Raving About Changes

Much has been happening recently, not that it is evident by my posting schedule here. (That is, being busy doesn’t decrease my update frequency when posts are so rare anyway.) The biggest change is that I recently relocated to Burlington, VT to start a new job. Still a Web Dev—and actually really a Front-end Dev with none of that pesky backend work—but on an entirely different playing field.

I can’t say how that will affect this little piece of Internet real estate. It probably won’t much (see comment about post frequency above). But I did want to share a bit of professional development with you.

My new company is crazy about creating raving fans. They never directly referenced it, but I have a feeling this tenet of their philosophy has origins in the early-90s book Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service. Coincidentally, I happened upon a copy that Carl owns when we were boxing up our house.

It was a quick read, but really too cutesy-parable for my taste. It could have been condensed to a blog post shorter than this one, but of course that doesn’t turn into money (and such a thing didn’t even exist in 1993).

So, in short, to create a raving fan you:

Create a vision of what you want to provide, so clear you can see it vividly when you close your eyes.

Find out what your customers (or potential customers) want.

Find a way to make your vision mesh with what your customers want, but don’t be afraid to tell them to look elsewhere if they expect something that is beyond the scope of your vision.

Always deliver more than what they expect, consistently. Always work to better your delivery, a little bit at a time.

Once you do, that raving fan will go out and evangelize for you.

My goal for 2013 Q3 is to get a great start in my new position by creating raving fans of my work.

Do you strive to create raving fans?

Handling Burnout?

Caveat lector: this is not a helpful post. In fact, I’m asking for your help. See, I keep getting burnt out with Web dev. I’ll get to work on a quick project that makes the skies open and the angels sing in my head, then get stuck in months-long back-end dev coding more akin to Dante’s seventh circle of Hell than a desirable career.

Oh, there have been a few bits of fun work, like branching my sewing blog onto its own domain with a custom WP theme and design, based again on the HTML5 Boilerplate project. Of course, aside from about $.02 in ad revenue per month, that’s not a paying gig.

But I also turned down a freelance project or two, knowing that taking them on would send me spiraling into another burnout-induced crappy paranormal-romance reading binge. (Well, really that’s a good thing: being in the position to say “no” to clients and projects you don’t want to deal with right now, but still, indicative of burnout to some extent.)

And some days, when I have to explain JS library dependencies and script ordering for the umpteenth time and find myself saying ”do not include multiple JS libraries unless you absolutely have to and for heaven’s sake why do you have four versions of jQuery included on this page!?!?” again, I just want to scream, run out into the cold central NY winter and curl into the fetal position until a snow drift buries me (or scream, run home and pet all my pretty fabrics I want to make stuff out of, then curl into a ball and read).

How do you deal with it? I have coping skills, but they seem to be growing ever more ineffectual. What do you do, when another minute of backtracing someone else’s bunk PHP project is another minute too much, and you’d rather be making things pretty with efficient, elegant CSS but, of course, that’s not in the budget so you just have to deal with the twenty nested tables that a “Web developer” (a.k.a. someone who knew enough to get in trouble and decided to open up a side business) coded two years ago? What gets you out of the funk, motivated to finish the project?

Alright, lunch time is over, the high of completing stage 1 of a new project is quickly fading—now back to the maintenance trenches of a poorly planned project that haunts me in my sleep.

A List Apart: The Survey 2010

For the past couple of years, A List Apart has run a survey for those of us who create the Web. They collect stats about location, type of work, etc. It’s quick to take, and the information is helpful. Go take it or view the findings from last year.

Why is it important? Well, personally, I’m just kinda nosey and intrigued by data sets and enjoy seeing what the world of Web dev looks like. According to A List Apart:

We hope that making this data available will have a positive effect on best practices and employment, and will enhance public understanding of, and respect for, our profession.

So go on, and help them out for 2010.

Rebuilding My Closet

I gave away a ton of clothing. Two weeks ago, I talked about the beginning of my journey to clean out and revitalize my wardrobe. The purging has been done, but now the task of rebuilding it has begun. It all started with the concept that life will be better if I have less stuff. Compared to some people, I didn’t have a lot of clothes, but I had more than I need and far too many that didn’t fit right or that I never wore. So, those items are gone. But, now I have fewer clothes than I need, thanks to the not fitting right bit. Or, I should say, I don’t have the right clothes that I need.

What is left

I’m breaking the list down into casual, professional, and special occasion. Currently, most of the casual doubles as professional thanks to a Developer’s dress code, but I want to dress more professionally. More on that later.


  • 6 solid-color fitted t-shirts: (purple, black, white, gray, yellow, blue)
  • 2 fitted t-shirts with a design (ivory, green)
  • 3 long sleeved shirts, one green, two black, one with a design on the left breast
  • 2 v-neck sweaters (cranberry* and pale green)
  • 1 cowl-neck sweater (beige)†
  • 2 hooded sweaters (1 green, 1 white zip-up)†
  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 1 pair denim shorts
  • 1 pair black knit wide-leg capri-length pants
  • 1 white linen button-up


Photo of my professional clothing

Here are all seven items of professional clothing that I own. The browns look like they match a bit better here than they do in real life.

  • 1 pair of black pants
  • 1 pair of brown pants*
  • 1 pair of khaki slacks*
  • 1 brown knit 3/4 sleeve shirt*
  • 1 light gray v-neck sweater*
  • 1 brown half-button-up shirt
  • 1 gray striped button-up shirt*

Special Occasion

  • 1 magenta shirt
  • 1 black dressy tank top shirt
  • 1 LBD
  • 1 black silk georgette shrug
  • 1 brown dress with pink dots that is my go-to wedding guest dress
  • 1 white dress with brown and salmon flower design

Other (sports, outerwear, etc…)

I thought about leaving out my cycling clothes and things like that, but for full disclosure, I feel like I should include them as well. So, here’s the other stuff. Wardrobe minimalists are cringing at this point.

  • 5 camis (black, gray, brown, tan, ivory)—required under some of my sweaters, but not exactly intimates.
  • 2 pair cycling shorts
  • 2 short sleeve cycling jerseys
  • 1 long sleeve cycling jersey
  • 2 hoodies
  • 2 fleece pullovers
  • 2 pair sweatpants
  • 3 pair pj pants (this may be a bit overkill, yes)
  • 1 black wool winter coat

* items that I would like to replace
† items I wear but that fall into a category that I could do without. These may or may not be replaced once they’re worn out.

What will join

A new trend on blogs I read is the “six item challenge” where participants choose six clothing items (generally excluding intimates) and wear only those six items for 30 days. I’m not willing to be that drastic, but the  concept is very much in line with the decluttered lifestyle: have the basics; you don’t need anything else. So, as I begin to rebuild, that is the goal I’m aiming for: basics that all work together. From here on, if it is joining my wardrobe, it has to fit these guidelines.

  • I have to like it, maybe even love it. I can’t just be lukewarm about it.

    In the past, I ended up with things I didn’t like because I was forced to go buy something for a specific need, usually with short notice. One goal of this wardrobe revamp is to have the basics that will suit pretty much any occasion, removing the need for last minute “I have nothing to wear” shopping.

  • It has to fit correctly.

    I vowed not to wear clothing that is ill fitting. I will allow myself to buy things that need slight tailoring, like say, shortening pants legs or skirt hems, but I have to tailor as soon as I buy it. No “I’ll get around to it.” It enters the house, it gets tailored right then. If I change weight or body shape, clothing needs to be tailored or tossed.

  • It has to be quality.

    Not that decent quality can’t come from cheaper stores, but if I’m buying it, it needs to last. That means things like a suit, if I buy one, likely won’t be from a discount store. If I can’t afford it, I can probably make it. Sure, that will still be more expensive than a discount store, but I know the quality will be better. In the long run, quality items will last, whereas I will spend just as much money having to repeatedly replace cheap trendy ones.

  • It has to match multiple items that are already in my wardrobe.

    I once bought a dressy/professional jacket that I loved and fit well, but never wore it because it clashed with all the bottoms I owned. Even if it matched one pair of pants, it would still be a waste because it would be limited. The idea of having a small wardrobe requires that things can be mixed and matched. Creating that requires not buying things that don’t already match things you own.

Other goals:

  1. Treat my clothing better. I have a bad habit of tossing stuff on the floor of the bedroom when I take it off. It will lay there for days, then get thrown into a large load with no paying attention to like colors, special needs, or whether it should be dried or not. A merino wool sweater that I loved got dried, making it about the right size for a ten year old. And that’s only one example of many. I vow to treat my clothes with the respect they deserve so that they’ll last.
  2. Dress more professionally. By day, I’m a web developer for a local small company. Our office dress code is basically “don’t look like a slob, and try not to wear jeans when we have clients coming to the office.” Most days, I wear jeans and fitted tees to work. But, I think that puts me at a disadvantage. It makes me look like a developer. Sure, that’s what I am now, but I don’t plan on being a code monkey forever. I have management experience and the desire to do something with that. I have the want and competence to do something that doesn’t mean sitting in a cube all day. Dressing like I am in a position like that now, and being comfortable with it means I’ll be that much more comfortable and ready to take on what I aspire to.
  3. Look more put together. This is kind of a mashup of the first two items on this list. I have a habit of leaving the house in clothes that have stains or tears that I don’t notice until I get to work. If I took better care of my clothing, I would realize this and get them cleaned properly or repair them. And looking like a slob doesn’t look professional.

Ok, so “what will join” still hasn’t been answered. That’s because I don’t entirely know. To start with, I’ll pinpoint problem areas.

What is currently wrong

True minimalists out there are probably thinking that I still have too many clothes. They might be right. But it seems like I don’t have enough to wear, because there’s a major issue with my professional clothes: the black/brown clash.

I can’t argue that I’m set for casual clothes. But if you take a look at my professional clothes, it turns out that I really only have 5 outfits, rather than 12 if all the tops and bottoms matched. And what’s worse is that of those five, I only consider two of them to be on the more business end of business casual.

This issue isn’t restricted to the professional clothes either; it extends to special occasion. My two non-LBD dresses are both non-sleeved and brown-based, but my only dressy jacket/shrug is black. Part of the reason I have so much brown-based stuff is that I like brown. But brown doesn’t match black very well. Also, brown has a bad habit of not matching other browns. My brown shirts and pants are all different shades. Some of them go okay together, but others don’t. That is severely limiting. I need to either stick to wearing browns just casually (they go great with jeans), or find shades that don’t clash with black pants. They do exist, they’re just rare.

Another issue is that with the exception of my black pants, the truly professional clothes I have I don’t like, and the others are pretty casual. So everything new for the next little while will be professional. The goal: tops that will work with black, gray, brown and khaki pants. That way, I can mix up the pant styles, but not be limited to a specific shirt and pant combination.

What’s on the shopping* list

I have two lists: high-priority and low priority. The first is short, simple and rounds out my wardrobe basics. The second is icing on the cake or replacing things in the non-professional section that I’m not entirely happy with.

High Priority

  • 1 pair of pants. I’m not sure if they’ll be black, brown, gray or khaki.
  • 2 non-sweater dress shirts (preferably that can be worn with or without a jacket), that will work in any season (if layered with jacket or cardigan).
  • 1 v-neck sweater

The pale green sweater I listed under casual can be professional with professional bottoms. Between that, my existing black pants and the four items on the shopping list, I will have eight professional outfits. While that’s only three more than I currently have, it is accomplished with two fewer clothing items. The four purchased items will replace six other items, only one of which I actually like–and it needs to be replaced because of wear.

Low Priority

  • 1 more night-on-the-town shirt. I kind of want to sew up the one in this image. Image of satin wraparound shirt This would be new, not replacement, and slightly dressier than the magenta shirt I have.
  • 1 more casual/business casual sweater to replace the cranberry one I have.
  • 1 cardigan that matches all the business tops, or at least any that could be worn with a cardigan (will replace one of the hooded sweaters in the casual list, likely the green.) Extra points if it can go with the two brown dresses as well.
  • 1 pair of comfortable, non-jean casual pants to replace the black knit ones. I’m thinking linen with a drawstring waist. In fact, I have the linen and pattern, I just need to get my butt in gear.
  • 1 shirt in the exact style of the brown knit one listed under professional. I want to copy it, because I love it. It’d be a casual shirt though, and replace one of the fitted tees. It’s perfect for fall/spring.
  • Replacing undies and bras. I have enough that fit, but some are showing their age.

I also want to get a suit, but it’s not top priority. I’ll probably save the money and look around until I find one that I really like in a classic style. I’m thinking jacket, pants and pencil skirt. For now, black pants, dressy shirts and sweaters will suffice for professional use.

*At least for the low priority list, if it’s not a sweater, it may be made instead of purchased, so not exactly “shopping.”

What’s on your list?

So, enough about me… are you working on minimizing your wardrobe? Amazed that someone can exist with so few clothes? Think I’m redefining “few” with something closer to “too many”? What do you define as basics?

My next project? Getting Carl to let me do the same thing to his wardrobe. He has few enough clothes, but most of his pants need replacing due to wear or being too large. (Have you ever tried to find 30/31″ x 34″ pants? I’m starting to think it’s not possible. If you know where they’re hiding, please let me know!) Injecting some professional into his wardrobe wouldn’t hurt, either. It really all hinges on pants that fit and are a style he likes. I’m in love with a sartorially-picky beanpole.

Remembering my Grandparents

This year has been a difficult one. I lost two of my grandparents in the first half of it. It seemed like every time I visited my family, I had to turn around and fly home two weeks later for a funeral. They’re both greatly missed, as are all of my other grandparents that have passed away. With all the renovations I’ve been doing on this site and the content I’ve been putting out, I’ve been reminded how much they taught me—much of which is vital to the topics I write about here. So, here’s a post in memory of my grandparents, and a little more about the lessons they instilled in me.

Grandma Edie

Though I called her just “Grandma,” Grandma Edie was actually my great-grandmother. She passed away this June. She was my last living grandparent that I was very close to. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at her house and even stayed there some times during college breaks. Without her, chances are that all my posts about sewing wouldn’t exist. She taught me a lot about sewing, and I logged many hours on her machine while visiting. Her stash was always open to me, as were her wise words and helping hands.

Sewing wasn’t the only skill she tried to teach me, although it’s one of the few that took. She constantly baked, and would show me how to make whatever she was working on at the time—delicious cinnamon rolls, wonderful cookies, moist cakes—but my baking skills are still sub-par. She was an expert at the art of letter writing, constantly corresponding with numerous acquaintances, but she often called my penmanship horrible, complaining that I never wrote in cursive, just chicken scratch.  Her garden was always full of beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables, and I spent many a summer day helping harvest, but I can’t keep a cactus alive. Regardless of all that, every time I work on a sewing project, I remember sitting in the spare bed room, setting up her sewing machine, and sewing away at whatever I could think of to make out of the scraps I dug out of the depths of her fabric dresser. It’s a wonderful memory, and a defining skill.


Although I didn’t consciously meet him until I was 10 years old or so, I’m glad that I was able to develop a close relationship with my paternal grandfather before he passed away this January. He taught me a lot about classic cars and history. He also taught me that there’s nothing wrong with reading a pulpy romance novel for the historical setting (*wink*). He might have stuck to the historicals more than the paranormal, but my willingness to be entertained by these non-literary masterpieces is thanks to him and his his paperback collection.


Granny, Pee-paw’s wife, was a defining part of my late teenage years. Again, although I didn’t know her for most of my young childhood, we established a wonderful bond before she passed away my senior year of college. Her years-long fight with cancer (surviving well past most of the expiration dates her doctors tried to give her) was an inspiration; gumption and plain ol’ stubbornness can get you a long way. She expected great things out of me, and made sure that I planned on staying on path for college and graduation. Not to say she wouldn’t have loved another great-grandkid (there are quite a few), she always reminded me that she would be sublimely happy if I didn’t get married or have a kid before she died; just to be sure that I’d get through school and be successful in a career before I started a family. While she may not have been a CEO, she was nothing if not successful. Successful in raising four boys. Successful in being a matriarch of a huge family. Successful in all the work she did for Eastern Star and the town she lived in. She taught me that you have to want success, work for it, and balance the fine line between strong-willed and obstinate.

Grandma Faye

We lived with my Grandma Faye for many years, throughout her long decline from Alzheimer’s. She fought the disease for many years before passing away my sophomore year of college. It is a terrible disease that changes a person’s personality immensely—especially when someone battles it for a decade—but I still remember my Grandma before the disease advanced. From her, I learned a lot about compassion and that family isn’t necessarily just about blood. All her life, she took in strays (of the human, kind, not so much the animal), giving them a sense of family. She was always willing to help with whatever was needed. She taught me cursive (not that I use it), religion and tried to teach me how to cook. She taught me to play the piano. I can still bang out “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Amazing Grace” by heart (though not any better than I could at five years old). When my cousins and I were young, she took hundreds of photos of us (this was before digital), and encouraged me to take them as well. I’m not a great photographer, but I do enjoy heading out to Carl’s races with my camera in hand. Her encouragement of all my projects pushed me to be as creative as I could be, something I endeavor to continue.

Grandpas Joe

I have three grandpas Joe, one of whom is still living. The others, my maternal grandfather (husband of Faye) and a great-grandfather (husband of Edie) passed away 20 and 10 years ago, respectively. While I was still quite young when they died, I’ve found that they’ve both taught me many lessons posthumously. Both men were the breadwinners of the home, career men for their companies. They also both died rather unexpectedly. Luckily for my grandmothers, who both outlived their husbands by a decade or more, both men were also frugal, smart investors who left enough money behind to make sure their wives could get by without too much of a difference in quality of life. At 3 and 13, the concept of retirement planning, pensions, and investments was a nebulous concept, but now that I’m grown and saving for myself, I credit these two men with teaching me the lesson that the future matters: be prepared for it (and the living Grandpa Joe’s pretty smart about it all too).

What is your favorite or most useful lesson from a grandparent (or grandparent-ly figure)?

Demystifying My Post Writing

Shadowed Text Most of the time, my new posts are published right around 1:45 or 2pm, corresponding with the end of my lunch at work. Sometimes I’ll tweet about them saying “Lunchtime blog post:…” but truth is, it’s highly unlikely that I just wrote it over my 30 minute lunch. It’s more likely that I started them during lunch a few days before, finished them up that night or the next day, then gave them a final once over during lunch the day I post them. Exchange “lunch” for “after work,” “during a break,” “at work” or “when the idea struck me” and you have the process of most successful bloggers out there.

The idea for a post may come at any moment, and very few are time-sensitive. If I can’t lay fingers to keyboard right then, I’ll try to jot down a few notes to come back to when I have time. Once I’ve written something, I generally go back and reread it multiple times over hours or days, editing all along the way. Sometimes I’ll start a post then let it sit unfinished for a couple weeks, usually because I don’t like where it’s headed, and end up rewriting it.

I’ve actually heard people say that grammar and spelling don’t matter in blogs. They’re idiots. No, seriously; I think that they are complete morons (and likely completely lazy, trying to excuse their lack of skill with language). It matters. It bothers me when I find a silly grammatical mistake glaring at me when I reread my content that has gone live. I edit, and edit and edit. And reread to the point that I miss the mistakes because I’m so familiar with my content. And the editing isn’t just copy editing. I trim down things, expand on others, clarify, rewrite and rehash.  That’s what writers do. Bloggers are writers. I’m a writer (some days).

Sometimes I’ll have a few posts queued up to publish when I have dry spells for other content. Bloggers that make money do that. They might have a month or more posts sitting in queue so that they can stay ahead of the game. I’m not at that level, but I also have a full time job and myriad hobbies, so limited blog post writing time. For them it is a full time job. Also, it’s a lot more interesting for my readers, I’m sure, to see a new post every couple of days rather than three posts a day then none for two weeks.

So this post, although I’m calling it a lunchtime blog post, was actually written a few days ago at lunch. And then reread over the weekend. And then edited a slight bit more today before I hit the “publish” button and started distributing the link. In fact, I just had to add the ‘l’ to publish, because I didn’t realize I mistyped before.

Maybe calling it a lunchtime post isn’t the most truthful thing out there, but hey, it was published during lunchtime, so I’m sticking to it.

Do you blog? What’s your posting process?

Decluttering the Closet (and Life)

Stock shot of half-emptied closet Here’s an idea: owning less “stuff” means having a happier, less spendy life. I’m trying to apply that idea to my life. (Actually, I have been for a while; it’s an ongoing process, especially because I hop from plan to plan.)

So, my mission this summer has been evaluating my wardrobe, clearing stuff out, and working on rebuilding the basics. There are a gazillion pages out there that describe the “basic” wardrobe for a woman. I agree with some items, vehemently disagree with others, and think that yet others have no bearing on my lifestyle. Part of this journey involves evaluating what my basics are. But the main issue: getting rid of things.

I decided to set up ground rules. If it doesn’t meet the rules, out it goes. Those rules are:

  • I have to like it
  • It has to fit correctly
  • It doesn’t need repair (or if it does, I have to do it right away)
  • I have to have worn it this season (or during the last season it was appropriate for)

The easy decisions

I have a few items in my wardrobe that I never really liked all that much, but purchased because I needed something like it for a specific occasion, or liked at the store, but not once I brought it home. Things like the $10 clearance dressy shirt I bought because I needed one while out of town and all I packed were tees. Not that it was a bad shirt, but I just didn’t like it much and didn’t wear it. Those types of things are gone with no regrets.

A few times this summer, I wore an item that I hadn’t for a while, and noticed that it didn’t fit very well at all, and I didn’t like how I looked in it. In each case, it was generally an item that never really fit well. When I got home, I’d wash it, then toss it.

In a couple of cases, there was an item or two that I liked ok, and fit fine, but I was just kind of bored with it or maybe it was looking a little on the limp, over-worn side. So long as I have another item of its type (like v-neck sweater), out it went. If I don’t, then it is on the list of things to get replaced eventually (but at a lower priority than things I actually need).

Overcoming mental hurdles

Unfortunately, the easy decisions were few and far between because I have tried to purge my closet like this in the past, but came up against mental hurdles for why I shouldn’t get rid of such-and-such item. Sometimes an item fell into multiple categories, which made it even harder. It was a struggle this time too, but I steeled my resolve and started tossing. I haven’t missed anything.

The “it’ll fit someday” items

Not to generalize too much, but it seems like almost every woman I know has some of these items. The “I’m going to lose weight and fit in these” jeans. The “I’ll find the right bra to wear so that the buttons stop gaping” shirt. Out, out, out. If I couldn’t get into it, it is gone.

I don’t think “struggle” is the right thing to say in regards to me and my weight, ’cause I’m not exactly fighting it. I put on weight in college because of my eating habits and some health issues, but I’ve been steady at that weight for a few years now so it’s not like I yo-yo. Sure, I would like to lose some, but I’ve been liking to lose some for over three years now and not doing much about it (though I have changed my habits so that I don’t gain more). Who cares about the future; I need clothes that fit right now. I can buy new clothes when I finally lose weight.

But not all of the “it’ll fit someday” items weren’t worn. Some kind of, sort of fit, so I still wore them. I had pants that were too small. I had shirts that never properly fit my boobs (yes, I said boobs. I’m not going to be demure about it: I have a very large pair of them and have since middle school). I had sweaters that shrank so I would wear camis underneath so that my stomach wouldn’t show. I had pants that were too long, because I stand a towering 5’3″. I had cheap clothes that weren’t made to fit my body type. A lot of cheap clothes that never fit my body type. They’re all gone. I now vow to wear only clothing that fits correctly.

Ok, that was a lie. They’re not all gone. I still have two women’s medium t-shirts hidden away (the form-fitting-ish kind, not the basic cotton tee, free t-shirt kind) in the deepest corner of my closet that I hope will fit someday because I’m also sentimentally attached to them. I won’t wear them until they fit, but they’re still there, taking up space. I’m working on that problem, which brings us to…

The “I’m sentimentally attached” items

I have a million t-shirts from college. These t-shirts memorialize events I attended, groups I was in, causes I cared about and in a couple of cases I even designed them. Yet, I never, ever wear them, because I have this idea that I’m an adult now and it’ll look silly for me to go about wearing my Feb Fest 2007 shirt. These shirts just take up space and lots of it. In a couple of cases, I had duplicates of the t-shirts (generally same design, different color). Duplicates were tossed.

I had a few different items that were gifts at one point or another that I didn’t want to toss because they were gifts. Most of these fell into the “don’t fit correctly” category (although sometimes they used to fit). I had a few different items that I wore to a certain event that has good memories but haven’t really worn since.

It was difficult, but if it didn’t fit, or I haven’t worn the item in months (or didn’t wear it the last season that it was appropriate for), out it went.

Ok, so some of the keener readers may have noticed that I only mentioned tossing the duplicates of college shirts. See, I can’t bring myself to get rid of these, despite the fact that I don’t wear them. I’ve had this problem in the past; I toted all of my high school shirts to college, wore them on occasion freshman year, and then never again. But I still carted them around for three more years before I did anything about it. Finally, the day before graduation, I tasked my sisters with slicing off the collars, sleeves and unadorned fronts and backs, leaving me with the designs to someday create a quilt out of. It felt freeing to take that step. This is the fate that will meet my college shirts as well. It takes up far less room to store them that way, too.

The “but, I only wore it once” items

The concept behind keeping these items is that I need to wear them again to get their worth out of them. Some of them had been sitting in my closet for four or five years. They’d stuck around not only to wear again, but as “it’ll fit again someday” items. So, many are gone because they don’t fit. The rest are gone because I hadn’t worn them in years.

A subcategory of this is the “I don’t want to just give them away, since I paid good money for them” items. That’s complete idiocy on my part, because 99% of my wardrobe is cheap items from places like Walmart, Target and Steve & Barrys. I did make a couple of exceptions: two dresses that I did paid a decent amount for and only wore once because I purchased them for specific occasions. They’re being listed for sale on Ebay. If they don’t sell in one auction, they’re going to be tossed.

The “just in case” items

Quite a few different pieces made it through previous wardrobe clearings because I thought they might come in handy in the future. I kept them just in case. These were items like a t-shirt with a kind of cool design and strange cap sleeves that I kept for days when I didn’t want to wear one of my plain tees. Except, I never wore it, because on days I don’t want to wear a plain tee, I wear a different style of shirt all together. These kind of pieces are all gone.

The only exception to this is an old winter coat I have. I’ve kept it around because it still fits and I keep thinking I might need it for something when my wool coat won’t suffice, or would be silly for the occasion. I wear it maybe once a winter, but more as an excuse to wear it, not because my wool coat and a sweater won’t work. I’m not going to keep it, but I want to wait to toss it until closer to winter, so that I can donate it to a charity that will give it to someone in need. There’s nothing wrong with it, and I really only wore it for one winter.

The “why don’t I wear this” items

There were a couple of items in my wardrobe that I just didn’t wear. It’s not that I didn’t like them. They fit fine. Nothing is wrong with them. I just never wore them. They were mostly items similar to another in my wardrobe that I preferred. Previously, when I’d clean out my wardrobe, I’d keep the item with the intention of wearing it. I might even wear it once soon after. But then it’d fall back to the bottom of the drawer or back of the closet and not get worn again. Now they won’t ever get worn because they’ve been tossed.

Definition of “tossed”

Unless the item was being tossed because of stains or tears/rips that couldn’t be fixed (destination: landfill), almost everything I’ve tossed has gone to the local Salvation Army. Some of these items were tossed because I think they look a little worse for wear, but I know many people out there that commonly hit up the thrift store for items that they can re-purpose or alter. So, for instance a sweater that has dingy looking faux-button up collar and sleeves could easily have those parts removed and used over a real button up. It’s just not something I’m willing to do. The large majority were ill-fitting or things I didn’t wear.

In a few cases I gave away items to certain people. These were usually ones that I had some sort of sentimental attachment to, or knew that they’d really like. But regardless, they are no longer in my closet!

What is left

So, now that my closet has been cleaned out, there are a few holes. There are a some basic items left, but far fewer than there used to be. Almost everything trendy or beyond-the-basics was culled by one of the toss it criteria.

Now I need to work on building a new wardrobe. Check back next week, when I’ll talk about my goals for this new wardrobe.

What does your closet/basic wardrobe look like? Have you tried to do this sort of purge before? Have suggestions for me?

What I Learned in 11th Grade American History

I had this crazy nightmare last night about how I had to go back to high school to retake one specific class from my junior year because the teacher messed up my grade and it wasn’t valid or something. So despite my having a bachelor’s degree, I didn’t have a high school diploma—which was like the end of the world in my dream. Psychoanalysis about the dream and why I’m having it as a mostly-successful degree-wielding professional aside, it really made me revisit some concerns I have with the US school system and the teachers that are instructing my and future generations. And really got me thinking about what I learned in the course.

The course was 11th grade American History. The teacher shall remain nameless—not to protect the innocent guilty, but because my mind decided that she doesn’t deserve the respect to have her name remembered and I have no idea what it was. I sat through the year in the rudimentary-level history course, with quite possibly the worst teacher in my educational career. Bored out of my mind. Learning things that we don’t always want our children to learn, yet some that have proven to be quite helpful “in the real world.”

What the course taught me

  1. People in power are not always intelligent
  2. Prior shows of competency result in no future evaluation
  3. Doing nothing has no consequences
  4. People will (try to) exploit you if you’re the best
  5. I only need to know how to game the system to pass
  6. The system doesn’t care what you know as long as you pass
  7. We had a President Buchanan at some point in the 1800s (but nothing about his contribution to our country during that time).

People in power are not always intelligent

Somewhere out there in the memory of the Internet is a quote that goes something like to teach a course, you only need to read the textbook before the students do. I can’t find the source, but my hope is that when I read this it was part of a larger article that promoted reliable, proven teaching methods and pedagogy and how that can translate to many different subjects. Because if you are a good teacher, you can sometimes get by with that. I mention it because I often wondered if this teacher even read our textbook or knew what she was teaching. (And she definitely had no great understanding of effective teaching methods or valuable evaluation.)

Case and point: according to her, our 15th president was some guy named “Buck-nan.” She didn’t say this just once, but many times throughout the unit. In fact, I’m not sure she ever called good ole’ James Buchanan by his actual name. I have vague memories of other non-factual statements, but that is the one that has always stood out.

Valuable or bullshit? Valuable. It’s true. People in power really can be idiots. You have to learn to soldier on and do what you can to eventually be in a position of power over them, or never have to deal with them again. While rearranging my schedule to get out of her class didn’t work—the counselor was gleeful when she found that I could just go into another section taught by Ms. Idiot—ultimately I only had to spend a year under her. I’m sure at some point in my career I’ll be stuck under an idiot manager for longer than that.

Prior shows of competency result in no future evaluation

As we moved into the second semester, she decided that the class didn’t know how to take notes. Her solution: write out her lecture notes on the chalkboard and require us to copy them down verbatim, which she later collected and graded based on whether we followed her instructions. My execution: take notes like I always did, including shrthnd, abbrv.s, leaving out common knowledge points, etc, and work on another class’ homework when I got bored. The evaluation of my assignment: never happened. No feedback on my blatant disregard for her instructions, no markdown, I’m not even sure she looked at my notes. I learned that since she thought I was competent, she didn’t think that she needed to reinforce learning goals with me.

Valuable or bullshit? Bullshit. No one knows everything, and just because they can excel at, say, multiple choice tests, doesn’t mean they can write an essay worth anything. And just because they can deliver once doesn’t mean they understand the new subject matter. Constant evaluation and followup is integral to learning. Constant evaluation is also part of a professional career. What, you think because you delivered one project correctly your boss is never going to evaluate you again? Or because you flipped burgers really well one day, when you don’t do anything on your next shift no one’s going to notice? Yeah, that’s not how the world works. And that’s not how the classroom should work, either.

Doing nothing has no consequences

This is an extension of the previous point. One day she assigned a worksheet to take home and complete (or some words to define or some similar sort of thing). I didn’t do it. So, I came to the next class, she collected the work, and I simply said “I didn’t do it” Her response? That’s ok, I’ll give you the points because you would have gotten 100% anyway.

Valuable or bullshit? Bullshit. This is one that I learned the hard way more than once. As I’m sure many other people have. But, it’s also not the only time it’s been reinforced. It’s all about follow-through. I’ve heard “if you don’t [do/stop doing] XXXXXXX, then we [won’t do XXXX/’ll go home right now]” so many times that it’s become cliché, and can’t think of a single time I’ve seen follow-through on the threat. It may be implicit, but assignments are the same way: if you don’t do the assignment, you won’t get credit. At least, that’s how I always thought evaluation worked. That’s how a job works: if you don’t do the work, you won’t get paid (or continue to have that job).

People will (try to) exploit you if you’re the best

I’ll preface this with saying that I love trivia, and am good at trivia type games, not necessarily that I knew everything there was to know in the class. We’d play pseudo-Jeopardy in class some days. Eventually I was banned from playing because I always got the answers right and it “was unfair to the other students.” (At least I wasn’t asked to throw the game or something.) Then someone organized a competition between our class and the other history teacher’s class during the same period. I heard the comment we’re guaranteed to win, because we have Rae more than once, from the teacher and classmates. Evidently because I was on the team, they didn’t need to pull their weight. Guess what? I was absent on the competition day. My class lost, because everyone expected me to do all the work.

Valuable or bullshit? Valuable. Any time there is collaboration, there’s an opportunity for some members of the team to slack off and let the others take up their slack. There’s the opportunity for them to benefit by riding on someone’s coattails. It’s how things are done, and I’m not necessarily going to argue that it’s a bad thing. But it’s up to you if you’re going to let them or not. And if you’re the person trying to do the exploting, well, you’re putting an awful lot on the assumption that the other person is going to put up with it.

I only need to know how to game the system to pass

In Missouri, during grade 11 you take the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test for social sciences, a standardized test that is supposed to measure knowledge of the subject. Funding can be based off of a district’s performance in these tests, and so they’re considered important. As a result, my teacher taught the test for a good month prior. Part of that was to teach specific units based on what was likely to be on it, and part of it was to spend class time constructing simple short-answer essays that had to be three sentences long and contain a certain structure. Everything that month was about gaming the test to ensure as many students as possible passed. It didn’t matter if they retained the information afterward.

Valuable or bullshit? Mixed reaction. Gaming the system can get you pretty far. Especially if you’re learning how to figure out how to game it, it might be valuable. But in the long run, I say bullshit because if the information is important, it’s going to hurt you down the road.

The system doesn’t care what you know as long as you pass

This lesson wasn’ learned from any specific incident, but the overall experience. As with the above point and the MAP tests, the entire purpose of the class was to make sure students pass. They pass the standardized testing, and hopefully graduate (and on time) to keep the school’s own report card passing (and funding up). It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t challenged, or that I somehow managed to have a 114% grade in the class at some point (talk about grade inflation). This was further highlighted by the fact that according to my transcript, I should have been in an honors course (taught by a different teacher who also taught non-honors. Ms. Idiot didn’t teach any honors). But, since I was new to the district, and they had nothing invested in me, they couldn’t make room for me in a higher-level course. They just needed me to pass.

Valuable or bullshit? Valuable. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s true more often than not. While yes, in the right environment success and outstanding performance is rewarded, but more often than not, the job just needs to get done. Take my field for instance: in Web development, sure you can hire someone that will do a standards-compliant, scalable site for you, or you can spend as little as possible and get something serviceable. The latter gets the job done. And based on what I see out there, that’s sufficient enough for a lot of businesses, whether right or wrong. In the long run, it’ll cost them more, but they don’t care about that. It’s all about immediate results.

My corollary: just because this may be true that doesn’t mean that actually knowing something doesn’t help in the long run. Simply passing wouldn’t have gotten me into AP Government the next year (at a different school). Simply passing wouldn’t have gotten me into a top-20 liberal arts college. Simply passing wouldn’t have secured me the position I currently have when I came up for my 3-month hire-or-fire review. But you have to care because you can get by simply passing, but you don’t go up unless you know what you’re talking about and know what you’re doing. And in the real world, the system doesn’t always necessarily care if you fail, even if it doesn’t care if you excel.

We had a president…

I just threw this one in because really, I will never forget that we had a president named Buchanan thanks to Ms. Idiot’s inability to pronounce his name. But like most everything from that class, I haven’t actually retained any knowledge about him. In fact, it’s only thanks to checking Wikipedia while writing this that I know he’s the 15th president, and that Pierce preceded him and Lincoln succeded him.

The Result

Don’t get me wrong. Some of these “lessons” I learned from this class were not new. They reinforced things I’d been learning throughout my entire schooling. Some were later corrected—some more gently than others. But, many of those lessons were reversed because of quality schooling. What about my peers that didn’t have the luxury of teachers that genuinely cared that I did well because I actually knew the material and had high expectations of me? Many of them are probably still assuming that it all holds true. That’s not a good sign for our future as a society.

What excitingly horrible things have you learned in the classroom (be it primary, secondary, or higher education) that had nothing to do with the subject at hand?

Just a fun side note: none of this takes the medal for “most bullshit, incorrect statement by a history teacher that I know of.” My youngest sister’s third grade teacher marked her down on an assignment because my sister, at 8 years old, had the temerity to point out that Ben Franklin was not a president when they did a worksheet presidents and currency. I don’t think that she, my sister, and mother ever reached a resolution on that matter. For all I know, to this day that teacher still thinks we had President Franklin, just because he’s on the $100 bill.

On the Subject of (Not) Learning From Past Mistakes

If past mistakes had taught me anything, I would know this: Back up your data. Often. And make sure it finishes transfer. Having worked in IT for 4 years, and being a Web Developer, I’ve counseled at least high tens, if not hundreds about “Save Early, Save Often,” backing up data, etc. But it seems I can’t take my own advice.

So, I own a Mac. Newer Macs (ones running Leopard or Snow Leopard) have this awesome Time Machine function that backs up your Mac on a daily or hourly basis whenever the external drive is connected the computer. Even cooler is that you can buy a Time Capsule that does it over WiFi. Now, I don’t have anything that fancy, but I do have an external for Time Machine to use, yet, I still just lost about 6 months of data. Why? Because I’m lazy and don’t take my own advice.

The First Time

Two and a half years ago, right after I graduated college, my hard drive died. In some ways, I was happy it wasn’t while I was finishing my last semester, but then again, while I was in college I had anything important for school backed up on the server space they provided. Fresh out of college, working for barely over $9/hr, I had been putting off buying an external in favor of things like food, and paying rent. So, when my hard drive failed as that generation of MacBook’s were wont to do (search the ’net. It was a big to do), I ended up losing about 4 months of data: pictures, final projects, the yearbook (I was editor and essentially only member. Somehow the work had gotten pushed to the summer, rather than during my senior year), etc. See, some old stuff was backed up on an older, full drive, but the newer stuff just wasn’t transferred.

And boy, did it fail miserably, with really bad platter scratching noises. No hope of recovery.

The next night, after I partially recovered from being stunned, I ordered a new external and a replacement drive for the laptop.

This Time

But evidently, I didn’t learn from my mistake. I haven’t been diligent about backing up my data. I did it once a month or so at most. But I was also sharing the new external with Carl, so we maxed out the space pretty quickly. When it came time to reimage my laptop in hopes of solving some issues, and to upgrade to Snow Leopard, I was forced to delete most of my backups, save the very last one, which was a few months old, and then transfer over everything for safe keeping while I restored the machine.

Once the new install was up and running, I transferred everything back, and had to delete most of it from the external to make room for the new backups. Then, I set up Time Machine and let it backup the new system. Or so I thought.

My drive failed last week. I had a bit of a breakdown. Not because I lost data, because here I was thinking that I had a two week old backup of everything (and nothing new really in the mean time). Mostly just because it was the icing on the cake of computer problems recently, and I’m on this new “no more debt, pay for everything in cash” kick, and initially thought the whole computer had died, or that this was fate saying I needed a new computer anyway, and that just wasn’t happening while I’m funneling most of my disposable income paying for past stupid spending mistakes (*take a breath* see, sometimes I do learn). But I got over it, priced out some new drives (a replacement with more space seems to be in the budget, as prices have dropped. I couldn’t even find a 160GB in brick-and-mortar stores), and looked into the warranty on the dead one1, and am using Carl’s personal laptop while I wait for a new drive.

So, while I wait, I have been working on getting some stuff done, like printing photos from Christmas, etc. I plugged in the external to grab those photos, and it was like my own personal horror show: my last backup of my complete new system didn’t actually backup!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, those exclamation points are needed. For my sanity. Just humor me here.) Luckily, I hadn’t gotten around to deleting everything from my reboot backup, just the folder containing 80% of my personal data and projects. Somehow, the photos and personal Web projects survived, but everything else is gone. Again. The last full backup I have was from August. Thank every deity ever worshiped that I’ve been taking a bit of a break from freelancing and didn’t lose any recent client data. All of that survived in the last backups/on my thumb drive. (Potential clients: I do back up your data in multiple places).

So, the moral of my story is: it’s great to give good advice to other people who need it, but remember to stop for a second and take your own advice. Really, if it’s good enough to give, it’s good enough to practice, right? I really need to remember that in the future.

As for a resolution to my issue, I’m working on that. The drive was under warranty, so I’m doing an RMA there. However Hitachi, the manufacturer, claims that the order will be processed within 14 working days of receiving the defective drive, if the replacement is in stock. So, if the replacement drive is in stock, worst case scenario it could take more than three weeks with processing and shipping times to get a new drive, best case is at least a week and a half. I’m thinking of reworking my budget just a bit and ordering a new drive in the mean time, and selling the RMAed drive once I get it to recoup some of the cost. Still trying to decide what I want to do there. Back to article

Our Holiday Journey from NY to MO and Back

We had the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off this year, so we made a trek back to my home state to visit family and friends. It was a long journey; we drove over 3500 mi. when all was said and done. Some of it was roundabout, as the Midwest was being hit by a huge storm system that was moving its way up to NY directly along the path we normally drive. So, it was an adventure containing new sights, possible future plans, and the realization that we’re getting too old to drive straight through from KCMO to Utica these days.

The Way There

A Google Maps depiction of our route from Utica to Kansas City

See, like I said, roundabout. But all that pink stuff is snow, so you can see why we took it.

To circumvent the storm coming in from the Midwest, we decided to include visiting relatives in NJ in our plans, as well as trying to find somewhere warmer along the way. Originally, we’d wanted to take a day or two to spend in a new city, but couldn’t find anywhere interesting within a days drive of Utica and KC that wasn’t in the middle of the storm system.

A. Utica, NY (Home Frigid Home)

Saturday, Dec 26, 2009. 11am.

Ill prepared as always, we finally get on the road around 11am after a last minute Guinea Pig litter run, cage cleaning, laundry, packing and dropping off the Pigs at Carl’s parents’ house.

I demand brunch in the form of Dunkin’ Donuts. Always a good choice, imho, aside from their icky coffee.

B. Hillsdale, NJ (Extended-family Time)

Saturday, Dec 26, 2009. 3pm.

Roads aren’t bad, but they’re also not great. I’ve decided that drivers get exponentially stupider the closer you get to NYC on the Thruway. Add in bad weather and a wreck on the Tappanzee Bridge, and you end up going 20mph on 87 just a mile before our exit onto the Garden State Pkwy. 2.75 hours into the drive, we realize Carl’s license is sitting in his car, not his back pocket. At this point, we decide to make a decision on going back to Utica for when we get to NJ. We arrive safely in Hillsdale and visit with Carl’s Grandma, Aunt, and cousins. After being fed, overloaded with cookies and candy for the drive, we are on the road again around 5:30-ish…

C. Hancock, MD (Exhausted, it’s Hotel Time)

Saturday, Dec 26, 2009. 11pm.

We stop for the night in Hancock, Carl’s iPhone having been handy when we got off an exit too early for the hotels. I dislike Maryland’s sign placement. It’s late, dark, and winter, so we can’t get a good sense of our surroundings along the Potomac, and choose the cheaper of the town’s two hotels, which happens to sit up on a hill. Come morning, we find it’s actually quite a pretty area. There are a lot of bike trails about, especially along the river.

View of hills and fog in Maryland coming off of a mountain

My phone camera doesn’t do this view justice, but it was very pretty. We were coming down off of a mountain in western MD.

In daylight, the hotel isn’t nearly as sketchy as it seemed the night before. The room could have benefited from a lot less wooden paneling though. It was rather cave-like. Well, if cave walls were made of wood.

We may plan a return trip sometime in the future to bike some of the trails.

D. Charleston, WV (Where We Decided to Maybe Move)

Sunday, Dec 27, 2009. 12pm.

Driving through West Virginia, we encounter 50°F weather, sunny skies, beautiful views, and seemingly perfect cycling terrain for Carl. I spend a fair bit of time learning what Wikipedia has to say about West Virginia. Things we learn:

  • Middle of nowhere WV has better 3G access than Utica. Unfair.
  • Although it was created by succeeding from Virginia to join the North in the Civil War, it’s considered a Southern state by the Census Bureau.
  • Humid Subtropical Climates, of which the largest population centers of the state happen to be, are not nearly as warm and nice as the name of the climate type makes it sound. It’s still better than the Humid Continental Climate of Utica, however.
  • It has one of lowest ranking economies in the US (based on median income and per capita income). However, as it also has the lowest percentage of population with a Bachelor’s degree, Carl and I, with our fancy Yankee college degrees might be a hot commodity.
  • Utica is too small for my tastes. The largest city in WV, Charleston, the capital, is smaller than Utica. However, both its and the Huntington metropolitan areas are slightly more populated than Utica-Rome is.

We stop for lunch in what seems to border on the wrong side of the river, so to speak. However, we drive around and find downtown, the State Capitol building, and a few other landmarks. And man, do West Virginians seem to love their Shoneys restaurants.

Final thoughts: it may be nicer to live than Utica, if we could find jobs.

E. Huntington, WV (Which We Like Better Than Charleston)

Sunday, Dec 27, 2009. 4pm.

Although slightly smaller, Huntington seems quite a bit stronger economy-wise. There seems to be a lot of rejuvenation in the downtown area. It is my choice for relocation if we were to do so.

We don’t stay long, however, as we’re still very far from our destination.

F. Glasgow, KY (Not as Far West as We’d Hoped)

Sunday, Dec 27, 2009. 10:30pm.

As this frozen plane attests, it’s very cold.

Ceci n’est pas un lake. No, really, I’m serious. In addition to the freezing cold, there’s been so much precipitation that rivers in southern IN/IL have overflowed, leaving fields under frozen planes of water.

About an hour from Bowling Green, KY, where I’d hoped to stay for the night, we run into snow. It’s not horrible, but it is 10pm and we’re on a crazy hilly small highway in southern KY, so we decide to stop a little early. The iPhone helps again, as we see no sign of the hotels the highway signs claimed exist. We find one, check in, and collapse for the night.

G. St. Louis, MO (Luckily, No Snow)

Monday, Dec 28, 2009. 2pm.

View of the Arch from I-55

Carl accused me of being a New Yorker on vacation when I took a picture of the Arch (insinuating that I’m no longer a Missourian). I just did it to share with y’all.

Despite the winter weather warnings, St. Louis is no longer getting pelted with snow, thankfully. In fact, we haven’t yet seen precipitation today. It lunch time for us and the car (MO has the cheapest gas of any state in our trip). We head to White Castle. I don’t know why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. We also stop into a T-Mobile store. Carl’s broken iPhone home button is making him lean toward a new phone, and I figure I can get Mom a Christmas present in the form of a QWERTY keypad so maybe she’ll stop using all of our minutes. She does have unlimited texting, afterall. Alas, T-Mobile has instituted a $18 upgrade fee. I am not in a contract at present, so I’ll take my chances with customer retention via a phone call at some later date. I’m not giving them my hard earned $18 to upgrade after being a customer for 8 years. Carl doesn’t like their phones, so plans to stick with the broken iPhone.

I. Sunrise Beach, MO (It’s Family Time)

Monday, Dec 28, 2009. 4:20pm.

Arrival at Mom’s. Somehow driving through Bowling Green made me want to go bowling, so we go out as a family. Bowling is fun. A country music overload and extended period of time surrounded by true Missourah-ins is not so much.

I forgot how uncomfortable sharing a twin bed is until now. I would prefer never to repeat the experience.

H. Jefferson City, MO (Netbooks, Laptops, Shopping)

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009. Afternoon.

The girls have a little money from our grandparents for laptops, so we head to Jeff City, which has the closest mall, Best Buy, etc. I learn a lot about Netbooks. We find one for Kaite, and Courtney gets her early HS graduation gift in the form of a bit extra to purchase a real laptop for college next year. We eat Chipotle! Yummy. I miss Chilpotle. Why can’t Utica have one?

I. Sunrise Beach, MO (Again)

Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009. Rest of Day.

We spend more time getting everything set up on the girls’ computers. I upgrade their Mac Mini with Snow Leopard. We spend time together as a family watching Better Off Ted.

J. Grandview, MO (Better known as “Spend as Much Time in KC as Possible” Time)

Wednesday, Dec 30, 2009.

We arrive at Garry and Debby’s. Hellos are said, we settle in, etc.

Dinner time approaches and we head to Westport to try out Korma Sutra, a new-ish Indian place. After arriving in the Plaza/Westport area, I remember how badly Kansas City manages to handle plowing the roads after a snowfall. It’s quite an adventure despite the snow having stopped a day or two prior. Korma Sutra is tasty. We make the intelligent decision to brave the alley next to the Dark Horse Tavern to get back to the car in World Market’s parking lot. No broken bones, thankfully. We also stop in World Market for some champagne and to look at the odds and ends. The night ends at Ben’s where we watch Zombie Land. Not a bad film. Maybe not the best of the year though.

Thursday, Dec 31, 2009.

A whirlwind of meeting for lunch with Heather, seeing my oldest sister, husband, kids, etc. Later, dinner with Rebekah, Maria, Margaret at Domo, a sushi place in Brookside. Finally, Ben’s annual New Year’s Eve party. There could be worse ways to ring in the new year.

Friday, Jan 1, 2010.

We start the day off with some laundry, eating left over Indian, and general catching up with the world online. Later, we stop by to visit my friend Jessica, whom I hadn’t seen in maybe 5 years. We were thick as thieves back in middle school. Then, we head to see my niece and nephew at their grandparents, as I haven’t gotten in touch with my sister. Sadly, I’m unable to see my youngest niece because she’s with Nikki. Afterwards, we head back to Garry and Debby’s, and decide we’re going to head out that night. Having all day Sunday to recoup sounds better than getting in exhausted Sun late afternoon. One last stop to see the last sister, husband and niece, then we get on our way.

The Way Home

A Google Maps depiction of our route from Kansas City to Utica

This is the fastest route, and the one we normally take. We just wanted to get home.

Starting Friday, Jan 1, 2010, 10pm. Ending Saturday, Jan 2, 2010, 7:30pm.

It’s long. It’s freezing. I have a killer headache (not hungover!) and so Carl drives the bulk of the time. In Cleveland, we hit snow. And it snows, and snows, and snows the rest of the way back to Utica.

We finally arrive home, in once piece. Food. Shower. Sleep. And more sleep. Thus ends the journey.