The Introvert’s Innkeeper Script

In the course of a normal day at my historic bed and breakfast, I converse with somewhere between two and five couples who are visiting me from the far reaches of the globe. I’ve hosted people from every continent except Antarctica (I’m still hoping), with hugely varied backgrounds, vocations, and personalities. I’ve learned more than I ever needed to know about these people’s hobbies, grandchildren, pets, cars, diseases, and heartbreaks.

Yes, running a bed and breakfast is a wonderful way to meet and converse with people, to learn about different lives and cultures and see a bit of the world through other people’s eyes. It’s an ideal profession for an extrovert.

So where does that leave the Introvert Innkeeper?

I have a little secret for you, something they never tell you about a job like this: real conversation is as rare as icebergs at the equator. Rather than being a polished conversationalist, I am a talking robot, a computer program who responds to fixed cues with identical streams of words every single time. Instead of conversing, I am performing a part in an improvisational play where I’ve learned 100 lines, and the only question is, which order will I deliver them in today?

Fifty of those lines are delivered as a matter of course to nearly every guest. There’s the regular check-in and room-tour speeches, of course, but there are also certain questions that every guest asks, almost without fail:

“How long have you lived here?”
(“We’ve been in the house for seven years. This is our fifth summer as a bed and breakfast.”)

“This house is so beautiful!”
(“Thank you, we think so too. We feel very fortunate to be able to take care of it for awhile.”)

“When was the house built?”
(“We didn’t name it the 1899 Inn because that was our favorite number.”{charming smile} “1899 – just like the name!”)

“Do you know anything about the history of the house?”
(“No, it’s never occurred to me to ask any questions about a significant historic house in a significant historic town.”
“It was built by a gentleman named H.B. Wardman, who was a local hardware merchant… etc etc.” )

As you may have noticed, after answering the same questions several times every single day, the temptation to go snarkily off-script starts presenting itself, but I’m too well-behaved to do that while on stage.

The second set of 50 answers is for the chattier guests, the ones who have more in-depth questions about the history of the house, and for the ones who are, themselves, genuine extroverts who want to get to know me and do some bonding. I can gracefully handle almost all of these questions:

“That strange knob is where a gas fixture use to sit on the wall.”
“Yes, we live on the second floor at the top of the stairs.”
“It had been vacant for three years when we bought it.”
“I grew up down in Rapid City, so yes, I’m sort of local.”
“Deadwood has a rather complicated relationship with the casinos.”
“I had it dyed professionally, but I do the upkeep myself.”

But there’s a subset in that second set of 50 questions that I have come to fear and loathe, a set of questions that feels too intrusive, too impolite, but which 8 guests out of 10 feel compelled to ask anyway. The questions come in several forms, but they’re all seeking the same answer:

“So do you love doing this?”
“Do you ever get to take any time off?”
“How do you stand having people in your house all the time?”
“Has it always been your dream to run a bed and breakfast?”

And the fact is, they don’t think these questions are inappropriate because secretly (or not), everyone who visits me has daydreamed about running their own bed and breakfast some day, and they want confirmation that their fantasy is a good one, or sometimes, they genuinely want to know if they could handle the reality of it.

My responses to these questions are, like all the others, scripted and well-worn. Though I will give a different reply to the folks living in a fantasy world and the folks who seem to genuinely want to know, all of my replies to these questions are carefully-worded half-truths.

“You get to meet so many fascinating people from so many different places!”
“We slow down a bit in the winter, so we get to take some time off then.”
“You can learn to sleep through anything!”

The fact is, people don’t want to know my real answers to these questions, and I certainly don’t want to share them. I’m convinced that one of the ingredients for being successful in a job like this is to make sure people believe you love what you do and that talking about it is always a pleasure in itself.

But maybe some people really, truly want to know about the hard stuff. So here, for the first and only time, are some honest-to-gods answers to those questions:

Running a bed and breakfast as a primary source of income is hard. It’s not like putting your spare bedroom up on AirBnB. It’s not like hosting your out-of-town family for two weeks in the summer. It’s not like a sleep-over with your girlfriends.

You probably expect the work that will go into keeping your house immaculate all the time, the work that goes into making nice breakfasts, that goes into recommending local attractions. On the surface, you understand that you will be sharing your house with strangers every night, but until you do it, it’s really hard to understand what that means.

You don’t think about how you’re on the clock 24 hours a day, how you can’t leave the house without putting a sign on the door that says, “be right back, call if you need me right away!” You don’t think about all those special diets you have to cook around, the people who will be grumpy about things you thought went without saying, like the existence of your well-photographed cats, or the lack of closets in the historic bedrooms. You don’t think about how important it is to set limits for yourself (earliest breakfast is at 7:30am and latest in-person check-in is at 10pm because I have GOT to protect my sleeping hours) and about how unhappy some guests will be when you try to enforce those limits (“but we have to LEAVE at 7am!”). You don’t think about what it means to know there are strangers in your house with you every night of your life, how they might not come in until 3am, how they might wander into your kitchen and eat all your Oreos, how they might accidentally (or otherwise) bang doors at 5:30am, how they get confused and try to come into your bedroom instead of theirs, how they get first dibs on your big TV and on the bathroom where the laundry machines are. How they ask you the same questions every single day of your life, the single most infuriating of which is, “so do you have a real job too, or is this what you do?”

(I won’t counsel you on any other kind of conversation to have or not have next time you stay at a bed and breakfast, except for that: for the love of all that is sacred to you, never ask “do you have a real job too?” I will testify at the assault trial of the guy who punches you for asking, and tell the judge it was completely justified.)

This post isn’t here to solicit pity of any sort. In many, many ways I am incredibly fortunate to be doing what I do, and there are many parts of the work I enjoy. I will always answer the questions guests have about my house happily (if formulaicly), knowing that if I were visiting someone else’s beautiful historic house, I’d be helpless to resist asking the same questions myself.

If there are things I don’t love about this job, I also know that I am not stuck here, and when I’m ready I’ll be able to move on to the next thing, knowing a whole lot more about humanity than I did before.

Notes From a Background Feminist

Happy International Women’s Day.

Happy National Day Without Women.

I am a proud, feminist woman, but I will not be going on strike today. I own my own businesses, and the only person hurt if I don’t go to work today is me. That does not seem to be in the spirit of the undertaking. Further, as the chair of an otherwise all-male city commission, if I skip my meeting tonight to make a point, the only result is that a group of men will make important decisions with no input from any women. This also seems to miss the point.

So today, I will work on a list of tasks that is long and contains some rather unpleasant items. I do not want to face down a room full of people and lead the discussion that will ultimately result in some parties feeling angry and disappointed. I do not want to look through the list of applicants who want employment with me and decide which ones to call back and tell “better luck next time.”

But I will do these things anyway, because I have taken on these responsibilities, and seeing them through – even to their unpleasant conclusions – is one of the ways I can act out my feminism today.

The other thing I’m doing today is spending a lot of time thinking about the nature of feminism. What is it and how should it apply to me, to the women in my life, to the men in my life, and all other people around the world? We all know the stereotypes about feminists – everything from the rabid man-haters who blame men for all the world’s wrongs to the non-leg-shaving feminazis who just want to see the patriarchy burn. These wild stereotypes often utterly miss the point, but there are other stereotypes that I find more troubling, and more troubling yet because I myself am often guilty of indulging in them.

By nature, I am not an aggressive person. Given my druthers, I would happily stay at home, do the cooking and cleaning, mind the cats, wear pretty dresses, read fluffy novels, and never EVER get into a situation where I’d have to tell someone something they don’t want to hear. I am an introverted, conflict-averse homebody who enjoys indulging in past times associated with traditional femininity. For these reasons, I often catch myself feeling like a bad feminist.

I am writing this today to convince both myself and you that such a thought is unfair and straight-up wrong.

In my life, I am fortunate to be surrounded by an astonishing group of women. They are scientists, mothers, teachers, artists, activists, wives, businesswomen, professors, politicians, engineers, lovers, and dreamers. They believe in causes and they fight for those causes. They state their opinions boldly and look for ways to rally others to the call. They expose injustice and uphold truth and righteousness. If it isn’t already apparent, I’ll say it clearly: these women are superheros.

And me? I am one of the tiny faces in the background, cheering them on. I am not leading any charges; by nature I am inclined toward following. I’m not recruiting others to the cause; given recent life experiences, I feel a strong aversion toward suggesting that other people should believe as I do. Worse yet, I find myself reluctant to join their marches, call their senators, or copy their protests onto my Facebook wall. My reasons for this range from the sensible (a small business owner living in a red, red state must take very calculated social risks) to the cowardly (what if I offend great uncle Ted and he won’t talk to me at the next family reunion?).

If I feel cowardly and don’t like that about myself, perhaps I should do some things to address that aspect of my personality. But here, I think, is the more important thing I need to change about this pattern of thinking:

There is no wrong way to be a feminist. Despite what some men might believe, there is no Feminist Card that will get revoked if I stay home from the marches, keep my political opinions to myself, or cook my husband dinner. Feminism is not about adhering to a prescribed set of social behaviors and actions, it is about women everywhere being able to live their lives on their own terms, without anyone – not men, and not other women – telling them they can’t or shouldn’t. Feminism is the very reason I should feel great about each decision I make for myself in a given day. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who support and celebrate my decisions, from my frivolous choice of reading material all the way up to decisions as serious as whether or not I will have children.

I am supported, and I am loved for exactly who I am and what I do. Extending that same support and love to the other women in my life is something I can do without reserve. Perhaps I could work a little on boldness, on finding ways to use my strong position and my privilege to help other women gain political ground. But until I figure that out, I can celebrate the ways in which I can and do support the feminist ideals. I own two businesses and employ three other women. I attend my Historic Preservation Commission meetings every week, where my voice is heard and my opinions are carefully weighed in halls that have traditionally echoed only with male input. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend, and I strive to be the best of each of those things that I can be. I am also a complex mix of archaeologist, writer, actor, singer, cook, teacher, runner, gardener, and dreamer. If I worry that no one of those identities takes a dominant enough place in my life, that’s fine – entertaining that worry is my right – but it doesn’t make me a lesser or greater person, nor a lesser or greater feminist.

I will support and embrace myself today. I will support and embrace all of you, my magnificent feminist friends. This is not too much to ask, and it is not too little.

A Hierarchy of Chores

LaundryWhen 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.

Making beds
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.

Cleaning sinks
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.

Cleaning toilets
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.

Mopping floors
Stupid hardwood floors. Stupider laminate floors.

Hand-washing the special dishes
Hmph. Soapy, crumby water. Boo.

Cleaning bathtubs
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.

Antisss—

ipation. 🙂

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.

I know you’re dying to find out.

About: 2008-style

(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!)

Hanging out in Santorini

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.

Enjoy.

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.

Social Media Repression Syndrome

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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. 🙂

Extra Tacky Year-in-Review Letter: 2013

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.

Grandma Bonnie and me, calculating exactly how much rum we'll be able to haul home from the Cruzan distillery. (Quite a lot, is the answer.)
Grandma Bonnie and me, calculating exactly how much rum we’ll be able to haul home from the Cruzan distillery. (Quite a lot, is the answer.)
Hiking down to Isaac's Bay to do some snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and full of fish. This photo also won a contest hosted by the St. Croix Chamber, the result of which is that if we go back, we can eat for free in a lot of restaurants. Woo!
Hiking down to Isaac’s Bay to do some snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and full of fish. This photo also won a contest hosted by the St. Croix Chamber, the result of which is that if we go back, we can eat for free in a lot of restaurants. Woo!
Exploring the ruins of an 18th century sugar mill. These beautiful buildings, constructed of volcanic rock and coral, dot the entire island of St. Croix, and I loved poking around them.
Exploring the ruins of an 18th century sugar mill. These beautiful buildings, constructed of volcanic rock and coral, dot the entire island of St. Croix, and I loved poking around them.
Graveyard of an 18th Century plantation, now the Botanical Gardens, slowly being devoured by the rain forest. Sights like these make my little archaeologist heart go pitter-patter.
Graveyard of an 18th Century plantation, now the Botanical Gardens, slowly being devoured by the rain forest. Sights like these make my little archaeologist heart go pitter-patter.

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.

So there might be better photos of us out there, but this one cracks me up every time I see it, so it's gonna be the one. I believe the posing prompt for this was not, "Say 'Cheese!'" but rather, "Now give me 'Ice Cream Thugs!'"
So there might be better photos of us out there, but this one cracks me up every time I see it, so it’s gonna be the one. I believe the posing prompt for this was not, “Say ‘Cheese!'” but rather, “Now give me ‘Ice Cream Thugs!'” Grace is not a good thug. Megan is a so-so thug. I, clearly, have it pegged.

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.

1899Inn

Speaking of things that make our house more interesting, meet Luna, our newest family member:

We’re not sure what goes through that fuzzy little head of hers, but moments like this do make me wonder.

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…

Snow84
Minou says hi too.

So, speaking of that above cat photo, you may have heard that we’ve had some really wacky weather this year.

There was golf-ball hail in May (and June, and August). Our cars did not fair well through this. The bonus was that Dustin got to trade in our tired old cars for an electric car (Chevy Volt), which he’s been pining for for a long time. Now, if the hail hadn’t gotten THAT car too… bah.

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.

Look! Look! I found a picture of Dustin! King of the snow.
There’s me standing next to (well, sort of “above,” actually) Dustin’s shiny new Volt. This was two days after it stopped snowing. It was 70 degrees.

(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.

This is the entire attendance, chillin’ (literally) on the porch of the retreat where the wedding was held. Hello, my lovely family!

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. 

Sometimes the wildlife is scarce, so sometimes I AM the wildlife.
One of my favorite recent trips was one with our buddy Erica, where Dustin and Erica tried to out-photographer each other - he using Instagram, she using, y'know... years of experience and skill. ;)
One of my favorite recent trips was one with our buddy Erica, where Dustin and Erica tried to out-photographer each other – he using Instagram, she using, y’know… years of experience and skill. 😉
On the way to Natural Bridge.
On the way to Natural Bridge.
West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin
I forget where this is. Sorry about all the Yellowstone photos. It’s sort of beautiful there, y’know?
Last one, I promise! At the base of Fairy Falls.

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!

My story in this one is called “The Last Princess.” It’s about a dragon who needs to capture a princess but can’t find one.

Aaaaand just last week the third collection, containing my second story, came out. They’re good stories! Go read them! 😀

This time around I went for total doom and destruction with a story called “Kraken,” about the time the world almost ended, and then the time when it did.

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.

Rapid City, South Dakota USA American Sign Language Congregation 10/2011
Sending love love love! An appropriate picture to end on.

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.