Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Steph's 2008 at a Glance

Oh how the time just flies (faster somehow as I get older). I'm excited for 2009, but here are some hightlights from the lat 365 days...

Things that made me happy
1. Finishing my book and getting an A-G-E-N-T (Steph does happy dance). And in case you’re wondering, getting an agent is not as easy as signing up with a cell phone carrier, it’s rough out there (in a rare move I’m tooting my own horn, in case you didn’t catch it).

2. Wild West vacation: Cirque, Spas, Roller Coasters, Harry Potter Movie props, earthquakes…it was happy heaven.

3. Rhapsody
I…LOVE…RHAPSODY. I could be a walking infomercial for this company. I signed up in January (wanting to make an honest music consumer of myself) and I was instantly addicted. Whatever music I want, I have. Just like that. I don’t have to pay a dollar a song and I don’t have to cross my fingers and hope I find it on the (ahem) other downloadable sources. It’s a (frugal) music lovers heaven. It’s totally the way to go.

Things that inspired me:
1. O-BA-MA—that’s all I have to say about that.

2. Afternoons with Alisa. Okay fine they were mornings (but afternoons sounds better). These were almost weekly sessions of writing, bitching about writing, and writing some more (sometimes eating, laughing, drinking and shopping were also involved). Sometimes we dressed up in crazy outfits just to see what people would say (which turned out to be nothing). No matter what, it was always chocolate for my soul.

3. I am Legend (the book by Robert Matheson). It’s super short and the ending is beautiful and has a dynamic shift unlike anything I’ve read elsewhere.

Things that made me laugh
Curb Your Enthusiasm, Flight of the Conchords, Tropic Thunder, Ghost Town (Ricky Gervais), and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.

Things that made me cry
1. Losing my grandma. It occurred to me that as we move across our time on this planet, there are only a handful of people (if that) who love us absolutely and completely. She was one of mine. Now there is a big gaping hole in my universe that I don’t quite know what to do with. But I still have the bundles of love she gave me, so I’ll figure something out.

2. Happy tears for all the friends who got married. Brooke and Nate, Alex and Jeff, Alisa and Chris.

Things that vacuumed up my time
Games on Facebook (I’m now in a twelve step recovery program for Word Challenge abusers)

Things that disappointed me.
(SPOILER—lest anyone throw stones my way like last time….) Breaking Dawn. I loved the first Twilight book. I would even say on the whole, the entire series was all right. But when I read Breaking Dawn my heart broke for all the teenage girls who will want to run down the aisle and start having babies when they’re barely grown up yet.

Things that challenged me
1. Running a half marathon. I totally thought I’d be doing the full thing in 2009. That was until I almost broke down crying around mile 11 wondering, What the fuck was I thinking? I do love running though, but I think 8 or 9 miles is my limit.

2. Writing a novel. I’m almost done with my first draft and am addicted to writing fiction. Get this…you can make shit up!

Music that filled my brain
I spent most of the year addicted to Rilo Kiley. I also discovered Camera Obscura and Sons & Daughters. Also, the Rhapsody New Wave channel, can’t go wrong with New Wave.

Sights that moved me
1. The sun setting over the Pacific in Santa Monica
2. Driving down into a midnight lake of fog in the West Virginia Mountains.
3. The full moon over the Atlantic in St. Augustine

I can't wait to see what great things await me in 2009. I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting My Holiday Spirit Back

So I’m back from Ohio and trying to get back in the swing of things.

I’m still heartbroken of course, and dealing with that mental incongruity that’s created when someone you talk to on a regular basis is no longer there. At least five times during the past week I’ve thought, “Oh, just wait until I tell Grandma about that.” A couple times at her wake or funeral someone would say something to me and I’d mentally file it away knowing I was going to tell her the next time we talked. It’s strange, but the impulse to call and tell her about my trip to Ohio is amazingly strong.

Getting back in the holiday spirit is hard. Usually by this time I have put up Christmas lights, made an excel spreadsheet of everyone on my shopping list, consulted last year’s spread sheet, baked dozens of cookies and begun my much anticipated wrapping paper frenzy. This year however, I have done none of that. Nada, zip, zero.

So I’m scrounging for last minute gift ideas. You may be stuck too, so I thought I’d spread some holiday shopping inspiration.

Star Trek plates.

This site was sent to me by my friend Kelly. Don’t tell Danny, but I think there will be a “Christmas in the Nexus” plate under the tree for him this year.

Flash drive bracelet

For the person who wants to have their data handy AND show the world they know how to accessorize…

Star wars flash drive set.

Don’t rely on the force to back up your files.

Custom Bobbleheads—you know you want one.


This is one of my favorites. Originally sent to me by Nicole, fellow cynic and friend. These are spoofs of those motivational posters you sometimes see in offices. My favorite: LOSING: If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.

Random stupid shit.

All the things I want and have no idea why. Including meatball bubble gum, a pirate toast stamper, and a yodeling pickle

Here’s a little gift to all of you, my grandma’s recipe for Snowball Cookies (Russian Tea Cakes). She usually made them by the ton.

1 cup butter
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 ¼ cups of flour
¼ teaspoon of salt
¾ cup of nuts

Chill dough and roll into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake at 400 until set but not brown (10-12 minutes). While still warm, roll in confectioners sugar. Cool and roll in sugar again.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Goodbye Dolly

My oh my. What ever prepares us for moments in life such as these? Nothing I suppose. This afternoon, my grandmother, Dolores Rose Seguin passed away.

For the first ten years of my life I lived with her. She sang Andrews Sisters songs to me before bed at night. She got me up and ready for school in the morning. She held my hand when I went to the doctor and let me help her in the kitchen when she baked Christmas cookies. She made sure my "slacks" fit right in the crotch and hemmed them when they were (always) too long.

Every single Saturday of my childhood she took Steve and I with her to the beauty parlor to get her hair "set." Afterwards, we walked to the bakery and she let Steve and I pick out a dozen doughnuts (as long as one was a chocolate eclaire for her). Every night after saying my prayers I told her I loved her more than all the houses and all the cars and all the trees and all the stars...

Last week was her birthday. I'm sure she wanted to hang on long enough to fit just one more in (she was efficient like that). She liked to rib Danny for never picking up the phone, so she was tickled pink when he called her on her birthday (and gave her his work line---even I don't have that number!)

Grandma was a clown if there ever was one. She had an affinity for tabloid magazines, butterflies and Tim Allen movies. She collected nativity scenes and made THE BEST french toast on the planet. She rocked the house at Atari games. She always had a wry joke. She read my blog on a regular basis (and always called to chide me when I used to many swear words.)

When I talked to her last week, on her birthday, she was going in for her birthday "meal" (an IV bag). I told her to make sure they put a candle in it so she could blow it out and make a wish. I will miss her immensely, but I'm so very happy that I got to tell grandma one last time, that I love her more than all the cars, and all the houses, and all the trees and all the stars...

Monday, December 1, 2008

An Open Letter to All Motorists

Thursday morning I loaded up my Mp3 player with thousands of songs and headed south to Ft. Myers for Thanksgiving. Danny stayed behind because he wanted to catch up on work (and also because he is a borderline Scrooge when it comes to the holidays).

Generally, I am a pretty laid back driver. I don’t weave in and out of traffic, I rarely go more than ten miles an hour over the speed limit, I don’t tailgate and I always use my turn signal, sometimes, out of sheer habit, I flick it on even as I’m turning into my driveway.

I don’t get road rage (road sarcasm maybe.) However, there is one highway driving rule that morphs me into a crazed angry monster faster than a speeding bullet. So today I am making a plea. If you are in the left lane and there is a car approaching fast behind you---MOVE THE FUCK OVER.

As far as I'm concerned, if I have to pass you on the right you should be so ashamed of yourself that you want to crawl into a deep, deep hole and never come out again.

Thursday’s drive was about four and a half hours. I spent about two of those cursing drivers who stubbornly remained in my way as I tried to make it home in time to stuff myself with carbs and poultry.

My tension level was high for the first fifty or so left lane hogs, after that I pretty well relented to cruising with the flow of traffic even if that flow happened to be driving five miles per hour under the speed limit (sacrilege!) I consoled myself. Breathe in. Breathe Out. Choose a calming song. I tried to distract myself from my fury with a book on tape. Which I enjoy while driving but have come to realize the main drawback is my mind wanders rather easily and by the time I’ve finished wondering why I still call them books on tape even though it’s an mp3 file and why do I still say “mix tape” when I haven’t used a cassette in over a decade but “Mix CD” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it—I’ve rejoined the story and have no clue what’s going on.

Listening to a book on Thursday’s journey proved particularly difficult due to the fact that two out of three drivers wouldn’t GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY.

Okay. It’s okay. Breathe. In. Out. Relax. Concentrate on the amusing British accents of Oliver Twist. Think about turkey and stuffing. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of…fine, concentrate on the amusing British accents of Oliver Twist.

I did manage to make it home without blowing my top. Thankfully there wasn’t any traffic waiting to get on the island where my parents live or I may very well have just pulled into a gas station and had a Thanksgiving meal of Combos and M&Ms. But I didn’t need to resort to that, I pulled in to a fabulous dinner lovingly prepared by my family and all I had to do, was eat.

Woo hoo! Can you feel the stress? (I mean cheer) The holidays are here!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight, Oh, Obsessive Love

Saturday I saw Twilight with my friend and her twelve year old daughter. Because you know, I read the same books as pre-teen girls. Whatever. In case you live under a rock and have not heard of Twilight, it’s a wildly popular series of teen vampire novels.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. Girl moves to really crappy town in her junior year of high school. Girl falls for ridiculously good looking vampire boy. Vampire boy falls for girl (whose blood smells uncommonly yummy to him) but he’s conflicted because he could like, inadvertently crush her during one of their make out sessions.

The first book was a long, controlled, slow burn of desire. I felt physically relieved when Bella and Edward finally kissed. I took a cold shower and wondered, where were the hot vampire boys when I moved across the country my junior year of high school?

Twilight is a great love story even if I did find myself cringing a lot at how obsessed Bella is with Edward. Maybe I cringed because as an adult looking back, I can see that I was nearly as obsessed with my first boyfriend. I am sure my parents wanted to gag because looking back, I want to gag too. I had a collection of little framed photos of him that I kept by my bedside and when adults asked about my boyfriend, I excitedly ran up to my room, brought down my portable shrine, and arranged it on the kitchen table for show and tell. Ugh. Gag me (with a spoon).

But it was exhilarating. I know now that who broke up with who or who said what to so and so after math class or who has a crush on who even though their best friend had a crush on them first is inconsequential, but back then, these things were THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. Wars, presidential elections, financial crises took a back seat to whether Josh answered the note you left in his locker after fourth period. (Like, OH MY GOD he totally DIDN’T! What an ASS-wipe!... Let’s call him on three-way.)

Twilight (the book) captured the urgency and mystery of the new feeling of falling for someone. As for the movie, well, let’s just say that for two hours I alternated between an eyeroll, a smirk, and a skeptical face. Mostly because the heartfelt (or teenfelt) lines from the book came out empty on the screen without a believeable attraction to back them up. Edward walked around with a constantly furrowed brow (to show us his conflict). And the film was peppered with super corny, seriously cringe-worthy scenes (see slo-mo Vampire baseball).

I don’t know, maybe there is something to be learned from Edward and Bella. Maybe our adult relationships could stand a tiny dose of YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING (just a bit though, I mean really there's laundry, dishes, all sorts of things that need to get done as soon as the couch make out session is over).

For a real dose of reality, it would be interesting to see the movie of Bella and Edward on their fifth wedding anniversary when they went to Ikea and Bella yelled at an old woman who snapped at Edward for moving too slow. Oh wait, that’s part of my love story…which I’ll tell you about later….

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lunch Lady's Daughter

Last week was my thirty-first birthday. As always, my mom called around noon and reminded me that I was born, “Just in time for lunch.”

She also told me another story, one I’ve heard many times before, but this year I can’t stop thinking about it. Mom has always joked that the lunch lady wanted me. See when I was cooking in my mom’s belly, she was still a high school senior who pushed a plastic orange tray through a lunch line to get food every day.

As the legend goes, each day this particular lunch lady (whom I’ve just named May in my head) told my mom, “If you don’t want that baby, I’ll take it!”

Growing up, the lunch lady was something of a joke, as in, “If you come home puking vodka one more time, I’m going to call up that lunch lady and see if the offer still stands.”

When my mom told the story this year she said, “No really, the lunch lady really wanted to keep you. It got a little creepy actually. I had to switch lunch lines.”

I couldn’t help but think of my previous blog entry (Excuse me, Are You Going to Raise that Baby?) as it dawned on me that the creepy lunch lady could be me. Because if I worked in a high school I guarantee you I would be stalking the lockers of every pregnant girl around. Possibly even the ones I merely suspected were sexually active (Pssst, hey girls, over here, if you get knocked up, here’s my card! Call me….seriously.)

It’s strange to think that the course of my life was hinged on the whim of a seventeen year old girl. A simple decision could have cast me in an entirely different role in life. Named and raised by the high school lunch lady, I could have been anyone. Maybe I’d be Margie the Seamstress, Paula the Pediatrician, Chrystal the Crack Whore. All my mom had to do was say, “This is too much to handle,” and I would have been whisked off to a land of stainless steel counter tops, hair nets and large bins of macaroni salad. (The super-secret tater tot recipe would be my birth right).

But my mom didn’t give me to May. Honestly, the decision is still a mystery to me. Put in the same situation, there’s NO WAY I would have had me. I would have begged and stolen and hitchhiked my way to the abortion clinic and if that didn’t work I would have auctioned me off to whatever school service employee was interested.

Not my mom though, whatever her reasons, she kept me and despite some rocky times for both of us, things have turned out pretty well. Neither of us have ever been in jail. I am not currently addicted to crack or having sex for money, I bathe on a regular basis and never call people after nine on a school night. All in all I’d say my mom fulfilled her requirements as a parent.

Would May have done the same? I don’t know. I’ve always imagined May the Lunch Lady as kind of a weirdo. But now that I want a baby and can’t have one, I understand her. I have a strange desire to move across time and space to comfort her. I know the heartache of wanting something you can’t have. It must have been devastating to want a child and watch this young girl, a child herself really, passing in front of her eyes every day at noon.

When I think about it, May did contribute to my existence. She provided my mom with essential sustenance in the form of heaping piles of canned green beans and macaroni and cheese. Maybe in some way I was aware of her.

Now when I think of being born just in time for lunch, I think I was giving a nod to May the Lunch Lady. As if to say, “Maybe I wasn’t meant to be with you, but don’t worry, your baby will come down the line eventually. Also, thanks for all the tater tots.”

(P.S. Obviously my mom deserves double helpings of props for squatting me out, hauling my ass around, cleaning up aforementioned vodka puke and generally doling out greasy, buttery lovin' for thirty-one years.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Me llamo Stephanie

I finally did it. I signed up for Spanish class. Every year I look at the book and every year the class is on a night of the week I have regular meetings. But this year, miraculously, my Wednesdays were relatively clear.

Before I went I was a little nervous. I haven’t taken a beginning language class since middle school. There were three choices back then. Those of us who imagined we would one day enjoy a baguette and a glass of merlot in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, signed up for French. Those who were more practical and who wanted to, oh I don’t know, talk to actual people who spoke the language they were learning, took Spanish. And those who wanted to buck the entire system took German.

Seeing as how my family roots lie in French Canada, I saw it as my duty to my ancestors to learn French. But years later, all this amounts to is an occasional crossword clue and knowing how to correctly pronounce the titles of the French movies that play at the Hippodrome.

Spanish is a much more useful language. Most members of my husband’s family speak Spanish and my dream is to attend family events and be able to understand toasts and wedding vows. Also, thanks to Danny’s family I have plenty of people to practice (and embarrass myself) with. Because embarrassing yourself is an integral part of the language learning process. Like walking up to a French woman and saying, “I like your socks!” when you really mean glasses.

My class is held in a local middle school. It started out pretty simple, but by the end of our two hour session I wanted TO KILL MYSELF.

Our venezualan teacher was moving her way through vowel sounds. This is what "a" sounds like etc. We moved on to the consonants and were half way through she asked, Hay Preguntas? (Any Questions?)

A woman raised her hand, “Yes, how do you say sky blue? You know like the paint color at Lowes?”

The teacher looked confused, but answered the question. I gave this woman the benefit of the doubt, maybe she couldn’t wait until later for this information because later that night she was flying to Madrid to paint a house. Who knows?

After the alphabet, we learned some simple phrases. Starting with, “Como se llama?” (What is your name?) We practiced it a couple times and were about to move on to the next phrase when the teacher asked, Hay Preguntas?

Now, most people would think that the question “What is your name?” is pretty straightforward. Those people would be wrong. According to my new classmates, the phrase has infinite and sundry interpretations. A lesson that should have taken ten minutes dragged on for forty-five as people asked questions like:

Which name are you asking for? My full name or my nick name? Should I also say my middle name? How do I ask someone for their last name? Do you mean my name as it would appear on a job application? Or what my mother calls me? My name is Ed. But my full name is Edward John Clancey the III, should I give that name to the person asking? Or just say Ed?

The teacher was, understandably, a bit perturbed. She kept trying to explain a concept that any five year old would have gotten immeadiately. “The question is just, what is your name.”

It didn’t stop there. One man asked, “Wait, so you’re asking for the number?”

Again, the teacher looked confused. I could feel her wondering, are these people smoking crack laced with loco juice? “Noooooo,” she said slowly, “this question is asking someone their name. That’s it. If it’s a job you can give your full name if you want. But if it’s like, your neighbor asking your name, just say your name.”

The class was still skeptical, but we moved on. I was happy when we didn’t cover more deeply philosophical questions as “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is love?” Because if we had I might have shot someone.

For next week we’re supposed to bring in two words or a phrase we looked up, something we might use in class. I think mine’s gonna be, “Can it assholes. I’m trying to learn Spanish.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday morning coupon product parade…Christmas edition

It’s about that time again, actually it’s not even close to that time again but since apparently we’re supposed to start planning for Christmas as soon as we stop wearing white after labor day, I’m just going to float with the tide. (Because contrary to what you might think I’m not really a boat rocking type of person.)

Up first, Talking Teddy from Dream Products Inc. Talking Teddy makes learning fun and easy! You can teach kids to count and dress! However, one can’t help but wonder, what psycho would teach their kids to dress like a reject circus clown?

Furthermore, when oh when will manufacturers realize that talking stuffed animals come alive at night and slaughter entire families in their sleep! This is an enormous national problem. Frankly, I’m surprised neither presidential candidate has addressed it. Have they learned nothing from Chucky? Don’t they know that voodoo witch doctors stuff these things with the souls of serial killers and sociopaths? Plus, in that outfit even I would want to kill my family. I don’t want to be anywhere in the neighborhood when Talking Teddy comes to and realizes that for all of eternity he’ll be wearing red and blue cargo pants with a neon green pocket, especially after a day of having his extremities squeezed and being forced to recite the alphabet.

Don’t think it’s true? Visit the Dream Products website. You'll be terrified to know that Teddy is featured along side such accessories as, a full set of self threading needles, super long reach scissors, and high powered binoculars. If you really want to scare kids this Halloween, set out these little minions of hell.

Next up, if homicidal bears don’t float your boat, how about a book---starring YOUR CHILD! See your offspring come to life in print as a fairy, a princess, Elmo’s best friend or any number of other adventures. Just send My Adventure Books your child’s name, birthday, address, brothers and sisters names, mother’s maiden name, social security number…hold it right there. Anybody else smell a scam? I’d bet any money after you give up that info they call asking for your bank routing numbers and say all you need to do to get the books is "hold" a few thousand dollars in your bank account.

My suspicions were confirmed when I took a closer look at the picture in the ad. Instead of the jolly Santa we’ve come to know and love, this Santa motions to the reader like a drug dealer in a dark alley. Behind him in Santa’s little sweatshop, surly elves are engaging in all manner of shady goings-on. One is obviously wasted and dragging a passed-out bear across the floor. In the back, an elf spreads his legs while a friend points lasciviously to his merry twig and berries. Meanwhile, Santa tries to reel you in for the con and subtly threatens that he knows everything about you, while four of his cronies sneak away with an over sized baseball bat and two large dice to take a big money game down the street. Other “My Adventure” titles: Disney Princess Adventures in Human Traffiking, Fairies Fun with Prostitution Rings, Cars (Hot and Stripped), and Dora the “Exporter.”

Our next product is not really a product but an ad for the the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. “Bring the Whole Family!” Time Magazine says.

I don’t think so Joe.

Because I see the look on that kid’s face. It’s not awe or Christmas cheer. It’s terror. That kid knows that at any second lasers and flames will shoot out of those Rockettes eyes. Little Timmy has realized it was all a trap. Santa was probably in on it too.

The Rockettes have had enough you see. They kick and twirl and dance for the man all day and all night and for what? A mediocre pay out and a pension plan that just tanked on the stock market? They know that someday, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, their legs won’t kick so high and their cheeks won’t be as smooth. They’ll be replaced with newer, fresher models and turned out into the cruel, cruel world. So they’re organized. Soon the theater will be filled not with yuletide joy but with the stench of seared flesh and puddles of blood. These toy soldiers aren’t toyin’ around. Timmy knows it.

Timmy, knowing he’s not long for this earth, wishes his parents would have realized the truth about Christmas, and that truth is… Little Timmy doesn't give a flying fuck about the Rockettes. He’d rather play Wii at FAO Schrawtz because he’s not seventy, he’s seven.

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone. And after THAT have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. And then, after THAT, have a happy and safe Hanukkah. And then, finally, after four months of waiting, have a happy, killer stuffed bear and Rockette free Christmas.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Vampire Story

In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday I thought I’d post this little number I dug out of my archives. It’s a vampire story and my debut in fiction.

Judging from the tri-color lined newsprint it’s written on, I’m going to guess this was written circa first grade.

In my opinion, this vampire story surpasses the Twilight series, mostly because (spoiler alert!) there’s no teenage girl who gets pregnant at the end and insists on having the baby even though she’s puking geysers of blood and the baby is cracking her ribs and she will die when it’s born but, oh lucky for her her husband is a vampire so she can live forever and raising an infant is totally a breeze because vampires don’t require sleep...ANYWAY…

I hope you enjoy “Untitled.” (Author’s commentary is in Parentheses.)

Once upon a trick or treat there was a girl her name was Linda and she was trick or treating.

(I’m pretty sure I thought “once upon a trick or treat” was a wildly charming line that would make my teacher swoon. And second, unless this is Halloween 1965, there’s no little kid named “Linda” probably my teacher’s name was Linda and I was attempting to suck up.)

She came to the first door. She knocked and said trick or treat! The door opened there was a vampire he said aha! You can my victom!
Oh no!
He took her in.
No! I-I-I’m only a little girl!
Anyone can be my victom.

(Note my avant-garde lack of quotation marks or tags to clue the reader in as to who’s speaking. Also, the vampire’s equal opportunity outlook on who could be his victim was before its time.)

There was monsters & goblins and wiches. Were they real? Or were they just big kids all dressed up? The vampire put me in the basement. I looked at my watch it was 10:00! I was suppose to be home by 8:30.

(Let’s forget for a second Linda’s hope that, while the vampire is real, the monsters goblins and “wiches” are just the big kids. Let’s instead focus on my masterful show of the passage of time in this story. Remember that the vampire’s door is the first door our little Linda comes to, so let’s say for the sake of argument that her parents, because they’re assholes, only gave her an hour for candy collecting (never mind that they sent her out alone, this was the early eighties, that was still OK). That would mean that Linda knocked on the vampire’s door at approximately 7:30, at which point he grabs her, puts her in the basement, she looks at her watch, 10:00! (which for dramatic effect, is like 3 in the morning to a first grader.) Either the vampire’s basement exists in some sort of time warp worm hole, or the events that transpired between 7:30 and 10:00pm were just too horrible to recount, OR, I only had one sheet of lined newsprint paper and was trying to move the narrative along so it would all fit on one page.)

I looked and saw a door! It was not locked!

(Here the author has become Linda and realized that, while the vampire is non-discriminating, he isn’t all that smart when it comes to locking up his prey.)

It went threw a spooky haunted hall. And there was a slide at the end that led outside.

(That’s me cranking up the action sequence suspense. Also, keeping in mind my target audience, I thought a slide would be an exciting feature, Linda could escape AND have fun at the same time!)

She ran home and did not daer go to the next door!
The end
or is it? ha! ha! ha!

(That’s me leaving the door open for a sequel)

The general moral I was trying to get across here is do not go trick or treating in a neighborhood where vampires live. And if you do get stuck in a vampire’s time warp basement, look around and see if there happens to be slide that leads outside. But whatever you do, do not dare go to the next door!!!! HA HA HA!

The end (or is it? HA! HA! HA!)

P.S. The picture above is my brother Steve's portrayal of a Welcome Back Cotter inspired devil. I'm pretty sure he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and had nightmares for awhile. Also that trident was a popular playtime accessory for years to come, in such games as, "Poke Down the Wasp Nest" and "Fix Grandma's Hair While She's Sleeping." (Steve has only recently stopped having nightmares after seeing himself in the mirror.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Steph Makes Roomba for Zumba

My friend Lori has been trying to get me to go to a Zumba class for awhile. Last week I almost went, but when I showed up late and saw the aerobics room of the gym packed with wall to wall bodies, the claustrophobic side of me said no thanks. I decided to get on the elliptical and watch the economy continue to crumble on CNN instead.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Zumba, it’s an exercise method based on Latin dance moves that the official website describes as a “fitness party.”

Yesterday, I made it to the “party” and learned some valuable information about myself. I have really known this my whole life but Zumba confirmed it. I am rhythmically challenged. Actually no, it’s not the rhythm part that’s challenging, it the movement part that’s the problem.

Lori looked like she just stepped out of an Enrique Iglesias video. I on the other hand, moved with the ease and grace of a foldable army cot. If I could have videoed myself for your viewing pleasure I would have. But that won't be necessary. Just take a moment to picture John McCain or Frankenstein dancing at a Shakira concert…I’ll wait while you conjure this mental image…got it? That’s about what I looked like at Zumba class.

I’m a natural at a lot of things, telling a story, drawing a picture, but I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a natural dancer. Some part of me always knew this and this is the reason why I sat on the floor reading on the days when I went with my mom to work and watched her teach other people to Samba and Foxtrot. It’s the reason why I snuck out to go find alcohol fifteen minutes into every school dance.

I was not the kid who went out to run around and play or spontaneously combusted into dance. I was the kid who sat inside reading books beyond my age level, doing cross stitch patterns, and watching movies on HBO with my grandma. I mean don't get me wrong, I love parties. It's just that usually my role at them is to sit somewhere and make fun of things, usually myself.

In the video I've included here, these children, who've just learned to walk a few short years ago, are more coordinated at Zumba than I am. The girl in the pink shorts really wants to get down, sister friend has got some moves. I relate more to the first girl in pink though, who obviously wants to stick her head in her easy bake oven rather than dance on a stage. At various points she stops to check her nails and fix her hair, all the while carefully moving back behind the other kids. The piece de resistance is at the end when she outright refuses to wave her hands above her head. She begrudingly does it, but I have to say I've been in this same position, I've never NOT felt like an idiot at a concert with my hands in the air. It's clear that this girl would rather be home reading Anne of Green Gables.

I’m a pretty laid back person, but I was never really one for letting loose. So maybe Zumba can teach a thirty-something dog some new tricks. I’ll go back, and I’ll let you know when I advance from having the grace of an army cot to a limber zombie.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Meaning of Life (in a way)

Thursday my friend Pennie passed away.

At her memorial, I was reminded that during a very dark time in my life, Pennie met me for breakfast every Sunday for about two months. We’d both shared similar childhood experiences and she met me to talk, to tell me about her life, to assure me that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. She helped me a great deal.

There are a lot of people in my life, but only a small number would commit to me in that way (unless they have a Psychology degree and charge $200 an hour). Pennie was a special person and I’ll miss her very much.

After the services, I sat with my friends Chris and Alisa on their porch and talked about life and death. I read somewhere that this is what makes us different from animals, that we know we’re going to die. I’ve been thinking of something Chris asked ever since then. Does knowing your time here is finite change the way you act in day to day life? I’ve been thinking, can I say that I’ve done the same thing for other people as Pennie did for me?

So I’ve been analyzing a bit. In the four days since Pennie died, I have thought ill of people I love. I have held grudges and kept anger inside. I haven’t called my mom. And I have picked two, no three (really stupid) fights with my husband.

One fight was about how he’s always wearing his headphones at his computer, which by the way is a courtesy to me so I don’t have to hear every ding and bang of whatever game he’s currently addicted to. My grievance though, was that he can’t hear and respond to me no matter where I am in the house, being of the opinion that anything springing forth from my mouth is of utmost importance and requires prompt attention even if mumbled under my breath while walking away. Especially since what I was mumbling is that he should look before he puts things in the washing machine like my suit jacket and would he put his suit jacket in the washer? No.

But alas, here I go, so easily stumbling into tiny things that seem so insignificant in the grand scheme of life. So what’s my point? I don’t really have one (come on are you really that surprised?) I guess the point is we just have to keep on living the best we can every day. Loving the people we love, helping others, not holding grudges, and checking that things aren’t dry clean only before putting them in the washer.

(Danny’s addendum: How about not putting things that are dry clean only in the hamper).

(Steph’s addendum to the addendum: Still you should look, and come on it’s a suit jacket, it sticks out like a ketchup bottle on a snowbank.)

For Pennie

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong on a boat out at sea
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere you feel free
--Tom Petty

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Myth of the Apathetic American

I love the street where I live.

First, I live next door to some of the nation’s best children, really. Everyone on the block (except for us) has reproduced and done a damn good job of it. To my left, there’s Shelby and Will. Shelby is a little blonde toddler who really and truly could not be any cuter. Her older brother Will is like Dennis the Menace (without the menace). Often when I walk by he’ll make sure I’ve met his dog or tell me he likes my red car.

To my right live the world’s nicest teenagers. They’re polite, quiet, pleasant. One of them saved my cat’s life one time. Seriously, I was NOT that nice when I was in high school. I was the snotty brat who trampled your rose bushes when I stumbled home drunk in the middle of the night.

The kid’s parents are pretty great too, I can always count on my neighbors to keep a watch on my house, throw a good block party and I’m sure if I needed a cup of sugar that would be available too.

Our lawns are mowed, our cars are sparkling in our driveways. You might come to my street and call us banal and suburban. But one thing you could NOT call us, is apathetic.

A week or so ago I came home and counted ten presidential yard signs. That is just the eight or so houses that make up my block, and I had not yet cast my yard vote.

I may not agree with everyone (ahem McCain folks). But I’d rather live on a street where everyone says how they feel than one where no one dares an opinion any day. I might feel differently if I was the only Obama on the block, but as it is that’s not the case.

Election years are always a little touchy. I’m sure everyone has family members and people they love whose opinions vary wildly from their own. If you’re anything like me, you mostly try to steer the conversation to easier topics like Americas’s Next Top Model (I’m going for Marjorie) or movies (Ghost Town was great!).

But it's also very exciting, sometimes stressful, and exhilirating when everyone is wearing their opinions right out front.

One of the things that shocked me when I spent a summer in France was just how politically out there they all are. You’ll be hard pressed to find any cab driver in France who will not engage you in some political discussion or another. Often the cab drivers and grocery store clerks of France knew more about the history and politics of America than I did.

The first time I took a taxi in Avignon it was three o’clock in the morning and the driver said, “Let me ask you something. How come your country won’t buy our mustard?”

Padon Moi?

He proceeded to talk about a Senate bill and something or other about a ban on French mustard. I knew nothing about it.

“No, really,” he said, “No hard feelings. Is it that you don’t like our mustard?”

I didn’t know. It did occur to me that we had our own mustard, and that it was called French’s. But I couldn’t figure out how to say that well in French and it was beside the point. The point was that this man wanted to talk politics with a stranger at 3 o'clock in the morning, in a non-election year.

We’re not quite yet on France’s level when it comes to openly discussing our views year-round(possibly because we don't drink as much as they do), but the myth of the politically apathetic American is a sham. My street (and perhaps yours too) proves it.

And, simply because I feel like it. I'm going to tie back to Thomas Jefferson.

"We in America do not have Government by the Majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

This brings me to a very important point. (Author steps up on soap box) PLEASE register to vote if you’re not already. The deadline is October 6 in Florida. It pisses me off that we have to register at all when in most countries your citizenship is enough and it’s a public holiday.

I learned something disturbing at the Obama rally, (at least in Florida) if you haven’t voted in the last four years YOU ARE NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE! So please, please please, ask your friends and family and neighbors and dentists and circus clowns to make sure they’re registered.
And if they have a second, ask them if they like French mustard, I should probably get back to that cabbie…

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Smart-Ass, Suck-up, Seven Year Old...

I went through my cedar chest today and found these assignments from first grade. I also found a love letter to Jesus and a vampire story I wrote when I was six (look out Stephenie Meyer!) I think it’s funny to see the little seedlings of myself in here. A little bit smart-ass, a little bit suck-up and a dream to play in the major leagues (it could still happen.)

Assignment #1
KNOWING YOURSELF---Taking care of yourself is important and something you will do if you value yourself. Complete the statements below.

1. When I feel well, I… PLAY

2. When I do not feel well I…REST
(Rest? What seven year old says rest? Mother, I’m a bit fatigued, I think I’ll just have a little rest.)

3. When I am encouraged I…DO IT
(Damn straight)

4. When I am discouraged I…THINK ABOUT IT.

5. When I like how I look I…SMILE

6. When I do not like how I look I…FIX IT UP.
(I’m trying to set myself up as a woman of action.)

7. When I am happy I…ACT HAPPY.
(Smart ass. What the hell do you think I do when I’m happy? I act happy goddamn it.)

8. When I am angry I…LET IT OUT
(From this answer we can clearly see that my first grade class has just finished some sort of “feel good about yourself” video where they told us things like when you’re angry “let it out.” I do not remember any video but know that my reality is quite the contrary. I am still holding grudges from around that time. Like how I wasn’t allowed to get cupcakes at the bakery because my grandma said I’d only lick the frosting off even though STEVE was the one who only ate the frosting, I ate the WHOLE cupcake thank you very much. (boy it feels good to let that out.)

9. When I am alone I… FEEL SORT OF SCARED

10. When I’m lonesome I…SORT OF LOOK SAD.
(So basically, were you to happen upon little Stephie sitting alone, you’d find me sort of scared and looking sort of sad. Like a puppy that just got kicked.)

11. When I like myself I…AM PROUD

12. When I do not like myself I…MOOP AROUND
(I’m sure I thought I’d impress the teacher by using the word “mope” but don’t think I got its full effect here.)

The next assignment talked about getting the right balance of nutrition, exercise, work and relaxation.

My favorite foods are: Pizza, Chicken, Oranges
(I am sooooo full of shit. I can’t even recall ever eating an orange as a child, let alone giving it a top three spot in the favorites. Obviously it was the healthiest sounding food, that self-conscious little first grader Steph could think of on the fly.)

I exercise by: doing sit-ups, pushup and stretches
(As of that survey I had never attempted any of those things. Sounds to me like I was recalling what I could from whatever exercise program was on while I waited for the Mickey Mouse club in the morning. Although with pushups apparently I knew it would be unrealistic to make it plural—that’s still true.)

I Always have time for: reading, praying
(What a fucking suck up. Hmmm, let’s see, will Sister Lucille see through my veiled attempt at flattery?)

I have fun when I: play baseball
(I never played baseball)

My hobby is: Reading, Baseball, Coloring
(twenty three years later I still do two out of those three on a regular basis)

Write some goals for yourself you wish would come true
1. I hope I can be a sea diver
2. I hope I can live to a ripe old age (Am I seven or 72?)
3. I hope I can always do good in school.
4. I hope I can have a religious education
5. I hope I can always help others.
6. I hope I can be the first girl to play major league baseball.

We were then instructed to circle the ONE goal we thought could actually become a reality. I would like to meet the person who came up with this piece of early educational genius. Here’s a swell idea, let’s get a bunch of seven year olds to list out all their hopes and dreams and then whittle them down one by one until they’re left with only a single goal in life.
I circled, “do good in school” as my one realistic dream. Aside from the irony of the incorrect grammar of the statement, it’s an interesting choice. I guess even at seven I realized that sea diving in Ohio might be hard to come by. I let go hopes of being in the majors most likely due to my early understanding of sexism and my lack of any athletic ability. I knew that a religious education would not really help me where I was going. And, by the age of seven, I had already given up on the prospect of a long life and forsaken my fellow humans to help their own damn selves.

The assignment was to think about times when YOUR actions might have caused others stress. However, secure in the knowledge that I couldn’t possibly be causing stress to anyone else, I instead used the page to air my grievances about family and friends.

HOME: Everybody always giggles at me because I’m chubby.

WITH FRIENDS: My best friend keeps bragging about what she has and what she does.

(That was also listed on the SCHOOL line but I crossed it out. Apparently I was sick of hearing what my best friend has and does. In a later section I describe my personality as “Doesn’t like to brag.” Take that, bitch…however when asked to list ways I could improve my personality, I could think of nothing.)

Check out this assignment where you can see a budding little smart ass in the making. (try it at home!)

A. Find a quiet spot out-of-doors. Relax yourself.

B. What you see: car
What you hear: wind rustling in the trees (bet I was particularly proud of that one)
What you Smell: flowers
What you Touch: the grass
What you Taste: an apple

(Again, a huge bushel of crap. I have painted a lovely scene, rustling breeze, grass, flowers, the taste of apple on my tongue. I highly doubt there was even an apple in the house when I did this assignment. Most likely I filled this out while sitting at the dining room table eating chips and dip and inhaling the smoke from grandma’s Virginia Slims.)

Here’s my favorite part though.

C. Did anything hamper your ability to concentrate? Yes, the outdoors

(It’s so perfect. When you go outside, what’s keeping you from being able to concentrate? The Outside asshole! Who can think with all this fucking nature? I never was an outdoorsy kind of girl. I was more of a watch TV and do cross-stitch patterns kind of kid.)

Look for more fun stuff later like report cards with comments like “shows no apparent self control…”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thomas Jefferson on Dogs

Last week we received some bad news. Our good friend Pennie went to the emergency room with back pain that she soon found out was caused by a huge mass of ovarian cancer.

Pennie made the cupcakes for my wedding, she’s more southern than grits, and is such a fantastic cook she could make a saltine cracker taste better than anything you’ve tasted in your life.

Sunday her sister called and asked if we could take care of Pinto, Pennie’s dog.

We agreed, not only because we love Pennie, but because if something ever happened to us, I would want to know someone who loves dogs (and me) would look after mine. My dog Kiddo is a big heart full of love. As a matter of fact, the biggest problem in my life right now is that getting out of bed is difficult when there’s a snuggle bundle curled up in a ball against your chest or tucked under your arm.

However, though my dog is unbearably cute, she’s a lot to handle. Before we got her we did some research and all signs pointed to—DO NOT get this breed. Look up Jack Russell Terriers and you will find a truck load of euphemisms. “Lively!” “Independent minded!” “Create their own fun when left alone!”

We once hired a trainer to help with her excitability. The woman made a “treat puzzle” that she said occupies dogs for hours. Kiddo had it decimated and emptied in under five minutes.

If something ever happened to Danny and I, the conversations might go something like this:

FRIEND #1: “So, Steph and Danny are both in a coma. Can someone take the dog?”




FRIEND #2: “Oh Jesus, I don’t know. Did you see what that dog did to their couches?”
FRIEND #3: “The last time I went over there that dog peed on me.”
FRIEND #4: “Ummmm. I’m allergic to dogs. Especially that one.”

Since Pinto arrived, Kiddo’s tail is thumping so hard with excitement I think she might lift off the ground and Pinto has not had a moment’s peace.

I’ve learned that around other dogs, my dog is like the overly affectionate kid on the play ground that really, really wants to play with you and doesn’t seem to understand rejection, and so ignores it. Think Ralph Wiggam on a combination of cocaine/ecstasy.

It's all fun and games until Pinto tries to jump up on Danny or me , then Kiddo rips out a snarl that sounds like something you might hear before a lion mauls your throat. My dog's snarl can be quite scary. More than one delivery person has said, “That little dog is making all that noise? I thought there was a 200 pound pit bull back there!” (Danny and I have concluded that two or three Jacks could take even the burliest man down and in the event of an apocalyptic catastrophe, that is the breed we’ll use to secure our compound.)

Kiddo did let Pinto take a nap on her favorite leopard pillow though. I’d like to think it’s because she senses that Pinto misses Pennie and is having a hard time, so Kiddo, being the good hostess, gave our guest the most comfortable spot in the house.

I’m worried about Pennie. But it makes me happy to think that, maybe in her suffering she'll feel the tiniest bit better to know that her little companion is being well cared for and has the Chihuahua equivalent of six acres of yard to run around and drop pellets in.

Over the weekend, a friend told me that in Kaplan test prep courses, students are instructed for essay questions to always bring it back to Thomas Jefferson. So here it is.

"I believe that every human (and canine) mind feels pleasure in doing good to another." --Thomas Jefferson

(Alright fine, he didn’t actually say canine, but I think it’s implied.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Life is for Living, Loving and Swimming Naked in the Ocean

Friday night I fell down on a moonlit beach. I was helped up by my good friend Candi and a woman I’d met about five minutes earlier. Oh yeah, and we were all completely naked.

I was in Saint Augustine for a wedding, and towards the end of the night somehow ended up nude in the ocean laughing in a circle of other women. It was all very…sisters of the moon.

It felt great though. It was one of those moments in life where I was in awe of the universe and all its glory. The full moon shining down on a vast sea. The sand stretching back to dunes of sea oats. The warm rolling waves keeping my boobs afloat.

Danny was sick at home and when I called to tell him about my naked adventure, he was shocked. “What? You? In the ocean? At night?!”

It’s true that the nakedness is not really that shocking. But I don’t really do large bodies of water. Especially bodies of water that move around a lot and house creatures with sharp teeth and tentacles.

Sure, I’ll wade in to cool off if I get too hot on the beach. I’ll even get on a boat as long as it’s bigger than the jaws of a great white shark. But going in deep enough to cover all my goods, especially at night when menacing dorsal fins can’t be seen, is usually out of the question. I’ve seen all the Jaws movies, read Old Man and the Sea, and listened to all my grandma’s terrifying warnings about the “rip tide.” That’s enough to keep me off the coast most of the year.

But at Friday’s party, goaded by spirits and drunk on the vibrant love that permeated every shrimp and corn cake in the low country boil, I was able to jump into the waves of the Atlantic and enjoy the night with my moon sisters.

The next night we set sail down the intercoastal. We listened and cried as our friends exchanged vows of love, resplendent with joy. I toasted their future adventures together and returned home the next day inspired and ready to soak up the beauty of the world around me. Probably with my clothes on, but you never know. Sometimes shit gets crazy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Two Hundred and Seventy Pounder (with a dip)…

“How much do you weigh?” The parasail lady asked.

My sister and I each said a number.

“Do you want to be dipped in the water? It’s an extra ten dollars each.”

“Oh, um ok.” I said.

The woman got on her walkie-talkie. “I got a 270 pounder with a dip ready to go.”

As we waited to be picked up by the boat it occurred to me that “dip” is the word my grandfather substitutes for “dummy.” And I did feel a bit dumb for shelling out an extra twenty bucks for them to essentially wet my ass before reeling me in.

Captain Bill awaited us on the boat and helped us into life jackets and a diaper like contraption. Something scuttled on the floor between his feet. Our eyes met and he smiled, “Oops, saw a crab!” he said. I knew that he meant “crab” as a euphemism, but I didn’t say anything.

We sat in our diapers while Captain Bill went to get the parasail ready (the one that can handle a whole 270 pounds). On the bench a few feet opposite us was the “crab.” It was the cockroach to end all cockroaches. This thing belonged in a zoo. It was so big we could have put a sweater and a leash on it and entered it in a show.

Alex was nervous and so I did what I always do in an uncomfortable situation, I made jokes. This worked fine while the cockroach was tooling around on the other side of the boat, but he when he hopped on the stern and started skittering in our direction we changed our tune. Alex screamed bloody murder. I balled into the fetal position and leaned against my sister, awaiting death, or worse, an enormous cockroach crawling on me.

Captain Bill came and swiped the “crab” off the railing. He whipped it out to sea hard and I felt a tinge of guilt (not too much). “You girls ready to go?” he said.

I had been slightly nervous to parasail before I got on the boat. But after the encounter with the “crab,” nothing could phase me. I had been scared and then experienced the relaxing release after you realize everything will be fine and the roach is not, in fact going to crawl into your diaper thingie and get caught in your swimsuit.

He hooked us to a rod and off we went into the air. How nice. Just a couple of sisters hanging out on a Saturday afternoon. I’d woken up that morning trying to think of something we could do before Alex had to work. “Let’s go parasailing!” I said. “Great!” she said.

Her screaming now didn’t sound so “great.”

“Are you okay Alex?”

“No! I am not okay! I’m afraid of heights!”

Captain Bill, now the size of a cockroach, gave us the thumbs up from the boat. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I don’t know. I thought it would be fun.” she said.

“Is it?” I asked.

“I think I’m going to throw up.”

I was quiet. I scanned the water below looking for sharks. I looked over the island and tried to see my parent’s house. Then I said, “Well, at least there aren’t any cockroaches up here. That’s nice.” I had a slight fear though that the cockroach was flying up to get revenge, but didn’t say anything. I just enjoyed the view.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Addictive Nature of Golf

It often surprises people to learn that, in high school, I was on the golf team. I guess it seems odd to them that a woman who grew up on the government cheese side of the tracks and devoted her adult life to fighting male supremacy would partake of an activity associated with old, rich, white guys.

But I did. My grandfather bought me my first set of clubs when I was fourteen and sophomore year I joined the team.

I was never good at it. In fact it frustrated me quite a bit. For a person who gets irritated when things don’t go exactly the right way, golf is perhaps not the best sport. Twist your arm the slightest bit and your ball ends up two fairways over and you find yourself prancing out in the middle of someone else’s shot apologizing and trying to avoid a traumatic head injury.

Like every other sport I played, I brought up the rear of the team. I was usually good at one specified task. In volleyball I had a spot on serve, perfect every time. But when that serve came back over the net I was clumsy as a drunk monkey. In softball I could catch whatever was thrown to me, making me an excellent first baseman. But get me under a pop up or staring down a pitcher and I failed miserably.

In golf my specialized talent was putting. I could sink a putt in two strokes from almost anywhere on the green, much to the amazement of my teammates. This talent was often wasted however on the eighteen strokes it had taken to get my ball down the fairway, out of the sand trap and onto the green.

Friday my friend Nicole asked if I wanted to hit the links with her. I meandered out to the garage to make sure I still had my clubs (the same ones my grandpa bought me when I was fourteen and that I couldn’t GIVE away at a garage sale). There they were, sandwiched in between an old cooler and the hot water heater, probably home to all sorts of insect life. I took a few practice swings in my driveway since I hadn’t picked up a club in 13 years.

As soon as I swung it all came rushing back. The addiction. For those of you who’ve never played, let me explain the allure of golf. There is no better feeling in the world than swinging a big metal club and whacking that pimpled white ball a few hundred yards. Get a half decent shot once, and you’ll be chasing that feeling for the rest of your life.

My game that Friday morning was, predictably, horrible. On most shots I could have kicked the ball further than I hit it. Other times I missed the ball entirely or scalped the grass out by the roots. But a few times I got it in the air, or had that perfect pitch that pops the ball right onto the green. It was enough.

Even though I was hot, getting eaten by bugs and my shoes were soaked with mud and morning dew, I didn’t want to leave. Just one more, I thought. The next shot is going to be the good one. One more hole, that’s it, and then I’ll stop, I swear.

I quit after 13 holes only because I really did have to get back home. But when I called my mom to let her know we were on our way down for a visit, the first thing I asked her was, “Is there a driving range near you?”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cone of Uncertainty

We spent most of last week watching Fay’s “cone of uncertainty.” Most of the time we don’t worry much about hurricanes, they tend to hit further south and even when they hit near us, they weaken once they're over land and so Gainesville, snuggled right in the middle of the state, doesn’t get much more than some rain and wind, nothing we’re not accustomed to.

For those of you who are not blessed to live in a state annually pummeled by hurricanes, the cone of uncertainty means that the hurricane, weather’s most fickle force, could turn on a whim. It could come straight through your town, or miss you entirely. You just don’t really know until it happens. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s coming somewhere.

But every once in awhile, the projected path cuts right through our city, and even though the storm was not as strong as we’ve seen, its tentacles spanned almost half the state and it just sat there like the stubborn person waiting for the close parking spot (even though the people leaving said spot still have to load up four kids and a cart full of groceries.)

The cone of uncertainty usually covers the entire state may very well be the meteorologist’s way of covering his ass. But it did occur to me that the cone of uncertainty is a good metaphor for life. We might be on a basic trajectory, but there’s a wide margin to swing in either direction, or we could turn from a set path entirely and go back the other way.

On Saturday I talked to a certain person whom I love very much. I’ve known her since she squeezed out of her mother’s womb. It is quite a special thing to know and love someone for the entirety of their existence on this planet. This certain someone whom I have known and loved for the entirety of her existence, told me about her upcoming life plans.

I was a bit taken aback, and my heart couldn’t help but break at what I thought was surely a huge mistake. I’m scared that the ocean of life will swallow her up and she will never realize the truly beautiful and talented person that she is.

I want to tell her not to take that path, but ultimately, I am powerless. She is an adult and the trajectory of her life is her own. I can only hope and wish and try to gently guide her in (my idea of) the right direction.

After talking to her, I wondered how my mom must have felt watching me and my brother's "cone of uncertainty" as we found our ways in life. How hard was it for her when my brother said he’d joined a gang (in our Norman Rockwell-esque suburban Chicago town mind you, but still).

It must have been horrible for my mom to see me hanging out with the pot smokers every weekend in high school. Wondering if her bright, smart (if I do say so myself) daughter was doomed to a life working at the beach t-shirt shack, getting high every weekend. At 18 that life seemed semi-interesting, cool even. But even then I could see that by the time I hit twenty-five it would be dismal and decidedly lame. My mom must have breathed a sigh of relief when I instead started dating the captain of the math team, traded in my one-hitter for a TI-85 calculator and started applying to colleges.

What do we do when we feel uncertain and scared about the path someone we love is taking? My mom tried to pull me in one direction or another, but in the end the choice was mine. Barring natural disasters, illnesses and circus clowns (long story), I am responsible for the path my own life takes.

The worst of Fay came on Friday, and then again unexpectedly on Sunday when I looked out the back door to see a swamp marsh where my yard should have been and yelled to Danny, “You know how I said I’d be worried if the water rose above the patio slab?”


“Well I’m officially worried.”

The water never quite touched our house though. It stopped raining, Fay moved on, and the water receded. Maybe no damage is irreparable. Even if we did get flooded, we’re related to our insurance agent, so maybe everything will be okay in the end, no matter what path the storm takes.

P.S. In case you were wondering, my brother currently works at a bank, is not in a gang and is an all-around upstanding citizen. And as for myself, well I wouldn't exactly call myself "upstanding"...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Michael Phelps is an Alien (and announcement of events in the real-life Olympics)

I have two theories about Michael Phelps.

My first theory is that he is not a native of earth, but rather some chlorine water planet in a galaxy far, far away. On this planet (let's call it Chlorgar) he has to swim really, really fast in order to escape being imprisoned by the evil jellyfish creatures that have taken control of his homeworld. Tired of bring on the run (er, swim), he put on an ill-fitting human suit and came to earth in search of Olympic glory.

The second theory is that he is a sophisticated robot created by the masterminds at Universal Studios to make people interested in the Olympics again. Think about it, the biggest story about the 2004 Athens Olympics was that there WAS no story, no ratings, nobody cared. And now, all of a sudden there's this swimmer guy who can't be stopped and everyone's tuning in? Something's fishy.

But regardless of whether Mr. Phelps is alien or animatronic, the Olympics have got me thinking about my own personal path to Olympic glory. I perused the list of events to see if any of them could be my road to gold. It can't be anything where I have to be stronger or faster than anyone else so that eliminates all track and field events. I never learned to swim and am slightly afraid of the water so that leaves out anything pool or boat related. Also I probably shouldn't compete in any event where I could shoot my (or anyone else's) eye out.

My options are pretty limited, so Danny and I sat down to think about some Olympic events that would give me, and other normal, non space alien folks, a shot at gold. Feel free to peruse the list of events and start training now.

Real Life Olympiad 2012

Furniture moving: This would hands down be my best event. I'd team up with my mom to crush the competition. Weighing in at just over a hundred pounds, and measuring up to about 5ft 2in., my mom's stature doesn't stop her from inexplicably being able to move couches and heavy appliances down stairs by herself. I've been known to move an armoire or two myself, we're clearly the team to beat here.

Grocery Store Line Choosing: Danny is the favorite here. This event is tricky, because often a line seems the shortest but then you discover the person in front of you has one of every different kind of fresh fruit, forty-two coupons, and insists on counting out exact change. Other obstacles include price checks, shift changes and old ladies with check books.

Parking: I'd draft my friend Lisa for this one. Lisa drives a car I lovingly refer to as "Big Mama." It's a station wagon that seats about twenty-five and Lisa whips it into spaces I wouldn't attempt with my compact car. The second part of this event would be parking sharking. A crowded parking lot, three spaces, four cars, go. (Pick up difficulty points if you have passengers yelling, "There! Right there! No, over THERE! Someone's leaving. Oh wait, sorry they're not leaving.)

E-mail answering: Probably one of Real Life Olympics most stressful events. Imagine the scenario, you've just gotten back from a two week vacation, you open your inbox to two hundred and fifty messages. You must identify and delete the forwarded jokes and Youtube videos, make dinner plans with your friends, pay your overdue bills online, give feedback on everything your colleagues sent you, and answer every single e-mail without accidentally copying your boss on the one where you said you'd rather stick a frilly drink umbrella in your eye than go back to work.

Other events include:

Suitcase and Car Trunk Packing


Avoiding the check at dinner with friends

Figuring out how to vote on forty five ballot initiatives and amendments

Clothes shopping with toddlers

Driving on I-75

Shit, Shave and Shower Competition

Insect Killing and Disposal

Qualifying rounds will be held next month at Ikea. Stay tuned for more details.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Why I Possibly Have to Find a New House

Last night something horrific happened at my house. It's very possible I'll have to move.

Danny witnessed the entire event, which is good, because if it had been me, I'd be perusing the real estate listings right now instead of typing this.
Sunday night, at approximately 10:08 pm, my kitchen was the scene of a gruesome mass murder.

Here's what went down. I was drunk on the couch (since I'd capped off my three-day women's liberation conference with about seven hours of drinking at various Gainesville establishments.) I was flat on my back, watching a Christian rock concert infomercial and contemplating whether or not I had to throw up when I heard Danny in the kitchen.

"OH...MY...GOD..." (Said with the tone of voice you'd use if you found a severed head in the trunk of your car.)

"What?" I said (notice that I didn't bother getting up even though Danny's tone of voice indicated something along the lines of a severed head in the trunk of a car).

When Danny didn't respond, I was compelled to drag my drunk ass into the kitchen to see what the deal was.

Danny stood with his back to me, his hand in a sneaker, staring at the floor.

"What?" I said again (drunker and more insistent this time). And then I saw it, "OH...MY...GOD!"

A spider with a body the size of a freakishly large peanut was dead on the floor. It was huge even upside down with it's legs curled in was laying in the middle of a thousand hyper baby spiders which were quickly spreading across the tile like a nasty, living spill of nastiness.

Danny's eyes were wide, "I killed it and then these just exploded out."

I froze for a second. And then drunk brain kicked in. "I have a plan!" I ran to the bathroom to retrieve a large can of aerosol hair spray and re-entered the kitchen like the banshee of low end hair styling products. I blasted the babies with gale force winds of Aussie medium hold control spray.

The baby spiders were so small that the spray had one of two effects. It either blew them clear across the floor or left them feebly swimming in sticky little orange-scented pools. Some of them were quite possibly enjoying themselves.

"Ummm....Stephie?" Danny said from the doorway, "Don't we have bug spray or something?"

"This is working fine! I'm immobilizing them so I can squash them all."

When the entire area was covered in three-fourths of an inch of hair product, I grabbed the trusty Clorox wipes and started squashing. Danny watched the massacre. Which was fine. His heroic deed had already been done. Because if I had been the one to see that monster in the kitchen I would have gotten right in the car and never come back to the house ever, ever again.

Some of the tiny little bastards escaped into the floorboards and I laid the mama and 9, 967 of her babies to rest in the garbage can.

But this morning, as I ate my breakfast of toast and aspirin, I looked at the floorboards and wondered how long it will take for the small band of rebels that escaped my wrath to grow up and avenge their family.

Because that's basically how long I have to find a new house.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Columbia House—Ye Olde Mp3 player

Last week I was on a plane trying to fall asleep. The only way this is possible for me is with my mP3 player. As it cycles through the 700 songs ranging from Donna Summers to Interpol to Dolly Parton, I am distracted from the fact that the plane smells vaguely like a port-o-potty stuffed with dirty socks, and that I have to be elbow to elbow with a surly teenage boy for six hours.

As I drifted into a music induced slumber, I was thinking, could I explain to my thirteen year-old self what an mp3 player is?

When I was thirteen, besides having to walk uphill in the snow to school (which I did by the way but that’s beside the point), cassette tapes were still the main implement for getting your groove on.

Whenever I heard a band or song that I liked, I had two options. I could either, (A) wait until I heard the song on the radio and then jump from my bed to press record on the blank tape that was ready and waiting, or (B) wait for my allowance, ask (no, beg) for a ride to the mall and purchase either the cassette single or the entire album (depending on whether I’d already spent some of my money on several issues of Teen Beat).

It seems barbaric now, when all I have to do is type a band’s name into Rhapsody, click click click and I have every song they’ve ever produced as well as all their solo albums. I then put them in my magic little machine along with their hundreds of little musical friends and we’re off.

Thirteen year old Steph would just, like, die. Could she possibly even comprehend it? Every song she could dream of, new and old, just a few clicks away? Actually, at that point she wouldn’t even know what “clicks” meant. What Black magic do ye speak of?

So how to explain? (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I actually did spend time imagining how I would explain this if I could go eighteen years back in time.)

The closest I could come to imparting what it feels like to have an Mp3 player to someone in 1990 is Columbia House. Columbia House was a music club which to me was like magic and to my mother seemed like it should be illegal for them to solicit business from teenagers.

They would send you this crazy offer--twelve tapes for a penny (a penny!) and all you had to do was buy one (one!). (Plus pay shipping and handling and buy an album a month for a year.) But you can cancel any time! (ANY time!)

Included with the offer were sheets and sheets of tiny stamps with album covers on them. I felt like the world had opened up when I was perusing those pages of stamps. Every album I had ever heard of and hundreds I hadn’t. So many choices! It was better than Christmas. A few weeks later when the long rectangular box came with my twelve cellophane wrapped treasures I would blissfully listen to music for hours.

Of course a month later, when I had forgotten to cancel my membership and Columbia House automatically sent the “selection of the month” (always something lame like Michael Bolton or Boz Scaggs Greatest Hits) at a criminally inflated price, I would beg my mom to pay for it and call them to cancel. Damn kids.

I guess I could tell 13-year-old Steph that an mp3 player is a little like being able to have all the little stamps you want, instantaneously, all in one magic little machine, without the worry that a month later you’d have to pay $26.00 for Marie Osmond’s comeback album.

Or I could just say, "Just wait, you’ll understand when you’re older," and go back to sleep…

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Danny and Steph's Wild West Adventure

We’re back from our west coast wanderings, a little lighter in the wallet, heavier in the gut, and out of spinal alignment (I’ll explain later). It was a super fun trip that had us planning our next one before we even boarded the plane home. Here are some of my favorite moments.

1. A common enemy
She came in the form of a US airways flight attendant who smiled sweetly while she chided us about coming late. “Do not check passenger in! It REALLY says that!” Then, still smiling, made an example of Danny for not removing his baggage tags from a previous trip. “Everyone! Please remove any past tags from your luggage!” She turns to us, “If these were left on here guess what the chances are they wind up in Vegas?” She stopped, honestly waiting for an answer. “Ummm,” Danny mumbled, “50/50?” I was pretty steamed at Danny too, until she called me “difficult” for boarding in Zone 4 when my ticket says zone 5 (I’ll mention here that it’s a twelve row plane). And so we began our trip on a good note, bitching about our common enemy.

2. Cirque du Soleil
I’m not a gambler. I don’t get it. This is possibly because I have never won anything and even if I did I would take it and run before I had the chance to amass a huge pile of it. I’m that family member on Deal or No Deal who BEGS the person to Take the Money!!! No matter what the amount is. So, Cirque du Soleil is what makes Vegas worth it for me. We saw Ka and O, both of which were amazing and left me wishing I could fly.

3. The Bellagio Spa
This was by far my most decadent splurge (remember this trip was replacing Japan folks). After trekking a mile to Slots of Fun in the desert heat, which feels exactly like a hairdryer blowing in your eye, and scarfing down a .99 cent hot dog over a dirty trough, the Bellagio Spa was like a dream. I felt like a C-list celebrity at an A-list resort. I hung out for a bit on posh couches with a glass of champagne, then I was led back into a low lit slate hallway that felt more like an ancient temple than a hotel on the Vegas strip. Wall sconces lit floor to ceiling fountains and Koi swam in pools tucked into corners. I got a soothing facial treatment and a hand and foot massage all to the magical pipings of a pan flute.

4. Six Flags Magic Mountain--this park is clear

We were on a mission. Ride every single roller coaster in the park. It was a pilgrimage really. If you’re a roller coaster junkie, it doesn’t get much better than Magic Mountain. I know every place says their ride is the tallest, fastest blah blah blah on earth. But after riding the ones at Magic Mountain, I really believe them. The newest one, the X2, features seats that rotate 360 degrees for a head-first, face-down drop. The Déjà Vu dangles you from ski-lift style chairs for a 20-story dive then through a vertical loop, a 110-foot butterfly and up the second tower to repeat it all—backwards. We accomplished our mission and then some. We threw in a Log Jam ride for good measure and rode the Tatsu twice. However, soon after our victory we realized we are 30 and not 18 and are still suffering the neck and spinal consequences of excersizing every demon at Six Flags.

5. The Santa Monica Pier

It somehow escaped me that Los Angeles would have mountains. I’m not sure how I didn’t know that, but seeing the sun set over them in Santa Monica was among the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. Throw in Pacific Park on the pier and you have a favorite vacation moment. Danny and I, despite our fear, got on the Ferris Wheel, mostly for the view. I know what you’re thinking (okay I don’t but just go with it.) The same Danny and Steph who willingly jumped out of an airplane and rode twelve terrifying rollercoasters in so many hours are scared of a…Ferris Wheel? Yes. Jumping out of a plane is not as scary as a roller coaster. A rollercoaster is not as scary as a Ferris Wheel. Discuss.

6. Soap Plant Wacko La Luz de Jesus
I could have spent all day and all my money in this place. Here are a few of the things I bought there: A cat butt magnet set, a Chicken Chucker that launches rubber chickens up to 15 feet, a “Lookin’ Good for Jesus” coin purse, and Liberace post cards.

7. The Hogwarts Express.
We got to take this on a green screen as part of our WB studio tour which in my opinion made the entire thing totally worth it. We also got to see tons of Harry Potter movie props. I practically drooled on the Marauder’s Map and nearly passed out by the Skiving Snackboxes. AND I got to put on the sorting hat (!!!) I was Slytherin. I know, I was disappointed. All my friends are in Gryffindor.

7. The Earthquake
We were in town just long enough to get rumbled around by faults deep in the earth. We were in the airport food court enjoying our California Pizza when it happened. It took us a second to even figure out what was going on. I thought the booth was being shaken and moved by the hyper kids on the other side and I was about to turn around in a huff when I realized it wasn’t just the bench shaking but the GROUND. I got the sensation of sliding a bit, like we were all on ice. And then it was done. I was surprised later when it was all over the news because it was such a small moment. Most people just looked around and said, “was that an earthquake?” and kept eating, including us.

Disasters natural and otherwise are par for the course on a Seguin-Gimenez vacation. Danny loses everything from cameras to cash, reads airline tickets wrong causing us to miss flights. (This time I got off easy, he only lost the credit card twice and left all his clean shirts at the Bellagio.) If Danny doesn't lose anything, it will rain the entire time and everything will be closed. But we like it that way, makes it more memorable.

So where to next???? Maybe a white water rafting adventure? Nah, too scary.

Quick Vacation quiz....

Which of the following activities fill Danny and Steph with a paralyzing fear?

A. Skydiving

B. Hang gliding

C. Rollercoasters

D. Earthquakes

E. The Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel

Look for the answer in this week's exciting vacation blog...

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Real Problem with the Health Care System

I hate hospitals, seriously. And not just because they're cold, smell faintly of vomit and more often than not I'm there to do something decidedly un-fun (like get strapped to a board and shoved in a tunnel for an hour).

I hate them because they MAKE NO SENSE. I think the layout of hospitals are designed specifically to baffle and annoy those of us not wearing scrubs. This morning after my scan I still needed to get bloodwork done, and the woman at the lab informed me I needed to walk to Siberia to register (again) before doing so.

She did her best to give me directions. (Left, Right, Elevators, whatever). I don't blame her, it's not her fault she works in the bermuda fucking triangle. It's not her fault that all the hallways look the same and are filled with windowless doors and unhelpful little signs with unhelpful little arrows pointing me towards words that mean nothing to me.

Observation Unit --->


Decontamination --->

<---Hall of Mirrors

Once I finally found the place I was looking for I regretted not dropping bread crumbs so I could find my way back. I sat in another waiting room for another 25 minutes and thought that by the time I got out of there it would be time to start all over again next year.

Luckily though, another stranger mispronounced my name, copied my insurance card and directed my sore ass to the next waiting room, which was, by some miracle, directly across the hall.