Friday, June 30, 2006

And now, for something not at all different...

I know that a lot of bloggers participate in that Thursday Thirteen thing, and I've often thought about jumping on that bandwagon myself. Lists? I love lists! Sharing pointless details about myself? I can do that! Having a default topic to post about at least one day a week? Sounds good to me! But thirteen things sounds like an awful lot. I mean, some thirteens would be no problem. I could, for example, easily come up with thirteen songs I love or thirteen ways to annoy me no end. But other thirteens would be significantly tougher to enumerate, particularly if I have to do it every week.

So, as with so many things in my life, I'm taking the lazy, half-assed approach and starting my own "Friday Five" feature instead. I realize that if I were truly to do this half-way, I should actually go with a "Saturday Six-and-a-Half" list, but coming up with something clever to be the "half" each week sounds even more daunting than the full thirteen. So Friday Five it is. Presumably I'll continue this each week until it's no longer interesting or amusing to me (which, if that Stillwater Homies idea I abandoned almost immediately is any indication, may be sooner rather than later--we shall see).

Anyway, here we go: the first of my Friday Fives...

Five things I have no idea why I remember
  1. What I was wearing the day my last two relationships ended.

  2. My high school locker combination (16-36-18).

  3. All the words to an extremely annoying and unfortunately infectious song from a kids' show I never even watched. The show was Lamb Chop's Play-Along (my little sister watched it; I was just, apparently, nearby); the song is This is the Song That Never Ends.

  4. The birthdays of at least half the people I have ever known (including ones I have not seen in over ten years).

  5. Large portions of two of the paragraphs we had to recite for pronunciation tests in Spanish II. The first goes, "Vacaciones! Esta es mi familia: mama, papa, mi hermano Diego, y yo. Soy la persona con la maleta," which essentially means, "Hey, we're on vacation! Here's my family: my mom, my dad, my brother Diego, and me. I'm the kid with the suitcase." The second one proclaims the wonders of an apparently impressively outfitted kitchen, and it starts, "Que cocina, eh? Dos estufas grandes..." That's all I remember, but really how much more do you need than "What a kitchen! Two big stoves..."?


Note: I realize that part of the point of the Thursday Thirteen meme is to be a member of the TT community and cross-link to find new blogs and direct more readers to your own blog. I couldn't find anything similar for a Friday Five (aside from a couple that post five questions to answer each week, which wasn't really what I wanted to do), but I don't particularly care about that anyway. If anyone is aware of kindred lazy spirits hooking up for an organized group of Friday Fivers, however, feel free to clue me in.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We've got balls*

If I had to list the three things I probably write about too often (or at least, more often than I write about anything else), those things would be bad dates, punctuation, and the gym. This is not about bad dates or punctuation.

Some of you may remember the post Red wrote a couple months ago about her fancy, schmancy new gym. For whatever reason, the part I remember most about that story was the part about the lady at the desk rolling her eyes and apologizing that they had a step class going on. "I guess some people are still into Step," she apparently said. I read that and was hit with the same embarrassed confusion I remember being aware of in first grade, when I watched Blair chastise Jo for wearing "last year's jeans." At the time, most of my clothes were hand-me-downs not even from my older sister but from the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store where my grandmother volunteered. I had no idea there was such a thing as "last year's jeans." If the jeans still fit, weren't you still supposed to wear them?

That strange Facts of Life tangent was basically my way of saying I had no idea Step was passe'. My gym still offers Step classes regularly, and I've been attending those classes somewhat regularly for over three years now. The teal/magenta/gray color scheme of the steps and support boxes is pretty much a dead giveaway that those props have been in the aerobics studio since the late 80s at least, but I didn't realize the same props weren't still in use at everyone else's gym as well.

In any case, I think my gym finally noticed that Red's gym was pointing and laughing and mocking it openly, because suddenly all of the Step classes are being replaced by BOSU ball classes. If you're a member of one of those cool-kids gyms, you probably saw these things years ago already. Since my gym is as big a dork as an eighth-grade-me, however, I had to look it up. If you're clueless like I was, here--I'll help you out: click this link.

It took about five minutes of my first BOSU class for me to start feeling comfortable on the ball and enjoy the change of pace to something new. I started bouncing with confidence, actually entertaining the thought that this might be fun disguised as exercise! As I jumped and hopped around, I remembered being young and carefree and full of energy playing in the Moonwalk at county fairs or bobbing around my parents' basement on a Hippity-Hop.** This wasn't just a workout; this was a chance to reconnect with my youth! Considering I can't drive past a trampoline in someone's yard without plotting ways to sneak back and jump on it without getting arrested (or worse--having to befriend a person under 10), this was quite exciting to me.

That was the first five minutes. It took another five before I realized I have no business on a BOSU ball. I am not what you would call coordinated (actually, I believe we've covered this already). I am, after all, the girl who once tore a ligament jumping down the two tiny steps in her parents' living room because a balloon happened to be between her foot and the floor. This memory resurfaced quickly when I landed on the BOSU wrong and turned my ankle a bit. I was pretty sure my BOSU endeavor was over as quickly as it began. Fortunately, I recovered discreetly and got back on the ball (and just remained a bit more cautious thereafter).

I've been to three classes now, and I think I'm getting the hang of it, though I wonder how long before the novelty wears off and BOSU gets as tired and routine as Step. I think my gym's management is a little worried about that, too, so they're trying to keep us distracted and overstimulated enough that we don't notice. When they brought in the carts of blue BOSU balls, they didn't remove the teal and magenta Step paraphernalia. They just added the new equipment right alongside the net of brightly colored red, yellow, and blue balance balls, which hangs to the left of the plastic Rubbermaid bins filled with green and purple resistance bands, red and yellow rubber tubing, and floral-printed yoga mats. In addition, the gym's also started offering hooping classes (again, presumably to disguise exercise as fun and bring out our inner child), so a gaggle of multi-colored hula-hoops now hangs on the same pegs that hold our spongy red situp mats. I get a headache just looking at the chaos of colors that this cluttered mess of props has created in the studio. The place is like a fucking circus.

In other words, I'm pretty sure Red's gym will still point and laugh, but now there'll be a tinge of pity to the ridicule. My gym is like the loser in a John Hughes-era movie who tried to buy the right clothes and put on the right makeup to be just like the popular kids, but still ended up getting it just a little bit wrong. Come to think of it, maybe my geeky, awkward gym is actually the perfect place for me after all.

* I'm sure I'm going to some sort of Blogger hell for pulling out a pun as bad as that, but since a better title just isn't coming to me, that is, unfortunately, the only title you're going to get.

** Did I really need to link to those, or would you all have known what the heck I was talking about even without the visual aids?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Tragically Unhip*

I know I started a post with a Seinfeld reference only a few weeks ago, but pardon me for bringing up another. Remember that one where George shows a beautiful woman a picture of Jerry's girlfriend ("Man-hands") and claims she's his dead fiance', and the woman is so impressed that the dead hottie for some reason saw something in his short, fat, bald self that she lets him into the secret forbidden city of gorgeous models? And then he accidentally burns the picture of Man-hands, so he tries to get back into the secret club by using a picture of a magazine model? His plan is foiled, of course, as all of George's plans inevitably are, and in the end, when he tries to return to the secret city, all he finds is an abandoned meat-packing plant.

I'd like to think that I bear little if any resemblance to George Costanza (physically or otherwise), but I can sort of relate to his quest for wonders hidden just beyond his reach. It seems H&M is my meat-packing plant.

It was around this time last year that my friends and I first found out that H&M was coming to Minneapolis. Word spread quickly and enthusiastically. Everyone had a friend or a friend-of-a-friend who had been to H&M in some other lucky city, and the stories they told seemed exaggerated in a way not unlike the legend of William Wallace in Braveheart. Except instead of "William Wallace is eight feet tall!" it was "H&M has hip, trendy clothes at Wal-Mart prices!" "You'll love everything!" "And the clothes fit real people--not just tiny teenaged stick insects!"

From the stories I heard, I thought my shopping dilemmas were finally solved. Finally, there'd be a store selling clothing for me, for my people, for the demographic every designer somehow ignores: the late 20-something/early 30-something who realizes she's too old to pull off most of what's on display at Charlotte Russe or American Eagle, but isn't ready for the frumpy schoolmarm look at Christopher & Banks or the safe and practical middle-aged-friendly cotton separates at Coldwater Creek... for the woman who knows she could probably find something fabulous at Nordstroms, but can't spend half her mortgage payment on a kicky casual skirt or a sexy yet practical tank... for the fashion-clueless and frugal "in-betweeners" like me.

I didn't go to H&M immediately upon its opening last fall. I knew from other new-to-our-market retail openings that the first several weeks it would be a madhouse. The Twin Cities fancies itself a modern, burgeoning metropolis (some go so far as to call it the Mini-Apple, after all), but the level of anticipation and media coverage when something new comes to town shows just how little we really must have going on. When the first Krispy-Kreme opened in a far northwest suburb, the local news stations reported on it for weeks prior and had live coverage of the winding half-mile-long line of donut enthusiasts on the day of the big opening. Dedicated traffic control was assigned to the area, and a shuttle bus ran customers from a nearby strip mall to the store to alleviate parking concerns. I am not kidding about this; it's sad but it's true.

It was a similar story when IKEA opened two years ago. Displaced Swedes' and Germans' eyes lit up in probably the same way mine would if I had to live a Target-deprived existence for years and then got word that the big red bulls-eye was finally coming to town. People who'd been to IKEA in other cities and even those who'd never heard of the Swedish Mafia but believed the tales of wonder told by their friends and co-workers all lined up on opening day to fight their way through the crowds on a quest for clever furnishings.

I waited out the crowds at IKEA, and when I finally went, was hopelessly disappointed. What if I don't want the modern, clean-lines look? Is there nothing for me here then? And why do I have to wind my way through seventeen fake living rooms and kitchens to view the furniture in its natural habitat; can't I just walk directly to a clearly labeled "Bookcases" department and make a selection there? I found the entire IKEA experience disheartening and frustrating.

But H&M! H&M would be different! I held out hope, but I still didn't rush there right away. I waited at least six weeks, and when I finally went sometime last fall, I actually did find several cute things at reasonable price points. Unfortunately, much like the clearance rack at The Gap, the available inventory on these cute items covered only the outer spectrum of the size range. If I'd been a size 4 or 16, I'd have been in luck, but finding 8s and 10s on the rack was an exercise in shopping futility. I did leave with a plaid skirt and a velvet jacket I'm quite fond of, but the whole experience didn't leave me terribly excited to make the trek back to the Mall of America anytime soon.

This weekend I decided, though, that I'd had enough of staring into my closet every day hoping something new and appealing would somehow magically materialize if I just focused hard enough. I decided it was time to return to the mall. And not just any mall... The Mall. The one where I have to weave in and out of ambling tourists in order to keep up my on-a-mission mall-walking pace. The one that has nearly every store I might possibly want to visit, but where the distance between each one can be a quarter-mile or more. The one where H&M is located.

I was hoping that H&M, with its wide range of styles for work and play, would come to the rescue. I was hoping that, for some reason, I would enter that store and not hate everything. The past few seasons, I've been so frustrated by shopping that I flip through the racks muttering to myself like a crazy person, disgusted by the schizophrenic range of looks from which I'm meant to choose. "Ugh. More gauchos? Aren't we done with these yet?" or "The bo-ho look? Really? Are we still doing that?" My favorite this season's been the prim button-up lace-trimmed tops that seem more suited to Nellie Olson than to today's young and modern urbanites. Is "prairie-chic" really what we've come to now? Have we really exhausted all other possible looks?

This weekend's trip to H&M, unfortunately, didn't do anything more to sell me on its wonders (or to fill out my summer wardrobe). As I rifled through racks of plaid button-up camp shirts, bold floral-printed skirts, and tunics (tunics, and more tunics), I thought perhaps I'd somehow entered a time warp back to 1986. I know everything old is new again, but my seventh-grade first-day-of-school outfit is still not one I want to repeat at age 32. Even the employees seemed wrong on this visit to H&M. The last time I was there, the registers were staffed by model-thin hipsters with angular, heavily-producted haircuts. This time, it was a poofy-banged, slightly doughy, middle-aged woman who rang up my ill-fitting capris (which I bought more out of desperation than anything else). H&M may be a wonderland to some women, but clearly those women get to enter the store through a special portal that I've not been invited to try. Their H&M is the secret forbidden city of glamour; mine is the abandoned meat-packing plant in that final scene of the "Man-hands" episode.

* I know Maliavale used this subject for a post on her blog a while ago, but likely the main reason I remember that is I had a post by the same title in draft mode for several months already prior to that. I never did finish that post (though it covered basically the same "I hate shopping" topic here), so I'm deciding (since I can't seem to come up with an alternate title) that I can pull it out again without it qualifying as plagiary. OK by you, Malia? :-)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I know where you're coming from, but beats me what you're looking for

Despite my inability to keep any dynamic information in my sidebar up to date (remember that "Thinking..." category I thought was a good idea for a very brief while?), I decided I needed to add a new heading yet again. I've seen far too many bizarre search engine hits in my site stats lately, and it's just not right to keep all this entertainment to myself. I know I already did a post like this not all that long ago, but since those drafts I have going for some reason just aren't finishing themselves (What's up with that? Has anyone found the auto-write setting in Blogger?? If so, clue me in, OK?), bear with me while I revisit a tired but still amusing (to me, anyway) topic, all right?

With that unnecessarily wordy intro behind us, here we go: a recent sampling of things people did not find on Stefanie Says, despite how hard they possibly looked...

  • Unwanted animal overpopulation - I have no idea what I wrote that brought you here, but I think maybe Bob Barker might be more help with this than I. (Though now that I've suggested that, I'm guessing I'll have three hits for "Bob Barker" in the next several days...)

  • Pothead boyfriend - Oh. You've got one of these, too? Um, yeah, good luck with that.

  • Cool dorm room ideas weird hammock couch - I love how oddly specific this is, but do you really think any web site selling a "hammock couch" would use the word "weird" to describe it? Surely today's copywriters get paid to come up with something more whimsical and intriguing than that.

  • Spinster single - Thanks. No really; thanks. I don't even have a cat yet; I swear.

  • Nude negril me - I'm not sure if "Negril me" is supposed to be a command that further evidences the continual verbing of America (e.g., "Beer me" and the like) or if this person was looking for stories or pictures of her own nude experience in Jamaica and somehow thought Google would be able to substitute "me" with the appropriate name. Either way, I'm amused.

  • Old Republic Extended Warranty - Don't buy from those bastards. Seriously. Trust me on this.

  • Was 5'9" grow OR grew OR growing OR growth OR grown - I don't care how many different forms of that word you use in your search terms; I still don't think Google has any idea what you're after.

  • 9 things I hate about everyone - Just nine? Really? Surely you can do better than that. (I know I can, anyway.)

  • Unlabeled Hot Pocket - The Internet can tell you a lot of things. The flavor of your mystery lunch is not one of them, however.

  • 5'9" or 5'10" or 5'11" height or taller grew or growing or grown - Wait a minute. Weren't you just here a minute ago? Seriously, learn to use a search engine, OK?

  • Why does my yard have so many ant hills? - I don't know; was your home maybe built on the site of an old syrup factory? Truthfully, I Googled this, too, but I used something more direct and goal-oriented as my search string, like "Kill ants outside." I'd recommend going that route instead.

  • Blacklist ex-boyfriend - You had this idea too, huh? Maybe we should work on it together...

And finally, my personal favorite, mainly because it turned up three times in one week (from people in three different countries, no less)...

  • Castration stories - There's something on the Internet for everyone, I suppose, but I really don't want to meet the people looking for this.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I have three or four reasonably-current posts in draft mode, but I can't seem to bring any of them to fruition, so I decided what the hell; I'll just steal from Poppy and do one of these things that I rarely (quite rarely) do. Didn't you want to know a few more minor and inconsequential tidbits about me? No? OK, well, move along then. Otherwise, here you go.

1. Which curse word do you use the most?
I never used to use the mother of all curses, the f-word, but I fear it is the one I utter hands-down most often these days. A good friend recently pointed out that I almost always use it in the cute British context of "Oh for fuck sake," however, so perhaps that makes it acceptable.

2. Do you own an iPod?
No, but I have a not-iPod--a Zen Sleek by Creative Labs, which apparently no one else has ever heard of. I also use Curad brand bandages and off-brand facial tissue. (OK, no I don't, really, but whatever.)

3. What time is your alarm clock set for?
6:10, but that's set with a snooze buffer. It's also not really 6:10, as my bedroom clock is in a different time zone from the rest of the world. But I already covered this once; there's really no reason to revisit it.

4. How many suitcases do you own?
Now why is this an interesting or relevant question? Whatever; two or three vessels that could probably accurately be called "suitcases"; several others that are just bags of various size and shape.

5. Do you wear flip flops even when it's cold?
I never wear flip flops, due to a bizarre and freakish toe issue that I fear will cause pointing and stares of horror when I go out in public. (I do bare my feet in my weekly yoga class, but presumably yoga = environment and atmosphere of peace and acceptance and understanding of all circus freak anomalies. Or something like that.)

6. Would you rather take the picture or be in the picture?
As I have far more pictures without me in them than with, I'd say probably the former. But maybe all that means is I don't hand off my camera to others that often; maybe I'm actually featured in friends' and strangers' photo albums far more often than I realize.

7. What was the last movie you watched?
A Prairie Home Companion, last night. The movie was, I must say, better than the date on which I saw it. So it goes.

8. Do you or any of your friends have children?
Most of my far-away friends have kids, but the phenomenon seems to be closing in locally more quickly than I'd like. No, I don't have kids of my own. (Seriously, did anyone really think I might?? If so, were you worried I was forgetting to feed or water them? Because those would be valid concerns, if you were.)

9. Has anyone ever called you lazy?
Um, yeah. Me. About eleventy-million times.

10. Do you ever take medication to help you sleep?
Do rum, wine, or vodka count as "medication"? If so, yes. In fact, apparently I'm medicated right now then.

11. Which CD is currently in your CD player?
I usually stick to the radio ever since The Current came to town. I think the last thing I listened to in my car CD player, however, was either KT Tunstall or Rhett Miller.

12. Do you prefer regular or chocolate milk?
I suppose if we're talking straight-up, I'll pick chocolate, but don't go putting that on my cereal or anything.

13. Has anyone told you a secret this week?
Um, yes, actually. But if I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore. Everything in its time, as they say.

14. When was the last time someone hit on you?
I'm not even sure I know what that means anymore. Someone kissed me last night, though. I suppose that counts, in an entirely forward way? (I wish it had been more exciting to me.)

15. Can you whistle?
Yes, but only in the "put your lips together and blow" sort of way. I can't do that "whoot-whoo" cat-call made famous by stereotypical construction workers the world over.

16. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
My sister, I think. She seems to have this thing lately where she needs to call me every damned day. It is a good reminder for me, I suppose, that unlike me, some people prefer to pick up the phone rather than simply send a quick and to-the-point e-mail. This is just one of many things, I'm sure, on which my sister and I do not see eye to eye.

17. Do you think people talk about you behind your back?
Probably. But I try not to think about it too much. I'm crippled by paranoia enough as it is.

18. Did you watch cartoons as a child?
Can I skip a few of these, for no other reason except that I have no interesting answer to them? Yes? OK, cool; thanks.

21. Which movie(s) do you know every line to?
Maybe not every line, but I'm sure I still have large portions of Say Anything, The Princess Bride, The Sound of Music, and Pump up the Volume committed to memory. ("Talk hard!" "The truth is a virus!" "I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen." "Just another moment and we'll be safe in the fire swamps." "Fraulein Maria's come back from the abbey!" Oh, you get the picture.)

22. Do you own any band t-shirts?
I'm not much of a logo-shirt wearer, so I tend to avoid the overpriced band-related apparel. I do have an REM shirt from the way-back days, however.

23. What is your favorite salad dressing?
Salad? That involves vegetables, right? Yeah, I don't do salads all that often. When I do, I suppose I'm a dressing whore, as I pick something different each time.

24. Who was the last person to make you mad?
Mad? I don't know. Probably my own dumb self, actually.

25. Do you do your own dishes?
I'm not even going to change Poppy's answer here: The dishwasher does my dishes.

26. Ever cry in public?
I'm sure I have, but I like to block this sort of thing out of my general consciousness.

27. Are you on a desktop computer or a laptop?
Desktop. I just got the damn thing only a little over a year ago; do you really think I'm high-tech and advanced enough to go straight to the laptop?

28. Are you currently wanting any piercing or tattoos?
I considered a tattoo when I was in Scotland my junior year of college, but haven't really thought a lot about it since. And my ears are the only thing that's pierced at this point, and it will very likely stay that way, unless some unexpected mid-life crisis makes me want to expose my stomach and get a belly-ring. (Not likely, I imagine.)

29. Would you ever date someone covered in tattoos?
I would like to say it would depend on the someone, but in all likelihood, probably no. Not because I have something against tattoos, really, but because I don't generally run in the circles where a heavily-tattooed man is to be found. Therefore this question really isn't likely to be relevant to me, I think.

30. What did you do before this?
Typed half-heartedly at the aforementioned draft posts. Then looked for diversions on other sites and decided to do a silly meme.

31. When is the last time you slept on the floor?
Probably on a supposed camping trip last summer. I intended to sleep in a tent, but Jamie's tent was made for Hobbits or small children and not for full-grown adults of 5'9" size. So the floor in the pseudo-cabin it was.

32. How many hours of sleep do you need to function?
More than I generally get, obviously.

33. Do you eat breakfast daily?
Yes, but I take it to work with me, so I can sleep ten minutes later and avoid the need for second-breakfast or elevensies. (I can't believe I worked a Hobbit reference in twice in the same post. I'm really not a LOTR geek; you'll just have to trust me on that.)

34. Are your days full and fast-paced?
If your idea of "full and fast-paced" includes lots of email-checking and web-surfing, sure.

35. Do you pay attention to the calories on the package?
"Pay attention to" or "heed the warnings of"? Just because I read it doesn't mean I won't still eat it. And that is why "the paunch and the roll" (as I dubbed my midsection on a camping trip years ago) is never going to leave me.

36. Do you use sarcasm?
Frequently. It doesn't always work for me, unfortunately.

37. How old will you be on your next birthday?
I just had a birthday only a few months ago; do I really need to worry about 33 already now?

38. Are you picky about spelling and grammar?
Um, hi. Have you met me? (That'd be a yes, of course. Do I really need to dig up the links to use as reference points?)

39. Have you ever been to Six Flags?
What kind of obscure and corporate-sponsored question is that? Fine; yes, I've been to Six Flags Great America (in Gurnee, Illinois), but the last time was about 14 years ago.

40. Do you get along better with the same sex or the opposite sex?
I try to stay away from sweeping gender generalizations such as this. It depends on the person, really, though I have more female friends than males these days, it seems.

41. Do you like mustard?
Honey mustard, yes. Other types on occasion.

42. Do you sleep on your side, stomach, or back?
My side, usually. Evany's quiz was actually right on this one.

43. Do you watch the news?
Not very often. That's what the Internet and NPR are for.

44. One of your scars--how did you get it?
A doctor once tried (unsuccessfully) to correct the freakish toe issue mentioned in #5. I have the scar to show for it, but I still can't wear flip flops with confidence.

Are you tired now? Yeah, me too. I don't know why this list had a random 44 questions, but I don't think I would have made it to an uneven 45 (or an even 50), so this'll about do it for me.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Dirty Work

The company I work for is not what you would call... diverse. At 32, I am actually the second-youngest person in the office and the only person who has never been married. My coworkers are, by vast majority, a group of middle-aged, Midwestern white men. Due to these demographics, the only retirement party I've ever attended in my adult professional life was the one my boss hosted for the suddenly defunct laser printer she'd been using since the mid-80s. Yes, that's right; you heard me correctly. We had a retirement party for a printer. I'd like to say we do this sort of delightfully quirky thing in my office all the time (it sure would make going there every day a bit more interesting if we did), but really this was a one-time event I'd not seen the likes of before or since. And truthfully, it did all seem a bit silly to me, but there was cake involved, and you'll rarely find me complaining if there's cake.

Along with the cake, my boss planned a little trivia contest for the event. We each had to tell her what we were doing in the year the printer was purchased, and we then had to guess, by looking at the list of anonymous answers, which response was from whom. I won this contest, not because I know my coworkers like siblings but because I am, apparently, fairly good at putting two and two together and drawing accurate conclusions from assorted tiny clues. I've never really fancied myself much of a Nancy Drew, but I do have my moments, it seems. I won a similar trivia contest at a company holiday party a year previous, so apparently I was on some sort of a roll.

Anyway, the prize for this trivia contest was a bit of a mixed blessing. Realizing that the company would have to pay to dispose of the enormous and archaic printer, my boss placed a Target gift card inside and said that the winner could have the gift card, but would have to take the printer as well. It reminded me a bit of an episode of That 70s Show where Donna, in a dream, was a Let's Make a Deal contestant, and picked the door for her high school boyfriend, but had to accept that he was riding a donkey and promising a life of no excitement or adventure as well. Perhaps I'm overdramatizing the dirge of the ancient printer, but the fact is, it was a shitty way to ruin the excitement of free Target merchandise.

I don't honestly know if my boss would have stuck to the "you have to take the printer, too" rule or not. I'd have a hard time believing that some small electronics disposal fee would really, in her eyes, have been worth the inevitable blow to employee morale. But I live in Minneapolis, a city that, despite its green focus, takes damn near anything from its residents on trash day, so I actually took the printer without any major protest or complaint. I placed it in my driveway beside my garbage bin, and when I came home from work the next day, it was gone. It was like magic, really. The same thing happened when I chose to dispose of the metal awnings that used to grace the exterior window frames on my house. One morning, they were there; the following evening, they were not.

I consider myself fairly environmentally minded, so officially, I think the City should maybe make it a bit harder for its residents to get rid of their potentially recyclable and reusable junk. Unofficially, however, I must admit I've found their rather generous and liberal pickup policy quite handy more than once. In general, then, I've been fairly willing to pay the slightly-higher-than-usual monthly fee for sanitation services, given the leeway they allow.

That, is, however, until this week.

As some of you know, I'm in the midst of a project I could refer to as "Operation: White Trash Yard No More." My goal is to replace the random plants and weeds and lazy, barren ugliness surrounding my house with a more intentional-looking landscape design of aesthetically pleasing flora and foliage. Like nearly all projects I take on around my house, however, the whole ordeal is taking seventeen times longer than I anticipated and, despite Poppy's ever-so-helpful and welcome advice, I may end up postponing (or perhaps entirely abandoning) large portions of the plan. In any case, I have, after many hours of slaving, finally removed all the weeds and grass and evergreen droppings from the bed alongside my house and am finally prepared to start the prettifying process in that one area at least. The City sanitation workers, however, have apparently seen fit to rain on this would-be progress-parade by holding a very localized garbage service strike. That's right--they're ignoring my yard waste.

I'm not entirely surprised; I knew expecting them to take eight bags of dirt and mulch and miscellaneous weeds was a bit optimistic, I suppose. But I've also visited the City's Web site; I know that they mass-burn my garbage to convert it into electricity for Xcel, and I know that they take my yard waste and compost it in some way or form. So why they'd remove free of charge an obviously not biodegradable nor burnable hunk of plastic and electronics that is larger than my television set but refuse eight bags of entirely organic and harmless matter is entirely baffling to me.

What the City wants me to do with my unacceptable yard waste, apparently, is take it to a properly authorized disposal site, where presumably they'll weigh the bags and assess some type of fee. That would be the right way to dispose of the crap currently piled up in my garage. I'm generally a rule-follower, but in this particular instance, I think the rule is just plain foolish. I come from rural Wisconsin, after all, where dirt is dirt, and you pay money neither to acquire nor dispose of it. Responsible citizen or not, I can't pay to get rid of dirt. No, instead I say a bit of civil disobedience is in order.

So my mission now is to get rid of eight bags of dirt and mulch and dead evergreen needles in an entirely covert fashion. My options, as I see them, are thus:

  1. Add the dirt, two or three cups at a time, to my regular home garbage, where it will be neatly concealed and tied up and tossed into my trash bin. Continue this maneuver for the next seven months, until all eight bags are finally empty.

  2. Load the bags into my car and drive to some unpopulated, rural area, where I can return my domestic dirt to nature by dumping it into a ditch, gravel pit, or new construction site. Cross my fingers that no one sees me executing this plan, thinks I am disposing of body parts or drug paraphernalia, and reports my license plate to the police.

  3. Rig up some sort of reverse-vacuum system to gradually suck the dirt out of the bags and into a long, pliable tube. Drive around at night with the tube extended out my window so as to scatter the dirt gradually over the course of several miles.

Any thoughts on which one of these plans is least likely to get me arrested would be much appreciated. If the answer is #3, any suggestions on how to MacGyver together the necessary items to create said reverse-vacuum system would also be quite helpful.

Monday, June 12, 2006

At least none of you work for a company called "76 Trombones"

Someone from Wells Fargo visits my blog every now and then, and whenever I see the "" domain in my Sitemeter list, I can't help singing in my head, "O-ho the Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin' down the street oh please let it be for me!"

Except it's not even really me singing this musical gem in my mind; it's the voice of little red-headed, lispy Opie Cunningham.

This doesn't happen when I pass any of the many Wells Fargo billboards or banking branches located around the Twin Cities, so I have no idea why the domain in my site hits list would have such a radically different effect.

In any case, hello, whoever you are. Thanks for reading, and thanks for keeping American musical theater alive in my heart.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Things I found while digging up 56 years worth of weeds, random plants, and debris in the bed alongside my house

  • Two non-dairy whipped topping containers (with the bottoms cut out)
  • A very old and pliable plastic swizzle stick
  • Numerous nails, various sizes
  • What appeared to be about half of the paint chips that I painstakingly scraped off my house last summer before repainting
  • Several large and frighteningly ugly bugs
  • A power line
  • A fossilized pocketknife (with the rusted knife extended)
  • A chicken bone (or, what I hope was a chicken bone)
  • More ants*
Several of these are very good reasons I should wear protective gloves while doing this sort of work. A few others are reasons I really should look into updating my tetanus shot.

* Gah!! Just when I think they're gone, they start moving closer to my house!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A New Hope is actually exactly what I need

I really can't believe I'm pulling out a Star Wars reference here... there are many things about which I am a dork (see previous entry for several examples), but Star Wars fanaticism is not one of them. Still, a few minutes ago, it actually occurred to me to wish Obi-Wan would pop in for a visit and pull a Jedi mind trick on me. Except instead of "These are not the droids you're looking for," I'd want him to say, "You don't want seconds on birthday treats" or "No thanks; no more sugar for you."

I do realize, of course, that just developing some willpower of my own would be a whole lot easier than expecting a Jedi Knight to come and solve this problem for me. But that wouldn't be nearly as interesting.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go double-over in pain as the custard-filled donut I had at 10:00, the chocolate chip muffin and vanilla latte I had at 11:00, and the leftover pizza I had at 2:00 all continue the battle they've apparently waged upon each other inside my colon. I'm pretty sure there are mini-lightsabers involved. And a whole lot of kicking and jumping. Ugh.

I really should eat a vegetable or something once in a while.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What looks like crazy on an ordinary day*

The other day, Maliavale told an amusing story about reprimanding her comforter**, and I got the feeling she was maybe a little concerned that this behavior might call her sanity into question. I would like to reassure her that talking to inanimate objects is entirely normal, particularly when one lives alone, but it occurred to me that I might not actually be the best judge of what is "normal."

My mother used to say that it's OK to talk to yourself, as long as you don't answer. Well, I both talk and answer all the time. Sometimes I even go so far as to have a stern back-and-forth discussion between my logical, rational self and my stubborn, denial-ridden self. It's only one of many things that probably make me at least borderline deranged. There are plenty of others, I'm sure.

Let's start with my clocks. My bedroom clock is, for some reason, in a separate time zone from the rest of the house. This is, of course, a bizarre little mind game, but it's not the one you think it is. I've never understood people who set their alarm clock ahead in order to shock themselves into getting up on time. This, to me, is a flawed plan that would backfire immediately: if I know the clock is fast, why would I forget that and think I'm running late? No, the mind game I've got going has more to do with tricking myself into thinking it's later than it is in an attempt to make getting up very early seem a little less painful. It's something I started several years ago when I used to set my alarm for 5:50 a.m. I couldn't possibly imagine getting up when the hour was still five, but if the clock said 6:10, somehow it seemed a bit more reasonable. I don't get up nearly that early anymore; somewhere along the way, I decided that rushing to my desk thirty seconds before 8:00 is just fine and also that bringing my breakfast with me to work can shave ten minutes off my routine and help avoid the need for a mid-morning snack (or, in Hobbit terms, "second breakfast" or "elevensies"). I still keep the clock set ahead, though, for no reason but simple habit. It baffled and annoyed my ex-boyfriend no end (nearly every time he stayed over, he'd say, "Wait; that clock's on 'Stef time.' What time is it really?"), and it forces me to do some weird math whenever I have to set my alarm for anything other than my usual work time. I know I need to get up by around 6:48 on my bedroom clock in order to be out the door by 7:20 on my kitchen clock, but since I never remember exactly how many minutes fast my bedroom clock is, I can't just recalculate my "getting ready" window from that time. Plus there's the fact that I add a "snooze buffer" ahead of the time I really need to get up, since I can't ever just get out of bed the first minute I'm woken. I'm well aware that I'm making the whole waking-up process entirely more complicated than it needs to be, but see? Crazy. That's exactly my point.

Then there are the weird obsessive-compulsive behaviors I've for some reason developed over the years... like the need to check under my bed (for what? monsters? intruders? that creepy undead baby with the scalpel in Pet Sematary?) before I can get in it at night, or the compulsion to press and re-press the switch for my headlights to verify that they are, in fact, on. At restaurants, I look inside the straw after pulling the wrapper off, to make sure no paper bits ended up inside. (Why?? Has that happened to me before? Would it be so awful and unpleasant if I ever did suck up a small, soggy fragment of paper with my drink? Where does this insanity come from??) And my computer... Look around my cluttered desk and you'd never guess that any semblance of order or organization was important to me, and yet, I need the button for my open Outlook window to be the left-most one on the taskbar that runs along the bottom of the screen. I have, on more than one occasion, actually closed all other open applications and reopened Outlook first, just to get that button back where it's supposed to be. It's lunacy, I know. Stop looking at me that way. I'm no Melvin Udall just yet; I don't flip the light switch on and off or turn and re-turn the lock a systematic number of times before I can feel at ease, but I do realize I may be walking a fine line here. Suddenly it occurs to me that I shouldn't be so hard on the good friend of mine who was honestly bothered that the clocks on her microwave and oven were two different colors. I thought she was loony, but hey--look at me. (In the words of Phoebe Buffay, "Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You know what? You're black.")

Have I frightened you sufficiently yet, or should I start recounting some of the absurd and improbable theories I've cooked up in my head over the years? Let's see... there was the house near my old apartment that I was convinced was inhabited by vampires, because it had not one single window visible from any vantage point at street level. Since the back of the house was lake-facing, I truly hope that side was not windowless as well, but I wasn't about to trespass and investigate when doing so meant risking a vampire encounter. I'm also convinced that certain seemingly economically unsound businesses surely must be mob fronts... like the "Polka Dot Square Dance Shop" in a neighboring suburb and a place in my college town that sells, supposedly, nothing but seat covers. Let's not even talk about the time I was convinced the ghost of my home's former owner was stealing (or at least hiding) my shoes, because to talk about that would be to again entertain the possibility that I may actually have a ghost in my house, and I don't have to be crazy to be afraid of that.

And finally, there are the things that come out of my mouth at times... things that, if they don't question my sanity, at least prove I'm a tremendous dork on the level of Anthony Michael Hall circa Sixteen Candles. Thankfully, most are things I catch myself saying only when I'm alone (since, again, talking to myself is routine) and not things I ever say out loud to another human. For example, at least twice a week, as I return from work and start thinking about dinner, I catch myself exclaiming, "I'm Starvin' Marvin!" At least it's not a line I use when dining out in public, but seriously, who says that in real-life?

Um, yeah... all these one-date guys I've found fault with due to some weird social foible? Maybe I should seriously re-think which one of us is the freak.

* This post title is actually the name of a book I once read--a book that, incidentally, has nothing to do with any of the insanity I'm outlining here.

** This is neither here nor there and of interest to absolutely no one but me, but I love that the direct page number link on that post is actually my birthday (3/18). :-)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I wish I could come up with a title for this without resorting to that "I scream; you scream" line...

I never intended to become a jaded and bitter old woman and yet, nearly every day, I seem to find some new way to be annoyed with the world or suck the joy out of the most benign or even pleasant thing. Soon I'll be saying, "Puppies? Yeah, they're cute and all, but they're just so needy. And licky. And hyper. And..." Wait. I already do say those things about puppies. Which is really fine, because if I'm to be a proper spinster, I'd be in the market for a cat instead of a dog anyway.

In any case, this is not about puppies. Frankly I'm not sure how I got on that tangent. Perhaps it is heatstroke and exhaustion from all the weeding I did today (or perhaps the two ciders I've already had to unwind from said weeding). Where was I? Oh yes. Cynicism. And not puppies.

My latest clue that I'm becoming a cranky old lady is this. The ice cream truck. Or, more specifically, the job of ice cream truck driver. Years ago, I probably would have thought that this was the perfect job. I would have thought about the near-unending supply of frozen treats just inches away from me at all times. I would have thought of the gracious and happy smiles of sweet and angelic rosy-cheeked children and assumed that their happiness would be contagious.

Now, however? Now I see the poor lady driving that little white van down the streets in my neighborhood, and all I can think is, "If I were her, kill me now." It's not just because if I were an ice cream truck driver, I would quite likely weigh 300 pounds. It's not even because I've taken to inexplicable animosity towards most humans between the ages of five and twenty-five. No, mainly, I think, it's the music. I realize they can't install a full calliope in the back of every Good Humor van, but the tinny midi files piped out of the loudspeaker really have to get a bit old. Hearing "Turkey in the Straw" or "When the Saints Come Marching In" in that format (or, any format, really) over and over would surely be enough for me to drive a sharpened ice cream stick straight through my eardrums. Tonight, however, I heard something even worse than "Turkey in the Straw" on constant loop. I heard "It's a Small World." Yes, some bright marketeer has chosen to take what is quite possibly the most earworm-inducing song ever recorded and torture ice cream truck drivers and innocent homeowners with it entirely intentionally. File this under one more thing I really do not understand.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Taking a closer look at the menu

Last week, for the first time in a while now, I found myself wishing my last boyfriend was still around. It was not because I missed him, however, or genuinely thought he should be back in my life. No, it was because my lawn mower was broken, and I didn't want to figure out how to deal with that on my own.

I'm not playing the helpless damsel-in-distress card here and implying that anything mechanical requires a man to handle it, and anything "homey" is a woman's domain. I really am a better feminist than that. It's just that, while there are plenty of homeowner-related tasks I'll freely tackle on my own*, small engine repair is simply not one of them. [I did manage to replace the mower's spark plug with a bit of advice from my neighbor, but beyond that, there wasn't a whole lot I felt comfortable trying.] My ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, while no expert on the matter, either, would at least have given it a go. Not because he's a man, but because he's all sorts of handy and he owns the proper tools and he's confident with trial and error. I have to say, whatever was missing in that relationship, whatever reasons it didn't last, the guy was terribly useful to have around. Not only was he good at fixing things and installing things and figuring things out; he also owned a truck, which means that even if he'd been unable to fix my ailing lawn mower, he would at least have made it easier for me to transport the thing to someone more qualified for repair. On top of that, he liked to cook, so it's not just the traditionally manly things that made him an asset to my life. Frankly, in retrospect, the scales were probably unevenly tipped in that relationship, and I'm really not sure just what it was I brought to the table.

I'm kidding (mostly). That's really not true. My ex-boyfriend was not perfect (that's really not the point), and I can actually think of several things I contributed to his life (and no, I'm not even talking about the dirty stuff).

In any case, I've been thinking a lot lately about which relationships work and why and which ones don't and why. [I'm sure this analysis has nothing to do with my recent dating spree or with my best friend's upcoming wedding or with the various things I've been reading lately. (No, actually it has everything to do with all of those.)] I don't claim to have any solid and universally relevant answers, but I do have some thoughts on what I think works for me.

Romantic or not, I've never been a fan of that famous "You complete me" line. And no, it's not just because it was uttered by the now frighteningly loony Tom Cruise to the insufferably squinty Renee Zellweger. It's because I hate the implication that I might not be a whole person on my own and I'm searching for that man who will fill in the gaps. Still, as I learned from my reliance on my ever-so-handy ex-boyfriend, I can't deny that a supplement to my skill set would quite often be useful. What makes a successful relationship, then (the way I see it, anyway) is a pair of compatibly intersecting life menus.

Apparently life menus are something Amy Krause Rosenthal wrote about, but I'm only slightly familiar with her work, so it's actually something I read about on Wordgirl's site a few weeks ago. (I hope she doesn't mind that I'm piggy-backing off that.) The idea, basically, is that for all of the gifts each person is given--all the skills and talents and desirable traits that prompt jealousy from friends and enemies--we all have negative traits that balance out the list. For example, I'm relatively good with words (much of the time, anyway; that's probably a dangerous claim to make in the midst of a post that seems to be rambling on to nowhere), but I cannot do "restaurant math" without checking and second-guessing and basically giving myself a headache. I can read a map and be a successful navigator, but my internal compass is not particularly reliable. I have tiny, ladylike wrists and relatively toned arms, but I also have this freakish toe thing that I don't want to go into, and... OK, you get the point.

These are not the traits that are particularly relevant to a relationship, of course, but the concept still holds true. We all know that I don't cook, so a guy with that on his life menu will score some extra points with me. As will a guy who can fix things and install things, who takes an interest in investment planning, and who will call the cable or phone company when there's a problem.** In turn, I'll begrudgingly clean the house (sporadically, at least), do the laundry, balance the checkbook (as long as I'm not in a restaurant), and ensure he can use a comma and a semicolon correctly.***

I realize a lot of my focus here is on tasks (or rather, task avoidance), and I surely don't mean to overlook the obvious other benefits of a relationship (love and companionship and all that). But when you've lived alone as long as I have and have been alone responsible for all the many time-consuming duties that come with being a functioning adult and homeowner, it's hard not to consider the truly practical side of partnering up: the welcome division of labor. I'm reminded, suddenly, of the Simpsons episode where Homer runs for Garbage Commissioner on the platform of "Can't someone else do it?" I imagine that one of the very real benefits of having a husband around is the ability to say "Yes, as a matter of fact; someone else can."

Household job-sharing aside, I do think this life menu idea is valid. Recently, I had more than three dates with the same man (remarkable, yes, I know), but despite our many common interests and almost eerie similarities, it sort of fizzled out. I'm not really sure why, but the best explanation I can come up with is that our life menus didn't intersect. I know I'm just looking for a boyfriend/companion at the moment; I don't need or want to get married immediately, but I'm still at a point where I can't help considering the long term. And when I consider the long term with this one, all I can think is, "Sure, we'll never fight about what CD to listen to on road trips, but one of us has to have a sense of direction." Or, "OK, we'll agree on a restaurant with no problem, but one of us should probably cook once in a while." On top of that, he was also a writer, so my occasional prowess with words wasn't even particularly notable to him. Our life menus (the plusses and the negatives) are identical; we need some variety in the mix. After all, no one really wants to date themselves, right? And that's sort of what it felt like with him.

Maybe all of this is just another way of saying that opposites attract. I've been reluctant to subscribe to that theory, because I think it's hard to have a relationship with someone who shares no common interests or who has a fundamentally different set of values, but maybe those are not the sorts of opposites that cliché is about. Maybe it's about finding someone who compensates for the things you lack or encourages you to grow in ways you wouldn't on your own. Maybe it's about choosing someone whose qualities will mesh with yours to make a successful team (much like I try to pick Trivial Pursuit partners who can pick up my slack in the Sports & Leisure category, knowing full well I'll contribute my part on the Entertainment questions). That, to me, is what this life menu concept helps to describe.

Regardless, until I find the elusive guy whose life menu intersects perfectly with mine, I really am quite fine and happy on my own. I worry that perhaps all this talk of dates and searching makes me sound in some way desperate for a relationship, and that’s really not the case at all. Red's recent post titled Sex & the Single Girl really resonated strongly with me, because I feel exactly a lot of the same things she described.**** I'm fiercely independent, and like Red, I often feel like the "lone wolf" who has a harder time figuring out how to make room for someone in my life than figuring out how to live comfortably on my own. I do want to find someone to share my life with, but I'm not in any rush to force it if it's not right. The search for love shouldn't be like a game of musical chairs, where we all go around in circles until the music stops and then grab the nearest seat just so we're not left out. I don't want to feel pressured to be at some other place in my life just because it's where most of the people around me are. Like Lea Thompson as Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful, who pondered whether it was better to be with someone for the wrong reasons than alone for the right ones, I'm confident that I'd rather be right.

Oh, and my lawn mower? It's fixed now, without any help from a man (except, of course, for the man who I paid to fix it). I don't need an intersecting life menu for that after all.


* I scraped and repainted the exterior of my whole damn house last summer nearly entirely by myself; remember?

** I can't be the only one who hates talking to those people, right? Is it even possible to call with a quick question or problem without being subject to a series of unwanted sales pitches for additional services?

*** OK, I'd be hard pressed to find a man who's really looking for help with his punctuation, but I had to work that in somewhere, don't you think?

**** Seriously, if you haven't read that yet, you really should
click that link and do so, because it's extremely well articulated and relevant.