Ugly Sweaters and Zombies: A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain

I have great news. I’m not sad anymore! <Insert thunderous applause here> Well, I kind of am, but I’m doing a fantastic job of repressing my feelings in hopes of being a functional human being once again. As long as no one mentions pets, we’re in good shape.

I’m absolutely bursting at the seams with nonsensical stories. And pictures. Man, did I ever shoot some keepers this weekend. I have to tell you, after the horrid week I had, which I have affectionately dubbed The Week of Infinite Pain, I welcome the craziness back into my life. Sometimes I feel as if the world saves up insanity just to drop it into my lap and the most inopportune times. Inopportune or not, I’m thankful for the ability to laugh again. I understand that coping with problems is necessary but when I have a week like last week, life gets too dark too quickly. I can only cope with so much coping.

I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something at all times. I can’t be without some kind of goal or project. If I’m not working on something, I will pace around my house. When I am experiencing personal difficulties or having trouble handling a serious issue, the need grows exponentially. So, after The Week of Infinite Pain, I was absolutely dying for a task to occupy my mind. And so began the following series of events.

Ugly Sweaters and Zombies:
A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain


When I woke up on Saturday, I was pretty sure I was the most talented Christmas baker in all of time. I had a plan. It was simple. I was going to run to the store, find some adorable holiday tins, then come home and make double batches of mocha brownies, peanut brittle, chocolate fudge, chocolate-dipped crackers, raspberry thumbprint cookies, and peanut butter cup cookies, then I was going to fill the tins and label them appropriately for my children’s teachers and each of my neighbors. Also while I was out, I was going to swing by Sports Authority to register for the 5K I was set to run in the next morning and pick up some wrapping paper so that after I was done baking, I could sit on my bedroom floor and wrap all of my Christmas presents while watching “Love Actually” and marveling at how strange Andrew Lincoln sounds as a sexy British guy versus a sexy small-town sheriff caught in a zombie apocalypse. I was pretty much going to be the boss of Saturday.

loveactually4     VS    05_Flatbed_WEB - OCTOBER

One of the perks of living in Nebraska is that you almost never have to fight over parking spaces and rarely get caught in traffic, so sometimes you forget to take those factors into account. I chose to take on the intersection of 72nd and Nebraska Furniture mart at noon, on Saturday, in December. I don’t have any official statistics in hand, but if I had to guess, I’d say Nebraska Furniture Mart is the size of about five city blocks and I’m pretty sure has a sales volume that rivals the entire volume of most other furniture companies in one store. Just to reiterate: I chose to go to that intersection at noon, on a Saturday, in December. To enter Sports Authority and pick up my packet took less than a minute. To get in and out of that intersection took thirty. Thirty minutes to go about three car lengths. I used the steering wheel flip-off technique at least twenty times. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s where you put both hands on the wheel and wrap all of your fingers around with the exception of the two in the middle and effectively give the finger to everyone around you at the same time while they remain oblivious.

I rationalized that I’d probably run a little behind, but it was a weekend and I had no plans. I didn’t need to hurry. I decided to head to Super Target for the tins and wrapping paper. I chose Super Target in lieu of the one down the street from my house for two reasons. One, because I didn’t find any tins I liked at my local store and two, because I’ve shopped at that particular store so much, so often, that quite frankly, I’m getting embarrassed.

Every time I go to Super Target, I remember why I don’t go to Super Target. The parking lot was crowded, the layout was confusing, and they were out of carts. Super Target is always out of carts. I tried to look dignified cramming everything into a hand basket and walking around with an “it’s okay, I’m just getting a few things,” look, but I was extremely unsuccessful. I couldn’t find anything (because the layout of a Super Target is stupid!) and I was in excruciating pain from that ridiculous basket digging into my forearms. You know what doesn’t fit into a hand basket? Wrapping paper. I dropped the four rolls I was attempting to nonchalantly carry in my “I’m just grabbing a few things,” basket several times, each incident more painful and embarrassing than the last. And I never found any holiday tins suitable for the beautiful arrangement of assorted Christmas treats I was going to bake that afternoon.

While we’re on the subject, would someone please tell me why on earth there is a sign on the disinfectant cart wipes that says “Do NOT use on hand baskets”? What could possibly happen that is so critical as to warrant such a hostile warning? Please, someone tell me! Because from the looks of that sign, the minute a disinfectant cart wipe and a hand basket make contact a hydrogen bomb will go off. Is that it? Is the combination of a cart wipe and a hand basket the secret authorization of nuclear warfare?

I left the store knowing that I was going to have to go to the one place I hate most. Walmart. When I say “place I hate most” I’m not just talking about stores. I’m talking about all places. My reasons for hating Walmart are so numerous it would take me a month to spell them all out. I will drive twenty miles out of my way to shop elsewhere if I have to. But at that point, I had exhausted all of my options. I’d been to every store I could think of. If I wanted holiday tins, I was going to have to face my own slice of personal hell. Just in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it was a Saturday afternoon, in December and I was headed to Walmart.

If I had to estimate how long it took me to find a spot, I’d say around twenty years. Between Walmart, Chick-Fil-A, and the new Pizza Ranch, that strip mall is a regular party this time of year. I parked my car, opened the door, and headed toward the entrance, pretending not to notice a wayward cart positioned to hit the car next to mine at any moment. Then I thought to myself, “I should go back and move that. If it were my car, I’d want someone to do the same for me.” So I turned around, walked back to the wayward cart, put both hands on the handle and promptly pushed the cart back toward the store and right through the sideview mirror of the car I was attempting to protect, ripping it clean off. The temptation to jump back in the car and drive away was overwhelming, but being the decent person I am, I left a note. On a Target receipt.

I made my way inside, along with about ten thousand other disgruntled shoppers and began the arduous task of looking for the impossible-to-find tins that I had in mind but didn’t seem to actually exist. The seasonal aisles containing Christmas cards, ribbon, wrapping paper and yes, holiday tins, were so jam-packed I had to take turns with other shoppers in order to wedge my way in. When I finally got to the tins, I discovered exactly what I needed. In the cart next to mine. The shelf was empty.

And so I decided I would be the cleverest shopper in Walmart history and find tins in the craft department. As I was headed that direction I received a text and the following conversation ensued:
Husband: You will not believe what your daughter just did!
Me: -Emoticon surprised face- What?
Husband: (Long pause) I smelled something burning so I started room to room. She was downstairs with space heater up against the couch on high. The couch was smoking and smoldering! And she was just sitting right next to it, staring at the TV!
Me: -Emoticon surprised face-

Per my iPhone, that conversation took place around three o’clock. By three o’clock in the afternoon I had spent a half-hour in a packed parking lot flipping people off, dislocated my forearms trying to look casual carrying a hand basket (And whatever you do, do NOT use a wipe on it!), made a fool of myself dropping wrapping paper again and again, ripped someone’s sideview mirror off while attempting to protect their car from damage, and my daughter just. Set. My. Couch. On. Fire.

I turned my cart around (the same one I vandalized a car with) and headed for the exit, only to accidentally stumble upon some red plastic trays that would probably be a decent substitute for the non-existent-except-for-in-the-cart-next-to-mine tins. I bought ten of them. They were ninety-eight cents apiece, which was good because I needed to save up money for my sideview mirror replacement fund.

I didn’t arrive home until almost five o’clock that evening. Determined to make use of the day yet, I began baking. I made the peanut butter cup cookies, I made the fudge (to be fair, fudge literally takes five minutes and can be made in the microwave), I made the brownies (but not the frosting since they were still warm), and I started on the peanut brittle. Peanut brittle is the one holiday candy I have never made. It seemed simple enough though, since all I had to do was boil some corn syrup and sugar, add some peanuts, boil it some more, add some vanilla and baking soda.

And so I boiled the corn syrup and sugar. And then I opened my neatly organized baking cabinet, filled with every single kind of spice, flour, sugar, and nut known to man. Well, except for peanuts that is. For a few seconds I actually considered seeing what would happen if I tried to use almonds, but I decided it would probably be better to waste a cup of sugar and some corn syrup rather than a cup of sugar, some corn syrup, and a perfectly good bag of almonds.

And so I went back to the grocery store and bought peanuts. And then I made peanut brittle for the first time. And I thought “that doesn’t look right,” but I didn’t care because it was late, I was tired, and I had a 5k to run the next morning.

The next morning I headed out to Omaha’s one and only Ugly Sweat Run, along with my friend Jessie, whose name I cannot say without thinking, “It feels like a party every-day! Hey Jessie!” If you have a child between the age of 8 and 12, you probably got that. If not, just think of it as something you have to look forward to. Our team name is… wait for it… The Running Dead. I know, awesome, right?

I love fun-themed 5k’s. If you ever need your faith in humanity restored, go to an untimed 5k with a senseless theme. I’m not kidding when I say they bring out the best in people. I have yet to see any negativity in a participant, everyone is energetic, laughing, and supportive of their fellow runners. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life was my mom running a zombie 5k this fall. I swear, at one point I actually heard the words, “Don’t touch my crotch, zombie!” come out of her mouth. No one cares what your skill level is, which is good because my skill level is “jog for a quarter-mile and then speed walk the rest”. I had such a fabulous time and was so thrilled to see that the guy who stands on the corner in a Buddy the Elf costume screaming “Santa’s coming! I know him! Saaaantaaaa!” was back. I didn’t even care that I was wearing a light shirt and it was less than twenty degrees out.

IMG_1361

DIY ugly sweater

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Or just come dressed as random Christmas items

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Justin Timberlake! Omaha is awesome!

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See that shirt? My mom picked it out at Goodwill. It’s a junior size XS. Excruciatingly tight. I probably didn’t even need a sports bra.

It was around one o’clock that afternoon when I arrived home from my run (mostly fast walk). As usual, my home was in a complete state of disarray.

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See that bottle of Resolve fabric stain remover? I had to use that on my carpet after I dropped two of the peanut butter cup cookies facedown while they were still hot and melty. It would be far too reasonable for me to keep something like carpet cleaner in the house. Don’t worry, I still ate them. Really.

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See that package of light bulbs by the sink? The husband changed the light bulbs in our stairwell light fixture that day. Normally that wouldn’t be worthy of mentioning, but I feel it should be celebrated, as they were burned out for six months. I am not joking. Six months is how long we lived without light in the stairwell. 1. Because the two of us have a combined height of 10’7” and we couldn’t figure out how to get up there and 2. Because we’re just that lazy.

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This one’s a good one too. Just a knife, lying around. There was a time, not so long ago, when my children were little and I recall being slightly annoyed when we’d visit other people’s houses and they had had unprotected light sockets or breakable items within a toddler’s reach. Now I’m just that guy who leaves a huge knife out in the open. Last week I found a rolling pin on the stairs. Please don’t call DHS on me.

If you’re interested in visiting to see this for yourself, my house is easy to spot. It’s the one with the Christmas lights that stop about four feet short of the outer left wall and the improvised extension cord made out of non-working light strands. I did that all by myself. I bought two packages of white icicle lights (at Target, not Super Target) thinking, “I’m sure two nine-foot strands will be plenty.” Two nine-foot strands are not plenty. Not even close. I had to improvise the extension cord because when I went to use my regular extension cords I discovered that they did not accommodate the whole, “one prong larger than the other” thing. Apparently they were manufactured in 1974. I realized this after I already had them neatly pinned to siding. By the time I got to the four-foot deficit I decided to quit while I was ahead. Besides, there’s just something about me being on a rooftop that feels wrong.

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I just decided I need to write a book called “Fifty Shades of Great Parenting.” That is literally the best book title ever. I’ll make sure to use the phrase “double crap” a lot in it.

Anyhow, it was around one o’clock and I decided I needed to finish up my holiday baking. I had yet to complete the frosting for the brownies, the chocolate-dipped crackers, the thumbprint cookies and of course, the new batch of peanut brittle.

It’s almost impossible for me to try hard candy. All but my first four upper and lower teeth are crowns (yet another reason drinking is bad), so I had to let my children act as guest judges on the peanut brittle. They said it tasted like glass and Laffy Taffy. That can’t be good.

I started with the mocha frosting, it’s one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes. I made the batch as usual but when I tasted it, it had no coffee flavor at all. It didn’t taste bad, it just didn’t taste right. So I added more coffee. And more coffee. And more coffee. It still didn’t have its signature coffee taste. I’ve made this recipe at least five times before without any issue, but for reasons unknown it just didn’t come out as it should’ve. At that point I had added so much coffee to the mix it was runny and useless anyway, so I threw it out and started over. That recipe requires five cups of powdered sugar. I’m glad I picked up ten pounds on my last shopping trip.

The thumbprint cookies were next. Just like the frosting, they’re simple, fast, and something I’ve made several times with success. And just like the frosting, they turned out wrong. The dough was so dry it crumbled in my hands. I read and read and reread the recipe. I did nothing wrong. I added another egg yolk. Still too dry. I added four tablespoons of butter. Still too dry. I added another four tablespoons of butter (which adds up to an entire stick). Not as bad, but still too dry. I ended up adding two extra egg yolks and an extra stick and a half of butter. The end result was only so-so. On the plus side, these are clearly a good choice for dieters.

Now, I think it’s important you know that while I was making (ruining) the frosting and the cookies, I was also making my children French fries. Sometimes I make my kids anything they ask for out of sheer guilt for being such a terrible parent. I’m giving my children unhealthy food out of guilt. What could possibly go wrong there? I should put that in my book.

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That’s right, I own a deep fryer. And I use it often.

Fries are a huge pain. You have to peel potatoes, which I am now terrified to do after a particularly deep cut I received a few weeks back. Then you have to cut them up and soak them for hours. Then you have to deep-fry them not once, but twice, working in batches. Okay, you don’t have to do it that way. Unless you want them to taste good.

By six o’clock I still had not gotten around to the (new) peanut brittle or the crackers. I was desperate for some rest. So I did what any responsible adult would do. I took my kids ice skating. For the second time in the same day, I spent hours outside in the bitter cold all in the name of fun. You see, I’m that parent. The one who says “Sure, we can sled down that hill. But that hill looks better.” So naturally, I decided the kids and I should disregard the “NO speed skating” signs posted every few feet and have a race. I was truly enjoying myself until I had the most epic fall known to man. My feet came out from under me so quickly, I could swear they were at eye level before I landed with all my body weight directly on my tailbone. It was both painful and humiliating. That’s my style.

But wait, there’s more. I woke up this morning barely able to move courtesy of my ice skating injury and I had… a bladder infection. Like I said, painful and humiliating. Fortunately, I keep medication on hand for such emergencies. Medication that has a wonderful side effect of fluorescent orange urine, which I had the pleasure of presenting to the lab at my doctor’s office. Feeling particularly embarrassed about having to place my day-glow sample on a very public counter, I stepped gingerly out of the bathroom and proceeded to stumble and drop my fluorescent orange urine sample. A specimen cup hitting a linoleum floor is surprisingly loud. I was around the corner from most of the others in the lab, so don’t think anyone actually saw. I’m sure they heard though.

Painful and humiliating. It’s my new motto.

5 thoughts on “Ugly Sweaters and Zombies: A detailed account of my attempt to recover from The Week of Infinite Pain

  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout
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    • Thank you! Your comment made my day. I hope to make a career out of writing one day… I just have to figure out where to start.
      The theme is named “Adelle”, I believe it was $30… But the backgrounds and color combinations were almost limitless.

      Like this

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