Sunday, October 25, 2020

Physical Exam

I heard it before I saw it. It was coming from the next room over. A one-sided medical based conversation by my exhausted spouse who has been working graveyard shifts between long days.

He comes home when he can and traps himself in some corner of the house, a space heater at his feet, and he studies until he falls asleep. "I'm just so tired. I'm just so so tired," he'll say to me if ever I happen to see him.

But on this evening three nights ago he wasn't studying quietly. He was instead practicing physical exams, and he was doing it loudly.

"Now I'm going to check your heartrate," I heard him say to what I thought must be an imaginary patient. I thought it must have been imaginary because I was pretty sure we were the only two people in the house.

But then he continued: "your heart rate is about . . . uh . . . hundreds of beats per minute. That's either very alarming or completely normal."

At this point I became curious enough to put down my knitting and pause my shows, for I was engaged in equally important tasks as Skylar.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

I made this with my man hands.

I embarked on my third sweater project in early July. I was determined to knit one Skylar would actually wear. 

Skylar is not a good liar. I don't think he's really capable of lying. It's a very disappointing thing to have in a spouse. I know I know. "But Eli, why would you want your husband to be dishonest with you? Don't you want to know you can trust what he's telling you?"

Y'all, that sounds nice on paper but when I'm like "do you think I'm getting soft around my mid-section" and he responds in a high pitched "WHAT NO OF COURSE NOT WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT YOU'VE NEVER LOOKED MORE FIT AND YOUR HAIR DEFINITELY ISN'T THINNING" and I'm like "WHAT'S THAT ABOUT MY HAIR???"

I'm just saying, sometimes I would like for him to be a good liar. 

When I had him try on the first sweater I made, which I knew was a disaster (it had like five holes in it and it was four inches longer in the front than in the back) I asked him what he thought. He did the same high-pitched voice and said something about how the sweater "really tells a story."

I haven't seen that sweater since.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Pretty Serious Dispute

I need you to solve a debate that is make or break for my marriage. 

Skylar, who is wrong, thinks it's rude when I'm working or writing and he starts trying to talk to me and I very politely ignore him completely. He also thinks it's rude when I mindlessly respond with a curt "uh-uh" without ever looking at him. 

Obviously he, who is wrong, would characterize this differently than I have. He would incorrectly tell you that I'm not "politely" ignoring him and that the fact that I'm ignoring him is inherently impolite, but nonetheless, I'm not doing it "politely" anyway. He would falsely say that all he's doing is trying to treasure the few seconds we have together, which his horrid schedule barely and rarely deigns to allow, and that my refusal to join him in that honorable quest in fact makes me quite rude.

Then I'd interrupt at this point (but I'd do it politely, obviously) and I'd say "no one made you go learn how to put cameras up people's butts and look at poop through a microscope" and he'd cut me off there and yell "for the last time, that is not what I do all day." And then I'd remind him that it's rude to yell and interrupt so maybe a little self-reflection would be a better use of his time than this current escapade of projection. 

He'd roll his eyes at that point and say it's "useless" arguing with me, which is curious, because he would then continue to argue with me. And look, I'd suggest that if you're doing something you think is useless, that probably says a lot more about you than it ever could about me. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020


Meg is essentially a gay man on paper. I don't mean that she's a gay man on top of paper; I just mean that if you listed all of her qualities and interests on a piece of paper, you would assume she's a gay man named Garrett in West Hollywood. She's got all of the stereotypical interests and she tends to know celebrity hot goss that most gay men know but which I completely don't know. It's very confusing sometimes but also very impressive.

Probably the way she's the most Gay Man is her obsession with Halloween. I drove to her house recently and she had decked the place out like it was the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. She had two large skeletons sitting out on Adirondack chairs (yes, I know what those are now). I don't think it was even October yet. 

When we started contemplating upcoming content for The Beehive, Meg just kept screaming into the zoom call "MORE SPOOKY." We were like "but what about people who are scared" and she just cut us off with a high-pitched cackle that went uninterrupted until the zoom call timed out.

Since she's our scary mob boss we all immediately started writing ghost stories but that wasn't enough for her so she took to social media to ask people to tell us their spooky stories. We've been recording some for Strangerville and editing written pieces and researching accounts people have been sending to us and y'all, I'm basically up to my ears in spooky this month.

This week I wrote a story for The Beehive about how hard I've tried to get my faithless husband to believe in ghosts because he's wrongly dismissive about their existence. Please do me a solid and read that piece. Whenever you click on something I've written for The Beehive they immediately give me $250,000 and a gift certificate to JOANN Fabric. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Best In The Business

During These Unprecedented Times Of Uncertainty, I have run around 200 miles per month. I've mentioned this to you before. My conversion into Forrest Gump was a result of two things: Gyms being closed and extreme high energy. 

When this all began in March, I looked for whatever opportunity I could find to get myself out of the house to burn off some the anxiety I was feeling. As a result, I started going on 13-mile runs about every other day, listening to mindless pop-culture and movie podcasts along the way. It's actually been a really nice escape for me and something I think I'll take with me if we ever enter precedented and certain times again. 

Because I've been running so much, I have fully rubbed holes in all of my running shorts. You would think with all of this endurance activity I wouldn't have thunder thighs, but gurlfrend: my thunder thighs have basically become a hurricane in 2020. The weather people have even named them. 

My thunder thighs are in full force because while I have increased my physical activity by 90%, I have also increased my ice cream consumption by 390%. I'm not very good with maths, but I believe that leaves an eleventy percent deficit, and that entire deficit has gone to Cagney and Lacey. Those are my thunder thighs. I forgot to mention their names last paragraph.

I didn't really care for a while about the holes in all of my running shorts because, like, who am I trying to impress? "Who am I trying to impress" is actually my favorite post-marriage excuse for not caring about things. Skylar hates it. "Me. You're trying to impress me." he says. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Great Flood

Skylar left at illegal o'clock this morning for affairs so he wasn't around when I discovered The Great Flood in our front yard. 

He's in pediatrics now, which is apparently different than the rotation he just completed, which was also in pediatrics. He had panicked before starting that last one because he decided against all possible evidence to the contrary that he wasn't "good with children." 

I had him watch that episode of Mr. Rogers where the kid goes to the doctor for a physical and Mr. Rogers goes with to show the viewers at home that it's not all that scary. I told Skylar he could maybe get some tips from how the physician in the episode interacted with the child. A few minutes later I found him intently watching the episode and furiously taking notes, which might be the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Apparently that did the trick because by the end of the rotation he had decided that he, in fact, liked working with children. So he was happy to start this new rotation in pediatrics that is somehow different than his last rotation in pediatrics. 

The point is, he wasn't around to deal with today's disaster.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Baby Clothes

Cashier: These little t-shirts are cute! Who are they for?

Me: Oh, uh . . . my . . . uh . . . my baby. They're for my baby.

Cashier: Boy or girl?

Me: Boy.

Cashier: Wonderful! And how old is he?

Me: He's fou--uh . . . [looks at tag on shirt] he's eight to ten months.

Cashier: Hard to keep track, isn't it! Especially when you aren't getting much sleep!

Me: He actually sleeps through the night pretty well.

Cashier: Terrific! How's his appetite? At that age they can become so finnicky.

Me: Fine. He's pretty much eats the same thing for every meal.

Cashier: Is he crawling yet?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Pictures from my Phone & Weekly Distractions

Mamma's tired but here are some pictures and a few quick distractions for your perusal. 

I don't want no bunny banana frog ok no way.

Duncan and Jude taking a nap.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


Tomorrow is my and Skylar's one-year wedding anniversary what how is that possible you look so young STOP IT YOU GUYS.

What a wild first year of marriage this was. So many unpredictable left turns. I mean, I assumed when we got married last September that our next twelve months would include a worldwide pandemic, a near economic collapse, an earthquake, and a mountain hurricane, but I didn't think we'd also have to process all that news about Meghan and Harry.

In twelve months we've faced more together in some ways than I would have expected to deal with in a decade. I feel so fortunate that he's the person I've had to navigate all of this with. 

People commonly talk about how you can tell a couple is about to break up when they start gushing about one another on social media. Something compels relationships in crisis to engage in full denial in this way. Sometimes when I start to write something nice about Skylar he'll say to me, "people are going to think we're about to get divorced if you publish that."

Whatever. I can't help myself. I adore that man.

Skylar makes everything better. He makes everyone better. I don't know how he does it. You meet him and suddenly you're just a better person for it. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Only In Utah!

Skylar said it was "hot" and he was "sweaty" so that's why it was a good idea for him to take his shirt off and go sit on the furniture. I told him this wasn't my preferred choice for him, but he laughed it off like he always does when he doesn't want to argue anymore.

We're in that weird time of year where the iceberg that sunk the Titanic floats down our street every night and then all the fires of hell descend upon us by 10:00 AM.  "Just open all the windows. It's September." I hear myself saying every year around this time, as though God has designated this month for consistent temperature control.

We open the windows, and we bake during the day and shiver in hypothermic misery all night. 

"September is the best. So pleasant. So lovely." I insist. 

I claim it's the one month that really is just right. In reality, it's the one month where I'm uncomfortable nearly all the time. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Dead Rat

Our greatest neighborhood allies are the Perfects next door. When I bought this house in The Year of Our Lord Eleventy Hundred, I was too intimidated to talk to them because they were, well, perfect. So instead I just spent like three years doing a lot of embarrassing things in front of them without affording myself the opportunity to explain.

A big part of the reason I didn't cultivate much of a relationship with them is because I just assumed they wouldn't want me to bother them with my boring self. This is a thing I assume about everyone always. It's very healthy and for sure not in need of therapy.

Then Jon Skylar Westerdahl moved into my house. Skylar is the opposite of me. It doesn't even occur to him that someone wouldn't be interested in talking to him. And it's not like he's arrogant about it. He doesn't necessarily assume everyone will love him either. He just doesn't care. He barges into the lives of everyone he sees and decides that if they don't want him, it's their burden to get rid of him. 

Within days of him living in this house, he was in the Perfects's''ses' front yard arm-in-arm with all four of them and the dog, laughing and creating memories. Suddenly they were coming to parties at our house and helping us with our gardening. We became "can you water the flowers while we're out of town" neighbors for each other. They texted us immediately after the earthquake earlier this year to make sure we were ok. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Teacher's Pet

I'm a few weeks into this new semester with my First Amendment class at the law school down the street and reader, let me tell you: teaching a class is so weird in These Uncertain Unprecedented Times We're All In This Together.

My university made the decision to require that around 60% of all classes be offered exclusively online this semester. The rest of the classes are taught both in person and over Zoom (for anyone who has symptoms or is otherwise uncomfortable meeting in a group).

The school has some really strict measures in place to keep in-person classes as safe as possible. For example, there is only one class in the building at a time. They also have seats blocked off so students have to sit 6 or more feet apart. Everyone has to wear masks. Everyone is supposed to wipe down their areas before and after. Everyone is supposed to leave the building as soon as class ends.

The school asked me if I was comfortable teaching in person and I said I was because I don't believe in science I'M KIDDING DON'T EMAIL ME. I thought the measures sounded good enough that I wouldn't feel at great risk. Also, I haven't left my house since The Year Of Our Lord Eleventy and I'm starting to lose my mind greatly so I thought it would probably be good for me to have two events a week where I see 14 other humans.

But oh boy. Let me tell you something. It is a challenge to teach to a large mostly-empty room of spread-out people, in a mask, and simultaneously minding the Zoom screen of students at home. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020


Skylar found out his newest rotation would be in pediatrics and this freaked him out. I was honestly surprised that he was so nervous to do this rotation. If you ever meet Skylar, within seconds you sort of get this Barney the dinosaur vibe from himlike maybe he missed his life calling. 

He told me he was nervous because he's "not good with kids," which might be the least self-aware statement I've heard from a human mouth since basically everything I ever said before I came out.

When we go visit my family, my nieces and nephews, MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD, will literally run around me to jump on him. Their official greeting to me is "where's Skylar?" One time a few years ago we stayed at my sister's house to watch her kids while the parents were out of town and the then five-year-old had a terrible nightmare in the middle of the night. I got up to console him and when I got to the room he sobbed "can you just get Skylar? He's better at making me feel better."

And look. I'm not offended by this. I know my limitations. I am incapable of talking to children under the age of 14. I treat all kids like I'm their accountant and I'm concerned about their financials as we near the end of their fiscal year. 

Skylar? He approaches the world with majestic wonder, and kids can sense that from him. He's excited by the same things that excite them, and he treats them like they're his whole world.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

When It's Easier To Laugh Than Cry

We received an alert or several that a sly wind from the east was coming in. Apparently the air from wherever was about to cross over from Colorado and Wyoming and ultimately hit our quiet little Salt Lake City.

I'm told high winds can result when a huge build-up of cold air hits our mountains and then pours down them into our very lovely valley. 

By early Tuesday morning all of those nannies from Mary Poppins were getting launched directly over my house as we legit had category 3 hurricane winds, which is not a thing I thought I'd say about my 2020 at 4,500 feet elevation, deep in the desert mountains of Utah.

As it turns out, high winds are terrifying. Nearly the entire city immediately lost power. I say "nearly" because somehow our house seemed to be the only place in town that had electricity (it's been a few days since the storm and there are still large parts of the city without power). My friend Emily came over to work from my house after this happened at her house:

Monday, September 7, 2020

Red Vines

On Saturday I started getting notifications to my phone about my Instacart order. This was curious, since I had, in fact, not placed an Instacart order.

I had forgotten that some time ago I gave Skylar the login for my account and it seems he, from the next room over, decided to go ahead and place a Costco order without bothering to consult with me about what we should buy. I suppose that was fine. We've nearly committed personal hate crimes against one another inside a Costco in the past. I'm 100% positive that no relationship exits a Costco in better shape than when it entered.

But you'd think we could engage in online shopping without getting the divorce lawyers on the phone. The bulk of our historic Costco contention really centers around navigating the army-tank carts around entire family reunions in order to gather more cheese than we could ever possibly consume and then stand in a line that wraps around the entire solar system twice just to get back out to the parking lot that stretches to Prince Edward Island.

Speaking of buying more than we could ever use: the last time Skylar did an Instacart order he accidentally bought 2,000 garbage bags. We don't go through a lot of garbage bags. After they were delivered he calculated that at our current rate, these bags could last us up to 35 years. 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

This New Step of Covid

When The Great Covid began earlier this year I was one of those people who was constantly telling you that actually we really had a lot to learn from this experience and "in a way" it was totally valuable and shouldn't we be kind of grateful that we had to slow down?

Then some months passed and suddenly I found myself screaming in my mind and becoming willing to kill for movie theater popcorn.

Ok, not totally. I still feel those early things about sunshine and rainbows. But the working from home all day every day business has started to wear on me in a way I had not previously anticipated.

When we started all of this, Sky was in regular classes at school and since The Whole World got canceled starting March, he was suddenly sent home, just like I was. So we'd both work from the house every day together, occasionally yelling to each other from neighboring rooms "WHY ARE YOU SO FREAKING LOUD."

Duncan would wander between us, sometimes happy for the company but usually looking more annoyed that we were disrupting his all-day nap, which, to be fair, would be an important part of my schedule as well if I had no bills, someone fed me every meal, and I got to poop outside without shame YES I THINK THAT SOUNDS LIBERATING DON'T @ ME.

So, things were fine and well. I felt like I was sequestered with my family, checking the news and worrying, but at least having someone to worry with.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

When did we get old?

I started teaching a class at the law school down the street from my house last fall. It's a First Amendment class. We read a bunch of cases from the Supreme Court and then we discuss them together. I really loved teaching it last year. I felt like I was getting together twice a week to hang out with my peers and debate some really fascinating issues. 

But y'all.

I don't know. I guess I still think of myself as being the same age as the average law student. 

We were talking about the Newdow case, which is the Pledge of Allegiance case from 2004 where everyone was fighting about kids saying the Pledge at school and the words "under God," etc. We were discussing this idea that a lot of people have argued over the years in First Amendment/religion cases that some things are just so steeped in tradition and so ceremonial that they aren't really a religious act anymore. Nobody really thinks, for example, they are engaging in a religious act when they use money, even though the money says "in God we trust" on it.

So we were talking about this argument in the context of the Pledge--that people never really thought about the words "under God" when they were saying the Pledge before this case/debate happened in 2004. And I was trying to make the point that ironically, this case actually flipped that around because we all started talking about it. I said something like, "if your experience was like mine, before 2004 you probably never really thought about those words at all. Now, every time a group at a rodeo says the Pledge they almost militantly yell that part. So this case actually weakened that argument that the words are only ceremonial."

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Pictures from my Phone & Weekly Distractions

We are so very overdue for a Pictures & Distractions post and I have some fun stuff to share with you. So here it is. 

Matt turned 40. The birthday bash wasn't quite as big as we had planned, but, you know. Pandemic.
Matt turned 40. The birthday bash wasn't quite as big as we had planned, but, you know. Pandemic.

Sunday, August 23, 2020


The first time I visited Skylar's family in Portland I thought maybe the Pacific Northwest was experiencing a famine that hadn't made the news in Utah. We were invited for dinner at the home of one of Skylar's sisters. In my memory, 12 asparagus spears were delicately placed on a white plate and offered to the crowd of 10 people that had gathered. Skylar thinks I'm exaggerating and swears it wasn't that bad. I took offense to his accusation, which is totally unfair as I've never before exaggerated in my life.

As soon as I saw the full dinner offering I made a silent note to myself to venture out later that evening and find myself some more food. The meal was phenomenal. Skylar has two sisters who should be working as head chefs in some pretentious Manhattan kitchen. Instead they waste their skills feeding us.

But although the food was delicious, I stated what I thought to be the obvious to Skylar as soon as we got back to the car afterward: "WHY IS YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY ON A FASTING DIET."

Skylar politely told me I was overreacting, and then he said something I hadn't really ever realized. "Honey, they are normal. You are not. You are incapable of cooking for two or four or even ten people. You only ever cook for fifty."

I told him this is how all of my friends and family are. He agreed. And then it finally hit me that there must still be some major residual Mormon left in me.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Gal Gadot

When I bought my house in 2014 the inspector guy showed up and kicked the tires and then told me the place was unlikely to collapse but that my A/C unit was from The Year of Our Lord 1776. It was actually used as the desk on which Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence. 

I didn't want to buy a new A/C at that time because I priced them out and found out that A/C units actually cost more than the International Space Station and since I had just spent eleventy billion dollars purchasing and furnishing a house, that wasn't going to happen.

Every summer I conduct a full seance in order to get the thing to kick on and start working for the year. I have literally made eternal promises to Satan I cannot possibly keep in order to get my house to cool down every July. I'm terrified of the day I have to explain that to him. It's seriously going to drive a wedge in our friendship. 

As it turns out, although 2020 so far has been a really phenomenal year with next to zero adversity or problems for anyone, I suddenly could not longer put off replacing this thing. I had noticed our power bill was exponentially increasing, the A/C was almost constantly running without ever actually cooling the house much, and whenever it kicked on all of the power in the house would flicker and an angel would die.

So I finally called a company I've previously liked and had them come out to replace it. A few days later two pimple-face teenagers showed up and spent a full day in my basement beating my furnace with weapons of war and loudly discussing which female celebrities were "hot enough" that they would deign to date them. They were on the fence with Gal Gadot. They had a hard time deciding if she could persuade them into a sexual relationship. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Skylar's World

Skylar has moved onto his second rotation now, family medicine. As I understand it, that's the same as regular medicine except it sometimes posts racist things on Facebook and Thanksgiving is usually awkward. 

His schedule has been better than when he was doing OBGYNQRSLMNOP where everyone seemed to think negative eleventy o'clock in the morning was the best time to have hundreds of babies. Family medicine is much more reasonable. He rolls out of bed at about 5:30 and then shows back up at home sometime around 7:00 PM, at which point I meet him at the door with our daily affair-accusation greeting: "WHO IS SHE."

Yes, I know I just called getting out of bed at 5:30 "reasonable" and yes I hate that I did that but it's all relative. I'm coming off of a couple of weeks of graveyard shifts where my zombie husband hopefully didn't run over entire families with his car on his way to or from the hospital at all hours of the day and night. During the graveyard times the only way I knew he was alive was that I'd periodically find water mysteriously running and car keys in the refrigerator. 

In college I had a professor who's wife was also a professor, except they taught at universities on opposites sides of the country. They were pretty much only ever together during the summers. At the time I thought that seemed crazy; how could you possibly make a marriage work if you never see each other?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Second Date

 Last week I tweeted this thing that went viral:

I still don't really understand how the internet works. Sometimes I'll write a joke and I'll be like "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA THIS IS AMAZING THIS IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER BEEN WRITTEN PEOPLE WILL LITERALLY DIIIIEEE FROM READING THIS" and then like 4 of you actually read it and someone comments about a typo.

Then other times I'll write something without giving it much thought and I almost don't post it because it seems lame and the next thing I know the entire planet is sharing it. That is honestly what happened with Snuggie Texts, by the way. I amused myself a bit with that exchange and thought I should type it out to share with my friends and family, thinking they might find it mildly amusing. A decade later I still get daily emails of people wearing Snuggies.

The point is this whole stupid website was just a massive mistake.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Friends We Made Along The Way

We want to be the kind of people who go camping, but we don't actually want to go camping. That's the only way I can describe this cognitive dissonance that recently caused Skylar to spend all of the money we were saving for you guys to go to college on camping gear I had never heard of before.

I think he pitched the avalanche of purchases at me one night when I was halfway through a bottle of wine and screaming obscenities at the season of Survivor currently on my screen. He saw his opportunity to catch me distracted, tipsy, and caught in the dream of being on the show and he went for it. I call this the Manipulation Trifecta. If you ever want anything from me, you should approach me in the state just described. I'll give you whatever you want. Well, except for money, since Skylar just spent all of that.

Suddenly over the next two months, multiple boxes started showing up on our porch on a daily basis. I'd open them to find some tarp large enough to cover our house, or a hatchet sharp enough to cut glass and I'd scream, "what the hell is this!?"

"Remember? You told me to buy all of this stuff." Skylar would respond.

Then this weekend he finally declared we had sufficient supplies to make a go at it, and the next thing I knew we were jamming enough gear into two backpacks to support a full Apollo mission.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

My Mother's Pickle Canning Recipe None Of You Asked For, Which Was Rude

I'm basically Martha Stewart now, except I've been to less prison and I look better in skirts. I thought I might as well fully lean in and turn Stranger into a quasi recipe site. My recipes are better than most because you don't have to scroll past a 5,000-word essay about some woman's husband. Instead, I INCLUDE THE ESSAY WITHIN THE RECIPES! (Also, for past recipes, I've started a Recipe tab at the top of this very stupid website. I don't even know what Stranger is anymore.)

The below is one I've been meaning to write up since before the war. It's my momma's famous (D-list celebrities, but that's big for vine plants) pickle canning recipe. I grew up on these and they have forever ruined all other pickles for me. Once you have a Cathie pickle, you'll never go back-thy . . . shnickle. That rhyme didn't really work out but I'm too lazy to delete.


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Out of Gas

We drove to a little farm yesterday morning to buy crap to put in jars and leave on our shelves to rot. Canning truly is one of my favorite annual traditions; I wish eating what we can was a close second.

Neverthenotwithstanding, we gathered supplies for dill pickles (don't worry--recipe full of irrelevant information about my marriage to come). The farm we visited is across the valley from where we live, nestled in a bustling Salt Lake City suburb. Traffic was heavy for a Saturday morning during a pandemic, which we especially noticed on one four-lane road that had been narrowed to two lanes because of an incredible amount of road construction.

There we sat, nearly at a crawl, in a long line of cars stretching nearly a mile. We had been stopped for a while--unknown reasons--when finally we saw that the cars up ahead started moving. Well, the cars ahead, besides the one directly in front of us.

I'm not a honker. It's not a natural reaction for me. I don't really understand people who seem to do it almost subconsciously. On the rare occasion in which I do honk my horn, it's always woefully delayed because it takes me so long to realize this is a thing I can do, this is a thing I should do, and then try to remember the mechanics of horn honking. Then I don't press it hard enough the first time to actually make a noise because I don't have enough recent muscle memory to know the needed strength. By the time the sound comes out probably nobody has any idea what I might be honking about because the offense has long-since passed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

My Mother's Spaghetti Canning Recipe No One Asked For, Which Was Rude

My most vivid memory from my entire childhood is stuffing my face into a giant green pillow in the basement during canning season as the house would fill with overpowering scents of dill and tomatoes and MSG. I hated it. For a long time, I hated it. Then something happened to me that I don't think has ever happened to anyone else: I became my mother.

Now, each summer and fall I can eleventy thousand jars of shit in an ongoing game of "What Won't Skylar Eat." I currently have enough untouched applesauce on my basement shelves to reverse climate change. The pickle situation is even more dire. After canning SEVENTEEN quarts of pickles last autumn I learned that 50% of my household hates pickles.

The one exception to our wasted canning so far is my momma's spaghetti sauce. This was a staple in our house growing up and truly, Cathie McCann should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for perfecting the recipe. Each year I can exponentially more of this stuff. We go through about a quart a week, using it for spaghetti, lasagna, homemade pizza, chicken marinade, acid reflux disease, neighbor gifts, etc.

And now you can make it, too! Ingredient list and semi-profane step-by-step instructions below.

Ingredients (This will make about 10 pints or 5 quarts of sauce)

20 cups of pureed, peeled tomatoes (about 10 pounds of roma tomatoes)
1 green pepper
1 onion
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of garlic salt
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of dry mustard
2 tablespoons of taco hot sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon of parsley flakes
1 teaspoon of basil
2 teaspoons of oregano
3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of flour

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Ghost Town Hunting

We were supposed to go on an adventure last weekend, but our plans were abruptly canceled when Skylar plugged in all eleventy hundred of his nuclear devices at once and blew out our power.

He disputes this characterization, but if he wants to revive his old Stranger fact-checking site, he can be my guest. Until then, I'll continue to unfairly and inaccurately tell the stories without any consequences.

The power outage happened on a Friday evening. "I'll handle this," I declared, in the tone of a homeowner who thinks he's a qualified electrician for no other reason than that he's pretty sure he knows where the breaker box is.

I marched to the basement and flicked each breaker at random for several minutes before finally accepting this problem fell outside my broad expertise. We called our electrician, Raul, who is 100% the best human being I've ever met on this planet. My friend Anna found Raul about 8 years ago and now several friends and I consider him a part of our families. I will for sure name a child after him if Skylar or I can ever figure out how to get pregnant.

Raul told us he could come the next day, which meant we needed to stay home and wait for him. He showed up at noon and climbed through every nook and cranny in the house until he found a wire that had straight up exploded (???).

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Eternal Vine

My parents have this Jumanji vine consuming a whole side of their house. They planted it back before the war when they were young and dumb and so full of hope and purpose. Now they reserve all three of their annual swearwords for the phone call I receive this time of year in which they put me on speakerphone and scream about how much they hate the vine while begging me to come climb a ladder to chop it back.

I always go because I'm the official Son Of The Year, every year. (And I'm always so gracious when I receive the award and I'm like "I don't deserve this. This really should have gone to Beyoncé." But then I keep it.)

The vine has now grown so high up onto the house that Bob & Cathie have had to buy ladders from NASA previously only used for engineers to climb up to the International Space Station for repairs. We plop the ladder onto the side of the house, I climb up through the clouds, and Bob & Cathie stand below as I chop and drop long pieces of vine onto their heads with reckless abandon. This always feels really disrespectful but I was a pretty well-behaved teenager so I think the karma evens out.

Last week they called me said they had had it with the vine and they were ready to take more drastic measures. Typically we just chop back the new growth. Now they wanted to pull half of it off of the house and then not let it grow above where they can reach "so we don't have to keep calling you" which now that I'm thinking about it, are my parents disowning me?

Anyway, Duncan and I showed up at their house yesterday evening ready for our farm chores. I climbed the ladder and started yanking and pulling and eventually I discovered that the upper part of the vine wasn't really attached very well to the house because suddenly a wall of matted English Ivy started folding off of the house in one solid piece.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Excuse MY Christmas!

Since 2011, I've been receiving emails from all of you on all sorts of topics and for all sorts of reasons. Some of the emails contain photos of you wearing Snuggies. Some of them include links to important pictures of terrifying chickens. Often they are even thoughtful responses (or criticisms) to something we've talked about on It Just Gets Stranger or Strangerville.
I love your emails. They have been wildly important to me so many times over the years. There was one time where an email I received from the Strangerverse was especially impactful in both a hilarious and deeply meaningful way. 
For the past few years I've been meaning to produce a Strangerville segment about that email. I finally got it done. #amazing #GreatFollowThrough. 
Please check out this week's Strangerville. I've also included a snippet below from today's story. I think this is called a teaser? Is this a teaser? Netflix should hire me.
For the non-podcast savvy folks who don't use Spotify or any podcast apps on your phone, you may play it here:

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Skylar started his "rotations" this week, which as I understand it roughly translates to "wander around a hospital trying to look busy so no one asks you to clean up poop."

His first rotation is in gynecology. They do these rotations in part to help the students try to figure out what kind of doctor they want to be. I already nixed gynecology for Skylar after I imagined a likely future scenario in which he calls from work every evening and says "I got gabbing with my first patientshe was a GODDESSand then missed all the rest of my appointments for the day so now I have to work until 4:00 AM."

When he first started medical school I made a lot of jokes about what kind of doctor I needed him to beall motivated by selfish reasons, of course. The list included only specialties that could give me access to cheap elective cosmetic surgeries and an ocean of botox. After a while I became worried that my jokes would get taken seriously so I way over-corrected and started giving a weekly speech about how I didn't care at all what he did as long as he was happy. Within 24 hours he started leaving open on his laptop applications to professional improv groups.

Ok, that last part isn't true, but if he had enough time right now to be funny it would be.

The point is, I need him to make us all look young again but I need him to think it was his choice. That way I can seem pretty and supportive.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Exhausted Broccolini

On Wednesday I had one of those days where everything just a little bit sucked more than usual. I don't remember how it started. Technical difficulties. Ants in the kitchen. An annoying work email, or two. Finally around 2:00 I decided I was just going to go for my long run and clear my mind.

I don't know why I can't seem to remember that it's one hundred eleventy degrees at that time of day this time of year. I keep doing this. I take off and about two or three miles into the run there is enough sweat pouring off of my body that Utah is technically no longer a desert. But by that point it feels too late to quit, so I just keep going.

I do the same run every other day or so. I head down my street and climb to the top of the Avenues in downtown Salt Lake City. Then I run across a road that overlooks the entire valley until I reach a small canyon, nestled in some trees, a lovely little creek winding through it. Eventually the canyon feeds right into Temple Square at the heart of the city. Then I make my way back home, past the Governor's Mansion and several dozen pioneer-era homes converted into bed-and-breakfasts and law offices.

It's a pleasant run--about 12-14 miles, depending on how many detours I decide to take. This has been my best COVID-19 therapy.

But it's much less pleasant when I decide to attempt it at Satan o'clock.

I think it must have actually been around 95 degrees on Wednesday when I left the house. By the time I reached the halfway point, I was already wondering if I could possibly make it all the way back home. A mile or two later, my left heel started aching, to the point that I couldn't keep running.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Mormon Phrases

When Skylar moved to Utah in 2016, he basically had to take a Utah-immersion course just to understand basic life. He'd occasionally wander into the house and say things like "what's a CTR ring?"

So I'd explain it. And that would usually prompt more questions. Sometimes I would get defensive and be like "IT MIGHT SEEM STRANGE TO YOU BUT IT'S NOT IT'S WONDERFUL" and he'd respond "no, I think that thing you just explained is terrific" and I'd be like "WELL IT'S NOT IT'S VERY WEIRD" and he'd be like "well, I guess it is a little" and I'd be like "HOW DARE YOU HAVE SOME RESPECT" because that's what it looks like to have complicated feelings about your former religion.

Sometimes his naivety is lovely. In Utah, the predominant religion can be polarizing. Most people who have lived here for very long have pretty strong feelings, one way or the other, about it. But Skylar has no dog in the fight. He's just interested. Nothing else, really.

A few years ago he came home all excited because he learned about an organization called "Encircle" which is an LGBTQ organization in Utah which was created because some of the other national groups weren't as good at understanding the unique dynamics of coming out in a very devout Mormon family and/or community. Educating and providing support to kids and parents who speak a very different language than most of the rest of society requires some special tools, process, and vocabulary.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Indogpendence Day

Yesterday was Independence Day (happy birthday, America. Sorry your party sucked.)

Normally we throw a Fourth of July party where all of our friends come over and lick their hands and touch each other and cough into our open eyes but we decided not to do that this year because, you know, Rona.

The lack of social engagements in 2020 has been a super interesting thing for this extrovert who has knitted two sweaters, three scarves, a hat, and has run nearly 1,000 miles in the last three months and I'm sure none of these things are related. But honestly, I've settled into this and I've been able to find joy in the lessened social chaos.

I'm still working from home and plan to maybe forever? We've seen my family here and there, but not much because Bob & Cathie don't want us to give them the Rona. I have a lot of friends who are worried about their parents and grandparents because they don't feel like they are taking social distancing and mask wearing, etc., seriously enough. I'm grateful that I haven't had that problem with my own parents, but I wouldn't mind having Cathie come over and make comments about my yard that are definitely compliments but worded just so I'm not confident about that ("Oh! I would have never thought to plant a rose bush that close to that tree that I didn't realize people liked!").

We miss our old folks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Skylar Looks Good In Sweaters

A couple months ago I called my knitting store down the street #supportlocal #citizenoftheyear #It'sScaryToTalkOnThePhone #bravery. I had picked a new sweater to knit, something that would be the most difficult knitting project yet, besides, perhaps, The Scarf That Shall Not Be Named.

The knitting store (Blazing Needles woot woot) was shut down, just like everything else on planet Earth at that time, but they were doing phone and internet orders and then either shipping product or letting you come pick it up on their front porch.

They helped me figure out what I needed, took all of the money I've ever had in my life, and I walked over that very day.

The knitting project ended up being extremely fun to make. Skylar had picked this sweater out online and I was hesitant because I thought it was hideous but I forgot the great Skylar rule, which is that literally everything looks perfect on him and he should have to spend some time in jail for this. (Where he'd look great in an orange jumpsuit he is so infuriating.)

I finished it over the weekend and I wanted you to behold my endless talents so here you go:

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Paintings. Now None of You Can Go to College.

Last year Skylar and I went to Santa Barbara for a quick vacation so he could have a break from medical school. We ended up driving a bit out of the area to a town called Solvang, which is this German(?) town that is exactly the most adorable place anyone has ever been to. Seriously. You should look this thing up.

Well we spent the day wine tasting NOT THAT WE KNOW WHAT THAT IS and that ended up being a very dangerous thing because Solvang has some art shops with paintings that cost exactly elevently million dollars cubed times fifty carry the one multiple by the integer. By the end of the day, Skylar, who has to get a liver transplant just from walking past a vineyard, was so drunk none of us get to go to heaven ever again.

Tangent: I'm not kidding about this. Skylar weighs 14 pounds. And he rarely drinks. But he really loves wine--or, at least he loves the thought of wine. But every time he actually has a sip of anything he spends the next five months waking up every morning saying "I'm so hungover." And I'm like "SKYLAR YOU HAD COUGH SYRUP IN FEBRUARY YOU ARE NOT STILL HUNGOVER IT'S JUNE." And then he gets mad at me for speaking without punctuation, because that's what wine snobs do.

Anyway, on this particular Solvang day, Skylar was legitimately the most drunk I have ever seen him, and that includes this one time when we had just first started dating and we met in NYC and went to a party and ended up at a McDonald's at 3:00 AM eating a pile of very-not-good hamburgers and he reached over and grabbed my hand, looked me straight in the eye with this very sweet look like he was about to say something sentimental, and whispered "I want you to know, I hate this. I don't like staying up late. I don't know what we're doing here. I wanted to go to bed at 9:00. I hope you don't expect more of this from me."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Q&A with Tami

A while ago Tami did a Q&A on the Stranger Facebook page (for those unfamiliar because you haven't yet caught up on a decade's worth of ramblings and misspellings on this site, Tami is my big toe on my right foot. She was born when the toenail fell off on Pioneer Day in 2014 and now everyone who reads this site LOVES her and begs me to post graphic pictures of her).

Anyway, I helped Tami respond to your questions and thought I'd share them here:

Q: Who are you Tami? (Yolanda Happy-Goil Newell)

A: She said "I'm the last thing you think about before you go to sleep and the first thing you think about when you step out of bed in the morning. Also, I work in HR."

Q: Who's your stylist? (Jesslyn Ann Poulson)

A: She said "The Illuminati."

Q: With the quarantine, how are Tami and the Queen of Colors getting along? (Jen Rushforth)

A: Tami is a vegetarian so the Q of C doesn't feel threatened by her. Plus since Tami works in HR the Q of C is terrified of crossing her.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


This morning I heard Skylar in the other room on a Zoom call with a bunch of people from school. I had slipped into the room a few times while this was happening and I noticed every time I did that he was slightly less dressed than the time before, like he was playing some game of virtual strip poker.

I thought about being interested in this but then reminded myself that if I took note of every odd thing he does I'd have to open a library and I hate indexing and barely remember how the Dewey Decimal System works. So I stopped paying attention, even as he fully stripped down to some short shorts and nothing else.

He wasn't participating in the call and seemed to be doing jumping jacks and stretching a lot so I assumed he was on mute with his video off. That was until I heard someone on the Zoom call finally say "uh . . . Skylar? Do you know your camera is on?"

A few things: one, it's interesting that they waited so many minutes to inform him of this. Two, how does this very tech-savvy millennial not know how to operate his laptop camera? Three, the question implied that the people on the call thought it was a real possibility that Skylar was intentionally stripping and exercising in front of them. It reminded me of that time I was at the gym with a giant rip in my bike shorts and that guy told me "you probably don't care but there's a huge hole in your butt" and I was immediately like "WHY DO I SEEM LIKE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO WOULDN'T CARE?"

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Quite A Lot Of Pressure

Skylar is supposed to get his test scores any day now and I simultaneously need it to happen immediately and not for a while. He is antsy and it is A Lot. He has been waking up throughout the night, gasping, and informing me that he just had a series of dreams in which he got his score and the score is always "average" and he doesn't know how to feel about it. I need that to stop. But also, it's kind of fun to anticipate something exciting during The Great Covid, which has produced few opportunities to anticipating something exciting.

I asked him, mostly as a joke, whether I could look up his score and read it to him, like Warren Beatty announcing the Oscar for Best Picture. It sounded so glamorous when I suggested it. I got shot down initially but then later in the day Skylar came back to me and said that actually, yes, he did want me to read it first and break it to him because "you're really good at sharing news."

Obviously I was flattered by this completely true observation. I am fantastic at sharing news. I get teary-eyed and emphatic over good news, celebrating achievements like they're my own and empowering the people responsible for them. I like to be the one to extend job offers for my law firm when we make a decision because I am so phenomenally good at it.

But more importantly, I am honestly the Meryl Streep of delivering bad news. I'm not kidding, you guys. If you ever have bad news, you should call me and have me tell it to you. I once got distracted while messing with people on Yahoo! Answers when I saw someone ask a question about whether they could sue their boss who fired them for a totally good reason and I left such a thoughtful and inspiring answer for that person about how they didn't have a legal avenue for recovery but that they had so many important qualities that mattered more than the job and that person emailed me to thank me and we are literally still in touch five years later.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sand Dunes

Skylar finished his test a week ago yesterday and listeners, I now have a husband with too much time on his hands.

Remember last week when I wrote to you and I was like "I'm an ignored housewife who can't get her man's attention" and you all felt really sad for me and you sent me presents that haven't arrived yet but I'm sure they're on their way because you aren't the kind of people who don't send presents at a time like this?

Well, now Skylar Westerdahl is spending his days following me around the house asking me on a never-ending loop "now what are you doing" and when I don't answer him right away he follows it up with "why aren't you talking to me?" and look. I love attention. But apparently I have my limits because sometimes I pretend to go to the bathroom to poop now just to have a minute to myself. AND I HAVEN'T POOPED SINCE 2012.

I asked Skylar if he had any hobbies he might turn to since he now has like three weeks off, which in COVID 2020 time is the same as eleventy millennia, and he said his only one is "being a good husband and loving you" which is so annoying but also I'm obviously not going to try to talk him out of that as a hobby.

He really is getting more manipulative now that he's in his 30s.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Do I Believe In Magic?

I think I might be losing my mind. Is this a safe space? Can I say something here about myself that might be embarrassing?

I . . . have always believed in hypnosis. Like, you know the hypnotist shows where they bring seven people on stage and then the hypnotist dude gets them to do embarrassing things for two hours? Until literally five minutes ago I have never questioned whether that is authentic. No! It's worse! I've never even known anyone questions the authenticity. I literally just thought this was a real thing and everyone believes in it like rain and Cher.

Skylar and I just went for a walk and I made a joke about how we need to take Duncan to a hypnotist so someone can get him to stop involuntarily bolting after motorcycles and then I was like "do you think it would be hard to hypnotize someone?" and Skylar was like "no harder than casting a spell you learned at Hogwarts."

Well then I found out that Skylar doesn't believe in hypnosis at all and I was like "what are you talking about?! Don't you learn about this in medical school?!" and he was like "yeah, we cover it right after Defense Against The Dark Arts" and I was like "THAT'S TWO HARRY POTTER JOKES IN A ROW STOP BEING LAZY."

So then I had this panic because, y'all, I am basically 60 and I've roamed this Earth for several decades just casually believing in something that might be totally fictional and I've already done that once in my life with religion I'M JUST KIDDING CALM DOWN THE LORD IS STILL MY SHEPHERD LIKE HALF THE TIME I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S TRUE ANYMORE.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Thing About 2020

I have two friends who tested positive for the Rona recently. I won't say their names here because of HIPPO or whatever. I don't know. I don't really know anything about law.

The point is, this was kind of shocking because these two friends live together and they've been sequestered in their house since just before the war; they've been taking social distancing very seriously and they have jobs that have allowed them to work from home. Neverthenotwithstanding, they were marked with the great 2020 curse.

They were fortunate because their symptoms were never really all that bad. Just coughs and fatigue. But the thing is--no matter how bad your Rona is, you really have to turn yourself into a pariah because you aren't any less contagious. Apparently. I don't really know that either. Because science.

Knowing this, Skylar and I offered to deliver groceries and so forth but these friends are good pioneer women with eleventy decades of food storage so they were actually pretty prepared. But after a week of this they thought of one thing they could use so I picked it up at the store and took it to their house.

They were sitting out on the front porch, feeling not too bad. I stood out on the sidewalk and chatted with them for a while, a full 30 feet away. I didn't touch anything. I even left the groceries on the sidewalk for them to come out and pick up after I left.

I know that I didn't get coronavirus from them. I know this. It's honestly impossible. If I somehow got sick from that, we are all doomed.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


Happy weekend, one and all. It's Thursday afternoon but NewYearNewMe so I'm going to start considering Thursdays part of the weekend. And maybe Wednesdays. And entire tubs of caramel pecan ice cream.

This week I published a piece on The Beehive about our tendency in national crisis to fold under the weight of not knowing what to do and why we need to put in the work to figure out how to take actions now that are more than symbolic gestures. I agonized over how to write it and thanks to a lot of help from our team at The Beehive, I think we landed in the right place. Please check it out.

Please also check out this really wonderful piece from Liese Rodger published on The Beehive this week. Liese is a black woman living in Salt Lake City and in this piece she writes about some of her experiences in Utah over the years and what she believes her white friends can do to make a difference right now. It's a really important account that helped give me more perspective on this.

In other news, we are now just two days away from Skylar taking his big board exam test thingy, which I think is the official name. If you all could wear your lucky jersey or pray to Cher or sell a soul to Lucifer to help him do well, we'd appreciate it. We're not picky. We'll take help from your higher power of choice.

The other day he asked me to go to the grocery store and get some snacks he can take with him to the test since this thing is so long he'll basically have five full meals and two birthdays during it. I almost asked him what he wanted but then remembered that the last time I asked him a basic question it stressed him out so much that our health insurance premium automatically doubled.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Around the Campfire, With You

Obviously it's been a rough week in the U.S. I've spent the last couple of days writing something about all of it (and stewing over what to say). I'll share that in the next day or two. I'm positive it won't be perfect. I've grappled with what to say. I feel horrified about the violence and injustice black people in my country and community have had to endure. I have felt like it would be worse for me to say nothing than to drop some imperfect words. I may be wrong about that.

I hope you are all staying safe, in all of your corners of the world. I love you.

It's been a strange year, and not really in the ways we usually prefer. But we'll be carrying on in Strangerville, where stories matter, because they make us laugh, grow, understand, and connect. I can never thank you all enough for helping me understand and appreciate that through your support and interaction on this incredibly stupid website hosted by an extremely outdated platform for the past 12 years.

When I write here or produce stories from you I like to imagine we've all gathered around a little fire in a small group of trees, off in some corner of a quiet forest somewhere. The burning wood crackles. We're sipping hot cocoa, or whatever you prefer. We're huddled close together in warm blankets. Someone is holding a flashlight and pulling us in with their account of something funny or sad or whatever exists between or around those two feelings. We never want the story to end because that spacethat atmosphere that the sometimes-exaggerated but always meaningful details createis home for us. A place where we are at peace together because we are together.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Camera Butt Doctors

Skylar's big test that he's been studying for since before the war is at the end of next week. It's called "Step 1" or "the boards?" or "the reason I've been quarantined with someone who won't talk to me" or something. All I know is I need this test to be over because I haven't spoken to another human being in months and I have a lot to say because it's all just been building up. I also want him to do well on this because if he's going to be sticking cameras up all of our butts one day, he better be competent at it.

Skylar said I need to stop saying that. He says he's not "going to be the kind of doctor that sticks cameras up butts." But when he says that to me all that does is remind me of this person I met several years ago who was that kind of doctor and I asked him why, of all the possibilities, he chose that one.

He said something like, "well, most people don't go to medical school thinking 'I want to put a camera up someone's butt one day.' We think we're going to be Dr. House. Then a few years down the road you suddenly realize you are on the camera-butt path, you don't know how it happened, and it's too late to turn around."

And when he finished that monologue I blurted out "MOST PEOPLE???!"

Because look. If there are doctors who go to medical school thinking "I want to put a camera up someone's butt one day," I think they should have to disclose that information to the government and they should be on a registry somewhere.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Learning to Fail

You know what's not ok? THIS:

I think he's just doing it to spite me now. I started screaming last week when I saw it because I have abusively lectured my husband like 71 times about this and he refuses to learn.

"The cans say three feet apart, Skylar!" I've toxically yelled at him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

So I Guess I'm Vegan Now

In 2019 I decided I was going to try to eat less meat because I was basically personally responsible for the slaughter of millions of animals each year and I thought I ought to try to reel that in so I can hopefully go to heaven or gay heaven or heaven minus or at least hell plus some day. It was the first time in my life that I actually thought about how much meat I was consuming. Normally I would skim past vegetarian options on restaurant menus, like those weren't even available to me.

I didn't make any drastic changes or anything, but I did try to get myself in the habit of considering non-meat options for meals and get myself out of the habit of eating meat every day. What happened was I started regularly choosing the vegetarian options at restaurants (and finding out, to my great surprise, that a lot of veggie burgers are actually better than the beef option). Sky and I found a few vegetarian recipes that we liked to include in our rotation. We also tried to choose fish instead of chicken or beef (we already don't really eat pig).

In the end, I still ate a lot of meat, but maybe only like 75% of usual. So I was only responsible for the slaughter of 75% of millions of animals. Which at least gets me on some sort of waiting list for possible afterlife not terrible jobs.

Anyway, while I obviously never got anywhere near vegetarianism, by the end of 2019 I felt like I generally understood it. It was one of those things where I thought, "yeah. I could do that, if I was willing to put in the effort." Like paying taxes or reading books.


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Apple Watch

Tomorrow is my birthday, which you all know because of the outrageous celebrations you have planned. We decided to carve out some time for it on Saturday, even though my actual birthday is on Monday, since Skylar could actually give about twenty-five seconds to celebrate with me.

Skylar's big board exams are in like three weeks so he hasn't spoken more than three full sentences to me since about February. He has started about a thousand sentences, but he's only fully completed three. We spend the majority of our day working from home in adjacent rooms where, if you were eavesdropping, you might hear:

Skylar: Hey . . . [twenty second pause]

Eli: Yeah?

Skylar: I was just . . . uh . . . thinking . . . [twenty more seconds]

Eli: What were you thinking, Sky man.

Skylar: Huh?

Eli: What were you thinking?

Skylar: [non-sequitur humming a Taylor Swift song that is presumably not directed at me]

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Lost Journal Series Part XIV

I just realized it's been a few years since I gave you a Lost Journal Series entry. I last left off in 1995. It's frankly getting kind of difficult to piece together the timeline at this point because for reasons unclear to me, I started keeping multiple journals at this time, sometimes writing competing and conflicting accounts of my prepubescent experiences. In any event, here are five entries I've just uncovered (both in written form, and a dramatic reading).

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Time a Lawyer Taught Me Something

Over the weekend I shared a story on Twitter about an experience I had early in my career with an opposing attorney.

Here's the Tweet thread.

For easier reading, here's the text of the story:

People frequently crap on lawyers (often for good reason) so here's my story--one I've never shared before: I was in my first couple years of practice and had taken on a pro bono civil rights case. I was super nervous but excited to do it. I had a big hearing coming up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

My Borsch Recipe None Of You Asked For, Which Was Rude.

Eleventy hundred years ago I wrote a post sharing my borsch recipe and periodically people will email me to say that they used it to make borsch themselves and I get embarrassed about this because (A) that post is a big ol' mess and (B) WTF else are people finding on this site from 2007???

So, I decided to do a new borsch post that should be easier to follow. This takes a full seven eternities to make, but we all have at least that much time every day in our houses right now so you might as well fill it with garlic and beets and dill.

Also, about twice a year I get an angry email (usually from some Russian) about how my Ukrainian borsch recipe is incorrect and I should be ashamed of myself. Let me preempt your rage, if you plan to fall in this camp: this is how I learned to make Ukrainian borsch from a Ukrainian babucia in her Ukrainian kitchen in a tiny Ukrainian village in western Ukraine in 2003. If you have a problem with it, take it up with her (in heaven). I wouldn't recommend it though. She told me once she was literally on Stalin's enemy list, and well, you can piece together who lived five decades longer between those two.

Ingredients (This will fill a giant pot. You could easily cut everything in half and still feed an ugly family of six):

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Our Mountain Vineyard

My husband has decided to turn our backyard into a vineyard.

I found out about this when I overheard him asking Matt if he could borrow several power tools, which he called by their proper names, like "that drill thingy and that saw thingy." He had called Matt and I heard the conversation from the next room over. The second they hung up Matt called me to let me know that Skylar had plans to destroy something. That's what good friends are for.

Skylar told me he was going to drill some holes into a wall at the back of our property (a wall that does not belong to us) so he could attach some wire contraption to some long screws and somehow wrap wire around this so he can grow his alcohol and sin like he thinks we live in Napa Valley NOT THAT WE KNOW WHAT NAPA VALLEY IS.

The saw thingy was apparently for an unrelated kitchen demolition project which has since been completed and I've tried not to ask too many questions because my new thing is letting disaster befall me without wasting energy on fruitless attempts to stop it. #2020 #apocalypse #INeverSpellApocalypseCorrectlyOnTheFirstTry #yolo

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Yahoo! Answers XV

I've been collecting a new batch for you. Here are questions I've asked over the past few months, with some selected responses, before the Yahoo! gods deleted them. As always, names have been slightly altered or changed.

Happy quarantine!

Question 1: Why does the direction north keep changing? Walmart is north from my house but my sister says it's east at her house and we just want to meet there to have lunch at the food court our Walmart has a nice Domino's Pizzeria you know the kind where they put the hottt chile shakers on the table because they trust you not to steal them and Darlene keeps going to the wrong Walmart.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

What Has Been Your Best Coping Mechanism of Late?

I've been going on very long runs every weekend for about a year. I started these for my "Year of Health" in 2019, and then noticed pretty quickly that they were possibly the thing I looked most forward to each week.

I usually do them on Sunday NOT THAT WE KNOW WHAT BREAKING THE SABBATH IS afternoons. I start from my house and run to downtown Salt Lake City, weaving through some neighborhoods, and then I turn around and come back home. It's about a 12-13 mile run, depending on how many detours I take.

The Sunday afternoon run has honestly been the best thing I have ever done for my anxiety. Since I started doing it last spring, I have been calmer than I can remember being in a long time. I told you recently that my Achilles was hurting me and this stressed me out to no end because the last thing I needed while on lock-down during a pandemic was to lose my ability to go on these weekend runs. Fortunately I got some advice for physical therapy exercises I can do at home and they have been a miracle.

I did not expect these to work. I kind of don't trust anything a doctor ever says to me. I don't know why. Maybe it's because my brain is so incapable of computing science on even the most basic levels that whenever a doctor prescribes me something I feel like they're just attempting to do magic tricks. This, of course, drives my medical student husband crazy.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Good Parents

You all know that I have the cutest dog in all the land, right? Like, yours is cute, too, I'm sure. But mine is like the supermodel of dogs. Much cuter than yours. Much cuter than your children, too. Exponentially cuter than your grandchildren. I'm sorry. It's just true.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Brownies From Scratch

I have severe writer's block right now. I just finished a new article for The Beehive that will be published this week, so I think I may have drained all of my creative juice through that. Or I used all of it trying to talk Skylar out of using a very large power saw to cut into my kitchen cabinets for some organizational project he's all up on today.

Yes, MY, by the way. It can become "ours" when he starts doing some of the cooking.

I'm being completely unfair with the prior sentence, by the way. I like cooking--I generally find it therapeutic, but especially lately. Skylar doesn't like cooking. So I have insisted on doing all of it, but then whenever it benefits me, I shout at him "I guess you don't appreciate how long I stood over that hot stove for you last night!"

Speaking of hot stoves, last Sunday I made brownies from scratch but I was too lazy to look up a recipe so I just guessed. I recorded an Instagram story to document the experience:

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The People of Lagoon

As you know since you are all experts on my life, I have gotten a Lagoon season pass every year since 2013.

Why do I do this? I don't know. It's very confusing. Lagoon is our local theme park and it's like . . . how do I describe this . . . it's like if Walmart started a carnival.

Now, am I better than Walmart or carnivals? No I am not. I would submit I'm not even as good as Walmart or carnivals. One time when Duncan was a puppy and he had just gotten neutered I took a day off of work and went to Walmart in sweats the moment it opened for the day and I pushed Duncan around in a shopping cart trying baby onesies on him so he wouldn't lick his crotch.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

I Made A Sweater

A couple months ago I decided to knit a sweater. I had been avoiding this for a while because every time I looked at a sweater pattern it was like "Hello WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO A LOT OF MATHHHH" and that terrified me, so then I'd just make another scarf or hat.

Then I took on The Scarf That Must Not Be Named, and that thing was so complicated to complete that frankly I probably now have what it takes to solve COVID-19 by tomorrow (but I won't, because busy with TV). So I thought I could maybe take on a sweater.

I found a pattern and showed it to Skylar. It has different stitch counts based on obesity levels and when I measured Skylar he was so small that I actually had to manually alter the pattern because it didn't contemplate someone of his size.

Speaking of, I am growing into my chair during social distancing. It's been four weeks and having zero access to a gym in addition to not even walking around an office, things are getting scary here. We've tried to create a fitness center in our basement using some elastic bands Skylar bought on day one of quarantine but so far the only thing they've done is nearly kill us.

Last week I heard a loud crash and then desperate moaning coming from the basement and I rushed down there assuming it was affairs but instead it was just Skylar and a pull-up bar that he had wrapped elastic bands around and then somehow sling-shot into his abdomen. I nearly became a widow that day, which is unfortunate because his life insurance policy sucks and I'm not even sure if I'm listed as the beneficiary [makes a note to check on that].

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

What are you watching?

We're all binging TV shows and movies right now and that's ok. If there is anyone in your life telling you that is not ok, you should get new people for your life.

I can't imagine what social distancing would be like without streaming. You guys. We would have to read books and talk to each other and stuff.

I've honestly been a little surprised that I haven't been watching really that much more TV in the last few weeks than I was previously consuming. Then yesterday I thought about it and realized it would have been kind of hard to starting watching more than I already was. And that made me a little sad about myself. And empty inside. So I filled that emptiness. WITH MORE TV.

I know y'all are already aware that Meg and I record a podcast called Hive Mind where we talk about what we're watching. Bonus this week, Skylar joined us so we could blab about Survivor. And by "we" I mean "I, while Skylar supportively nodded like a good Stepford wife."

By the way, Meg and Clint Betts are doing these daily live shows from The Beehive, mostly to give Utah updates on COVID-19 stuff. They've been amazing. You can find them at noon on The Beehive's Twitter or Facebook accounts (or watch them after the fact). Sometimes they have me on so I can tell stories, usually about poop or vomit. I was on today. You can find my story below around the 20-minute mark. Sorry my hair looks so great.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sweet Tea and Facebook Live

Momma's got a few things for you today.

First, I found the two worst movies of all time. I'm serious. We can stop searching now. These cannot be topped.

They are two Mormon films from the early 80s concerning the "Word of Wisdom" which is the set of guidelines around health practices church members follow (don't drink alcohol, coffee, bleach, etc.). I somehow never saw either of these films growing up and now I'm exactly split on whether I wish I had.

If you've been wanting more movie recaps from me, look no further. I wrote about both of these films for The Beehive. Please check them out.

Second, my grandma ("G-Mac") lives in an independent living center. She moved herself into it a few years ago so she could be around her peers and sort of revitalize her social life.

G-Mac is an extreme extrovert and I'm 100% sure this is exactly where I inherited that gene. Her ideal day is to have everyone she's ever met and liked all in the same room with her together for the full 24 hours, and she would like to repeat that day every day for her entire life. And that's how I feel, too. I ache that I can't see you people right now. This whole social distancing business is honestly my own personal Trial of Job.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Obvious, Even

I just came across a picture in my phone from 2015. It's the first picture I ever took with Skylar.

We had met in person for the first time just the day before this. I had flown to Cleveland to go to a wedding with him. I thought I was being crazy. I've told that whole story before.

I felt like a crazy person for trekking halfway across the country to meet up with an internet stranger, but I convinced myself this would make a fun story no matter how it turned out. I felt like when I looked back much later in my life I would probably regret not taking chances like this and being a little more spontaneous while I was young and single. There was very little chance that I would later regret having done this. I mean, if it went bad enough, I would just be murdered and therefore not really able to regret anything at all.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

This Supposed End of the World

On Friday night Skylar started having a meltdown.

To give you some perspective, his meltdowns don't look like mine. Mine are like the Chernobyl disaster. His are more of a "I've slightly burned the crust."

But since he has them so infrequently, they are very unsettling when they do happen.

I was recently trying to explain to some coworkers what it's like to live with him. He's unlike anyone I've ever met. Somehow simultaneously productive and accomplished while also blissfully unaware. "He's the only perfectly calm and easygoing person I've ever met who is completely frozen by crisis," I said.

We're lucky that we're different in this way. I'm a constant stress case. Every muscle in my body has been constantly flexed since at least 2008. His daily energy, on the other hand, is very much like those old Mickey Mouse cartoons back when he looked much creepier, but was usually seen briskly walking, his arms swinging in front of him in enthusiastic propulsion, a chipper whistle coming from his puckered lips.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Does This Count As Pictures & Distractions Who's In Charge Here?

I was going to do Pictures & Distractions but then I got distracted (ha!) and started word vomiting. I guess the below does include some pictures and links, so maybe this counts? I don't know.

I was going to start this off by bragging to you about how I spent my weekend painting my garage door and patio in the backyard and I went to pull up a picture and somehow clicked on something on Instagram, which turned out to be a "live video."

As you know, I'm what the kids call "not tech savvy." I've seen people do these live videos before but I guess I just always assumed this was not a resource available to me for some reason. WELL. As it turns out, IT IS available to me, and if there's one thing I like more than watching TV it's BEING tv (hashtag attention seeker).

Being the international superstar that I am, upwards of SEVENTEEN PEOPLE tuned into this thing. Now I can't walk around my house without sunglasses on and TMZ hired a new person to just cover my life. That person followed me around for a week and then got fired when there was nothing sensational to report besides my skin-care regimen WHICH IS OUTRAGEOUS.

It was all very fun and very exciting and I think we should do a Quarantine Stranger Show where everyone gets their favorite not-that-I-know-what-that-is-Cathie beverage and joins us on Instagram one night for a story or something. Or is that lame? Is this a bad idea? I've been locked in my house so many days in a row now that I can't tell whether this is a bad idea. Someone reassure me here.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Role We'll Play

Last week Meg told me about an app called "My Talking Pet" which allows you to upload a photo of your pet and then speak into your phone and the app makes your pet's mouth move like it's talking. Obviously I immediately downloaded this app and paid the $1,600 monthly service fee for this and started using it nonstop.

Well on Friday morning Meg texted me and Skylar "We should do the Imagine video but with our dogs."

In case you've been avoiding the internet, which, if so, what have you even been doing? But in the event that you have not seen this yet, last week 20-something celebrities released truly the cringiest video on the entire internet of each of them taking turns earnestly singing a line of John Lenon's Imagine.

They made it as a gift for us--something to help bring us all together during this trying time. Well, it worked. Because everyone got unified around mocking the video relentlessly.

So when Meg suggested we use My Talking Pet to dub over the mostly off-key vocal performances to short clips of our friends' pets, we obviously had to cancel all of our responsibilities for the day and make this happen.

We started gathering photos of pets who wanted to participate in our imagine project. Meg and I used the sound from the celebrity video to make the individual clips. Then Skylar, who is going to be someone's doctor someday, used his video editing skills to put it all together. And we are honestly so proud of the result:

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Yesterday we were woken up by an earthquake, which, in case you've never experienced this, is a super crazy way to start your day.

It happened at some ungodly hour, like 7:00 or something. It took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. There was this very loud rumble and the whole house seemed to be rocking.

Before I could say a word, suddenly Skylar, who was apparently now awake, flew out of bed and screamed "OH GOD IS THIS AN EARTHQUAKE." Then he ran through the house screaming the F-word, which is a very funny thing to hear come out of a person's mouth when that person's typical swear of choice is "ah fiddlesticks darn fudge monkeys!"

I don't know how long the earthquake lasted, partly because I was asleep when it started. In my memory it simultaneously was over in a second and took the entire morning. Apparently it measured at 5.7.

Somehow nothing in our house fell or broke. I honestly have no idea how that was possible. The light fixtures in our kitchen and dining room were swinging like a straight couple in Draper. A few things on shelves moved closer to the edge. But otherwise, nothing.

It's really hard to explain what it feels like to wake up to an earthquake while on lock-down because of a worldwide pandemic. The whole rest of the day felt like a weird dream. We kept having aftershocks, and knowing that another one could come at any second sort of put the town on edge.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

More Social Distancing

Skylar read some advice on the internet for couples who are now stuck at home together all day. It said to come up with an imaginary coworker and blame everything on that person so I've been listening to him say stuff all day like "Oh dear, it looks like Betty left all her dishes in the sink again. How inconsiderate."

It's not really helping things. Even he has to admit that. Only yesterday he spent an unfortunate amount of time making a graph:

He tweeted that out and then an hour later he gasped and said he realized he got the red and yellow lines backwards.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Social Distancing

We're social distancing at our house right now. It started around Thursday, kind of in phases. I went to my office in the morning, Skylar went to school. Later that day we found out the University of Utah was moving all classes online for the remainder of the semester. I started packing up my office to bring it all home not long after that.

Hereby set up for werk.

Now we're shut in the house together trying to find out how strong our marriage is. On Saturday we upped our "use Duncan to fight with each other" game. We've been pretty good at this for a while. But now we're starting to do it so habitually that I don't think either of us even notices when it's happening anymore.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The BYU Honor Code

Hi, Strangers. We're self-quarantining at my house since the whole world is exploding. Bob and Cathie called me yesterday to tell me church was canceled. They sounded so alive. Then they read multiple memes about the Coronavirus they had found on Facebook and giggled into the phone.

Skylar, Duncan, and I are taking turns sharing our one Snuggie between the three of us. How, after all these years, do I still only have the one Snuggie? I should have started a collection by now.

Anyway, I wrote a thing for The Beehive about being gay at BYU in 2008. There's been a lot of discussion of the topic in recent weeks--lot's of fighting about the Honor Code and LGBTQ people. I've mostly avoided letting myself get angry, because I don't know if that would be productive for me and plus I don't have time to be angry because eating and TV.

I felt like I needed to share a perspective on this that I think is maybe getting a little lost amid the technical details, so that's what I did. I would love it if you would check it out here and give it some thought.

Love you all. Stay safe.

1+1=Furrrever, even when we're quarantined.

~It Just Gets Stranger