Crawford Street Creepiness

Photo by matthewthecoolguy.

Since it’s Halloween, I thought I’d tell you about the creepiest thing(s) that’s ever happened to me. You would think I’d have lots of creepy stories, having grown up in a house that was built in the 1880’s, in a very small, historic town. Perhaps surprisingly, nothing much spooky ever really happened in that house. A couple weird things, but nothing that actually scared me. Maybe that’s a topic for another post.

During the summer of 2013, I moved out of an apartment and into a house, so Birdy could once again have her own back yard. The house was tiny — not much more than 700 sqft — but it had a nice-sized, fenced back yard with good trees, a second bedroom I could use as a craft/sewing room, a storage room plus attic space, and I figured, “How much space does one person really need?” It was built in the 1940’s — a post-war, cookie cutter, white box of a thing. I liked the vintage character and the hardwood floors.

There was trouble from the start.

A month or so after moving in, I got very sick. Sicker than I had been since I could even remember. High fever, chills, body aches, vomiting, sore throat. I was so weak, I could barely walk. My whole body just hurt. I laid in bed for days, thinking periodically, “I am going to have to get up and at least get something to drink so I don’t get dehydrated.” Then I piled my bedside table with bottles of water and Gatorade so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed. I was too weak to drive myself to the doctor’s office, and I kept thinking I would feel better the next day. My friend Camille* came over to check on me a couple times and made me take some essential oil capsules she’d made for me. When I finally made it to the doctor, he said it was flu, strep throat and walking pneumonia. Okay, no wonder I felt so bad. You’re probably thinking, “What does that have to do with the house?” Maybe nothing. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Or, maybe not.

About a month later, the same friend who had brought me the essential oil capsules went through a bitter divorce and needed a place to stay temporarily. So Camille and her cat, Squirt, moved into my second bedroom for a few months while she made preparations for moving to Australia. Camille is a small-statured person, but she is no glass flower. She grew up on hundreds of acres and knows how to hunt and shoot. She’s fiercely independent, strongly principled, and she can run in high heels.

A few weeks after Camille and Squirt moved in, I was at Robbie’s apartment one night. Around 10:00 pm, my cell phone rang. It was Camille. She said, “I think someone just tried to break into the house.”

“What?!” I said. “Are you okay? What happened?”

“I was in my bedroom, and all of a sudden, I heard this noise, like someone was holding the front door knob and violently shaking it in the frame. Birdy went into straight attack-mode, barking and growling, snarling, teeth bared, scratching at the door. I’ve never, ever seen her act like that. I grabbed my pistol and went to look out the peep hole, but I didn’t see anything. So I looked out the front window, and I didn’t see anyone in the yard, or walking down the street, or running away.”

I said, “That’s really strange. Maybe someone was going to break in and decided to see if the door was unlocked first?”

“Yeah, maybe,” she said. “But then why didn’t I see anyone outside? And why would they shake the door like that if they were just trying the lock?”

“I don’t know. Did you call the police?”

“Nah, they wouldn’t be able to do anything. No one actually broke in, and I didn’t even see a person to be able to give a description.”

I said, “Do you want me to come home? Are you scared to be there by yourself?”

“No, it’s okay,” she said. “The door’s locked, I’ve got my gun, and I’ve got Birdy Bodyguard on high alert. I’ll call you if something else happens.”

The next day, I filed a police report, thinking if someone was running around the neighborhood trying doors or breaking in, they might want to know about it and do some additional patroling or something. The officer’s response was, “Why didn’t y’all call the police when it happened? Why’d you wait until the next day?” I said, “Well, I wasn’t home, and my roommate didn’t see anyone, so she didn’t feel she was in any immediate danger.”

The officer said, “And you don’t think maybe it was just the wind?”

“It’s an old house, it has its creaks and cracks. But my roommate is a pretty tough cookie — she knows how to shoot, and she doesn’t scare easily. She definitely believed the noise was caused by a person shaking the door.”

“Okay,” he said. “We’ll assign some additional patrol in that neighborhood. It’s good to know in case anyone else over there starts having problems.”

The door shaking never happened again, but Camille did mention hearing things while she was home alone, like the back door opening and closing, when she knew I was at work, and the door was always locked. Or footsteps overhead in the attic.

A few months later, just before Camille moved to Australia, Robbie moved out of his apartment and into my house. Only a few weeks after moving in, Robbie got very sick. He laid on the couch with a high fever, his hair damp with sweat. It was possibly the only time he has ever missed watching an Alabama football game. It was the sickest he had been at least since I had known him, which at that time was over two years. And it was the sickest he could remember being for longer than that. Once he finally went to the doctor, they diagnosed him with the flu, strep throat, and walking pneumonia — the exact same diagnosis I had received just a few months earlier, when I was the house’s newest resident.

After that, we started hearing things regularly. Tapping on walls. Movement in the storage room. The lamp in the living room would go off by itself, and when someone reached over to turn the switch, it would come back on. One Saturday morning, we had slept late and were laying in bed, fully awake and about to get up, when we heard something sprint across the attic. Loud, heavy steps, like a person on two legs running hard. The house was drafty and poorly insulated, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if a squirrel had gotten into the attic through some small hole. But that was definitely not a noise a creature that small would produce.

One night, Robbie’s friend Roger stopped by to say hello and catch up. Robbie walked Roger to his car as he was about to leave. They stood in the driveway chatting for a little while longer. Roger told Robbie, “I better let you get back inside before Maegan gets mad at you for being out here so long! She’s looking for you.” He pointed at the living room window, where they could clearly see the shadow of a figure pulling a couple blinds apart to peep out.

A little while later, Robbie came back inside and said, “Sorry I was out there so long. You’re not mad are you? We saw you looking out the window.”

“What are you talking about?” I said. “I’ve been in bed since you walked outside.”

A short time later, strange things also began to happen around the neighborhood.

Our next-door neighbor, who was middle-aged and in fine health, died very suddenly after a bout with — you guessed it — pneumonia. Others around us seemed affected by something negative in the air. We witnessed an angry boyfriend-girlfriend argument happening across the street. A family had moved in on the other side of us, into the house on the corner — mom, dad, son, son’s girlfriend, and their infant son/grandson. They had frequent loud arguments and physical altercations that were usually drug-and-alcohol related. Once, Robbie went over to retrieve a tool he had loaned to them, and found the baby in its stroller, alone on the front porch. They police got to know our street very well in a few short months.

That family had constant dark, supernatural experiences in the house. Robbie is the never-met-a-stranger type of guy, and he had spent some time talking to them all and had heard their stories about feeling a negative presence, doors opening and closing, seeing a shadowy figure darting around. Something wasn’t right there. He went over there one night at the grandmother’s request, and he felt it and saw the shadow figure. He left quickly and said he felt like something was chasing him out of there and kept chasing until he got to our property line, then dropped back.

We started to wonder if maybe it wasn’t our house that had the problems, but that something on the corner was affecting not only the house, but also the general physical area. At the corner was a dried-up creek that came from across the other street and wound around behind our house as well, in some very overgrown and spooky woods.

One night I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of children laughing, flute music, and what sounded like someone tapping sticks together. It sounded like it was coming from the space in between our house and the corner house. One of our bedroom windows faced that area. I got out of bed and looked out the window. Nothing.

The next-door neighbor who died from pneumonia left behind a wife and a teenage son with a developmental disability named Ryan. Ryan was beloved by the whole neighborhood. He loved to garden and do yard work for everyone and preferred to get paid with twenty one-dollar bills instead of one twenty because it made him feel like he had more money if there were more pieces of paper. He played the drums in the band at their church and loved playing (and talking about) music. He was a huge Beatles fan, and we gave him a t-shirt for his birthday of the famous Abbey Road album cover photo. He was more excited about that t-shirt than the chocolate cake his mom bought. And he loooooooved chocolate.

When Ryan graduated from high school, our neighbor on the other side of them hosted a graduation party for him, and the whole neighborhood was invited. The whole neighborhood, with the exception of the new family on the corner with all the problems. They had a live band, which Ryan was super excited about, and lots of barbecue. I was sitting in the beautiful back yard garden (the host was a Japanese maple farmer), talking to Ryan about music and what he wanted to do now that he was a big fancy high school grad, when Robbie came barreling out the back door and said, “You need to get in here. It’s the baby.”

I ran inside and saw a group of people in the living room standing around the host, who was performing CPR on the baby from the corner house. The baby was gray. The host’s roommate was on the phone with 911. The baby’s father, Jason, had found the baby not breathing and ran with him up the street to the party because no one was at home — the whole street was there. Jason paced around, frantic, wailing, sobbing. The rest of the famiy arrived around the same time as the ambulance.

Realizing there was nothing we could do, and not wanting to be in the way, we walked back over to our house. The police came around questioning everyone who had been at the party. We told them what Jason had told us. He said the baby was sleeping on the couch, and his mother was in the room. He was in the bedroom, and his girlfriend was taking a shower. His mother called out to him that the baby didn’t look like it was breathing. He tried CPR and then ran with the baby up the street to get help. A few days later we learned that the baby had died. They determined that it was SIDS.

We did a lot of research trying to determine if there was possibly an Indian burial ground in the area but found nothing conclusive. We learned that Creek Indians (the tribe native to this area) established their communities on the banks of creeks, traditionally buried their dead underneath their dwellings, and held a Green Corn celebration around that time of year that might explain the strange noises I heard outside in the middle of the night.

We consulted a couple different people with knowledge and experience in the supernatural. We were given a concoction of herbs to put around the house that was supposed to ward off certain negative influences. We had readings in which we were told there was a dark spirit attached to the corner and to the creek that was affecting the entire area and that we should try to limit our interaction with the family who lived there, especially that we should not go into that house or allow any of them into ours, to stay away from the creek. We were told that there was also a protective spirit with us who would manifest physically if needed, and that we would understand when or if that happened.

One day, no one was at home at the house on the corner. I was at work. Robbie texted me a photo.


This dog that no one had seen before had appeared on the corner. It laid down in the grass across the street from the house, across from the creek. It crossed the street into the yard of the house (shown in the photo). It laid in that yard for a while. It investigated the yard and the woods behind and beside it. It walked up and down the street around the house, crossed over and went down into the wooded ravine where a portion of the creek bed ran (that’s the dark area in the photo).

Later, we saw Jason from next door at the gas station, and he said a big dog he’d never seen before had chased him on his bicycle. That he couldn’t get home for a while because the dog was in between him and the house.

None of us ever saw that dog before or since.

So, by this point, we had decided to sublease the house and move out. We found a great place on the other side of town, found a subleaser very quickly, and were happy to be getting away from all the negative vibes and bad juju. The day we moved to the new house, we had to make several trips back and forth across town because we didn’t want to rent a moving truck. It was an all-day affair, even with the three friends who volunteered to help, and by the time we had moved all the boxes over and were finishing up cleaning the empty house, it was dark out.

As Robbie was loading up the cleaning supplies, and we were ready to leave for the last time, it occured to me that my box of camping supplies was in the attic. It was the only thing I ever stored up there, because it wouldn’t be affected by temperature or moisture. Robbie said he would go up and get it, even though he hated going up there, and the attic ladder was a little rickety, and he was always afraid it would break on him. “It’s right at the top of the stairs,” I said. “You’ll be fine.” I went to the car and waited for him.

A few minutes later, Robbie came flying out the front door with the box, threw it in the car, jumped in, and said, “We have to get out of here right now. Go! Go!” I sped off towards the new house with Robbie practically hyperventilating beside me. I kept saying, “What’s wrong? What is it?” He couldn’t even speak. He was just like, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!”

Once we were safely at the new house, and everyone was a little calmer, I said, “Okay, what freaked you out?”

He said, “I went up to get that box, and I walked to the back part of the attic just to check and make sure we weren’t leaving anything else up there. There were pieces of carpet remnants on the floor, pieces of cardboard with stuff written on it that was not in any language I’m familiar with, and above that was an old-ass, dirty babydoll hanging upside down from a cord. I am not setting foot in that place, ever, ever again.”

The only time I’ve been back there was to clean after the subleasers moved out last month. The landlord’s son was there doing some repairs and yard work, but he left soon after I arrived. I was alone, cleaning in the kitchen. I heard tapping on the ceiling. And I left without finishing.

*Not her real name.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Photo via

Photo via

Every single time I make chocolate chip cookies, I am kinda disappointed. They taste pretty good, but the consistency is NEVER RIGHT. You know how mad I get when the cookie part spreads out really thin and crispy, and then you hit a burst of chocolate chip a couple times? I hate that. Or when they’re thick, but too hard? It’s so difficult to get it the way I like it!

So I’ve been experimenting for a while, combining different recipes and tips, and I’ve finally found it. The PERFECT (to me) chocolate chip cookie. The primary keys to this recipe are fiddling with the baking temperature, butter consistency, amount of chips, and size of the dough balls.

As I mentioned, I’m totally picky about my cookies. And Robbie doesn’t like sweets enough to eat something unless it’s awesome. But he gobbled these up. I really made them for us to munch on during our recent road trip up to North Carolina, and on the way back, Spencer (our little dog) was trying so hard to co-pilot from the middle console that he stood right on top of the cooler and crushed them into small pieces. Robbie’s response was, “Dammit, Spence! Is this the last bag?”

Unfortunately, it was, because I had left the rest at my parents’ house for them to enjoy. My mom is kind of a health food nut, so my dad is always pretty excited if anyone leaves him something to eat that is not a gluten-free rice cracker. So now we have one small ziplock bag of mostly broken cookies in the refrigerator that everyone is trying to avoid. So sad. Must make more immediately!

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 sticks melted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 whole package chocolate chips
I also threw in about 1/4 bag of Heath bits just because I found it in the pantry.

Mix everything together with a spoon (not electric mixer! *hand smack*). Place ping-pong-ball-sized balls of dough on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Or golf ball sized, or whatever your sport of choice for non-athletic people is. I don’t think the order of adding ingredients really matters, but I basically mixed all the dry stuff together and then added the wet ones, with the chips coming in last.

Here’s the important part: preheat the oven to 425, but as soon as you put in the pans, turn it down to 375. Bake 11-12 minutes. Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing. If you have to bake in more than one batch like I do because I don’t have enough pans, turn the oven back up to 425 each time before inserting the pans, then turn it back down to 375 while baking.

I think this temperature tweaking is the secret to the crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside miracle! I didn’t invent it, though. Like I said, I have been reading and trying different things, and this temperature fiddling was suggested on another blog. And it totally worked magic!

Easy Guacamole (No Measuring!)

Photo via

Photo via

Robbie makes tacos for dinner about twice a month, because he is the master of anything involving ground beef, and I just don’t prefer cooking with it for some reason. It’s not that it’s difficult. And I don’t mind eating it usually. I just think it’s weird. I don’t know why. We all have our quirks. For example, Robbie hates the way microfiber towels feel, and he can’t stand to touch loose change because it smells weird and is dirty. So, I am the change jar roller! And he is the ground beef cooker. And I no longer buy any type of microfiber towel. But anyway.

Robbie takes real pride in his secret seasoning combinations for steaks, burgers, taco meat, sloppy joes, and the like. And I find it totally impossible to cook refried beans properly, and he is actually very good at that, too. So, this is why he is in charge of taco night. Plus, I get to watch TV on the couch with my beer while he does all the work! Yassssss.

My ONLY job on taco night is to make the guacamole, which we use for dipping tortilla chips in while everything is cooking, and also for putting on our tacos as an extra condiment. Before he met me, Robbie had never had guacamole or avocados in any form (I KNOW!), and he claimed to not like it. He was afraid to try it the first time I made it for him. But I forced it into his mouth! Muahaha!

And he loved it. Now he asks for it any time we eat anything remotely related to Mexican cuisine. Sometimes I let him taste-test to make him feel like his opinion matters. Ha!

Funny story: Once, I tried to grow an avocado tree using the pit from an avocado I used to make guacamole. There are instructions on Pinterest for this. It started out really easy. Just skewer the pit with toothpicks and set it over a glass of water so it’s about half-submerged. It grows roots, then a stalk, then leaves, and then hopefully about seven years later you have fruit. Mine grew roots, and a stalk about three feet tall, but it never, ever grew any leaves. Everyone who came to our house asked why I had a stick in a flower pot. It did not make the move with us to the new house.

I am all about recipes that don’t require exact measurements. I’ve played around with different ways to make guacamole over the years and finally have a pretty good process that, in my opinion, is just as tasty (if not better) than the tiny $5 bowls you get at Mexican restaurants. The best part is that you don’t have to measure anything at all! Unless you are just very Type A and want to make sure it is totally perfect. I can relate to that, too.

Easy, No Measure Guacamole

2 avocados
2 tbsp salsa
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
On rare occasion, I also add a couple tablespoons of minced onion for a little crunch.
(All measurements are approximate!)

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit. Use a spoon to scoop the meat out into a bowl. Mash with a fork until you reach the consistency you like. Some people like their guac a little chunky; some people like it smooth and creamy. If it doesn’t mash easily with a fork because the avocados are not quite ripe enough, you can use a fork and a knife to cut it up into tinier, mashable pieces.

Stir in the salsa and sour cream. I don’t use the tablespoon from my measuring spoon set. I just use a spoon from my eating utensil drawer — not the small cereal spoon, but the larger one. Like the one you would use to mix ingredients. I have no idea if that is actually the same as the measuring tablespoon or not. It seems close.

For the other ingredients, I just cup my hand as if I was trying to collect a handful of water from a faucet. I fill up the little divot it makes in the center of my palm with each ingredient and dump it in, stirring to mix well. That’s it!

Obviously, you can taste it as you go and adjust the amounts according to what you like. I don’t let Robbie taste-test it anymore, because he always asks for more salt than I normally add. But when I just present it to him already finished, he never mentions it needing more salt. SO. THERE!

The lemon juice seems to help it from turning brown so quickly in the refrigerator, and I can keep it for about 2 days after it has been made to use for leftovers. Be sure to cover it with plastic wrap, though! Enjoy on your own Mexican dinner night at home! Because who can even afford to go out to eat anymore?

Chocolate Caramel Heath Bar Cake

Photo via Taste of Home

Photo via Taste of Home

When Robbie and I were in North Carolina this past week visiting my parents for a few days, my mom had made this cake for us to munch on during our stay. She knows we are both big Heath Bar fans — I made Robbie a Heath Bar cheesecake for his last birthday cake and may have eaten more of it than he did.

I’m not sure where she originally found the recipe. There are several versions of it online, but I’m posting this one because she (of course) tweaked it to suit her better, and when I make it for us now that we’re back home, I am not going to change even one single thing! Robbie told her it was THE BEST CAKE HE HAS EVER HAD. We both raided the refrigerator every night around midnight, like teenagers with the munchies, tiptoeing around so we didn’t wake any adults, whispering, and giggling. Robbie’s tip for sneaking around: always walk on the balls of your feet!

Here is Vicko’s version (in her own words) of this amazing, gooey, chocolatey, candyriffic, moist, fluffy deliciousness.

Chocolate Caramel Heath Bar Cake

1 box Devil’s Food cake mix
1 1/4 c. diet Coke
1 egg (calls for 1 egg white, but I used whole egg)
Mix with mixer on low for 1 min. Pour into sprayed 13×9 pan. Bake at 350 25-30 min. until done.

6 oz. fat free caramel ice cream topping
1/2 can fat free sweetened condensed milk (OOPS! I used a whole can!!! No wonder it was SO gooey! Do what you want)
Bag of Heath Bar Bits
8 oz. Cool Whip Fat Free

Heat (don’t boil) over med. low heat, stirring until smooth. Do this about 10 min. before cake is done. You want it to be very warm as you spoon over cake. Poke holes in cake when you get it out of oven and pour/spoon this over as evenly as you can. I use Kebab skewers to poke. Sprinkle 1 c. Heath Bar bits over top. Let cool completely. Cover with 8 oz cool whip and sprinkle 1/4 to 1/2 c. heath bits over top. Keep in refrigerator. Such a good cake!

Cheap Craft Projects! Bookshelf Makeover


I found this little white bookshelf on Craigslist for $8 (talked her down to $5)! it was the perfect size to fit into an empty space in the guest bedroom of our new house, but a little too plain on its own. So, I was off to Walmart to procure some supplies to spruce it up a little!

I’ve seen a lot of projects online where people use scrapbook paper or fabric to cover the inside of bookcases and have always wanted to try that. Usually it is decoupaged, but I don’t really have any experience with the Modge Podge, and I am always looking for an easier way to do any kind of project, as long as it doesn’t affect the results.

I was looking for fabric in a color that would coordinate with the Alabama football theme that Robbie wanted for the new guest room. Even though I’m an Auburn fan, and our house is completely divided, I consented to this because it’s the closest thing he has to a man-cave, and also because his mother is our primary overnight guest, and she is just as big of an Alabama fan as he is.

Trust me, I’m not exactly *thrilled* about having a football-themed room, but I figured if I could take control of the decorating, it will at least turn out tastefully. But I’m also trying to choose things Robbie will like, and things that are neither too masculine- or feminine-looking. It’s so hard trying to make everyone happy, especially when it comes to decorating!

For those of you who are not familiar with SEC football, The University of Alabama’s colors are crimson, white, black, and gray. I found this fabric at Walmart. It has varying shades of gray with a white background. The pattern is a little modern, and sort of trippy. I knew Robbie would approve of that, because for some reason he is drawn to psychedelic fabric patterns that look like an acid trip.

The bookshelf is only about 2′ x 3′, and two fat quarters were all the fabric I needed for the back. (A fat quarter is a pre-cut, pre-packaged 1/4 of a yard.) I considered using fabric glue or hot glue to attach it, but I dislike the messiness of both and was afraid it would be hard to get it straight and flat. So I bought some permanent fabric adhesive tape, which is sold in the sewing supplies section. It comes in a small roll, and there are different brands and sizes. Look for something like this:


I laid out both pieces of fabric flat, with the right side down, and taped along each edge of the wrong side. This tape is used like any double-sided tape you might use for paper crafts, where the tape is covered by a waxy strip that you peel away after laying the tape where you want it. But this stuff is much heavier-duty and thicker. And stickier. It helps to press the tape down firmly on whatever it is being applied to, before peeling away the paper strip. If you don’t, sometimes the sticky part comes back up with the paper strip.

Once I had all my tape pieces applied to the first piece of fabric, I laid the bookshelf down flat on its back. I removed the paper strip from only one edge of the fabric, so I could make sure each edge was centered and the fabric was pulled tight without the rest of it sticking down in the wrong spot.

The fabric was about an inch too short in width to cover the entire back of the bookshelf, so I eyeballed it to make sure it was centered and flush with the top edge of the inside back. After pressing down the one taped edge I had removed the backing from, I repeated this process on the other three edges one at a time, carefully pulling the fabric tight and smoothing it while pressing down on the adhesive strip.

With the other piece of fabric, I did the same thing, only starting from the bottom edge. I really could have measured the empty spot and cut the second piece of fabric to exactly match that space. But that was too much trouble, so I just overlapped it in the middle. Since the fabric has a busy pattern, and there will be shelves (and things on the shelves) in front of it, I didn’t figure it would be that noticeable. I just had to make sure that the pattern matched up in the overlapped area, which wasn’t too hard because it wasn’t that complicated of a pattern.

That was it! Covering only the back and not the sides meant that I didn’t have to worry about where the shelf brackets were. I did that on purpose because I didn’t want to measure and cut holes for them in the side fabric. I think it looks just fine with only the back covered.

After reattaching the shelves, I thought it needed just a little something else, so I decided to do a trim. I purchased a pack of 200 silver thumbtacks and used them to create this faux nail-head trim on the front edges of each shelf, and the top and bottom edges of the bookshelf’s frame.


I just eyeballed the spacing and used a hammer to tap them in securely. So they are not all perfectly spaced or lined up, and the perfectionist and symmetry-lover in me is somewhat bothered by that, but I am trying to accept that it looks pretty good despite not being completely perfect. I think it would also look cool without space in between the “nail heads,” so if you want to eliminate the space in yours and have a more solid-line effect, you will need more than 200 thumbtacks, so purchase the next size up. I didn’t have many left over.

So that was it! And now I have a cute little bookshelf for the guest room! I set those family photos on top just because I didn’t have another place for them, but they may not stay there. And I haven’t really decided if I’ll put books or knick-knacks on it yet. Maybe both. I want to keep it kinda sparsely filled so the fabric still shows.

Thrifted bookshelf from Craigslist: $5.00
2 fat quarters of fabric: $0.97 each
Permanent adhesive fabric tape: $3.97
200 silver thumbtacks: $1.88

Grand total: Approximately $15.00 for a new piece of custom furniture, with only about an hour’s worth of work.

Mimi is coming today for Thanksgiving, so I am super excited that she gets to try out the new guest room for the first time! I think it looks really cozy and cute, and I’ll do another post with more pictures of the other decorations soon.

Life is Weird


It’s been so long since I’ve updated my blog, I don’t even know how to navigate the new and improved WordPress dashboard. I’ve literally been so consumed with living in each moment for the last three years or so that I have neglected my online diary and left a lot of things forgotten. After reading back through my blog from beginning to end over the last few days, I can say the best thing about having it is all the things I documented that I have by now forgotten about because I don’t retain things. I don’t know why this is. I first became aware of this tendency my junior year of college.

My friend Mandy, who was my best friend in high school that ended up at the same college as me eventually (after we both transferred in) got a crazy idea when I took a basic video production class that allowed me to have a very large, clunky video camera in my possession for the semester. We went back home and videotaped our old stomping grounds and common driving routes. We wandered around the dorm we both lived in, chatting with people on camera about nothing. A few years afterwards, I watched the video and literally had no memory of experiencing anything we captured.

We took the camera with us on spring break to Fort Lauderdale, FL and filmed our group of friends on vacation. Doing nothing special. Blow-drying our hair to get ready to go out to dinner at a cool restaurant on A1A Beachfront Avenue. Preparing for a day on the beach, to go para-sailing, singing along to Ricky Martin videos on MTV. Capturing the view from our penthouse suite overlooking the ocean, secured on the cheap due to Mandy’s work-study job on campus. The dining hall was run by Sodexho, which was owned by Marriott. As a dining hall employee, she was entitled to the corporate perks available to any Marriott employee. So a group of us went to Florida for a week and stayed in a luxury suite on the beach with roof-top pools, all for something like $50 per person. Probably the nicest hotel suite I’ve ever stayed in. And I was only 20. I tried my fake ID at a little beach-side bar down the road — the same one that worked like a charm back home. The server laughed.

I only remember these things because we recorded them, and I watched them multiple times later on. Going back and looking at my blog, I have no memory of so much of my life that I obviously felt important enough to document in some way. I’m so glad I did, because there is a lot of cool shit I forgot about.

Life has changed a lot for me since moving to Alabama. The “new economy” is a different animal, fraught with minimal opportunity and low wages. It took me a couple years, but after working in a restaurant for much longer than desired, I finally found another professional job that is semi-related to my past work experience. Even though I now make less money than I did starting out with no experience ten years ago. Apparently, that is the current state of the economy, and it’s not changing any time soon.

I used to run the marketing department of one of the largest and most successful real estate companies in my city. Now, I work for a property management company in the leasing office of an apartment home community. My immediate supervisor is 12 years younger than I am. I am only a part-time employee, with no paid time off and benefits so crappy I opted for the Affordable Care Act’s offerings instead. But I also work on commission, without which I would not be able to afford all of my living expenses. Things are manageable. There is no room for emergencies or errors or savings.

Sadly, my many years of experience and knowledge and education do not mean anything and are hardly recognized. These days, it’s all about who will do the work of three people for the least amount of money. Skills are actually a drawback now. Skills and experience mean you think you deserve more money, but your company is perfectly willing to hire someone with no skills or experience as long as they will work for less pay/hours/benefits. So you take what you can get, and you just accept the years of setback and get up when your alarm goes off.

But I am doing okay. I am healthy and happy. I have good people in my life. I have someone I love and who loves me. These last two or three years have been some of the most difficult in my life. But I have learned a lot about myself and about other people. And I am very fortunate to have a house with a fenced back yard for the dogs, a boyfriend who tells and shows me every day that he loves me, friends I enjoy spending time with, a boss who is fair and enjoyable to work with, a supportive family.

This is a catching up post, but I promise the future ones will be more positive and hilarious! I’ve got so much to tell you guys.

Smilefest Reunion 2011

I made a trip up to North Carolina last month to see some friends and visit with my family. The primary purpose was to go to Smilefest. This year was my fifth or sixth going to that festival, I believe. I’ve been to it in three different locations now, and the latest one, while still not quite my favorite, is definitely great. My favorite was when it was in Union Grove on Van Hoy Farms. Least favorite was at Deerfields outside Asheville. Of course, I love that area, but that park is not conducive to festivals whatsoever. We bitched the entire time about having to hike our stuff in for miles (even though there were flatbeds to ease the walk if you could catch one). It was still ridiculous, and I’m not a fan of sleeping in a tent pitched on a nearly vertical mountainside. This year, for the second year in a row, it’s been held at Jomeokee Campground in Pinnacle, right at the foot of Pilot Mountain. It’s a beautiful site, and they’ve kept the ticket sales semi-private for people who have been before (hence the “reunion” moniker), so you end up with people who know how not to act a fool, and who are experienced festival-goers and are there to enjoy the music (okay, and also have a little fun).

As usual, we heard a lot of really awesome music and drank a lot of beer and camped and got real dirty for a few days. I live for those weekends. Good times with good friends. Met a lot of awesome new people too. Saw folks I only ever see at Smilefest (another reason why it’s like a reunion). Here are some pictures my good friend Jenny took, since I have none of my own to share because I didn’t take any. You can check out the Facebook page of her photography business (Dancing Lemur Design) here. She is really good, and you should “like” her.

Me and my flip flops on my patchwork quilt, enjoying the band, Doby.

Every year, every location, they always have these cool windows and bottles hung in the trees.

Our buddy Kelly with his friend Laura, enjoying some muscadine moonshine.

Me trying to figure out how I’m gonna get a queen-size air mattress into my 2-man tent. Travis totally did it, and it was like my own private bouncy castle. Awesomeness.

Always love the hula-hoopers and wish I still had mine. Unfortunately not everything can make the cut when you move. I would like to investigate the collapsible options, though.

We had a huge campsite set up, with about eight people camping together, complete with four or five easy-up tents. We basically created an open-air house. One tent was just the kitchen area. One was the sitting room. We dubbed it “Cabanapyland.” The Jerry tapestry provided a little shade and privacy. In this picture, I’m standing in the living room. LOL. We had not one, but two solar showers. And, because we are seasoned veterans and smartipantses, we totally camped right beside a pole with a power outlet and a water spigot. SCORE!

Here’s a nice shot of the main stage with Pilot Mountain in the background. So pretty. Great time. Can’t wait til next year!

Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness

Ron Swanson, on Parks & Recreation, is truly one of my all-time favorite television characters. Do I agree with everything he says? Not even close. Do I admire his stalwart dedication to his own principles, and his general attitude of “I do what I want, and I get away with it, because I am Ron Effing Swanson?” Absolutely. He is also a decent person underneath it all. If I could get a beer with anyone on the planet, he would be at the top of my list. I loved the “Pyramid of Greatness” episode, and I decided there are probably some Swansonites out there who would appreciate seeing it all listed out, so here it is. Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness.

If you need it defined, you don’t have it.

The only country that matters. If you want to experience other “cultures,” use an atlas or a ham radio.

Whenever available. Choose quantity over quality.



Welfare Avoidance

Work together as if your life depended on it…IT DOES!

Take what’s yours.

3 acceptable styles: high and tight, crew cut, and buzz cut.

Greatness Itself
The best revenge.

The ability to repeat a boring thing over and over again.

Shorts over 6″ are capri pants. Shorts under 6″ are European.

Trust yourself.

Do not trust anyone else.

Skim Milk
That’s right, it’s on here twice. Avoid it.

Cow Protein

Pig Protein

Chicken Protein

Romantic Love

Deer Protein


Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that.

Should be thick and impenetrable.

Old Wooden Sailing Ships
They’re beautiful.

Cultivating a manly musk puts your opponents on notice.

Don’t waste energy moving unless necessary.

Skim Milk
Avoid it.

There’s only one bad word: Taxes. If any other word is good enough for sailors, it’s good enough for you.

One to three is sufficient.

Property Rights
They exist. Do not let them be taken away from you.

Building walls makes you strong. Defending them makes you even stronger.

A place to rest that is made of logs.

Only sweat during physical activity or love making. No emotional sweating.

You are your biggest ally.

Acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.

Physical Fitness

Cut the B.S.

God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.

Facial Hair
Full, thick, and square. Nothing sculpted. If you have to sculpt it, that probably means you can’t grow it.

Living in the Woods
Live off the land.

One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.

Secure the land.

Sting like a bee. Do not float like a butterfly. That’s ridiculous.

Firm, dry, solid. 3 seconds.

Body Grooming
Only women shave beneath the neck.

Movies: Secretariat, Cedar Rapids, and True Grit

I avoided watching Secretariat for a long time, even after it became available for free on my Netflix Watch Instantly. The previews made it look completely cheesy, and it is a Disney movie. I finally broke down and watched it last weekend, because I just needed a distraction from some current stress in my life, and sometimes Disney movies are useful for triggering a good cry. Okay, it is completely cheesy, but it was so enjoyable. I love horse movies — I’ve seen Seabiscuit countless times. I think this is because it reminds me of how excited my mom gets on Triple Crown race days. She used to show and ride horses when she was young, and she knows all the small details to point out before, during, and after the races that make watching it a lot of fun for people who don’t know that much about the sport.

Secretariat is a great underdog movie, like a lot of Disney movies tend to be. Overcoming obstacles, staying true to your convictions, strength in the face of adversity. As cliched as it might be, these are still things that inspire me, and things I need reminders about sometimes. I was a little perplexed at first by the casting of John Malkovich as the trainer, but he turned out to be great and more lovable than just about any other character he’s ever played. I would have appreciated it if Diane Lane’s character (the horse’s owner) had been a little less one-dimensional. She was portrayed like the greatest saint who ever lived, who could do no wrong. I would have sympathized with her character’s difficulties more if she had come off like more of an actual human. And this is what you would expect from a Disney movie, and one of the reasons I had avoided it. But I was actually really moved by the race segments of the movie, when Secretariat came from last place and won by distances so great that no other race horse has ever come close to touching his records. He is, to this day, THE GREATEST RACE HORSE THAT EVER LIVED. During the race scenes, I was yelling from the couch and freaking out my dog, and when he won, I cried. Even though I knew the story, and I knew he was going to win. I admit it; I still cried. And you know what? I would totally watch it again.

Cedar Rapids…meh. I love Ed Helms, and I thought he was great in it, but it wasn’t quite as funny as I had hoped. Yes, it was quirky, but the characters were all a little silly. The plot was not that interesting when it came down to it. I liked the outcome/ending, and I was smiling when it was over, but it felt like a long time of waiting for that to happen in the last ten minutes. Also, Anne Heche? She’s still alive? Really? She should go back into hiding.

Oh, True Grit. I’m really not into Westerns, but I try to watch the Best Picture Oscar nominees every year. I love Jeff Bridges. But Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger…weird. The little girl was annoying as hell. I could not get into the plot at all. Again, the last fifteen minutes of the movie were good, but leading up to that it felt extremely slow. Maybe it would have helped if I had seen the original. Maybe not. It had pretty cinematography, and the costumes and sets were pretty amazing. And maybe it’s a testament to my adult ADD that I have trouble sitting through a movie anymore, but this one was just not for me. I was still holding out hope for liking it until they shot a horse. Can’t handle it!


Fourth of July 2011

Yes, even though I post misanthropic things about government and politics at times, I still celebrate the Fourth of July. Well, sort of. I mean, I go to celebrations, and I enjoy them. I don’t feel particularly patriotic about it, and never have, with the exception of July 4, 2002, when everyone was still feeling patriotic on a daily basis after the events of 9/11/01. I bought a Boston Pops CD then, and the music made me cry. It was a good release. I still have it on my iPod, and I listen to it every Fourth of July, but it hasn’t stirred the same emotion since then.

This year was my first Fourth of July in Alabama. One of my friends’ coworkers invited us out to her house at Lake Martin for a get-together involving grilled meats, tossed footballs in the driveway, and jubilant children passing out tiny flags for waving. As it turned out, the husband of said coworker has family and roots in North Carolina, although they came here via Michigan most recently. We had a great time talking about differences in barbecue and between the Deep South and the “regular” South. How people are mistaken when they call a cookout a “barbecue,” how we both get challenged on whether North Carolina is even “the South” on a regular basis. (Seriously, have you people never heard of the Mason-Dixon Line? Can you not hear the way I speak?) There were some other coworkers of theirs present with their families and some neighbors from the street passing in and out.

I am a big fan of being near any body of water, no matter how large or small. So, I was very excited when we decided to caravan from their house on a small peninsula down to the neighborhood docks. What a beautiful spot of Earth! We sat out over the water, drinking beers, watching the sunset, craning our necks up at amateur fireworks being set off all around us, and watching kids and dogs swim merrily in the lake nearby. It was breezy and balmy and felt amazing. I can totally see why people dig living out there in the heat of an Alabama summer.

Lake Martin is about 40 minutes from where we live in Auburn, mostly two-lane back roads with nary a house in sight. It always sort of amazes me at how rural everything is here as soon as we get out of the city limits, particularly going west. I don’t feel like I live in the middle of nowhere, but it only takes driving for fifteen minutes to discover that in fact, I do.

According to my research, Lake Martin is actually a lot bigger than I thought it was when I was there. It’s about 40,000 acres and is actually one of the largest artificial lakes in the United States. I’m guessing I thought it was smaller because of the way it’s shaped, dipping in and out of many small peninsulas. I kept thinking I was looking across to the other side of the lake, but I think I was just looking across to other peninsulas. In a way, it reminded me of Lake Lure, which I grew up near in North Carolina, but without the mountains. Only Lake Lure is about 800 acres. Okay, so really not at all the same except they’re both lakes with houses and boats and docks.

Very interestingly, both Lake Lure and Lake Martin feature a rock formation called “Chimney Rock.” Here’s where I get to brag about mine. Alabama’s Chimney Rock is about 60 feet tall, and people jump off it into the water. Which sounds really frickin’ fun. But our Chimney Rock, in North Carolina, is 315 feet, and sits at a mountain-top elevation of 2,280 feet. You do not jump off that. You stand at the top and survey your 75-mile panoramic view. And yes, while a couple people have died jumping off Alabama’s Chimney Rock over the years, and it’s always possible because shit happens, I guarantee you if you jump off our Chimney Rock in North Carolina, you will absolutely die. No two ways about it.

Here’s a pic of Chimney Rock in Alabama:

Here’s the Chimney Rock I grew up with in North Carolina:

Incidentally, I think the North Carolina one looks a lot more like a chimney than Alabama’s. Although for years I’ve thought it looked more like a penis than anything else. Juuuuuuust sayin’!

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