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. 

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.