Tag Archives: family

Scooping Ice Cream for The Lord: A Week at Ridgecrest Conference Center

retro ice cream chic

retro ice cream chic

I’m in Ridgecrest, NC, which is about 17 miles west of Asheville and a million cultural miles away from any other city I’ve lived in. To be more specific, I’m at Ridgecrest Conference Center, a Baptist retreat paradise that has operated for more than 100 years in the Swannanoa Valley.

I’m volunteering for the week, and in exchange for scooping ice cream alongside Baptist retirees, I get free room and board and a whole lot of culture you just don’t find in San Francisco. It’s a pretty sweet deal – terrible pun intended.

This place is not exactly on the beaten path, and considering I’ve never been to Ridgecrest before, am not Baptist, and am under the age of 70, the first thing people want to know when we meet is how in the world did I wind up here in the Nibble Nook (the ice cream shop)(but seriously that’s what it’s called.)

The answer is simple really: Google. When I was planning my 7 week long post-quitting-my-job celebration trip, I wanted to do something in North Carolina before heading to Washington, D.C., NY, and Boston while I was still in the Southeast U.S. I also didn’t want to pay for food or lodging while traveling. Go figure.

I don’t know what happened first, but one thing led to another and on a very productive night at Starbucks, I sent some emails to conference centers in the greater Asheville area asking about opportunities for work or volunteering.

Eventually, I got in touch with Ridgecrest and signed up for one week of service knowing nothing about what I would be doing. Cut to 6 weeks, two buses and a cab ride later and I’m checking into my guest room at Spruce, the volunteer lodgings.

As I found out at breakfast the next morning, the volunteer program is almost exclusively for senior citizens, most of them from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina. As I sat down at a table with a tray full of eggs and grits with people who were at least 50-60 years my senior, I wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into.

Long story short (more details to come later), it’s been much better than I thought it would be, even though sometimes I’m afraid I’ll blow my brains out after explaining one more time that I am from Oklahoma, but I live in San Francisco and I’m a triplet and I want to be Tina Fey when I grow up.

I’ve realized that the people here are good even though they’re not like my other friends. One woman is on a mission to be the world’s most helpful person. Every time I see her she asks if I need anything and gives me advice on something. Another woman is trying to get me a boyfriend. Another man is trying to fix me up with his son. Another woman told me about how her mother-in-law blew herself up because she smoked a cigarette while using an oxygen tank.

I have to say that it’s been refreshing to be around people who are different than what I’m used to. Most of these men and women have had close friends or spouses die, are retired, and have large extended families. Their life stories are mindblowing and they don’t even know it.

I’ve still got 3 more days left here, which will include a hike and pizza with a woman named Mickie who is 77 years old and spent 8 years in Zimbabwe after her husband left her. I’m also going to Asheville with her, which I hear is like a woodsier and smaller version of San Francisco, so it’ll be fun to hear her take on everything she sees. She’s Baptist, so I’m guessing there’ll be no afternoon beer.

If I did get a beer though, I’d toast to experiences that surprise you.

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20 Pieces of Advice for My Sister’s Trip to San Francisco

We're going to paint the town.

We’re going to paint the town.

Dear Sister,

I’m so excited that you’re coming to visit me in San Francisco for Christmas, that you’re leaving parents and home far behind in Oklahoma and venturing out to the West Coast, a journey our ancestors and great-uncle made and one that it is now your turn to make. Welcome to this state. There are some things you should know to make the most out of your time here.

1. You will always feel like you’re doing something wrong as you ride public transportation. It’s as unavoidable as congealed gravy after a holiday meal.

2. Bring every kind of clothing you have. Because of witchcraft or something similar, the temperature varies wildly from day to night and from shade to sun. I use the handy phrase “sun-hot; shade-cool” to remember which one is which.

3. Bring cash; some places will not accept your plastic. These places will often have tasty pastries.

4. Most born and raised Californians know nothing about Oklahoma aside from either the bombing or the musical. Because of their ignorance, they will lash out and make fun of your native state. Don’t let it get to you.

5. Half shirts are a thing, as are sheer wispy shirts, all manner of hats and anything with a mustache on it.

6. Strangers might talk to you, and it’s not always a bad thing. Feel it out, and respond if it seems appropriate. If someone says “Good morning” to you, they’re probably being friendly. If they say, “Damn girl, you healthy. Them organic goods?” while you’re carrying groceries, you’re probably in Oakland.*

7. Green bins are for compost, black are for trash, and blue are for recycling. Don’t let anyone see you throw away something that can be recycled.

8. Leave your Styrofoam at home and bring a bag to the grocery store.

9. That weird smell is either dog urine or marijuana. It could also be people urine, if we’re downtown.

10. That delicious meaty smell is either coming from Hahn’s Hibachi or Yellow Sub. I’m never sure which one.

11. This city is full of stores selling things no one should ever purchase, like $40 bowls and many whimsical variations on the salt and pepper shaker. That being said, it’s all beautiful and you will want to purchase something. Don’t spend all your money at the first place.

12. No one knows what to do about the homeless people, so mostly we just ignore them. I’d like to find a better way to handle this but I’m not sure what it is.

13. This place is mind-numbingly beautiful and everyone who gets to live here is lucky. Don’t forget that where you come from is also lovely.

14. Avoid the Tenderloin and Upper Market area – no reason for you to dabble in those neighborhoods yet. You can tell you’re in the T-Loin from the missing teeth to broken glass to face tattoo ratio.

15. Don’t waste your time on bad food.

16. Climb every hill you see. You won’t regret it.

17. Buy me a present while I’m working. I’ve earned it.

18. Don’t be ashamed of being a tourist. It’s what you are and you don’t have to hide from any one.

19. Everyone does and doesn’t look the same. You’ll see what I mean. Most people are attractive in a “I’m going places” or “I’m unique” or “I took time to dress myself this morning” or “my clothes are expensive” kind of way.

20. Have fun! (and buy me a present)

*This was said to me once in Oakland.

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Earth in 2012 Was So Ridiculous

At least there’s wifi on the spaceship.

One day, far in the future, when my grandchildren are sitting on my lap, wearing their space blankets as planets whiz by and the artificial fire roars on our hearthSCREEN, asking me to tell them another story before taking their bedtime Pillz and going off to Dreamland®, they’ll say, “Tell us the story of your first job after you got back from Egypt, Nana! Tell us!”

And I’ll say, “What? That old marketing position I found on Craig’s List?”

“Yes yes yes yes yes!” They’ll say.

“But doesn’t it bore you?”


“Not even when I talk about B2B marketing tactics and search engine optimization and quantitative analysis?”

“No!” And they’ll laugh because social media is a thing of the past. With chips in our brains, being social is no longer a choice.

“We like hearing about the days before the Great Singularity when earth dwellers still devoted their lives to monetary compensation in pursuit of the happiness.”

“You kids are bizarre.”

“Tell us, Nana, tell us!”

“Okay, fine.”

“So after I got back from Egypt in the year 2012.”

“Wow, Nana, you’re so old!” “So old Grandma!” “Practically ancient!”

“Umm….yeah. So anyways. After I returned to the former United States of America…”

“Hahahahaha! The United States of America! How quaint! What, did you all still putt around in your Honda Accords! Hahahahaha!”

“Shut up, 43X.”

“Sorry, Nana.”

“So I returned to the former USA, and moved to San Francisco.”

“Was that the first city destroyed by our all-knowing overlords for having become too decadent and frittering away its considerable capital on luxury fashion and alcohol for dogs?”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Hahaha!” “Hahahaha!” “Oh, Sparky would like another cucumber gimlet!” “But don’t spill it on his Gucci bow tie!” “Hahahahaha!”

“Do you all want to hear the story or not? We’ve only got a few more minutes before Dreamland® starts.”

“Please, Nana! Please!”

“Okay, so in the former city of San Francisco, I spent many hours perusing Craig’s List for job opportunities.”

“What, Craig’s List like where the incredibly lonely earth beings publicized their pathetic desires and revealed their naïve belief that posting a missed connection would lead them to any kind of satisfaction, even if they were to meet the person with which they supposedly felt some kind of connection?”

“Okay, I’m done. Take your Pillz.”

“Hahahahaha! Earth in 2012 was so ridiculous! I’m thankful and glad for our all-powerful and munificent overlords!”

“Night, dummies. See you in Dreamland®.”

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The Horrifying True Story of How My Sister Ate My Fingernail

I already threw these away. I promise.

Dearly beloved, I have gathered you here to tell the terrifyingly, heart-wrenchingly, skin-crawlingly true story of the day my sweet, sweet sister ate a fingernail, my fingernail. Come with me, if you will, all the way back to that that fateful, surprise-filled day in July.

It is Monday and I am in San Francisco. I flew on the big steel bird all the way to fogtown, a place I still unknowingly call Sunny San Francisco. It is not sunny here, but oh it is to be even more cloudy and dreary in Suburb, Oklahoma.

Backstory: For years I’ve had the charming habit of forgetting to throw my fingernails away immediately after clipping them. This simple action tends to slip my mind, along with the middle names of significant others. The pile of clippings sits quietly on the coffee table, or desk corner, or languishes in the crease of a newspaper until I spot it a couple of days/weeks later and think to myself, “the socially appropriate thing to do here is to throw it away” and then throw it away. There are rumors that friends invited to social functions at my home have been forced to stare at piles of fingernail and/or toe trimmings, piles that are within broad view of God, myself, and the guests, while they interact with me. I deny these rumors.

But woe to my dear sister, my poor, sweet, innocent sister as she eats a sandwich on that Monday. She is famished and eats with gusto. Growing up in a family with four sturdy children, we learned to not let food linger on our plates lest it be snatched by another sibling. Wasted food is unheard of. As she wreaks the final justice on her sandwich, the moment of despair approaches silently, for a fingernail clipping lies on the very table where she eats, a keratin sliver I had charmingly and endearingly forgotten to remove before my departure to the West Coast.

The sandwich gone, my sister’s hunger not quite sated, she pokes about for remnants of her quickly-eaten lunch, checking for substantially sized crumbs and perhaps a scrap of ham that has fallen to the wayside.

But beware dear sister! Not everything is as it seems upon this lunch table! Danger prowls outside your door!

Alas, my warning goes unheard, typed months later in a blog post on the internet.

She picks up a crumb of notable size and unusual shape and eats it.

This, dear friends, is my fingernail.

Less than a second passes before she realizes her critical error, her tongue discerning the grossness and general inedibility of the fingernail, which used to be part of my very being. She spits it out, stunned, the now moist fingernail lying on the table as innocuous as a polka-dot.

How had it come to this? Who is to blame here? The absent-minded but generally lovable sister for leaving fingernail clippings out past their due? Or the blind hunger and gastro-greed that led her to clean the table of crumbs?

She asserts it is the former. I also assert it is the former, but I believe we have all learned a lesson here.

Be more careful of the crumbs you eat. You know not which body parts you might be ingesting.

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7 Rumors About Snotting Black Debunked

Yippee. Happy Anniversary, bloggy-dearest.

This post is in honor of my blog’s one year anniversary, which I forgot to mention 2 weeks ago.

1. I started this blog 378 days ago after losing a bet to my cousin Darayla about whether or not Grandma would drop her false eyelashes in the potato salad again on Memorial Day.

FALSE. Darayla is a name I made up, and as per my inclusion in a “cult,” I do not celebrate the national holidays of this country, instead using that time to plan its overthrow and enjoy powered soup mixes. I started this blog on May 26th, 2011 after being begged by family members not to plague their inboxes with novellas about my time in Cairo like I had done the previous year when I was in Morocco. However, I soon stopped writing about factual experiences so they still had to communicate with me.

2.  This blog used to provide hard hitting political and social commentary about life in Egypt, and at one point the government even considered it a threat and tried to keep me quiet by to bribing me with a hot tub full of Nutella.

FALSE. I blogged about things like mosquitoes and a sandwich I ate once that didn’t give me food poisoning and one that did. Soon my mind left for flights of fancy and I was writing about unicorn carcasses and self-aware blogs. But it’s true that I did eat enough off and on brand Nutella to fill a hot tub.

3. I majored in International Relations and used to want to become Secretary of State and wear a pantsuit to work.

TRUE. Now I want to “be a writer” and am moving out to San Francisco to “make it big.” I’m still trying to figure out which career path was more realistic.

4. My entire family is incredibly supportive, reading my blog daily and sending me cookies when appropriate.

FALSE. My blog is not for everyone, especially the older and more conservative members of my family who could never understand why (everything I find funny) is funny. I learned from my sister roughly two months ago that, “Grandma doesn’t read your blog anymore.” To be honest, I was surprised that she made it that far.

5. Number five was missing in this blog post until the blogger’s mother asked her, “Did you mean to leave out number five?” after which the oversight was hastily and obviously corrected.

FALSE. There has never been a typo on Snotting Black, especially in one of the Freshly Pressed pieces.

6. 378 days is equivalent to 9,072 hours, 544,320 minutes, 32, 659, 200 seconds, and 58 jello salads.

FALSE. 378 days is equal to 9,072 hours, 544,320 minutes, 32, 659, 200 seconds, and 67 jello salads.

7. Soon, Snotting Black is going to change completely and become a paid community where I carefully curate everyone’s personal details and share them on an organized basis with the other members until all forms of privacy are completely obliterated.

TRUE. See above answer about “cult” membership. We like to call it Stew Wednesday.

Highlights of a year of blogging: Being Freshly Pressed twice (here and here), meeting awesome members of the blogosphere, re-discovering my love of writing, and using the term “blog fodder.”

Low points of a year of blogging: The post “Will it stick: Thanksgiving Edition” and the blog title “Noodle Haste Makes Taste Waste.”

Real search terms that people have used to find my blog: “I used somebody else’s toothbrush and now I have a sore tongue,” “I hate my puppy,” “Abba demonic music,” “my dirt family,” “snot in my ear,” “stump arm,” 44444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444,” and finally “chacos as deal breaker.”

Happy Anniversary and thanks for reading.

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