Monday, December 21, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Last night I watched A Christmas Carol, the good one, from the eighties when everything was real quality like Munchichis and My Little Ponies.

Anyway, as is the case for most of you I'm sure, Christmas has a special nostalgic quality for me. As a kid, there is no better time than Christmas time. There's like a month-long build-up where you get a piece of chocolate everyday from the advent calendar, school tapers off to making contruction paper chains and practicing songs for the Annual Christmas "show," and you get to scour the Sears catalog picking out everything you could possibly want (and know there's a good chance you're going to get at least some of it.) Throw in Christmas cookies and no school for two weeks and boom, the most wonderful time of the year.

In honor of A Christmas Carol, I took a little tour through my own Christmases of yore.

Baby smirk. At the tender age of two, I am already skeptical of this whole Santa Claus business with a look that says, "Whatever lady, let's wrap this up so I can crap my pants and hit the KayBee toys to let "Santa" know what I will expect under the tree come Christmas morning.

Ahhh, lederhosen and black knee socks, Christmas sure ain't what it used to be, I tell you what.

I have several Santa pictures with me in this pose. I have no idea what that's about, possibly my attempt at being girly. Also, I'm pretty sure my shell-shocked little brother is attempting to flip off the camera. We're very pious, my family.

Christmas: The Teen Years. Decked out in prison stripes and my attempt at a New Wave haircut, I announce to everyone that Christmas is so, like, totally lame. (Please note: Steph and Steve's matching gray stonewash jeans.)

Okay I'm not in this shot, but felt I must include what we lovingly referred to for years as our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. As you can see, my mom (who probably caps off at 5'2'' wearing a top hat) is kneeling, and yet still manages to clear half the tree's height.

This one has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas, yet still, it begs to be included. This is me paying a visit to McGruff the Crime dog. I have no idea why he was taking visitors or why they chose a large wicker chair (seriously, try being a serious crimefighter in wicker), but I'm forced to wonder what costume designer interpreted McGruff as a shady canine druglord wearing too-short pants and orthopedic shoes. (Special thanks to mom and grandma for the constant vigilance in keeping my knee socks pulled all the way up.)

I can't wait to look back on Christmas pictures years from now and laugh, What the hell? When did I have pink hair? Is that a hoodie? And slouchy boots? My god, what were we thinking?

Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Team Apocalypse

The other day my friends Tracy and Pam were showing me their garden. It's a blossoming wonderland of edible fruits, veggies and herbs from which they actually eat things. It's like a little backyard farmer's market. I even went home with a plastic bag full of herbs (not the college kind.)

Pam also had a firewood corral she'd made out of scrap wood. I was impressed. I looked at Tracy and said, "You guys are totally drafted on our apocalypse team."

"Your apocolypse team?"

"Yeah. You know, if there were some sort of global catastrophe, there's a very specific set of skills you'd need in your band of survivors. You'd need your food growers, your carpenters, your weapons people. Everybody adds something."

Tracy was flattered. Then she said, "Wait a minute. What do you add?"

Obviously, I'm the one putting the team together. I don't need to add anything but my charm and natural leadership. (Also the team will occasionally need funny end of the world blogs to keep our spirits up while civilization crumbles around us and we eat our pets for dinner.)

Since, as I've mentioned here before, my husband has quite a fascination, we actually do have a team in mind for when everything hits the fan. Every once in awhile we will actually utter the sentence, "You know, so and so would be really good in an apocalyptic situation."

I thought I'd post this handy guide so that, when the worst happens, you can assemble your own team. (The alternative to the team option is to get a bunch of dogs and guns, find a shack in the middle of the woods, and hope for the best.)

Team Apocalypse

Member #1: The weapons folks. These are the people you know (or suspect) have a cache of light to heavy artillery. You will need weapons when the zombies/infected/bands of rebels show up at the compound.

Member #2: The gardeners. The people who don't need to go to the grocery store to make a salad. Because the team can only survive on cans of navy beans for so long.

Member #3: The person who doesn't throw anything away. This is where the people from the show Hoarders really shine. They can say a big fat I told you so to the rest of the world when their McDonalds Happy Meal Toy collection and old rotary phone comes in handy.

Member #4: McGyver. This is the person who can patch a hole in the roof using spit and an old shirt. It's likely this person also has loads of tools that can also be used as weapons (in case you can't find team member #1).

Member #5: The medic. This person's role is pretty obvious. They'd also be the ones to keep the supply of the suicide pills for when we all decide it's just too much.

Member #6: The philosopher. This person's job is to think deeply about things and assure us there's still a point to it all. If the conclusion is that there is not, in fact, a point to it all, the philosopher alerts the medic to hand out the suicide pills.

Member #7: The psychic lady. Basically to let the team know when things are going to get worse. I say lady because psychic men tend to only deal in communicating with those who have passed on. In a post-apocalyptic world, your team would be inundated with "calls" from beyond the grave and you're not going to have time for that.

Member #8: The drug dealer. There's not a whole lot to do after an apocalypse, so choose a person who deals in a wide variety of recreational substances.

Members #9-13: Children. Not for the continuation of the human race so much as for sneaking into small spaces to forage for food. Also to keep an eye on the compound when all the grown-ups are hanging out with member #8.

Best of luck, and I hope you all are enjoying this festive holiday season!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Steph's Handy One-Stop Christmas Shop

We’ve been back from Moscow for two weeks now and have tumbled out of an emotional spin cycle to find ourselves almost in December.

Moscow was beautiful. It had all the staples; McDonalds, Cinnabon, Starbucks, Sbarro, and a street cart that in Cyrillic looked like it was called “Crapdogs.” The good news about our trip is that Danny and I both had fabulous boots; comfortable, stylish, warm. The boots worked out really great. And in the wise words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Now on to business. And that business is helping you get your Christmas shopping done. Right from where you're sitting, because it's my purpose in life to make yours more convenient. So here are some gift ideas for your special someones.

FOR: The on-the-go handy man with a secret wish for a horrible accident.
ITEM: Pocket saw from Haband

Is it just me or does having a saw in your pocket seem like a phenomenally bad idea? Your Haband stretch-waist-khaki trousers aren’t going to keep this thing from slicing into the family jewels. The risk may be worth it though to impress your friends with your ability to saw through straws and carve obscenities into restaurant tables.

FOR: The person who buys their dog Halloween costumes and takes them to see Santa.

ITEM: Dog Flag Collections from the folks at Willabe and Ward.

One flag for every month of the year, gives the recipient the ability to tell the neighborhood that a dog is not just a dog, but a patriotic member of the family who might one day do all the things parents hope for, fall in love, graduate from high school, party in a top hat, sit in an easter basket, and of course, drop acid, dress up like a leprechan and look for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

FOR: The person who wants to end the office Christmas party early so they can go home and watch People’s Court.
ITEM: Battery Operated Christmas Karoake Microphone

Twenty bucks says one out of ten holiday gatherings will include someone who thinks its a good idea to make the rounds with this little gem. Twenty more bucks says that person will later be found duct taped to the llamas ass in the life size nativity scene.

FOR: The person who, against all cultural cues or pleas from family members, still enjoys Billy the Singing Bass.
ITEM: Singing Walking Turtle

Why confine bad taste to the wall? (Caution: this turtle may come alive at night and whisper messages from Satan in your ear while you sleep.)

FOR: Smokers
(BUT REALLY FOR: College freshmen who want to smoke pot in their dorm room.)
ITEM: Smokeless Ashtray

Isn’t this what the dad in Gremlins invented right before he unintentionally bred a swarm of nasty green scaly monsters? Just askin' (And another warning to be careful with ancient creatures from other continents this holiday season.)

FOR: That friend you suspect might be a sociopath
ITEM: Frog Leather Coin Purses

Because nothing says Happy Holidays better than stuffing loose change into a dead frog. This is quite possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen in my life (which is saying a lot because pickled pigs feet were a staple in my fridge growing up).

FOR: The self conscious woman staying in a bed and breakfast with her new lover.
ITEM: Poo-Pourri

According to the instructions, simply spray three to six squirts of Poo Pourri into the toilet water before doing your business and Voila! turn that excreted Chili Cheese Dog into a scent-sational treat! (Available in a variety of scents.)

(See also: Travel Bidet so your friend can have that fresh feeling wherever they "go")

FOR: The person who spends a sunny Saturday watching all three (uncut) Lord of the Rings movies and then caps that off with an evening of Hot Pockets and World of Warcraft.
ITEM: Gollum and Smeagol Bookends

For the bargain price of $195.00 you can give your friend a nice place to display their Dungeon Masters Guides and Star Wars fan fiction.

FOR: The person who likes to put really dangerous things right next to their crotch
ITEM: No!No! Thermal hair Removal System

This product removes pubic hair by burning it off. The promotional material helpfully reminds us this is “characterized by odor.” I am confused by the name. Seems to me I should not put something exclaiming "No!" (twice) anywhere near my pubic hair. On the upside, No!No! comes in a variety of sleek and stylish colors (so you can look at something pretty while you burn your pubic hair off). Version 2.0 will come with the abillity to dial 911 when you accidentally cauterize your reproductive organs.

There's lots of great stuff out there for everyone, so get shopping! We all need things to sell in our garage sales next summer.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Russian Fairy Tales

Last week Danny and I went to the library and got a book of Russian fairy tales. Being of the literary persuasion, I wanted to share with my son this part of his heritage. When we first started the adoption process it wasn’t Fodors or Lonely Planet I turned to learn about Russia, but Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoyevsky.

So I curled up with this book, imagining a time when I might curl up with a little boy and read him fantasies from a foreign land. I quickly discovered that Russian fairy tales contain the basic plotline for many modern horror movies. The makers of Saw definitely read these.

Most stories begin or end with someone getting beaten. People get shoved down holes, chopped up and stuffed into baskets, animals defecate on people’s faces, farmers get killed by overgrown root vegetables.

The first story I turned to, naturally, was called The Wife Who Loved Stories Too Much. As you could have guessed, it’s about a woman who loved to hear people tell stories. This greatly annoyed her husband who to get her to stop loving stories so much, basically beat the living blini out of her. The end.

I suppose if someone from another culture read the fairy tales of my childhood they’d be equally disturbed. There's the witch who likes to bake little children in her oven, a cross dressing wolf who gobbles up little girls, princesses in comas, and old women living in footwear.

The thing I loved about Russian fairy tales is that while evil is very straightforward, goodness is hidden in unexpected places. What seems to be an evil witch is really a kind old lady who will buy you dresses if you show kindness to the mice in her house. A simple ring can build entire palaces overnight. The very forest you’re traipsing through will give you directions if you only ask.

Friday, just when we were starting to feel like we’d never go to Russia, Danny and I got a call that we’ll leave on Saturday. And now every minute seems to drag so slow. After nearly four years of waiting to be a mom, it’s very difficult not to rush through these moments, skip to the happily ever after. But I’ve decided to let the minutes drag, savor them. This is a time to be soaked up. It’s a getting ready time and imagining time. A time for day dreaming and arranging my very own fairy tales.

A popular phrase in Russian fairy tales is, Some time passed, a long time or a short time. Years from now I probably won’t even remember how long the days and weeks felt until our son came home, I’ll just remember that we waited, wished and hoped and then there he was, like magic.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things that only seem to happen to me.

It was one of those bad experiences I was laughing at before it was even over, like the slo-mo sidewalk dive I took in France in front of a bus full of French people.

To begin with I want to make one thing clear, I NEVER drive with the windows down. Never. I do not enjoy the wind whipping my hair in my eyes as I drive, or smelling other people emission problems, or hearing what crap they’re listening to on their car stereo (or conversely have them hear what I’m listening to on mine, my mp3 rotation may include such artists as the BeeGees, Air Supply, and whoever sings LaBamba and I don’t want to be judged.)

I must have been in some sort of earth goddess, let me feel the breeze on my skin mood driving back from Target on Friday when I turned to Danny and said, “Do you mind if I roll the windows down? The air outside seems nice.” I did roll them down and felt one gust of cool air on my neck. I also felt two fat raindrops so I went to roll the window back up again, except it was stuck. It started raining harder, and all the window would do is make angry little clicking sounds.

I kept pressing the window button. It started raining even harder, so hard I could barely see the front of the car. The world went from grey to typhoon in fifteen seconds flat. And right at the very moment I chose to roll my window down to enjoy the breeze. Water was pounding my face and soaking my entire left side while I tried to navigate down 34th street.

Danny dumped out the contents of the plastic Target bag (anti-aging eye cream and Count Chocula). “Here,” he said, “will this help?”

I held the bag up to the opening in the window with my left hand and steered with my right. The bag did act as a shield to keep water from pouring into my eyeballs so I could better concentrate on driving. The only downside was that it kept filling with water and dumping it onto my leg like a garden waterfall. My leather bucket seat was also collecting water like a rain barrel until I was sitting in a small pool.

Danny laughed from the dry passenger side. "Only me," I said as I readjusted the Target bag, dumping a fresh load of rainwater onto my lap. "The minute I try to enjoy the air. I hope whoever controls the universe is having a nice big laugh right now."

The worst part of the whole ordeal was that we were going to go hang gliding the next day, but didn’t on the off chance we’d have to drive down the turnpike for two hours in the storm of the century. I blame the breeze. If it weren’t for that, I never would have wanted the windows down, it wouldn’t have broken and I could have soared like a bird 3,000 feet above the earth, forgetting about orphanages, malnutrition, and the fact that we haven't been to Russia yet.
Instead of flying like a bird, I organized a closet on Saturday. At home. With the windows closed. The air was pretty nice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Way You Make Me Feel

Nearly everyday I sit in Starbucks and write. When I’m not writing I’m staring out the large windows, and when I’m not doing that I’m observing people. I’ve watched budding romances, flirtations, birthday celebrations, pregnant women who get bigger and bigger until they start coming in toting an infant, and all manner of homeless people who ask for water every five seconds and occasionally sing ABBA songs. There's the old man in the polyester blue suit who reads the Wall Street Journal. The guy who wears Hawaiian shirts and sits in the cushy chairs with his laptop and portable mouse, and of course the slightly creepy guy with really hairy arms.

The bathroom at Starbucks is a single-user setup tucked back into a little alcove. You have to go up and get a key (otherwise I guess the homeless people use it as a spa.) Yesterday I was mid-tinkle when a deep voice said into the door, “Girl, I love you so much. It’s strong. Strong, girl. It’s just the way you make me feel. Don’t you feel it?. . .Hello?. . . Are you there?”

I froze. I held my tinkle stream while I tried to figure out which person had followed me back into the little alcove to make this bathroom door confession. Was it the little old man in the polyesther blue suit? Bermuda sandals man? The slightly creepy guy with really hairy arms? If it was I’d have to camp out and wait there until one of the baristas came to rescue me.

Answer me.” The man said.

He sounded urgent, so I did answer. I said, “Um.” (What else do you say when you’re sitting on the toilet in Starbucks listening to a stranger profess their love through the door?)

I didn’t have time to think of what to do next because the man started calling me “Carla”
and I realized he was not pouring his heart out to me but to the girl he was talking to on the phone.

The voice went away. I finished my business and came back out into the general coffee drinking population. I looked around but didn’t see anyone in the throes of a passionate phone call anywhere.

I realized I felt a tiny bit let down. That three second episode in the bathroom had made my heart race. Sure, maybe it was because for a fleeting moment I thought there was a creepy weirdo on the other side of the door that might chop me up and stuff me into the Starbucks bathroom trash can. But also for a second I thought someone had a crush on me, and it felt sort of exciting.

In the end I’m glad it’s Carla and not me. Coffee house romances never work out and I value the writing mojo at Starbucks way too much to give it up for a fling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apocalypse for Kids

As soon to be parents, Danny and I spend a considerable amount of time daydreaming about all the fun things we'll do with our kid. Birthday parties are an area we particularly look forward to. We already have lots of ideas for party themes. Feel free to use any of these.

Madmen Party
Instead of cake and ice cream, kids can eat steak dinners while they negotiate big deals like who controls the swing sets at recess. Children can also play at the subtleties of stabbing classmates in the back and how to successfully hide despair.
Favors: Cigarettes and Sterling Cooper whiskey decanters

Survive the Apocalypse Party
Split kids up into bands of survivors. Then shut off your electricity, remove all the food and lock them in. Give each “band” an area of the house as their territory. The game is more fun if you and the other parents play “rebels” and bang loudly on the doors and windows from time to time. Come back the next day to see which band of survivors has the most members and territory. That band gets cake.
Favors: Crowbars and canned goods

Zombie Apocalypse
A variation on the regular apocalypse theme except at this party one of your “bands” should be undead and try to eat the other kids.
Favors: Automatic weapons.

Clean House party
This seems like a win-win situation all around. Kids eat cake first, then clean up their mess along with the rest of your house. And voila, house is clean, kids are worn out from scrubbing the soap scum out of your shower. Everybody’s happy.
Favors: Rags and mini bottles of cleaner so they can go home and clean their own house.

Tattoo party
Acquire the services of a local tattoo artist (if you’re short on cash you can get a newer one who’s trying to get their name out there). Sprinkle the tables with tattoo design ideas, Dora, Backyardigans, Teletubbies if you’re old school. Individual kids may be in the chair awhile, so you’ll probably want to have something for the other kids to do. Hookah pipes might be a festive choice.
Favors: Hep B home testing kits

Ultimate Fighter Party
Set up a make shift ring in your living room using canvas and chicken wire (easily found at your local home improvement store). Then just sit back and let the kids have at it. Let one of the older kids referee while you and the other parents enjoy margaritas in the backyard!
Favors: Icepacks and rags to wipe the blood off their little faces.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sale Away

We're having a garage sale to get ready for the kid. You know, out with the old and in with the new. I've spent a good month inspecting every corner of our house for things that can be moved, thrown away or sold to make space for a tiny Muscovite.

It's been interesting, cleansing. I cannot believe the amount of crap I have amassed since the bright-eyed, long-haired, white polo shirt and tan shorts version of myself left home for Gainesville 13 years ago. Now that it's all in one place, I can see that my house has been nothing but a storage closet for random trinkets.

Danny and I are garage sale connoisseurs. And you can tell a lot about people by the sort of things they peddle from their driveways. Now that I'm on the other end of the card table, I find myself inspecting my items closely. What will people think of a household with not one but TWO different Star Wars trivia games? And right next to the Antiques Roadshow home game!

I've broken the more interesting items down into categories. Conclude what you will.

In the "Things that come alive at night" category: Creepy porcelain dolls. These guys have given Danny nightmares for years. I've spent more time than I care to admit planning elaborate Halloween pranks that include this little posse.

In the "Presents from ex-boyfriends that I don’t know why I still have" category: Angel ornament and frame. I find myself wondering what characteristic compelled this particular boy to think of me as a sad, sleepy cherub with a violin.

In the "Where the frak did this come from?" category:
Unopened McDonald’s Happy Meal Polly Pocket from 1993. Forget for a second that this looks like a tiny blond corpse in a plastic bag. The real mystery is that I was 15 in 1993.

In the "Things we bought at other garage sales but never used" category: Eagle clock. It seemed cool at the time (and that time was 8:15 am after a night of hard drinking.)

In the "Things I will claim belonged to my little sister" category: Disney Princess collection CD. I'm actually considering keeping this one. I like listening to a busty mermaid singing about forks and spoons. So shoot me.

In the "90s sit com memorabilia" category: The Kramer. I don't know why exactly I wanted a poster of a kooky, crazy-haired guy who runs into stuff. Although. . . now that I think about it, I did marry a kooky, crazy-haired guy who runs into stuff.

Come on by if you'd like to add any of these desirable items to your own home. Or, you can wait another 13 years for the next garage sale (That one will be fun because you'll get to make judgements about our parenting style based on our book and movie titles!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Girl Walks Into a Crib Store....

I make an ass out of myself everyday. It's what I do best. I'm used to it. Danny is used to it. It's just part of life at this point. I trip, I spill, I drop coffees freshly handed to me by baristas. Most of all though, I say awkward things.

Take for instance a recent trip Danny and I took to a place called The Babies Room. The Babies Room is a half consignment/half new emporium of everything, well, baby. I went to pick something up for my friend Candi who'd just given birth a few days prior and needed something called the "Breast Friend" pillow, (which coincidentally allows her to breastfeed and text at the same time. Wonderful invention.)

Danny and I walked around the store, deciding on our favorite kinds of strollers and high chairs and marvelling at how expensive the cribs were. It's hard for me not to feel awkward already in a place like this. It's hard to claim the status of "expectant" mother when I don't have a due date or a belly for people to coo and smile at. Walking around a baby store filled with very pregnant women makes me feel like an imposter.

When we make our way to the register, in a valiant effort to overcome my misgivings and insert myself into the world of mothers to be, I decide to ask for help in a conversation that goes something like this:

Steph: "So, how do I tell which cribs are new and which are used?

Saleswoman: "All our cribs are new. Too many recalls and safety standards to keep up with. We don't sell used cribs."

Steph: "Oh, so where's a good place to buy a crib?"

Saleswoman: "You mean used?"

Steph: "Or new. We'll probably want a new one I guess. You know, just in general where should we go?"

Saleswoman: (Blinks slowly. Glances at the sea of cribs surrounding us.) "Um, well, I guess Target has some reasonably priced ones?"

In the car later Danny laughs at me. "Only you could walk into a store full of cribs and ask the people where you can buy a crib. Hi, my name is Steph. Where can I get the product you guys are selling but cheaper?"

It's true. If there were a brainfart contest I would win hands down. I'm bumbly, fumbly and sometimes say stupid shit. But isn't that why you love me?

I have to go, I'm working at Starbucks today and I need to go ask if they know where I can get some coffee.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Call Me Crazy, But I Do Not Like Mechanics Magazines

Danny and I had to do an MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) as part of our adoption process. I suppose to make sure we are no crazier than any of the other people who decide to have kids.

Several people in the field advised me to not try to “trick” the test. “Just answer honestly,” they said, “the test is designed to catch you lying.” The Dr. who administered the test said the same thing. He said the test was designed to pick up any “tomfoolery.” Coincidentally, I am immediately smitten with any person who uses the term “tomfoolery” but that wasn’t a test question.

When Danny and I walked in, the receptionist gave us each two number two pencils and a large cardboard booklet with five hundred and sixty seven true or false questions inside. She told us we were not to talk to each other about the questions and put us on opposite ends of the waiting room. Which was good because every ten questions or so one of us suppressed a giggle and as the room filled with other patients I had the strong urge crane my head over the others and stage whisper to Danny, “Hey, what did you put for the one about unusual sex acts?”

Afterwards Danny and I were so wasted we got ice cream and took a long nap. It was quite an experience. It was a little like those women’s magazine quizzes but longer and more disturbing.

I’ve included some of my favorite questions here, so you can get a small taste of what this test is like, in case you never get the privilege to take one.

1. I like Mechanics magazines T/F
2. I wake up fresh and rested most mornings T/F
3. I think I would like the work of a librarian T/F
4. I get angry sometimes T/F
5. If I were a painter, I would like painting flowers T/F
6. Evil spirits occasionally posses me T/F
7. My mom is a good woman T/F
8. I think I would like the work of a forest ranger T/F
9. I always tell the truth T/F
10. I never do not return incorrect change T/F
11. I’m pretty happy with my life T/F
12. I’m certain I’m being followed T/F…
13. I usually have less fears than most of my friends T/F
14. I have no fear of earthworms T/F
15. I usually do not have nightmares every other night T/F

It starts off easy enough, but after the first couple hundred or so the double negatives are making my eyes swim and I start to sweat, wondering about the test maker’s idea of words like “usually” “often” “certainly” and “most.” And I’m tired of comparing myself to my friends. As in, “I certainly often feel better about myself than most of my friends.” Questions like those were difficult. I think most of my friends feel fine. Do I feel better than them? No. Do I feel worse than them? No. So where’s my number two pencil to go?

I kept thinking, trick the test? This test is trying to trick me. Trying to lull me into happily marking true, true, true until I finally admit that I think someone is controlling my brain. A run of questions might look something like this:

I think puppies are cute T/F
When I was little I played games T/F
Sometimes I like hanging out with friends T/F
I occasionally feel like ripping someone's face off T/F

Honestly toward the end I was getting so tired I probably answered, true, that invisible aliens follow me around and climb in my butt when I fall asleep (which only USED to be true.)

I’m trying not to obsess about the test results, which would be easier if there weren’t so much riding on it. I’m sure it will be fine. I’m a normal person who does not (currently) hear voices or feel like ripping anyone's face off.

After the adoption is final though, I’m thinking about getting a group together to take an MMPI, just for fun. It’ll be crazy good times.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oh right, there’s an actual KID at the end of this process.

It does sound overly obvious doesn’t it? But it isn't. After all the paperwork and psychological tests and really big checks and travel, I sometimes forget that at some point someone will hand us a kid and send us on our way. I think about this a lot of course, but it only really profoundly sinks in once in awhile.

For instance on our recent trip, Danny and I left the adoption agency on a cloud of romantic visions of what life with kids would be like that only first time parents to-be could conjure up. Building forts with bedsheets. Pancakes on Saturday mornings. Playful bathtime romping. Giggles and Smiles.

We then went to dinner with my cousin Raechel and her two children, Wesley, 9 months and Joceylene, 2 years. They’re great kids, they just needed the normal toddler tending. Joceylene wanted to sing at the top of her lungs. Wesley wanted to throw things on the floor. Joceylene banged Danny's sunglasses on the table while Wesley ate napkins. Joceylene wriggled out of her booster seat while Wesley experimented with tipping his high chair over.

Meanwhile Danny and I sported the stunned expressions of two people who’ve just woken up from a lovely, lovely garden reverie only to find that they’re in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese on a Saturday.

At the agency, we’d gone over a dizzying list of expenses and fees. They even had a list of projected expenses when you travel to Russia, so that people wouldn’t forget to budget for such things as eating during their stay.

It occurred to us later however that in all the planning, financial and otherwise, for GETTING the kid, we sort of forgot that we will also need to get things FOR the kid.

It may sound obvious to some prospective parents, but I think the agency should also tell people, “Now, after you pay your fees and travel and other costs, please don’t forget you still have to buy clothes for the baby, and diapers, and a bed, and maybe a few toys and books would be nice. Oh, and remember they will have to eat sometimes too, and probably need medical care, and a coat, depending on what climate you live in. And a car seat, and a high chair and safety plugs for your wall sockets. And how about a trip to Disney once in awhile? And hooded towels, those are cute, kids like those, buy some of those…”

We are just getting to the point where the paperwork is almost done (unless there’s more hiding around the corner that I don’t know about) and I’ve started to dip my toe into thinking about things I will need when the kid arrives. It turns out adoption paperwork is the easier of the two tasks. Which rattle is best? Which nail clipper and grooming kit? Which crib mattress? Plus, some of the items I’ve seen out there are positively baffling.

I’m pretty sure they’ll need a bed, and food, but beyond that my eyes start to glaze over a bit. But it's okay, like all other parents since the beginning of time, we'll figure it out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Home again, Home again...

We just got back yesterday from our little trip. It was 1/4 adoption business, 1/4 family visit and ½ pure vacation, all in four and half days.

Here’s a few days in the mind of Danny and Steph on a trip.

Wednesday—Thoughts on class and entitlement in air travel
What is the psychological profile of a person who reclines their seat all the way back on a 58 minute flight? Two seconds after we reach altitude, Danny’s face is three inches from the grey leather seat of the person in front of him. So we had to wonder, I mean, this isn’t the overseas leg to Paris, it’s not the red eye. It’s an hour hop from Charlotte to Pittsburgh. It did not at all surprise us to find out while exiting the aircraft that the person who puts their seat all the way back is also the person who wears diamond earrings the size of kittens and brought her own cashmere blankie.

Thursday—Off to see the wizards
Giving someone the task of connecting you with your future child takes an enormous amount of trust. After meeting the people at IAG, I believe in them with my whole heart. We have to be ready for disappointments, for challenges, possibly for big, big heartaches, but somehow after spending four hours at the agency going over those possibilities, I felt like a great big balloon of hope.

We left the building wondering what our kid will look like, when to move the furniture out of my office, what time of year we’d get to see Moscow, and what to do with the dog when we have to stay in Russia for six weeks (because our dog is the most spoiled Jack Russell Terrier on the block, that is a fact.)

Friday—A visit to Grandma
It was harder than I thought being in Canton and not seeing my grandma. The hurt of being up that way and not being able to hug her ran very deep. We visited her grave, not far from the house where she raised me, and were reminded of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of enjoying every second and not rushing to the next.

I resolve to enjoy even these waiting times. I will revel in this fuzzy, romantic, sometimes frantic, anticipation period before I’m scrubbing grape jelly off the couch cushions and cleaning up someone else’s puke.

We visit Put-in-Bay, a little village nestled into the Lake Erie islands. We rent a golf cart and drive around the whole island wondering why we don’t drive golf carts more often. We go to the observation deck at the War of 1812 Peace Memorial and after our visit are sure of two things. One, we don’t know a lot about the war of 1812. Two, elevators to observation decks should institute a no farting rule.

Saturday—14 hours in a theme park
(Because Danny and I don’t just go to a theme park, we wring it out.)

We spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out why it is we will jump out of airplanes and ride rollercoasters that travel 120 mph and drop you straight down 420 feet, and yet, on the big ferris wheel we have to actively try not to freak out. We sympathize with the four year old girl crying and begging her parents not to take her on. If there were some sort of emergency button that alerted the operator to an impending panic attack, we’d probably be the ones to push it.

Later in the day, we identified the different species of douchebags that can be found in theme parks. The variety we spotted in line for The Mantis was the hipster who insists on wearing all his hipster paraphernalia to a rollercoaster park, skinny jeans, leather wrist cuff, back pocket hankie, various necklaces and rings, all worn while snickering that he’s really too cool for this world. Also identified were several people who wanted to punch that dude.

For the second time in a year we realize that we are by far the oldest people in line and have been riding roller coasters since before the majority of other line waiters were born.

Every time we pass the kiddie rides, I mentally plan a future trip with our kid(s) and can tell by the little smile on his face that Danny is doing the same thing.

I used the plane rides home to get started on the 400 page binder of information we’re supposed to read about adopting toddlers. I get stuck on the page of Russian names and their corresponding diminutives and start giving myself and my friends Russian nick names in my head. Stepanoschka, Alosha, Canushcka, Davel, Loruski…

I’m glad to be home and gearing up to start phase two, getting our dossier ready for Russia. We have to do ten hours of online training courses, get a psychological evaluation and take some pictures of our house (which means we have to clean it first and fix the holes I made in the bathroom wall.)

It’s exciting to think that maybe, just maybe, if the stars are smiling upon me, by this time next year I’ll be writing about the latest crazy hilarious situation my kid got into…

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Ode to Leaving Well Enough Alone

We’re going to sell our house. And in order to sell our house we need to fix some things up first. Most of them aren’t major, but merely cosmetic fixes that might make our home more attractive to prospective buyers.

Like many other sellers, we’re starting with the bathrooms. If you haven’t seen it, the wallpaper in the front bathroom is positively offensive. Look closely and you will see pale pink and green country heart flowers perched atop tiny leaves and stems and accented with little grey dots. It’s only one step up from a splatter paint effect. The plan was, get a little joint compound to cover the seams, paint over the horrid wallpaper pattern, replace the light fixture, and boom, passable bathroom.

The problem is, once you get me in a room with tools and a bucket of joint compound, I start to get ideas. Ideas that far outstrip my abilities.

Here's how things usually go when I embark on a project. Confident I can do it myself, I dig in, only to find out that I can’t quite do it right so I then begin a series of cover up“fixes” that add up to many dollars and several hours (or days) trying to adequately cover up my shoddy job trying to get rid of something that probably wasn’t that bad in the first place.

The big idea I got this weekend was that, if the offensive country heart wallpaper was going, then the semi-offensive 1989 grey ceramic bathroom fixtures would also have to go. The problem is, said fixtures were built into the wall. The only way to get those down in case you're wondering, is to take a swing at them with a sledgehammer. Once I ascertained this fact, the project had upgraded from idea to impossible to resist urge. The idea had already soaked into my brain. There was no possible way I could have lived another minute with that towel holder and its clear plastic bar. So I shut the bathroom door and started whacking. I don’t know what I was thinking, or if I was at all.

A half hour later, not only did I have no bathroom fixtures, I had five big holes in the wall. This didn’t necessarily freak me out. I have never patched a drywall hole but, being of blue collar blood and having seen patch kits on the shelf in Home Depot, something in my DNA assured me I could do it.

Turns out my DNA doesn't know shit about patching drywall holes.

In retrospect, were the ceramic fixtures that bad? No. Should I have thought longer about the decision to bring destructive tools into the bathroom? Yes.

Now, upon entering my bathroom, a keen eye (basically anyone blessed with the gift of vision) will notice three large puffy squares protruding from the wall. The squares are however covered with a lovely sea foam green color and, quite possibly, will soon be covered by a shelf.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Steph's Christmas in July Gift Guide.

From my stash of great products from the Sunday coupon pages, I bring you this handy guide to get started on your Christmas shopping. Because none of us can ever have enough useless crap.

1. For that snarky someone.

You can get Maxine's crabulous humor 365 days a year. It's a bargain at $59.99. The order form says satisfaction guaranteed. I wonder, what could someone possibly be expecting from this product that they wouldn't get? Are there people who write the company two weeks later and say, I'm sorry, but Maxine's humor is not nearly as crabulous as your ad promised...

2. For that special someone.

Show them you have an appreciation for the finer things by treating them to this glittering, Swaroski crystal rendition of everyone's favorite snarky canary.

3. For the LSD user in your life.

I'm sure this product, intended for people who want to add the magestic splendor of the sea to their rumpus room, really just ends up as a novelty gift for friends who do a lot of hallucinogens and lick certain frogs. This could also make for a wonderful conversation piece. Conversations that would most likely start, "Why the f%$k do you have that?"

Another product that unintentionally ends up as gag gift for heavy drug users is the Illuminating Crystal Angel by dream products.

4. If you hate your houseguest/neighbors.
Buy the Elvis cuckoo clock. What better way to remind you that yet another hour of your life has been spent reading useless stuff on the internet than by having the king announce it?

Also consider, The 100 Bell Wind Chime. Musical ringling and jingling of 100 hundred bells and 10 brass pipes at the slightest breeze.

5. For the kids.

Personally, I loved playing with scissors as a kid. As a matter of fact, one of my favotire haircuts, that I lovingly refer to as "the mushroom cloud" was the result of a particulary fun afternoon with grandma's good shears. Imagine the damage I could have done with these bad boys.

Feel free to send your own great gift ideas for the next edition of the gift guide. Until next time, happy shopping.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A brief (but important) list

Things I kind of wish would go away:

1. Twitter. WTF is twitter? I don’t want to tweet or twit or whatever the fuck. And if I see one more news report or headline or magazine article about what Ashton Kutcher or Anderson Cooper or some basketball player "twittered" I’m going to hurl. I'm not sure why, but the mere mention of this site makes me want to scratch my eyes out.

2. Greeting cards with sound in them. I went to the Hallmark store the other day and was verbally accosted by two thirds of the cards I cracked open. What happened to just a spunky old lady or a dog in a birthday hat? Must everything be interactive? Can’t I have a quiet moment to send someone well wishes? (Coming soon, twitter from your birthday card!)

3. Healthcare bills (and the corresponding bill collectors who incessantly call to make sure I pay them). These people call me every morning at precisely 8:30am. They have not figured out that I have caller I.D. I know it’s you asshole, I’m not picking up.

Things I’d like to see more of:

1. Baby clothes. I was reminded of this last night at the home of my friend and mama-to-be, Candi. Little tiny Chuck Taylors, mini courderoy overalls, little baby onesies on little baby hangers. I am consumed by the cuteness. Even when I was in the throes of infertility despair, nothing could make me go all gooey and warm like an itty-bitty sundress at Old Navy with coordinating lilliputian flip flops.

2. Random acts of wit and whimsy:
As I was driving to the gym one day, I saw a busted out portion of a long brick wall. I thought, “Gee, that’s weird.” But I will be forever grateful to the person who saw it and thought of this…

What I wish I had seen whlie driving, but only read about in the newspaper, was Raleigh artist Joseph Carnevale's creative use of traffic barrels.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Adoption comments hall of fame

It has become something of a sociological experiment for me to catalog the different responses I get to the "we're adopting" news.

Most people in my life have reacted with a joy, excitement, and curiosity about the process that mirrors my own. But there are other times when a reaction stings a little (or makes me want to reach in and rip the person's heart out, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom style.)

Here are some of my not-so-favorites:

1. Russia? But there are so many American kids who need good homes…?

The implication here is that whenever a person selfishly makes the choice to adopt abroad, a big fat tear rolls down one of said American children’s faces (for dramatic effect the tear should roll down while the child is looking out a rainy window and holding a broken baby doll).

I could list a zillion pros and cons for each way to adopt, but suffice it to say that when it comes time to choose, you just have to go with what feels right to you. It might be adopting from down the street or it might be adopting from the Planet Zorgon. Like many other huge life decisions, you won't know how to cross that bridge until you come to it (on Zorgon though it will most likely be in a hover craft).

Also, I find it interesting that no one uses the, “U.S. kids need homes” comment for pregnant people. As in,"Gee, it's really a shame you're pregnant. Don't you know there are lots of kids who need good homes?' (It's best if this comment is accompanied by a look that says, What the hell is wrong with you, you selfish bastard?)

2. Maybe now that you’re adopting you’ll get pregnant! (Like Charlotte on Sex in the City! Like my best friend’s neighbor’s sister-in-law!)

Taking people at their best, I'm pretty sure this statement comes from a desire to console the prospective adoptive parent who has probably struggled trying to get pregnant and so the adoption announcement might signal a throwing-in-the-towel type moment. But I don't think people realize how insulting this comment is. The implication is that an adopted child is my booby prize but my “real” prize might still be coming and I shouldn’t give up hope just yet.

I used to think that deciding to adopt must feel like the walk of the infertility losers. That starting the process would feel like defeat. The shocking thing doesn't. At least not for me. I am filled with a hope and love that had started to deflate after years of infertility struggle. I feel refreshed, not defeated. For three years we’ve been hoping for a child. We have not given up hope for that.

3. I’ll have a baby for you!

Super! I'll have my doctor contact you so we can start the Invitro process. I hope you're okay with very large needles, copious amounts of hormones and LOTS of different people peering into your love hole...and then of course the blessed pregnancy and childbirth (which I've heard is a breeze), thanks for offering to do it for me!... How's next month for you to get started?

What's that?

Oh, I didn't mean that you'd really do it...

4. Have you tried/considered/looked into/heard about…?

Yes. I have.

BONUS: This is a comment I only got once, but it's a real winner.

Receptionist: How old will the baby be when you get it?

Me: I don’t know. A year? Two years?

Receptionist: Oh...well it’s the best when you can be there from day one. It’s the most amazing thing in the world.

Fantasy response #1: “Well, it’s the most amazing thing to have a million dollars too, but I don’t. I've still managed to lead a happy life though, amazing isn't it?”

Fantasy response #2: “Yeah, I’ve cried many, many nights over that, but thanks for reminding me I’m going to miss out on the first year of my kid’s life. I hope you have a nice day.”

Real response: “….”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Peggy and Me

Sunday I saw a little movie called Drag Me to Hell. Long story short, I learned this lesson: Do not piss off an old gypsy lady if you are wearing earrings, a button, or some other object she can curse with a demon who will chase you around (in the form of a fly that crawls into your mouth, an eyeball in your slice of Harvest Cake, or even as a possessed billy goat.)

This got me thinking that it couldn’t hurt to have some friends in touch with the spirit world. Normally, I am firmly in the “that’s-hocus-pocus-phooey” camp, but lately, needing all the help I can get, I find myself thinking, if that rabbit’s foot makes you feel lucky, have at it (unless it’s a real rabbit’s foot in which case you’re a terrible human being…seriously dude, it’s a bunny.)

About four months ago I came across a chubby little fertility statue from a tiny psychic shop in a rural town. “Peggy” has lived in my purse ever since (except for this weekend she’s on loan to a friend). And even though I am no longer trying to conceive, Peggy is still a talisman of hope. I feel better somehow when I’m digging through my purse for gum and see her snuggled into the folds of my purse lining right between the stool softener and a rubber ball with a tiny skull inside it (don’t ask me why or how, but those items are seriously in my purse—stranger things have happened).

I know I’m not the only one turning to charms in troubled times because a few weeks ago I saw a news story that sales of such hocus-pocus are on the rise due to the troubled economy. According to Joe’s One-stop Santeria shop in Miami, Florida, the biggest selling item is Good Fortune Floor Wax. This strikes me as odd. I mean, with Peg all I have to do is know she’s there and imagine the good things she’s pushing my way. She doesn’t make me do housework.

A word to the wise Joe of Joe’s One Stop Santeria Shop in Miami, Florida: If you really want to double your sales, consider carrying some less work intensive potions. Maybe a Big Money Bathroom Spray? Or an, “I need a job” incense set? Just a thought.

It seems strange to think of things this way, but now when I look at Peggy and think about my future child, I think somewhere in the world, possibly Russia, possibly somewhere else (I’ve given up assuming that I know such things for certain), a chain of events has been set in motion that will somehow, miraculously bring me together with the child who is meant to be with me. This chain of events has nothing to do with my monthly cycle, but rather the reproductive organs of two people half a world away. But that’s okay, when it’s time, me, Danny and Peg will board a plane, cross a continent or two and claim our good fortune.

Friday, May 22, 2009

On Instant Gratification

It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks. I've been riding mechanical bulls, tracking down judges in Maryland, getting background checks at the county sheriff's office and waiting hours to get a doctor to fill out a simple form. I'm learning quickly that in this adoption process, delays and snafus will come from the most unexpected places.

We have to get used to waiting (and waiting...and waiting.)

So thank god for Netflix. Netflix instant watch is my newest crackpipe in a long line of crackpipes. I have no self-control, especially when hundreds of movie and TV show titles are instantly available to me from Gimme a Break and Simon and Simon, to Heroes and La Femme Nikita.

I like having things instantly available. That’s what was so compelling to me about the whole mp3 downloading thing, I want a song and poof, I have one. These days I would marry Rhapsody if it were a person and I wasn't already married. I discover a new artist I like (this week it’s Modern Lovers---okay I know they’re no where near “new” but they’re new to me) and in a few clicks I have their entire collection.

It doesn’t help that my husband is also a glutton. In the pre-Netflix days, every so often we’d get our hooks into a TV show on DVD and not come up for air until the entire series was finished. To give you an idea of the extent of our problem, we watched all five seasons of The Wire in about two weeks. (I still miss Bubbles and DuKwon).

This behavior leaves us bug eyed, wasted and hazy, but boy does it feel good at the time. This week we’re watching Heroes and the most common phrase uttered in my house is, “one more?”

I think the universe wanted me to learn patience and that is why I was bestowed with my particular set of challenges. But, it being a kind and loving universe, it gave me Netflix Instant watch as a consolation prize.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Steph the Trekkie(er?)

I’ll be honest, I have only a vague idea what the difference is, and only sort of care. You could say I dip my toe in the pool of sci-fi nerdom. I know what a Ponfar is and have used that word in a sentence, but don’t ask me to name Spock’s parents or tell you how many planets are in the federation.

Like the good wanna-be nerd that I am, I have seen the new Star Trek movie not once, but twice in the past week. The first time on Thursday and the second at the IMAX theater in Tampa on Sunday. (It was cool after I got over my initial disappointment in what an IMAX theater was.) First I should say that I have not seen any of the original Star Trek episodes in their entirety. If, perchance, Danny happens to be watching one on TV, I usually make it about 5.3 minutes before leaving the room or picking up a book (generally about the time Captain Kirk starts making out with some blue skinned woman in a metallic bikini from the planet Sklargon).

It’s testament to the show’s cultural status that even though I’ve never seen more than five minutes of an episode, the new movie's characters and their catchphrases still felt familiar to me. Such as Bones telling Spock, “Dammit man I’m a doctor not a physicist.” Or Scotty screaming “I’m doin’ the best I can captain!” from the engineering ward (see it’s probably not even called the engineering ward that’s how un-schooled I am.)

I enjoyed the movie a lot, it was funny, endearing and adventurous. From a storyteller’s perspective, many things were very convenient. But that’s okay, I have quite a large capacity to suspend disbelief (so large in fact that I actually found myself wondering if I could adopt a young half-Vulcan boy). My favorite part of the movie though, was imagining a series of spin offs.

Here are a few of the possibilities:

Spock and Uhura make a porno

As a super logical and (almost) always cool under pressure Vulcan, I imagine sex with Spock might be akin to sex with an eye doctor, is it better like this or better like this? A or B? Better position one, position two, or about the same? Have you concluded?
(Coincidentally the photo above is titled, "Spock and Uhura Make Music")

Captain Nero reads bedtime stories to Romulan children
Nero was an almost dad who tragically lost his family when Romulus exploded. I think he needs some anger management in the form of story hour. I’m pretty sure kids will find his sweaty moon head and face tattoos soothing.

Pavel Chekov becomes a regular on Sesame Street.
Chekov is an exceedingly adorable, enthusiastic young Russian who kids will instantly identify with (since he’s barely older than them). Hilarity will ensue when our nation's children begin to think Ws are pronounced as Vs and Wise Wersa.

Look for these and others, on the forthcoming channel for (Semi) Sci-Fi nerds. In the meantime, I'm going to go catch up on some Doctor Who episodes I missed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bundles of Joy (sent via US Postal Service)

We’re really doing it, we’re going to adopt a baby. We’re very excited. I should warn you not to hold your breath at this point (it wouldn’t be advisable at any point actually) but especially now since it may be a year or more until we’re actually wiping a kid’s ass.

But still, after I assured the agency that despite my arrest at the FDA I am not a member of a terrorist organization, the ball is rolling.

So let me tell you a bit about this proverbial ball that is rolling. It is a ball consisting of 45 different kinds of back ground checks, reference letters in which I have to ask my friends to answer eighteen questions about my relationship (and notarize their responses), letters from doctors saying I’m not going to spontaneously combust, a floor plan of my house (coincidentally, I did not miss my calling as an architect) and last but not least, a twelve page “Life Summary,” which answers four pages of questions about every aspect of my existence from ages 0-31.

Here’s a sample excerpt from mine:
“Even though it’s just the two of us, we generally confine nudity to the bedroom.”

I am glad these requirements are in place, to guard against crazy wackos adopting children (of course nothing stops crazy wackos from having children, but no matter). We are glad to do it if it means we’ll finally have someone to accompany us to the Pixar/Disney movies we already go to.

This is only phase one of the paperwork process. Apparently there is a whole other level after this. The dossier (sounds so fancy doesn’t it?) is the packet that goes to the Russian government. I’m just going to cross that bridge when I come to it, otherwise my head will explode. Because I have learned this about myself, when it comes to this adoption, I work at the speed of light, possibly faster. Whatever delays may come (and they will) they will not come from my end. I am like a carefully controlled tornado of adoption paperwork.

It has been less than a week since the home study social worker came to the house and we’ve already mailed our initial paperwork package to her and sent away for our handy dandy background checks. Another package is going out today. I can already tell we're going to get to know our postal service employees very well.

This will all be good practice for being patient. I will keep in mind that somewhere at the top of the paperwork mountain is the child we were ready for three years ago. After all the packages and papers and summaries and checks, we will finally be able to be parents. I know it will be worth every filled in blank and notarized signature.

I'm going to trust that the US Postal Service works as diligently as I do, and that things will happen when they are meant to. Of course, if I can speed that up on my end, I will.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Parachutes and Shattered Glass

I jumped out of a plane again. About a week ago my friend Alisa and I decided to treat ourselves to a little adrenaline rush. It's been a rough month.

I have discovered this about myself. I love the sight of people falling out of airplanes. Is that wrong? On the way out there Alisa said, "Wouldn't it be unfortunate if we died doing this?"

Yes, yes it would. Though oddly the only times I've been really fearful for my life, my feet were firmly on the ground (like the Millennium New Years celebration in downtown Madrid when I was sure I'd be crushed to death by a rowdy crowd singing Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!)

The scariest part of skydiving is the plane ride up. The plane itself is not much larger than some remote control models I've seen. It fits about ten people straddling two benches. One guy, doing a "hop n' pop" jumped out at the halfway height and the whole plane lurched as a canoe might. It's quite unsettling.

My second skydive was a more aware experience than my first. My first time I think I sort of just flailed around a lot, unable to breathe or control my limbs in the 120 mph winds rushing past me. But this time I picked up my head, posed for the camera (a lot) and enjoyed the vision of the earth one usually only sees from the tiny window of an airplane, a long and winding river, an ocean in the distance and the green patchwork of surrounding farmland. It's like being superman or seeing earth from space.

When the parachute opened the tandem instructor passed me a beer. I toasted Alisa as she sailed past us at 11,000 feet in the air and drank my Bud Lite while hovering far above the treetops.

We had dinner later in the afterglow of the experience. As we enjoyed our fried clam strip appetizer (ordered out of sheer curiosity) we got a call and learned that while I had been hurtling toward earth, my car had been broken into while parked at my friend's house. Three bored kids had thrown a large rock through the window.

The police officer was awesome. She sat with my little red wagon until we returned, to make sure no one messed with the car or stole our empty diet Pepsi bottles or reusable grocery bags. The funny thing is, I wasn't completely incensed until the cop told me the same kids smashed the windows at the nearby library. The LIBRARY! I mean my god, is nothing sacred?

On the way home Chris and Alisa told me about the time their house had been broken into and how terrifying it felt. I still shiver to think about them getting home and realizing someone had been in their house, taken their things, disrespected their space.

So evidently, the danger does not lie in jumping out of an airplane at 13,000 feet, but rather right here on the ground. Next time I will leave a sign on my car, "Gone skydiving, don't ruin my buzz (and leave the library alone for chrissake!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's Official

Saturday I officiated the wedding of my dear friend Natalie. First I have to say that Natalie, fellow radical feminist and social justice lawyer, is exceedingly cute. (After viewing wedding pictures on Flickr I have determined she could possibly be the cutest person on the planet.)

The day was one of those “grown up” moments in my life. One of those moments where I realize, again, that I am indeed an adult member of society. Never mind that I myself have been married for five years, or that I have a mortgage, a literary agent and more health problems than most 70 year-olds, I have performed and officially notarized someone’s nuptials. Put another mark on my official grown up card.

Generally, I cry at weddings. It’s a privilege to witness two people you care about publicly declare their love and commitment to each other. Love is palpable at a wedding. And so I was not sure I’d be able to actually perform the ceremony without my face twisting into that I’m-about-to-cry expression.

I prepared for the day by purchasing an awesome (if I do say so myself) Jackie Brown inspired suit and reading the ceremony aloud about a thousand times. I pronounced Danny and Kiddo husband and wife at least six of those times. (I sure hope that’s not legally binding.)

Marrying two people turned out to be quite an enormous experience. I was beyond honored to have been asked, and tickled pink when Jim, the groom, gave me the good credit line on the movie poster he designed for the occasion. Stephanie Seguin as “The Officiant.”

Joining Jim and Natalie in matrimony was a more intimate gesture than I ever expected. There I was, not crying, guiding my good friends through their vows and promises of lifelong commitment in front of a crowd of more than a hundred people. The bubble of love that radiated from them was close enough to touch. It was pure magic to be part of such a profound moment in someone’s life, especially someone I care so much about, and her new husband who has my official stamp of approval.

I wish Jim and Natalie much love, happiness and many, many magical moments.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Strip me, Cut me, Stitch me, Heal me

Last Tuesday I had surgery to remove two large cysts from my ovaries.

They’d been causing chronic pain that was at times so excruciating that once I thought my appendix had burst and another time found myself on all fours crying for mercy at a gas station somewhere in South Carolina. So, needless to say, I’m not sorry to see them go.

After the procedure, the surgeon left Danny with a picture of the cysts as a souvenir. I thought about posting it but, that seems excessive even for me. Suffice it to say the cysts looked like two gooey softballs nestled into the innards of a pumpkin.

It went fairly normally as surgeries go. The anesthesiologist's name was Dr. Killman (really, you can’t make this shit up.) It’s already hard for me to keep a straight face in these situations. He might as well have said, hi I’m Grim Reaper and I’ll be putting you under today.

Since I am, at 31, something of a surgery connoisseur I definitely know my preferences. I like to get the happy juice BEFORE I get wheeled into the operating room. I do not want to see the person who has to move a folding chair aside so the gurney fits through the door. I do not want to see people wrangling with strange equipment, or feel people undoing the hospital gown strings that it took Danny and I both ten minutes to figure out.

And I certainly don't want to see a woman trying to attach what looks like metal leg stirrups to the end of the operating table. Honestly, the last thing I thought before I sank into oblivion was: Are my legs going to be in stirrups? Fuck. What's my situation like "down there"?

I came to in a drunken stupor. The nurse nodded politely as I prattled on about how much I love my mother-in-law while she removed my bedpan and helped me get my underwear on. Those of you who have had surgery will know that you simply have to accept the fact that strangers will be witnessing, and assisting, your bodily functions. But it's okay, copious amounts of narcotics ensure you will not care that a nurse is walking down the corridor with a container of your pee.

According to what the surgeon told Danny, (I was too doped for conversation) I have the dubious honor of having the worst case of scarring from endometriosis the surgeon had ever seen. Because you know, I don’t believe in half assing things. When I do something, I do it ALL THE WAY. I imagine my uterus looks something like Freddy Kruger's face (metaphorically speaking).

So this past week was spent popping percocet and watching movies on Netflix Instant (god bless it). I have been spoiled by friends with magazines, cookies, cupcakes, pudding and pastires.

But I think I'm ready to get back to normal now. I am doing well and looking forward to feeling like a regular person. A person who does normal things like drive through South Carolina without having to touch the ground at its trucker gas stations (no offense South Carolina I'm sure your trucker gas station pavement isn't any nastier than anyone else's).

Monday, April 6, 2009

You're Turning Violet, Violet

I love having purple hair. The way I figure it, I don’t work in a bank or a nine to five desk job, so if I want to have purple hair, I can.

I first did purple on my 30th birthday, because I was feeling a little crazy. The original plan was to go all over blonde but when I balked upon discovering that going from dark brown to blonde includes processes that sound like they should be done to raw lumber and not hair, my hair stylist suggested patches of purple underneath the dark brown, so they would peek out from time to time.

I got immense pleasure from the peekage. Next I did pink, then orange, then pink and orange together.

I am addicted.

At my last trip to the salon my conversation with the cerulean coiffed receptionist could have been coming from the mouths of two heroin addicts. "How long have you been on this color?" "It fades fast but it's sooooo worth it." "You know, you can come in between appointments for a quick color fix."

I’ve heard people say that tattoos are addicting. I imagine this is similar. Now when it comes time to do my color, a couple under streaks are never enough. Every time I go in I ask for a wee bit more. Do a streak on top. Do some in my bangs. If I don’t slow down, pretty soon I will be rainbow all over.

I like the slow surprise of health care professionals who ask, “Is your hair purple?” I like that I otherwise look like a completely normal human being except for a surprise shock of neon hair. I like catching a glimpse of costumish color on a day that is not Halloween.

If it were practical to color my entire head bubble gum pink, I’d probably do it. I’m reaching the point now where the hairs on my head are probably half and half. Half deep brown, half violet. So where do I go from here? A whole rainbow hued head?

I might have to get that tattoo I’ve been wanting. But then, I fear, the problem starts afresh, where do I stop?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Yee Haw Ladies!!!!

Holy Justice System!

Did I ever tell you guys I'm a plaintiff in, like, a really important law suit? Well, I am. And today we had a HUGE victory!

A U.S. District court ruled that the FDA MUST reconsider their decision to only allow women over 18 to get the Morning-After Pill without a prescription. Long story short, the FDA delayed the move for a looooong time and ultimately made it behind the counter only for 18 and up.

But now they have to reconsider based on scientific fact (as opposed to Dubya's hee haws) so younger women can get too.

A big high five for my sexually active teeny bopper sistahs.....

Read about the court decision here

Read about the fabulous feminst women who waged a no holds barred campaign for MAP over the counter here

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Again with the primates...

Okay, I know I've posted before about fake baby primates, and I'm guessing I will continue to do so as long as such a thing is for sale. I found this ad for "Little Umi" in the Sunday circular. I pulled her out and sat her on my dining room table so she was right next my morning paper today when I read this article "Study: Belligerent chimp proves animals can plan for the future."

Seriously, you can't make this shit up. Once I got past the initial terrifying image of a monkey military general with his finger on the button, I read on. According to the associated press, "Santino, the 31-year old male started building his weapons cache in the morning before the zoo opened...he waited until midday before he unleashed a 'hailstorm' of rocks against visitors."

I have to say, I feel Santino's pain. I too am 31, and if I found myself locked in a Stockholm zoo I'd most likely rip the face off the closest lingonberry vendor. I don't have time for that shit. Santino probably has a funny jungle blog or a monkeybook page to get back to.

What is it with us and the chimps? Can't we just leave them alone already? What if a bunch of orangutans hauled you off to the jungle and put you in a little box so a bunch of monkeys could stick their faces between the bars to look at you? Even if they were nice to me I imagine I'd say, look, thanks for all the ticks and beetles folks, but I really gotta get going. (Steph taps watch, throws feces for emphasis).

I fail to understand the market for fake baby monkeys as a collectible item. Wouldn't you rather have a collection of 139 dollar bills? I doubt even the zoo chimps are dumb enough to shell out cash for that product. They can, after all, plan for the future.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Small Annoyances and Minor Questions of Etiquette

Small annoyance #1

I get mad at people in front of me at a red light when I'm planning a right turn. Every minute they're sitting there waiting to go straight is a minute I could be closer to my destination. If only the clog in front of me had asked me before we arrived at the light and let me go first. I sort of wish there were a car way to handle situations like in the grocery store when you only have one item and a person with a full cart let’s you go in front of them.

Minor Question of Etiquette
When I’m walking up to wait for the signal to cross a street and there is another person already waiting there, is it offensive to push the button again? Is that like being the person who pushes the elevator button even though you’re standing there and it’s lit up already? Because really what’s happening is I’m pushing the button to cross just in case this person forgot or maybe is not familiar with the button pushing system. (It's also possible they have no fingers and were just going to cross frogger style.) In any case, I want to double check that the button has been pushed without insulting the person’s intelligence.

It seems simple enough to ask them, but even that might be annoying. For example, a similar situation in which I was the victim of such an insult. I was waiting to use the bathroom at the Hippodrome (three stall set up). A girl walks in, sees me waiting there, and proceeds to do the “bend and check” we ladies have to do when we’re looking to see if stalls are occupied. As she’s checking and positioning herself in front of one of the other stalls, three thoughts flit through my mind.

1. Even if I had some gross oversight and you happen to find an empty stall, IT IS MINE.
2. There are THREE stalls here. THREE! Not twenty five. Don’t you think I checked them myself before leaning up against the wall to squeeze my legs together?
3. If I wasn’t waiting to pee. I would have informed you when you entered. What kind of person do you think I am?

As it was, I nearly pushed her out of the way and wiggled into the stall she was waiting for. I’d be damned if that bitch was going to take a leak before me, who had diligently powerwalked my way out of the theater to get there before her.

Small annoyance #2: Greetings and Goodbyes in America
It is my sincere wish that we as a people could get it together on the greeting front. Other countries and cultures have very clear standards. Kiss cheek hello, handshake hello etc…
In Japan they bow to each other. In France there is an intricate system of bisous greetings by region. One kiss in this city, three in the one south of it, two in yet another. Everyone knows the rules and abides by them. I don’t know if they learn it in school, or if the knowledge is simply passed along to residents of France via their French DNA, but there is never any confusion. No one ever glides in for a hug only to be met with a misplaced peck on the cheek. No one goes to leave a social gathering and does the awkward, "Are-you-a-hugger-or-aren’t-you" dance. The pressure to have your own greeting style is off, because your culture has provided one for you. That’s my dream for a better America. Let’s clean up our hellos and goodbyes.

(Here I'll leave you with a small kiss on each cheek. Au Revoir.)