As I was getting dressed I got another good whiff of it and thought to myself, “ugh, that’s kind of strong”, but short of getting undressed and scrubbing my armpits, there really wasn’t anything I could do about it at that point.

On the way to work I was trapped in the car with the smell and had plenty of time to think about the mistake I had made. What initially seemed like an inoffensive fruity smell is now akin to Hawaiian Punch with undertones of mothballs and formaldehyde. It smells like the “family heirloom” afghan your great aunt Edna had in storage for 20 years and then freshened up with a dousing of her favorite Febreeze formulation, Tropic Nightmare, before gifting it to you. It’s like someone steeped pine cones and cedar shavings in one of those buckets of “just add booze” strawberry margarita mix that contains no ACTUAL fruit, only a slurry of high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, preservatives, red dye #4 and “strawberry flavor”, then boiled it down to crystalline form and SET IT ON FIRE.

Every time I lift up my arms the smell assaults me. The good news is, I work at a desk and I type 90% of the day, so I’m not lifting my arms up that much, right? Right!

Except that this afternoon is yoga class. Not only will my arms be up a good 60% of the time I’m in class, but I’ll also be hot and sweaty which will, I presume, make the scent even stronger.

This is how I die, people: shakily trying to hold Warrior II pose while my super helpful yoga teacher keeps reminding me to breathe and my oxygen supply slowly gets cut off from the stench of my own deodorant.

It was nice knowing you all.

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Look at Mr. Clean. His eyes say, “if this is what Hawaii really smells like, I’ll just stay in Cleveland.”

 

what have I done?

You may remember that last year, instead of doing NaNoWriMo like everybody and their fucking brother, I did the bastard blog version called NaBloPoMo. I started out using the suggested prompts but soon jumped ship because the prompts were banal horseshit.

Wow, I’m sweary tonight. And that’s after a cup of Sleepytime Tea. Can you imagine what I’d be like if I was snorting coke?! It would either be amazing or I’d end up getting punched in the face. Possibly both. Doesn’t coke make people aggro? Maybe I’d be the one punching people in the face, then. I definitely have some anger issues.

ANYWAY.

NaBloPoMo was actually pretty hard once I stopped using the shitty prompts because then it was just like “OK smart-ass, you said you’d post every damn day for a month and you’re supposed to be some kind of funny person so get crackin’ with the LOLs”. Except I can’t be funny every day for a month straight. Not enough to write blog posts AND keep me afloat in real life, anyway…so I struggled. It was good and I learned about myself, but I don’t fucking want to do it again.

So this year I’m biting the bullet and trying NaNoWriMo instead. I’ve been talking lately to a writer friend who keeps saying things like “writers write” and “anybody can NOT write a story”. The way he says it, it doesn’t sound like pretentious writer twat drivel though, trust me. More importantly, it has got me thinking that every day I sit around here twiddling my thumbs waiting for ‘inspiration’ to strike is another day closer I get to death. I mean, not to be a gigantic bummer or anything, but Jesus Christ you guys. SPOILER WARNING: we’re all gonna die. I don’t like the idea of croaking without having at least TRIED to do some of the things I’d like to do, you know? And since chances are REAL slim that I’m going to be hauling my lard ass up the side of the Andes to visit Machu Pichu, or building my own private otter preserve in my back yard any time soon (if ever), I figure I should aim a little lower and try actually writing instead.

That’s not to say that blogging isn’t ‘actually writing’, by the way. And it’s not to say that I’m not going to blog for a whole month. I’m just going to try this other kind of writing that I used to enjoy and be reasonably good at before I grew up and my brain turned to mush.

I’m not doing any of the official NaNoWriMo stuff like tracking my word count on their site, etc. I’m just going to commit to writing 1000 words or one hour a day, whichever happens first. If I write 1000 words or a whole hour and it feels like I want to keep going, I will…but I don’t currently have the mental energy to commit to something as grand as the traditional 50,000 words in a month NaNoWriMo goal. Ain’t happenin’.

Soooo…yeah. I might end up posting excerpts of the story I’m working on here, or I might not. Kind of depends on how awful it turns out. I can tell you this, though: I’m writing a story about writing a terrible story. After all, write what you know, right?

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Mmm, books. I bet they smell so good. Unless some hippy doused them in patchouli, anyway. Why you gotta ruin everything with fucking patchouli, hippies? Damn.

this is why we don’t fax, Jim

This afternoon I had a customer, we’ll call him Jim, who insisted that I needed to fax an invoice to him rather than email it. Like, he didn’t just ask that I sent it that way. He made it very clearly that it was the only option I had to get him the invoice. Since getting the invoice paid was, you know, the reason I called in the first place, I felt compelled to comply.

I scan a lot and I print a little, but I haven’t had to send a fax in a good eight years or so. We have one of those all-in-one copier/scanner/printer/fax things that has never really worked entirely right. It’s always emitting these strange patterns of chirps, and it likes to eat every third piece of paper I put in the feed tray. Also, we have a weird VoiP phone system where you have to dial certain numbers to get an outside line from certain phones.

Which is really all just stuff I’m telling you to distract you from the fact that I forgot how to send a fax.

I mean, I knew there was a part where you put the paper in, and then you dialed the number and the magic Internet gnomes got to work drawing a tiiiiiiiiiny (omg, so tiny) replica of your document which they then projected across the skies with their special Internet gnome flashlights in a specific pattern that only the gnomes who lived in the machine of the person you were sending the document to could decode…or whatever. But I forgot all the bullshit about having to dial 9 first, and then whether or not I needed to dial an extra 1 before the phone number, and what phase of the moon we needed to be in for this to even work and OMG it was all just such a process.

So, I re-learned how to send a fax, and that was…I wouldn’t really call it FUN, but it killed some time and therefore had value of a sort to it. I punched the right numbers in and I signed my cover sheet with a little smiley face because YAY, COMMERCE!  I loaded the pages into the feeder tray and hit “send”. The machine made a satisfying amount of screechy dial-up racket and then sucked my pages through the scanner part. Assuming my part in this information transfer drama was now over with, I walked away.

But lo, all was not right in the land of the Internet gnomes, it seemed.

Several minutes after I walked away from it, the machine emitted a series of kind of mocking beeps and printed something all of its own accord. Suspicious, I approached the machine once again and looked at the print-out. It read…

…’fax not sent’.

“Awww, COME ON! I have to do that whole stupid thing AGAIN? I already shredded the originals! Goddamnit. This is why nobody faxes anymore JIM”, I grumbled.

I went back to my desk, printed out another invoice and another cover sheet. I didn’t sign the cover sheet with a smiley face the second time, because commerce is great and whatever but seriously, fuck Jim and his insistence on using outdated modes of information technology. The whole process of dialing the extra numbers and then the real number and then praying to the Internet gnomes, the whole nine yards…I re-did it all.

And once again, the bloody shitting fax didn’t go through.

I stomped back over to my desk and called Jim to ask what the deal was. Jim proceeded to tell me to…

…wait for it…

…waaaaait…

…oooh, not quite there yet, but almost…

…he told me to just email him the invoice.

flames

It’s seriously really good that through-the-phone ear-stabbing technology doesn’t exist because I am telling you, Jim would have been bloodied in that moment. Jim would have suffered. And I would have laughed.

On the up-side, I did re-learn how to fax, though. It probably won’t be relevant to my job again for another eight frigging years, but hey…the more you know.

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I know Jim’s an asshole.

potato hole

A couple weekends ago Mark and I drove down to southern New Hampshire to attend a beer and chili festival with a group of friends. The beer and chili festival was exactly what the name implies: a festival in which you get to walk around trying many different beers and many different versions of chili. The chili was all you could eat, in fact, and was included in the price of admission. Chili = zero dollars in this scenario.

Remember that. It’s going to be relevant later.

When you first go into the festival they give you a sample glass and ten drink tickets, the idea being that each time you go to an exhibitor’s booth and get a sample of their beer, you give them one of your tickets. When you’re out of tickets, you’re ostensibly out of beer. Except…none of the exhibitors were actually taking tickets. Some of them had containers out to collect tickets, but not a single one of them were creating any kind of “you can’t have this beer until you give me a ticket” enforcement situations. So in essence, it was a no-holds-barred, beer-sampling free-for-all. With chili. FREE chili.

We entered the festival and proceeded to work our way around the small tents, sampling chili and beer. We got almost to the end of the lawn area where we had entered and I asked if it was time to perhaps circle back around to hit the tents we hadn’t visited in our first round. Our friends, who had been to this festival before, laughed and pointed down along a paved walkway at the end of the lawn which led to another, larger lawn with several GIANT tents set up on it. Turned out there were a lot more breweries exhibiting at the festival than we had realized there’d be. Three giant tents worth, in fact! Excited at the prospect of sampling many more beers, we made our way toward the giant tents.

It’s worth pointing out here that New Englanders are known as a thrifty lot. My people aren’t big into wasting things, especially food and drink. Thus, the concept of getting oh, say, a sample of beer, and only drinking a few sips before dumping the rest out is kind of foreign to me. Also, how would YOU feel if you were a brewer giving out samples of your wares only to watch people take just a few sips and then dump them out? You’d be offended, right? You might begin to question your chosen profession, even. You’d surely be hurt. I try to do my best not to hurt people if I can help it, so I was doing my level best to finish off each beer sample entirely before I’d go for the next one. Even if I didn’t particularly like the beer. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me drinking a fair amount of beer on a stomach that only had a few sample-sized portions of chili in it.

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Ommegang Brewery’s Rosetta – it’s a lambic that tastes like sour cherries and heaven. And my heathen ass doesn’t even BELIEVE in heaven. A++, will buy.

So, we were there by the giant beer tents and my husband started talking about wanting more food. Beginning to feel the effects of all the beer samples I had been diligently finishing off for the last hour or so (mustn’t waste, after all), I agreed that food would be a smart move. We assessed our options. The chili tents were waaaaay off on the other end of the park where we first came in, but there were a couple of food trucks vending quite close to the end where we were.

“But the chili is FREE”, I said.

“But the guy selling sausages is CLOSE. Plus: we got cash on the way here for just such a situation. Plus: sausage,” Mark replied.

“Damn you and your flawless logic”, I grumbled, and off we went to the sausage truck (which is an inherently funny phrase, but don’t derail me).

There were a few people in line ahead of us so we got a good look at the wares as others got their orders. The choices were a disturbingly long grilled hotdog, a pretty normal-looking grilled sausage with or without grilled onions and peppers, and french fries. The purveyors didn’t have any signage displaying pricing, but it was kind of too late at that point because it was our turn at the counter.

Me: “Hi, how much are your hotdogs?”

Sausage Man: “Sausages and hotdogs are $8”

Me: “$8…does that include fries?”

SM: “Nope.”

Me: “Oh. How much are the fries?”

SM: “$6”

Me, trying not to snort at that absurdity: “Ok, we’ll take just a sausage please”.

We stepped back from the counter while the guy made the sausage and I turned to Mark with wide eyes.

“Six bucks for FRIES?!” I hissed. He made some malarky argument about captive audiences and hand-cut fries but I stopped hearing the words coming out of his mouth because, six bucks. For fries. When there were seventeen (at least!) types of chili like 500 feet away. FREE CHILI. ZERO. DOLLAR. CHILI. 

The guy gave us the sausage (hurrr), we ate it, I went back and told others of the outrageous pricing, then we all drank more beer and talked about more amusing subjects. A good time was had by all. (That whole story was really just background, so I don’t feel bad ending it abruptly.)

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My husband is shown here exhibiting the infinite patience for which he should be sainted. Note the slightly manic twinkle in my eyes. Or slightly drunk? Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. JOKES WITHIN JOKES, OMG.

Anyway. Fast-forward to last night.

(I wanted to put a gif here of the thing they do on Wayne’s World when they change scenes, but you think I could find that thing anywhere? NO. Fucking Internet. Why do I even bother?)

Wait, what?  Oh yes. Last night.

So last night Mark and I were running some errands and I was ranting about…I don’t even know, something…and at the end of the rant Mark pointed out that I was nearly as offended by that thing as I had been by the price of fries at the beer festival. Since the rant pump was already well-primed, that was all the nudge I needed to go off about those stupid fries.

“Six bucks for fries. THAT WAS INSANE. Do you know how much a 50 pound bag of potatoes costs? Like $10. MAYBE. And that’s RETAIL. If they were buying them through a wholesaler they were like half that. And it’s not even like there’s LABOR involved with making fries. With the sausages, I can kind of see the justification – you have to grill them, you have to slice and grill the onions and peppers, you have to put the sausage in the bun…there’s semi-skilled labor involved in that. But french fries? You dump potatoes into hot oil and you WALK AWAY for several minutes. You maybe go back and shake the basket halfway through cooking, but that’s it. There’s no labor. Nothing.”

Mark tried reason on me:  “Well, someone’s gotta cut the potatoes, at least.”

“NO THEY FUCKING DON’T. They put them through a fry cutter!  You set the potato on it, push the lever down, it forces the potato through a cutting grid, and VOILA, french fries. You don’t even have to PEEL the potatoes. The most you could argue is that they have to WASH the potatoes, but big fucking deal, how long does that take? Not $8 worth of time, that’s for damn sure.”

“Err, $6.”

“Huh?!”

“You said $8, but the fries were $6.”

I side-eyed him as best I could while also keeping the car on the road, because I was driving through this entire thing, it’s worth noting.

“Six dollars, eight dollars…I don’t fucking care. They were too damned expensive and I am deeply annoyed by it. So…so shove THAT in your $8 POTATO HOLE,” I spluttered.

Needless to say, the $8 potato hole was still being brought up this morning. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s gonna to take me to live that one down.

It’ll be longer than it takes to make a batch of french fries, though. I can guarantee you THAT much.

broken bits

I started writing this as a post for World Mental Health Day, which was on Monday…but it turned out I had a lot more to say than I originally thought and thus it took me a while to finish the post. Better late than never?!
Also, a quick warning – there are mentions of self-harm (though no graphic descriptions), and allusions to suicidal thoughts below. If you find these subjects triggering, best stop here.

My ‘official’ (ie: documented by a health professional) history with mental illness goes back about 11 years, but it has been with me a lot longer than that.

As a child, I’d often get overwhelmed by emotions and I’d cry. I couldn’t adequately explain to anyone why I was crying, so I was told to toughen up. For the record, my parents were both brought up in pretty emotionally repressive families themselves and they didn’t really know any other way to be. I get that and I don’t hold it against them. They did the best they knew how.

Anyway.

Because I believed that I wasn’t supposed to cry without a ‘good reason’, I instead developed a habit of hitting, scratching or pinching myself, or sometimes biting the insides of my cheeks. when I started feeling like I was about to cry. It was a way of distracting myself and hopefully heading off the imminent crying jag. It didn’t always work, but it worked often enough that it became habit. Self-harm isn’t something I would have understood had someone explained it to me at six or seven years of age, of course. Hell, it’s something I still don’t always understand 30 years later. But that’s what I was doing. I was purposefully hurting myself in an attempt to cope with emotions.

The first time I started to realize I probably wasn’t OK in the head was around age 15. That was when I started having trouble in school (due in large part to ADHD that I didn’t know I had), and I was sad a lot. I had always been a very smart kid that could keep up despite my focus problems, but as the workload intensified in high school, that all came crashing down and my identity as a smart kid was something I began to seriously question.

By senior year, I was in real danger of failing a required English class and thus not graduating. I had gotten pretty good at playing a character – a funny, flippant music nerd who simply didn’t care about academics. But inside, I was a stew of insecurity and self-loathing. I felt like a failure and a disappointment to my family. My brain started convincing me that I wasn’t actually smart at all, that all my teachers had lied in order to spare me from realizing what a no-good loser I was. I believed that the few friends I had were hanging out with me because they felt sorry for me. Things eventually came to a head when I was no longer able to intercept the mail the school was sending home about my being in danger of flunking out. The look on my mom’s face when I had to tell her I might not graduate still makes me feel bad almost 20 years later. It was like watching something I loved being crumpled up and stomped on. This was the toughest woman I knew and I had managed to break her with my inability to be normal, to just do what needed to be done like everyone else did. That certainly didn’t improve the tenor of my already negative inner dialog any. I did end up graduating, though I was FAR from prepared for post-secondary education. Going to college that fall had mistake written all over it…but off I went, undiagnosed mental issues and all, because that was where smart kids were expected to go after high school.

College was pretty bad. I’ll spare you the gritty details but the gist is that I was there for two largely unpleasant semesters before I was told I didn’t need to bother coming back. Anxiety was my constant companion through the first semester and by halfway through the second semester I was experiencing my first full-blown depressive episode – not that I knew what it was at the time. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on and I didn’t get any help. Instead I floundered, flunked out, and went home to find a job. I didn’t know how to deal with the resultant feelings of guilt and failure, so I just…didn’t. I stuffed them down and distracted myself with experiencing the fun parts of a college experience via my best friend, whose school I visited almost every weekend.

When best friend moved away after graduating college, things started to fall apart again in a big way. The brain weasels were soon running rampant, telling me that I was the only one of my group of high school friends left in town because I was a failure, a fuck-up and a disgrace. I self-medicated with booze – a LOT of booze. The chorus of self-loathing that I’d been living with for the past ten years was now getting louder by the day. It told me that I didn’t deserve my job or the things that I had, that I wasn’t worthy of the love of my family or my long-distance boyfriend. It told me that nothing I did would ever be good enough, that I had no friends because I was terrible to be around. It told me not to bother trying to do any of the things I used to love – making music, writing stories, painting and drawing – because I was never going to be any good at any of them. It wanted me to believe that there was no point in even living anymore, and for a little while there, it had me pretty well convinced.

Shortly after my 25th birthday I experienced a bout of costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs where they connect to the sternum. Imagine someone sliding a knife between your ribs right up near your breast bone and then slowly trying to turn the blade vertical, prying your ribs apart a millimeter at a time. Super funtimes! It also caused a lot of referred pain into my left shoulder, neck and breast. Being a life-long fatty and having a history of heart disease in my family, it really wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine that particular combination of pains being symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor in the emergency room and my primary care doctor both told me that my heart was fine, but I couldn’t stop thinking that there was something very wrong, that I was on the verge of dropping dead. I felt constantly sick to my stomach, I would have spells of not being able to breathe, of feeling cold and clammy…all secondary symptoms of a heart attack, coincidentally. It got to the point where I would end each day at work by writing a series of notes with directions for what to do in my absence because I was absolutely convinced that I wasn’t going to be there the next day. What I know now, of course, was that I was living in a constant state of panic attack…but that was never even mentioned as a possibility at the time.

After a couple months of limping along like that, I finally broke. I went to my doctor and sobbed about how I was so terrified of dropping dead that I was starting to have trouble leaving my house (because, you know, death can only get you if you leave the house? Brain weasel logic is weak at best). She told me I was depressed, wrote me a prescription for Wellbutrin and set me on the 10+ year path of exploring everything from medications (five so far) to exercise, special diets, supplements, and a variety of self-help plans.

Finally being diagnosed with ADHD and being properly medicated for that has made a huge difference in my anxiety levels, but I still struggle with depression regularly. I’ve finally started learning ways to help myself, though. Talking with people who’ve had similar experiences reminds me that I’m not alone no matter what the brain weasels want me to believe. Meditation helps me to just be where I am in this moment and not worry so much about the future or feel so bad about the past. Yoga helps me move my focus out of my head and into my body, giving my brainmeat a little much-needed rest. All of these things compound over time and help me to realize that the way my brain works is not all there is to me…but it’s part of who I am, and that’s something I’m learning to be OK with.

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“When I’m feeling down, I like to chew my foot. Sounds weird but it helps.”  – Junior


If you’re struggling, know that you’re NOT alone, and that people truly do want to help you feel better. The world needs you in it, so please stay! If you need immediate help, start here (you don’t even have to call, you can chat with them online! Isn’t that handy?!)