Book Giveaway Winners!

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All day I kept thinking, “Wasn’t there something I was supposed to do today? Grocery shopping? No. Appointment? No. Kid activity? No.” OH! CHOOSE THE WINNERS OF MY FRIEND’S BOOK!

The winners are:

1. Joanne
2. BKC (8/17 at 11:39 a.m.)
3. Stacie (8/16 at 3:40 p.m.)

I’ll email the three winners and get shipping info! Everyone else: check your libraries! We were planning to donate copies to our library—but they had already bought two on their own! (Or if you have the spare cash, of course it would be extremely pleasing if you bought the book, but I will not be pushy. Except at the holidays when I’m making gift-idea posts: then I plan to push a little.)

Book: Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret

One of my dearest friends had something exciting happen this month: Knopf published her book.

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Horus and the Curse of Everlasting Regret. I think the cover art is SO CUTE.

It has been a long and very exciting wait: I remember when she got the news that the book had been chosen and it seemed like August 2016 was A MILLION YEARS AWAY and would NEVER be here. But now it is here. I went to a bookstore today, and there it was on the shelf! multiple copies of it! RIGHT ON THE SHELF WITH OTHER REAL BOOKS. IN A REAL BOOKSTORE IN MY ACTUAL TOWN.

Anyway. I recommend it. All seven of us at my house have read it. The target age is around 8-12 years, approximately grades 3-7. I don’t usually like to read juvenile fiction so I was worried I’d have to do some suffering for my friend’s sake, but actually I really liked it. It reminded me of the Harry Potter books, where you don’t really feel as if you’re reading a “kid book” per se, except in that you find yourself thinking how much you would have loved it when you were a kid.

It is a little bit of an adventure/thriller/suspense book, with exciting parts. There is good comic relief to keep things from being too tense—but they are a little tense. The mummy is a good mummy, not a scary one. And there is a darling, darling, DARLING, not-scary pet bat.

Anyway! The hardcover is on a really good price right now on Amazon, so I will buy three copies to give away. (U.S. shipping addresses only.) Leave a comment below to enter. (Or you can leave a comment below if you’re NOT entering, and just add that you’re not entering.) You can just say “Enter!” or whatever, but if you like to write a little more, it would be fun to hear who you’d be winning it for: yourself, your kids, relatives, whatever. I’ll pick three names on Friday, August 19th, at around noon Pacific time. [Winners]


Are you in the mood for something FUN and COLORFUL? So was I.

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My Betsey Johnson suitcase, purchased for this recent trip when I realized my suitcases were all too small. I did not pay the $200 it is listed for on Amazon; I bought it for $69.99 at TJ Maxx, plus I had a $10-off coupon. Of course after just ONE trip through the airport luggage system the white background is SCUFFED AS HECK. But whatever: I knew going in that that would happen, and I had/have made my peace with it. Elizabeth helped me pick it out, and we both felt it was Worth It.


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K. Bell Sneaker Socks. I take off my Converse sneakers, and I am still wearing Converse sneakers! …Sort of.


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Eyelike Stickers: Colors. I DO like stickers. I really did buy these for no reason other than COLOR. They are sitting in my bill-paying pile, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. I’ve stuck a few on bills.


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Craft Tape Dispenser. There is approximately zero chance of me paying nearly FORTY DOLLARS for ten rolls of colored tape. But isn’t it pretty to look at? A++ marketing.


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Rainbow Curlie Spinner. I am ON BOARD with curlie spinners. I have this one in two sizes.


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Parakeet Sticky Notes. In my cart since 2011. (I hardly USE sticky notes. If I had EXTRA-SPECIAL ones, I’d end up hoarding them.)


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Page-marking Post-It notes. I put these in high-school-kid Christmas stockings.


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Natural Histories: Postcards of 60 Rare Book Illustrations. I ABSOLUTELY have enough postcards. I still bought these when they dipped under $11.


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Happy Pencil Cases. I saw them; I bought them; I can’t really explain myself further.


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TeeHee Striped Crew Socks. My mom wanted socks for her birthday. She likes stripes. I got her these.


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Felines in the Garden Puzzle. In addition to striped socks, my mom likes cats, and 300-piece puzzles. I got her this 300-piece cat puzzle for Mother’s Day.


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French Bull spreader knives. I really have no use for little spreader knives. But if I DID have a use for them, these are the ones I would buy.


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Pop Beads. I had forgotten ALL ABOUT Pop Beads! I’m getting these for Elizabeth for Christmas.


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French Bull Yoga Bag. On my wish list. I’m not using it for yoga, though.


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Sharpie Assorted Markers. You BET I have a set of these. It bugged me that they didn’t put the purple in rainbow order, but WHATEVER, you can take them out of the package as soon as they arrive.


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Forever Pet Stamps. I bought four books of them. Gotta pick JUST the right envelope for the snake stamps.

Two Travel Things that Made Our Trip Much Better: Less-Drowsy Dramamine; Trekking Poles

More travel stuff, this time two things that made our trip better.

ONE: the new less-drowsy Dramamine.

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It’s not all THAT new, but this was the first time I’d tried it. Old Dramamine was dimenhydrinate, and that knocks me RIGHT OUT. Which is a conflicting thing, because if I’m sleeping, I don’t really need medicine to let me read in a car/plane/train. The newer Dramamine is meclizine HCI. I was suspicious of it, but tried it. I was able to read on the plane, and although I was drowsy a few times, that might be because we had to get up at 1:45 in the morning to get to our first flight. And I didn’t have that knocked-out/drugged feeling. This was only one test (well, two since I used it both directions of travel), but I was very pleased with the results. There is also a non-drowsy Dramamine, but the active ingredient is just ginger, and I’mma let someone else try that first, and even if you say it’s great I probably will not risk it. I still resent ginger for not helping with morning sickness.


TWO: walking sticks. Er, “trekking poles.”

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My brother and sister-in-law brought these to our attention when they both used them on a hike. Then they bought a pair for my mom, and she loved them. The last time I visited my parents, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the physical adventures, so I wanted to try the trekking poles too, and my parents bought me a pair for my birthday. This trip was their first airing, and I think I probably said “I LOVE THESE WALKING STICKS”/”This is SO much easier/better with the walking sticks!” about a dozen times per day.

Here are my issues the sticks help so much with: easily-hurt knees, weak ankles, and in general not very good balance. Suddenly I was STABLE, and didn’t feel as if my ankles might suddenly give out with a particularly vigorous step-down, and I had help with steep inclines. Also, my mom has none of my same issues, but loves the way the sticks let her arms share a vigorous hike with her legs; I liked that aspect too.

The trekking poles adjust for different heights; they look a little weird in the photo I used here, because they’re in their collapsed state and there is a big bouquet of tags on each one. They’re easy to adjust—though I say that after having my mom do it for me the first time, and then using a Sharpie marker to mark where she put them, and then having my dad use some sort of tool to tighten them into place, so never mind, they are not really EASY to adjust, but they are adjustable, and not hard once you get the idea of how they work. Also, my mom showed me how to use the little loops, which is a counter-intuitive process: you put your hands UP through the loops (so that your hands are floating above the walking sticks), and then, with them all up in your wrist/palm area, grab the handles of the poles. You will have to use FAITH the first time you do this, because it seems WRONG. …Don’t get discouraged by this paragraph.

I highly recommend these poles/sticks for anyone who does a lot of outdoorsy stuff, and for anyone who does NOT usually do a lot of outdoorsy stuff but is about to be in a situation where they will participate in some. I’d say they took me from “not really enjoying the scenery because I was concentrating on not hurting myself / not falling off a mountain / not dying from unaccustomed exertion” to “partially enjoying the scenery and partially rejoicing in how great my walking sticks were.”

First of Probably Many Trip Reports

I am back from visiting my parents, and I am a little punchy: because of the time changes and the difficulty of getting from this particular point A to this particular point B, two days out of the previous five have involved staying up for 23 hours in a row, and I am getting a bit old for that.

I have so many things to say, I’m sitting here with a mind like a bag of mice. I’ve asked the children to please give me a 45-minute chunk of time, and I’ve given them a piece of paper to write down all the things they will think of to tell me as soon as my eyes focus on the computer screen. When I made this request I had already listened to 45 minutes of Pokemon Go, Dungeons and Dragons, cute things the cats did, and what they bought with their tickets at the arcade Paul took them to, so I feel I have earned a little time with my sorely-missed computer.

All our flights went beautifully and on time, with no cancellations and only one small delay (waiting for passengers from a delayed flight) that the pilot was able to make up for during the flight, and I’m not sure the last time that happened with flights I was on. The mid-90s, maybe? We flew Southwest. I love Southwest. Top favorite airline, would check their site first every single time. And if you are wondering if Early Bird Check-In (which puts you early in the pick-your-own-seat boarding order) is worth it, I vote YES YES YES A MILLION TIMES YES, especially if you dislike middle seats and/or if you have traveling companions you’d like to sit with. And if I fly another airline I have to pay to check my luggage (Southwest lets you check two suitcases for free), so I just mentally transfer the baggage-check fees to the Early Bird Check-In costs.

I was so happy I’d put my phone-charging cable in my carry-on, because there were outlets ALL OVER the airports. This is something probably most of you know. But I think the last time I traveled, I had not yet started playing phone games, and was only charging my phone every couple of days.

I was also happy I decided in advance to pay the high prices for airport food. It added significant, worth-it fun to the whole thing, for me and for Rob and William. It is hard to pay $26 for a pizza when usually I pay $14-minus-a-coupon, but AFTERWARD it seems like a ZERO-BIG-DEAL difference, and it’s nice to have a meal that isn’t granola bars and water, and the kids were like, “This is AWESOME.”

I read 1.75 books while I was gone:

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Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman. I don’t want to talk about the book too much, because I thought the best part was how it unfolded when I didn’t know anything about it beforehand. But I will say that during the first chapter, I did not think there was a high chance of finishing it. And then I ended up loving it, and I have added two more books by this author to my library list.


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Chestnut Street, by Maeve Binchy. This is one of Maeve Binchy’s posthumously-published books, and it is painful to know there are no more books coming (probably), so I saved it for a special occasion. I’d say that if I had read it without knowing it was put together by other people after she died, I would have thought, “Huh. She’s kind of slipping a bit, but I guess that’s normal after so many books.” The preface says she “would have wanted” this book published, but I think she would have wanted to work on it a bit more. I suspect that the people who profit from it are the ones who wanted it published. STILL, I am three-fourths of the way through it and I am enjoying a lot of it. My review sounds so tepid, when actually I would definitely recommend the book; it’s just that I feel a little irritated on her behalf that people seem to be attempting to rake in as much money as possible. Also, I guess I’d first recommend anything published while she was alive and could approve the final drafts. ANYWAY. Moving on.

Actually, my time is up. More coffee now, more talking soon.

Venting Frets

I have some frets to vent. They are all small. I sense Paul has reached his limit for small-fret-listening, and yet I still have fretting to do, and so here we are.

I am supposed to get my hair cut tomorrow, after months spent REALLY REALLY wanting to cut it shorter and being VERY tempted to just cut off big chunks of it myself and FINALLY getting around to making the phone call and then LONGING for the appointment to be sooner and waiting impatiently for it to arrive. I was thinking of something between chin and shoulder. And now I am chickening out. I’ve had my hair longish for a long enough time now that I am not sure what I DO with it when it is shorter. Also I am nervous she will hurt the new piercing. I worked myself into a very silly panic about the whole thing, where I was spinning around thinking “AAAAGGGGHH the embarrassment of cancelling!!!” vs. “AAAAAGGGGHHH not sure I want it shorter!!!”—until I realized I could just go to the appointment and have her take an inch off and avoid BOTH unpleasant outcomes. Now I feel less panicky but am back to thinking, “But should I get it cut shorter? I’ve really been sick of washing it and brushing it and dealing with it lately. And it’ll grow back out, if I regret it. But I don’t know what I do with it when I don’t twist it into a quick bun.” I wish hair-growth were more adjustable, so that it could stay put when we have a great cut, or grow ultra-fast if we regret one.

My new piercing is itchy. It is a little bit swollen and a little bit pink, and I have been searching online for information about infection, but it is not meeting the standards for that: it looks as if this is “irritation” rather than “infection.” The information I’m finding is soothingly condescending, like “You have to realize you have put a foreign object into your body, and your body’s job is to get rid of it. Have patience and give your body time to adjust.” But this itchy tenderness is making me even less want a hair cut: I’ve been pulling my hair way away from the piercing, and if it’s shorter I have to re-figure-out all my ways of doing that. (I can always just have her take an inch off. I can always just have her take an inch off. It will grow back. It will grow back.)

My weight keeps going up. I don’t really want to talk about it more than that. I just want to let you know that that is one of my fret clouds right now.

I’m taking the two older boys with me on a trip to see my parents, and the fretting about air travel has begun. What if the check-in takes forever. What if we miss our connection. What if it’s so tight that we have to do one of those panicked-dashes-for-the-gate AND we lose the earlier-boarding-for-a-better-seat we paid extra for and we all end up in middle seats in separate rows. What if I accidentally bring something I’m not supposed to bring. What if they don’t believe me that my 6’3″ child is a minor, and they demand to see his ID. What if I forget something. Soothing techniques: Remembering it has all gone fine in the past, even when things have gone wrong. Remembering that anything I might accidentally forget is almost certainly something I can re-purchase. Remembering that I always get all worked up, and then when I’m actually traveling I wonder why I got so worked up when it’s not really that big a deal. Adding “student ID” and “copy of birth certificate” to list.

I have a lot of errands to do before I go. Some of them are things I need to acquire for the trip or handle for the trip; others are things I need to do/acquire for the household I’ll be leaving behind. I tend to get overly worked up about both lists, feeling as if all those things MUST be done or LORD HELP US ALL. When actually, Paul could go to the store for milk, and I could buy saline in my parents’ town; and if it REALLY came to it, I could pay $1/pill for Dramamine at the airport.

There. I think that’s all. I sit ready to listen to your fret-venting now, if you like.


*runs up you you, panting heavily, and grips your upper arm*: DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD JUST BUY EAR-PIERCING EARRINGS ON AMAZON?? FOR HARDLY ANY MONEY??

I waited until my order arrived to tell you about it, because it felt as if it could not be the case that I would buy a 12-pack of assorted ear-piercing earrings for about a dollar a pair and have them be, like, actually the same earrings they pierce earlobes with at thirty bucks a double-pop. But now I have seen it with my own eyes. (In fact, you can also buy an ear-piercing gun, but NO THANK YOU, I’M ALL SET.)

I wanted ear-piercing earrings for MULTIPLE REASONS:

1. Elizabeth wants to change her earrings about twice a year, so I like to get her earrings she can just leave in all the time

2. I am the same way about my upper-lobe piercings: I just like to leave a pair of earrings in all the time without taking them out or changing them

3. In 6-9 months I will be able to change my cartilage piercing, and I will want something very surgical-steely for that


I have little mini gold studs I wear in my upper-lobe piercings, and because “piercing is free, just buy the earrings,” and because I didn’t realize I could buy locking-back surgical-steel earrings anywhere other than a piercing place, I paid THIRTY DOLLARS for those earrings (I did not need another set of piercings, just smaller studs than I’d had my ears pierced with). Now I find the EXACT SAME ONES for slightly over a dollar a pair. This makes the whole thing seem like a rip-off. Which is silly, because all along it has NOT been free piercing, it has been $30 (or whatever) for piercing-including-earrings. But they SAY it is $30 for just the earrings, and I am very irritated by irritating marketing ploys. And I am so annoyed that they followed right through with that ploy and actually did charge me $30 for just the earrings.

Anyway! I am sorry, I am so wound up with excitement, I am not composing this post in an organized fashion.

What happened was this: I was writing the post about my fresh new cartilage piercing, and I wanted to find a picture that illustrated what I meant by “non-bezel-set,” because I’m not sure what that other kind of setting is called (I would call it “regular,” maybe). And the hits I got for images of ear-piercing earrings included some from items listed on Amazon, like this one, that looked VERY VERY MUCH like the earrings I’d been offered at my recent piercing session:

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Surgical Steel Ear Piercing Studs 12 Pairs Mixed Colors White Metal

And so I clicked through, and I read the details, and I read the reviews, and with hope and disbelief I ordered three sets: the silver-looking bezel-set ones above, the same basic deal in gold-looking metal, and a 12-pack of mini gold studs. And they arrived, and they appear to be FOR REAL. Behold!


There is perforation between each pair of earrings, so you can tear off just one set. You could give a few pairs in her favorite colors to a niece with recently-pierced ears, and keep the rest for yourself!

They have the sharp points and the locking backs. They look identical to the ear-piercing earrings I’ve bought before (for THIRTY DOLLARS A PAIR). They are glorious. I love them. I am so happy.

This is what the backs of the packages look like (blue is what’s on the back of the two sets of colored stones; red is what’s on the back of the gold studs):


I am especially pleased with the 12-pack of mini gold studs (2mm instead of 4mm like the usual piercing studs). I’ve been wearing mine for so many years that the plating has mostly worn off and they look silver, but DARNED if I was paying another $30! Now I have TWELVE PAIRS, all shining and golden! But those are also the ones I’m most nervous about, because they are a different brand than the others, and they are the only one with a review saying they irritated the reviewer’s ears so she wondered if they were not surgical steel as advertised. Well! We will see!

Another set I considered but decided against is this one: it has only six pairs, and includes duplicates from the other sets—but it has stars, hearts, and pearls. I also considered this set, which is what I was originally looking for when I set out to find a picture of what I meant by “non-bezel-set”/”regular” (and here they are in silver-color). Turns out it’s called “prong style.”

What it Was Like to Get a Cartilage Piercing

Oh, hello, are you another member of the “I have always wanted an unusual piercing and/or a tattoo but I have anxieties and indecisiveness that have prevented this from becoming a reality even as the decades go by one after another” club? It is a pretty exclusive club, but we have good pastries.

Yesterday I finally broke through and got a cartilage piercing, and I thought you might like to know what that was like. Here were my anxieties beforehand:

1. Maybe it will hurt for a long time afterward

2. Maybe it will get infected

3. I’ve heard the piercing might make a gross pop or crunch sound

4. Maybe something will go wrong and my ear will be deformed for the rest of my life

5. I don’t even know how much something like this will cost

6. I can’t decide where to put the piercing, or how many to get

7. What if the location “means” something? (this covers anything from a vague memory about how it matters which ear a guy gets pierced, to hoping I don’t pick a location privately referred to among piercers as The Boring Middle-Aged Mom)

8. Feeling self-conscious about being perceived as trying too hard to be cool

9. The place on the mall that did my lobe piercings says I have to find a licensed tattoo/piercing parlor for this, and I feel very nervous about everything about that: how to find one, whether I’ll feel dumb going into such a cool place, whether that means it’s going to cost a lot more than I expect, what they’ll think of me, why I still care about things like that, etc.

10. It’s a semi-permanent or potentially permanent thing (like if something goes wrong), and that is a nervous thing


12. Maybe I will regret it FOREVER


So! Yesterday I was feeling extremely cooped up in the house, so Rob and Elizabeth and I headed to the mall. I used to go to the mall ALL THE TIME when I had children in a stroller and I needed a place to walk around and kill time and buy things and eat lunch, all without having to fold up the stroller, but I haven’t been in literally years. For one thing, when the kids are no longer in a stroller, how do you carry all your STUFF? But the kids thought it was a keen idea, and I wanted to do something, ANYTHING, so off we went.

We had lunch in the food court, and that is just so excellent when I’m somewhere with more than one kid. We didn’t have to agree on a place and that was rad. After lunch we wandered around and found there really wasn’t anywhere any of us wanted to look. Oh, except Claire’s: Elizabeth and I both wanted to look at Claire’s. I wish I had a photo of my 6-foot teenage boy standing in Claire’s, surrounded by everything sparkly and fluffy and cute, looking pained as Elizabeth fairy-flew around saying “Oooooo look at this cute cat!!!” and “Ooooo owl earrings!!” and so forth.

I noticed that the piercing kiosk (not at Claire’s) that told me long ago they didn’t do cartilage piercings now had a big section of cartilage earrings and belly-button earrings, so I thought I would ask just in case they now did them. But no, they still do not, and also the clerk turned out to be one of those clerks who answers a question as if it’s the thousandth time a particular customer has asked her the question, rather than as if it is the very first time (or possibly second time for some of us, but YEARS apart) for each of a thousand customers. Eye roll, exasperated tone, defensive tone as if I had demanded to know why they didn’t rather than just asking if they did; she said the state only allows it to be done at licensed tattoo/piercing parlors.

Well. That was disappointing. I was pretty sure it would take me a good long time to investigate that option, or to follow through after I’d investigated—especially if I’d need to call ahead for an appointment instead of just walking in.

We continued through the mall. The kids were doing a fair amount of “Oh, I remember these gumball machines!!” and “Oh, I remember this tile pattern!!” and “The candy store is gone??” We were just to the part where we’d leave the mall and find our car, and I remembered we hadn’t yet found the rides. Elizabeth, age 11 and over 5 feet tall, was embarrassed to want to do one of the rides, but she DID want to do one, so we were going to do one. Also, that’s where the gumball/candy/toy machines were, and I was going to let them pick one thing each for old times’ sake.

As we walked round and round the gumball/candy/toy machines making our choices, I saw as if through a beam of heavenly light a sign placed in the entrance to a store: “State Licensed Piercing Parlor.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. Why, if there was a state-licensed piercing parlor IN THIS VERY MALL, did the clerk at the piercing kiosk NOT MENTION THAT FACT?? Furthermore, the store looked like a cool-but-not-scary jewelry store, and the person on duty in the store was a friendly-looking girl: glasses, normal appearance, not too cool, a few tattoos and piercings but just enough to show she’d know what was what, not enough to make me feel out of my league.

I asked if they did cartilage piercings, and she said yes they did, and I said this was my first time here and (*gesturing at walls COVERED with RACK UPON RACK of earring choices*) could she point me to the earring choices for the piercing? She said those would be in the back room where the piercing would take place. I was a little cheesed not to get to look at the options ahead of time but WHATEVER, let’s DO this!

First she took my driver’s license and made a copy of it so that the copy appeared on a sheet of info for me to fill out. I had to give my name, address, and age, and I had to write my driver’s license number on a line right next to the photocopy of my driver’s license number. I had to answer a series of half a dozen or so questions: was I pregnant or nursing? was I over 18? was I currently under the influence of drugs or alcohol? did I currently harbor any contagious diseases? was I allergic to latex or metal? did I understand that this could go very wrong indeed and I would have no legal recourse? No, yes, no, no, no, yes.

Then there was a care sheet she went over with me. When I got my earlobe piercings done (as a child and later as a high school student), there was a different philosophy for after-care than there is now. I remember I was supposed to wash the piercings with rubbing alcohol multiple times a day, and also turn the earrings a LOT: the idea was to keep the piercing sterile (the rubbing alcohol), and keep the earring from sticking to the skin while healing (the turning). Now the idea is to LEAVE THEM ALONE. Just…LEAVE THEM ALONE, stop TOUCHING them, GAH! She asked did I want the $6.99 after-care liquid, and I know from when we had Elizabeth’s ears pierced that the $6.99 after-care liquid is nothing more than saline I could buy for a dollar at Target, but I ALSO know it avoids a lot of talk and warnings to just buy the $6.99 after-care liquid. (At other times of life, I have gone the other way, and have figured it is worth saving $5.99 (($6.99 less the dollar to buy saline at Target)) to endure a few moments of discomfort with a clerk. But at this moment, I was more RIDE THE MOMENTUM than SAVE THE DOLLARS.) Anyway, the care plan is to spray the piercing every 3-4 hours with the saline but don’t otherwise touch them or turn them or mess with them at all. It’s going to be hard for me to override the earlier training: the alcohol-and-turning made more sense to me, though this plan makes sense too.

She said that if the piercing DID get infected, I should under no circumstances take the earring out. That instead I should come back any time the store was open to see the guy who does the piercings, and he would treat/help/advise. She also said I should not change the earring for 6-9 months. MONTHS. Which ratcheted up my feelings of stress about choosing the earring.

She said I could bring one person back into the piercing room with me, but that neither of us could do anything with photos or videos or any sort of recording. (I did not want to bring anyone back with me.)

I imagine it varies considerably from location to location and from type of piercing to type of piercing, but at THIS place it was $30.00 for one single cartilage piercing, plus the $6.99 for the saline. Then I sat on a couch and waited to be called. At this point I gave Rob a couple of dollars and told him to take Elizabeth to the rides. And just as they walked away, a nice non-threatening-looking man came out and called me back to the piercing room. He did not have any visible tattoos or piercings of his own; his hair was short. He looked like a lab technician: medical and conservative. (Your own piercing technician may vary.)

It was a small room, like a smallish dentist/doctor room. There was a chair a bit like a dentist chair and covered in paper, and a big mirror on the wall, and a bunch of cabinets, and one of those metal-tray rolling side-tables. There were certificates on the wall, presumably testifying that the person about to alter my body was trained, licensed, and authorized to do so. The piercing guy asked what we were doing today, and glanced at my receipt to confirm it.

He handed me the card of earring choices, which blew my circuits right out: there were about three dozen choices, and he was clearly thinking I would just pick one real quick, when my actual m.o. would be to take about six weeks to weigh the options. There were three basic categories of choices: colored stones bezel-set in gold or silver; colored stones non-bezel-set in gold or silver; and metal studs in gold, silver, or a blackened silvery metal. The metal studs were about twice the size of the colored-stone options, and I wanted something smaller, but I could not choose a color. I liked too many of them, but none of them enough to be clearly the one I wanted. I just couldn’t figure it out. I panicked and chose gold, even though it was (1) too big, (2) a fake-looking gold, and (3) not as fun as a colored stone.

The piercing guy asked where I wanted it placed, and I didn’t exactly know, and I’ve found in situations like that it sometimes helps to clarify the strength of my opinion so that the professional knows to feel free to suggest changes to the plan. So I said I had been thinking of “this region?”—indicating the curve of my ear from twelve o’clock to…well, nine o’clock or three o’clock, depending on how we are overlaying the clock concept with the ear concept. Upper outer quadrant, is what I mean. I said I was not sure where specifically I wanted it, but…here-ish?—indicating more specifically the eleven o’clock / one o’clock location. But I added “whatever seems best.” He put some stuff on the ear, washing it and sterilizing it I assume, and then drew a mark. He said, “Without. Touching. Your ear. Look in this mirror and tell me if it’s right.” I looked, and he’d drawn the mark more at ten o’clock / two o’clock. (I regret the clock imagery, but we’re too far in at this point.) I was very aware that this was an EASY change at this point if I wanted it higher; I also wanted to defer to his professional opinion; I was also aware that his professional opinion might be at the shrug-who-cares end of the spectrum so I didn’t want to defer TOO much. I weighed these elements and decided I liked where he had put it. For one thing, eventually I am thinking I want three piercings in a little arc, and this would be a nice position for the lowest of the three.

He unwrapped some thingies I didn’t look too closely at (one of them looked like too big of a pokey thing for me to want to think about it) and mentioned that these were all one-time-use supplies and would be used for me only. He took an earring out of a wee little baggie. I said, “Brace me for how much this is going to hurt,” and he said, “Oh, I think you’ll be surprised!” Me, aware that he really would not say that if he meant it would hurt MORE than I’d expect, but unable to avoid the follow-up just to be sure: “… … …A lot?” Him: “No, no, I mean pleasantly surprised!”

He had me lie down on my side, with the ear in question facing up. I felt him messing with my ear a little, dabbing/arranging it. Then he said, “Okay, take a deep breath,” and I did, and I didn’t count the seconds but my perception afterward was that it was about three seconds of pain. The pain was of a fully-bearable nature for that time period: that is, I thought to myself “Oof, ack, ouch,” but then it was over. It seemed to me it was about one second’s worth of the pain of the actual piercing, followed by one second’s worth of it continuing to hurt, followed by one second’s worth of pain from him putting the earring into the hole he’d just pierced.

I know this will vary from person to person and from piercing to piercing, but in my case I didn’t hear or feel any kind of crunch or pop. When I had my earlobes pierced, I remembered being surprised that the pain sensation was more of a really strong hot squeezing pinch, rather than the sharp point of pain I expected; in this case, the pain sensation was less of a pinch and more of a sharp point.

He spent another 20 seconds or so fussing with the ear, cleaning it up. Then he let me sit up and had me look at it, and I approved it and thanked him, and that was it. It all took so little time that when I left the piercing room Rob and Elizabeth were only just walking back into the waiting area. The clerk said, “How did it go?” and I said “Great!” and she said, “Great! Call if you have any questions or concerns!” and I said “Okay, I will!” and I walked out of there feeling really wonderful. Like “I DID IT!! I REALLY DID IT!! IT REALLY HAPPENED AND IT’S REALLY OVER AND DONE!!” Mixed with a sort of astonishment at how quickly and easily the whole thing was done, after so many years of thinking about it and worrying about it. It was a pleasingly casual experience, and I felt extremely good about finally pulling it off.


I had immediate and enduring regret over the earring choice (it’s so big! it’s such a fake-looking gold! why didn’t I just choose the nice light green? or the aqua? or the clear? or really ANYTHING AT ALL EXCEPT THE GOLD??), but I am always in need of practice in not wasting time thinking about small, temporary, unimportant stuff, so I will accept this next installment of the lifelong lesson plan. This is the unsurprising-result math equation I encounter again and again: “person who has trouble making snap decisions” + “forced snap decision” = “nearly inevitable regret.” And when the issue is an earring choice rather than, say, a life-threatening crisis situation, it’s really, really okay. If I continue to be bothered by it, I also have the option of going back to the store and saying to the nice friendly clerk that I regret my earring choice and is there any way to throw money at the problem to fix it? Like, what if I purchase another piercing earring, and have the piercing guy change the earring for me? I could even pay the entire $30 fee over again for this. Or, OR, I could DEFY THEIR RULES and buy my own piercing earring at another location and change it myself! Or I can just be PATIENT, and then get whatever I want after the long unendurable torment of Not Quite The Earring I Wanted is over. I DO have options here.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, the pain situation. So, as we were leaving the piercing place, my ear didn’t hurt even a tiny bit, but it did feel quite hot. All the way home, it didn’t hurt. All afternoon: no pain, just heat. Then I tucked my hair behind my ear as I do many times a day, and my hand brushed lightly against the back of the earring, and OH JEHOSHAPHAT LET’S NOT DO THAT AGAIN. But it didn’t hurt as long as I didn’t touch it, and it didn’t hurt to put the saline spray on it. Still, I started worrying how I was going to sleep, since my usual is to flip back and forth from side to side all night.

And it was a bit difficult: I hadn’t realized just how much I rely on the flipping back and forth until I couldn’t do it. I woke up a lot, and felt sad to have to be on just one side, and was very grateful I hadn’t tried to do piercings on both sides in the same session. One time I woke up to find myself cheating: I was on the side I wasn’t supposed to sleep on, with the pillow folded under the behind-my-ear area so that the ear was pretty much free.

When I woke up in the morning, the ear didn’t hurt at all. Like, I was very carefully taking out my braid, and my hand nevertheless brushed against the earring, and it felt like nothing. I jostled it a few times on purpose, and still nothing: it felt like a piercing I’d had for years. But just now I was jostling it again for comparison, and then realized I was actually jostling the higher-up one of my lobe piercings and not my new cartilage piercing, so. Hard to say for sure about earlier today.

I took a shower very cautiously: the care sheet says to avoid harsh soaps and shampoos, and to rinse thoroughly. I was not sure where “rinse thoroughly” and “quit TOUCHING it!” should meet, but I did my best. Afterward, I was verrrrrry careful when turbaning, brushing, styling my hair; when I jostled the earring, it did hurt a little, but not like yesterday when it was a startling feeling. I would use a word such as TENDER, rather than a word such as HOLY HELL.

At this point it’s been nearly 24 hours since I had the piercing done. I just jostled the earring on purpose a few times, and I would say “tender” still applies. I feel inclined to leave it alone. I will update later about how things go over the next…6-9 months.

Update 1: Second morning report. The clerk told me not to sleep on the piercing, but I kept waking up sleeping on that side. It was apparently not tender enough to prevent me from doing so. When I got up, I saw what looked like a small amount of very dark dried blood between the earring and my ear. I was glad I was about to get in the shower anyway so I didn’t have to decide what to do about it. I put the shower on its gentler setting and repeatedly let the water run over the piercing as I was showering. When I got out of the shower, the piercing looked clean and fresh again. The piercing still feels tender if I jostle it or accidentally knock into it. Part of the discomfort is that the cartilage part of the ear is so rigid. My lobe piercings feel as if they’ve got quite a bit of wiggle room, but the cartilage piercing is sturdier, and so feels wronger if gets wiggled.

Update 2: On Day….let’s see. I got it done on a Wednesday, and I am going to talk about Sunday, so that would be Day 5. On Day 5, my ear felt more tender than before, and was the hot-pink color it was the day it was pierced, and was very slightly swollen: not super-puffy or anything, but I could tell because the earring seemed to be a tighter fit than before.

Update 3: Two-and-a-half weeks. I am back to sleeping almost normally on that side: every so often there is a little twinge, but I just readjust the pillow. I stopped using the multiple-times-a-day saline spray about a week ago; I use it just if the piercing feels itchy or irritated. After I’ve rinsed my hair in the shower, I pull my hair aside and rinse just the piercing, front and back, for awhile—like, 15 to 30 seconds, probably. I lightly touch the back of the earring as I’m rinsing the front, and lightly touch the front of the earring as I’m rinsing the back, to make sure I’m rinsing between the earring and the skin. My ear is not pink or swollen anymore. The piercing is still sensitive if I jostle it, but not oh-holy-hell—just a twinge that makes me disinclined to jostle it. I wish I’d updated about a week ago when the piercing area felt Quite Itchy, so I’d know when that was and how long it lasted, but I forgot. Well, it was about a week ago, and I think it lasted a couple of days. It wasn’t call-the-doctor itchy, but it was itchy enough that I thought, “I hope this is HEALING itchiness and not INFECTION itchiness.” There were no other symptoms besides pinkness (and the pinkness might have been because I kept furtively scratching my ear): no oozing or swelling whatever.

I’m feeling happier with the gold stud: it helped considerably when I replaced the smaller gold stud in my up-high lobe piercing, because now the two golds match in color. Also, as I got used to the cartilage piercing it just seemed much less noticeable over all. No one says, “OH! You got a new piercing!”—it’s not noticeable enough for that. It’s much less of a big deal than I’d thought it would be, and I mean that in the positive sense. I feel very happy about doing it, and a little silly for waiting so long.

Occupational Testing

I was trying to make room in the filing cabinet, and I found a folder labeled School. In that folder were some test results I had no idea I’d kept. Back in college, I changed my major about six times the first year, and finally at the suggestion of my sixth advisor went to the Career Center to do some vocational testing. Here is the result of a test that is apparently called the Strong Interest Inventory of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank. It is supposed to determine which of the six vocational types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional) a person is interested in.


NONE strong interests! That seems about right.

There’s a second page that divides occupations into lists, sorting them by how similar I am to people in those occupations. I have no matches in the “very similar” category. In the “similar” category, I have six occupations: photographer, lawyer, librarian, broadcaster, public administrator, banker.

In the “moderately similar” category, I have eight occupations: advertising executive, reporter, elected public official, store manager, public relations director, social science teacher, Chamber of Commerce executive, and marketer.

In the “very dissimilar” category are ALL THE REST OF THE OCCUPATIONS. A lonnnnnnnng list. It includes all the medical professions, most of the teaching professions, all of the science and engineering professions, and also things such as forester, carpenter, mathematician, and police officer. Nopes all around.

While all of this is a little discouraging, not to mention not very helpful, there is a sense in which it is comforting to see that I have been the same all along: low interest in pretty much everything, no feeling of having various possible paths to contented employment. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t feel like I was wasting decades of career growth by having a lot of kids: I didn’t have anything I particularly wanted to do anyway.

But it makes it hard to figure out what to do as the kids get older. Surely I will not still be sitting in the house without a job after the last kid is gone? And yet, my job experiences so far are not giving me much hope. Well! Still many more occupations to attempt!

What Was Your Major, and What Job Did it Lead To?

On the How Did You Choose Your College? post, Missy asked if there could be another post where people say what their major was and what job(s) they got with that. She says: “Part of the reason I think it is so hard for kids to pick majors is ‘what kind of job would that be’?”

I agree. One of Rob’s potential majors is theoretical math. Not applied math: theoretical. And definitely my question there is what kind of JOB would that be?

Also, I think it’s so interesting to see how there can be a huge gap between major and job: sometimes they are (or seem) almost completely unconnected.

So let’s talk about that today, in whatever way applies to you. For example, maybe you can say, “This was my major, and here are some of the jobs associated with that major.” Or maybe you can say, “This was my major, but this is where I ended up, because etc.” Or maybe you can say, “This was my major, and there are NO JOBS, so I went back for schooling in this other thing.” Or maybe you will want to tell what happened with someone else. Just, whatever you think applies to this discussion.

Here is what I would rather not see, if we can avoid it: fighting about whether it’s better to go with a major that is attached to a definite employment path, or whether it’s better to follow one’s heart/interests regardless of future employment possibilities. It seems clear to me that the answer to that dilemma is “Sometimes one way is better, sometimes the other way is better, and it’s super-hard to figure out in advance which way is best for an individual person and their individual interests/life.” I’d rather stick, if possible, to stories about “This major —-> this job.”