May 2, 2016


We live in the country. I mean, Lancaster City has been fairly well hipsterfied, and we have a Target less than half an hour away. So we're trying. But if you regularly find yourself in traffic behind a horse and buggy, it's safe to say you're living in the country.

Which is sometimes GREAT. Like when you need some cheering up so you go on Craigslist and look through the "Free" section and find that people are giving away things like:

Four leghorn chickens they found on the side of the road one day. The three females lay some "pretty nice" eggs. There's no telling what the male does all day, but probably he walks around saying things like, "Go--I say, go away, boy, ya bother me."

"That's a joke, son."

A fica plant. Not a ficus. Nope, this baby is just gonna withhold Social Security and Medicare tax from your paycheck.

That is heavy. Heavier than you know, little plant.

Also known as a Guido Casket.

Can you believe they're just GIVING this AWAY? FOR FREE??

One thing I've found! Is that the scarier! And more dangerous! An item is! The more excited they sound!! LIKE WITH THIS TETANUS-INDUCING DEATH SHEET!!! 


Free Rock. Free Rock! Free Rock? Free Rock.

I'm not sure which rock is being offered, as there are two large rocks in this picture. But maybe one is technically considered a boulder? And, I know this is being a little picky, but the description is like a less-excited echo of the title. If I were the author of this advertisement, I would definitely keep the title. Love that energy. But I think I would use the description for a call to action, something like, "Come 'n' get it!"

Then again, maybe this is a call to action. Maybe the rock is being held prisoner on that lawn and we are being called to free Rock. Free Rock!

I can't even make fun of this one. It is a very pretty picture.

Stay tuned for the next installment of FREE TO GOOD HOME, when we count how many listings there are for free firewood and pianos. Which I guess could also be used for firewood, if you really wanted. In fact, most of the listings can be thrown in a fire. Except Rock. Rock will never be thrown in a fire. Rock will be free. Someday, Rock -- will -- be -- free.

None of these images belong to me but I also don't know how to credit them. So if you took any of these pictures and are displeased with me for posting them on here, please leave a comment below and I will do my best to make reparations. Would you like an old water bottle from a hospital? Or a close-up picture of a persimmon cut out of a magazine? 

April 15, 2016

Let's Go to the Mall

I went to the mall today.

I hate the mall.

Wait. Before we get into that, it's been almost two years since I have written anything here, and even though my older sister is the only person I'm certain reads this blog from time to time, more people might someday, so I'll update:

In October, I got married. It was awesome.

In November, I started writing a book.

December was Christmas. Don't pretend like you got anything done that entire month, either.

In January, I turned 26 and began learning about bookbinding (it's just a coincidence that those two happened in the same month. I wasn't waiting until this magic year to learn a new skill).

In February I finished writing the book and got a first round of edits done in March.

Now it's April, and we're finally going on our HONEYMOOON!* We're going to Paris for a week and a half. I'm finally getting the chance to use all the French I acquired from junior high to sophomore year of college -- at least until they start responding to me in English to stop me from butchering their most precious language. More importantly, this is my chance to deplete the national reserves of fromage. Most importantly, it's an opportunity to pretend I'm Ingrid Bergman, and dress up in scarves and red lipstick and take up smoking.

"I would never set foot in a mall, you simpleton."

Hence why I was at the mall, my least favorite place in all the world. I needed a trench coat, naturally. I ordered one about a week ago, but the sleeves fell down past my tiny dinosaur arms and made me look like a small child playing dress-up. Damn you, I whispered. To no one, really. It's not anyone's fault. At least, that's what I told myself as I hung from a set of monkey bars for an hour to try and stretch out my arms.

So this evening, instead of celebrating the start of our honeymoon by lighting an eternal flame, Olympics-style, I went to the mall. I knew what this would entail: Since we don't have a Trench Coats 'R' Us nearby, I'd have to make a sweep of every single store in the entire mall until I found one.

I stepped into Boscov's, took a deep breath, immediately choked on the thick scent of leather mixed with indiscriminate perfume, staggered into a rack of handbags, righted myself, looked around to see if anyone noticed, made uncomfortable eye contact with a man shopping for women's nightgowns, casually picked up a sensible pump, casually put it back down, and then set off.

While shopping, I tend to move in a half-efficient manner: I bee-line from one shop to the next (only way to avoid veering toward the Cinnabon), but once inside a store, I wander, bewildered, among the racks of clothing with my neck stretched up above the hangers, my head darting around like I'm the Meerkat of Macy's.**

From store after store, I emerged with no shopping bags in tow, but with the slightly uneasy feeling that I was doing something wrong. I just know what I want and you don't have it! I'm not casing the joint, I swear! I didn't steal anything and stash it in my tiny purse! I don't even have room for my sunglasses in there! I tried to convey the innocence of my intentions through body language*** to the security cameras which were no doubt hidden around the store, but which I didn't want to address directly as this would only make me seem even more suspicious. Still, maybe if I were wearing a trench coat I could have gotten away with using a phrase like "casing the joint."

I did find several coats, actually. And they were all on sale. But this one looked cheap, that one felt weird, another one was kind of see-through and had a leopard-print lining so that when it got wet in the rain you would definitely be able to see the print. Is it part of the design? I wondered. I considered pouring water on it, just to expose the problem, but I didn't know how long my quest would last. I needed to preserve my resources.

But really, this isn't a story about a coat. This is about the mall.

There's a reason I do all my shopping online. Malls make me tired. And hungry. And sad. Mirrors are everywhere; I'm surrounded by people who are prettier than I am and outfits that are trendier than mine.

BUT HERE'S WHERE THE POST TAKES A DRAMATIC TURN. First you thought it was about malls. THEN you thought it was about trench coats. THEN you thought it was about malls again. BUT NO! IT'S ABOUT BODY IMAGE!

Friends, readers, countrymen, hold onto your butts, because you will have a hard time believing this next bit, and I don't want your butt to fall off from shock...as butts are apt to do sometimes. At least, that's what I hear. It's never...I mean, my butt has never fallen off from shock. Or any other emotion. But that's not to say it couldn't happen. I'm just lookin out for you, man. Better to be safe than sorry, you know?


For the past three weeks, I have been not only exercising consistently, but dieting. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?! My resting heart rate is down. I can run up the stairs and only be mildly winded. I've lost five pounds. And yes, most of that is water weight from all the tears I've shed while clutching entire blocks of cheese to my chest during sit-ups, but I am still proud of myself. This fitness kick is partly because we're staying on the street with all those stairs and I don't want to die next week, but also because this marriage weight I kept hearing about snuck up on me. I almost did lose my butt from shock when I stepped on the scale and found I'd gained ten pounds in four months. That's fine when you're a normal height, but not for someone my size.

Okay. Backstory over. Back to the mall. And all the mirrors. Wandering around, I kept catching glimpses of my reflection from angles I was not prepared to see ever. Even though I know that I look better than I did three weeks ago, nobody else who saw me today knew that. I'd actually been making an effort, but it still didn't feel like enough. I didn't feel like enough. I left the house feeling pretty and confident, but in two hours, the mall beat me down until I was all but crawling back to my car.

Now that I'm home with some Chinese takeout in me, I'm all like, "Why did I care what four pre-teens and some dudes at the cell phone kiosks and the guy at American Eagle wearing jorts and the blonde lady with the chignon at the makeup counter thought of the way I look?"

The answer, friends, is because of the malevolent influence of the mall.


Essentially, online and IRL shopping are the same, except with one you don't have to put on pants. Malls don't have pop-up ads and models on retainer, so they have to show you how hideous you are without using direct comparisons. They do this through poor lighting, and mirrors--mirrors everywhere! They wear you out with all the walking. They never have your size in the thing you really want. They saturate the air with cologne. They play that crazy loud techno music. None of the sizes fit the same from one store to the next. They make you interact with salespeople when all you want to do is wrestle yourself halfway into a pair of jeans in a cramped dressing room before giving up, so you sit there breathing heavily and you try to swallow your shame and frustration before the tears come.

Some people do like the mall. I guess. But I do not. And I finally realized that it wasn't worth torturing myself for the sake of a coat.

So I went home. I tried on the trench coat I already had. I looked at the picture of the model wearing it. I scrunched up the sleeves like she did. I popped the collar a little like hers. I mussed up my hair and cut ten inches off and chemically straightened it and dyed it blonde. I hunched my collar bones forward and jutted one hip out. I made a face that was wry and bored and superior all at once. And you know, as soon as I did all that, the trench coat actually looked pretty good.

Problem solved.

*Do me a favor and shout that in your mind like Oprah would. Or shout it out loud. It'll be weird, but you do what you want.
**Just kidding. We don't have a Macy's here. We have a Boscov's. And a Bon Ton. 
***The way you do this is to extend your arms out to the sides, palms open, hold your chin up, and walk very slowly, peeling your feet off the ground as if you're a beautiful, mysterious creature emerging from the a beautiful, mysterious lake shrouded in timeless mists.
**** "Good one, Carrie," they all said.

Image: Publicity shot for Arch of Triumph, a film I have not seen but probably will now.

April 14, 2016

Another Visit to the Dentist

This set is for sale in Lancaster. Soon I'll be able to perform
all my own dentistry at home!

This morning I woke up, as I usually do. I made some coffee, drank it. And then, because I was feeling a little wild, I decided to make another cup. I downed the dregs of my first but instantly recoiled from a sharp pain in my back molar.

"No," I whispered. "The cavity -- she is here." I ran to the bathroom mirror and, peering into my gaping maw, spotted a dark pinprick of a hole in my tooth. "So you're here at last. I've been expecting you."

 I called up my dentist's office and explained the situation. "I'm leaving for my honeymoon on Saturday," I said, trying to keep the edge of panic from my voice. "Is there anything you can possibly do--?"

COME ON IN TODAY, said the Very Helpful Receptionist. YOU HAVE ONE HOUR. BE THERE.

"Your tone changed rapidly," I said. "This is a roller coaster."

I quickly dressed, brushed my teeth, and sped on over to the dentist. At this point, I was forty minutes early for my appointment, so I sat in the car and fretted for thirty-eight of those minutes. Then I went inside, let them know I was there, used the bathroom, sat down, and then fretted some more because I couldn't remember if I flushed. Really, what do you do in that situation? It's not like you can sneak back in there without anyone else in the waiting room noticing and wondering what's up with yer finnicky bowels. You can't lean over and ask someone if they heard you flush or not. All you can do is sit in agony and hope to escape to the sweet relief of a woman scraping plaque off your teeth with a sharp instrument before somebody else goes in to use the bathroom --

"Carrie?" It wasn't my usual hygienist. But it was my usual name.

"THAT'S ME." I jumped up, nearly spilling everything out of my bag, and followed her down a hall and to the right. We traveled far into the depths of the building. I usually go through a little door to the left and two doors down, so this new route plus the new hygienist had me on edge.

The room she finally ushered me into appeared at first like any other exam room in the building: a window looking out on the business park next door, a framed picture of an iris (Flower, not eye. That would be weird). Chair. Spit sink. X-ray pictures of my teeth. It feels vaguely intrusive, having the insides of my teeth on display for anyone walking by. So intimate.

"I know you, child," they can say now. "I've seen what's in your teeth."

That's gross. Sorry. I was nervous.

The hygienist asked me a few questions and then left me alone with my thoughts. Which is never what you want, especially in a dentist's office. It gave me a chance to really look around at all the plastic devices from probably-the-'20s, faded yellow-brown with age and sporting names like Drill-o-Matic 5000.

"Are these just here for display?" I said. "Or do they mean to use them on my mouth?" But nobody answered. Because I was alone in the room. For ten minutes. The panic mounted.

Finally the hygienist came back. "The doctor will be with you in just a moment. For now I'm just going to take some X-rays, see what's going on in there."

The one part I like about going to the dentist is when they lay the lead apron on me before the pictures. The cool weight of it is comforting. It's the closest I can get in my adult life to being swaddled. Sometimes when I first wake up in the morning, all snuggled up under the blankets safe and cozy and warm with the smell of freshly brewed coffee on the cold air, I think, "You know the only thing that could make this cozier? The knowledge that my organs are protected from the damaging rays of X by a layer of lead."

Of course, the comfort of the apron was tempered a little by the extreme discomfort of the gag-inducing film apparatus they wrangled into my too-small mouth. But overall it was okay, because when the hygienist left again I got to pass the time by looking at pictures of the inside of my teeth and think, "What if they found something...else in there? Like a tiny person who's made a little home in my tooth?"  By the time the hygienist returned, I'd worked out a whole backstory for the little tooth person. I was going to tell her all about it, but who are we kidding, no I was not.

"So, the doctor will be right in," she said. YEAH, I'VE HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE, KELLEY-WITH-AN-E-Y. "I'm just going to do a quick test. Since you say it's affected by heat and cold, it could be something more serious."

Her examination consisted of two tests. First, she sprayed a freezing agent on the end of a Q-tip and rubbed it all over the back few molars. Did I scream? I am proud to say I did not, despite the excruciating pain from parts of my teeth I didn't know could feel any sensation at all. Did I let out a noise like a slide whistle played very slowly yet with a sharp crescendo? Why, yes.

"This is just to make sure that the nerves are still working," she said.


For the second round of torture, she picked up the air shooter thingy. You know when you drink ice-cold water or you smile into a winter wind, and it's like brain freeze on your front teeth? Well, imagine a concentrated version of that feeling, right where your gums have receded so that all that's left are the soft, uber-sensitive roots. I am not proud to say that this time, I did scream. But just a little bit. More like a yelp. And maybe I kicked a little.

"Easy there, girl," she murmured. "Alright. The doctor will be in to see you in just a moment."

I don't care how long he takes. Just go away. Go now and leave me alone. She left me huddled on the chair, the entire left side of my face pulsating in pain. "Could you bring back the lead apron? Please?" I bleated. But nobody heard.

I don't know how long I stayed like that. When I opened my eyes, the dentist came bustling in like Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element. "What's going on, Carrie?" he said. "There's nothing on your X-rays. I see nothing here! So WHAT is the problem, young lady? Why are you here?"

"Well -- it's -- this morning I saw a hole in my back molar. And it's been sensitive to cold and heat, so I just thought I'd get it checked out --"

"A hole?" he repeated, with his eye brows raised, exactly the way a mean middle school girl would try to undermine and mock you. "A hole?"


"Yeah," I said. "A hole. Well -- I mean, it looked like one, so I just thought --"

"That's just a sealant that's come out," he said. "Why are you wasting my time with this pedestrian nonsense?" he didn't say. But his eyes did.

Another lady came in to put the new sealant in and apply the medicine. She was kind to me. Spoke to me softly as she drilled the sealant down. Told me she just had a sealant replaced, too (You're just like me! I thought. We're the same!), and that it felt like she had a shoe on her tooth for a few days (You're so strange! Are we best friends now?!). Then she smeared some kind of angel goop on my sensitive roots. And I felt no pain.

"That feels so much better. Thank you." I love you. 

"You're all done. Looks like you're due for your six-month cleaning in two weeks," she said. "Enjoy your honeymoon!"

I never even learned her name.

July 8, 2014

So Rude.

or, Legitimate Reasons to Say "Tough Luck, My Friend" When a Man Asks to Marry Your Daughter:

  • He refers to your daughter as "that girl."
  • His "best suit" consists of black jeans, the untucked, yellowed t-shirt that he wore to bed last night, and quilted pleather jacket. 
  • He doesn't even say hello when you open the door. Who's rude now?!
  • His buddies are leaning against his old beater outside your gate, probably heckling.
  • He boasts that your daughter will go anywhere he goes, which probably means she goes with him to the store to make sure he buys more than marshmallows and cheap beer. 
  • He doesn't ask for your blessing. He asks if he can HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER. Being old-fashioned is one thing, but if someone treats your daughter like property you're allowed to frown and shake your head for a full thirty seconds. 
I feel for you, man. If you were able to get a word in edgewise through all his "say yes say yes" chatter, you could tell us your side of the story. Maybe it's an abusive relationship. Maybe the singer clubs baby seals and kicks canes out from under the elderly and takes up two spaces in the parking lot. Maybe he's responsible for jeggings. Just because he can dance on one foot doesn't mean he's a good guy. 

All right, maybe it wasn't the best idea to bring over another young fella. I know you wanted to show your daughter there are other men out there, but the blind date setup never works. She thinks he's a creep because his hair is slicked back and he doesn't understand personal space. Well, her loss. You can give me his number. That guy looks like Bernardo the Puerto Rican Dreamboat from West Side Story.

Why you gotta be so smooth?

I know you feel like the bad guy, but stay strong. The singer will reproach you, but don't give in. When he ignores your concerns and dances away, stay strong. Try not to laugh when he goes back to his friends and has a good cry in the middle of a group hug. Just proving your point. And when the entire band, along with Your Daughter the Groupie, dress up (Oh look - the guy does own a real suit! But he has to dress it down with a red beanie so he's not a sell-out) and entreat you from the front lawn, keep your cool. You can't support your daughter marrying a petulant man-child.

You realize this all started when she got that butterfly tattoo on her shoulder three years ago, don't you? "Neat-o, honey!" you said when she showed it to you. "You look like you belong in a rock 'n' roll group! Cyndi Lauper, watch your back!" What a fool you were.

The music video ends ambiguously as the group flounces down the driveway with nothing resolved. Nobody changes their mind; nobody learns anything. But let's go back to the beginning of the song, when the singer "got in my car, raced like a Jet." If his rival is the slick-haired Bernardo, the singer is clearly Riff.

"Why you gotta be so rude?"

After the music video ends, I can only assume there's a rumble where fake-Riff and fake-Nardo end up dead. Blonde Girl is distraught. There's a very moving scene in which she yells, "Are you happy now?!" at her father and crushes her flower crown under her heel.

Eventually, she runs off with the bass player in the tuxedo shirt. They have four children. Tuxedo Shirt joins a polka band ironically, and Blonde Girl opens an Etsy store selling handmade flower crowns and hemp bracelets. She visits Riff's grave every week, where her father has written in Sharpie on the tombstone:

Now you have my blessing. LOL #toughluck #sorude

Images via flickr and Aveleyman.

July 2, 2014

Surviving Wedding Season

Facebook is all ablaze with summer wedding pictures, and we're about to add our share. Tomorrow Bill and I are driving to New Hampshire for a college friend's wedding. So while I finish up all the work I want to do before the weekend (read: buying Sour Patch Kids and energy drinks for the drive), I'm going to be lazy and re-post a guide I wrote last year for surviving wedding season with grace and poise:
  1. Start looking for an outfit online as soon as you receive the Save the Date.
  2. Find out who else is going so you can book hotels with them. 
    • This is a delicate maneuver. If you aren't sure whether they were invited or not and don't want to risk hurting feelings, try this approach:
      You: Have you talked to that mutual friend we have lately?
      Them: Not very lately.
      You: Yeah, me neither. Sooo, ya got any plans June 20th?
      Them: I don't think so, why?
      You: Oh. Just...it's my quarter-birthday, plus three days. (act hurt that they didn't remember)
      Them: That's...weird. Oh, wait - actually, I am going to our mutual friend's wedding that day, were you invited?
      Works every time.
  3. Freak out when you get the invitation because you still haven't found a dress to wear.
  4. Look through their registry. Buy the gravy boat and a punch bowl. Tell your date, "IT'S A CLASSIC GIFT! THEY'LL THINK IT'S FUNNY! Plus, they registered for it, so."
  5. Regret buying them a gravy boat and punch bowl when you find out your friend got them a hot air balloon trip for two over wine country. Shrug and mumble, "Well, they registered for my gift, so." Tell them the groom is afraid of heights, whether or not that's true.
  6. Redouble your outfit-finding efforts. Surreptitiously browse at work. Only rein yourself in when your searches drift toward flowy, sequined jumpsuits. Nobody else will know it's a joke and everyone will think you're weird.
  7. Oh no! The shoes you ordered - the perfect, beautiful shoes that you would give your life for if they were in trouble - have been canceled! The seller on ebay advertised the shoes in your size, and then turned around five days before the wedding and told you he actually didn't have them in a size 6, after all.
  9. Definitely don't roll around on the bed in despair and utter the words, "BUT THOSE SHOES WERE SO BEAUTIFUL. THEY WERE THE PERFECT SHOES AND EVERY OTHER SHOE IS UGLY." Or if you do say that, at least make sure your boyfriend isn't around to write down what you said and read it back to you from time to time in a serious voice, like he's in an experimental play.
  10. Wear an outfit you already own.
  11. Go to the wedding. Dance your little feet off. You wouldn't have kept those beautiful shoes on for longer than twenty minutes, anyway.

July 1, 2014

A Little Giggle

Sometimes I just sit awake at night and think up things to make myself laugh.

For instance, say it's karaoke night, and two guys go up to sing "The Sound of Silence" (it's late by this point, give 'em a break). It starts off okay, but then they both keep singing the harmony part because neither knows the melody and each assumed the other would sing it. So instead of this exquisite, lovely song we just have two guys droning for three minutes.

That would just slay me.

Image via The Wonderful World of Nothing Worthwhile.

June 18, 2014

Is that you, Benny-Boy?

I know this is better suited for other places on the internet, but is this Benedict Cumberbatch painting flowers on a lady?

My, what mod bods you have!

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images, via The Weather Channel.