Wednesday, October 28, 2015

a lifetime of Halloweens.

So it's almost Halloween, and I am excited: per usual. It's not even officially Halloween yet, and I've already dressed up TWICE: for Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis, and for the Zombie Walk in Sioux Falls.

Yes, we're wearing the same zombie clothes both times. But they were a week
apart, so give these zombies a break.

And that's just the beginning: I have not one, but TWO costumes left to go. I have a costume for work on Friday, and I have a costume for Halloween itself on Saturday.

But why so many costumes?

Because I have a policy.

I cannot be the same thing for Halloween twice.

"But wait!" you say. "What about the zombies, huh? YOU ARE LYING!"

But no! I dress up as a zombie for specific zombie-themed events: not for Halloween itself. Doesn't count. It's the zombie clause in my self-imposed Halloween contract. 

I must have decided on my no-repeats Halloween rule at a pretty young age: I have pictures going back to 1989, and you won't find any duplicates. You will, however, find some darn cute pictures of me as a very excited child. 

I wish I had pictures of every Halloween, but I don't. I don't know what I was for Halloweens 1987 and 1988 - I am pretty sure that, for one of those Halloweens, my parents dressed me up in the little skeleton costume you'll see on my sister in 1991 and my brother in 1993. 1992 is also missing, as are 1999 - 2002. While I am unsure about 1992, 1999 - 2001 was a dark time in my life... as I was deemed too old for trick-or-treating. I decided to forgo costumes those years, but I eventually realized that just because you're too old to trick-or-treat does NOT mean you're too old to dress up for Halloween. You're NEVER too old to dress up for Halloween, dammit. The only other year missing is 2009, but that was the year that I was in New Orleans. I was so excited to spend Halloween in New Orleans, but alas, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I didn't know anyone well enough to go out Halloweening with them, and even if I did, I didn't have enough money for a costume or drinks at the bar. I spent that Halloween curled up on my air mattress, watching Halloween episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and sad-eating Halloween candy from my landlady.

On the bright side? Pretty much every Halloween going forward is guaranteed to be better than that one.

So here we go: a pictorial history of Calla's Halloweens!

Is this or is this not the cutest damn Mickey Mouse you've ever seen? I was about two-and-a-half, and Halloween was already my favorite holiday. Trick-or-treating in the country always meant that you'd come away with an enormous haul. We just had to hop in the minivan and drive from house to house. As not many trick-or-treaters make it out into the sticks where we lived, any house you went to would reward you with handfuls of candy. Or multiple full-sized candy bars. Or twelve-packs of pop. Country trick-or-treating is the best.

My pumpkin makeup is a little bit hilarious. I'm not sure which parent was responsible for this, but I would like to know why exactly I have a red mouth instead of a black one. The jack o' lantern face on my sweatshirt has a black mouth - why not me?

You may have noticed that all of my costumes involve long sleeves. Indeed, I live in the Midwest, so many of my Halloween costumes were planned around sweatshirts and winter coats. That's why I look so bulky: under my black sweatshirt was probably another sweatshirt. I believe 1991 was a particularly snowy Halloween, but there's no way that I wasn't going out trick-or-treating.

This princess dress came from a huge bin of my mom's old clothes that had been deemed "for dress-up." I played dress-up ALL the damn time, and it was a delight for me to be able to wear this out in public. To top it off, Mom made me glitter shoes: old dress shoes coated in glue and dipped in multi-colored glitter. They were the BEST.

I don't know where this costume came from, but I do remember that it was supposed to be a bunny suit. It more or less a white onesie and had big ears sticking straight up. One of Mom's coworkers sewed spots on it, and presto! I was a dalmatian. However, even though I was clearly wearing a dog collar, I was mistaken for a cow for all of Halloween day.

1995 must've been a particularly warm Halloween, hence the bare legs. Though I was only eight in 1995, I feel as though my sarcasm was really starting to develop: being a cheerleader for Halloween was the scariest thing I could think of.

Another cold Halloween, as our costumes were comprised mainly of different-colored sweatshirts. My cat ears are a little droopy, but I felt (at the time) like the stuffed mouse really brought the costume together. Please, though, direct your attention to my brother Mitch, who (at age three) is way too delighted to be Satan.

Ah, the year I was Cruella de Vil. Mom (for reasons still unknown) had this old rabbit-fur coat in the back of her closet, and I commandeered it for Halloween that year. My cousin Ethan was a part of the theatre department at SDSU, so he was able to procure (and spray-paint) the wig for me. Another cold-weather costume, but this one was a win. 

The first year of the double Halloween costume. I dug through the old dress-up box and was a gypsy for the school Halloween parade. (This was around the time Disney released The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I totally wished I could be Esmeralda.) I came home in my gypsy outfit, all ready to trick-or-treat, and I was informed that it was too cold to wear it. I would have to find something else. I half-heartedly threw together my "person in pajamas" costume, which is 100% lame. Had I realized that it would be my last year as a trick-or-treater, I'd like to think that I would've come up with something better. We'll never know.

Ok, so I'm not 100% sure what I billed my costume as this year. I do know that it involved this dress that I bought at Goodwill, a vampire cape from KMart, and skeleton earrings. Medieval vampire, perhaps?

Another off-year in my Halloween history. This is the cape that I bought with Allison the year before - sadly, no photographic evidence exists of our 2002 vampire costumes. The cape itself is pretty awesome - it came from Kmart in Brookings before it closed, and I still have the cape to this day. I also have the skeleton earrings in this picture, which you can see if you look very closely. Anyway, I wanted to dress up for Halloween but was fresh out of ideas, so this is what I got. I called myself Count von Disco Bono: vampire cape + Bono sunglasses + pink plaid bellbottoms. A terrible costume, but a costume nonetheless.

Halloween of my senior year of high school was AWESOME. That was the year our high school football team made it to the state playoffs (and won). Halloween was right around said big game, so all of Halloween (which was on a Sunday, so we celebrated early at school) was one big pep rally day. There were games and snacks and absolutely no productivity whatsoever. My outfit was a red one-piece bell-bottomed monstrosity that I got at Goodwill, plus some go-go boots and a shiny scarf. I was a reject Charlie's Angel. I had to work at the Dairy Mart  that evening, and there was no way that I was doing so in a polyester jumpsuit. I changed into a dress and saddle shoes and was a generic sock-hopper.

Much to my great pleasure, I found all sorts of people at college who loved to dress up at Halloween. I stole adopted my old band uniform - after all, the school had just gotten new ones and was systematically burning/donating/destroying the old uniforms, so I figured that I might as well give mine the loving home it deserved. Anyway, it was the perfect Midwestern costume - made of wool = super warm. And how about that hat? If only I'd had the red plume that goes with it.

Yes, friends: this was the year of the triple costume. My friend Sara and I attended UMM's first Zombie Prom: though we look like undead pandas, believe me when I say that we were zombies. Halloween was on a Tuesday that year, so we also needed costumes for the preceding weekend: hence my sailor outfit. It's difficult to see in this picture, but my top is an actual wool sailing uniform that I picked up at an antique store. Points for authenticity. Finally, Sara and I had costumes for Halloween itself: we went as opposites. It's the only time that I've ever dressed as a concept for Halloween, and it was a very liberal arts college thing to do. I totally loved it and still think we were a little bit brilliant.

My favorite costume to date: the year of the Croc. Ever since I first saw those rubbery horrors, I have cursed their existence. Sara had a pair of pink Crocs that she so graciously let me borrow for this costume. This was the year that Halloween was on a Wednesday, and Wednesday nights were the nights that both Sara (the news editor) and I (the arts and entertainment editor) worked late at the college paper. We put in extra hours on Monday and Tuesday of that week in order to be out the door by 10pm Wednesday - instead of our usual 2am Thursday. Halloween is THAT important.

Thanks to the leap year, Halloween landed on a Friday in 2008. Theoretically, that was great: but we poor band kids had a concert on HALLOWEEN NIGHT. And not even a fun Halloween concert... a regular concert that no one attended BECAUSE IT WAS HALLOWEEN. After the concert, we all booked it back to our houses to get into our Halloween costumes and catch up to the rest of our non-band friends. My costume is an authentic Norwegian folk costume, given to me by my authentic Norwegian grandma. And made of wool. The best Minnesotan Halloween costumes are wool-based.

I was living in Minneapolis in 2010, which is an all-around excellent place to spend Halloween. I had finished my tenure as an intern at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, but during my time there, I learned about all sorts of cool events that they sponsor. Example: they do this thing called Third Thursdays where, the third Thursday of each month, they keep the museum open late and have some kind of big event. On this particular Third Thursday, the MIA asked attendees to come dressed as their favorite MIA work of art. I chose Dali's Lobster Telephone because why on earth WOULDN'T you choose Lobster Telephone?

By 2011, I had moved to Sioux Falls and had been there for approximately one month. I wore the costume on the left to a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, hoping that it would be as amazing as the midnight showing I had seen in Minneapolis the year before. (Note: it wasn't.) My Rocky Horror outfit was not as risque as a real Rocky Horror outfit should be, but what can I say? It was cold, and I was a chicken. The costume on the left is the one I wore to work at the Department of Labor and Regulation. I was dead-broke, so I had to pretty much phone this one in. I carried a ruler and was an old-timey teacher - the dress belonged to my grandma in the 60s, who was real-life old-timey teacher. Again, points for authenticity.

By Halloween 2012, I was gainfully employed at the library and was delighted to find out that nearly everyone at the library dressed up for Halloween. The library costumes were all part of a theme, and the theme that year was superheroes. That worked out perfectly for me, as my brother Mitch had given me this spectacular pair of pajamas for Christmas the year before. And may I say that James's Pee-Wee Herman costume is simply amazing? 

2013 was the first year that we participated in the Zombie Walk... and I didn't really even get to be in it. The parade started at 5 o'clock, but I worked until 5... I thought I could quick run over, find James and our friend Nate, and quick get my makeup done and hop in the parade. Alas, by the time I left the library and made it to the zombie area (approx. two minutes), the parade was over. So I found James and Nate at a restaurant, and they did my makeup while we were waiting for a table. For Halloween itself, the library's theme costume was Duck Dynasty... I don't have a photograph, but we all wore fake beards and camouflage. My REAL costume was Mary Poppins - and this was the first (and so far, only) year James and I have had couples' costumes. 

Finally, we arrive at 2014. Mitch made it for the Zombie Walk, and I feel as though our makeup was much better than the year before. For Halloween, I convinced the library to go with a "TV characters" theme just because I had been dying to go as Buster Bluth. I repurposed the Duck Dynasty jacket from the year before and bought camo pants, a hook, an army hat, wire glasses, and a loose seal - complete with a yellow bow tie. It was the most I'd ever spent on a Halloween costume, and the hardest I'd ever worked on one. And you know what? Almost NO ONE got it. At the bar that evening, one guy yelled out "Motherboy," which was a spot-on Buster Bluth reference and totally made my night.


Yes, I did totally come back to edit this post after I originally published it so that I could include my 2015 costumes. 2015 was a particularly strong year for me, and I'm really quite proud of my costumes. For work, I dressed as Maleficent. Our work theme was heroes and villains, and I was only one of two villains. I got a lot of great compliments on my costume that day, and no less than three people asked to take a picture of/with me. But what really struck me as hilarious was that for every one person who commented on my costume, there were at least three more who pretended like absolutely nothing was out of the ordinary. On Halloween itself, I dressed as a Rockford Peach - specifically, Marla Hooch. "And then there's Marla Hooch... what a hitter!"


And there's my lifetime of Halloweens. I already have a list of kick-ass Halloween costume possibilities for 2016. It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

let's talk about The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Halloween is my all-time favorite day of the year. I love it more than Christmas, and I would trade in every single birthday for more Halloween.

Luckily for me, the rest of the country seems to love Halloween as much as I do. You can find Halloweeny events to attend all throughout October – just this October, I’m planning on two ghost tours, two zombie walks, one fantastic costume, and a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

And that’s what we’re here to talk about.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the film, not the Broadway musical) turned 40 this year, so what better time to talk about this staple of my young life?

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. (For the unfamiliar, that is a direct quote from Rocky Horror. See how smoothly I worked that in?)

I first stumbled across Rocky Horror when I was 13 or 14. My family had just moved into our new house, and I was watching TV late one Saturday night. Flipping through the channels, I landed on VHI, smack-dab in the middle of the Time Warp. I was mesmerized. I had never seen anything like it before in my life, and I was absolutely smitten. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to watch the movie on a continuous loop for the rest of my life.

This was before the days of recording on your TV (unless you set up a timer on your VCR) and before the days of Netflix. I had no credit card (and little to no money), so I couldn't buy it on Amazon. I had no way to see Rocky Horror except to obsessively stalk the VHI schedule.

Catching snippets on TV here and there had to suffice until one day at Menards. (Yes. Menards.) I was in Watertown for Black Friday with my friend Meagan and her mom, and Menards was the last stop on our itinerary before heading home. As we headed to the checkout, I saw a VHS copy of Rocky Horror perched in one of the five-dollar racks. It had to be mine.

A perpetual worrier and rule follower, I was pretty nervous about actually trying to buy said VHS. Rocky Horror is rated R, and I was no more than 15 at the time of my illicit purchase. Meagan and I made a hasty plan: I would try to buy the movie and look as mature as I possibly could. If the cashier asked to see my ID, I would say that I forgot it at home. (Which was actually totally true.) I would then hope that the cashier would just forgo the age check and let me buy the movie. If not, I would ask Meagan's mom to please buy it for me.

Turns out that my worrying was for absolutely nothing. I bought my five-dollar R-rated movie, zero questions asked.

I got home at about 11 that morning (as it was Black Friday, we had been in Watertown long before dawn) and settled into my room to watch Rocky Horror. It would be the first time that I would ever watch it beginning to end, and I was jittery with excitement.

And? I had the house to myself. My dad was working in the yard, and my mom, brother, and sister had themselves headed to Watertown. Just in case, though, I wasn't going to watch my new movie on one of the community TVs. (I wasn't sure how my parents would feel if they stumbled across their 15-year-old daughter watching a movie that consists primarily of people running around in lingerie.) I had a combo TV/VCR in my room that I had purchased from my parents with my hard-earned ice cream shop money, and I had a comfy chair plopped right in front if it. I could not believe I could finally watch Rocky Horror in its uninterrupted glory.

Until I was interrupted.

I was barely into "Dammit, Janet" when my dad knocked on my door. Since I was home from Watertown and simply lazing about, surely I had time to help him pick rocks. The trials and tribulations of being a farm kid, I tell you.

I don't remember if I got to finish watching Rocky Horror that day, but I must tell you that I have watched it countless times since. My friend Allison and I learned the Time Warp (which is fabulously easy), and I bought the soundtrack at Sam Goody.

But it wasn't until college that I uncovered a previously unknown aspect of Rocky Horror: the midnight showing. I was a sophomore when I saw posters go up for an on-campus screening of Rocky Horror at midnight. I arrived well before midnight, excited an unaware of what I was in for. This was the first time I had ever experienced Rocky Horror audience participation, which is nothing short of magical. There was even a kit that you could buy.

Inside the kit: 

  • actual toast to throw when a toast is proposed.
  • Scott brand toilet paper to thrown when Dr Scott appears.
  • a newspaper to put over your head during Brad and Janet’s scene in the rain
  • rice to throw during the wedding scene

Aside from all the stuff you throw, there is an entire movie scripts’ worth of lines that you’re supposed to yell out at various points during the movie. Seriously: for every line in the movie, there is something to yell back. It’s amazing. And, of course, everyone must stand up and do the Time Warp.

At this very first midnight showing at UMM, there were even students who dressed up as Rocky and Dr Furter and acted out “The Sword of Damocles” and “I Can Make You a Man.” This was one of many moments in my UMM career where I just knew unequivocally that I had picked the right college.

(Here's another "wow, I picked the best college ever" moment brought to you by Rocky Horror: in one of my speech classes, I even did my "how-to" speech on the proper method for Rocky Horror audience participation. And totally got an A.)

I don’t remember if I went to the midnight showing when I was a junior. By that time, I lived off campus, and it was awfully hard to scare up people to go with you to a midnight movie on Halloween with house parties were in full swing. However, I know for certain that I went my senior year – James and I had a symphonic winds concert on Halloween, which was cruel. Even more so because Halloween was on a Friday that year. We ran straight from the concert to put on our Halloween costumes (he was a Mexican wrestler, and I had my grandma’s traditional Norwegian outfit) and skedaddled to the Halloween party at my house. After that, it was Rocky Horror: the last Rocky Horror of my college career.
This is a picture we took right after the showing. We were/are weird.

Skip ahead a few years. It was Halloween 2010: James lived in Ellsworth, and I lived in Minneapolis. Halloween was on a Sunday that year, and James drove up to spend the weekend with me. We did the best Halloween stuff: we went to see the Minnesota Orchestra perform the score to Psycho while the movie played in the background, and we went to see a midnight showing of Rocky Horror at the Uptown Theatre.

Now, we had not thought ahead to purchase advance tickets for Rocky Horror. The thought struck us shortly after the orchestra concert that we might want to make our way there and lock down our tickets. And we did - and found ourselves at the end of an incredibly long snaking line full of people in fishnets. Two thoughts struck me: 1.) why didn't I have fishnets?! and 2.) dear God, I hope we get seats. The line inched along, and we stood outside in the freezing cold (as it was a cold October). The longer we waited, the more I worried that we'd be turned away at the ticket counter. We finally entered the building, and James and I snagged one of the last remaining pairs of tickets. Whew.

We took our seats, and it was pure pandemonium. There were scores of actors in full Rocky Horror regalia lining the stage: once the movie began, these same actors would proceed to act out THE ENTIRE MOVIE. IN REAL TIME. The theatre was jammed to the gills, and the movie started an hour and a half late. But once it began, people really lost their shit. You could barely hear the movie over the audience shouting out their responsive lines, and the complete and total elation in the air was palpable. We didn't get out of that theatre until after 3 am, but I was so energized that I could have done it all over again. It was one of the most spectacular things I've ever been a part of - and I didn't even wear fishnets.

By Halloween weekend 2011, I had moved to Sioux Falls to be closer to James - who still lived in Ellsworth. (The drive to see each other had been whittled down from four hours to one, but it still sucked.) James came to Sioux Falls for Halloween weekend, and we decided to go to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror at the West Mall 7: the cheap theatre. I knew it wouldn't be like Minneapolis, but I had high hopes for my Sioux Falls Rocky Horror experience. I even got some fishnet-y tights and put on my pearls and heels this time.

This was the best I could do for a Rocky Horror ensemble, as I am simply not brave enough to wear what Tim Curry wore.

Indeed, I was sorely disappointed. The theatre contained a mere handful of people, only one of whom had dressed for the occasion. No one knew the audience participation lines, and you can bet your bottom dollar that no one brought toast to throw. The one saving grace: my fellow Rocky Horror-goers did stand up and do the Time Warp. To have not done so would have been a crime.

(Not surprisingly, this was the last time we saw a midnight showing of Rocky Horror advertised at the West Mall 7. Or anywhere else in Sioux Falls.)

Don't get me wrong: my love of Rocky Horror is not limited to film. In October 2013, my mom and I went to see SDSU's production - and it was AMAZING. That theatre department has some incredibly talented singers, and the actor who played Dr Furter absolute stole my heart. And? The entire audience totally stood up and did the Time Warp.

If you have never seen Rocky Horror, you may be wondering what all this talk of the Time Warp is.

Well, it's just a jump to the left.
 I don't know what it is about the Time Warp that makes us love it so much, but we just do. We did the Time Warp at our wedding, and we did the Time Warp quite recently at a good friend's wedding. It's the Time Warp: you can't hear it and NOT do it.

That's my storied relationship with Rocky Horror. We've come a long way together - from that VHS tape to an upcoming midnight showing in Minneapolis. (!!!) Rocky Horror has taught me myriad life lessons: don't wander into strange castles, don't be too uptight, don't be afraid to be yourself. But most importantly...

Don't dream it. Be it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

adventures in Morris: Zombie Prom.

Just last week, I told you about how my four years at the University of Minnesota Morris were quite possibly the best four years of my life. I told you that I racked up adventures and misadventures alike, and I told you that I had lots of college stories to tell.

This is one such story.

I didn't know it when I applied, but UMM (a public liberal arts school) had a reputation for being full of weird kids. (Had I known it when I applied, I would've have applied much sooner and would've spent much more time on my "tell us about yourself" essay.) The reputation was well-earned: in my time at UMM, the arts kids ruled the place. We were only vaguely aware that we had sports teams, and the athletes were so few and far between that we couldn't name one if asked. At UMM, you were judged not by your athletic prowess, but by your creativity and quirk. It was my home sweet home.

As a school for weird kids, UMM offered weird kid activities. I was a sophomore in October 2006, and zombies were just starting to be cool. UMM was quick to hop on the zombie train , and they decided to put on... Zombie Prom.

My friend Sara and I were ecstatic. We were going to go to Zombie Prom, and we were going to be the prettiest zombies at the ball. But of course, we had NOTHING to wear.

One thing you need to know about Morris is that shopping options are limited: especially if you're looking for the perfect Zombie Prom dress. At the time, Morris offered a Pamida (which has since become ShopKo), a junky consignment store (which I believe is still there), a super expensive clothing store that appeared to specialize in department store cast-offs from the early 90s, and a Salvation Army.

Guess where Sara and I went shopping?

This was the one and only time that I set foot in the Morris Salvation Army (affectionately known to the college kids as the Salvo). It was that special kind of trashy thrift store that smelled like a thousand grandmas' basements, and you felt like you had bedbugs the minute you stepped in the door. It was the perfect place for Zombie Prom dresses.

Or so we thought. What we really wanted were old prom dresses or bridal gowns that we could tear apart and douse in fake blood, but no such luck. Either the Salvation Army never had anything so nice, or other would-be zombies got to the store before we did. Our shopping trip was pretty last-minute (aka, the day of Zombie Prom), so we didn't have time to take a trip to Alexandria (45 minutes away and the home of much nicer thrift stores). We had to make do with the Salvation Army.

To make up for the lack of sartorial options, Sara and I gave our zombies personas. She was Easter Dress Zombie, and I was 80s Businesswoman Zombie. We bought our outfits and made a stop at the local Pamida for the appropriate zombie makeup. Supplies in hand, we set up shop in Sara's apartment to zombify ourselves.

Problem: we had no idea how to zombify ourselves.

We started with our outfits. Scissors in hand, we cut and chopped and ripped and tore our clothing into shreds. Armed with fake blood, we smeared the sticky liquid all over our clothes. Outfits = done.

But ahead us was a bigger problem: zombie makeup. Pamida didn't have any of those nice decaying flesh shades of green and grey, so we bought black and white. Our aim was to give ourselves a deathly pallor and top it off with quintessential dark zombie circles around our undead eyes. Yes, that was our intent... but the execution was a tad flawed. Not possessing any real zombie makeup skills meant that we looked less like brain-eating monsters and more like cute pandas.

Every good zombie needs their hair done for prom, so Sara and I curled ours all nice... and turned it grey. We found some Halloween spray-can hair dye at Pamida, so clearly we had to buy it. Because all prom-going zombies have grey hair.

The entrance fee to Zombie Prom was one canned good, so Sara and I shambled over to food service (yes, prom was held in the food service building) with our canned corn and cream of mushroom soup. We stepped in the building to find that our old familiar cafeteria had been transformed into a zombie paradise. Black garbage bags covered the floors and walls, and mist from a fog machine swirled through the air. There was even a little cemetery.

I don’t remember how long we stayed at Zombie Prom, but I remember two very specific things: 1.) this was the very first time I had seen “Thriller” performed live en masse, and 2.) Sara and I got our zombie makeup on EVERYTHING.

And that zombie makeup? REALLY hard to wash off.

Zombie Prom came around again in October 2007, when we were juniors. This time, James and I went together in fancy clothes, calling ourselves Swing Dancing Zombies. But there was something different about this Zombie Prom. The decorations were lacking, as was the population. There were no zombies dancing to “Thriller”. There were a few undead freshman roaming about, but that was it. Considering the fantastic time we had last year, Zombie Prom 2007 was a profound disappointment.

That was the last time I went to Zombie Prom. I think there was another one when I was a senior, but I had definitely aged out by that point.

Zombie popularity has exploded since that first Zombie Prom. While there are no more proms to attend, I have shambled in two Sioux Falls Zombie Walks and am planning on doing so again this year. Sadly, my zombie makeup skills have not improved in the years since Zombie Prom.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

happy anniversary: year four!

It’s that time of year again: the blog anniversary!

For the last four years (on the nose: I started this blog on October 10, 2011), I’ve been writing this blog. As you may recall from the other anniversary posts I’ve written, I started this blog on my very first paid holiday from my very first job with benefits. (I’d had legions of other jobs, but I had never experienced anything as magical as paid holidays and actual insurance.) However, I had moved to Sioux Falls from Minneapolis and was experiencing a significant amount of “OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE” anxiety.

You see, I loved Minneapolis dearly. I loved the food and the lakes and the trails and the museums and the buildings. But I was alone.

I had been living in Minneapolis since January 2010 when my then-boyfriend-now-husband James and I moved into a garage-turned-studio apartment so he could do his student teaching and I could complete an internship at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Enter a long, hard winter of abject poverty and multiple minimum wage jobs. Come summer, my unpaid internship was done, and I had secured full-time work and was able to get rid of all but one of my part-time jobs. James was a licensed band and music teacher and was on the hunt for a job of his own.

And he got one!

Four hours away from Minneapolis.

In July, we had signed a one-year lease on an apartment near the Nicollet Mall, so there was no financial way that both of us could move to southwestern Minnesota. Besides, I needed a job, and I wasn’t about to head to Ellsworth without one. I declared that I would stay in Minneapolis while James went to his job in Ellsworth, and we’d see each other on the weekends.

We did that for a year, and it was terrible.

At the end of year one in Ellsworth, James was hooked. He had fallen in love with his tiny school, and there was no way that he was ready to leave it and look for a job closer to the cities. (Fun fact: he feels the same way about his job in Ellsworth to this day.) After a year of living in Minneapolis – four hours from James, four hours from my family, four hours from most of my friends – I was tired of being alone. Plus, my aforementioned full-time job was weird as hell, and I was ready for something new. I applied to jobs in both Minneapolis and Sioux Falls, telling myself that whichever place gave me a job first was where I’d be.

Shocker: it was Sioux Falls.

James was overjoyed. My parents were overjoyed. I was unsure.

Yes, how awesome it would be to be closer to them! But that meant leaving Minneapolis, a city that I adored, for Sioux Falls – a city that was pretty ok, but was hardly comparable to Minneapolis.

I lived in Sioux Falls for that first year, and James lived in Ellsworth – we were still an hour apart, which was still terrible. James moved to Sioux Falls the next year, and I worried about his commute every single day. The year after that was when we got married and bought a house in Luverne, Minnesota. And here we are.

So a lot has changed since I first started writing this blog.

I am a fan of lists, so here’s the big stuff that has changed:

September 2011: got job at the Department of Labor and moved to Sioux Falls
October 2011: started this blog
February 2012: got a job at the library
June 2012: James proposed
August 2012: James moved to Sioux Falls
July 2013: got married
July 2013: bought a house and moved to Luverne
September 2013: adopted an asshole cat named Mona

Yes, our last major life event was two years ago, but we got a whole lot of life events out of the way in 2013. In the meantime, we’ve taken lots of road trips and done some ridiculous/awesome things like buy kayaks. We’ve spent tons of time at Lake Poinsett, and I’m a volunteer librarian for the Ellsworth School. Yes, we’ve done a ton of stuff… but we both miss Minneapolis like crazy.

I never meant for this blog to be a sounding board out into the internet for me and my feelings. I hate feelings. So the anniversary blog post is one of the few times you’ll hear me do it.

Four years into living in the Sioux Falls area, and I’m still not quite sold – especially now that we live in small town Minnesota. Luverne has a population of about 4700, which is the same size as the town where James and I went to college, but Luverne and Morris may as well be on different planets. Luverne is no college town: it’s a typical conservative small town Midwestern area where your retired neighbors spy on you and punk kids steal your lawn flamingoes and all the apples from your trees.

As a small town, Luverne is also short on restaurants, shops, and things to do. A few new stores have moved in downtown, which is a godsend. But the lone coffee shop has weird hours, and God help you if you want to get anything done on a Sunday.

James is made for small town USA. He loves to small talk and share recipes. When he retires, he’ll be one of those little old men that hangs out at the gas station/legion/cafĂ© all day and drinks coffee. I, on the other hand, am not at all that way. Having grown up right outside of a small town and having gone to school in one, I’ve gotten my fill. Small talk is not my forte, and I have no recipes to share. And since we are not retired and have no children, we have virtually nothing in common with most of the Luverne population.

Here are the things that keep us in the area (in no order of importance):

  • my library job, where I get to do cool things like choose books and music for the collection
  • James’s Ellsworth teaching job, which he loves more than life itself
  • my family
  • our friends

So jobs and people, basically. We’re also afraid that our house would never ever sell, as few people are itching to move to Luverne. (Believe it or not.)

Don’t get me wrong: Luverne has its positives. They have some good small-town things, like a library book sale and cute little parks. You can ride your bike and take nighttime walks without worry. You can buy a nice house for a pittance – and that nice house comes with apple trees.

All that is good and well when you are a small town person.

Which I am not.

So please forgive me for this little pity party, but I see the blog anniversary as a time for reflection. Though I am not making it sound this way, but the good really does outweigh the bad. It’s just my whiny wanderlust that makes me itchy at the idea of settling in Luverne.

Life is good. I have a great job, I’m close to my family, and I’m married to the best guy ever. We have a cute house and a fluffy asshole cat, and we have great friends in the area. We have cars that work and can put food on the table and can go on vacations. I really don’t have much to complain about.

But enough of that and back to the blog. Life has gotten weirdly busy, so I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like. I started off writing two stories a week, which is feasible when you a.) live alone, and b.) are broke and can’t afford to do anything else. Thankfully, both of those things have changed. I am down to writing about one story every week or couple of weeks, and I apologize that I can’t do more at the moment. But never fear! I have lots of stories left to tell as long as you still want to read them.

As always, thank you for reading and sticking with me in my little corner of the internet. You guys are truly the best.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

flashback: move-in day at UMM.

I’m a few months behind here, but it hit me other day:

It’s been TEN YEARS since I wandered onto the University of Minnesota Morris campus as a puny and terrified freshman.

This realization struck me as James (who arrived at UMM the very same day I did) and I strolled around the UMM campus in early October. We had made the drive for homecoming – not that we went to any of the events. It was an excuse to visit our old stomping grounds and hang out with some old UMM friends and lament about how old we are. Which we did.

After breakfast at Don’s and while roaming the campus, James and I walked by our freshman dorm… and it slowly dawned on us that we had moved into Independence Hall one decade ago. Allow me to take you back in time…

AUGUST 25, 2005
It was move-in day at UMM. I had been simultaneously overjoyed and petrified of this day ever since I signed the papers pledging my heart and soul and my firstborn child to UMM. I was so ready to leave my tiny rural Midwestern hometown of Arlington… for slightly less tiny rural Midwestern college town called Morris. But I was also quite wary of leaving my friends and family behind. Was I really ready to start from scratch at a college two-and-a-half hours from home, where I knew absolutely nobody?

On that drive to Morris, the thought flitted across my mind that I maybe should’ve gone to SDSU instead. It was closer to home, and I would be able to see my friends. And as an awkward person by nature, how was I going to make brand-new friends? What if no one liked me? The insecurities of my 18 year-old self reared their ugly heads, and I hoped against hope that the other UMM students wouldn’t think I was too weird.

You see, in high school, being weird was my thing. It took a while for me to be able to actually make it work (until senior year, in fact), but it eventually took hold. Weird quirky Calla who loves band and carries a disposable camera wherever she goes. Weird quirky Calla who hangs out with her weird quirky friends who are up to their eyeballs in inside jokes. Weird quirky Calla who most definitely doesn’t fit in, but is ok with it.

Had I known then what I know now, I would not have had a thing to worry about. I would soon find out that college is the easiest place on earth to make friends, and that being weird is almost expected. Especially at UMM.

But I didn’t know that yet, so I forged ahead to UMM, nervous and excited. Sure, I’d be starting over with friends, but isn’t starting over what college is all about? It’s a clean slate: no one at college would know of my ugly ducking history – they would only know what I wanted them to know. I could be whomever I pleased.

That shred of confidence vanished as soon as we pulled into the crowded Indy Hall parking lot. My entire family had come with me: even my brother and sister, who had started school (grades 7 and 9, respectively) earlier in the week, took the day off to help me move to college. I was so grateful to have them all there.

The place was an absolute zoo. Luckily, my dorm room was on the first floor, so we assumed moving would be nice and easy. As it turned out, moving in was even easier than we expected: UMM had a move-in crew made up of upperclassmen. We just piled my stuff on the ground and told the eager beaver neon t-shirted move-in crew where it had to go (Indy 1C). It was done in the blink of an eye, and with the help of my family, I was unpacked in almost no time. I had opted for a metal bunk bed thing for optimal living space (you put the bed on top and your desk underneath), so that was assembled. As no dorm room in the history of ever has air conditioning, I remember us all being swelteringly hot.

The activities that followed are kind of a blur to me. There was so much to do and so little time to do it, so you’ll have to forgive my lack of precise detail.

  • got a parking pass for my car
  • met my new roommate and most of my new floormates
  • got my student ID, my dorm room key, and the quintessential lanyard
  • attended a handful of “welcome to UMM” sessions – some of which were for parents only/students only
  • made sure my meal plan was in order
  • ate at the welcome picnic
  • signed me up for band

That last point is very important. I joined band on a whim: sure, I was a band kid in high school, but not so much of a band kid that I ever actually practiced my clarinet. I wasn’t planning on joining college band until I attended the freshman registration event earlier that summer. I signed up for my required classes and found myself with an empty time slot… right when band was. A little persistent voice in my brain (it’s possible that it was my dad) told me I should sign up. So I did.

And that’s why I found myself in the Humanities and Fine Arts building with my family, wandering around and looking for the sign-up sheet for band auditions. The four of them stayed out by the lockers while I crept into the depths of the music offices, finally locating the mythical sign-up sheet. Having locked down an audition, I emerged from the hallways to find my family happily chatting away with a smiley redhead. I sidled up to them and was introduced to James: he was a trumpet player, and he had also just moved into Indy Hall (2B). This guy was so totally at ease with everything around him that I could hardly believe that he was also a freshman. He bid us farewell, telling me that he’d stop by my dorm room sometime so we could hang out. And that’s how I made my first UMM friend – and also how I met my husband.

When the time came for my family to go home, part of me wanted to jump in the minivan and go right back with them. But at the same time, another part of me felt like everything was going to be just fine. My mom has said that I looked like a deer in headlights when they left my dorm room that August day, and I have no doubt about that.
It was a weird day for all of us.
It was shocking to see them go: sure, I’d been to overnight camp before, so it’s not like I’d never had the experience of being dropped off in a strange place. But this was different. My parents weren’t coming back to pick me up in a week, and I wasn’t going to be expected to sit around campfires and sing songs. I would be taking classes and writing papers and CHANGING THE WORLD. This was COLLEGE. I was an adult now. (Or what I thought was an adult.) It was sink or swim, and I hadn’t made it this far to stop swimming now.

So as my parents drove away, I took a deep breath, put on my brave smile, and strode forth to meet my future.

College at UMM was basically the highlight of my life thus far. I couldn’t have asked for a better college experience. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but that’s part of what made it so great. For every adventure I had in college, I probably had two misadventures. I have SO MANY STORIES, and I can’t wait to tell them.

As James and I waxed nostalgic on this last trip to UMM, sighing about the good old days and longing for such freedom. We were so young, and I was a starry-eyed optimist: something that I’ve regretfully grown out of. Every day was a new magical adventure, and your responsibilities were limited to classwork and the possible ten-hour-a-week job. Your student loan debt hadn’t come calling, and you were not expected to have adult things like a sedan and a mortgage. Life was so blissfully simple.

Ah, but all good things must end. Adult life has its perks (namely, a paycheck and a house free of black mold… unlike the house I occupied in college), but it’s no college. No more do you spend each and every waking moment around your friends, and no more do you take impromptu road trips to the far-away Target. Everyone has jobs, many are married and have kids. Life goes on.

Nothing sums up my post-college feelings better than the Avenue Q song called “I Wish I Could Go Back to College.” 
Allow me to excerpt some lyrics:

I wish I could go back to college
In college you know who you are
You sit on the quad and think,
“Oh my God! I am totally gonna go far!”

The song ends with these lines:

But if I were to go back to college
Think what a loser I’d be.
I walk through the quad and think,
“Oh my GOD. These kids are so much younger than me.”

Walking through the mall (a patch of grass equivalent to a quad) at UMM, I felt exactly this way. Everyone around us was SO YOUNG, but it felt like James and I still belonged right there. College was the best, but there’s no going back.

Thanks for the memories, UMM.