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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
AUG
06

The 5-star Book Review

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I confess I was really hoping the San Francisco Review would give me 5 stars for Jeweled. Of course, you never think it's going to happen. Just like you never think people--any people--are really going to like your book as much as you do. But hearing from the SF review this week, seeing those 5 little stars, reading the review prior to it being put into their publication, it's been a huge pick-me-up. Not that I needed one or am feeling down these days, it's just nice to be reminded that maybe you really did write a good book. And maybe peope other than your friends and family think so, too. Let me just leave you with this little gem:

..."Although Jeweled is the sincere and outspoken retelling of Nay's jeweled experiences, her stories invoke the humanness in all of us. Truly a fun and totally engaging read from cover to cover."

Now if that doesn't just warm an author's heart, I don't know what will. Besides, like, selling a ton of books. That would warm my heart, too.

 

AUG
03

Back to School

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Inside this backpack are the school supplies needed for a girl about to enter the fifth grade. Actually, I can be more specific than that. I can tell you that it contains 24 pencils and a case to put them in. Colored pencils, markers, 2 boxes of crayons. 6 folders of assorted colors, 4 wide-ruled subject notebooks, 2 composition notebooks. Should I go on? Yes, I can tell you exactly what is in this backpack. What I can't tell you is when exactly it was that school supplies lists got so long. Or why on earth every single kid needs to be contributing 4 dry erase markers to their collective classroom supply. Same thing with ziplocs, Band-Aids, tissues, and hand sanitizer. And a full ream of copy paper? From every student? It's just matter of time before students are asked to supply their own desks.

I don't remember my mom ever working from a list. If she did, I don't remember ever seeing this list. I mostly remember it being sort of up to us and our own deductive logic skills to figure a kid should probably show up to school with some pencils and paper and a backpack to carry them in. I suppose there had to have been a list, or else how would Mom have known when to start mixing in gadgets such as protractors, compasses, and graphing calculators? At any rate, I'm glad the soon-to-be fifth grader who will be receiving this backpack can bypass the list and simply show up at school ready to rock. And I hope she likes purple.

JUL
29

The Poster-Size Boyfriend Picture Fiasco

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Whenever I see people post pictures of themselves looking totally cute, I roll my eyes. It’s so tacky. Anyone who wants people to see them looking totally cute seems like they have something to prove. Or an ulterior self-serving motive.

It reminds me of the time a couple Christmases ago when I wanted to give my boyfriend a framed picture of me to keep on his desk at the office. Of course what started in my mind as a simple 4x6 ultimately turned into something the size of a small poster; a collage of our travels with a picture of me in the center--black and white, slight smile, wind blowing in my hair. It really didn’t occur to me that the now gargantuan thing wouldn’t be feasible to display at work until he told me it wouldn’t be feasible to display at work. I had to settle for the top of the stairs in his house. Which is the moment I realized my motive had more to do with the foot traffic the picture would get at his office, and people being reminded of this solid, witty, and at times (like the time in that photo) adorable presence in his life. The only person who ever saw the picture at the top of his stairs was me, and what good did it do to look at an adorable picture of myself?

Which brings me back to my original beef. And as for the picture on today’s post, I got nothin'. No explanation except that I've been in NYC the past several days, and to me this picture sums up how I feel about NYC, and how much a part of it I feel when I’m there. The buildings, the bakeries, the history, the hubbub. The taxis, the subways, the street signs. It just makes me happy, and so does this picture. (It also makes me look totally cute. Deal with it. Besides, it could be worse. It could be poster size and displayed on your office wall.)

JUL
26

The Thing You Should Never Forget to Pack

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Like an idiot I got on a plane to NYC yesterday with not a single book in tow. Who does that? Let me rephrase. What author does that? I mean, what would I read while eating breakfast at a tucked away cafe where someone famous probably once had breakfast? Or while sitting in Central Park listening to the serenade of the sax man? Or while on the Brooklyn-bound 4 train?

So that's why my first stop upon arrival was Barnes & Noble. I've come all the way to NYC to...buy a book? Then I had breakfast at a tucked away cafe and sat in Central Park. The sax man was playing 'Moon River', which seemed appropriate given that the book I had bought was Breakfast at Tiffany's. My huckleberry friend, indeed. As I sat listening and reading, there was an ant crawling up my back that I could not find, but then again, no moment is perfect. No packing job either.

JUL
22

Why I Miss Carrie Bradshaw

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Are there certain TV shows you’ll watch the reruns of no matter how many times you may have seen the episode before? I’m going to trust that no matter who you are, the answer is yes. There’s always That One Show. For me there are a handful that I’ll sit and chuckle at all these years later, but the one that most often has me sitting through seasons past is Sex and the City.

It’s a show I miss terribly. It’s not the sex. It’s not even the city. OK, maybe it’s a little bit the city, but mostly it’s Carrie Bradshaw and her literary musings about life and love…and being a singleton. Seriously, and I’m not making this up, I feel like I learned a lot from Carrie. Or maybe it’s just that so much of what she said rings true with me. And maybe I’m revealing too much about myself (or maybe it’s just that what I’m revealing is pathetic), but little Carrie snippets come to mind all the time as I go about my life. Most recently during an elevator chat with some co-workers about all the money I shell out as a single, childless person for wedding and baby gifts for other people. It’s not that I mind it, because I quite enjoy giving and celebrating the happiness of others, but as Carrie points out (remember the episode where she registers at Manolo Blahnik…for herself) life as a single girl doesn’t present any opportunities for your friends to repay the favor.

And so this is all to say that if this past weekend found me getting sucked into the SATC marathon on E! (it did), don’t be alarmed. If I come back and watch the DVRed final two episodes again before the week is out (I will), don’t even worry about it. If doing either of these things makes me cry even one time (it does), promise you won’t think me any less of a competent professional. Deal?

JUL
17

The Traveling Salesman Problem

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As a person somewhat prone to annoying things like worrying, perfectionism, and overanalyzing (and also as a person who has seen If/Then), I’m fascinated by the traveling salesman problem, which has to do with determining the best way to make a series of deliveries or stops. I’m by no means a savant for college addresses, commencement or otherwise, but I came across one given last year that opens with this very dilemma, and the mathematician speaker pointed out just how quickly actually determining the “best” option becomes impossible.

With 3 stops, a salesman has only 6 possible routes. Pretty easy to identify the best, shortest one. With 4 stops, we’re up to 24. With 5, we’re all the way up to 120. By the time you reach 10 stops, we’re almost unbelievably up to 3,628,800 possible routes, and with 20 stops, that jumps to 2,432,902,008,176,640,000, a number of options that even if you had a computer analyzing at a rate of 1 Billion routes per second, it would still take 72 years to check them all.

OK, so maybe there aren’t *that* many possible paths we can take in our lives, but I do think we get hung up too often on wanting to determine the “best” path. The best option. The scenario, the job, the city, the spouse, the ultimate combination of circumstances that would be better than all others. What this address did was remind me that it’s simply impossible to know if the decisions you are making, the life you are choosing, is the one that would make you happier than any other. You can do your homework, sure, and you can make some educated guesses based on what you know about yourself and the thing you are choosing. But after that, it’s nothing more than the proverbial leap, and if you spend too long trying to guarantee you are making the “best” decision, you’ll paralyze yourself into doing nothing. Ever. And you’ll regret your lack of action.

Think back to your bible study days on this one, but remember the parable of the talents? The speaker of this same college address tied in this story rather ingeniously by reminding the students that the servant who (literally) buried his talent was cast out. Banished. Sent to hell. Or whatever. The point is, even though he didn’t lose a single cent of that money, the bigger thing at play is that he didn’t even try to do anything with it, so afraid he was of losing it. See, it doesn’t really come down to whether or not we screw up, but life has more to do with us actually doing something, regardless of whether or not what we did was the best possible thing we could have done.

We’ll simply never know what the Best Possible Thing is, so that thing you’ve been wanting to do, that thing you’ve been looking into, that thing you feel like a crazy person for trying even though it’s all you can think about, I say do it.

It’s either that or wait 72 years for the computer to figure it out for you.

Your move.

JUL
15

The Contest

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It's that time of year again, folks. And I can't believe it's this far into the summer without me mentioning the annual Nay Family Summer reading contest (see: Summer Side Job).

Of course, for all the stacks of to-read books I always have on hand, I'm a bit embarassed to admit I'm only on my second book of the summer, and we're already over halfway through. Pretty sure my 5-year-old nephew is going to beat me on nothing but Horton Hears a Who.

Maybe I'll rally. Maybe I'll come down with mono and spend the entire month of August in bed. One can only hope.

 

 

JUL
11

Post Script

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Remember how I said I wasn't sure I wanted him back? Well something about seeing the James jerseys around town, the non-stop chatter and speculation, the various "come home" pleas, Michael Symon's promise of an LBJ burger. Something about all of this made me start hoping in spite of myself. Such that when I heard the news today (I was half naked in an Anthropologie dressing room, by the way, and simply *had* to refresh my phone in case the announcement had been made since my previous check a little while before), I could not stop smiling.

This city loved him so much, and it seems we still do. It seems *I* still do. And considering we (myself included) were the very ones who flocked to the Q when the Heat were in town simply so we could boo every time he had the ball--and he has the ball a lot--this is part confusing, part sickening, but mostly I think it is hopeful. To know that we--all of us, LeBron included--can get over ourselves and move on. Move forward. Move up. Move home. Goodbye, #1 lottery pick. See you never.

 

 

JUL
09

The Obligatory LeBron Post

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OK, fine.

I will answer the big question. (That only one person has asked me.)

I will tell you what I think.

As a Clevelander.

And an NBA fan.

And a stubborn-ass grudge-holding never-forgetter.

Seriously, though. I can be mature. I can admit that having him back would do wonders for this city. I'd also love to start winning some ball games. And of course there's something endearingly Prodigal-sonny about the tale of a young and stupid man making a foolish decision and choosing to make amends a few years later. I'm as sentimental as they come. I could get on board with that.

But I can also admit that I was positively gutted by LeBron's exit, just like the rest of Cleveland. And I was one of the most devoted of fans. Sitting in one of the first few rows at the last home game he ever played as a Cavalier, I had no idea what we were about to lose. And in such epic fashion. And so I confess to you today that the ridiculousness of The Decision has stayed with me, and I'm not sure I want him back.

As for Cleveland getting their hopes up, that's on us, and I think we're pretty stupid if we do. Not because it's not a possibility, but because we've been duped before.

No, I'm not sure I want him back.

Still--full disclosure--I just can't shake this dream of winning.

Make of that what you will.

JUL
07

Definition: Fortuitous

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Not sure there's any other word to describe being at an author fair selling your new book about jewelry and having the author to your right be--get this--a jeweler. I'll say that again. He was a freaking jeweler! Like metals and gems and his own studio and stuff. It made the already beautiful day that much more delightful, and I kept looking around at all the other people I could have been seated next to (we did not pick our own arrangement) knowing none would have made for as enjoyable an afternoon as the one I had.

Not that Loganberry Books could have known (or are they just that good?), but I thank them. Not just for my seat placement, but also for putting on such a wonderful event on Saturday. From the cucumber sandwiches to the sunscreen, surely no group of authors could have felt more cared for. (Unless they'd given us all diamonds.)

JUL
05

Jazz and the Fireworks

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I probably should have been thinking last night about freedom and independence and bombs bursting in air, but mostly I was thinking about my childhood dog, Jazz, (named after the star jasmine flower) and how she used to run and hide in the backyard shed at the first sign of fireworks. I’ve since learned that this fear plagues many other dogs--pretty sure my aunt Leah full-on drugs her bulldog every July 4--but at the time, I thought it was unique to Jazz. I also thought it was kind of adorable. That she would feel somehow safer inside the dilapidated and actually quite frightening shed that none of us kids would be caught dead touching with a ten foot pole.

Animals have been on my mind this week, as I took Clementine to the vet the other day for her yearly appointment. She ended up having to get some blood drawn, and while I was waiting for the doctor to bring her back up front, a woman came in the front door holding a small dog. As soon as this woman shut the door behind her, she started sobbing. “What’s wrong?” another woman asked, to which the sobbing woman replied, “I have to put her down. She has cancer.” The asking woman instinctively reached her arm out and touched the sobbing woman’s shoulder and expressed condolences.

What happened next was one of the most unifyingly human moments I’ve experienced in a long time. Because every single person in that waiting room began to cry. It simply could not be helped. Part of it was this dog, her body so cancer-riddled that she was struggling to breathe. Most of it though was seeing this woman so gutted over the impending loss of her dog. Animal owners ourselves, we understood, and the very idea of having to go through such a loss is never really far from our minds. Jazz herself lost a battle with cancer, and someday, God forbid, Clementine may meet the same fate. When and however it happens, my day with the pink juice will arrive, and when it does, I hope there’s a waiting room full of people to help get me through it. I also hope that Jazz enjoyed the show last night. Wherever she is, it’s surely a much better view.

JUL
03

You Are Invited

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I promised I'd remind you again, so here it is. You are officially invited, Cleveland. 

Author Alley (as part of the fabulous Larchmere Fest)

July 5, 12-4pm (this Saturday!!)

Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights)

If you are a reader, you really ought to be there. You'll have the chance to learn about all kinds of books written by local authors, and after perusing all the options and meeting many delightful people, you can pick your favorites to buy and go home with a couple of new reads for that upcoming summer vacation. Those favorites might not be (read: will probably not be) my books, but they're someone's, and all the indie author goodness warms my heart.

So come on down. The weather's fine. 

See you on Larchmere.

JUL
01

Strange Seizures Beset Us

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A side effect of writing a book about your lifelong love of jewelry is that people will begin associating you with jewelry. Any jewelry experience they have, they will tell you about. Any purchase they make, they will show you. And more to the point, any trip to Tiffany's they take, they will snap a picture outside the store and send it to you.

For the record, I love all of this.

I love that a co-worker recently sent me a note about the Tiffany gift she purchased for her daughter's 21st birthday ("Her first blue box!"), and that another co-worker mentioned that he thought of me when passing the flagship Tiffany store while on a recent trip to NYC. I love that in the past month I've received pics of people outside various Tiffany stores, pics of new pieces of jewelry that people have bought or received, even a copy of the description of a $225K ring from the insurance agent preparing its policy because she knew I would appreciate it. I love hearing a woman tell me Jeweled has inspired her to get her wedding ring fixed finally, or sized finally, or how the book has inspired her to stop in at Carlton Jewelers. All of these things have happened, and I hope they continue to happen. 

It's weird that jewelry is my thing, but I always end up back at Annie Dillard's quote, the one about our responsibility to write about the things that fascinate us, the strange seizures that beset us. "There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin." Sage advice, no matter how you look at it.

(PS - If you have a jewelry story you'd like to share, submit it on the "Share Your Story" or "Contact" links of this website. If I use your story on the homepage, you'll get a free copy of Jeweled!)

JUN
28

Sky View

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I've got to hand it to yoga. Or maybe I've got to hand it to Cleveland. Or Tammy Lyons. Or any of the people behind last night's Believe in CLE event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After all, it's not every day you get a shavasana view like this. Shavasana is a relaxing, restorative pose that ends a yoga practice, and surrounded by 2000 other yogis outside the rock hall, the wind blowing off of the lake on a sunny and 75-degree evening, I couldn't bring myself to close my eyes. Which is sort of key to the pose, the closing of the eyes. But, um, did I mention the sky view? I simply could not help myself.

I've probably mostly got to hand it to my friend KJ who introduced me to yoga in the first place. I began attending solely for the workout (sidenote: it is a phenomenal workout), and scoffed at the very idea of all the other "benefits" of yoga. Emotional, mental, spiritual, etc. It's  not that I resist or don't appreciate these aspects of life. On the contrary, I very much embrace them. It's just that a yoga classroom isn't the place where I necessarily want to deal with them. I just want to sweat like hell. So that's where I've been. The girl beating the Other Stuff off with a stick.

Maybe it was inevitable, in that the longer I'm involved with yoga, the more I realize you can't really escape the Other Stuff, because it is, in fact, central to the very practice of yoga. This past week I even found myself--and the "I am only here to work out" part of me is a little embarrassed to admit this--crying in a yoga class. I didn't see it coming, and so was rather surprised to find myself almost instantly emotional when we settled into shavasana, warm tears streaming, well, basically into my ears.

It was this shavasana I was thinking about while lying under the Cleveland sky last night. Not because I was crying--I wasn't, and I doubt that will happen very often. But it's strangely comforting to know that this kind of emotion--true and completely unbidden--is possible. It's comforting to know you can be surrounded by dozens (or even thousands) of strangers and feel so connected. It's also comforting to know that you can eventually come to embrace things you initially may have been wary of. It's life, it's change, it's betterment and growth, and live from Lake Erie, folks, it's happening all the time.

 

JUN
25

And the award goes to...

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Feeling very happy today for my wonderful and talented web designer who has won an American Web Design Award for this very website. It reminds me how lucky I am to work with the best. People who can take my pathetic ideas and turn them into something great. People who consistently go above and beyond. People who know how to, say, find the vintage Tiffany catalog picture you like and get the rights for it. I believe the professional term for this is having mad skills. Or—the even more professional—being straight up bad-ass. No doubt in my mind that there are many more awards to come in Victoria’s future.

JUN
21

The Longest Year

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A year ago today I did my first full read-through of the newly-completed Jeweled. I remember this because of a sad event that occurred in my life immediately after I finished this read-through. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

There’s a tree in my front yard, the kind of tree that blossoms every spring. The weeks when the tree is in bloom are my favorite of the whole year, and I’ll often stop and stare out the front window at the sea of fluffy pink. The tree is so tall that the blossoms also fill the windows of my bedroom upstairs. I look forward to this every spring, but with such a long and heinous winter this year, it didn’t surprise me that April came and went with no blossoms. May, too. Mother Nature was just a bit behind schedule. Polar Vortexes can do that. Coming up on July now though, it’s finally occurred to me that the beating all living things took this winter may in fact have killed my tree.

It’s a sad thing to realize the highlight of such a beautiful season won’t ever come back. That there will be no more blossoms. That some precious, beautiful ability has been unable to withstand the impact of a traumatic event. An event I had no control over that has now forever altered every future spring; left them to seemingly always be worse than they once were. It is maddening, it is unfair, and it is certainly tragic, but at the end of the day, there is still a tree in my front yard. And it has managed to grow some leaves. Vibrant, green leaves. Not as appealing as fluffy pink blossoms, but they are proof enough of life. Not just that it goes on, but that it never left. It’s just different. And maybe even—someday—better. Leaves, after all, do mean potential, and who’s to say what future springs will bring?

This is what I am telling myself one year later. I miss the blossoms, spring was definitely different without them, and should they ever reappear it would quite possibly *make* my life, but I can’t continue mourning their loss. Besides, the season has changed, and I’m putting my money on summer.

JUN
19

I want to talk about me.

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Stay with me.

Tonight I gave some brief remarks at an event geared toward journal and personal history writing. It's a topic I feel strongly about, because the things we don't write down, we forget. And as if you need any additional motivation, think of your kids. If you have a child, he only knows you from the standpoint of your parenting years. He knows nothing that happened before that unless you tell him, or unless you write it down for him to read when he is older. 

If you're like me and have no children, write about your life anyway. Writing is, at its heart, for the writer. There are all kinds of sappy quotes out there—about memories being the June roses in the Decembers of our lives, or, my favorite, how we write to taste life twice—and you can take them or leave them, but I choose to take them. I find so much value in writing about my own life, however insignificant my stories. 

To this day, my maternal grandmother* will occasionally send out excerpts from her journals, and I learn something about her every time she does this. I am moved every time she does this. I feel more connected every time she does this--not just to her, but to her parents and grandparents as well, people I never met but wouldn't exist without. Just think about that the next time you wonder if a certain memory or experience is worth writing down. Trust me, it is.

*I must have been smoking crack cocaine when I let Jeweled go to press with a reference to my maternal grandmother's funeral. My maternal grandmother is alive and well. It's my paternal grandmother whose funeral and wedding ring I meant to reference at the end of Jeweled. My (total and completely embarrassing) bad.


JUN
17

If you want me, I'll be in the bar.

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It’s funny, the music we latch onto as kids. My dad was the rock & roll fan, and I came to think of any music he liked as being pretty cool. I remember Jimi Hendrix, Billy Joel, The B-52’s, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Genesis, and many more, but mostly I remember Joni Mitchell. You could say it’s because she’s a girl, and I liked the idea of a woman succeeding in that way, but it could also be because her music is just that good. It’s just so…different. From the way she tunes her guitar to the way her songs are so very *not* formulaic, she was for me an example of a person who did things her way and was incredibly successful at it.

I’m reading Sheila Weller’s biography of Joni Mitchell right now. She also weaves in the biographies of Carly Simon and Carole King (so it’s not exactly a quick read), but I’m reading it for Joni. It’s part fascinating to be hearing about the stories (and people) behind her music, part enlightening to be learning so much about the music industry in the 1960s and 1970s, but I confess it’s also part tragic. “The life of an artist,” Dad said when I recently told him that the actual circumstances of Joni’s life were bringing me down a little. Not that her life wasn’t glamorous—California, New York City, money, men, world travel—but it was also kind of heart-wrenching. The going from man to man, the insecurity, the giving up of her baby because she felt she had no other choice. It’s not at all what I pictured when listening to her music in my youth. Knowing what I know now, I think I’d have wanted a river to skate away on, too.

Not sure what my point here is, I guess I’m just grateful that my life is as uncomplicated as it is. But more than that, I’m grateful that people like Joni did what they did for the music.

(And for all the talk in Weller’s book about what are the best Joni lines ever penned, to me there is a clear winner and it is this: I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet.)

JUN
15

For Dad

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My dad is a man of relatively few words, and being raised in a home with multiple siblings, it wasn't always easy (or common) to get time with just him. I never felt slighted, no person with my childhood could, but the memories I have of Me & Dad time are special. As is any connection that just he and I shared, for that matter. Like the story in Jeweled about the jewelry gifts he gave me...it was something he did on his own, just for me.

I'm writing my third book right now, and last week I was writing about a big decision I faced more than a decade ago. Teetering on making what I thought was the right choice but for all the wrong reasons, my dad offered (in a manner of two succinct sentences) some counsel that not only changed my decision but also my outlook on all future decisions on the same topic. It was pretty profound to ponder this week on how different my life would be right now had he not spoken up. In fact, when I think back on, say, the top 5 most important things anyone has ever said to me, I'm pretty sure they all come from my dad. For being a man of few words, he sure has a knack for making them count.

On this day and always, I am a lucky daughter.

 

JUN
13

The Buster Bars

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They are a downright force, these Buster Bars. Anything from Dairy Queen, really. We're talking about the only fast food option I had as a kid, and the one for which I (still) feel the most amount of affection and loyalty. My neighbors and I used to throw together all manner of fundraising activities as kids, all in the name of getting ourselves to the DQ.

Back to the Buster Bars. Being mostly a Blizzard girl in my adult life, I had forgotten about them. Fast forward to last week, when one of our vendors showed up at the office with a box of Buster Bars. Oh my gosh, it was the best day ever. Surely no object on this earth could have more quickly taken me back to age 10, sitting at a folding table in my neighbors' driveway selling froot loop bars and lemon squares, counting my change until I had enough for a DQ run.

Having been reminded of the deliciousness that is a Buster Bar, I stopped at DQ on my way home. I bought a whole box, just for me, and explained to the DQ counter worker that someone had brought them into the office and it had been the best day of my life. It was an exaggeration obviously, but she laughed in a nervous, pitying kind of way; a way that suggested she figured I must be a pretty unfortunate person if my life had peaked because of free ice cream. It was the same sort of expression that Warwick Davis wore when my sister and I, positively beside ourselves, approached after spotting him at Disneyland during a family trip and confessed in near hysterics that Willow was our favorite movie. Epic to our teenaged selves (have you seen Val Kilmer circa 1988??), I've always suspected Warwick thought we were a little tragic for our cinema preferences.

In any case, it's Friday night, and I'm celebrating with a Buster Bar. Or six.