it’s almost six am and i haven’t gone to bed yet, so you don’t get a witty title. sorry.

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Well, technically I have been to bed, but I couldn’t sleep because I may or may not have gotten a little drunk tonight and then stayed up late enough for the hangover to go right on ahead and set in. So I started feeling sorry for myself instead, and therefore you get a whiny post. With no title. You’re welcome.

I don’t remember the very first time I was ever homesick. It seems like it was a pretty permanent state of being for me when I was very young. I would go to spend the night at my sister’s or my grandmother’s house, and I would be perfectly fine until it was time to go to bed. When bedtime hit, I was ready to be at home, in my bed. I was eight years old before I was able to stay the night anywhere that wasn’t home without crying myself to sleep and/or begging to be taken home.

I don’t remember it really being homesickness, though. I remember the unhappiness of a small child who wasn’t getting what she wanted, but I think it was more an unhappiness with the unfamiliar. (That still happens even now, twenty some-odd years later. But, in most situations, when a 28 year old woman stomps her foot and demands to be taken home she just gets funny looks, so now I just take sleeping pills.) The first time I remember real homesickness, I think I was around ten or so, when I was at 4-H camp — my first-ever sleep away camp. It was a week long, and the first night there was absolute, pure misery. I feel bad now for the slightly bewildered counselor who got stuck with rubbing my back while I sobbed into my pillow.

When I was a kid, it seemed that the first night of homesickness was the worst, and then as the time wore on the homesickness lessened. And it was an imprecise sort of longing, one where you couldn’t put your finger on exactly what it was you missed, just that you missed the general concept of home.

It’s reversed now. Of course, when home turns into a 20-some-odd-foot trailer that you’re sharing with two other people, that cures you of any homesickness for a little while. I was thrilled with our hotel rooms right after we left because they were bigger than the space I’d been living in. But as time wears on, I find that there are little things that remind me of the people I’ve left back in Tennessee, and the longer I’m away (exactly a year now since I’ve been home, not that I’m counting) the harder it hits every time.

Like when I’m cleaning the kitchen and find myself in tears because a George Strait song came on the TV and it made me think of one of my sisters. Or passing the deli cheese section at the grocery store, or seeing someone fish off the bank of a creek. I can’t even think about making my mom’s chicken dressing right now, and I’m kind of afraid to try moose because it might taste like deer and there goes the neighborhood called Laura’s dignity.

It’s a very specific pain now, attuned to very specific people. Of course I miss Tennessee in general, too (I don’t care if I never drive up/down the side of a mountain again in my life). But it’s not the same now as it was when I was a kid. Of course, part of that is probably because the actual home I grew up in is gone now, and I had to dig deep and make myself understand that that house was not actually home. I was forced to be specific with myself about what was home for me, and so as a result, my homesickness is more specific.

Daddy is coming up to visit in June, and my husband and I are taking a trip home for my sister’s wedding in October, so that’ll help a little, but I feel like it’ll make it even worse, too — because those are such short little trips, and at the ends of them I’ll have to say goodbye all over again.

Daddy’s always said that when you’re homesick, take each day five minutes at a time. If you get through the first five minutes, you can get through the next five minutes, and the five minutes after that, and so on. But I’ve got two more years to go before we have a chance to move back to the lower 48, and two years is a long span to take five minutes at a time.

On the bright side, breakup has started, which means that the snow is all melting and turning the city of Anchorage into a giant, dirty puddle. But it also means that the days are getting longer, and summer is around the corner, and summer in Alaska is amazingly gorgeous as long as you view it from the right side of the mosquito netting.

a tale of two nightstands.

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This is not a DIY blog. The reason it’s not a DIY blog is because I have grand ideas (thanks, Pinterest) and very rarely actually implement them, usually because I’m lazy and never have all the materials on hand and don’t want to leave the house to go get them. However, an idea I had recently coincided with a grocery shopping trip, and since I was going to be out anyway I went ahead and went to Lowe’s and picked up the materials I needed.

So, last year, while we were living in California, I picked up a couple of very well-loved end tables off of a yard sale site for $8, intending to temporarily use them as nightstands until we could afford an actual, nice bedroom suit.

ns1After I actually looked at prices of bedroom suits, and then just nightstands, I resigned myself to just using these for the rest of my life because holy crap that shit’s expensive. We don’t keep enough junk next to the bed to need drawers, anyway. Our bedroom, however, is done in black and white, and I was getting really tired of the clashing brown of the tables. So I took these out to the garage a couple of days ago, and sanded them down with fine grit sandpaper, just to get the shiny off, and wiped them down with Goof Off! wipes.

ns2I set them up like so on top of one of those stupid plastic drop cloths. I hate those things; trying to lay one out flat is like fighting with a room-sized piece of saran wrap, up to and including tangling yourself up in it and almost suffocating. I wouldn’t have even used one — I mean, it’s a garage, not the dining room floor — but we rent and I have a feeling that come time to move out I would end up having to scrub paint off the concrete. So anyway, after a smoke break to calm my rage at the drop cloth, I gave them a good coat with a can of Rust-oleum Universal Paint and Primer in One in Gloss Black.

ns3I got a little OCD painting the undersides, considering that no one sees that. I also didn’t need to paint the side panels, because I decided later that I wanted those white. So if I’d actually used the amount of paint I needed, I probably would have only used about a half a can instead of a full one and my garage probably wouldn’t smell so much like a chemical plant.

After a bit of drying time and a second coat, I moved them out of the way so Ben wouldn’t run them over with the car when he came home (I can only imagine the damage they would do to the Versa) and was done for the day to give the paint plenty of time to dry, since I’d be painting over it later.

The next day I brought them in and set them up on the dining room table, because I was tired of working in the garage. (Also because I was done with the spray paint, and my back was still complaining at me for bending over in weird ways to sand and paint them the day before.) Having decided at this point that I would be painting the side panels white, I taped off the bits I didn’t want white paint on.

ns5Having learned from the massive waste of paint the day before, I didn’t bother with the undersides because, like I said, no one sees that anyway. And so it was time for primer –

ns6and paint –

ns7– which needed a second coat but I decided that I kind of liked the stippling effect that you can’t really see in the photo anyway. (Also, I was getting impatient and ready to start on the top, which was where the whole idea had generated.)

The top of the tables was going to be done with Mod Podge and gift wrap. So after removing the painter’s tape, I cut my gift wrap down to size and marked where it would sit on the table with a sharpie pen.

ns8 ns9I ended up trimming it down a bit more as I went, but this gave me a good starting place. I slathered the top of the table in Mod Podge –

ns10– and very carefully smoothed the gift wrap onto the surface.

ns11I still kind of destroyed it. Apparently, when you put a sticky, glue-like substance on wrapping paper, it sort of comes to pieces and also will lose its color in places if you’re not careful. It will also wrinkle up and is very difficult to smooth back down, due to the aforementioned coming-apart-ness. It wasn’t so noticeable that I felt I had to do it over, though. Ironically, the second table actually ended up looking a lot worse than the first; because it had been kind of difficult to get the paper nice and smooth by doing the whole top at once, I decided that with the second table I would do it in sections. Unfortunately, my brain translated “sections” to mean “quarters” so by the time I was done with the second table there was a pretty good sized portion in the middle that didn’t have any Mod Podge under it because I couldn’t fit my applicator under there without tearing the paper. I was also at the point where to re-do it would mean tearing the paper up that was already down, letting it dry, sanding it again and starting over. So, needless to say, that table is on Ben’s side of the bed so I don’t have to look at it as much and I’ll do it over when it finally, inevitably tears.

So anyway, for the corners, I cut slits into the paper and pasted the little tab this created down with the Mod Podge, using my fingers to apply and get it as smooth as I could. I also apparently missed the corner of this leg with the spray paint, but as I had already used the whole can and was already half-way through the Mod Podge process I just decided I would put that leg against the wall.

ns12 ns13Once I got the corners pasted down, I did the same with the sides, using my sponge applicator to slather Mod Podge on the edge and underside of the table top and then my fingers (with lots of Mod Podge on them) to smooth it down as best I could.

ns14I then Mod Podged the top, getting my strokes as even as possible. Next time I do something like this, I think I’m going to try a roller, because I’m not a huge fan of the brushstroke look on furniture.

ns15Break for lunch! (And Under the Dome on DVR!)

ns16

Om nom nom nom nom.

After giving the Mod Podge sufficient dry time (it took a couple of hours, I had it on there pretty thick), it was back out to the garage for spray enamel (Rust-oleum Crystal Clear Enamel):

ns17And done!

ns18So it was a royal pain in the ass to do, but I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. And they look great next to the bed!

Total cost, including the tables but not counting the materials I already had (sand paper, drop cloth, paintbrush): about $35.

southern comfort.

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Most of the people that I’ve met in my life either love the South or hate the South. Once in a while someone comes along that doesn’t care either way, but not often, and there are a few who don’t actively hate the South but do look down upon it with condescension — those dumb rednecks with their pickups and their country music and their trailer houses who quit school in eighth grade and sleep with their sisters, har de har har.

Okay, I trailed a little into bitterness there, sorry. My point is, out of all of these people, no one has stronger opinions about the South than the people who have actually lived there. I’ve never met anyone who lived in the South who said it was “okay” or “fine”. Either it was the worst hellhole they’ve ever set foot in or they love it and want their grandkids’ great grandkids to grow up there. I can’t really speak from the perspective of someone who hates the South, because I don’t, but my understanding is that this particular brand of loathing usually comes from dealing with closed minded, hyper-religious, occasionally bigoted, hypocritical people who are, unfortunately, all too present in Southern society.

(Okay, my “DING DING DING OFFENSIVE OFFENSIVE” alarm just went off, so all I’m going to say on this matter is that if you were offended by that last sentence, stop and think about why you’re all of a sudden defensive. If you’ve got nothing to be defensive about, you’ve got nothing to be offended by, because you’re not one of those people. And if you’re still offended, you probably shouldn’t be reading me because your blood pressure is just going to continue to rise.)

I’m going to go on a tangent here for just a moment, and define what I mean when I say “the South”. When most people think of the South, this is what they think of, as I understand it:

south

When I say “the South”, this is what I mean:

deepsouth

I make this differentiation because, more than anything else, I’m referencing the culture rather than the geography, and this is based largely on my experience. I’m not 100% sold that the bits of Virginia and North Carolina I’ve marked in green up there are actually part of the South, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m also pretty sure that most of Texas is a different kind of Southern culture from the more eastern areas, but from what I’ve seen it’s close enough to include for the purposes of this discussion.

Anyway, here’s the thing. There are awful people in the South, but there are awful people everywhere. And trust me, I’ve met a whole hell of a lot more crazy people since I left the South than I did in the entire almost 26 years I lived there. (I am not, however, discounting the possibility that I’m just familiar with the brand of crazy that tends to flourish in the Southern states and therefore don’t actually recognize it as crazy. I’m just sayin’, go live in California for a little while.) But the people like myself who love the South love it because for us, the wonderful things about it outshine the bad things. We love sweet tea and biscuits with homemade sausage gravy and watermelon with a little salt and deep-fried everything. We love muggy summer nights and mild winters and watching fireflies on the porch swing and catfishing in the creek. Some of us even love hot cornbread in a glass of milk, which is a phenomenon I’ve yet to understand, but I’m apparently not doing it right.

But what I love more than anything is the people, because the crappy ones make the good ones shine even more, and the good ones are the ones who wave to you driving down the road, who smile and nod a greeting in the Wal-Mart parking lot even if they don’t know you, who stop to help you out when you’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat. The good ones are the ones who invite you over for a Sunday fish fry, or the ones who come to your fish fry and bring the potato salad in a big yellow Tupperware bowl; or the ones who, when a member of their community meets a tragedy or disaster, bring their extra food and blankets and clothes and let their church know that someone needs help. They are the backbone of Southern culture, and for every sweet-talking, back-biting hypocrite you meet, you’ll meet two more amazing souls who may talk a little slower but will move quicker’n a possum through a hole in the hen house to help you when you’re in trouble.

There really are people in the world who think that the entire South is full of people with no hygiene, no shoes, no education and no class. A Southern accent is almost automatically associated with ignorance and lack of culture, and I find that immeasurably sad. We’re a special breed of people, and we deserve to be proud of that. Yes, we have our idiots, just like any other region of the U.S., and we have our poor and our uneducated. They exist there as they do everywhere else, alongside the well-educated, the well-spoken, the groomed and the intelligent. Just because I occasionally drop “G’s” from the ends of my words or use colorful similes to describe things makes me no less intelligent, no less important than someone who doesn’t drawl their “I’s” or who happened to not grow up with an outhouse in their backyard. Which, by the way, is an awesome thing to have, as long as you’re not the one digging the hole.

 

North! to Alaska, Part 2

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Alaska is gross this time of year, guys. Seriously, I don’t recommend it. All the snow is still melting and the entire state is basically one big, boggy, poop-smelling swamp. Okay, probably not the entire state, because I’m pretty sure the top like two-thirds of it are still covered in ice, but the important parts of the state (like the part of it that I’m in) smell a bit like a sewer from all the frozen moose poop that’s thawing out and it squelches when you walk.

Spoiler: We made it to Anchorage without driving off of a mountain, getting eaten by a bear, or getting turned into vampires. Now I’ll pick up where I left off last time which was, I believe, in Montana. We left Montana with this in the backseat (because I can’t resist throwing in cute critter pictures):

Gabriel: Go? Are we going? We're gonna go now, yeah? When are we going? Can I have a treat? I need to poop. Jenny: I hate all of you so much right now.

Gabriel: Go? Are we going? We’re gonna go now, yeah? When are we going? Can I have a treat? I need to poop. Go?
Jenny: I’m going to slit your throat in your sleep. Every. Single. One. Of. You.

And trundled our way into Idaho for about an hour, and then into Washington, where we got rained on again (at least it wasn’t snow) and I very courteously did not get us killed trying to find our hotel in Seattle, although I did almost hit several pedestrians, because apparently, in Seattle, the “DON’T WALK” signs are just a suggestion.

So we did finally find our hotel and very awkwardly dealt with the valet parking. Note that up to this point in my life, the nicest place I’ve ever stayed is the Holiday Inn. In Seattle, we decided to treat ourselves, so we stayed at the Westin. Now, it has been established that I grew up in the boonies. I come from a family of rednecks and country folk, and we did not have a whole lot of money growing up. I not ever, once in my life, have tried to hobnob with anyone who had a job title classier than “store manager”. The closest I’ve ever come is trying uncomfortably to fit in with some of my in-laws at family gatherings. I truly and honestly felt, from the moment the valet started doing a little wave-dance to get us to drive toward him, like I could’ve been on an episode of Beverly Hillbillies. To his credit, he was very friendly, and seemed to understand that I was as out of my element as… well, a redneck in a four-star hotel. And of course, when I get nervous, I run off at the mouth, and I honestly can’t tell you what all I chattered about to the valet, the front-desk lady, the bellboy (which is what Google told me when I typed in “guy in a hotel who carries your luggage to your room”) and any other innocent bystander we happened to pass on the way to our room. And I couldn’t stop. It was just awful. I’m sure I thoroughly embarrassed my poor husband, though he valiantly denies it, and once we were in our room and all of the people who take care of you at these places were gone and I was in tears because I felt like Carrie at her prom at that point, he gently reminded me that he fell in love with me precisely because I was from a different world of people, who stay in Super 8 and haul their own luggage to their room. And also advised me that people probably didn’t think I was unfriendly if I didn’t say everything that went through my mind when I was nervous. That last bit didn’t exactly help, but he meant well. Also, he told me I was adorable, and that did help, a little.

So that was a disaster. At least we had the common sense to not drink the $15 bottle of water or touch the $8 candy bar on the refreshment stand. And we did get to see this from our hotel room window:

seattle

Which was pretty cool, even if I can’t tell you what any of the buildings are. (I can tell you that is Puget Sound, though. I can also tell you that I had that Owl City song stuck in my head the ENTIRE TIME we were there.)

And we didn’t go see the Space Needle, but you can’t go to Seattle without taking a picture of it, so here’s that:

seattlespace

And that’s all the pictures we got of Seattle, because any time we were outside I was terrified we were about to be mugged and I figured that wandering around goggle-eyed with my phone up in camera mode would probably make me a pretty easy target. But we went and saw the Pike Place Market, which was essentially a giant multi-story indoor-outdoor flea market and was pretty neat, and we went on the Seattle Underground Tour, where we learned that Seattle is mostly built on poop and whores. (The website doesn’t specify this, but if I remember right, after the Great Seattle Fire most of the funding for rebuilding the city came from a Madame.)

So Seattle was neat, but I don’t care to ever go back, and I am sure as hell sticking to my Days Inns and Best Westerns. Also, after actually spending a bit of time in a real urban setting, my husband has decided that giant heaps of people all living on top of each other are not for him, either, and I will still probably never get him to live in the country but at least I don’t have to talk him out of living in the middle of a big city anymore. So out of Seattle we went, on to Sumas, WA, where we crossed the Canadian border with no trouble at all (thankfully), which is good because I didn’t even realize how unreasonably nervous I was about it until we were actually pulling up to customs and then I REALLY had to pee which did not help matters at all, but the guy in the booth was pretty reasonable, although he apparently expected that we should be pulling a U-Haul behind our Versa or something since we were moving to Alaska.

And then we were in British Columbia, which was actually very ugly in the southern parts, so we didn’t get pictures. Also, I was very busy trying to remember that the speed limit signs were 100 km/h and not 100 mph. It did get prettier as we went further north, though, and I got this outside our only slightly shady hotel in New Hazelton, on our second day in BC:

newhazeltonbc

It also started in with the ridiculously long days at about this point (which I am STILL not used to, god). So anyway, up through British Columbia and into the Yukon, and EVERYONE is so nice and friendly and Canadian accents are endlessly entertaining. Also, they have this amazing phenomenon known as honey garlic sauce which I think we should definitely try to capitalize on in the States, because seriously, it’s like a sweet garlicky heaven in your mouth. They also put gravy and cheese on their French fries, though, which is just kind of weird, so not everything Canadians do is brilliant, apparently.

I was so happy, after three days of driving in BC, to get to the Yukon, especially because the “highway” we took to get on the Al-Can was just awful, and comprised of dirt in a lot of places and potholes in the rest. And then this happened:

watsonlakeyt

That space there, in front of that silver car? That’s the road.

But it did wait until we got to our motel. I would just like to point out here that this was the SECOND time on our trip that we hit an “unseasonable snow”. And we got stuck in Watson Lake, YT for a day, after a delightful morning of trying really hard to get out of Watson Lake, because Watson Lake is awful, which consisted mostly of me having a nervous fit because I couldn’t tell the road from the ditch on the side of the road and also it was snowing still. A lot. And then when we pulled into a parking lot to get our bearings, the car got stuck because people in Western Canada obviously don’t believe in paving their parking lots and undoubtedly like to chuckle evilly at out-of-towners when said out-of-towners can’t tell the lot’s not paved BECAUSE THERE IS A FOOT OF FREAKING SNOW ON IT and the heat from your car melts the ice and then the ice refreezes and then my poor husband has to spend over an hour trying to push the car out of its self-made rut. And for the first time in my life, I am, at least for a while, okay with cleaning out the cat’s toilet because her ass saved ours – we used an entire bag of kitty litter and ruined our back floormat before we finally got the car out. And then spend 45 minutes driving the ten miles back the way we came because I was absolutely done.

The roads weren’t great the next day, but at least the snow had quit, so we took a chance and even though it took us about three and a half hours to go the first hundred miles or so, the Al-Can was pretty good the rest of the way and we made it to Whitehorse.

I'm only sharing this because it's a real, live, honest-to-goodness TOWN, and after days and days of nothing but trees and tiny little crappy villages, this place was a freaking oasis.

I’m only sharing this because it’s a real, live, honest-to-goodness TOWN, and after days and days of nothing but trees and tiny little crappy villages, this place was a freaking oasis.

Which, being the capital of and the biggest city in the Yukon Territory, boasts a bustling population of about 23,000 people. But, they had a Best Western, so I wasn’t complaining.

And then from Whitehorse to Tok, AK, and from Tok to Anchorage, and both days were pretty uneventful. I will say that I feel kind of cheated, because everyone always talks about how much wildlife you see on the Al-Can. Our total wildlife tally came to two bald eagles, a whole bunch of ravens, a dead deer and a dead fox. Oh, though Ben did see a wild cat, which was possibly a lynx but he’s not sure. Either way, I was all excited to see bears and giant herds of bison and moose, but no. On our last day, once we got off the Al-Can and were en route to Anchorage, we did see one yearling reindeer and one female moose.

Either way, we are now safely ensconced in our temporary lodging (more motel room, wooooo) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and if I ever get too down about not seeing bears on the trip up here, all I have to do is go to the BX.

Rawr.

Rawr.

North! to Alaska, Part 1

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So, it turns out that after spending hours and hours driving during the day, when we finally get to our motel room I’m more of a mind to fall into bed and die than update Hensleyitis. Which is why we’ve been on the road for approximately five years now and I haven’t posted the first thing. I’m gonna do this in parts, because A) I need to go to bed soon and B) if I do it all in one post it will be forever long.

We left my parents way too early in the morning last Wednesday, and other than me being slightly teary and a little pissy most of the day because this is how I cope with things, Wednesday and Thursday were pretty uneventful. Once you get out of southeast Missouri (which looks a lot like flat), it looks a lot like Tennessee, and Iowa looks a lot like Missouri. So we didn’t take pictures, because we know what Tennessee looks like and I don’t think we’ll forget anytime soon. Also, it was hot. And then it cooled off some and we got stormed on, which really was a good thing because it cleaned the dead bug off my windshield.

We stayed in Concordia, MO the first night, which is literally a blink and it’s gone kind of town. And the hotel was crappy, but that’s what you get for booking online and purposefully avoiding staying in larger towns. Jenny was thrilled with the bed, though, and rolled around on the bedspread for quite some time.

jennyMO

So, up north through Missouri and Iowa (with a stop in Omaha for like two seconds to see a good friend, with whom we didn’t get to visit nearly long enough), and then we crossed the state line into South Dakota and were greeted with this:

sdsnow1

 

Which soon turned into this:

sdsnowSO MUCH SNOW. We drove in snow ALL DAY. And then ALL DAY the next day. Although we did see this:

sd

 

Which was pretty awesome and almost made the wet and cold and glare headaches worth it.

Oh, and also, Wall, SD has a giant brontosaurus. Because brontosaurus.

wallsddino

 

So, pretty much the minute we left South Dakota, the snow stopped except for a bit here and there in the mountains, and I’m just convinced that South Dakota hates me. Which is okay, because the feeling is pretty much mutual. But, on from South Dakota to Wyoming:

wy

 

And Montana:

montana

 

I would like to point out here the difference between driving through the mountains of Wyoming, Montana, and Washington, and driving through the mountains of southern California, which I did last year (twice). These are the conversations that happen in my head:

Version 1:
Me: Mountains! :o
Midwest: Oh, hello, there, gentle traveler, and welcome to beautiful Midwest America! Now, we’ve got some mountains here, but we’ll try to ease you through them, because we know you’re probably pretty tired. So enjoy the beautiful vistas, and we’ll try not to throw too many hairpin turns at you. We’ll even make sure the interstate follows rivers and lakes where we can, so there won’t be too much going up and down! Just gentle curves and a gorgeous view!

Version 2:
Me: Mountains! :o
California: DAMN STRAIGHT, MOUNTAINS. VERY, VERY HIGH MOUNTAINS, LET’S SEE HOW LONG IT TAKES YOU TO PEE YOUR PANTS BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO DRIVE OFF THE SIDE OF ONE AHAHAHAHAHAHA

Okay, I’m going to bed. Next time, Seattle, my anxiety issues with four-star hotels, and Canadians are the nicest people in the world.

not dead. still. promise.

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Yes, I know. I warned you some time ago that I refuse to make this blog an obligation, because then I wouldn’t enjoy it anymore. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes I go months without updating, because I am very easily sidetracked, somewhat forgetful, and sometimes just plain lazy. I’m sure you’ve all survived. I will, somewhat shamefully, admit that I actually had to go back and look at my last post to remember what the hell I rambled on about last time. If I were paid to do this I would probably do it more often; but then, if I were paid to blog, it would become an obligation, and I’d start to hate doing it just because I had to do it. Making people hate writing is what college is for, not blogging.

So anyway, since November, my husband went on TDY to finish up his training, and I moved away from the ocean and back to my beloved Tennessee hill country to wait on him to finish. Which involved a very long drive across the country, which was interesting and pretty cool. I feel like I-40 and I have become very close friends. I’m staying now with my parents, which has also been interesting and pretty cool, even if it means staying in a travel trailer and sleeping on an air mattress — which, to be honest, is a lot more comfortable than my actual bed, so I can’t complain too much about that one. In eleven days (not that I’m counting them down, or anything) my husband is flying from Texas here to Tennessee, and shortly after that, we’re taking off on our next great adventure: a twelve day road trip across the country from here to Anchorage, Alaska, where we’ll set up camp for the next three years or so. That is going to be awesome, and I’m thoroughly thrilled about both the trip and the opportunity to live in freaking Alaska, man.

In the meantime, I’ve become a much less nervous driver, mostly thanks to the amazing miracle that is the Garmin, and I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person — it’s kind of cool to look back and actually realize how much you’ve grown and changed over a period of time.

Because I want to document it for myself as much as I want to share it with y’all, my plan is to provide you with plenty of blog posts (with pictures!) over the course of the roadtrip. However, the last half of the trip consists of driving through the western part of Canada, and I’m not even sure there are people that live there, so I’m not making any promises as to whether I’ll have access to wi-fi.

P.S. A lot of my related articles are about an Iditarod dog who died of asphyxiation. Thanks for that uplifting moment, WordPress. Wth.

being venus.

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I like to think that every woman has a little bit of Venus inside of her — that strong, victorious goddess who is self-confident and beautiful, epitomized in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Personally, however, I usually feel less like Botticelli’s Venus and more like the Venus of Willendorf. I would be lying if I said I were okay with this. I don’t like being fat, but it’s less about what other people are thinking and more about the practical side of things. I have trouble walking up hills. I can’t sit cross-legged on the floor without my legs hurting or my foot falling asleep. I don’t run because there is a good possibility that all of the jiggling actually will take out someone’s eye, not to mention that carrying all the excess weight is hell on my joints and anything more than a brisk fifteen minute walk makes my ankles swell up to the size of cantaloupes. Despite all of this, I just haven’t got up the motivation to do anything about it. It’s like the bug crawling across Uma Thurman’s nose on the TV when you’re all snuggled into the couch — it’s driving you crazy but you’re so comfortable that it’s more trouble than it’s worth to just get up and smash the damn thing. The bug, not the TV.

I’ve been at least hefty all of my life, so it’s hard for me to imagine being anything different. There was one point at which I actually did lose quite a bit of weight — I was a far cry from thin, but was considerably slimmer — and all of a sudden I was receiving so much attention from skeezy men that it freaked me out and I went off my diet because I preferred to be fat and unattractive rather than feel threatened and uncomfortable because of the looks and comments I was getting. And I was uncomfortable with myself, as well; it didn’t look like me when I looked in the mirror, and I’d get this clenched, anxious feeling of dread in my gut every time I did. I was more comfortable with the familiar fat me than with the unfamiliar slimmer me.

And that’s what I am now — comfortable, all snuggled up on the couch while a fly plays musical nostrils on Uma’s face. I don’t get depressed when I look in the mirror, and I don’t cry when I have to go buy clothes. I don’t get on the scale much, either, though. Somewhere in here is a woman who doesn’t like being the fat friend. She just hasn’t gotten mad enough at the fly yet.

i’ll see you later.

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Almost a year ago, I headed out from the only real home I’d ever known to travel across the country and join my husband during his Air Force tech school. I was brimming with many different emotions; I couldn’t wait to leave and be with my husband, I was excited and terrified about being on my own in a place completely foreign to me, and I still desperately did not want to leave my family and friends behind. I landed in California with hotel reservations made, but no house, winging it on the chance that I would be able to get into housing without too much of a wait. When I found out that it was going to be a month before we could get our place, I made my first friend out here in the form of a girl who, having never met me and only spoken with me briefly online, offered to let me stay at her house. We managed to coexist for the whole month and actually got along really well, and I ended up signing for a house right across the street from her. She helped me unpack all my stuff once we got into our house, took me on my first trip to the commissary, and essentially showed me the ropes of life on base. In the past year, we’ve traveled across the country together, watched each other’s dogs, gone on many, many shopping trips and spent countless hours sitting outside smoking and gossiping, bitching, and laughing together. It has just flown by.

My time here is wrapping up, and hers is done — she and her husband just left to travel to the next leg of their military journey. I’ve never been good at changes, or letting people go, even when I know it’s inevitable and is for the better. But something I’m learning is that as a military family, even though you have to leave your real family behind a lot of the time, the people with whom you surround yourself soon become your family, as well. They will never replace the family you leave behind, but they themselves become irreplaceable, as well. While I’m excited to be going home soon to see my family of origin, and I’m excited for my husband to finish his training and take us across the country on a new adventure all over again, I’m also sad to have to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here. But my first ever military friend said it best herself: In the military, it’s never really “goodbye,” only “I’ll see you later.”

slipping away.

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My Grandma Hensley has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t know why now, in particular. She died when I was eleven, and since then I have thought about her fairly often, but she hasn’t ever weighed particularly heavily on my mind… I mean, I miss her, but having been so young when she died, I don’t think I thoroughly understood exactly what it meant. Since incredibly vivid memories don’t really start for me until about age thirteen, it’s just like… she’s always been gone. I know she was there at one point, and I remember her being there, and then she wasn’t anymore and that’s just how it was.

But in the past week or so, memories just keep cropping up. I can see her face as clearly as though she were standing in front of me, and hear her voice in my head as though I’d just spoken with her. And I get incredibly sad. It doesn’t make sense for this to hit me fifteen years after the fact, but there it is.

The things I remember most clearly about Grandma Hensley are the things which make impressions on young children: a warm, soft hug (she was just as rotund as most of our family tends to be), huge, thick-rimmed glasses, and a wild halo of Einsteinian hair. I don’t ever remember her without a smile on her face, and while it’s likely that, as a child, I just wasn’t exposed to the more solemn matters she discussed, I remember her being a very happy woman. Even when I misbehaved, there was a quirk of a smile behind the scolding she gave me.

For as long as I can remember, she would always threaten to sit on me when I acted out. I never believed her, until it actually happened. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I remember being somewhere around four or five years old, and screaming with giggles as she held me down on her bed and placed her behind squarely on top of me. I remember her laughter, and sitting on Mama and Daddy’s front porch watching her peel peaches. She taught me that not all weeds are bad, because you can pick wild-grown poke salad and lambs’ quarters and boil them up just like any other green.

Once the memories started trickling in, it wasn’t long before the floodgates opened and it seems to me as though I must have spent most of my childhood in Grandma’s company. I remember sitting in her little house with her as she copied Bible verses in a neat and meticulous hand — before she died she had copied the entire thing down. She also loved to quilt, and my family had several of her beautiful works of art.

I wish that I could meet her all over again now, as an adult, and actually get to know her as a person. I know she must have been an incredibly strong woman; she grew up during the Great Depression and managed a household in mid-century rural southeast Missouri without even an inkling of the modern amenities we have now — three meals on the table for four boys, a daughter and my Grandpa Hensley, every day of the year, and she didn’t have Hamburger Helper or Domino’s. On top of helping pick cotton and managing their own garden. She lost two husbands to death and one to divorce. And that’s just what I know about — I wouldn’t have a clue as to how many small personal battles she fought every day, or how many struggles she went through of which I just wasn’t aware because I was so young.

Despite all she’d been through, I honestly cannot think of anyone I’ve ever met who had such a strong sense of simple joy about themselves. She was happy to be alive, and she gave us all more love than I could imagine any one person could contain.

I think part of the sadness I feel now when I think about Grandma Hensley is that she slipped away from me, and I’m just now coming to realize how much I lost when she did — not just in the loss of a loved one, but all the knowledge and wisdom of the years that went with her. And I feel a sense of urgency, as well, to spend as much time as I can with Mama and Daddy, because they’re not young, either, and I know that they will be slipping away, too, and most likely sooner than later. I feel like I’m on a clock and can never give myself enough time to hear everything they have to say, to listen to all their stories and advice.

Go find one of your grandparents, if you’re still lucky enough to have any of them, or one of your parents, or a friend’s grandparents. Find them, and sit with them, and listen to them. Don’t argue with them, or roll your eyes at them, or pretend to listen when you’re not — really listen. Even the most mundane story you’ve heard a thousand times over will have immeasurable value someday. That older generation — the one right now that lived through the Depression, through the World Wars, through Vietnam or Korea, the ones who can remember when most houses didn’t have televisions or washing machines or microwaves — that generation has lived through some amazing, world changing events, things which we are not likely to ever experience ourselves. They deserve our time. Because before you know it, they won’t be here anymore, and you will never get the same experience from reading a textbook as you will hearing it described by someone who was there.

be nice or leave.

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Here’s a tip that will make your life a lot easier: Don’t tell people to do things. Ask them.

There are obvious exceptions to this, like if you have kids. Obviously your kids are not always going to listen if you ask them nicely, and as an authority figure in their lives it is your job to tell them what to do. Same goes if you’re a teacher or someone similar who works with kids. But here’s something that will blow your mind: once most people are adults, they don’t appreciate being treated like kids. If you treat your fellow adults like they are adults, they will be a lot more willing to work with you and do the things you ask them to do. Even if you work in a management position, you’ll get a lot further with your employees if you don’t order them around as though they were unruly teenagers. Again, obviously, this is not always an approach that will work, but nine times out of ten, it will. I held a management position for almost three years, and while that is a pretty short amount of time, it was long enough for me to get an idea of how to get people to do what I want, and to get them to want to do what I want. The people whom I supervised ranged from sixteen year old kids to people who were old enough to be my mom or dad. Maybe twice did I have someone so belligerent that they actually had to be ordered to do things or threatened with punishment if they didn’t. The younger people who worked for me willingly did as I asked because I treated them like adults, and they appreciated that because they were still in that stage of their lives where no one else ever did. The older people did because — surprise! I treated them like adults, and they appreciated it because they were adults and deserved to be treated as such.

I could have gotten the same results by ordering them around — I was the authority figure, after all. But why go that route and get begrudging cooperation when I could just rephrase what I was saying, in a nicer tone, and get willing cooperation? It’s amazing the different reactions you’ll get when you rephrase “Fill up the ice,” or “I need you to fill up the ice,” as “Hey, would you fill up the ice for me, please?” or “Don’t forget to fill up the ice, please!” This is part of the reason that when I’d come in for my shift, I would hear some variation on, “Oh, great, I’m so glad you’re working today!” Necessary? No. We all had to be there and the job had to be done, whether we were happy about it or not. But it made all our lives a lot easier to be happy to be working with each other — especially in what most people see as a shit job that barely pays the bills. There are other things that came into play when it came to successfully managing a shift, which were just as important as the way I treated my team members. They, however, are not the focus of this entry because, despite how long it is already, all that was really just an introduction to the real reason I wanted to talk about this.

It’s a little crazy, but my husband and I also treat each other like adults. Now, this works for us, and obviously different methods of communication work better for different couples. But I have a difficult time believing that any adult appreciates being ordered around by their significant other. It’s certainly none of my business how you treat your partner, but the great thing about a blog like this is that I can tell you what I think as a general you, and you can take it or leave it as you please.  I certainly don’t lose any sleep at night thinking about other people’s relationships, but it’s hard to not form opinions about them. And if I didn’t want to voice my opinions, I’d hardly have a weblog. /Disclaimer.

So back to the point. I know that there exist couples in which the male is the “man of the house” and his female partner is the one who is ordered around.* And, for the most part, society thinks this is wrong. We do not live in 1950 anymore, and most women will not tolerate being treated as though we do. I won’t get into why women stay in relationships like this, as I am not a psychologist, but when they share their situation they are generally encouraged to stand up for themselves and either change the dynamic or leave. What I tend to see more of, though, is the reverse: men who are browbeaten by their wives, ordered around as though they were children. And somehow a lot of people see this as okay. They laugh it off as the male being “henpecked”. He’s a man, after all, so he must be allowing it, right? To an extent, this is true, though I don’t find that sort of situation amusing in the least. It’s a fact of life, whether you like it or not, that in general it is easier for a man to physically intimidate a woman than vice versa. Again, not always the case, but that’s what the phrase “in general” means, guys.

Okay, you know what? I’m tired of stopping myself every few sentences to remind you that I know that I’m making generalities and that I am aware that what I’m saying is not always the case. So can we just agree to assume that everything I say from this point on has that disclaimer attached? If it’s too hard for you to remember that for the remainder of this post, I’m honestly kind of surprised that you made it this far into it without forgetting the topic to begin with and I don’t really care if it offends you, because you’ll be getting offended for no reason.

So, as I was saying, it’s generally easier for a man to intimidate a woman than vice versa, and I think this is probably the reason that we’re more likely to make fun of a henpecked man than be disgusted or outraged as we would if the situation were reversed. I have met so many women who think it’s okay to order their male partners around, from simply telling them to take out the garbage and not thinking about it, to outright bragging about it later, “I always make him take out the garbage, ugh. I’m not touching that.” The phrase “I make” or “I made” sets of alarm bells in my head — really? You made your husband do something? That shows me exactly how little respect you have for him as a person, even if you think otherwise. It’s interesting, because these are also usually women who will brag about their husbands not telling them what to do. She does as she pleases no matter what he says and if he expressly orders her to do anything she will do the opposite just to spite him. You hate being ordered around, so what in the world makes you think that he’s okay with it? Just because he does what he’s told and doesn’t give you an earful when you treat him like garbage doesn’t mean he’s okay with it.

I’m not fully laying the blame with the female side of the equation here, either — grow some and stand up for yourself if you aren’t happy, that applies to everyone, male or female. Again, not a psychologist, so I’m not going to try to speculate as to the why in such situations. Maybe you love her, maybe such treatment is her only fault, maybe she’s awesome in the sack and that’s totally worth her treating you like the beloved family pet. Whatever. If you truly have little enough respect for yourself that you will worship a woman enough to be happy with that sort of thing, you should probably seek some professional help. And if you’re not happy, change it. She will probably rage and yell and have a fit, but do you really want to live the rest of your life that way?

I think the thing that gets me the most is when I get looked down upon for not treating my husband that way. Especially at this point in my life. He gets up ass-early every morning, goes to work, comes home some ten or eleven hours later and does homework until he goes to bed. You know who doesn’t do that? Me. You know who isn’t bringing in a steady income? Me! So, no, I do not try to make him do things he doesn’t want to do. I don’t even try to guilt him into it, because a) that’s wrong and b) he doesn’t have anything to feel guilty about. I don’t even ask him to do housework. He’s offered a few times, and I gladly accept. But hell, he’s working his ass off right now to support us both, and I don’t have much of anything more important to do most days than housework. When we were working equal hours, it was different. But even then I didn’t tell him to do anything, because I’m not his mother. I would ask him. And nine times out of ten, he would do it, albeit a little begrudgingly and not necessarily in a timely manner. And if he said no, I’d get a little pissed, and if I had a right to be pissed I’d calmly lay out my case as to why I wanted him to do whatever, and because he isn’t crazy or childish, if I could calmly argue my case and convince him then he would do it. If I got pissed and yelled at him to effing do it already, he’d get pissed too and say no and proceed to firmly tell me why he was saying no and that was the end of it.

It works the other way around, too, in case you’re wondering if I’m one of those timid women I was talking about earlier. I don’t like being told what to do. That is a huge part of who I am, and it is why I’m not working. I understand it’s a necessary part of life and if I have to deal with it, I will, but I don’t have to like it. Because I don’t like being ordered around, my husband doesn’t order me around. He asks. And I generally will do whatever he asks me to do unless I’m physically incapable of doing so. Because he asks me to, not tells me to. If he ordered me to to anything, or forbade me to do anything, I would refuse or do it anyway unless he could give me a damn good reason to do otherwise. Because I’m not a child and you will not treat me as though I am.

And that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? Take two seconds before you say something to someone and put yourself in their shoes. If you wouldn’t like it, chances are they wouldn’t either. And if you just don’t care, then don’t be surprised when no one gives a shit about you, either.

*Another disclaimer: I’m using hetero couples as my examples here, because I honestly have not observed a large enough number of homosexual couples to establish any trends. So I’m not excluding you guys out of spite; I just don’t have enough experience to do anything but talk out of my ass in that area, and I think you might appreciate that even less.

 

 

 

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