Sunday, December 30, 2007

Steph’s Best and Worsts of 2007

Now that the crank of Christmas has wrung every penny from my pocket, every cup of sugar from my cabinet and every ounce of Christmas cheer from my soul, it's time to embark on the annual spiritual journey I like to call, F*@! It's New Year's already?

I've taken some time to collect my favorite (and not so favorite), moments of 2007.

1. America's Next Top Model marathons on MTV and VH1. These provided me with hours of much needed, mind numbing entertainment as well as much needed cultural references like "krumping" which I would not other wise know and which provides me with some fake street cred (though mine just went down for using that term).

2. Candi's wedding, there's nothing more beautiful than one of your best friends getting married to a guy of whom you infinitely approve (complete with break dancing).

3. Kiddo, I never thought I'd be a dog person. But I am. That dog just kicks my heart into happy every time I walk in the door to her upturned face and wagging tail.

4. New York trip, seeing Amy Poehler and Seth Myers at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Totally worth the $5 it cost to get in and the impromptu foil wrapped burrito sidewalk picnic we had to have so we wouldn't lose our place in line.

5. Getting a cell phone: after years and years of resisting and happily living without one, I now feel naked when I leave the house without my little red razor, here it sits now, resting peacefully, faithfully at my side.

6. BEST BOOK: Harry Potter 7; This year's reading was crowded out by Harry Potter (and the preparatory re-reading of the six previous books) as well as the 1,001 books on puppies and Jack Russell Terriers that I read in preparation for Kiddo. Aside from those, Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck tops my list.

7. BEST MOVIE: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The director managed to turn my least favorite of the book series into my favorite of the movies so far. Hot Fuzz and Sicko deserve honorable mentions

8. BEST SONG: Anything by Feist wore out my repeat button this year.

9. BEST RESTAURANT: The Bagel Bakery in the Millhopper shopping plaza where I can often be found eating lunch and having altercations with retired folk.

10. Raising beaucoup dollars at the NOW 25th anniversary banquet.

11. Skydiving/turning 30. The first few months of my thirties have been pretty great, jumping out of planes, race training, let's see if I can keep up the pace.

12. Senator Larry Craig getting caught soliciting sex in a men's room. There's a sweet sense of poetic justice when bigots get caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. I take pleasure in the exposure of hypocrisy.


1. Kiddo: I love the dog, but let's face it, training a puppy is a pain in the ass, This year my dog has harassed, peed on, scratched, and incessantly licked every single person that came through my door. Danny and I even coined a new term, "god dammit levels." As in, "When you reach god damn it levels with the dog I'll take over." (to see an up to date list of Kiddo's wake of destruction see blog entitled My Dog: In List Form)

2. A Funeral, 2007 meant the terrible, terrible loss of my father-in-law, Fernando Gimenez. It was a lonely football season without him and a lonelier Christmas. We miss him very, very much.

3. My Grandma getting ovarian cancer: she called me the other day to tell me she shaved off all her hair which made me really sad since for as long as I can remember she has taken great pride in her hair sprayed helmet of gray. Some of my best memories of childhood are going with grandma to the beauty shop on Saturdays to have her hair "set" for the week.

4. Still no children (and none on the horizon) although the image of a bunch of children on the horizon is quite funny (and creepy at the same time).

5. Almost getting knifed downtown with Lisa. In my head, this story has taken on epic proportions; there are now whole crowds of people bearing sharp objects, flashing lights and sirens, and a bouncer who shoved us into the arms of the Klingon bad guy. (For actual story see blog from October 2, 2007).

6. Those commercials about the fungi that live under people's toenails. Every time I watched that nasty little booger shaped guy flip open a cartoon toenail like it was a car hood I got an unpleasant shiver from head to toe. Blech.

7. Songs that made my ears bleed in 2007: Big Girls Don't Cry by Fergie, anything by Mariah Carey; Britney Spears, Gimme More, made me wish I was drunk so the pain in my soul would stop.

8. WORST MOVIE: 3:10 to Yuma, It managed to make staring at Christian Bale boring and that's quite difficult to do. It was three hours of sitting around a sweaty and slightly drunk campfire. The conflict was flat and the solution was what I like to call a typical "man plan" meaning, I don't feel like thinking of a plan so we'll just figure it out when we get there. (Note to readers: "man plans" rarely work out in real life and this movie was no different.)

9. Beyonce "let me upgrade" commercials. I like to at least pretend that people making music are actually musicians and not simply slaves to the corporate consumer machine, this commercial reminds me that I am a fool and my cynicism is well founded.

10. The senate "accidentally" removing funding for birth control at colleges and planned parenthoods all over the country. Women who were paying $10 a month for birth control on campus, now have to pay $40 or $50, likewise for previously discounted Morning-After Pills. An article I read the other day said the federal government is confused as to why the teen birth rate keeps going up ….and up….and up….


This is the year I will finally get actual, proper bedside tables. I'm tired of precariously stacking books, magazines, glasses, chapstick, phone and water on the craft crate I bought at Michael's when I was in college.

I hope every one had a great holiday and has a happy, safe, bedside table filled new year.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Mist Makes the Case for Wal-Mart Supercenters

WARNING: You may not want to read this if you're one of those people who gets upset when someone talks about a movie you haven't yet seen and " spoils" it for you, even though let's face it you're probably not going to see that movie anyway and if you do it will be when it's on video and you've completely forgotten whatever anyone said about it anyway.

So on to The Mist, which is the movie version of a Stephen King short story
where people in a small town stocking up after a major electrical storm are trapped inside their local grocery store when a strange mist rolls in. They can't see what's in the mist but can hear screams of those that wander in (and also can occasionally see disembodied limbs or torsos).

Overall, I'd say The Mist is worth seeing. Even though I left feeling a little depressed and like I needed to watch cartoons for a while to keep from killing myself. It had all the needed elements of a disaster movie; a religious nut, aisles of canned goods and a hinted hook up between the main "take charge" guy and the nearest blonde woman.

Here are a couple lessons I took from the film.

On principle, I am against the sprawling superstores that crush local business and dash any hopes of community individuality and character. However, if a crisis occurred, this is exactly where I would want to find myself. Inevitably in any disaster/crisis/apocalypse film, people must leave their shelter in search of food, fuel, medicine etc. In The Mist, the small town grocery store is adequate for meeting people's needs until someone gets hurt and needs medicine, so a small band of people make for the pharmacy next door with (predictably) tragic results.

While watching this scene I found myself thinking, if a mysterious mist rolled in to town toting strange creatures from another dimension, I'd high tail my ass to the nearest Super Wal-Mart.

The sturdy cinder block monster houses gas, food, drugs, an indoor/outdoor garden center, everything you need for sustainability should the apocalypse occur. Their anti-birth control policies would make repopulation all the swifter as we rebuild society into a chain of Wal-Mart city-states across the USA. I'm thinking Wal-Mart super centers should adopt this as their marketing strategy: Wal-Mart, the place you want to be when the shit hits the fan.

Another useful lesson I took from the film, if you are not able to find shelter at a super center or have abandoned the super center in favor of the "we must go for help/find other survivors" theory, always have handy a quick and painless way to kill yourself.

You know how when you hear about a friend's computer crashing you think, oh yeah I should really be better about backing my stuff up. That's kind of the feeling I had while watching the final scene of The Mist.

First of all, I'm pretty sure I'm in the group of folks that would remain camped out in the aisles of the store/compound eating pop tarts and playing Nintendo Gameboy, however, if fate brought me out of my cinder block security blanket for whatever reason, I would not want to be in the situation the folks in The Mist found themselves in, a five people with only four bullets scenario. I don't want my last minutes on earth to be spent trying to figure out a logic puzzle. I want to be the person that says, "No really, you all go ahead, I'm covered."

All in all it's a good show. It's suspenseful, there are cow sized spiders and a praying mantis taller than a telephone pole. Plus, it fits within my horror movie escape clause, i.e. there's nothing to fear unless a strange mist is pouring through town. And if it does, you know where to find me.
Happy holiday shopping!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

There's a New Gang in Town

For future reference, if you walk into a crowded bagel shop, pay for your lunch, and make your way to a table only to find that said table is sporting a week-old college newspaper with a salt shaker placed on top of it, keep moving. That table is being saved.

Here's what went down. Danny and I were 75% finished with our lunch and our New York Times when one of the (BSOL) Bagel Shop Old Ladies approached our table. I'm now convinced they're a bona fide gang. They probably have it out after hours (6:30pm) with the baggers from Publix next door. I'm pretty sure I saw one old lady taping hard candies onto her knuckles today. And I wouldn't be surprised if underneath their embroidered Alfred Donner sweater sets are matching tattoos of lox and cream cheese on an onion bagel.

Anyway, I made the mistake of sliding the newspaper/salt shaker centerpiece aside and sitting down to enjoy my lunch. Well, Barb (code name: Barbed Wire) just couldn't let me get away with that. She came over, sweet as nails,"Excuse me dear, could I have my paper back? We thought we'd be able to save this table but…well, that paper belongs to my friend."
Nevermind that Barb's friend could have picked up another (free) week old college newspaper from the enormous stack by the door. I think this was purely an intimidation tactic. I'm putting it all together, the Jedi mind trick lady, the old woman who hogged the free samples last week. They think they own the place and can just push (subtly chide) people around.

Well, I for one am sick of it. Next week I'm going to take up a whole big table all to myself. I'm going to take two, no, three brownie bites from the tray. I'm going to put out a napkin and a couple grains of salt and call it saving a table.

It's on ladies. Bring it. It….is…ON.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Four Little Ditties

My dermatologist's
answering machine:
It says, "If this is a life-threatening situation, please hang up and dial 911". I'm glad he said that, because I know that when I am in a life-threatening situation like say, a bear is attacking my tent while camping,
the first person I think to call is my dermatologist. And I'd probably even stay on hold hoping he'd pick up, so I'm glad he not only reminded me I should call 911, but also that I should hang up first before doing so. Thanks man.

Modern day research:
If I can't find information on the internet, it either
a) does not exist, or
b) is not worth knowing
If someone has not taken the time to make the information available so I don't have to leave my chair or home but merely string together the correct combination of words to find it on google, then it must not really be that important

Old Ladies in Bagel Shops:
If I were an anthropologist, I would do an entire study about old ladies in bagel shops. This woman moved around in the line as if no one else was taking up that space. She went backwards and forwards to look at the pastry display, check out the salad selection and read the menu. People parted ways for her easier than the red sea parted for Moses. She took not only one, but two or even three free cookie samples from the tray. And she didn't balance on tip toes and delicately pick out a cookie crumb from the tray like everyone else, she took the tray down from it's perch and perused it's contents with her fingertips until she found what she wanted (the much-coveted brownie bits). I cannot wait until I am old enough to do this.

Talking windshield wipers:
Yesterday I saw a commercial for windshield wipers that "talk" to your brakes. According to the manufacturer, when it starts raining the windshield wipers tell the brakes to start drying, so they can stop better. But how can we be sure that's what they're saying? It's more likely the windshield wipers are saying, "Hurry up asshole, I'm getting wet out here!" I've seen enough sci-fi movies to know that I would like my mechanical car parts to just shut the hell up and do their job while I'm driving.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

30 Random Facts for 30 Random Years

Since today is my 30th birthday, here are 30 random (and sometimes innapropriate) facts about me...(actually 31, one to grow on as grandma always said)

1. My closet is organized by color
2. Before my wedding I had a two-page list of things to do that made my mother-in-law shriek in anxiety—but made me feel more relaxed.
3. I usually skim the end of a chapter or book to see how things end up because I'm impatient and can't take suspense.
4. There are movies I didn't care for in the theater that I will watch again and again on TBS—like The Wedding Planner.
5. Public speaking doesn't scare me, I'm quite good at it.
6. In fifth grade I started my period while learning how to divide fractions.
7. I peed my pants in public---at the age of sixteen.
8. I once weighed over two hundred pounds
9. In my catholic grade school, I used to invent sins to tell the priest in confession.
10. I am the oldest of four children, I have two brothers and one sister.
11. When I was five I got my arm stuck up an elephant's trunk.
12. I used to fake sick so I could stay home from school and read Nancy Drew books.
13. I can't stand being late.
14. I still sometimes check my closet and under my bed before going to sleep at night.
15. My wedding dress cost $84.73
16. I once lived in France with a family who didn't speak English.
17. My favorite part of Christmas is wrapping presents.
18. I like baking and gardening (but I'm not very good at either).
19. I still have CDs and books that I borrowed from people in middle school (such as Patty Drechsel's Whitney Houston CD).
20. I have a mild fear of lakes and oceans.
21. I love going to thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets.
22. My first pet was a poodle/spaniel mix named Gin Gin.
23. When I was 13, my brand new, blue, ten-speed bike got stolen (I'm pretty sure Danielle Delisio is the culprit).
24. Daydreaming is my favorite pastime.
25. I started watching MTV at the age of six.
26. In sixth grade someone started an "eraser burn" fad, I still have the scar on the back of my hand where Jenny Patronik convinced me to rub off my skin with a number two pencil eraser.
27. I often have nightmares that it's my wedding day but I don't have shoes and/or a hair stylist. 28. At one point in my life I was "too radioactive to be in the general population."
29. I don't like commercials where funguses and mucus have personalities and wear clothes.
30. I lost my virginity when I was 16.
31. All my life I have been disgusted by doggie kisses….until I got a dog.

Below is a picture of my mom taken just 2 months before I made my worldwide debut (Note the "Baby" t-shirt). What is she doing you ask? She's preparing to skydive. Lucky for yours truly, when she saw the unnatural sight of others falling from the aircraft she decided against it. Thanks Mom!

Monday, November 5, 2007


So last Saturday I jumped out of an airplane 13,000 feet in the air and dropped to the earth at 120mph. It sounds scary when I say it that way (better dramatic effect).

It's one of those things I've always wanted to do. I'm sure everyone has at least one thing they think, I've always wanted to _________ (see the sunset over the Pacific, ride a Gondola in Venice, see an ex boyfriend when I actually look good etc). It is quite a powerful accomplishment when you actually do one of those things. For two days I've had this feeling that if I can jump out of a plane I can do anything. (I chose appliance shopping and folding laundry)

Two years ago we almost did it, Danny wanted to surprise me for my birthday so he sent in a deposit for us both to go. The day before my birthday he came to me and said, "Ok I was going to surprise you and take you sky diving but the company just called and said one of their planes crashed and if we want we can have our deposit back. So do you still want to go?"

"Uh…No, let's wait on that one."

This time around we got no such call. But in the days leading up to our adventure I was very nervous. I wasn't nervous to jump out of the plane or that the plane would crash but I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about three things.

That I would fart and/or throw up on the dude strapped to my back
That the "relaxing" float down after the parachute opens would just be one long awkward silence between me and the dude strapped to my back.
That I was too fat to skydive. I got butterflies in my stomach at the prospect of some 24-year-old guy yelling "Hey Bob! We're gonna need the X-tra large chute over here!"
I got over my fears and we headed out to Palatka bright and early with our friend Alisa, who we found out on the drive has an incredible amount in common with both of us (including causing trouble in Catholic school and being a Scorpio).

We were all jumping tandem so we didn't have to take a class but we did have to watch a video made circa 1985 that featured a lawyer who was perfectly, neatly manicured except for his 6-foot-long ZZ Top beard basically telling us that if we died or got hurt we couldn't sue. We signed about 18 pages exempting people from fault. And I mean EVERYONE, we can't sue the pilot, the jumpmaster, the parachute manufacturer, the landowner, the butcher the baker or the candlestick maker.

After we signed it was time to pay up. That's when I saw the footnote on the price sign.

*Persons over 230 lbs must pay $1.00 per pound over the limit

Holy shit, how embarrassing if you had to stand there and calculate your poundage. Would they trust your estimate? Or would they make you get on a scale like a package to be mailed?

We went to a covered outside area where Art (the owner) explained all we needed to know. The ground rules were pretty basic.

Try to curve your body like a rocking chair.
Do not grab a hold of my arms or I will bite your ear off.
All around us people were on the ground packing up parachutes. I felt a prickle of excitement when I looked over in the field further on and saw chutes dropping out of the sky and people in jumpsuits landing at a run.

I imagined that the plane ride up would be the scariest part. And it was. The plane is tiny tiny tiny. It fit about 12 people, all straddling two long benches and there's no room for shyness, everyone spooned the person in front of them. The comraderie was a lot of fun though. We all teased and laughed. Gary, my jumpmaster, threw a tattered shoestring in my lap, "Oh my god something just came off!"

I was fifth in line to go out. My grandfather told me weeks ago that there was no sensation of falling, so I wasn't scared like the way I feel when a roller coaster is cranking up to the big fall. I honestly did not feel scared. That is, I didn't feel scared until the door opened and people started leaving the aircraft.

I cannot do justice to explaining JUST HOW WRONG it looks to see people tumbling out of an airplane and dropping like rocks toward the ground. It goes against everything your brain tells you is natural and right. That's when I felt scared. This is the image that will forever be burned in my mind. There is my friend Alisa sitting in front of me…and there she is rolling out the side of an airplane 13,000 feet above the ground.

Holy Shit.

But when it was my turn to go it felt too hectic too be scary. I scooted my butt to the edge and hung my legs out just like Gary had told me to, and then we were gone, in a crazy wind tunnel. When I opened my eyes I could see the fields and earth like I was seeing them from space. It was hard to look straight down because of the wind. We were going fast, so fast it was hard to breathe. I saw one of the other men from the plane dart past us like superman diving down in a straight line.

And then out of nowhere everything was still and silent. (Because the parachute opened…not because I died). It felt amazing. We were unfathomably high in the air, just dangling. Gary did some twists and spins and pointed to Danny whose chute had just opened. After 30 years on this planet it's not very often I get to see something I've never seen before. It was an odd sensation to watch my husband dropping through the sky like a pebble and then abruptly stopping under a blooming orange balloon.

Five minutes later we were coming in for our landing. To be honest, a lot of it is a blur (I'll have to go again to remember what it's like). To sum up, it's all thrill and no scary roller coaster feeling. But the adrenaline high has lasted for days.

On the car ride home we talked about how weird it was to continue on with our normal lives after a morning spent jumping out of an airplane. Alisa went home to do her laundry and Danny and I went shopping for appliances.

But in our heads we were planning the next adventure. So who wants to go hang gliding????

Monday, October 29, 2007

Kudos to the Old Lady Who Used the Jedi Mind Trick to kick us out of our bagel shop table

Last week I was a cut-throat predator in the parking lot, this week a 90 pound old woman was able to maneuver me out of my table at The Bagel Factory using only her mind.
Once or twice a week Danny and I have lunch together at Chesapeake Bagel (it's changed to something else but we still call it Chesapeake). Usually it's not that crowded and we're able to snag a booth, spread out the paper and enjoy commenting on the state of the world and progress of Britney's divorce proceedings.

Today however was different. It was crowded. Boothless people nervously balanced their little plastic baskets while posturing for a table. An old lady and I were locked in subtle combat, hovering, circling like vultures near a booth where four women were packing up their things. She ended up with it. I could have scooted in, but after last Monday's parking incident my Karma is in a delicate state.

So I grabbed the only table left. It was one of the larger ones. Not huge, but you can definitely seat more than 2 people comfortably. Three quarters of the way through our meal a small old woman approached us, "Do you mind if I sit here?"

Of course, we scooted over, crinkled our newspapers into a smaller corner of the tabletop.

"It's just that we come here every Thursday and usually use this table for about 8 people…" she added.

I went to grab my purse, Danny started to clear the table for her book club. "No, no don't get up" she said, "I'm not trying to rush you." We lowered back into our chairs.

Then she sat down with her book, the one I assume she brought in case she arrived before her friends, except she didn't read it. She just sat there, making us incredibly uncomfortable.

I calculated how long I had to sit there to make it look like I wasn't allowing myself to be rushed out while at the same time getting the hell out of there as soon as possible.

As Danny and I ran next door to grab some groceries we marveled at the woman's ability.

"So," Danny said, "That woman had like, complete mind control over me."
"I know!" I said "I was completely ready to obey her every command. Move, leave, sit, stay…how did she do that?"

Here's what our analysis yielded:

The recipe for getting people to leave a table using the old lady mind control method:

1. Start with a Reasonable request (can I share this overly large table with you?)
2. Add a dash of guilt, (we usually fit EIGHT whole people at this table)
3. Add more reasonable (no, no really, don't get up. I'm not rushing you)
4. Throw in a bit of tension (sit quietly and stare at the people you wish to leave)

I have to admit I'm a little easy in this regard. I am a people pleaser to the very core of my being. I get a knot in my stomach if I think anyone is mad at me or thinks I did something rude. And maybe I would have reacted differently if the person was my own age and not an old woman who I feel extra incentive to be nice to.

I think she was brilliant actually. She wanted her usual table and got it. She was not shy about it. She was not rude and made us just uncomfortable enough to get what she needed, a secured space for her weekly book meeting with her friends.

So bagel man, send a round with extra cream cheese to the Thursday women's book club, it's on me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All's Fair in Love and Parking?

So last Monday I pulled my most cut-throat parking maneuver ever.

I feel the need to write about it here so the karma-counting gods know that I feel bad about it (sorta) and therefore will reduce the number of points I have to make up in order to not get a flat tire in the near future.

I had to meet Kelly early on campus where we're teaching a women's liberation class to help her carry stuff in. I couldn't find a legal parking spot so I parked in a restricted one thinking I'd help Kelly with the stuff and then come back and try my luck again.

Once I had walked to Kelly's car, I saw someone pulling out of a nearby spot. I sprang to action, without thinking of consequences or etiquette or the personal safety of myself, Kelly or my vehicle. To someone who doesn't have one, a parking spot is like asphalt gold. My primal instincts had taken over.

As soon as I saw the car edging out of the spot I grabbed Kelly and all the stuff we had in our arms, ran over to dump it down in the freshly empty spot and sprinted to get my car.

As soon as I started sprinting I noticed that two other people were waiting for the spot. People who were actually still driving their cars.

I admit I did have an unfair advantage. Instead of four cumbersome wheels I had four legs on my team that could get over and claim the spot faster than a two ton box of metal. But I had already committed to the plan, I'd already abandoned a pile of crap and my good friend Kelly as pawns in my seedy scheme.

Kelly did the dirty work really, I should probably buy her a drink or something. Parking on UF campus can get N-A-S-T-Y. I wouldn't be surprised if half the arrests in this town originated as some sort of parking altercation. Kelly bravely endured the nasty looks and "are you going to move?" from the two angry motorists.

When I pulled up in my car, Kelly kindly moved the stuff out of the way so I could roll into the spot (a problem I hadn't foreseen, that I wouldn't be able to park right over my pile of crap place markers).

I did get the spot though, and got to the class on time (Actually I very nearly ran, I was scared the folks in cars would run me over or come at me with spears and torches.)

So how wrong was I?

In my defense: I didn't initially see that there was anyone else in the parking lot who would want that space. One of the girls waiting for the space was parked in a handicapped spot so I couldn't have known she was camping out.* (see footnote) The other person waiting had just pulled into the parking lot after I dumped my shit in the space.

I pretty much know I was wrong but am trying to figure just HOW wrong I was so I know how many nice things I have to do this week to balance out my karma.

* UF Parking strategy terminology

The Camper: a strategy that I've used many times myself, wherein you "camp out" at the end of a row of cars and wait for someone to leave. I read many classics of literature while camping for a parking spot.

The Hitchhiker: A strategy where one positions his or her car at the entrance to the lot and offers people rides to their parked car.
The Parking Shark: Someone who cruises around the lot employing the "it's a dog eat dog world" philosophy of hunting for spaces.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

JK Rowling Reveals Dumbledore is Gay.

In a recent book reading JK revealed that Dumbledore is gay and was in love with his future rival Grindelwald in their youth. I'm glad that JK let Dumbledore out of the closet.

Here are some background facts about some other characters that she hasn't yet revealed:

Minerva McGonagal was Hogwarts prom queen in 1952, sometimes on Saturday nights she dons her tiara, puts on sexy lingerie and dances for professor Flitwick.

Arthur Weasly is a kleptomaniac.

Hermione's parents are not really dentists, they are secret government agents. That is why they are always out of the country and often can't see their daughter off to school or on the holidays, because they are on special assignment. In the last book they go to Australia and change their identities. Hermione didn't do that, she just didn't want to blow their cover.

Severus Snape is obsessed with Joan Rivers. He spends whole summers playing re-runs of her red carpet fashion shows and owns her entire QVC jewelery collection.

Lucius Malfoy was once in a very popular boy band, he went sour when one of the member's solo career took off while Lucius' single "Pour Some Venom on Me" debuted at a disappointing number 456 on the billboard charts.

Madam Hooch is a lesbian.

Madam Pomfrey was always high. While a student at Hogwarts everyone called her Pom-fries since she always snuck down to the kitchen in a fit of the munchies. Dumbledore knew about her drug problem but kept her on because she was the only one who could grow his "medicinal mushrooms"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Take with Food

Why does it embarrass me that my doctor wrote "menses" on my prescription? I'm (about to be) a 30-year old woman. Obviously "menses" is a fact of my life.

You'd think that in 19 years of having a period I would no longer be embarrassed in front of the sales clerk at CVS. But alas, I am. I still can't buy the Tampax Multi Mega pack without turning a little red in the cheek.

Here's the world I'd like to live in. No other human being on the planet will ever think of me doing anything besides showering and putting on make-up in the bathroom. That's it. That's all I ever do.

How can I turn in a prescription with the word "menses" on it? When I got home and saw that I felt like a teenager embarrassed that my mom had just told my principal I stayed home with "the runs."

At the very least, I don't want to be standing directly in front of the pharmacist when she has the fleeting realization that once a month bloody guck pours out of a certain orifice.

Could she not have written a different word? Menses sounds so….biblical. So parting of the red sea, and smiting and begotten. Hark! She hath begotten her menses unto the lord!

At least period sounds clean, neat and singular. Period. They can even say it on TV, no birth control commercial would be caught dead saying "menses." But now I have to march into CVS with it boldly stamped on my prescription.

I prefer my "menses" to be shrouded in a little more mystery at the drugstore. Maybe I'll have Danny pick up that prescription.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Downtown Gainesville on a Monday night.

On most weekday nights I am most likely to be found in a meeting where I am, in some form or another, plotting the overthrow of male supremacy with other feminists (imagine what you will, cauldrons, fire, chanting etc).

Last night was no different, except that I could have been stabbed.

We were having a phone bank, calling our supporters and urging them to send us money. During the course of the phone bank I learned the that a person I have never talked to before in my life, is completely fabricating conversations with me and telling people around town how unreasonable I am.

It's tough being president these days, with folks writing to the paper about my disservices to the community and other people running around concocting stories about my iron fist.

But neither of those people are the ones who nearly stabbed me.

Being in a good mood after raising some money, my friend Lisa and I decided to cross the street to downtown Gainesville and get something to eat at Harry's. There we swapped stories over crab cakes and scallops; I ate an entire loaf of bread and when Lisa asked, I assured her that the tattered sleeve of my t-shirt was not a fashion statement but yet another casualty of the dog.

We paid and got up to leave. As we approached the door we saw that it was held open by the Harry's bouncer/doorman. He had his back to us and was saying something to a man standing six feet from him at the entry gate to the sidewalk. The doorman glanced back at us and, quite gallantly, moved aside to let us through.

We crossed the threshold and came nearly face to face with the man at the gate. It was then we realized that the man was swaying and wielding quite a large knife. I also registered what the doorman, who had just kindly ushered us into the knife man's arms, was saying. "Dude, just put the knife down. Ok?"

Yeah dude, I thought. And dude, how about the bouncer give us a little, "Hang on a sec ladies, there's a drunk man with a big knife right out front?" Feminist though I am, I'm all for people holding a door open for me, just not when that door has a deadly weapon on the other side.

Lisa and I walked through the gate and deftly sidestepped the knife man. We made our way across the street, keeping one eye on the armed drunk now staggering in our direction. We walked two blocks out of our way and made it to our cars as we heard sirens rushing toward the restaurant we'd just come from.
I wondered if the doorman had respectfully moved aside to let some elderly patrons exit. What a gentleman.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dangerous Behavior (The Joy of Cooking)

Every once in a while I turn over a new cookbook and proclaim that I, queen of cold cuts and frozen entrees, am going to cook more. I aspire to be healthy you see. Much like I aspire to be clean and aspire to be organized. Most of the time I miss all three marks by a wide margin.

On most days, my organizational system is a series of piles in my office. I know generally where things are by the location of the pile. Something urgent will be located in a pile on my desk, less urgent things are piled on the floor but within reach of my chair. If the pile is anywhere else it's something I probably don't need anyway.

On most days you'll find tufts of cat hair on the carpet, dishes piled in the sink (even though we have a dishwasher), an almost empty cupboard and a trashcan stuffed with Styrofoam take out boxes.

But on a select few days you will find everything in the house neatly in its place, the fridge stocked with vegetables and a dustless cookbook on the kitchen counter.

My cooking aspirations occur the least of the three areas since I have no natural talent for cooking and most often will be cooking for my self since Danny's diet is limited to things that did not grow in the ground (sort of the opposite of a vegetarian). My cooking endeavor never lasts very long nor does it usually go incredibly well. If it does go well, I come out the other end with a new recipe I like and only minor injuries or burns.

The only exception is last Christmas's baking frenzy which I actually enjoyed and miraculously escaped unscathed. Well, almost. I did put a spoonful of boiling sugar in my mouth and once or twice grabbed a cookie sheet out of the oven with my bare hands. But the experience worked out better than my usual foray into domesticity.

But baking is not nearly so frustrating to me as cooking. For one, it's way more difficult to mess up baking. If you mess up, the worst that happens is it tastes like burnt sugar and if you don't get a cookie it's not the end of the world (unless you're Danny).

But if you spend a lot of time on dinner and it doesn't come out right you have to start all over with something or just go hungry. This time I didn't mess up the cooking too badly, but I'm pretty sure the act of cooking itself made me sick. I think I'm allergic to cooking.

Sunday, I decided to try a recipe that required a tad more prep time and called for something I'd never even seen before, a rutabega. I had to ask two shoppers, a publix employee and a produce manager before I found someone who even knew what a rutabega looked like.

The rutabega turned out to be quite good actually. Like a potato but sweeter. I overcooked the zuchinni meatloaf (even though it was in for shorter time than called for). My oven, which was brand new when I was 9 years old (you do the math) smokes in protest at any temperature over 325 and has stove top burners that only randomly work (we have to jiggle them first).

So the smoke from the oven, the toxic chopped onion that made my eyes water so much I couldn't see through the tears, the heat and posture of chopping, dicing and standing over the sautéing rutabega for twice the length of time it should have taken, all combined to equal the massive mega headache I woke up with Monday morning.

Worse than any hangover I have ever had in my life, combined, the headache was so bad I thought I would throw up if I opened my eyes. The muscles in my neck and shoulders were stiff from looking down at the cutting board and the sauté pan.

I managed to recover after two Excedrine migraine tablets, an ice pack and a morning nap with Kiddo (we watched Beethoven). But the mental trauma of preparing food on my stone age stove has left it's mark forever. From now on I'll only be buying pre-chopped vegetables and am officially in the market for new appliances (or healthier take out).

My Dog (in list form)

My dog's name is Kiddo, that is unless we're calling her one of 18,000 terms of endearment. These include, but are not limited to:
little face,
happy face (there are many variations on the "face" theme)
kiddo the kid,
kiddo skadiddo,
circus girl,
baby girl
god dammit
and "the tank"

Kiddo's treasures. A list of items the dog has brought in from the yard:
A partially eaten corn on the cob (not ours),
peanut shells,
a pack of cigarettes,
a paint scraper (that does not belong to us),
weed lining (both the sheet and the edging variety),
all manner of rocks and gravel,
something resembling a petrified bird foot,
and last but not least, cat poo.

Kiddo's wake of destruction. To date, the dog has destroyed:
Three dog beds,
four couch pillows,
two couch cushions,
one kitchen rug,
the living room rug,
every toy we have ever bought her (except the indestructible Kong),
a pair of my jeans,
my favorite t-shirt,
6 pairs of shoes (including two pairs of my sister's flip flops---sorry Alex),
two towels,
one used maxi-pad (publicly)
and our ability to answer the door to our own house (it now takes both of us, one to open the door and the other to hold the leash).

Occasions we've regretted getting the dog:
None. (She's that cute)

After a long day of dragging strange things into the house, bothering the cat, destroying our property and scaring our guests, she curls up in our laps, tucks her head under our elbows and falls asleep. And we forget all about being mad at her until the next day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Steph vs. The Scary Movie

I have a love/hate relationship with horror movies. I am drawn to the suspense and twisted imagery. I get trapped in the shock and fear that people walk among us who would do gruesome things to fellow human beings.

I hate them though, because after soaking in the grisly and dreadful details of some serial killer, I lie awake for hours at night mentally surveying every nook and cranny of my home in which said serial killer might be hiding, waiting for me to fall asleep. Is he contorted in the hall closet with 20 years of old and dusty CD's? Crouched over the kitty litter? Camping out behind my wedding dress?

In the No Horror (or true crime) Treaty of 1999 Danny and I agreed that I would no longer be allowed to watch any movies where people get chopped up into little pieces and stuffed into suitcases by their quiet, churchgoing neighbors.

As Danny pointed out, when I don't sleep, he doesn't sleep. He's kept awake not only from my tossing and turning in nightmare, but from the inevitable, "Danny? Are you awake? Can you turn the hall light on?" or "Danny? Could you just check that all the doors are locked again?" that issue forth from my mouth the very second he has fallen asleep.

The treaty does include a "special circumstances" clause. Normally I can watch a scary movie as long as the rules are such that I know I am safe from harm. For instance, if it is not Friday the 13th I have nothing to fear from everyone's favorite hockey-masked menace. And since my parents never participated, to my knowledge, in roasting a child molester in a boiler room on Elm Street, Freddy holds no grudge against me. I do not live in the Amityville house, my neighborhood was not built on top of a cemetery or Indian burial ground, I am not tunneling down a dark cave and the dead of the world have not risen up from the cemeteries. Safe, safe, and safe.

Any tale of a serial killer, stalker or otherwise run of the mill, average Joe murderer though is strictly off-limits under any circumstances.

Because I've had relative success watching horror movies under the special circumstances clause, I got cocky. That's how Saw slipped in there. It was 3 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and I was flipping through channels looking for somewhere to land so I could fold my laundry. The people involved in the movie seemed to be caught in some sort of run down building that doesn't exist in my neighborhood. 30 minutes in I was already hooked and learned that the Saw psycho picks people and takes them to his little twisted game rooms.

Danny tried to comfort me by saying, "But he picks people who are ungrateful to be alive." But how do I know what his judging standards are? I was awake last night wondering. Maybe he deems me ungrateful because I was sitting inside on a beautiful sunny day, because I don't visit my parents enough or because I don't eat organic every time and smoke an occasional cigarette. He could be outside my house right now judging me unworthy since I am the only woman on the block who has failed to procreate. There's no way to tell.

I tried to beat it. When I still couldn't fall asleep, Danny obliged me with a game of name every Susan Sarandon movie, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Costner etc until my mind was so distracted trying to remember the name of the guy who played Tom in the Godfather that I forgot about the maniac hiding in my shower and fell asleep. (I woke up later to shout Robert Duvall!)

Will I ever learn my lesson? Or am I doomed to a lifetime of sleepless nights and checking under the bed? I guess the best I can do is lock my doors and stick to watching Golden Girls on Sunday afternoons. .

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fresh Off the Farm

"Across the lot from our office barn, you'll see the goat pasture, where Charlie frolics and grazes…"

This is the opening line of the mini-newsletter that came in the carton of Country Hen free-range, organic eggs I bought yesterday. I'd never before bought food that came with literature, so I decided to read on.

Charlie, it seems, was happily ruling the roost with his goat girlfriend Sarah, butting heads, basking in the sun, rifling through garbage, that is until Clover the goat showed up. According to "Farm News" Clover is a real asshole; an asshole who harasses everyone on the farm, destroys expensive fencing and continually escapes for trips to Mr. Mike's convenience store whence Dave the farmhand is forced to retrieve her using a snack and (I'm quoting here) "a little trickery."

The newsletter ends with the assurance that, at Country Hen, their quest is to produce the very best egg possible where, "the yolks stand tall and the whites don't run". I can't help but wonder though, what the fuck is going on over at Country Hen Farms? Not once, in the entire issue of "Farm News" did I hear any mention of chickens.

And now every time I crack open one of my Country Fresh, Free-Range Organic eggs, I wonder, where has that Clover gotten off to? And is anyone on the farm paying any attention to the goddamn chickens?

They could be smoking crack and eating their own shit for all we know because everyone on the farm is so damn busy chasing Clover the delinquent goat. How do I know my yolks will stand tall when the chickens that produced them are probably, right this very moment, down at Mr. Mike's chugging 40 ounces of Natty Light while Dave chases Clover around with a sausage?

I am faced with the very real possibility that my breakfast came from crack-smoking, shit-eating, drunk chickens.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

10 Things I Learned From Playing Pitfall

Since today is 80s nostalgia day (it's not really I just made that up)
I thought I'd share some poignant things I learned from one of my favorite Atari games.

Ten Life Lessons I Learned from Playing Pitfall

1. Appearances can be deceiving:
What looks like simply a shallow puddle of water could be a bottomless abyss that will suck you into its depths.

2. Be patient.
At some point the alligator whose head you are standing on will close its mouth so you can jump to safety.

3. There's always hope:
Even if you fall through a hole into the world's basement (never mind for now that a forest/desert shouldn't have a basement) you can always just climb back up the next ladder you happen upon.

4. Tackling problems head on won't kill you:
The huge logs of life will barrel towards you (always from the right). They will temporarily cripple you and may make a horrible farting noise, but they will not kill you. You my friend, are a survivor.

5. This too shall pass:
The other side of any hardship is only a hop, skip and a jump (or a swinging vine) away.

6. Never let your guard down:
Even if an area seems safe, an entire lake can materialize out of nowhere and swallow you whole.

7. If you see a giant scorpion or rattlesnake, run the other way:
That means exactly what it says.

8. There is such a thing as a second chance:
Life is just one big loop that will keep going around and around and around. The same obstacles you conquered before are waiting for you to come running through them again. Hopefully you'll have already learned your lesson about being patient on the alligator heads.

9. Take things one screen a time:
Don't try to just dash through from one obstacle to the next, you don't know what lies ahead and could run headfirst into a giant rattlesnake (see lesson 7)

10. You'll bounce back:
Even if you drown, fall into quicksand, get stung by a rattle snake and a scorpion, are beat over the head with rolling logs and fall into the mouth of an alligator, you will bounce back with a happy boink and keep searching for treasure (which ironically will not end up being worth all the trouble).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dogs Playing Poker

Flipping through the paper today, I saw the very familiar image of dogs playing poker. It's true that the novelty of this image wore off about 12 years ago for me and indeed I think most people are aware of this image now as the yardstick by which to measure how crappy some piece of art might be. (ie. that Ronald McDonald statue is the "Dogs Playing Poker" of sculpture).

However, as a first time dog owner I now have a fresh insight into this painting. And that is, I'm quite convinced that the artist of this painting did not even own a dog. Or if they did, their dog bore absolutely no resemblance to the canine who resides in my household.

My dog would be absolutely abysmal at poker. Not because she isn't smart. She's a very quick learner, she just couldn't contain an emotional reaction if her life depended on it. Her best attempt at keeping it together when she's excited closely resembles a tea kettle on the brink of explosion. She will sit when told although she's quaking with excitement from paw to paw and emitting a steady high pitched whine from the very core of her being.

Come to think of it, I think cats are far better suited for a round of poker. Just by looking at the cat, I can't tell if he feels like snuggling up beside me or peeing in my shoe. Is the cat gazing at me with all-consuming hatred? Or tender affection? I may never know.

The dog on the other hand is currently running laps around the living room (a celebration of the major canine breakthrough of actually catching her tail).When I come home at the end of the day, I don't even know where the cat is. But the dog is practically doing backflips. She couldn't be more excited if a 5-foot tall strip of Beef Jerky walked in the room.

There's no doubt in my mind, if that dog had a good hand in poker, you would know about it. Even with a pair of fours she'd be bouncing off the walls like a leprechan on crack.As the world's worst poker player, her explosive emotions would be surpassed only by her complete inability to strategically and responsibly ante the contents of her little doggy purse.

She's impulsive you see. She will drop anything she is doing for the tiniest piece of food. I'm certain that in the heat of the moment she would give up every comfort we have provided her in return for the burnt stub of an Oscar Meyer Weiner.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe that artist did have a dog. A dog capable of reining it in with a paw full of aces. But not my dog. My dog is currently prancing around the living room with a rope in her mouth because she beat Danny at a game of tug.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Our Herpes Problem

Danny and I have a herpes problem. I'm pretty sure we got it from our neighbor, via our shared lawn service guy.

We first noticed our neighbor, a retired war vet who lives across the street with his wife, had it about two weeks ago when we were out walking our dog and spotted clusters of bulbous white mushrooms sprouted on his lawn near the road.

"Gross" I said, "Looks like lawn herpes."

"Yeah," Danny added, "That lawn is the neighborhood slut."

The following week we asked our lawn service guy to come mow our grass (it had gotten so long that if the cat laid down in it we could no longer see him). It turned out though that we weren't the only folks on the block who'd made a lawn booty call that day and our lawn guy informed us he had to service our neighbors first.

A few days later we noticed the little white pimples in our own backyard. It started out innocently, just a couple little polyps here and there. The sort of thing you might just ignore and hope it's razor burn, but by the end of the week it had, forgive my word choice, mushroomed out of control.

"Have you seen the yard?" Danny said, "It has Herpes. Bad."

"Oh Yes, I've seen it. And that's not just any yard herpes. That's the super-mega-giant strain of herpes. Some of those mushroom caps are bigger than dinner plates!"

"Do you think the lawn guy spread the spores?"

"Well, we can't exactly ask him to wipe his blade before he sticks it in our grass can we?"

The herpes is at least confined to our fenced in backyard where we're spared the shame of the entire neighborhood knowing that our lawn has VD. But I can't get it to go away and it nibbles at my consciousness all day long.

Yesterday I got angry and tried to kick my way through the giant mushroom village bulging next to the fence. I'm talking Disney World, Alice in Wonderland sized Fungus. I was like a fairy town Godzilla storming down gnome street.

All I accomplished was a pus covered shoe. The aftermath of my destruction is strewn across the lawn now, spawning more bunches of little white zits that I know will blossom into top hat sized toadstools.

I guess this is our punishment for being too damn lazy to mow our own damn grass. This is what we get when we invite foreign weed wackers onto our virgin vegetation. So I'll just have to live with the burgeoning bulbs that have blemished my lawn's reputation and pray that the gnomes don't take revenge while I sleep.

Monday, January 1, 2007

How Much Does a Beer Cost in Mexico?

My husband and I decided this was the year we’d learn Spanish. He is the only member of his Cuban family that doesn’t speak the language, and I, well, needed something new to frustrate me and prove once again why I’m not a member of Mensa.
With a Barnes and Noble gift card we bought 18 sessions of pure Spanish Fiesta on 10 CD’s. At the beginning, life was simple and joyous. Our language guides, Juan and Louisa, patiently held our hands through phrases like, Hola Senora, where is the Restaurante Bolivar?

In the following weeks we visited the Restaurante Bolivar many happy times with Juan and Louisa. On random occasions we were joined by their friends Carlos, Mrs. Gonzales and the mysterious “businessman” Mr. Sanchez (though no one knows his “business” and Juan says he has too much money). Those were the good ol’ days. I remember well Juan prompting me to ask Carlos how many beers he could drink in ten minutes and who could forget the time Mrs. Gonzales told us it was too early to buy good things in Chile, I nearly toppled my taco laughing.

In the golden era, when we only knew numbers 1-10, a beer and a cold sandwich could be had for a mere 7 pesos. Now, on lesson 15, the inflation has gotten so bad we can’t even get a glass of cold water for less than 64 dollars. And Mrs. Gonzales has a bad habit of leaving us with the bill, saying things like, “I would like to buy all the beers, but I only have 4 pesos, my husband has all the money at the Hotel Bolivar.” (I hated to tell Mrs. Gonzales that I’d seen her husband headed to the airport with Louisa earlier that afternoon. But, maybe she knew that already, and that’s why she had 14 beers and a shot of tequila lined up in front of her at the moment).

The rising prices at the Restaurante Bolivar and the Gonzales’ failed marriage weren’t the only distressing things as we delved deeper into the tangled world of Introductory Spanish. Missing the days of simple pleasantries and five-peso beers, my husband and I began to strain and struggle, attempting to sputter out sentences such as “My wife doesn’t have much money, she bought many things in Los Angeles, many good things.” Also, Juan and Louisa were growing impatient with us. They moved quickly now and incessantly demanded to know the time.

I definitely knew something was up when Juan asked, “Do you have 17 minutes to talk with me about buying a time share in the Caribbean? If not, could I have 347 dollars and 5 pesos?” It slowly came together in my head, the dinners, the mysterious Mr. Sanchez, the “good” things from Chile, Mr. Gonzalez skipping town with all the pesos. Serves me right for trusting people who sit around all day drinking 45-dollar beers and eating cold sandwiches at the Hotel Bolivar. But my reply to Juan was only, “I want to eat something now, something cold.”

We were trapped and frustrated. We tried to reason with Juan and Louisa. We yelled at them and rolled our eyes. But it was no use, their sentences grew more complicated, their beers more expensive (last lesson I paid $92!) We were swimming in difficult phrases and the fear that Juan and Louisa would show up at our door demanding to know what time it was and how many dollars we had.

As we drove around trying to think of how to escape this world, we found ourselves taking our frustration out on other motorists. Shouting choice Spanish phrases at every car that cut us off or went to slow.

“I like Mexico!”



We couldn’t bear the thought of returning home to Juan and Louisa demanding our time and our pesos. We were backed into a corner. We had no choice but to walk in our home, take our places on the couch and threaten Juan and Louisa that if they didn’t shape up, we’d leave them for new friends. Here they come now, Bonjour Pierre and Madeleine!!