Saturday, August 2, 2014

Look for me on the Evening News

For the past several months, Evie has been BEGGING me for a ferret to the point of tears, as if acquiring one is a life goal on par with the Holy Grail or the cure to cancer. The fuzzy cuteness of these weasels literally brings her to tears, and I mean that LITERALLY. They're so cute they make her cry. She's been trying to prove her worthiness of pet ownership by feeding Ranger and the cats as well as feeding and watering Cuddles the bunny. She's doing a great job and I appreciate her help, but at the end of every day (and sometimes about 100 times a day), she asks, "When can I get a ferret?" I tell her I don't know, that we need to wait until she's a little older, that we're busy, to enjoy the pets she has now, and any number of delaying tactics in the Mommy Arsenal of Excuses. Mind you, this is difficult for me because given the chance, my house could easily become this:
Except the animals would be alive and they would be sleeping in my bed.

No excuse will deter Evie, and now Roman has joined the "We want ferrets! When do we want them? Now!" team. So, in order to hold them off and buy some time, I made this:

How this works is I have a bowl full of pretty stones and whenever Evie and Roman have a great day of helping, listening, and behaving, they put a stone in the jar. When all the stones are in the jar, a ferret has been earned. This doesn't mean we'll get one that day, but it's a guarantee that a ferret is coming. This scheme is almost as good as threatening no presents from Santa at Christmas. If the kids threaten to misbehave, all I have to do is remind them that their "ferret treasure" is on the line and they straighten out. I'm not gonna lie, when Roman entered the game, I added more stones to the bowl. The end result is a happy Mommy and two very excited kids full of anticipation. Honestly, I'd like to have a ferret, too, but I think the person most excited about the ferret jar is Rick. He's been a bit of an animal enabler because he's always wanted a ferret, too. 

I think I'm in big trouble. 

We were at the county fair the other day and they had a petting zoo with the usual goats, alpacas, pony, and a mama guinea pig with babies (that Evie said I nearly pooped my pants over, which was true because they were SO CUTE!!), but they also had one of these:

Patagonian Cavy: a deer-like guinea pig cousin that's 18-35 lbs of soft adorbs. 

It was friendly and quiet and Rick declared he liked it and wanted one. My brain interprets that as, "If you love me, you will give me that rodent birthed from bunny fur and kitten smiles." Thank goodness my credit card is basically maxed out because I totally found an exotic breeder online and Rick almost came home to one. I did send him the link, though, which earned me a "You're the best girlfriend ever." I felt it my duty to warn him.

DO NOT GO DOWN THIS ROAD WITH ME!! If you say, "Hey, a guinea pig cage would fit here," one day you'll come home and there will be a murtherfurken guinea pig there. I'm very easily persuaded to bring pets home. I told him if I have free reign to acquire animals, one day I will have a petting zoo. It doesn't help that he sends me pictures of adorable baby animals every day...the man likes to play with fire. Inevitably, I'll end up in one of those exposes on animal hoarding. Except I actually take care of my animals, so it will more likely be a story about the crazy lady with a giraffe in her yard and a capybara watching t.v. on the coach next to the ferret while the dog and cats sleep in their beds. 

Sounds awesome :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

All good things come to those who Google

The onset of the Internet occurred during my early childhood and the concept was vague and faintly magical like your first kiss or unicorns. Only the extravagantly rich could afford an Internet capable computer and our eyes would light up in wonder if we heard of anyone we knew connecting to this mysterious network that somehow took a regular phone line and turned it into search engines, encyclopedias, and a treasure trove of cat pictures. The Internet was way out of my lower middle class sphere and was filed away into the realm of unattainable possessions next to that pony I kept begging Mom for. I never lamented my lack of dial-up as it wasn't crucial to my existence. If I needed a phone number, I had a phone book. If I needed a reference, I used books. The Internet in it's infancy was little more than a toy with the added bonus of being able to send innocuous letters via e-mail instead of waiting three days to hear Aunt Sophie's hip surgery went swimmingly.

And suddenly, the Internet exploded into a superhighway of information. People began to realize how easy it was to send and receive news, research for study projects, and keep in touch with loved ones. Around the time dial-up took thirty seconds as opposed to three days to connect, my family was finally able to enjoy the soothing sounds of a computer reaching out through the phone lines to link up to the world, which was reminiscent of a fast paced game of pong being played under water projected through the speakers of a fast food drive-up. Even then, the Internet was relatively foreign to me. In school, we were encouraged to use it as a basic tool and to rely on books for facts as the information gleaned from the world wide web was generally untrustworthy. As I became a junior high and high school student, the Internet was a virtual cornucopia of knowledge, yet we were still dissuaded from using it as our only source. I recall researching papers and writing the bibliographies and being told that no more than two references were to be from online sources. Though it was blooming, the Internet was a secondary, if still unreliable, source, and I was still learning how to wade myself through it, to use it to it's full potential.

By the time I entered my first year of college, everything had changed. The Internet was slowly becoming the sole source of information from news to scientific papers to reference materials. Almost 90% of the research for classes was done online. Though my school had a fantastic library, I am ashamed to admit I rarely visited. What was the point? Everything I needed was at my fingertips, and all within easy reach. That bibliography? Mostly Internet sources. Using the Internet intelligently, cross checking facts and ascertaining the sources were reliable, the information could be considered trustworthy. And let's not forget everything could be found on the Internet, and thanks to DSL and wireless, it could be found fast! From registering for classes, to checking grades, to submitting homework, the Internet was integral to my on campus college experience.

Oh, how exciting! What happened next?!

I graduated. And with the advent of social media, I was constantly reminded that I passed over continuing my education and pursuing my dreams in order to live the domestic life. The Internet became a source of "what might have been" and "look what such-in-such is doing with their life" and "oh, hey, look! Another friend going back to school." It was a depression only an endless stream of cat videos could cure.

And then my world fell apart. My loveless marriage ended, and I had two small children and myself to support. I soon discovered a major drawback to living in a small town: no jobs. Or if there are jobs, you have to know someone. The Internet became my source of hope for finding an income. Nail biting day after day, I would search the want-ads, send resumes, go on interviews, and for months never get a call back. I was going gray trying to decide what to do, and I thought about my boyfriend going back to school and taking classes online. I was really excited for him, to the point where I wished it was me...and voila! Like the proverbial bolt of lightning, it struck me: GO BACK TO SCHOOL!

Yay! School! But for what? That question took me back to my earliest passions. What made me happy? Working with animals. What did I originally go to school for? To pursue a career in veterinary medicine. That left me with a conundrum. I wanted to study the veterinary field, but there were no colleges in my area offering those programs and I couldn't move. My only option was an online degree. Off to the Internet with a cup of tea and precious block of time I went, researching schools, comparing curriculum, tuition, graduation rates, and reviews. At one time, I believe there were twelve tabs open across the screen. Eventually, the choice was made, and while I still had the courage, I applied to the Associate's in Veterinary Technology program at St. Petersburg College. The website for the school was constantly open for reference to be sure I satisfied all the requirements to be accepted into the program and to communicate any questions. One of the happiest moments of my life (second to the births of my children, graduating with a bachelor's degree, going to Europe...okay it wasn't necessarily THE happiest moment, but it ranks in the top ten) was receiving my acceptance letter via e-mail!

That's when the work really began. It had been years, nine to be exact, that I had been in school, and I had never taken classes online. In order to adjust my schedule and brain to the student life, I enrolled in two classes on Coursera, a site of over 700 courses taught by accredited institutions and all for free! The classes were composed of video lectures, quizzes, and assignments all dependent on one's personal schedule and pace. Having to once again keep track of homework, "attending" lectures, and studying for tests was great practice for the real thing. Plus, I learned that my aging brain still has the capability of retaining information. Best of all, I remembered how big of a school nerd I am. It's true; I could be a professional student.

The next big role the Internet has played has been a resource for finding scholarships. When I was fresh out of high school and preparing to attend my first year of college, I don't think I worked quite this hard. When you're young, everything magically falls into place for you. Now I'm a grown-up and I have to fend for myself. Thankfully, the Internet has offered numerous opportunities to find the right scholarship for me thanks to sites such as Niche, FastWeb, and ScholarshipPoints, all of which have made the task of narrowing searches and wading through the seemingly endless scholarship offerings more efficient. Though the process is arduous, I cannot imagine how difficult it would be without the Internet helping every step of the way. And those one-click and online applications? Convenience times a thousand and just what the busy single mama needs!

As a distance learner studying a life science, hands-on experience is crucial. A major requirement for the distance veterinary technology degree is an internship during the program to gain that important first hand knowledge. Off to the Internet I went once again to find veterinarians in my area with which to intern with! Though my search didn't last long as there are only four clinics in my area, I was provided with information of the clinic, staff, and locations. I next researched writing a cover letter tailored to each clinic, attached a resume and letter of recommendation, and sent them off to my potential employers. The wait was agony, especially since my attendance hinged on being able to secure clinic hours. What if none responded? All my efforts would be futile. My stress level was at an ultimate high that no amount of Lolcats begging for cheeseburgers could allay, and my fridge had a constant supply of soothing wine thanks to my considerate boyfriend, who frankly deserves a medal for talking me down from the frequent cry-fests and panic attacks I had due to the uncertainty. Relief was thankfully imminent, as I have since been contacted by two vets willing to work with me. Thank. goodness.


Without the incredible tool that is the Internet, I would not be able to finally follow my dreams. There would be no opportunity to continue my education, find funds to finance school, secure an internship, and, most importantly, take classes on my terms as a working single mother. Though there are downsides to the distance program including finding an internship for practical application and missing out on face time with professors, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The Internet is changing the college education system, making certain programs available to those who might not otherwise be able to attend a brick and mortar campus. In addition, online degrees are less dubious to employers as they once were, being every bit as valuable as a degree earned from sitting in classes all day. It's an amazing time to live in, and I'm excited to be a part of online college life!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

At the Dinner Table with the Minions: Height Restrictions

Conversations at our dinner table are often a source of insight into the human condition, philosophies on life, and scientific queries. Tonight, Evie was interested in human growth patterns, mainly hers compared to mine.

Evie: "Even though Roman is younger, could he get bigger than me?"
Me: "It's possible. We'll have to see."
Evie: "But we'll both probably be bigger than you because you're a tiny person."
Roman: "Yeah, you're a tiny person, but you still have tattoos."
Evie: "You have to be a grown-up to have tattoos because it's a big decision and they're permanent. And it hurts and they use needles."
Me: ...
Evie: "Do you [grow] when you're a kid?"
Me: "Yes, of course. You're growing right now."
Evie: "Do some kids get bigger than their moms?"
Me: *sigh* "Yes, some do."
Evie: "Will I get bigger than you?"
Me: "Time will tell..."

So, basically my kids see me like this:

Betty Broadbent: the most famous tattooed attraction of all time. In 1927 at the age of 18, she joined the Ringling Brothers and Bailey circus as the youngest tattooed woman in the United States with 365 tattoos. Betty was one of the last working tattooed ladies in the U.S., retiring in 1967 from the Clyde Beatty circus after 40 years in show business. In 1981 she became the first person honored in the tattoo hall of fame.  

If you can't find me, I've run away to join the circus. Look for me in the side show.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Oh, the places you'll go

Oh, hey! Once again this blog has been neglected because of life. As so much has been happening, I almost feel I need an itemized list to play catch up. It always seems like I often turn to this blog when I have something particularly gravitas to say, and today is no exception. I pondered whether my next words were wise to share, am I revealing too much, am I treading on privacy, but I decided that one of the best legacies we can leave is a valuable lesson. This post is not going to be an amusing one, so if you'd rather have a laugh, go here instead because a lot of personal shit is about to go down. 

As I've mentioned in a previous post and as many who know me personally are aware, I've recently finalized a divorce. It's been over a year since my ex and I separated officially, but honestly, the detachment goes farther back. All I wanted was to make him happy, and for a long time, I was happy, too. I had big plans for my life, and I thought that he was beside me as I was for him in pursuit of those dreams. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but little by little, I was chipped away. A suggestion here, a critical remark there, and I began to change. For him. I don't feel that it's as important to offer specifics as it is to focus on the outcome, the bigger picture that my life eventually became.

My greatest dream was to become a veterinarian. I worked toward that future since I decided that was my goal at age eight. I worked in vet hospitals, volunteered, watched documentaries, read books, majored in zoology/pre-vet, did my internship at a wildlife rehabilitation center, you get the picture! By my junior year of college, I was getting burned out and the prospect of the cost was daunting, but nothing made that goal so wholly unattainable than this person I loved telling me, "You're crazy if you think you can handle vet school. You don't handle stress well at all." Direct quote, ya'll. Yes, I was stressing major at the time, but there is no excuse for the complete lack of support and encouragement. So, I graduated and followed him and our lives concentrated on his career, his goals. As I worked through processing my resentments after the end of our 11 year relationship, the fact that it was never my turn to follow my passions, that they were expected to be forever abandoned, that hurt me the most.

So there I was in a small town working whatever I could, supporting his vision of our life together. Without realizing it, my opinions were influenced by his, my beliefs left behind, slowly my interests and hobbies were wasting away. The reality was that he wanted someone who would stay home and be only a wife and mother, and though I dearly loved both, I yearned for a career of my own. When two people are together with two very different ideas on the roles to be played in life, it really isn't fair to either. And when you try so hard to facilitate change and your cries fall on deaf ears time and again, it's easy to give up hope. No one should have to settle for an unhappy marriage, but the truth is, I had two wonderful kids that meant the world to me, and I was afraid to yell so loud as to compromise their little lives. And though my husband was a constant source of anger, stress, and pain, I did not want to hurt him. So, I remained locked in the box he forced me into, barely socializing with friends, never going on vacation, and losing my identity. I stopped enjoying simple things that I always loved because he was so critical. I restrained from having opinions that he didn't share. He dominated conversation while I shrank into myself. I felt unappreciated, taken for granted, and emotionally neglected. My friends could see how unhappy I was, but I had no idea that I was living as a reflection in a disturbed pond, a distorted version of myself waiting for a storm to pass so that I could be whole again.

Ignorance is no excuse? I disagree. I had no idea what kind of life I was capable of. Having never experienced the sort of relationship that constituted a real partnership, how could I have known what I was missing? How I deserved to be treated? Sometimes it takes a glimpse of sunshine to realize how enveloped in darkness you've been. I had matured and changed; he had not. Our relationship had not. When I finally found the strength to face how miserable I was, I also came to the realization that it wasn't simply a matter of "too late." Rather, it was "too different." I wasn't the wife he wanted, and he wasn't the husband I needed. For years I had tried to be someone else, a reflection of this man that shared very little in common with me, and as I gained distance and perspective I felt pieces of myself coming back as if my very cells were swelling with renewed life. And when he finally moved out of the house, I felt free.

I am happier now than I ever believed possible. Yes, I struggle. Yes, I've cried. Dealing with emotions buried for years have a nasty way of rushing in at you when you finally allow yourself to face them. Yes, my kids have had questions and tears. I answer them honestly, I dry those tears, I smile, and I hug them mightily. We're doing great, and for all the worry and stress that comes with separation and divorce, I would not trade it for one more day of comfortable misery. There is too much life to waste it, and I intend to live it all.

My friends see much more of me now. I've reconnected with family. I travel more and visit old friends. I take my kids on spontaneous adventures. I read, I write, I ride, I watch scary movies, I talk about random pieces of oddness, and I plan trips that I might never take but damn it I have ambition! Above all, I am not ashamed or embarrassed about anything that makes me unique and ME. Never settle for a fragment of yourself. Never go through life with someone who holds you back. Never spend the rest of your life thinking there's something wrong with you. For all the thoughtless and oftentimes heartless words my ex said to me or  about me, nothing was as awful as the things he never said: words of encouragement without contingencies, praise without criticisms, acquiescence without guilt, or simply, "I'm proud of you."

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true." I have embraced my new beginning, my fresh start, as the catalyst for change, for the closing of a circle. I have parted ways in regards to the coffee shop, and I have decided to go back to school. I will be starting online courses in the fall at St. Petersburg College earning an Associate's degree in Veterinary Technology to become a Veterinary Technician. I'm writing again, albeit more scholarship essays than anything else these days :) I have no idea what lies ahead, but I face it without fear, and I know I'm not alone. I have my amazing kids whom I couldn't adore more, my incredibly supportive family, and a wonderful boyfriend that words cannot describe how lucky I feel to have in my life. I'm confident, I'm strong, I'm basically like,


Bring it on, universe. Been there, done that, and I'm ready for the next adventure!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

You're judging me...for that?!

Most people who have known me for a while, or at least 5 minutes, knows I've done/do much shit of a questionable nature that attracts the raised eyebrow of the socially pretentious. Usually I don't really care, because if they do judge, I don't actually have to hear about it. I'm surprised I haven't received a tongue lashing quite frankly. I think it's because I'm so sweet and nice. And pretty :)
But at the coffee shop, I was judged hardcore. Lemme set the scene. This was on my tip jar:

Like cocaine, once you get one of those babies under your skin, you always come back for more. 

Got that little sign in your head? Ok, so here's how it went down:

So, this older gentleman comes in and orders a Mexican mocha. He wants to know what is in it. 
Me: "Chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg..." 
Judger: "Peppers?" 
Me: "No." 
Judger with a look of grave disappointment: "Oh. Do you have peppers?"
Me: "No." 
Judger: *heavy sigh and eye roll* "Ok, that's fine." 
So I have already dashed his hopes and crushed his dreams. 


Judger, reading my sign, eyebrows raised in question. It's obviously a test: "You're not really getting a tattoo, are you?" 
Me: "I already have seven." 
Judger, with much judgement: "Okkkaaaay. I guess I'll support your tattoo fund..." *reluctantly tips me*
In his defense, he was a judgemental throwback to when only sailors, bikers, and prison inmates had tattoos. Apparently, he wasn't aware that pretty much every lawyer and their doctor mother has tattoos now. Can't blame him for that. 
I told my story to our beloved local artist, Don Nisbett, who has a place of honor at our couch every morning and I pointed out I just can't please everyone. He pondered if I actually try. Touche. So then he "tattooed" my arm:
What exactly are you saying, Don?

And then...

Customer: "Is someone trying to talk you into getting a tattoo?"
Seriously? Do people not notice I have two clearly visible on my forearm?
Me: "No, there's really no 'talking' me into it. I already have seven."
Customer, obviously trying to recover: "Oh, but is someone trying to talk you into getting more?"
Me, with great understanding because obviously these are not tattoo people: "You can't really 'talk' me into something I already want to do. They're addicting."

I never thought I would be judged by having tattoos. Questionable morals? Sure. Drunk texting? Of course. Overuse of the word 'fuck'? Understandable. Using my cleavage to get more tips? Maybe. But tattoos? Perhaps it's a generational thing. Tattoos used to adorn persons of dubious character and I can understand how it might be difficult for some people to get over that stereotype. However, one would hope those passing the judgement might be polite enough to keep their opinions and raised eyebrows to themselves. Chalk it up to a new experience for me. I started thinking that this incident might be an introduction to an interesting social experiment where I put controversial signs on my tip jar and record people's reactions. Give me a sense on the people I'm dealing with here. I have a few ideas I'm tossing around:

"Bail Money"
"We All Make Mistakes"
"I Can Quit Anytime"
"Almost Enough to Get Into Heaven!"
"Turns Out Abortions Aren't Cheap"

I think there's a good chance I would have waaaaay too much fun with this. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Random shit like this happens to me all the time.

The other day I was in a horrendously foul mood at the coffee shop because, despite our continued reminders, everyone insisted on believing I am a mind reader and then getting pissed when I had to dump their drinks and start over. Here it is once again: we do not have special mind powers (Except for that one time Kelly and I are pretty convinced we predicted and/or effected the tide so that we could have a beach ride on hard packed sand). If you don't tell me what you want, I can't make it. Thinking it doesn't count.
Anywho, on top of that I made pittance in tips and I was thinking drinking an entire bottle of wine was in order when the phone rang. It was a regular customer explaining that she had a question and felt that since we have animals, perhaps we could answer it. Because having animals=a fountain of knowledge about all creatures of the Animalia persuasion. Turns out, her beloved dog was attacked by a raccoon and she had some concerns about how to care for the poor thing. I was like:

Luckily, as I informed her, she had called the right person. Ever since I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a veterinarian. It was this dream that prompted me to call my first employer at 16, Sno-Wood Veterinary Hospital. I worked there for the next four and a half years, even during my summer's off from college. I attended Washington State University and majored in Zoology, Pre-Vet and conducted my internship at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center where I worked in the medical room and mammal room. Basically, I was about to drop some diamonds on this lady.
After establishing that her dog's leg wasn't dangling precariously by a strand of tissue and there was no need for extensive stitching, I advised her on proper wound care and to keep the little dog hydrated until she could get in to see her vet in the morning. A wild animal attack, though perhaps not seriously damaging, requires a vet y'all. She hung up the phone a grateful and relieved woman and I felt I had made a difference. The day just got better from there. The conversation led me to think that perhaps this knowledge should be shared with others, so here are some fun facts everyone should know about raccoons:

#1: most important fact about raccoons in Washington State: they DO NOT carry rabies here! But, you should still vaccinate your pets and watch for signs of infection in case you're dealing with one that snuck a ride from another state.
#2: you don't have to worry about rabies, but those dirty bastards do carry other nasty diseases they can pass on to your pet and you. Most notably, Raccoon Roundworm (I did a paper on this one; the worms like to make nice homes for themselves in your brain) and the bacteria Leptospirosis that can be fatal for both people and pets. Most nastiness is passed on in raccoon feces. Which brings me to a good piece of advice.
#3: do not attract wildlife to your house! If a raccoon finds cat food on your porch, he'll eat it and hang around getting fatter and fatter and pooping in your kids' sandbox. They also like to use roofs as latrines. And what's more? He'll tell all his raccoon buddies. Yes, raccoons like to share. Pretty soon, what was once one cute little bandit is now 50. And it's baby season. They teach that shit. Less raccoons=less poop=less chance of infections/attacks.
#4: raccoons fight dirty. Sure, they might look cute and their hands are adorbs, but raccoons are vicious fighters that will bite and claw like a frenzied tasmanian devil. Do not mess with them, especially during baby season (like right now). If you or your pet is attacked, wash the area with a mild soap and hot water and get to a doctor/vet. Antibiotics is essential in any wild animal attack. If you suspect rabies, the animal will need to be captured and tested.
#5: make sure they can't get under your house or in your attic. Raccoons don't pay rent and they smell. Don't encourage them to move in.

The raccoons LOVED me because I brought them blood biscotti and grapes (the equivilent of raccoon candy), but don't let those cute masks and chortles fool you: they will cut a bitch. Their hands are dexterous enough to handle knives.

#6: don't let this rant fool you! I think raccoons are amazing creatures and have a special purpose on this planet. Did you know their hands are very sensitive and they can use them to detect edible material in low or no light? Sort of akin to a cat's whiskers. Water increases their sensitivity, thus the washing of food that we so frequently see. They aren't being cleanly. They are dirty rascals that will eat bread soaked in blood; trust me, they are not concerned about hygiene. This is just a reminder that they are called WILD for a reason!

This has been a Mandy's wildlife public service announcement, and this is why I have a four year degree. Next time, why oppossums might be the best garbage disposals ever.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

No udders required for this bag balm

   Look, I'm alive! And no, I'm not going to channel some Twilight angst and follow that up with, "But I'm dead inside." Wrong number.

   As many of you might know, I've been going through some personal drama that has impeded my editing and reading time. For those of you who are unaware, I am currently going through a divorce. When people use the term "going through," they're not kidding. It's like trudging knee deep in a bog thick with weeds and disgusting sloppy muck that sucks you down with each step. And considering knee deep for most people is like waist deep for me, that's quite a bit of sludge to soldier through. Also, imagine you're being bombarded with razor sharp thorny vines and shrieking crows. Oh, and don't forget the ROUSes. I'm sure everyone will respect that I currently have no desire to share the private details leading to this outcome, especially in a public forum, but know that I am happy and my kids and I are doing great. The other upside is that this experience has led to inspiration that I can hopefully soon incorporate into my current work.

   Obviously, because of the overwhelming heaviness of my current situation, it has been difficult to submerge myself into any serious, though provoking books. My brain is already tired, and I only succeed in reading a few pages before it completely passes out. Thus, I have dedicated this time to cathartic works by amusing authors. I don't want to be depressed or challenged right now, I want to laugh so hard I fracture a rib, maybe even pee myself a little.

   Here are some titles that I've read/currently reading that have been like soothing bag balm for my soul:

You know and love him, and so do I. David Sedaris is one of the most touchingly hilarious writers I've come across. It's almost difficult to believe his stories of his dysfunctional family and antics are true. But it's like I tell people when I relate tales from the coffee shop: you just can't make this shit up. In this most recent collection of essays, Sedaris tells the story of his first colonoscopy, how his father terrified him out of doing pretty much everything, the time he almost bought a pygmy skeleton, and the heartbreaking story of the boy his father liked better than him. Pure observational humor that is intelligent, honest, and real. There are also a few fiction pieces that are fairly amusing, but it's the true tales that are as always the best Sedaris.

Seriously, if you look in the dictionary under "hilarious," you'll find David Sedaris. My current read is  "Naked," in which Sedaris travels the country hitchhiking with serial killers, makes clocks for a Child of God, and takes three hours to get home from school because of his obsessive tics. I'll let you know how it pans out. I may have wet myself a little when he went through a phase where he spoke in Shakespearean English for a period of time. 

Other books on my "give me belly laughs" to-do list include:

I read the first chapter and almost died. Great recommendation from a friend. From The New Yorker: "As Roach points out, scientists studying sex are often treated with disdain, as though there is something inherently suspicious about the enterprise. Yet through understanding the anatomy, physiology, and psychology of sexual response, scientists can help us toward greater marital and nonmarital happiness. Such altruistic intentions, which the book shares, aren’t the wellspring of its appeal, however. That lies in the breezy tone in which Roach describes erectile dysfunction among polygamists, penis cameras, relative organ sizes and enhancement devices, and dozens of other titillating subjects. Not to be missed: the martial art of yin diao gung (“genitals hanging kung fu”), monkey sex athletes, and the licensing of porn stars’ genitals for blow-up reproductions. To stay on the ethical side of human-subjects experimentation, Roach offers herself as research subject several times, resulting in some of her best writing."

Another from the hilarious Christopher Moore: "Moore’s Sacré Bleu is part mystery, part history (sort of), part love story, and wholly hilarious as it follows a young baker-painter as he joins the dapper  Henri Toulouse-Lautrec on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the supposed “suicide” of Vincent van Gogh."

Any other recommendations? Please don't hesitate to share! And please excuse my break from writing to concentrate on life for a while. I will get back to it soon!