When I was little, we had a housekeeper. She came in once a week to vacuum the
carpets, scrub the toilets, and try her best to make the house feel like it did not contain three young children and a handful of hairy pets. I remember thinking, as I contemplated whether cleaning my room or loosing my dessert privileges was the greater evil, that she had the absolute worst job in the world. I hated cleaning my room, and it was just one little room! This poor woman had to clean whole HOUSES, and they weren’t even HERS, and she had to do it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
And that, I suppose, is the kind of thinking that karmicly lands you a job cleaning toilets every single day.
I run a bed and breakfast these days. I have four guest bedrooms, and in the 120 days of a Black Hills summer, each of those four rooms gets cleaned (on average) 3.5 times each week, making for a total of 14 toilets scrubbed every week of my summer.
Yes, I did the math. You see, a person starts to be concerned about average toilet-scrubbing rates after one has scrubbed so many toilets that one’s eyes start to go crossed.
The other thing one starts to do, at that eyes-crossed point in the game, is one starts to make ranked lists in one’s head about the relative awefulness of each chore. It turns out scrubbing toilets is in no way my least-favorite chore. So here, for your consideration, is my Ranking of Chores, in order from most to least favorite.
Laundry Sorting it, putting it in the washer, starting the dryer, and even folding it. Laundry is such a bulky chore that getting through it really makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Besides, it’s warm and smells so nice.
Crisp, fresh sheets, hospital corners, artfully arranged pillows. Another chore that is large in volume and makes it look like you’ve done a lot of work.
Sweeping the floors
An easy way to really make a place look clean.
They’re not usually as dirty as the other bathroom fixtures, and making the faucet all shiny makes me feel like the guests will really believe the place is clean.
Let’s face it: modern technology makes this really easy. With a disposable sponge on the end of a long wand, you hardly even have to touch the toilet!
Putting laundry away
It’s clean. It’s folded. It’s sitting in a mountain twenty towels high on my dresser. The mystery of why it’s so hard to get it from there to inside of drawers or closets is akin to the mystery of what happens to socks in the dryer.
Hand-washing the special dishes
Hmph. Soapy, crumby water. Boo.
I can’t explain quite why I loathe this task so much. Bathtubs are big and the things that get left on the bottom are never, ever nice things.
For all that, none of these tasks is so bad. When you clean a toilet nearly every day, it doesn’t have a chance to get aggressively gross. And if you can get some good tunes or a good story to listen to while you work, the repetition doesn’t become so mind-numbing.
And when strangers pay you for the privilege of judging your housekeeping, there is serious satisfaction in having a sparkling toilet to offer up for their consideration.
That moment when you are poised on the brink of something wonderful, waiting for it to begin, anxious to experience every glorious second that is to come, and savoring the knowledge that every little morsel of it still lies ahead. That frisson of excitement, of wonder, of expectation. Waiting for Santa. Staring at the outside of that college admissions letter. Lowering the Sorting Hat onto your head.
Don’t get me wrong. When the moment comes, the experience itself will also be wonderful, but the anticipation is special. For those moments before the leap, every possibility exists. You already know it’s going to be good, but it might actually turn out to be amazing. The reality has the potential to be extraordinary, or life-changing, or magical.
And that’s where I am, poised on the brink of something wonderful, made even more entrancing by its mysterious nature. For our 10th wedding anniversary, Dustin and I are going on a Grand European Excursion, and Dustin’s gift to me is that he is doing ALL of the planning, and the details of the voyage will be revealed to me only as they are happening. I am about to be surprised by three weeks of new places, delicious food, and incredible experiences. That is the sum total of what I know about the trip so far.
“Oh, how can you let him do all that without even consulting? I could never give up that much control!” you say? (I know you say that, because everyone we’ve told about this trip has said it.)
Here’s the thing: my husband is amazing, he’s really good at this stuff, and I love surprises.
(Also, I’m really bad at planning trips. So seriously. This is a gift.)
I haven’t written many blog posts in the last couple years. Life has been preoccupying for many reasons – some of them good, some of them difficult, many of them just Life. Writing is one of my passions, though, and it needs to reclaim a place in my life. One of my goals over the next month will be to write on a regular basis, and this upcoming adventure provides both an excellent excuse and brilliant subject matter. Dustin will be guest-blogging, as well, so you’re double lucky if you follow along.
Lest my poetic waxings about incredible adventures make you feel jealous or make it appear as if my life is only excitement and fun, I plan to take a couple opportunities during this Week of Anticipation to get back into the writing groove by posting a few slice’o’life stories about some of the less glamorous things we’ve been up to recently. Tune in next time for musings about such titillating topics as cleaning bathrooms, searching for the perfect audiobook, constructing a dream bathroom for someone else to use, or musings about why the show Naked & Afraid is so great.
(This is an archived About page, written sometime in 2008, and discovered to be heinously out of date when I reorganized the blog in 2016. The new About Page can be found by clicking on the Menu in the top right corner of the header. But if you continue reading here, enjoy out-of-date me!)
Hello, my name is Laura.
Some days I think my life is one long, inner monologue. I’ve stuffed my head full of so much fiction and let so much more out through my fingertips, I have started thinking in narrative. If you want to listen in, here is your chance.
I live in South Dakota with my wonderful husband, naughty cat, and dead garden. I’ve been fortunate to travel through the United States and Europe. I’ve studied in Iowa, France, and Belgium. I have degrees in Anthropology and Archaeology, which I stopped putting to use when I discovered that doing archaeology in the United States means traveling to remote areas of nowhere, digging for endless hours, and finding nothing. Some day I’ll go back to Europe and dig stuff up there. Much more rewarding.
Until then, I’m working for the family business, planning to be more successful with next summer’s garden, and learning sign language.
This blog will be devoted to whatever tickles my fancy at a given moment. Consider it a grab bag. You’ll likely hear about my adventures in homemaking (thus far, I haven’t proven to be especially talented in that regard), working with family (but only so far as I won’t offend anyone), and getting along with other people (I do the best I can). You’re also bound to hear about my opinions on language, writing, and reading, three of my favorite things.
To see my musings about life and travel in the Black Hills of South Dakota, check out the Black Hills Travel Blog, where I am a contributor.
For the last couple weeks, I have been beset by frustrations. The causes range from very tiny to somewhat overwhelming, though not a single one of them is worth the angst it’s causing me. And this situation – being full of feelings – has spawned a brand new frustration that is purely a product of the times.
I’m going to call it Social Media Repression Syndrome.
Twenty years ago, if a person had a feeling bubbling away inside her, she had two options:
Say nothing and let the issue simmer away under the surface, causing anxiety, depression, and possible explosions over minor issues. (See: The Sneaky Hate Spiral)
Seek out a trusted friend and talk the matter out, seeking emotional support or practical solutions as needed.
Today there is a third option, and it’s a dangerous, terrifying option:
3. Stick your naked thoughts up on Social Media and wait for someone – anyone! – to start the conversation with you.
There are very serious problems with this new option.
1. You can’t control the conversation. If you pick a good friend to privately vent to, you pick someone you trust. You speak in a confidential environment, and you generally understand exactly what kind of discussion you’re in for. For example, if I wanted someone to share righteous indignation with, I would go talk to my friend Anne. If I wanted someone to tell me how to fix it, I would go talk to Dustin. If I wanted someone’s shoulder to cry on who would stroke my hair and tell me that it’s all going to be okay, I would pick Megan. You choose a very specific person to get a specific kind of comfort. It’s a tried and true system.
Online? You get whoever the heck happens to be looking at their newsfeed when you post. That could be someone whose opinion you value, or it could be JohnnyBob who you made friends with in CandyWorld and never actually met in real life. Turns out, JohnnyBob has a very different worldview than you do, couldn’t read between the plain text of your status to see your pain, and now he’s said something offensive or insensitive and now you have to get sucked into an argument that makes things even worse. Or you have to unfriend JohnnyBob, but then who will you get peppermints from?! The problems mount.
2. You say things you don’t mean. Emotions often equal temporary insanity. When you are full of feelings, and you go find another person to share them with, the act of conversing often has the effect of diffusing the emotions and making them less dangerous (to yourself and others). You also know your friend is a safe outlet – you chose him specifically for that reason. And maybe you really DID mean what you said at the time, whatever short-sighted, selfish, bigoted, or inconsiderate* thing that was, but you maybe won’t still mean it in a few days. But if you stuck it out there in public while you were feeling hot – well, there it is now. The internet doesn’t forget.
*I’m not talking about anything you’ve ever posted of course. Just things I think about posting, but then decide against.
3. You put your baggage out in public. Used to be, you had to belong to a high school, church, country club, or sewing group if you wanted to get all the good gossip, but – oh boy! – has the internet invented a short cut! Not only do you not have to GO anywhere or TALK to anyone to find out the latest word, you don’t even have to get it third hand! People stick it right out there for everyone to see – straight (if sometimes enigmatically) from the horse’s mouth. Maybe JohnnyBob doesn’t actually respond to your status. Maybe nobody does. But now dozens (hundreds?) of people have seen your status, and whether they mean to or not, they have formed opinions about you and your issues. Do you really want the whole world pondering your dirty laundry?
So back to Social Media Repression Syndrome: I don’t want ANY of the above things to happen. My personal frustrations are personal. And yet, and yet…
We have been trained to stick it all out there. We who populate Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. We who haunt forums of like-minded people, we who write blogs that anyone can read. The internet has bred a culture of sharing, wherein we feed off the responses we get. Getting more than 5 “likes” or +1s on a status tickles me pink. It makes me feel clever and appreciated, and it makes me want to generate more content so I can get more pats on my social ego.
I want to post my weird angst on the internet because I am a rat, and your Likes are electric pulses to my brain.
I don’t post because my super-ego is bossier than my id. (But then, of course, I’m posting this. The ego’s compromise?)
(That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for psychology references.)
And so, in addition to feeling frustrated about an handful of regular life issues, I am also bursting to pop with Facebook status updates and Tweets that I know are perfectly unacceptable. I know posting them will annoy someone, insult someone, or get someone thrown in jail (haha, just kidding – or am I?) (LOOK! SO INAPPROPRIATE!) but I want to share, and all the people I would normally entrust with my feelings in a private, old-fashioned manner are unavailable. Humbug!
So here, let’s settle for this: if you want to have coffee with me some time, let me know. I’d love to fill your ears with woes that are carefully calculated to match our relationship. 🙂
I could have sworn I’ve been writing a post like this every year since I started this blog, but it turns out I wrote one for 2008 and have spent the intervening four years thinking about writing one, and not actually doing it. Huh.
Well, I shan’t regale you with a full five-years-in-review letter, because that sounds exhausting, even to me. Let’s see what kind of excitement 2013 brought to the Floyd family then, eh?
January found Dustin and I fleeing the frigid north for the incredible beauty of St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands. We are both blessed with jobs that allow us a lot of flexibility to travel, and a grandmother who has the good sense to go south every year, thereby providing us with a locale and an excuse to go visit. I’ve never been to a place quite so island-y as St. Croix, and confess that I found the experience of being surrounded by SO MUCH OCEAN a bit unnerving. Nevertheless, the island is incredibly beautiful. We spent time on fine-sand beaches, counting spiders on rain forest trails, and touring old sugar (rum) mills.
February brought us back to chilly South Dakota where I had the privilege to spend some quality time with Megan and Grace, my new adopted family from Kansas. We met them as guests when they came to stay at our bed & breakfast last December, and now we’re stuck like glue. They came away from a very difficult family situation, and through our time together and many, many long conversations, they have taught me so much about how my own life is blessed.
Oh, did I mention we started a bed & breakfast?
In 2010, Dustin and I moved into a historic house in Deadwood, and we’ve been slowly – oh, SO slowly – restoring in over the last three years. The place is huge, so fairly early in the process, we began sharing our extra bedrooms through airbnb.com. As of last December, we are an officially licensed Bed & Breakfast, and while our website is still a work in progress, you’re welcome to check out the online preview of the guest books we just made, or oogle our listing on bedandbreakfast.com. Over the summer, we were full to bursting. Thankfully, fall and winter have proved to be very quiet. My sanity is grateful.
Speaking of things that make our house more interesting, meet Luna, our newest family member:
Dustin’s mother found her wandering stray near their mountain-side house last November. We thought she was a kitten when we took her home (she weighed less than two pounds), but the vet said she was at least a year, maybe two years old. The above photo shows her after we’d had her for about three months. These days, she has turned into a regular fluffy blimp. I don’t know how to put her on a diet without starving the skinny one. Hm…
So, speaking of that above cat photo, you may have heard that we’ve had some really wacky weather this year.
And then there was this freaky business in October. October 4th, to be precise. It started snowing one nice Friday night, and did not stop until Sunday. We got 48 very solid inches. The trees hadn’t even started changing colors yet. The arboreal carnage was immense. Our power went out for about 36 hours, and it got very, very cold inside our house. We were the fortunate ones – some of our friends were out of power for six days. My shoveling muscles will never be the same.
(Dustin would like me to point out that between the Hail and the Great Snow, there was a lot of summer. Most of it was filled with changing beds and doing laundry for a very busy B&B, but we snuck in a trip to Yellowstone, explored a ghost town with friends from France, went to Denver for a three-day district convention, and I tried very hard to grow a vegetable garden that wasn’t a complete failure, although that blizzard really did in my tomatoes. Now then.)
Barely a week after the Mega Blizzard, in the deepest throes of the government shutdown, my beautiful sister Megan got married just outside of Yellowstone. It should have been IN Yellowstone, but the government had far bigger problems than a few dashed hopes and dreams. (I exaggerate – nothing was dashed and the wedding was perfect, drifts of snow and all.) We got to see family from far and wide, who all rallied to make the event awesome despite the complications.
We spend a lot of time in Yellowstone these days. My daddy went full circle and has returned to work there, now at the top of the heap. He and Mom live in a beautiful historic home in Mammoth Hot Springs, so we take every possible excuse we can find to visit while the hospitality is so good.
In all the bits of 2013 when I haven’t been working, hiking, or shoveling, I’ve spent a lot of time working on writing projects. Very exciting for me is that in February, I got my first piece of fiction published: a short story written for a collection done by the Saucy Ink writing group. Check it out! Woo!
Aaaaand just last week the third collection, containing my second story, came out. They’re good stories! Go read them! 😀
In other, less episodic or photographic news, Dustin continues taking over the world one good logo at a time. Business at TDG is hopping, and now that the office is only a five-minute walk from home, there’s no excuse not to work ALL THE TIME. (Except that I like to sleep a lot, so I don’t work much in the mornings. I believe Dustin works double hard in the mornings to make up for it.)
Our dabbling in American Sign Language, started back in 2007, has paid off. The small group of us that began learning to help out a deaf man in our congregation have now become a congregation entirely dedicated to ASL.
So there’s 2013. More than you ever needed to know. So much more than you would have gotten if I was the kind of person who could get to a post office once a year.
But how are your years treating you?? My mailbox has been a bit light on the incoming updates as well as the outgoing ones. I’d love to hear from you, and will happily trade mailing (or emailing) addresses with you. I’m sending much love and many good wishes for the coming year.
If you’ve been online or looked at any news-related TV programs lately, you’ve probably heard that there’s a bit of a cold snap gracing the northern US right now. Really, really cold. The high in the Black Hills today capped off at 11 degrees, and my mom reports that in Yellowstone, the temperature didn’t get up past 7. It’s supposed to be even colder tomorrow.
It’s possible I’m not a big fan of leaving the house when it drops down past 20 degrees. Couldn’t tell you why I settled on 20, but that seems to be the magic number. So when I finally hauled myself out of bed this morning, it was a little later than normal. I showered, stuffed myself into some longjohns, and then, well… I crawled back into bed with my computer. I thought maybe I’d stay there all day, but then I saw this graph that Dustin made for me.
I didn’t realize it was a personal creation right away. I thought he had found the perfect meme for me. And then I realized it was his handwriting. He’s brilliant, what can I say?
I never did go to the office this morning. I would protest that there were extenuating circumstances (beyond the weather), but I suspect no one would believe me.
Before I begin my tour, I want to say thank you to all the amazing people who dug people out, kept neighbors warm, and brought back the power. It was cold, wet, occasionally dangerous work, and I am grateful for all you did.
Now then. If you weren’t paying attention last weekend, there was a bit of a snow squall across the West. In the Black Hills of South Dakota, we got particularly walloped. While I am always in favor of a good blizzard, it’s hard to be a fan of four feet on top of trees that haven’t even begun changing colors, much less lost their leaves.
I don’t have any pictures from Thursday, which is a pity because they would have been nice for contrast. It started raining late afternoon on Thursday, and by about 10:00 the rain turned to snow. Because of the rain, the snow immediately stuck to everything: streets, cars, trees. I went outside at 11:30 and shook off all my little trees in hopes of saving them from being crushed. By that time, the snow was already about six inches deep.
We went to bed around midnight. I was contemplating getting up and setting an alarm for 2:00 so I could go out and shake my trees again when the first branch from the Huge Terrifying Cottonwood of Doom fell on our roof.
I sprang out of bed and ran downstairs. A branch the size of an entire 10-year-old tree was laying in the side yard. Not big enough to have crushed the roof, but I wasn’t happy. Dustin dragged me back to bed and tried to reassure me that our roof was not going to collapse, but the branched just kept falling, and I could not get the image of the entire tree coming down on us out of my mind, so I got up and went outside.
The scenery was incredibly beautiful. After getting a long-distance view and satisfying myself that the tree probably wasn’t going to come down in its entirety, I went around and shook my little trees again, along with all the lilacs I could reach. A fire truck was parked father up the hill (because someone had reported a house fire that did not exist, I later learned). As the truck rolled past me down the street, the sky filled with a flash of blue and the street lights flickered. Five seconds later, another flash of blue and all the lights went out.
By the time I got back inside, Dustin had raided the attic and pulled out our propane camp stove and lantern. He’d also lit a handful of candles, though I wasn’t sure what we’d do with them at 1:30 in the morning.
Sleep did not come back easily. The tree continued to lose limbs, at least one of which fell and crushed our patio furniture. We were up by seven, and it was very clear there would be no going anywhere that day (Friday). Dustin warmed up the stove and we made ourselves bacon and eggs. Bellies full, I headed outside to get some photos.
Break for narrative. Our mission on Friday morning took us down to the office so I could get photos and Dustin could get his spare phone battery. That got him a bit of internet access, but only enough to let folks know we were alive. At 11:30 Friday morning, my fear for the contents of my fridge/freezer overwhelmed my theory that as soon as I moved their contents outside, the power would come back on. “It’s not like you have anything else to do,” was Dustin’s winning argument. On the up side, we discovered lots of things that we never knew we had…
On our morning foray, we had learned that much of Main Street was open and serving food, so we made some plans to get down there for a hot dinner. We landed at the Saloon #10 and got some very delicious cheeseburgers.
On the way back to the house, we realized the power was on in our neighborhood. I waylayed some poor worker on his way down from our neighborhood and asked him how long it had been on, sincerely hoping to come back to a toasty house. Twelve minutes was the consensus, just as the lights went off again.
Now, I’d just like to take a moment to extol the virtues of being well-prepared for a storm like this. Sensible people that we are, we had an emergency supply kit put together. (It was lacking a few things, which are now on our shopping list, but in general it was pretty great.) We had light, lots of candles, a camp stove, the good sense to fill lots of pots with water before we had to turn off the water to prevent frozen plumbing, and plenty of food. But the very, very best thing in our emergency kit:
Dang man, these things are awesome. We had them stuffed in our socks, pockets, and hats. When your house has dipped below 60 degrees, it’s really wonderful. Layers of clothing only go so far, and you can only cuddle so many hours of the day. (Which, truly, could be a lot of hours.) The funny thing is, when Dustin busted them out my very first thought was “Noooo! Those are for emergencies!” I then had to spend a fair portion of time contemplating the nature of “emergency.” I mean, what if the power went off forever, and instead of having to survive for two 32-degree days, we had to survive a whole winter full of negative-20-degree days?! We’d be really sorry we used our handwarmers already.)
Saturday morning dawned cold and bright. The snow was no longer coming down, but that’s because it had ALL already come down.
I was anxious to get outside and take photos because there were signs that the sun was coming out, and I wanted to get the goods at their deepest possible point. It’s also possible I was more interested in Lee Street Station for breakfast than I was in staying in my freezing house and finding my own.
Walking through the snow would not be an option. We’d had enough trouble with less than two feet on Friday evening. This had turned into a very solid four feet, where it wasn’t drifted higher. I gave some thought to jumping over the porch rail to the side of the house (making sure the vents were uncovered was Mission A), but realized that would not do me any good if I was, once again, stuck in four feet of snow off the side.
Finally, taking a cue from the belly-flop maneuver I used to get out of the pickle pictured above, I took a flying leap off the front steps and landed on the snow on my belly. I did not sink. Tentatively, I began something between a baby-style and swimmer-style crawl across the snow. Guess what? This totally works! It’s like using your shins as snow shoes (which, by the way, are on our list of things to add to our emergency supplies). Look, Dustin got some video:
It’s a pity he stopped recording when he did. Right after this, I fell into an air pocket between the car and the window (that lump to my left is the car) and had a moment of serious panic that I would die in my own personal mini-avalanche. I got out somehow, cleared the vents, and crawled around the back of the house to get some more photos.
Everyone else in town (local and stranded travelers) had the same idea. Thankfully, Lee Street was warm, dry, and had internet for about half an hour before the communication lines all over town went down.
We had a nice breakfast, charged up our devices, then headed out to see what the rest of town looked like.
I headed inside to put on the pot of chili I’d been dreaming of for two days, and Dustin began the epic task of shoveling out.
This is about the point when I once again fell into a hole created by pockets of air around the car. I was stuck, stuck, stuck. Dustin took lots of pictures, then a nice video of me hauling myself out of the hole. It didn’t end well for him when he was more concerned about my boot and his car than my about-to-be-avalanched state:
That’s where we gave up on Sunday. Monday we went back to work, but spent a very generous lunch “hour” digging a proper driveway so I could leave on Tuesday.