Friday, February 5, 2016

on this day in 2005: excerpts from a journal.

So, given my blogging propensities, you may not be surprised to learn that I was once a rather prolific journaller. 

Full of the thoughts of a teenage Calla.
Not too long ago, I unearthed this journal trove from my parents' house and dragged them all back to Luverne with me. They sat in the basement for a good while...

...until I got an idea.

Would it be fun to see what I was up to on this day in 2005? Or 2004, or whatever year I happened to be journalling?

So I did.

And friends, it is painful.

It's amazing to look back and see what was so important to me then versus what is now. What tiny, insignificant things occupied my brain - almost all of which I had forgotten about until browsing these journals. So ridiculous.

And what better thing than  to share them with you?

I must warn you: there is no way in high hell that I'm going to type out these journal entries in their entirety. That would be too embarrassing, even for this blog. I'll be giving you the CliffsNotes version of the journals (notice how I don't call them diaries? THEY ARE NOT DIARIES. I had SOME self-respect, thankyouverymuch). But I will have you know that while I am not including the whole journal entry, what I do include will be exactly as it appears in the journal. I may remove an embarrassing sentence here and there, but I am not changing words. 

To start us off, I have a journal entry from February 5, 2005. I was 17 and a senior in high school. One final thing you should know: I was never great at journalling every day, so many of my entries cover multiple days. And... here we go.

The pink leopard-print journal was a gift. Don't judge.
FEBRUARY 5, 2005
Ok, since there are more than ten pages left in here (editor's note: I was reaching the end of this particular notebook), and tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday (which will, hopefully, require more than ten pages), I'm going to finish out this diary/journal (editor's note: huh... I guess I didn't have the self-respect that I thought I did) right here and now, beginning with yesterday: Friday.

Bio held a test for us. When I was going up to get my test, I shook Meagan's hand and wished her luck. Tiff tried to crush my hand in her handshake, and Bob said, "Look, her fingers are turning purple!"

Today was cleaning day, and I vacuumed, dusted, and washed. Then, Mom and I were off to Sioux Falls to get my prom dress. Our first stop was Marshall Field's, of course. We made a beeline for the dresses, but the only two left of my dress were size 9/10s. I was so sad. Luckily, the saleslady said we could order one. It will take seven to ten days, and it will be shipped straight to our house. I'm so excited... I have a prom dress!

I strolled around the mall after that, buying a sweatshirt at American Eagle and a Nordic sweater at Hollister (I got it for $10, used to be $50). Mom and I split loaded fries at Ruby Tuesday, and then we headed home. It was a fun day. Dad did call once, asking how many cases of beer would fit in Susie. Heh.

Well, here I am on the last page-and-a-half. This crazy little pink leopard-printed thing has taken me through quite a bit in the past weeks. (Editor's note: this particular journal begins on December 29, 2004.) We've seen a DeGrassi marathon, bangs for Calla, a play with a beefsteak tomato (editor's note: I was in a play that required me to wear a red sweater and proclaim that I looked like a beefsteak tomato), my final All-State audition, college acceptances, a prom date found, and a prom dress purchased.

Current music: "The Only Living Boy in New York" by Simon and Garfunkel

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We have successfully traveled back eleven years into the mind of a seventeen-year-old me. Stay tuned for more of these... what can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

top ten Tuesday: outfits under $35, volume V.

Will I ever get tired of putting together cheap outfits to show you? I don’t think so.

Putting together these cheap outfits is honestly a blast for me. It requires some creative thinking and a wee bit of math, so doing this is clearly good for my brain. Besides, what fun is finding a great deal if you can’t show it off?

This is my fifth blog post where the outfits are $35 or less. You can reread the others if you please: volume I, volume IIvolume III, and volume IV. Before I settled on $35 as my perfect dollar amount, I also wrote posts about outfits that were $30 or less and $40 or less.

How did I decide on $35 as my limit? I initially started with $40 as my total, but putting together an outfit under $40 was a little too easy. So I cut my limit by ten dollars and tried outfits under $30. That was significantly more challenging, which I enjoyed – but when my price ceiling was that low, it was tough to truly make an outfit. Sure, I could do it, but the outfits were the bare minimum. I didn’t have any room to add the little touches that make an outfit fun, like accessories.

As always, I must go over my rules.

1.) I won’t include an outfit just for the sake of it being cheap. I put a lot of thought into these outfits, and any that you see here are outfits that I would wear in public.

2.) All of the clothing items you see here are new to the blog, with two exceptions: shoes and belts. I have been reusing shoes for a while now, mainly because if I couldn’t reuse shoes, this blog series would’ve been dead a long time ago. This will be my first blog post where I reuse belts, and it’s for the same reason. I only have so many belts, and sometimes, your outfit just needs a belt. Since I’m reusing these items, I won’t tell you about them unless they are new to the series.

3.) Something new about shoes: in the past, I have tried to only use a pair of shoes one time per blog post. However, I find myself putting together outfits that aren’t as great as they could be because of my limited shoe options. For that reason, I will now allow myself to use a pair of shoes multiple times per blog post, but I'll try not to go crazy.

4.) I will include gifts, but under only two circumstances: jewelry with no price or clothing with a price. If the gift is jewelry, its price will not be added to the total. (And chances are I don’t know the price.) If the gift was an item of clothing, I will include it ONLY if I know the price, which will contribute to the overall outfit total.

5.) Foundation garments (socks, tights, tank tops) will not be used as part of the outfit total.

6.) The listed prices are almost always exact. The longer I’ve been doing this, the better I’ve been at keeping a list of cheap items with the potential for this blog – and I note the prices ASAP. Some of the items are pretty damn old, though, and I have listed those prices from memory. And those prices are almost certainly within fifty cents. I rarely forget a good deal.

7.) Lastly, I tried to include items from a variety of stores while still maintaining the quality of the outfit. It gets rather dull to see clothes just from one or two places. Then this blog might as well be a clothing catalog, and no one wants that.

With all that out of the way, please enjoy the seventh (!!!) edition of my top ten cheap outfits!
dress – Modcloth - $26.99
booties – Old Navy – $2.97
buckle bracelet – gift from James (Wall Drug)
TOTAL: $29.96

This dress. Oh, this dress. I am a definite fan of Modcloth, but I am definitely not a fan of their prices. I saw this dress ages ago and loved it. The price, though? Not so much. I am on a seemingly never-ending search for ¾ and long-sleeved dresses. They are tough to find, and when I do find them, they are usually frumpy times 1000. This one wasn’t: it was, in fact, perfect. Except the price. I added it to my Modcloth favorites (a list of stuff that you like, but aren’t ready to buy) and kind of forgot about it… until the day I got an email from Modcloth touting their 70% off sale. And what do you know? There was ONE of this dress left. In my size. It was a final sale (like all Modcloth 70% affairs), but I was willing to risk it. My boots came as sort of a surprise: they were marked as $12-ish, which is still a good deal. When I brought them up to the register, they rang in at $2.97. And that was that. Me = delighted. The bracelet was a gift from James when we went to the Black Hills to celebrate our first anniversary. I don’t care how corny it is: you just can’t go to the Black Hills without stopping at Wall Drug.

cardigan - Maurices - $8.75 (75% off lowest price)
pants - Plato's Closet - $10
boots – Dollhouse – $15 ($10 off + $15 Paypal survey money)
TOTAL: $33.75

Funny story about this cardigan. I bought it around Thanksgiving last year, and Maurices was having a sweater sale where they’d give you something like 50% off the regular price. That was a pretty good deal, and I really liked the cardigan, so I bought it. Fast forward to spring. I’ve worn this cardigan tons of times, but it’s a hair too big and is always stretched out at the end of the day. I’ve spent the last few months wishing I would have gotten a smaller size. Lo and behold, I was browsing the clearance rack at the local Maurices, and there it was: that very same cardigan. One size smaller. And priced at 75% off the lowest marked price. So now I have two cardigans, and the larger one is in storage. Just in case. I bought these pants at Plato’s Closet after a certain amount of hemming and hawing as to whether or not I could pull of mint pants. I’m still not sure, but they are comfy as hell and have ankle zippers. That’s good enough for me.

sweater – Old Navy – $12.99
Silver jeans – Maurices – $20.99 (75% off)
shoes – DSW – FREE! (org $29.99, had $30 in coupons)
necklace – gift from James (shop in Lanesboro)
TOTAL = $33.98

It’s not very often that the opportunity arises for me to tell you about a new addition to the cheap shoe cache – so I’m going to do that first. I am a big fan of DSW: they have super cool shoes, issue stackable coupons pretty frequently, and have a great clearance section if you’re lucky enough to catch it. I saw these shoes on their website, and I was the very fortunate holder of $30 in DSW coupons. The shoes were on sale for $29.99. Hence: free shoes. The sweater isn’t anything too exciting: an end-of-winter find on the clearance rack a couple of years ago. The jeans, though, were a pretty fantastic deal. As noted in the story about the cardigan (see above), Maurices will occasionally mark items down for 75% off the lowest price. It’s rare to find Silver jeans in my size at such a price, but these fit the bill. Well, almost. They were a 34 inch inseam, which I am not. Luckily, getting jeans hemmed is pretty painless. The bike necklace came from an ill-fated camping trip to Lanesboro, Minnesota. It rained the entire time and our tent leaked… but I did get a cool necklace (and a good story) out of the deal!

dress - Lillian's - $18.72 (gift from Mom, 30% off lowest price)
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
scarf - Plato's Closet - FREE! (was $5, used credit)
boots – Maurices – $12 (50% off, $10 in coupons)
TOTAL: $30.72

I wasn’t going to buy this dress. I tried it on, and it was SHORT. Much shorter than I liked. Dresses must be below the knee or bust. Mom and I were shopping in downtown Sioux Falls, and we pulled this dress out of the clearance rack. Shortness aside, I couldn’t resist the pockets and decorative zippers (you’ll notice that four of the ten outfits in this post have decorative zippers) and the color, and Mom liked it so much that she bought it for me. It ended up being cheaper than we thought, and I ended up liking it much more than I thought. You know how you have a handful of things in your closet that always get you compliments when you wear them? This dress is one of those items. And the shoes? Holy cow. I had been on a mild hunt for a new pair of black hiking booties. (I know. Kind of a weird thing to hunt for, but what can I say? I wanted black hiking booties.) Every pair I found was either too expensive or too ridiculous. I strolled into the Brookings Maurices one winter day and came across these shoes: the last pair, and amazingly, they were my size. And they were 50% off. AND I had $10 in coupons. It was a match made in hiking bootie heaven.

cardigan – Forever21 – $8.80
tank – Forever21 –  $7.80
pants – Maurices – $5.75 (75% off)
booties – Maurices – $12 (50% off, $10 in coupons)
belt - FREE! (came with pants)
necklace – gift from Mom and Dad (Riddles)    
TOTAL: $34.35

A few outfit posts ago, I told you about how I had sworn off of Forever21 for everything but accessories. The time has come to redact that statement. While I don’t get many of my clothes from Forever21, I will find something worthwhile every now and again. This outfit contains two of those worthwhile items. A good mustard yellow cardigan is hard to find, and I can usually count on Forever21 to deliver a good price-point. Also, I have a serious thing for decorative zippers: serious enough that I bought this tank top in two colors. (You’ll see the second one at the end of this blog.) I really don’t enjoy buying dress pants, but I was fortunate enough to find these for super cheap at Maurices. And the shoes? Holy cow. I had been on a mild hunt for a new pair of black hiking booties. (I know. Kind of a weird thing to hunt for, but what can I say? I wanted black hiking booties.) Every pair I found was either too expensive or too ridiculous. I strolled into the Brookings Maurices one winter day and came across these shoes: the last pair, and amazingly, they were my size. And they were 50% off. AND I had $10 in coupons. It was a match made in hiking bootie heaven. Finally, the necklace was a gift from Mom and Dad for Christmas 2014. It’s a key, which I love.

dress - Country Peddler - FREE! (was $18, used credit)
necklace - Francescas - $6.50 (buy one get one 50% off)
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
shoes - Modcloth - FREE! (scuffed heel)
TOTAL: $24.50

Another Country Peddler gem. I don’t get to Country Peddler as often as I like, as I live in Luverne and they are located in Brookings. However, when I go there, I always come away with something fantastic. This dress is clearly a classic, and I feel damn sophisticated in it. Now, if only I had a place to wear it. I love turquoise, so this necklace was a no-brainer. I have to tell you that this outfit is probably my favorite from the entire series… and as of the end of this blog, I will have put together seventy (!!!) outfits for you. My, how time flies!

dress - Modcloth - $29.99 ($10 coupon)
shoes - DSW - FREE! (org $29.99, had $30 in coupons)
TOTAL: $29.99

I have to say: I LOVE this dress. I love the colors and the patterns, and I love the cut. I do NOT love that it’s staticky, but I guess I can live with it. I found it in the sale section of Modcloth, which is my very favorite place to buy clothes. It had gotten terrible reviews (mostly for the color), but I loved the colors and patterns enough to give it a try all the same. Lucky for me, my Modcloth clearance dress worked out just fine.

t-shirt – Old Navy – $4.75 (buy one, get one free)
pants - F21 - $24.93 (10% off)
heels – Modcloth – FREE! (came with weird heel, couldn’t exchange, full credit)
scarf – Country Peddler – FREE! ($15 originally, used credit)
TOTAL: $29.68

Here it is: the fourth and final decorative zipper. I have a feeling that these pants might be a little too badass for me, but you know what? I am kind of really loving them. But let me tell you about this scarf: I once owned an identical scarf that I got at (don't judge) Walmart, of all places. I lost it somewhere in Minneapolis around Halloween, and I thought it was gone forever... until I found its twin at Country Peddler. It was truly meant to be.

tank - Country Peddler - FREE! (was $6, used credit)
pants - Plato's Closet - $7.33 (was $10, used credit)
booties – Dollhouse – $15 ($10 off + $15 Paypal survey money)
bracelet – RIU Montego Bay gift shop – $7
TOTAL: $29.33

Oh, Country Peddler. What would I do without you? I probably never would've picked this shirt had it been on a rack in a store, but at Country Peddler, the price is always right. And it turns out? I totally love it! Same goes for the pants: I NEVER would've paid full price for these crazy pants, but they were worth a $7.33 risk. Which paid off, because I also totally love these pants. Normally gold damask isn't my thing, but I guess you just never know. I got the black bracelet in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We were there on a family vacation, and I bought it in the resort gift shop mere seconds before we were supposed to get on the shuttle to the airport. My sister has a matching bracelet, and I love to wear it and remember our glorious Jamaican days.

dress - Tyanas - $20
sandals – JCPenney – $3 (fall super sale)
belt – JCPenney – $2
necklace – Modcloth – $7.99
TOTAL: $32.99

Tyana’s is a clothing boutique in Luverne, and it’s been kind of a godsend. Luverne (believe it or not) is no shopping mecca, though there are a handful of fairly cute stores downtown. Tyana’s opened up a couple of years ago, and they had things that no other Luverne store did. Namely: stylish women’s clothes. I snagged this dress off their end-of-summer sale rack, and though I was initially hesitant about the blinding hue, I’ve come to really appreciate it. This necklace was originally something like $30 on Modcloth, which I thought was insane. I liked the way it looked, but there was no way I was paying $30. Apparently no one else was paying that much for this necklace: it showed up in the clearance section a few months later.

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There we have it: another “ten under $35” blog post for the books. I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t already started planning outfits for the next installment. I could plan these outfits all day long: it’s getting the pictures taken that presents the challenge. In any case, keep your eyes open for more cheap outfits. I’m excited already!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

top ten Tuesday: ten of my family's catchphrases, part II.

You may recall from this post that my family has a very special way of communicating: primarily through sarcasm and catchphrases. I gave you ten of our catchphrases and the oh-so-charming (that was sarcasm) stories behind them.

Amazingly, we've come up with ten more. Prepare to be Bjorklund-ized.

Or as we like to call it...

Bjorklundosophy.

(a note: this is written in the third person because I put it all together in a hardcover book for my family. third person seemed totally appropriate for a book called Bjorklundosophy.)

Who wouldn't?
Of the many words one might use to describe the Bjorklunds, there is one in particular that comes to mind. “Kind?” you say. “Glorious? Humble? Spectacular?” Actually, no. “Cocky” is the word you’re looking for. Bjorklunds believe that they are God’s gift to humanity, and they are quick to tell you so. They do this with one special phrase: “Who wouldn’t?” Allow me to demonstrate. Should someone say, "I wish I could be as fantastic as a Bjorklund," a Bjorklund would respond, "Who wouldn't?" The "who wouldn't" reply is used primarily when something even slightly positive is said about a Bjorklund - and a Bjorklund goes ahead and takes it to the next level of narcissism. Bjorklunds are also allowed to "who wouldn't" themselves: they don't need to wait around for someone to say something flattering about them (but really, who wouldn't?).

Do you really want to know?
Bjorklunds, by nature, collect great stories like some people collect stamps or fine wines. Bjorklunds have myriad tales that would rank in the "best story ever" category, and this is easily one of them. When the youngest Bjorklund, Mitch, was just a teeny tiny first grader, he picked up a book in the school library. Sounds innocent enough, right? Oh no: the book was about serial killers. Innocent little Mitch was reading his book - specifically, the chapter about Jeffrey Dahmer - when he came across a word he didn't know. Mitch did what any intrepid reader would do: he asked his teacher what the word meant. The word? Sodomy. Mitch's teacher gave the best answer she could: "Go ask your dad." Mitch came home that day and did just that. Tim looked Mitch dead in the eye and said, "Do you really want to know?" Mitch nodded eagerly: yes, he did really want to know. So Tim explained sodomy. Mitch, wide-eyed, said matter-of- factly: "I didn't really want to know." From that day on, when Tim answered a question with "do you really want to know?" it meant that whatever the answer was, the Bjorklund children sure as hell didn't want to hear about it from their parents.

I should've fished the gene pool a little deeper.
I owe you an apology.
We know who the mother is.
Tim uses these delightful phrases whenever he wishes to eschew genetic responsibility for any flaws apparent in his children. It's important to note that Tim only voices these phrases when Brenda is within earshot. Poor Brenda has heard any and all of these sentences innumerable times over the nearly thirty years that they've been parents: poor eyesight, unruly hair, and large noses have all been blamed on Brenda. However, these phrases are not exclusive to whatever is wrong with the kids. If Brenda starts to (gasp!) show traits similar to those of her own mother (GASP!), Tim feels the need to ask for forgiveness from his children, as this will most certainly be their fate as well. This goes over really well with Brenda. The Bjorklund children all wonder why Brenda never apologizes for choosing their father – especially Mitch, who hears the terrible “you look just like your father” more often than anyone should have to.

Your sister... (passive ownership)
When Bjorklunds cannot apologize/explain away the imperfections (read: batshit craziness) of their family members, they resort to not claiming them at all. This delightful loophole is known to the Bjorklunds as passive ownership. For example, let’s say that Calla does something stupid… like date a studio art major in college. When Brenda is telling Darrah and Mitch about what a dumbass Calla is, she will say, “Guess who your sister is dating.” The ownership of dumbass Calla is placed squarely on Darrah and Mitch. This method spreads well into extended family… Tim will tell his children about “your mother’s brother's nephew” when the person in reference is his own son, or Calla may refer to “your husband’s son-in-law” when telling her mother about James’s obsession with yellow Subarus. The more convoluted the ownership, the better.

the faaaaather
In the great cache of favorite Bjorklund movies, Home Alone stands near the top. However, this favorite Bjorklund- ism comes not from Home Alone, but from Home Alone 2: a film inferior to its predecessor, but still possessing some fine moments of its own. The moment in question comes shortly after Kevin McCallister arrives in New York City. He records his voice on a Talkboy, slows it down, and plays it into a phone to make a hotel reservation under his father’s name. Kevin introduces himself as Peter McCallister, the father. However, on the playback, it becomes “the faaaaather.” Tim, the faaaaather of the Bjorklund clan, now leaves voicemails that all begin with “this is the faaaaather.”

Choose wisely.
Tim has issued this warning over the course of many years. It originated when one of his misbehaving children was given a choice: the right thing versus the wrong thing. The children were encouraged to choose wisely, an admonition that didn’t always stick. Over the years, this caveat became less applicable to behavior and was more commonly used in regards to the choosing of significant others. Amazingly, the Bjorklund children didn’t always heed that warning. Which brings us to…

It's not that we don't LIKE him...
You can say one thing for Tim and Brenda: no matter what kind of loser their children drag home, they’ll give said loser a chance. This Bjorklund catchphrase first came into being on the greatest day of Calla’s life: April 1, 2007. You may recall that was the day that Calla coerced her art-major boyfriend (whom her dad wasn’t particularly fond of, which was well known to Calla) into calling Tim and asking for Calla’s hand in marriage. Against all odds, Tim took the bait and spluttered through one of the most stressful phone calls of his life. Calla was listening in, and she heard him utter the now- immortal phrase: “It’s not that we don’t LIKE you… we just don’t KNOW you.” So if you ever hear a Bjorklund say this about you, it’s not that they don’t KNOW you… they’re just trying to get out of saying that they don’t LIKE you.

Poor James.
Only one of Calla's significant others has escaped the “it’s not that we don’t LIKE you” treatment, and that would be James. Everyone (Calla included) is still a little bit stunned that kind- hearted James would choose to join the rough-around-the-edges Bjorklund family… but then again, who wouldn’t? James is the opposite of a Bjorklund – he has a hard time saying a mean word about anybody, and sarcasm doesn’t come naturally to him. The Bjorklunds, as you may recall, are quick to point out his flaws: motion sickness and lactose intolerance being two that come quickly to mind. However, after mocking him for a minute or two, they will follow up with “Poor James.” Whether “poor James” is in reference to his maladies or in regards to his poor judgement in marrying a Bjorklund remains to be seen. My money is on the latter.

Anyone? Bueller?
As you know, Bjorklunds love a good movie quote – especially when it can be consistently interjected into real-life conversations. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, like Home Alone, holds a place in the Bjorklund Cinema Hall of Fame. And this particular Ferris Bueller quote is astonishingly easy to sneak into everyday use. Any time you ask a question and are met with a delayed reply, the best possible response is to slip immediately into Ben Stein mode and say "Anyone? Bueller?" It never gets old.

SIGH. I miss Mexico.
The Bjorklunds took a trip to Cancun in January 2013, and it was one of the best family vacations ever. A week of white sandy beaches and blue waters + mojitos all day, every day + sunshine in January + Mom's drunk again (see volume one) + did I mention the mojitos? The Bjorklunds long for their days in Mexico like some people long for the good old days. To the Bjorklunds, the good old days = that week in January that they spent in Mexico. Whenever they have a sub-par mojito at a bar (and let's face it: any mojito not consumed on a beach in Mexico is a sub-par mojito), or the weather is less than absolute perfection, they heave a mighty sigh and say, "I miss Mexico." Who wouldn't?
(editor's note: after Bjorklundosophy was written, we Bjorklunds took a trip to Jamaica, which was completely and totally amazing. I would imagine that this phrase will soon become "SIGH. I miss Jamaica.")

Assburger/Trojan smile.
Tim and Mitch have a habit of smirking in pictures, and the remaining smiley Bjorklunds are forced to say ridiculous things in order to get Tim and Mitch to crack real smiles. "Assburger" and "Trojan smile" are two of those things. "Assburger" originated on a family trip to Arizona. The Bjorklunds were in a restaurant contemplating lunch, and Darrah left to check out the gift shop. She returned to find them discussing Asperger's Syndrome. "Assburgers?!" she exclaimed. "I thought we were having hamburgers!" The Trojan smile came about one Christmas Eve when Mitch received Trojan condoms in his Christmas stocking. Allow me to give you a makeshift flow chart for the long journey of these condoms. Mitch finds condoms in the basement -> confronts Tim -> Tim says they could be his from a birthday card prank several years ago -> the condoms show up in Mitch's stocking months later  -> Calla claims ownership from an ill-fated high school movie -> but wait, Bob bought them, so they're Bob's. Everyone promptly died of laughter, and every Bjorklund is more than happy to demonstrate a big Trojan smile.

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My family is obviously not a normal family. This is exactly how we communicate, and I can honestly tell you that I wouldn't have it any other way. 

That, my friends, is Bjorklundosophy.

(if you've been paying attention, you'll know that there are actually eleven catchphrases here instead of ten. consider it a bonus.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

let's talk about my record player.

I have been told - more than once - that I am an old soul.

This is either a great compliment, or it's a roundabout way of telling me that I am boring... but in a sweet way.

I'm choosing to go with the former.

You may recall that I have had a powerful love for Simon and Garfunkel since I was approximately twelve. I was twelve in 1999. What 1999 twelve-year-old disregards N'Sync and Britney Spears for a folk duo from the 1960s?

THIS 1999 twelve-year-old.

I saved my allowance and bought all of Simon and Garfunkel's albums on CD. One Christmas, I asked for a record player... and got it.

That record player is what this story is all about.

If I had to guess - and for the purposes of this story, I do - I would say that I was around fifteen when I asked for a record player for Christmas. It was 2002.

It is important to note that record players are totally trendy right now. Hipsters the world over have been buying new record players to play their vinyl, and they will tell you that the sound from an LP is just not the same as a CD. And they're right.

But do you know what I'm about to say?

I was listening to records before it was cool.

But also after it was cool. 2002 was a no-man's time for vinyl, but I desperately wanted it. I wanted to listen to Simon and Garfunkel in the way that they were meant to be listened to, and that meant getting a record player.

My mom had a bunch of old records in our basement, and it was there that I discovered an original copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water. This was Simon and Garfunkel's final - and best-selling - album. It won a ton of Grammys, and the title track stayed at #1 for ages. This was even the best selling album of all time... until a little album called Thriller overturned it in 1982.

I HAD to hear this album on vinyl.

I did indeed get my record player for Christmas, and Bridge Over Troubled Water sounded absolutely glorious. I would hole myself up in my room, listening to it over and over. I began hunting for the rest of Simon and Garfunkel's albums on vinyl - haunting secondhand stores and sifting carefully through their holdings. This was not before the internet, but it was before online shopping was as easy and safe as it is today. Besides, I didn't even have a checking account, let alone a credit card. Buying online was out of the question.

But I was fine with it. The thrill of the case made finally locating the album so much sweeter. Once I had completed my Simon and Garfunkel collection, I gathered quite an amalgamation of music. From My Fair Lady to Wayne Newton, I had a strange catalog. But I loved it.

I listened to my records nearly nonstop until I went to college. My record player and record collection would take up too much space in my dorm room, so they stayed behind.

Regretfully, it took me ten years to make room for my record player again.

My living situations after college were undoubtedly temporary. I moved from Morris to Denver to New Orleans to Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, all in small rooms or apartments (or storage sheds in someone's backyard): no place for a record player. James and I bought our house in Luverne two years ago, and still, my record player wasn't there. However, it was in use: James took my record player to school with him to use in his music class.

Alas, that was to end in tragedy. James had the record player propped open with its little metal arm, and one of his students closed it without unhooking that arm. The arm broke, and the record player's lid would no longer stay open. Fixing the arm went on the backburner, but James did finally fix it a couple of months ago. Elated, I brought my old records back from my parents' house, and they sound just as beautiful and sonorous as they did when I first played them thirteen years ago.

And the best part is? Now that buying vinyl is cool, you can get nearly EVERYTHING on LP - even albums that were released long after the golden days of vinyl. I bought two Mumford and Sons albums on vinyl, and the sound you get from them is worlds above the CD.

Thanks to Amazon, finding records is as easy as freaking pie. No more do I have to make my way to record stores and dig hopefully through rows and rows of LPs. Not to say that I don't enjoy that: I do. But when there's an album that I so desire that I need it RIGHT NOW otherwise I MAY DIE, I can Amazon Prime it and have it in two days.

Another unexpected benefit of my record player? I can use records as a payment system. I have a list of records about a mile long that I want, but I really shouldn't be spending all my money on vinyl. James and I usually trade off buying household stuff - he buys hardware, I buy groceries, etc. Recently, we bought a new vacuum. I paid for the whole thing, and James bought me records to even it out. Probably not your typical marital financial arrangement, but it works for us. (In case you're curious, he bought me The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, Modest Mouse's Good News For People Who Love Bad News, and Abbey Road. AWESOME.)

I'm telling you: if you get the chance to pick up a record player, DO IT. No matter what you like to listen to, you can find it on LP. And you won't be sorry that you did.
the newest addition to my record collection. SO GOOD.
(Also, you get to be cooler than everyone else and say hipster-y things like "the album sounds SO MUCH BETTER on vinyl. And you know what? 99% of the time, it does.) 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

the label maker: a Christmas story.

Everyone remembers their first Christmas with their significant other. Good or bad, we all remember.

Christmas 2005 was the first Christmas season I spent with James. If you've been paying attention, you'll notice that this was two whole Christmases before we started dating. Indeed: James and I became fast friends when we met on move-in day at UMM in August 2005, and we liked each other well enough that, for Christmas that year, we bought each other twelve-packs of Mountain Dew. (Mountain Dew is totally trashy, I know, but we were teenagers and bonded over our love of it.)

James and I had a blast together during the 2005 Christmas season. We had been recruited as swing dancers for a UMM/Morris community Christmas variety show, so we dressed in our fancy clothes and danced to big band music onstage. 
The following week was finals week, and James and I both had late finals. Almost everyone else had already vacated the dorms, so James and I were two of the few souls left on campus. Instead of wallowing in our dorm rooms, we ate at Don's CafĂ© and went bowling.

That was our first Christmas together.

Christmas 2007 was James's and my first Christmas as a couple. We had begun dating in July, but since we had known each other for more than two years, we had gotten the getting-to-know-you-to-figure-out-what-you-might-like-for-Christmas awkwardness out of the way ages ago.

We were broke-ass college kids, so our gifts were sure to be humble. I don't actually remember what I bought for James, but I scoured the Alexandria Target for something completely wonderful within my price range. I can tell you that I paid careful attention to pretty much everything he said he liked, even if it was in passing - and my Christmas gift to him was mostly comprised of a bag full of small James-approved things that I had filed away over the years. There was a small set of Legos, and a box of Queen Anne cordial cherries. I'm reasonably certain that was the year I bought him a trumpet-shaped pencil sharpener, but don't hold me to that. In any case, the gift was an amalgamation of things like that.

James got me a label maker.

You may be envisioning one of those slick digital label makers with the full keypad that uses thermal ink to print your labels. Not so: this was an old-fashioned label maker, complete with the lettered dial and the hand-punch.

I was a tad speechless.

It had never occurred to me to ask for office supplies for Christmas, nor did I think I would open up a gift to find office supplies waiting inside. When I saw my new label maker, I glanced up to see James looking absolutely pleased with himself. I quickly realized that he must have put a lot of thought into this label maker - he wouldn't have chosen something like that arbitrarily. So I used it to make old-timey labels for my college notebooks, and I used it to embellish the (one and only) scrapbook I (have ever) made - the scrapbook was a gift to James for our first anniversary in July 2008, and he was utterly delighted to see that I had used his label maker.

It wasn't until years later that James found out that the label maker wasn't the perfect gift he had thought it to be. While recounting the story of this first Christmas gift to James's and my families over last year's Thanksgiving dinner, James explained: "I couldn't afford anything nice, and when I saw the label maker, I thought, 'Well, Calla likes words!'"

It's worth noting that this has become one of my absolute favorite Christmas stories, and James has since become a truly excellent gift-giver. And in his defense re: label maker, it really is the thought that counts. And he was right: I do like words.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

top ten Tuesday: quote of the day, part III.

At last, we have arrived at the third and final installment of the top ten quotes of the day. Indeed, all good things must end, and my senior year of high school marked the last of the quotes. And you know what? I think I went out on a high note - this set of quotes is my favorite yet. 

PART III: SENIOR YEAR 
2004 – 2005

what you need to know
My sophomore and junior years are coated with the unmistakable earmark of a grumpy teenager. Things improved drastically from my sophomore year to my junior year, and the light was most definitely shining through the clouds during my senior year. My sarcasm had definitely not vanished (and still hasn't to this day), but I was an all-around happier person. And why not? I had plenty to be happy about: I had great friends, I actually enjoyed spending time with my family, and sweet sweet college was right around the corner. Life was good. Also, during my senior year, I took advanced biology: the single best (and most hilarious) class of my high school career.

the "school memories" page
You'll notice that the sarcasm on this page is still present, but much less so than
in previous years. It's mixed in with actual notes about my achievements rather
than 100% snarky comments. The tides are turning.
the assignment book
Still cheesy, I see.
the quote
 
the explanation
We're starting off strong with a quote from our advanced biology textbook - which we rarely used. Most of our reading material came from photocopied handouts our teacher had used at other schools, or perhaps an article from The Readers Digest. ("I Am Joe's Man Gland" comes immediately to mind.) This hiccup quote struck me as funny because - come on - you're the science book. Even if you don't know the function of hiccups, you're not supposed to TELL us that you don't know.

the quote
the explanation
Remember my great friends? They are hilarious. Sarah has always had a way of putting into words exactly what all of us were feeling - and even things we didn't know we were feeling. Why, yes, I WAS a little torked when I flipped on the TV only to find that Ghostwriter was no more. Thanks for helping me get in touch with my long-repressed childhood feelings, Sarah.


the quote

the explanation
My sister Darrah has become famous for making bold and confident statements and then meekly asking for confirmation. We were talking about something we had overheard on a band bus trip to Chicago the previous year: someone had claimed (seriously) that marshmallows grow on trees, and my parents and I were mocking that statement. Darrah - who would've been about 14 at the time - was quick to agree with us... but backpedal just in case. She does this to this day, and we love her for it.

the quote
the explanation
Let's take a second for honesty here: no high school band kid enjoys playing pep band. You'd rather be watching the game with your friends, or (in my case) not be at the game at all. Now that I've been married to a band director for a few years, I realize that it's not just the students who wish that pep band didn't exist. It's a necessary evil, and it's the band director's job to make it seem like the best thing ever. "Celebration" was the bane of my pep band existence, and it's one of the few pep band tunes that my high school band could play so that it was vaguely recognizable. Hence: we played it ALL THE TIME. Mr Groon was our director, and whenever he announced that "Celebration" was up next, he was met with wailing and gnashing of teeth. He tried to sell it as a great song (see: above quote), but no one bought it. To this day, hearing "Celebration" on the radio makes me cringe.

the quote
the explanation
Mr Stoller was our advanced biology teacher, and he was the single best part of all of our days. He was absolutely hilarious without even trying. Mr Stoller's quotes made up at least 30% of my assignment book that year, and I had to restrain myself from filling this entire blog post with Mr Stoller's quips. He was much more than a quotable biology teacher: on Fridays, he would wear overalls and play us songs on his guitar. Mr Stoller was a delight. And he is the reason that I know where the xiphoid process is to this day.

the quote
the explanation
Mr Stoller strikes again. A typical week of advanced biology went like this: Monday and Tuesday = new material, Wednesday and Thursday = review, Friday = test. We covered a lot of ground, and it's not all that surprising that some if it didn't stick quite as well as it should. Quickly memorize and move on was the way to survive. On those review days, Mr Stoller would usually have us break into groups and review terms (read: totally screw around with only the occasional glance at our study guides). Every so often, he would ask us biology questions... which were apparently met with dead silence.

the quote
the explanation
I'd like to think a Bjorklund sitcom wouldn't suck, but I would watch it, too - even if it did indeed suck.

the quote
the explanation
We encountered said bossy geese on a government class trip to Pierre. I have almost no recollection of this trip, but I do know that the state capital is covered in goose poop. There are tons of geese roaming the grounds, and you couldn't walk on the sidewalk (or the grass) without stepping in poop. We had gotten some bread somewhere, and we were feeding the geese. One got bossy, so Sarah put him in his place. No bread for bossy geese: let that be a lesson to you.

the quote


the explanation
My mom works in the animal science department at SDSU, and I saw this advertisement one day when I went to visit her. It was an ad for lamb, and the implication is, of course, that adding lamb to your regular old kabob will turn it into a sophisticated karobert. I thought it was hilarious. To this day, no matter how many people I have told about this, I am STILL the only one who thinks it's hilarious.

the quote
the explanation
You many notice that this final quote is the only one in the entire series written in blue - and in slightly more legible handwriting. This is the very last quote of the day, and I read it on graduation day. I was the class salutatorian, so it was my job to give one of the speeches. By the end of high school, I had been doing quotes of the day for three entire years. It was my thing. My classmates all knew it was something I did, and I thought it would be appropriate to include one last quote of the day. I found this quote about commencement speeches, and I believe it is spot on. Out with a bang.

---------------------

My friends, we have come to the end of the quotes of the day. Three years, thirty quotes. I had so much fun going back through my old assignment books and picking these out. Doing this reinforced what we knew all along: I was a super weird kid. But thank God I was: what kind of stories would I have if I'd been normal?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

rant: Sioux Falls Walmarts.

There aren’t a lot of things that make me angry. There are plenty of things that irritate me – mosquitos, vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup passing itself off as chocolate ice cream, improper grammar – but not much to make me truly angry.


Do you want to know what one of those things is?


The Sioux Falls Walmarts.


You may recall from a post long past that my friends and I spent a lot of time in the Brookings Walmart and had a great time doing so. There was nothing angering at all about the Brookings Walmart.


The Sioux Falls Walmarts are totally different animals.

(DISCLAIMER: I am referring only to the east and west side Walmarts. I have not yet ventured to the relatively-new north side Walmart, nor do I have any plans to do so. It can't be much better than its east and west side siblings.)


A lot of it has something to do with the fact that Sioux Falls is a much larger town than Brookings, so their Walmarts will surely be more crowded. However, I shouldn’t have to worry about getting flattened by shopping carts when I set foot Walmart. In Sioux Falls, that’s a very real concern. Or scooters. The people driving those scooters are vicious.


Seriously, those Walmarts are always crowded, all the time. But they’re not crowded with nice, friendly people who won’t mow you down with their shopping cart loaded with Shasta and beef jerky. The Sioux Falls Walmarts are packed full of people just as angry as I am (probably because they’re at Walmart) and ten times as pushy.


In the Sioux Falls Walmarts, screaming children run free and it’s every man for himself. People abandon overflowing carts in the middle of aisles, and they’re inevitably piled high with perishables like ground beef and eggs. These Walmarts are always coated in a fine layer of something sticky, and you couldn’t pay me to use the bathrooms there.


Oh, and the parking lot! It is always completely full, and the lanes are clogged with THOSE people: you know, the ones who want the closest possible parking and will sit there and block traffic and wait for the car to back out – even if the person has JUST started to unload the contents of their cart into their trunk. And even if you try to skip this whole mess and park way out in the boonies, you will find a whole other pile of terribleness out there. That’s where the gigantic pickups park diagonally and take up three parking spaces, and that’s where people send shopping carts out to parking lot pasture EVEN THOUGH the cart corral is RIGHT THERE.


Why do I go there if I hate it so much? The short answer: I don’t any more. For a time, I would make an exception for yogurt. Yes, yogurt. Walmart was the only place that carried my favorite yogurt (Oikos Greek Yogurt – the honey variety. mmm), so when I ventured forth into that dark place, it was only for yogurt. However, Walmart no longer carries Oikos honey yogurt. That was the end for me.


For everything else, it’s HyVee and Target. When I first moved to Sioux Falls, I couldn’t afford anything but Walmart groceries, so it was that or nothing. As I’ve moved up in the world, I still love a good deal, but here’s where you make a choice of cost versus value. And to me, it’s worth it to pay a few (or more than a few) extra cents at Target or Hy-Vee if it means I can avoid Walmart altogether.


My hatred of Sioux Falls Walmart is beginning to cloud my vision of other Walmarts. We stopped at the Brookings Walmart not too long ago, and I was dreading it before we even entered the parking lot. However, I stepped inside to see the clean, cheerful Walmart of my youth. The Brookings Walmart is friendly and you don’t stick to the floors, and people don’t scowl at you if you make eye contact with them in the aisles. I’ll try not to judge other Walmarts by the Sioux Falls Walmart standard, but at the end of the day, I’d still rather go to Target.

Did I tell you about the time I found a used condom in the parking lot?

I have been to Hell, and it is a Sioux Falls Walmart.