Story of the Month Spring n’ Spiders

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It’s spring!  In addition to warming weather, tempestuous storms, and the return of green to the world around us spring also means…bugs…

As a rule I have no distaste for insects, bugs, or mollusks that we share our world with, and this can be surprising as some of the encounters I’ve had would make you think otherwise!  As story of the month this month I’ll share one of my most memorable encounters with the various domestic invertebrates found in the southern United States:

Spring n’ Spiders

I inherited a garage room as a senior in high school after a brown recluse spider was found stuck to a glue trap and my mom refused to sleep there any longer.  As it was the biggest room in the house (with an outside door!) I didn’t hesitate to take it, but soon found the trapped spider had friends…hundreds of them…

Creepy Spider

At first seeing one of them would send me fleeing the room and sleeping on the couch in a different room.  After a while I got used to them.  Taking them out casually with a length of cedar pole or a riding crop (WHACK it’d cut them right in half…) I got from an art teacher.

One day, after finding a few of the glue traps I set so packed with the venomous little critters it had noticeable weight, I enlisted my friend Mike to come over, rip the room apart, open all the cupboards and closets, and bug bomb it into oblivion. So we did.  Took the place apart, including the couch, cushions, bed, closet, the whole place.

Lit the fuse (literally…we didn’t know we were supposed to turn off the gas…the water heater was in there and we could have truly declared inquisitorial exterminatus on that end of the house…) and left.  We came back after the allotted time and put everything back together.  We put a pizza in the oven and turned on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and flipped through a sword catalog for fun.

Sitting there, chilling, I looked down and saw one of the little bastards sitting right in the middle of my chest.  Normally pretty stoic I declared “Sunnuva bitch there’s one of em on me!” trampolined it off my shirt and into the floor, stomping it with my boot and grinding it across the carpet into shreds.  Mike joined the melee by taking both cans of wasp spray we had and spraying its dismembered body with them like a gunslinger.  We created possibly the deadest spider in the history of dead spiders…

Since then the brown recluse infestation has subsided.  It went from hundreds of them at all stages of maturity, creeping from closets, out from under furniture (and in one disturbing encounter dozens rappelling down webs from the ceiling) to…none…  At first I was mystified before I found a curio I bought had an infestation of its own…of cellar spiders.  These harmless little rascals spin irregular webs under furniture and in corners…the perfect places to ensnare brown recluses.  They did the job chemicals and smack ’em sticks couldn’t.  And I happily traded one infestation for another.

Despite these encounters I still have no arachnophobia (despite creepy spider dreams occasionally) and even released a captured brown recluse by a tree outside my previous place of employment (I figured what’s one more spineless, cantankerous, creeper around there…) and even had a “pet” spider outside my house for a while.  It goes to show nature might be creepy, and even dangerous, but it’s never to be hated or feared!

Enjoy the first few days of spring!  There are more such “nature” encounters coming soon!

See more stories in our Story of the Month section!

Story of the Month with Conan O’Brien

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Cool Cat Conan

In honor of Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day, this story of the month features a couple of cool Irish guys and a lovely lady.

Jessica and Chris at their wedding
Photo by Sarah B. Gilliam

Last autumn, my good pals Jessica and Chris were planning their wedding, and Chris decided to invite one of his favorite celebs, Conan O’Brien. To some, that seems a little nuts, but they went for it anyway.

For those who need a little background, Conan O’Brien is the host of shows such as Conan, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and also worked on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. He hails from a large Irish Catholic family in Massachusetts and attended Harvard University. Not a bad resume.

As most of us know, celebrities have extremely busy schedules, so it wasn’t a shock that Conan was unable to attend. However, last month this showed up in the couple’s mailbox:

Autographed picture of Conan O'Brien with a custom message

What an awesome guy — Conan sent them a personally autographed picture! This just proves you should always try your ideas – even if the rest of the world thinks you’re nuts – because you never know what will happen.

Feel free to share your celebrity stories, and check out more fun shorts in our Story of the Month section!

Story of the Month: Karma and Salsa

Story of the month header with quill and ink

Last month Raven shared a tale of karma and how the smug and cocky can get instant cosmic comeuppance for their attitude.  I can testify first-hand how this is true, in similarly dramatic fashion:

My previous job location sits atop a very steep and foreboding hill overlooking a park and a farmers’ market.  There are stairs that can be taken to reach the bottom, but they are on the other side of the hill and it’s often faster to risk the high-grade slope and try the hill.

One day last fall I wanted to go to the farmers’ market in search of an awesome locally made salsa, Captain Rodney’s, which has been hard to find in stores.  My friend Misty decided to accompany me and we headed out.  I said, “Let’s take the hill, it’s not so bad.”  Misty was wearing less-than-optimal hill-climbing shoes and thought the stairs might be better.  I talked her into it and proceeded to go down the hill, providing unnecessarily cocky commentary about how easy it was and comparing her efforts to a “baby horse standing up for the first time.”  I was about 10 inches from the very bottom of the hill and decided that fate was a punk by saying, “See!  It’s eas-” before I hit the last syllable I stepped in a patch of wet grass and ass-over-teakettle, crashed down like a cartoon stepping on a banana peel.  Of course this brought huge roars of laughter from both of us.  I turned to see Misty was sitting down too, but she CHOSE to sit down so as not to fall over.  Laughing at me.

As if I needed more evidence that karma is real, there it was.  Let that be a lesson, it’s ok to be cocky, but never at the expense of someone else!

Misty wrote a great short-story about the event, and thanks to her for letting me share it!  (most of it is pretty accurate…)

 Karma and Salsa

The mission was to find Captain Rodney’s salsa. I accepted without hesitation, even though James’ food choices are often questionable. I figured , eh, you can’t go wrong with salsa. I was happy to tag along. We had but one obstacle in our way: the hill.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Oh, here’s another story with a metaphor about a proverbial hill, with all its symbolism of conquering it and your personal demons, bla bla bla. Forget that. That’s a different story for a different day. This is about a literal hill, and not even a battle of going up it! We had to go down.

When we arrived at Capitol hill, I studied its steep angles. I understand physics. The equation of the angle of my body in comparison to the ground, plus the law of gravity, plus the thin soles of my strappy sandals, plus damp spots in the unfamiliar grass, and the awareness of my own clumsiness, told me that I needed to be cautious. I decided to go slowly, one slick step at a time.

James took a different approach, as he usually does. He decided not to study, and in fact, plowed confidently on as if this massive knoll was a flat, perilous sidewalk. Now being confident is not a bad trait, but sometimes his over cocky attitude gets him in trouble. Head held high, he moved downward.

Of course, strolling down hill was not enough for him. James decided to show off a bit. He periodically turned around to rub in how much faster he was at going down the hill, and that it was sooo easy. This, naturally, was followed by the taunting of me and my careful trek.

If I were to have a metaphoric hill in the story, references would be inserted here. Perhaps conquering my “hill” is supposed to be developing tolerance to such provocation in a take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt manner. Maybe the lesson is to not let others get under your skin or affect your attitude…even if you do look like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time, with wobbly knees and a scared expression. Confucius says that only you can make yourself mad. Or something like that. I actually don’t know what he said. Again, this is not that type of story.

As the journey continued, and my steps were perpetually more vigilant, and his were perpetually more arrogant, I ignored his mean-spirited words while fending back my competitive nature.

Until.

James was in mid taunt, explaining how great he is at going down the hill (and, well, everything in general), when he slipped. In the middle of the word easy, as in “see, it’s ea-“ James fell flat on his ass. Now, I don’t believe in karma, but in that moment as I watched this proud man stumble and fall and felt the tears of laughter pool in my eyes, I believed. Justice tastes sweet. And a bit like grass. I had to sit down, in order to not fall over from laughter. I felt a lot of emotions, but pity was not one of them. He deserved exactly what happened. I don’t think I even asked if he was okay.

The rest of our adventure to the Farmer’s Market was mild in comparison. He brushed himself off, and we laughed our way down the rest of the hill. We bought cupcakes for co-workers from a sweet, tattooed girl. “She’s friendly” I noted with a smile. Eye roll, replied James. We looked at odd pumpkins and people, different shapes, sizes, colors. Some with moles, some as normal as a pumpkin or a person can be. “Look how cute that baby is!” I pointed. “Useless” snarled James. We hunted for a mate for Goldie, James’ yellow and black spider that lived in his driveway, destined to die from frost without ever knowing love (or the spider’s version of it). We made our way back, and surprisingly, up the same hill without incident.

In the end, we didn’t find Captain Rodney’s salsa. Instead, we found moment of humility, karma, and a shit ton of laughter. Maybe that tastes just as good. Or maybe, it tastes just like grass.

Story of the Month: Cold-Weather Karma

Story of the month header with quill and ink

I love my friends. I love them dearly, but sometimes they think they know everything, and I am just a damsel in distress. This is not the case, and sometimes I depend on my good friend karma to help me out.

Cold-Weather Karma

I drive a 350Z, which is not ideal for driving on ice or snow. It’s real-wheel drive and doesn’t have traction on slick surfaces. If it’s too slick, I will spin my back tires and fishtail in circles. As fun as that is, it can be a little inconvenient when I need to get to work.

My 350Z covered in a fresh snow

A good friend offered to give me a ride to work one morning due to inclement weather. He even made a special trip to Starbucks, so we could have our special coffees for work. Sweet, right?

We arrived at the office and started to get out of his vehicle. Then I heard in a mocking tone, “Be careful, you don’t want to fall and hurt yourself,” and “Don’t move too fast,” and “Are you sure you can make it to the door?” He even tried or did open the vehicle door for me.

As he mocked me and my inability to drive in the snow, suddenly his Starbucks cup went flying through the air and he landed on his ass. Yes, in mid-sentence, karma had my back and took his feet out from under him. It looked something like this…

black and white of guy falling on ice
Photo by: http://www.printactivities.com

I couldn’t do anything but laugh. And I mean really laugh, doubled over and barely breathing. Out of instinct I rescued his coffee and continued to laugh. After a moment, I managed to ask if he was okay, and he helped himself up. I handed him his coffee, and we walked into the building, and I was still laughing.

The moral here is simple: Karma is real, and it will make an example out of you. My pal and I still joke about his fall and how horrible I am for laughing and going after the coffee. But he never teased me about the weather again. I think we all know karma would come back again 🙂 Be careful out there!

Story of the Month: Holiday Fun

I hate shopping. I am not the girl who finds boutiques, tries on clothes, and I order everything I can online. However, I love buying for people I care about, but the traffic, crowds, and general population are enough to keep me at home.

A few years ago, I had to go Christmas shopping, so my amazing friend and RevPub partner offered to keep me company. And so our shopping day tradition began.

We don’t shop on a weekend because that’s even more insane, so every year in December we take a Friday off and finish our Christmas shopping. We visit open-air malls and McKay’s, and keep the same schedule as if we were at work with a lunch break around noon. On these days, we have a great time and laugh until our sides hurt. So, for story of the month I bring you two little shorts from our shopping experiences.

Look at Me…

After several hours shopping, James and I were in the car on our way to another store. I had his phone and was playing with his camera. I wanted to take his picture, but of course, he would not smile on command. In a moment of silliness I said, “Looook at meeeee…” and he erupted into laughter. Some of my favorite pics are ones with someone laughing, and this one is definitely a peach:

James laughing in the car

Bullet Proof

A few years ago we were leaving a store, and James saw one of these:

A man with a baby in a baby carrier
Photo from: barnesandnoble.com

He turned and asked me if it was a bullet-proof vest. I replied that is was something people use to carry their babies. James, being his lovable self, said, “I got news for her. That baby’s not going to stop any bullets.”

We both almost went into the floor from laughing, and what made this moment even better was the new mother overheard him. She turned and gave him a dirty look, but only I saw her and I laughed even more. We continued our day and caused a little trouble, which made it even better.

These stories remind me to have fun. No matter how much you hate something, you can make the best of it and build lifelong memories. I will always remember the laughs, the stories, and the weird looks we get from people when we are just being ourselves. Sometimes being weird is necessary.

Happy Holidays and share your fun shopping stories below!

Story of the Month: The Ghost in the Machine

Story of the month header with quill and ink

The Ghost in the Machine

Over the past decade movies about haunted technology have become popular.  From radios to TVs and from cameras to cell phones, it seems everything can be haunted and wreak havoc on the lives of the living.  This has always been one of my least favorite genres of horror movie for some reason, partially because it shows our over-attachment to our data devices, but I suppose in actuality there’s no principle difference between a haunted house and a haunted Handycam.

I never gave much thought to these kinds of “haunting” until…

Back around 2005 or so the fairer half of RevPub had a computer problem.  She had an aging computer and the modem suddenly stopped working.  This was back in the days when PCs were still white boxes and modems contained numbers like “28.8” and “56k.”  Having recently replaced the modem in my own PC (which bucked the trend and was GRAY) I felt confident I could replace the modem in hers as well.  I took the PC to my house, bought a cheap replacement modem, and installed it.  Turning the computer on, I immediately got a hardware error.  After going through all the options my limited computer hardware ability could handle, I called my friend Mike (an actual expert) to help.

He brought one of his computer shells to see if it was the modem, the slot, or the whole PC that was the problem.  He also brought other spare parts and far more experience fixing PCs with white text on a black screen.  We went through several attempts, and various options, all while watching Mythbusters on DVD.  We only had one keyboard, so he plugged it into his computer, checked settings, and plugged it into the broken one to try to get the settings to work on that one.  We did this several times and hit dead end, after dead end.  It made me feel better that I had failed, since he was having bad luck with it too.  He suddenly had a flash of inspiration, sat up, picked the keyboard up, and began typing commands.  Immediately his commands began to appear on the screen of the stricken computer.  As white text filled the black screen as the system began to respond.  We plugged in the modem and, SURPRISE, it worked perfectly.

Mike began to disconnect the keyboard to plug into the other PC to begin to shut it down.  I saw him reach to unplug it.  Sit down.  Stand up and look at it, then sit down again.

Perplexed and a bit freaked out.  He turned to me and said, “I don’t know why that worked…”  Quizzically I asked, “Why?” happy to see the work was finally done.

He still seemed pretty shaken when he responded, “The keyboard was plugged into the other PC the whole time…”

Now my logical side kicked in.  Maybe he was playing a joke?  No the keyboard was definitely plugged into the other PC and I hadn’t left the room.  Maybe the afflicted PC had reset itself?  No his DOS commands were appearing on screen.

We exchanged a “What the…” look.  And the only thing that broke our silence was my announcement, “I want that thing out of my house right now.”  He agreed, we packed up, I moved the possessed computer to the trunk of my car and informed the lovelier half of this company that her PC was repaired, ready to return, and was likely and object of pure evil.  She took it back and used it for years…without incident.

To this day it’s one of the strangest events I’ve ever witnessed.  Two relatively fearless individuals were completely creeped out by a PC that seemed to either be possessed by the machine spirit (emperor protect) or self-aware enough to fix itself.  Either way I was glad to have it out of my house!

When I told Mike I would be using this story on this blog he responded in typical Mike fashion by saying:

“That sh*t freaks me out.”

For one time I will shed my stoicism and concede…yeah that sh*t freaks me out too…