Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yay for Olives*

Well would you look at that? Thirty days, thirty-two posts. Can I get a "Whoo!"?

I kid, I kid. It really wasn't all that painful or notable. I mean, it's not like I cured cancer or anything... or even wrote a damn novel, for that matter.**

Anyway, the NaBloPoMo (let's have some fun with that one more time... HeyHoJoeBlow... MeSoDownLow... MarioCuomo***) challenge is complete, and now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go away and never post again for a long, long time. No, I'm not serious about that. Tomorrow is Friday, after all, and you know what that means: time to think of some inconsequential idea to enumerate in list form. You can't wait, can you? I aim to please, you know.

I actually think this posting-every-day thing was really good for me. I was even thinking for a while there that I should try to maintain the every-day schedule (or close to it) after November. But then week four came and I said, "Screw that. This is madness." They say it takes, what, 21 days to establish a new habit? It took me 21 days to realize it was a habit that very likely wasn't for me.

I am, however, going to try to stick to something resembling more regular posting. We shall see just how that goes.

Thank you to everyone who's stopped by via that NaBloPoMo randomizer thingie. My stats have never been higher, but I suspect they will go right back down again once that thing is in less constant use. Oh well; it was fun for a while. Thanks also to Crushing Krisis**** for considering me highlight-worthy within the short summary of 209 different "S" blogs. As I noted in the comments on that post, I am ridiculously amused that strangers on the Internet are pimping to get me a man. What a strange, strange world it's become. And I love it.


* For those of you who have better things to do than memorize everything I ever write but who are puzzled by this subject line nonetheless, go
here and here to shed some light.

** What about the rest of you?
Red? GG? How’d that go? Anything to report? (Sorry if I wasn’t supposed to ask about that; there's no shame in lacking follow-through, but we can all just look away now if you'd like.)

*** That one’s still my favorite. I don’t care if no one else is amused.

**** Who has done the unthinkable and actually checked out every single NaBloPoMo-registered blog. All 2,000-ish of them. Whew.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My fifteen minutes of really marginal fame

If you live in the Twin Cities (as I think only about four of my somewhat regular readers do), you can catch a blurry, distant photo of me in the Star Tribune today (as part of this article on "Digital Age crafting"). Fear not, however, non-locals. You don't have to miss out on my exciting media debut! The Web site contains an accompanying slide show in which yours truly is pictured four times. If you want to play a little game of I-spy and try to spot me, check it out here.

And, um, if you don't know me in real life but you manage to snag a copy of today's paper, can you just pretend you didn't see my last name on that photo? I'm really not in the market for a stalker. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Satan is my motor; GG is my wingman

As I mentioned not too long ago, I've been thinking that it's time to put myself back on the online dating market again. I needed a break from it for a while, yes, but now suddenly I am envisioning myself dateless on New Year's Eve yet again, and I am watching people who've been in relationships more recently than I have cut ahead in line and find themselves coupled off in a happy two-by-two, and it's making me think "Hey wait a minute! My turn!"

So I need to get back out there again, amusing and aggravating and occasionally painful as it is. Damnit, I will find that diamond-in-the-rough; the question is just where and how to do so. The simplest course of action would be just to reactivate my meMarmony profile... to send another payment Dr. Warren's way and let him start matching me yet again. While I actually do like certain things about that system, however, I can't help but think I should maybe give another site a try.

I can think of several reasons I've been reluctant to try out any of the many other date-finding sites out there, but I will admit that my major hurdle is the damn profile. Obviously I can babble about all sorts of nonsense on the Internet (this I have proved many times over, I'm sure), but give me 4,000 characters to describe who I am and what I want, and I have absolutely no clue whatsoever where to start.

This is where friends come in. After Guinness Girl told me how helpful her friends were in constructing the profile that eventually nabbed her Wilman, I thought, "Yes! My friends! Surely they would have some idea who I am and why I'm likable!" Unfortunately, either my friends don't actually like me or they have no idea why they do, because my requests for "how would you describe me?" have been met with little more than blank stares. I know I am blunt, girls. I know I care too much about misused apostrophes. Besides that, isn't there anything my advisory board could say?

Guinness Girl is determined to keep me away from meMarmony and moved on over to Match, however. How determined is she? So determined that she actually wrote a profile for me. God love the woman; what on earth can I delegate to her next?

If by chance you have ever wondered just how well someone can get to know you based solely on the blog entries you write and the comments and e-mails you share, a task like GG's might be a good test. Consider the evidence: GG's submission for my "More about me and who I'm looking for" box...

I am a self-proclaimed nerd who likes independent films, girly shows on The WB, good music, reading, traveling, long walks on the beach, pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain. I am, on occasion, a bit of a smartass. I hate to cook, but I demonstrate my domesticity in other ways (like knitting). My favorite form of exercise is yoga... or maybe the exertion of lifting my wine glass from table to mouth. I grew up in a small town, and consequently doubt I'll ever live far from a big city. I frequent tikki bars and restaurants with all-you-can-eat sushi floating around in little boats. I love fall festivals and cheese curds and honeycrisp apples. I don't have any pets. I once bought a necklace made out of a semi-colon typewriter key*. I sometimes attempt DIY projects on my house that take me twice as long as they should and sometimes end in me calling a professional to put an end to my misery. I have a fantastic group of friends who make up my "urban family."

As for who I'm looking for... basically, I want someone smart and funny who thinks I'm smart and funny, too. Bad spellers need not apply.

Incidentally, that second-last sentence is the only one GG took from me verbatim. Real-lifers, what do you think? Does she have me pegged or no?

* Because I am the keeper of the semicolon

Monday, November 27, 2006

Meet the Blogger, Round 2: Minneapolis Edition

First things first. I no longer fear the 20 Questions ball. For a while there, I was actually a little unsettled by the idea that a battery-operated ball of plastic actually was somehow capable of reading my mind, and it was freaking my shit out just a bit. I finally stumped it three times in a row, however, and I'm feeling much better about things now. It didn't even take anything dirty to stump it, either; I managed to do so with totem pole, bathroom scale, and, ironically, the Radica 20-Q ball itself (it guessed "Rubik's cube," so close, but no cigar). So clairvoyance cannot be purchased for $9.99 in the electronic games aisle, and all is right with the world again (or at least that tiny part of it).

More important, I added another name to the "bloggers I've met in person" list tonight. It's a pretty short list, but it still seems pretty silly that it took me this long to meet the one person in my sidebar who actually shares the same area code as me, that being the witty and charming -R-, of course.

It's strange how much something like that feels almost like a first date--having dinner or drinks with an almost-stranger, wondering if the person on the screen will translate at all into someone you'll like (and who'll like you) in real-time. Maybe I thought of it that way only because I've had so damn many first dates with near-strangers from the Internet in the past several months. Perhaps I should have suggested one of my "usual" date spots as our meeting place to make it extra uncomfortable. Just kidding. I have no "usual" date spots, and it wasn't really uncomfortable at all. Of course, as with all first dates, you'd have to brief both parties to be sure, so it's entirely possible that -R-'s account is, "You're really cool, but I'm just not feeling it." Not that I've ever heard that line before. Certainly not. Never given it either. No sir, not me. Heh.

Anyway, as I said, I think it went fine, and should -R- ever invite me to her house for Guitar Hero and beergaritas, I may even take her up on it. And it's not just because we are identical-glasses buddies and because in this picture, -R- looks almost like a sort of mini-me. No, it's not just because of that, but that certainly cannot hurt.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

20 Questions

I think technology is getting a little too smart, and it's actually starting to frighten me. Today I bought one of those little 20 Question balls as an add-on to my sister's Christmas gift (she actually mentioned wanting one; I wasn't totally reaching there and putting no thought into her gift whatsoever). Before I wrap the thing up and hand it off to her, I decided to give it a try myself.

The first round I went a little too easy, I guess; the game had no trouble at all figuring out I was thinking of a potato. So for the next round, I tried thinking of something far more specific and obscure. I went with "my ex-boyfriend."

I didn't actually expect the 20 Questions ball to come back with his first name... Really I don't know what I thought it would guess; I just knew the guess would be wrong. What I did not expect, though (and what I find almost unsettling) was the final question the 20 Q ball returned:

"I guess you are thinking of a soul mate?"

Not quite. Not at all, really, but that's a damn eerie guess nonetheless.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I promised you a post a day. I didn't promise they'd all be original.

Stolen from LC, because I just spent five-and-a-half hours in the car and, frankly, really don't feel like sitting in front of the computer long enough for a proper post. Surely you understand.

You probably know how this goes because you've probably seen one of these before. Basically I copy the list and bold the things I've done. And then I get depressed because I have so few bold that clearly I have not lived--you know, because I've never been inside the Great Pyramid and I haven't had two hard drives for my computer (see #39). Maybe I should compile my own list and start my own meme, because then everything will be bold and I will look all adventurous and worldly. Again, that would take time, however, so the existing meme is what I'm going with today.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone (there were no candles, but it was at a cabin in the Northwoods, so, close enough, I say)
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign (Not a whole sign; just the "S" in "BBQ Ribs" on the marquee at a Howard Johnson. Does that count?)
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason (I'm bolding this since I've gotten flowers when no holiday or special date was associated with it, but is there really NO "reason" for getting flowers? Even friendship is a reason for flowers, is it not?)
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas (but only for work, so this barely counts)
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (That is, if moving to the Twin Cities post-college just to "start"--not necessarily "start over"--counts. Maybe that doesn't count...)
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states (Unless driving through a state counts as visiting it, I would say this is probably a tie.)
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Friday, November 24, 2006

Holiday Feedbag

So how was your Thanksgiving meal? Good? Good. Want to hear about mine? OK...

I should begin by reminding you that my family is not a family of cooks. We are not even a family of one cook. We cook when we need to, but we don't enjoy it, and we don't do it all that impressively well. Even if our holiday meal today had involved more than five people, we still would have gone to a restaurant. It is just what we do. The only exception is Christmas, when all of the area supper clubs are closed and we are forced to fend for ourselves, but I am not kidding you when I say our Christmas dinners have actually, more than once, involved frozen pizza and hot dogs. Last year we brought buckets of KFC to my grandmother's house for Christmas dinner... day-old KFC, no less, since even the Colonel shuts down on Christmas. Or was that Thanksgiving? It may have actually been Thanksgiving. I can't recall right now, but it doesn't really matter as I'm sure we've had Holiday KFC more than once, and at least one time was likely on Christmas.

My point is that visiting a restaurant on Thanksgiving is really nothing new to me. Usually, however, we (and by "we," I mean "my mother") will pick a restaurant in advance, make a reservation, and do whatever organizing and directing is necessary to get us all to the right place at the right time. This year, my parents were apparently feeling reckless and carefree, and they seemingly decided to just wing it instead.

From my sister's apartment, we all piled in my parents' car, and my mother turned to us and said, "Well? Where should be go? Should we try [insert name of restaurant I've never heard of since I live five hours away from my sister's town]? Or should we maybe go to [insert name of other restaurant I have never heard of since, again, I do not live here]?" My sister helpfully reported that [insert name of second restaurant] apparently sucks, so we went to the first place instead. That place ended up being less "family-style Thanksgiving-friendly supper-club" and more "general bar and grill," emphasis on the "bar." There were approximately six people inside, all smoking and wearing Harley-Davidson jackets (two also wore leather riding chaps for that extra-festive holiday look) and watching some sort of sporting event on TV. (OK, so it was a football game, but I don't care enough about such things to have had any idea who was playing.) Today's special at this smoky, Harley-friendly sports bar was chicken tacos. A fine choice on an average Thursday, I suppose, but for some crazy reason, we had turkey and mashed potatoes on our minds today. We went back to the car to contemplate Plan B.

Plan B was some supper club in North Fond du Lac (presumably just a few minutes' drive from "regular" Fond du Lac, where we happened to be at that moment). And it actually would have been just a few minutes' drive, I suppose, if we had had any idea where to find the street on which this restaurant was located. You would think that in a town with no more than eight different streets, any one particular street would be easy enough to find. Unfortunately, all but two of those streets are dead ends, and the remaining two are separated from each other by a train track where a five-mile-long train apparently runs through every seven minutes on average.

After seeing more of [insert road I should really know the name of considering we drove back and forth on the same stretch of it at least four times] than I'd ever hoped or planned to, and after seriously considering returning to "regular Fond du Lac" to eat at Old Country Buffet (yes, Old Country Buffet... I haven't been there in years and I can't believe I almost ate there just one day after mocking it in a post), we finally found the right street and, consequently, the restaurant. And it only took us an hour and a half to get there (from our starting point less than six miles away).

Anyway, the meal was good--just your regular turkey dinner with all the usual extras, including the requisite pumpkin pie for dessert. My only complaint is we ate at such a weird time--even earlier than the elderly folks' 4:00 p.m. early bird specials I've heard of--which means I was hungry again by 8:00.

A major bonus to having Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant is there are no dishes to do after the meal. The major drawback, of course, is no leftovers. With no extra potatoes or stuffing to snack on, I was forced to scavenge through my parents' fridge and cupboards instead. And I am not proud of my choices. The food my parents keep on hand isn't even all that appealing, really, but for some reason, I can't stop shoveling it in while I am here. Part of it is some strange fascination with the unknown wonders in the mystery snack cabinet (Did you know Hershey's made cookies? Did you know those Herr's chips New Girl on The Office was looking for a few weeks ago are actually a real-life brand? I didn't, but apparently I needed to try both...), and part of it is some misguided idea that what I eat while in this house "doesn't count"--you know, sort of like some people think having sex with a stranger while on vacation doesn't count (or so I've heard).

Since it is Friday, this Thanksgiving food-related story is all a long and winding way of getting to a Friday Five list for the week, so I shall move on to that now, OK? I have been in my parents' house for less than 12 hours at the moment and already I have consumed likely a full day's worth of calories and fat grams. What's worse, though, is I didn't even enjoy most of those calories and fat grams. Pointless and unsatisfying binging is what that is, and yet, for some reason, I persist.

As a case in point, here are five things I have eaten since stepping foot in this house, regardless of whether I really "needed" or even liked what I was eating.

  1. Three handfuls of Snyder's flavored pretzel mix (oddly, the bag does not indicate just what "flavor" they are supposed to be, and after eating some I'm actually still not sure)

  2. Two honey roasted peanuts that were very disappointingly stale (hence, the two-nut limit)

  3. One piece of pizza flavored beef jerky (yes, it really was as bad as that sounds, but when there are this many different meat snacks around, I couldn't help but be a bit curious)

  4. Nine Totino's pizza rolls (which I ate despite the fact that after one roll I was well aware they were fairly old and freezer burned)

  5. Half a bag of Turtle Chex Mix (not nearly as tasty or addictive as the Sweet n' Salty mix I have warned you about once or twice, but still the least offensive item on this list)

Thank God I am only here for two days. Who knows what I might put in my mouth in the course of a week.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Home for the Holidays

Due to my usual poor planning (read: refusal to go to sleep at a reasonable hour last night and inability to drag my butt out of bed the first four times my alarm went off this morning), I have about fifteen minutes before I have to head out of here for 42 surely fun-filled hours with my parents. Note that I said "parents," not "family." My 95-year-old grandmother apparently decided she had better things to do than have dinner with us this year (perhaps she has a gentleman friend she's not telling us about?); my older sister is off with her boyfriend's family for the holiday; and my younger sister will have dinner with us but will then retreat to her own home rather than our parents' home--partly because her home is conveniently located only 30 minutes away from theirs (and who wouldn't rather sleep in their own bed and play with their own cats than twiddle their thumbs in their childhood home?) and partly because she works retail and rarely finds herself with more than several hours free on any holiday weekend.

I do wish my little sister would be around for more of the weekend, but it's not even to deflect some of my parents' attention and keep them from asking me 42 consecutive questions about anything and everything in life or to have someone to roll my eyes toward when my father starts talking like a lunatic old man. It's because each time she is unable to be home for Thanksgiving, we miss out on the tradition we long-ago established of watching Home for the Holidays together.

Because I knew I wouldn't be seeing it with my sister, I watched my old VHS of that movie myself last night. I am amazed that, even after so many viewings, it still makes me laugh out loud. Not at the obviously slapstick parts, like the flying turkey at dinner, but at the pitch-perfect scenes at the airport, where adult children bicker with their parents on the phone and slink into the back seat of their family car looking trapped and in pain and drained by the simple thought of the days in front of them. It's classic... and, to me, entirely relatable.

Each time I watch that movie, I also marvel at how the writers created Charles Durning's character without using my father as a model. When he waves his whipped cream-covered pie in front of Holly Hunter happily just to show it off on his way to the living room, I think, "Was that guy in our house? How did he know to do that?" It's remarkable, really. That man is my father... only happier.

OK, I had more organized thoughts I was going to write, but I am quickly out of time and, actually, officially behind schedule at the moment, so I must get going. I really should do a list of things I'm thankful for, like so many other people have this week, but I sort of already did that a few weeks ago anyway. So I'm out of here for now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sushi boats and psychics

Last night I went to dinner with my friend Caroline at this lovely Japanese place downtown. They do that fancy restaurant theatrics thing where you sit in a u-shape around a huge griddle while the chef tosses bowls and knives around and basically does for veggies and meat what Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown did for bottles of vodka and rum. We didn't sit at one of those tables, though. We sat at the all-you-can-eat sushi bar instead.

This isn't any ordinary all-you-can-eat scenario like at the Great China Buffet my parents are so fond of, however. No. This place has an oblong bar that wraps around the sushi chef's* station, and in between the bar and the sushi guy is a little moat. Yes, as in a moat filled with water, just like they used to build around old English castles, except significantly narrower and shallower and therefore offering decidedly less in the way of protecting and guarding capabilities. Anyway, in the moat are a bunch of small, plastic boats all chained together and powered by some unseen mechanism that keeps the boats gently circling around the bar. As the sushi not-chef prepares each little plate of rolls and sushi and edamame and whatnot, he places them into the passing boats, and you simply pluck off whatever you want as it floats by.

* I know he is not called a "chef," but I am too lazy to look up the right word for this now.

Now, if you had asked me before last night whether I could imagine any situation in which a mobile buffet could be anything but tacky, I would, of course, have been skeptical. Can you imagine Old Country Buffet, for example, instituting something like this? First, the boats would probably be not-so-mini-seaworthy, what with being weighed down with prime rib and honey-baked ham and mounds of mashed potatoes and all, but second, most of the people at Old Country Buffet can probably use that little walk from their rickety table to the giant serving pans on the buffet islands. I don't want to be mean or to make sweeping generalizations here (oh, who am I kidding; of course I'm going to be mean and make sweeping generalizations here), but probably my favorite thing about Old Country Buffet on the rare occasions I go there (my favorite thing aside from the mashed potatoes and the make-your-own-sundae bar, of course) is the fact that I can nearly guarantee that on any visit, I am bound to be among the top ten thinnest and most attractive people in the place. There really aren't all that many establishments where I have those kinds of solid odds, so I like to appreciate them when I can.

But anyway, I digress. The little floating and moveable feast was charming, and I am entirely won over by the whole concept. I think I probably tried a bit too hard to get my full $30 worth at the meal, however, as it is fifteen hours later and only now am I feeling like maybe some lunch would be a good idea. You know how they say not to throw rice at weddings, because the birds eat it and it expands in their stomachs and they could actually sort of explode? I know that warning is only for uncooked rice, but I still feel like that is what was going on in my stomach up until about 11:00 this morning. Well, that and this sort of "off" and twisty feeling that felt... well, that felt basically like I'd just eaten a boatload of raw fish (tiny boat or otherwise). Note to self: sushi is maybe not the food most conducive to trying to get a fair amount from the all-you-can-eat pricing arrangement. And that's about all I need to say about that.

In any case, Caroline and I had a lovely time. She is a friend I rarely see, but every time we get together we remember how much we really do enjoy catching up and swapping stories, and we vow not to let so much time pass again before our next visit. We make that vow and then we promptly forget it, it seems, and then we reconnect again four months later, like clockwork. This time, I am hoping we actually follow through on our much-discussed plans, though, because what we talked about doing next is to see a psychic with whom Caroline is familiar. All this talk of psychics lately has made me curious to give it another try, and since I won't be making it to Philly anytime soon to see Jackie the Wonder Psychic, Caroline's sounds like an excellent backup plan. If she too tells me that some Indian lady many generations back is responsible for my perpetual singlehood, I'm not sure exactly what I'll do, but that is a risk I am willing to take. I shall keep you posted, for I'm sure another story is forthcoming. Of course, this being a with-Caroline plan, "forthcoming" may mean four months from now. So, um, you know--stay tuned.

All right then. I'm sure most of you are out of here this afternoon for a few days of binging on things other than sushi, and I hope you have a lovely time with all of that. I'll still be here, determined not to drop out of this NaBloPoMo thing in the final eight days, but I suspect most of you will not. In that case, see you next week. I'll try not to write anything too terribly exciting in the meantime. I'm sure I am up to that challenge.

Happy long weekend!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hey there, sexy

Coworker who shall remain nameless: I just got off the phone with a guy whose last name is spelled S-E-X-E. Do you know how he pronounces that?

Me: [Blank stare]

CWSRN: Sexy. His name is Michael Sexy. He even said it at least six times. "Hi, this is Michael Sexy." "Send that file to Michael Sexy." "I'm Michael Sexy."

Me: I've been thinking lately that when couples get married, the woman shouldn't necessarily have to choose between taking the man's name or keeping her own. I'm thinking they should decide which name is more interesting and/or least offensive, and they should both take that name instead.

CWSRN: Yeah, I've heard that idea before.

Me: I'm trying to decide, with that guy, which name would be the one to keep.

CWSRN: S-e-x-e. Sexy. That's hilarious.

What if he were a woman, and he decided to hyphenate? What would be the worst name he could have to tack on?

[Both: [thinking...]]


CWSRN: Johnson.

Me: You win.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Public Service Announcement

A friendly suggestion: When attending a conference call with 120 other individuals, it is a good idea to put your telephone receiver on Mute. Particularly if the host of the conference has already asked you to put your phone on mute no less than six times during the first fifteen minutes of the call.

I may not be getting much action lately, but that does not mean I want to hear your heavy breathing in my ear. That bristling you do not hear right now? (You know--because I actually put my phone on mute?) That's the sound of the hairs on the back of my neck standing up with every breath you exhale.

Hmm. It seems maybe I could have come up with a full list of five phone-related annoyances after all.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Almost famous? No, not even close.

Those of you who have blogs yourself, do you have a well-organized means of logging possible future topics? Are you a "Start a draft for each potential post" sort of person? Do you have a neat and tidy notebook that you carry with you at all times for taking down ideas when the ideas strike? Or is your desk and bag a mess of bits and scraps of paper scrawled with half-legible phrases that are sure to spark a genius post? You know--really specific and intelligible things like "mom code" and "hugging not-Mike in Towers" and "childhood scars - Am. Horror"?

I'm thinking you can take a wild guess which of these methods I tend towards most often. And come on--You know you're dying to read each of those posts.

As I was rifling through my various wrinkled scraps of paper trying to decide what I should write about tonight, I came across a list I jotted down several weeks ago, around the time that Darren and Guinness Girl both wrote posts detailing their various brushes with the rich and famous. I read those posts and apparently thought, "I should do that! I should list all the famous people I've seen or met!" Fine plan, until I remembered that I haven't really seen or met a lot of famous people, which means my list isn't terribly long or at all impressive. Why should I let a minor detail like that stop me, though? The idea that any of these near-brushes with varying levels of fame would be entertaining is almost entertaining in itself, I think. Consider the list, if you will... (in chronological order because I'm all anal like that).

  • Charlotte Rae (a.k.a. Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life): I didn't actually meet Ms. Rae; I just saw her waving from a convertible about twenty feet away, but still it was a pretty exciting moment for my eight-year-old self. She hails from Milwaukee, so she probably felt she owed it to the city to make an appearance in the City of Festivals parade. Incidentally, The Facts of Life was one of the three or four shows my mother tried forbidding me and my sisters from watching during a brief period when she thought she needed to censor our TV viewing to avoid any exposure to talk of sex or... actually, I think it was just sex; I don't remember her considering any other offensive criteria as well. I know Golden Girls and Gimme a Break made that "forbidden or taboo" list, too, but none of the bans really lasted very long, if I recall.

  • Betty Aberlin: Our family photo albums include a picture of my pigtailed little sister sitting on Lady Aberlin's lap during a scheduled appearance at the Milwaukee County Zoo. She's beaming widely, looking star-struck and excited, not unlike how I look in the photo of me with Bob Schneider (see below). Incidentally, I think I need to re-watch Dogma one of these days, because that Wikipedia page lists it among Aberlin's credits, and I can't imagine what role she played in that. She was also in Jersey Girl, apparently (which makes me suspect Kevin Smith is a fan or a friend of hers), but no amount of curiosity will make me sit through that again.

  • Paul Molitor: I have never cared about baseball enough to even go to a game on my own, much less to stand outside afterwards in the hope of getting autographs from the players. I remembered seeing Molitor play for the Brewers at the one game my dad took me to back in '85, though, so when some friends and I went to his last game as a Twin in 1998, I agreed to hang out behind the Metrodome to catch a glimpse. He signed my ticket stub, which I would like to think might be worth something (it being the ticket from his final game and all), but the likelihood of my actually getting organized and proactive enough to find a buyer for such a thing is pretty damn slim, I'm sure.

  • Jim Creeggan (a.k.a. the red-headed bass-player from Barenaked Ladies): BNL played the very first concert at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center back in 2000. I remember three things in particular from that night: (1. The fact that the place was so clean and new and shiny, I saw someone actually brush off the seat-backs after stepping onto them; (2. St. Paul's Mayor Quimby trying to honor the band by presenting each member with Minnesota Wild jerseys, but butchering their names and having to refer to note cards to complete the transaction; and (3. Seeing a tall, lanky, curly red-haired guy dart across the street as we approached the arena and me and my friend Greg both turning to each other to ask, "Was that...?" We both decided we'd just seen Jim Creeggan run within ten inches across our path, but I have no real proof of the siting, of course.

  • Bob Schneider: You might not know who Bob Schneider, but really, I think you should. He is so much more than Big Blue Sea and Metal and Steel, the only songs of his that have gotten much radio play at all. He is witty and world-worn and wise, and did I mention he is h-o-t as well? Slightly skeevy, sure, but I would touch him anyway. I loves me a sexy man with a guitar. Anyway, at a show a few years ago, my friends Sarah and Lisa and I formed a "front-row alliance" with two girls nearby (one of whom was so fit she actually had a concave abdomen). After the show, we stood in line to meet Bob and get an autograph, and since none of us had a camera, Skinny Girl took a picture on hers and mailed it to me later. I subsequently found myself on her mailing list for lame-ass jokes and chain letters, but it was a small price to pay, I believe.

  • Douglas Coupland: I made mild and uneventful chit-chat with him while he signed my copy of Eleanor Rigby. ["That's Stefanie with an 'f'... S-t-e-f-a-n-i-e. Thanks!"] He seems like a cool guy, but I won't pretend there was anything more meaningful there than that.

  • John Edwards: I don't even particularly like this man, actually, but that didn't stop me and my friend Lisa from standing in a half-mile-long line to hear him speak at a campaign event at an area high school in 2004. I read a quote at that time that said something to the effect of, "The Dems could put a vacuum cleaner up against Bush, and we'd vote for it." How true, I thought; how true indeed. Anyway, Lisa snapped a picture of me shaking a sweaty-pitted, uber-enthusiastic Edwards's hand, and hence, I add him to the list.

  • Josh Hartnett: OK, so I got only within 30 feet of him at a DFL volunteer event the night before the 2004 election. I shook the Mayor of Minneapolis's hand that night, too, which is both less and more impressive at the same time. Funnier (to me) than any of this is when my then-friend Julie and I saw a guy at the Lake Calhoun Chipotle a couple years prior who looked just enough like Josh to make us wonder if he might be his brother. The boy is from Minneapolis, so it's possible, I suppose. We didn't interrupt the guy's burrito-eating to ask him, though, of course.

  • Sarah Vowell: Since she is my nerd-hero, I would like to say that I met Sarah at her reading at the U of M a year or so ago and we immediately became fast friends. In reality, I just handed her my books to sign, crossing my fingers that I wouldn't say anything stupid that would lower my entire city's esteem in her eyes. Apparently -R- was at this same reading, but since I didn't know who she was at the time, I don't think I noticed her there. The main thing I remember from this night was Sarah telling my friend from Rochester how impressed she was that he made the trip for her reading and suggesting that he check out the Kodak attraction in his town. Apparently she thought he meant Rochester, New York, not Minnesota, but like we were going to correct the venerable Ms. Vowell?

  • The Johns of TMBG: They must like kids a great deal to shift their focus to children's music the way they have, but the exhausted look Linnell and Flansburgh had at their performance and signing at an area Barnes & Noble last year made me really wonder how they're feeling about that choice.

OK. So I'll agree none of those sitings or near-meetings were terribly impressive or enviable at all. The truth is my friends have actually had much more luck in this department. Here is that list, for what it's worth...

  • My friend Sarah once won tickets to see Kenny G. and, not being a huge fan herself, ended up leaving halfway through the show. She left just after a break, however, when Mr. G. was making a re-entry from some balcony or side-entrance to the stage. He sprinted by her through a hallway, and she looked at him, stunned and confused, and said, "Hi, Kenny G.!" This story is much better told in person, with Sarah's abrupt and chipper intonation of those words, but since this is the Internet, that text-only reconstruction will have to suffice.

  • Since almost meeting one celebrity wasn't, apparently, enough, Sarah also met Vern Troyer (a.k.a. Mini-Me) at a bar in downtown Minneapolis one night. And she has the photos to prove it. Lucky girl...

  • My ex-boyfriend once saw Jennifer Love-Hewitt (you know--my near-identical twin?) and her entourage in an airport in I-forget-what-city. According to him, she was wearing cargo pants, a baggy hooded sweatshirt, and stiletto pumps, which, in my mind, begs all sorts of questions as to her state of mind and reasoning capabilities, but as I didn't have too high an opinion of her before this, there's really no sense getting into any of that right now.

  • My friend Lisa has some friends in LA who own a catering and takeout business of some sort. During a visit last year, an order came in, after which Lisa's friend turned to her and said, "Lisa, do you want to deliver this one for us?" Shortly thereafter, back in Minnesota, I got a text message saying, "Guess who just delivered takeout to Alanis Morissette? Me!!"

  • The same ex-boyfriend who almost met Jen Lo-Hew has a friend who took a solo bike tour out west last year, and at one point, said friend sent back photos of him and Lance Armstrong in a smiley, arms-on-each-other's-shoulders pose. Know who took the photo? Yes. Sheryl Crow. In obviously happier, more together sort of days. The day that photo was taken was actually just a day or two before Crow and Armstrong announced their short-lived engagement, but I'm pretty sure my ex's friend had nothing to do with either that or the subsequent breakup.

  • Al Franken has moved back to the Twin Cities recently (presumably to establish residency to qualify him for the 2008 Senate race in our state). I haven't run into him here yet, but my friend Carrie has--at a restaurant in South Minneapolis. As if we didn't already have proof that Carrie's life is more interesting than mine (she is, after all, the one whose job recently required her to have drinks with two Tantric sex experts). No fair, I say. No fair.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More A's for your Q's

So remember when I thought it would be fun to have you guys send me all the burning questions that were on your mind? Remember how I was all "Send me questions! I'll answer damn-near anything!" And then I posted the first set of responses and thereafter promptly neglected the rest, seemingly never to return to them again. I am all about the follow-through, if you haven't realized this by now. Really some days I think it's a wonder I don't get distracted mid-task and end up leaving the house with only one shoe.

I am not saying I actually think any of you are losing sleep or harboring any deep-seated grudges over me not answering your very-important-question or anything. But what better time than "post-every-day-time" to pull the rest of those out? So here we go.

Q: Do you have a word that, when you hear it, you cringe?
A: Oh, so many, and none of them terribly original, I'm sure. There are the obvious and offensive ones, most of which start with a "c" and refer to parts of the female anatomy. And then there are the words that we all, for whatever reason, hate... like "moist" and "panties" (even more offensive if you put those two together, but let's just pretend I didn't go there, OK?). I'm sure there are more, but they're not coming to mind just now, and it's probably not the sort of thing I should dwell on to identify, don't you agree?

Q: What physical trait do you most like about yourself?
A: I guess I'd have to go with my arms, though it bothers me a little that I don't know whether this is my own real answer or if I've just decided it's my answer because no fewer than seven people have, for some reason, commented on my arms in the past less-than-a-year. Just last weekend, when discussing the strapless dresses we wore in my best friend's wedding in September, a fellow bridesmaid said that one of her paranoias with wearing it was, "Well, we had your arms to compete with..." I think she was exaggerating, but whatever.

I can't even find a reasonably decent photo of my supposedly enviable upper arms, but I suppose this is the best I can do. You really don't need to weigh in with any comments on this. I just thought a point of reference might be in order. It would be much more comfortable for me to talk about the physical traits I least like about myself, but that, of course, wasn't the question.

Q: Do you have any favorite names? (like for future children)
A: I could be all coy and say, "I can't tell you those; you'll just steal them for your own kids' names!" But let's face it. I haven't really given this enough thought to hold any real "ownership" of the names, and would I really care anyway if any of you took these names? Probably not. So then. For girls, I really like Alexia (which is my middle name, though I hesitate to tell the Internet that) and Madeline (even though this lends itself too easily to "Maddy," which would make people think she's one of the seven little Madisons in her class). Boys' names I haven't really given much thought since my late-90s Ethan/Noah phase. A friend of mine just named her new baby Oliver, and I do think that's kind of cute... Enough time has passed, I think, that I no longer associate it with the nerdy cousin on The Brady Bunch... Luckily, these are all dilemmas I don't think I'll need to worry about for some time. These are actually dilemmas I may never have to worry about, so I'm going to stop thinking about this right now.

Q: What is your favorite Simpsons episode?
A: Ooh! Thanks, -R-. I actually do have an immediate answer for this! My favorite episode, hands-down, would be This Little Wiggy, mainly because it is a Ralph-centric episode, and Ralph is my favorite. This episode features the all-time best Ralph Wiggum quote, actually--a line that for some reason didn't make that Wikipedia page. Ralph and Bart are in the abandoned prison, and a rat runs off with the Chief's master key, after which Ralph points at the crack in the wall and says, "The pointy kitty took it!" Classic. (Yes, I am easily amused.)

A very close runner-up would be El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer, more popularly known as "The Chili Cookoff" episode. I pretty much have this one memorized, and the best story my friend Dale told me last year ended with the line "and me without my chili boots," so clearly I am not alone on this. Plus, Johnny Cash guest starred as a space coyote in this one, and really, how can you go wrong with that?

Q: How do you feel about pepperoni?
A: You mean as a general concept or as a pizza topping? If we're just talking general terms here, I have no real qualms with the stuff. If I'm putting meat on my pizza, I typically prefer chicken or prosciutto, but when limited to the mainstream, ghetto choices of pepperoni vs. sausage, I'll pick pepperoni every time.

Q: Would you be willing to shave your head for a charitable cause?
A: I have a hard time envisioning any scenario where people would pay money to see me with no hair, so I'm going to have to go with "no" on this. It's not that I wouldn't be willing to sacrifice my hair for a good cause; it's just that, if we're talking about the maybe $30 someone might scrape together to make something like this happen, I'd rather put the cash in myself than make myself even less attractive than I already feel on a bad day.

Q: Are you a coffee drinker?
A: If by "coffee" you mean the tasty, sweet, syrupy flavored treats you can get at just about any coffee shop these days, then, yes. Which reminds me, pumpkin lattes aren't going to be around forever... I should really head in to a Starbucks to partake of one again soon.

Q: If aliens landed in your back yard and gave you one minute to describe everything there is to know about human behavior, what would you say?
A: This is the question I had no idea how to answer when Stinkypaw first sent it, and I regret to report that I still don't have much for a response now. Current events are leading me to take the easy way out with some lame over-generalization like "Boys are stupid," but I know that is neither fair nor universally true. Anyone else want to take this one? Really, I'm curious what the rest of you might have to offer.

Q: What is your most favorite thing in the whole wide world to do?
A: There are many things I really like to do... take walks by myself, watch movies, travel, hang with friends, read, knit, waste hours trolling blogs... Pathetic as it sounds, though, the only thing I can think of that always, always, always makes me happy is going to bed knowing I can sleep in as late as I want the next day. Is "sleeping" the lamest possible answer as my favorite thing to do? I don't care. Do not underestimate the joy of no-alarm-clock days.

Q: What's the meaning of life?
A: Have you ever noticed that sometimes, something you read in a book or saw on TV at some early, formative age actually sticks with you for years and years beyond when it maybe should? That said, I'm going to have to go with a Mallory Keaton insight that I've already mentioned once before: "Be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope you fall in love." Works for me; do you agree?


I think that about covers all the questions I've received to date. It's only November 18, though, so if there's something else you want to ask, feel free to send it my way. There's no better time than right now to give me idle blog post topics, after all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Five: Bugging me, bugging you

See, now I told you that the sunshine and rainbows couldn't last. Perhaps everyone else's bad moods and enumerations of suckage are getting to me a bit. Perhaps it's just not my nature to be cheerful for more than four days in a row. Or perhaps I'm really just fine but am feeling temporarily agitated about things I should actually know better than to be agitated about. Actually, I think that last one's the most accurate. I'm fine, really. But regardless, here's this week's list.

Five things that annoy me for no good reason

  1. When people call me on speakerphone. Actually, it's not just the fact that I am on speakerphone that annoys me; it's when someone calls me on it simply because they are too damn lazy to pick up the receiver before they dial. No, instead they wait until I answer and then make me wait for the pause and the rustle and the click and then "Hello? Still there?" as they remember that they do, in fact, have opposable thumbs. That is the part that annoys me.

  2. When people talk on their cell phones whilst shopping. (I actually thought about making a whole list of five phone-related things that annoy me, but this is as far as I got. I could probably think of three more, but why?)

  3. When people use the word "Ish." This is not even a real word, and I've heard no one but Minnesotans ever use it. It means, essentially, "Ick" or "Yuck," neither of which is actually a "real" word either, I suppose, but somehow both of those are entirely less abrasive to my ears. "Ish"?? Ugh. Stop saying that!

  4. The guy in my yoga class who tries to be helpful by standing in the doorway and handing out blocks or chairs or whatever other props our instructor has instructed us to gather for the next pose, instead of just letting us get them our damn self. I know he's just trying to be nice and likeable, but for some reason, this goal entirely backfires on me.

  5. Juliette Lewis. And Hilary Duff. And pretty much everyone on 7th Heaven. For that matter, in fact, 7th Heaven. Why is that show still on the air? Especially when it was already canceled? I could go on, but I am quickly digressing here, not to mention veering off into the realm of things that annoy me for completely legitimate and well-understood reasons, rather than for really no good reason at all. Hmm... I am suddenly coming up with all sorts of subcategories for further "Things that annoy me" lists. To be continued periodically, I am sure...

Thursday, November 16, 2006


This is not a real and proper post either, but if anyone (i.e., -R-) is interested in the photographic proof of Megan the wonder-baby's cuteness, I've updated that post with a photo.


Hey there. Did you happen to notice that it's November 16th already? You did? Do you know what that means? NoBloPoMo is officially half over. And I am still in. Whoo. I even posted twice a couple of days. Are you impressed? Really you shouldn't be. You know how many people do this posting-every-day thing even when there is no silly contest involved? A lot. Regardless, I am impressed. With myself, I mean. Even if it's no big deal to you.

So let's consider this halftime, OK? Go on and get yourself a snack... grab a beer... hit the bathroom... make a quick phone call... keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of Janet Jackson's boob... you know, whatever it is you do when it says "Halftime" on the screen.

Incidentally, this may be a "Yay for olives post" (my new codeword for a post of no import or substance or any real content), but it totally counts, OK?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Full frontal

As I've said before, I really do appreciate the fact that my employer grants me a free gym membership as part of my benefits package. I've even more or less made peace with the fact that I occasionally run into not-quite-strangers in the locker room at that gym. What I am not yet comfortable with (and likely never will be), however? When those not-quite-strangers are actually my coworkers or--worse yet--my boss.

Today, in a fine example of unfortunate timing, my boss walked into the locker room and around the corner directly towards me just as I was peeling my sweaty sports bra over my head. That's right--arms up, girls on full display, stark bare and probably blindingly white under the industrial fluorescent lights. I'm sure it was quite a view... particularly from her sudden vantage point less than eighteen inches away. Really I have no idea which of us was more uncomfortable at that moment: me or her. I'm going to have to go with me, but it's probably a tossup.

What? If I'm ever going to tell a story about my breasts, it might as well be during November sweeps, right? (Or at least during November NaBloPoMo, where the story is set to remain in top position for no longer than a day.)

In other gym-related dilemmas, here's a question for you... When you make the genius move of somehow packing your workout bag and forgetting to include socks, which is the better solution: hitting the treadmill sockless, or in the brown wool socks you wore to work? I thought I made the right choice, but the raw skin under the broken blister below my ankle is currently telling me otherwise. Ow.

I am so smart. S-M-R-T.*

* I told you I had the appropriate Simpsons reference for damn-near every situation in life...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Age 5 – Based on what you've learned on TV and in storybooks, you decide that all children your age are supposed to have an imaginary friend. You try to invent one, but quickly grow bored with the idea, not to mention confused as to why a nonexistent friend is any fun. Your life-long fate as a realist is already sealed.

Age 6 – You meet a future classmate named David at an area park shortly before starting first grade. He is immediately your exciting new friend, and you smile at each other coyly for the first three months of school. At that point, he inexplicably starts taunting and torturing you, and thereafter becomes your sworn enemy for the next seven and a half years.

Age 9 – A friend of your father's invites your family to try cross-country skiing for the first time. You are a natural, darting ahead of the rest of the group repeatedly and having a fantastic time. Your parents are not naturals, and therefore never ever take you skiing again. You are pretty sure the fact that you never reached your full athletic potential can be traced to this one event.

Age 12 – You are deep in Like with a boy named John. Through some miracle of the universe, he actually likes you back, and in a rare bout of sixth-grade-boy bravery, decides to tell you so on the bus one night. You are immediately terrified of and want nothing to do with him. This experience sets the course for most of your interactions with men for the next ten years.

Age 14 – Your classmates in your very tiny private school are bored and tired of each other (and quite possibly just plain cruel), so they amuse themselves by ostracizing one gangly, awkward student at a time. Lucky you: the shunning rotates to your direction just before end-of-year eighth grade graduation festivities. You gain an unfortunate nickname just in time for yearbook signing, and you are nearly ditched--twice--on the class trip to Great America. You end the year with few friends, and decide that public school cannot start soon enough.

Age 16 – In a seeming attempt to prove just how cool you are not, you invite several friends and almost-friends (from widely varying social circles, no less) to your sixteenth birthday party... at a roller rink. Shockingly, most of them come, despite the fact that (a. most of them don't like each other, (b. some of them might not even like you, and (c. you are too old for a roller-skating party to be acceptable or normal, and too young for it to be an amusing, retro, "releasing-your-inner-child" thing to do. In retrospect, you are both mortified and strangely proud of this entire event.

Age 18 – You do not understand the appeal of house parties, and you really, really hope there is more to college than this.

Age 21 – Spending a semester in Scotland is proving to be an excellent decision. You are seeing the world (or at least, several previously unseen parts of it), and you are learning more than you ever thought you would about culture and human nature. Also, you are learning to drink. And you are getting rather good at it.

Age 23 – You are gainfully employed in your first "real" job. It is not nearly as hard or as strange a transition as you expected it to be, though you still feel like you're playing dress-up when you leave your apartment each day. Sometimes you are genuinely surprised when people treat you like a grown-up. You are certain they will call you out as an imposter at any moment.

Age 26 – Your roommate plans a surprise birthday party for you. The surprise is a complete success. It is still a week before your birthday, and therefore only when you see your own mother does it register that the "Happy Birthday" balloons are for you. It is not one of your quicker or brighter moments.

Age 28 – Finally (finally, finally) a man who is neither a relative nor "just a friend" looks you in the eyes and says "I love you." And he means it. It is awesome.

Age 30 – Another surprise birthday party is held in your honor. You do not suspect this one, either, but as it is held on your actual birthday, you immediately realize it is for you. Clearly all hope for you is not lost.

Age 31 – You start publishing your idle thoughts and random stories on the Internet. You join a dating site and start going on dates with seemingly half the men in the greater Twin Cities area. (The total number actually remains under 30.) Bad dates prove to be excellent blog fodder.

Age 32 – You are still publishing assorted thoughts and stories on the Internet. You jump on an absurd bandwagon and decide to post something every day for a month. On day 14, you post your life in brief. It is met with fanfare crickets.

Monday, November 13, 2006

There is a house in New Orleans

Guinness Girl has been writing about psychic visits lately, and it reminded me of my own one and only psychic encounter a few years back. I was in New Orleans with two friends for a girls-only, last-hurrah sort of weekend prior to my friend Julie's wedding, and we decided to take a ghost tour carriage ride through the French Quarter. At one point on the ride, I noticed, on an adjacent side street, a small storefront with a pink light emanating from it and a wooden sandwich board advertising palm, tarot, and aura readings and other psychic services. It was like something straight out of a movie, and I was immediately intrigued.

Psychics and tarot card readers are not hard to find in New Orleans. At night, Jackson Square is lined with table after table of supposed clairvoyants trying to cash in on New Orleans' spooky voodoo heritage through the tourists who come in search of it. Some may be authentic, if you believe in that sort of thing, but if the card reader my friend Kristina sat down in front of is representative of the whole lot, then the insights offered there aren't much more helpful or in depth than those on the page-a-day horoscope calendar my mother stuck in my Christmas stocking last year. The place with the pink light seemed different, however. Maybe it was just the creepy dark, narrow side street and the fact that my head was freshly filled with ghost stories. Maybe the woman in that storefront just had all the right props, and I am a hopeless sucker for buying into her persona. Regardless, when we found ourselves wandering down that same side street later, I felt compelled to go inside.

As we stepped beyond the beaded curtain, we were greeted by Catherine, a tiny woman with dark skin and eyes who wore a scarf over her thinning hair and spoke in an accent I couldn't attach to any particular locale. I asked if she would read my palm, and she instructed me to sit down while she explained her rates and the sorts of things she could and couldn't tell me. Unlike the buskers in Jackson Square, who aren't legally allowed to charge for their services and therefore can take only voluntary donations, Catherine is an "official" psychic, paying taxes under that career title and everything. She keeps regular hours, and all major credit cards are accepted.

I held out my hand, and Catherine placed her magnifying class over it. Her first words, as she examined my palm, were, "You speak your mind. Some people don't like you for that." Julie and Kristina, both well aware of the number of times the word "blunt" has been used to describe me, immediately burst out laughing. I hadn't said more than ten words since I entered the place, so at that point, I just looked back at Catherine in wonder, thinking, "Holy Shit. She is actually for real. I had better listen up."

Not only did I listen up, but I took notes in my journal as soon as we left, so I wouldn't forget what she had said. This weekend, I dug up that journal to refresh my memory and see how much of what she said panned out.

Some of it was pretty dead-on, but could also have been just a pretty simple guess. She told me, for example, that I'd felt restless and frustrated recently, as though I was searching for something and not even sure what it was--only that I hadn't found it. That was just as true at that reading four years ago as it is today, but you might not need to be a psychic to make that call. She could have just looked down at my ring-less ring finger and thought, "Aren't most single 20- and 30-somethings searching for something?" Maybe single isn't even a factor. Maybe we're all a little directionless. Or maybe that's just me, and Catherine does, in fact, have a gift.

She also told me about a couple upcoming potential business ventures that, in retrospect, I don't think ever materialized. There was the mysterious prediction that a tall, gray-haired man with a name starting with "R" would have an opportunity for me a few months later, and I don't recall ever receiving that offer. She told me it wasn't a good move for me, however, anyway, so I suppose that's just as well.

One thing that was eerily accurate was a prediction about money. "You'll come into some money soon," she said, still holding my hand. "It won't be thousands, but it will be hundreds, and it will be shared among you and some other people." She said I would find out about it via a letter or phone call. Just a few days after returning from New Orleans, I got a call from my mother (who never calls me, by the way), telling me about how she'd closed my recently deceased great-aunt's accounts and was handling the remaining details of the estate. She had already sent pretty large checks to my dead aunt's grandchildren, and she mentioned that she planned to give me and my sisters a few hundred each as well. A month or so later, we each received checks for $300.

Realizing how accurate that prediction was made me a little leery about her relationship-related insights. It still does, actually. Here's a sampling of the things Catherine said in this area...

  • She pointed out that I don't have very good luck in relationships, and that I often wonder what I'm doing wrong or what I did to deserve this. I'm pretty sure I've asked, "What is wrong with me?" at least two hundred times in the past 15 years to my friends or to the mirror, so that one was pretty damn true. She didn't have any better answer than my friends have given, though. "Obviously you're intelligent," Catherine said. "You're not ugly; you're not obese..." Um, thanks, Catherine. Thanks for noticing, I guess.

  • Catherine also said that the men I'm with often seem kind of messed up or "broken," and I feel as though I'm fixing them and sending them off so they can be with someone else more successfully. That wasn't even remotely anything I'd felt in any of my prior relationship attempts at that point, but it is pretty much exactly how I feel about my last boyfriend, who I was already friends with at the time and who I started dating several months later. I am over that relationship, really I am, but I still think his new [near-teenaged] girlfriend owes me a thank you.

  • The last thing she said is the one I still think is too out-there to be at all valid, but given the pretty accurate statements before it, I can't help but wonder about it nonetheless. Catherine told me that my lack of luck in love is not my fault... that it's nothing I've done and is nothing personal against me (which basically blows that bad karma theory I'd been working with for a while). She said it has to do with the women in my father's family, specifically something that happened generations back that is somehow connected with Indian blood. I didn't ask which Indians she meant ("Dots or feathers," as Robin Williams's friend said in Good Will Hunting), but I figured it didn't matter, as I know of neither in my family's past. We are German and Irish people, as white as they come. Even if there was some Indian connection, I doubt I'd be able to track it down now. But since it is, according to Catherine, affecting me pretty significantly, perhaps I should be at least trying to look into it.

Then again, if Catherine was so good, maybe she could have predicted that this trip to New Orleans would be one of the last times I really bonded and had a great time with my now long-lost friend, Julie. Perhaps Catherine could have told me that soon Julie would disappear with her new husband to the farthest reaches of the suburbs and I'd pretty much never see her again.

Or maybe Catherine knew that and just decided to let us finish our weekend together having fun, rather than casting a gray prediction like that on our time. I guess I have to give her credit for that as well.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Baby talk

My friend Sarah has a three-month-old baby. Obviously Sarah is somewhat biased (and she never reads my blog anyway), so I will speak for her and tell you that her new daughter Megan is, in fact, quite possibly the cutest baby ever. Cuter than most, anyway. Top three percentile for sure. I have said more than once that I am not a baby person by nature, and yet, when this kid is around, I am unconsciously compelled to touch her head and smile at her. I cannot help it.

Obviously, I am not the only one mesmerized by the child's charms.

From: Sarah
To: Stefanie
Subject: RE: Baptism photos

So I thought you'd think this is cute, since you're into, like... words and stuff.

Steve and I coined a new word: Meganology. It's the study of Megan. We are now not only parents, but also Meganologists, people who study Megan. We're always trying to figure her out, as if she's a science.

Maybe you think that's completely corny, but it gave me a good laugh.

From: Stefanie
To: Sarah
Subject: RE: Baptism photos

Have you also been noticing a dip in your bank accounts that you can attribute to her? Because that, my friend, is Meganomics.

See? No worries. I'm just as bad.

Update! (11/16/06) The photographic proof of the little chili pepper's undeniable cuteness... How can you resist those big and sparkly eyes?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bedroom Standard Time

I got an unexpected extra hour of sleep the other night (and was therefore an hour late for work in the morning). No, it wasn't because I did the Daylight Savings Time switch a week and some odd days late and in the wrong direction. It was because I woke up with the alarm and, rather than hitting snooze my usual three or four times, I decided just to reset the thing and get another 25 minutes of uninterrupted sleep instead. Good plan, right? Sure, except in my groggy attempt to reset the alarm, I moved the time ahead instead, leaving the alarm thereafter deactivated until the next day.

I didn't realize I had done this, of course, until much later. All I knew when I woke up at 7:45 was that my alarm had not re-alarmed and I was, officially, late for work. Whoops.

It wasn't until I got home and crawled back into bed that night that I realized what I'd done. You may recall that my bedroom clock is always set at least 15-20 minutes fast for no better reason than that I am a creature of ridiculous habits, so when I looked at the clock that night, it didn't surprise me that it was a lot later than it had been on my computer's clock just a few minutes before. It seemed even later than normal, though, so I consulted a clock in another room and did the math. Instead of the usual 20-minute variance, it was now at least 45 minutes later in my bedroom than it was in the rest of the house. Morning mystery solved, I guess.

When I reset the clock, I made a bold decision. Enough of the one-house-with-two-time-zones madness, I thought. I am going to return to living how the normal people live! Or, at least return to having my bedroom clock say the official and current time. ("Normal" is a bold and relative word, after all, and rarely has much to do with clocks.)

I was a little nervous about making this switch. I am so used to barely consciously pressing Snooze until 6:48 that I was worried my half-asleep self would forget I now need to stop pressing that button by 6:30 or so instead. Luckily, I've actually adjusted pretty quickly. Sure, there was a day when I almost hit Snooze at 6:38, but thankfully, my brain woke up and said, "Wait! It really is 6:38! You need to get up, like, now!

I realize I am making an awfully big deal out of a pretty minor thing, but I guess that is sort of my point. This was a kind of big deal to me. I had wondered many times how long I was going to keep up the ridiculous clock game, whether I'd someday have to train a future husband to learn to live with this absurd routine, and yet, I resisted change because I figured it would be too hard.

Now that I know how easily I can step back from the edge of crazy, I am wondering what else I could change as well. How many other things am I unknowingly making hopelessly more complicated than they need to be? How much more difficult am I making my life, under the guise of some misguided attempt to coddle myself?

I'll have to think on this. I should be able to come up with something, I'm sure.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Five: Feeling Strangely Fine

Lately I've been experiencing this strange and unfamiliar feeling that I think I've finally identified as... a good mood. No, really! It surprised me, too! But what do you know; there it is.

It's not that I really think of myself as a terminally glum and cheerless person. Everybody has funks, right? (Or, everybody who's prone to any amount of introspection has them, anyway.) For a long while there, though, it seemed that the funks were outweighing the lack-of-funks, that I was fighting away gray clouds and darkness more often than not, and the end result was that I rarely topped out at anything better than neutral. I can't really explain why. Or, I could; I have some pretty probable theories on the matter, but it's nothing I want to get into at the moment. Regardless, the past several months, the funks have been far less frequent, and I've found myself thinking, "Huh. Maybe life's really not so bad. Who knew?"

The good mood still surprised me, though, mostly because nothing in particular seems to have prompted it. I first noticed it the other night, driving home from work in unusually light traffic, marveling at the fact that Mary Lucia was somehow reading my mind and playing exactly the right songs to keep my head bopping contentedly the entire way home. The next day, however, traffic was maddening, and yet, the good mood, amazingly, didn't clear. I didn't walk into the office feeling surly and dejected. I responded to the Owner's usual "How are you today?" question with an enthusiastic "Good!" And for once, I think I actually meant it.

Are you scared? It's OK. I am a little bit, too. Regardless, I've decided not to question it. Instead, I shall embrace it, for who knows how long it can last.

A couple weeks ago, -R- wrote a post compiling thirteen ways to get on her bad list. Since then, I've been writing my own "bad list" in my head (it wasn't too hard; a lot of things annoy me), and I planned to steal her idea and use it myself for this week's Friday Five. I think I need to table that for a different week, however, because right now, I feel that I should revel in the good. The universe is, in fact, not out to get me. Here are a few points of proof.

Five things I am happy about and feeling really pretty grateful for

  1. My friends. Everybody says it, but really, it's true. I have a fabulous circle of amazing women* who I'm lucky to call good friends. They're smart, talented, witty, and interesting--the exact sort of kindred spirits I longed for and was almost always unable to find throughout high school and even much of college. They're also the best damn advisory board a girl could ask for, always offering a range of thoughtful perspectives or, often more important, just an eager ear to listen, even when I drone on about some tired old topic as though it's actually a fresh new dilemma. That takes patience. And a kind heart. These women, without a doubt, have both.

    A couple months ago, two of my friends shared a birthday party, and the guy I've called The Magical Boy attended. He brought a friend who we hadn't yet met, and while I was talking to him at one point, the friend admitted he'd had pretty low expectations for the night. He didn't mean it as an insult; it's just that, as a tag-along friend to an event where he'd know no one, he really didn't know what to think. "But I'm glad I came," he said. "You guys are awesome." Indeed we are, friend of MB. Indeed we are, I say.

    * And men, sure, but for whatever reason, much like my blog circle, the group that I run with contains far more women than men.

  2. You guys. Sure, a few of you reading this are real-life friends who already fit under #1, but the majority are people who I've never met but who've let me into your lives and weighed in with often hilarious feedback on mine. Like most of you, I started this blog because I wanted to get in the habit of writing more, but I never expected to find myself part of this fun and awesome community of clever and interesting folks, some of whom I now actually consider real (not just fake, Internet) friends. I know this isn't exactly an original insight; most blogs I read have included similar sentiments in at least one post in the past. I don't think I've ever voiced it here, though, and before we all give up on blogging and move on to other things, I wanted to make sure I did.

  3. Tuesday's election results. I stand by my promise that I'm not about to become a political blogger, but you knew I had to mention this anyway. Yes, my heart still sinks when I think about the damn marriage amendment in my home state, and I'm not too thrilled that we're keeping our conservative governor for another term, either, but there's so much to be hopeful about that I don't need to dwell on that right now. Want specifics? Here's a start. It's been so long since political news made me smile. I just want to sit back and enjoy this for a while.

  4. My job. My house. They may each be sources of frustration often times, but so many people are lacking one or both that I should truly count myself lucky for what I have. I should remember this tomorrow, when I'm raking leaves all afternoon. And remember it again on Monday morning, when I'm struggling to drag myself out of bed. Those are the idle annoyances, but I have the things I need. Not everyone can say the same.

  5. A stable family life throughout childhood. A recent successful clothes-shopping day. The fact that I get to sleep in tomorrow. A date/maybe-date that actually went pretty well. Take your pick for this last one; I'm having trouble wrapping this up.

Oh, and just so you know, I suspect I'll be back to my regularly scheduled wisecracks and cynicism shortly. This positivity and gratitude thing surely cannot last.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Coming around again

I've often lamented the fact that I am, it seems, entirely and instantly forgettable to every guy who's ever dated me. Post-breakup, most women I know get late-night phone calls, impromptu IMs and text messages, and "just checking in" sort of e-mails from the men they've loved and left (or been left by). Me? A man walks out of my life and he seemingly never ever looks back.

I'm not saying I actually want the pointless follow-up. I'm well aware it's nearly always meaningless in the big picture and likely only hinders and delays the moving-on process. Still, it would be nice to know I left some impression (preferably a favorable one, even, if it's not too much to ask--one that makes an ex miss me a bit when he's sitting at home watching a movie all alone, or when he tosses a Simpsons reference at his new girlfriend and she stares back at him blankly and without recognition).

A lot of things in my life have felt backwards lately, however. I've been trying consciously to step out of my norm and not do what I typically do in every and all situations. I've been rethinking everything from relationships to wardrobe choices (How many black and gray shirts do I need, really? Perhaps I should try on this green one instead...), and I suddenly wonder if it's creating some strange ripple effect.

First case in point? meMarmony boomerang guy #1, who I had that uneventful non-alcoholic drink with a couple weeks back... a guy who I later described to my friends as "the in-person equivalent of a weak and floppy handshake." Why did I call him boomerang guy #1? That's simple, of course. Because two other long-vanished meMarmony matches contacted me this week as well, and really I have no idea what to make of it.

meMarmony boomerang guys #2 and #3 were both smart, fun, and interesting men who I actually enjoyed spending time with and wouldn't have been opposed to continuing to see. Unlike the great big pool of men who I said "no" to myself, these were two where I'll admit I did not really make the final call. No, with these two, I suddenly realized that online date-finding is a lot like one of those ridiculous competitive-dating reality shows that I never watch (well, "never" unless it's Elimidate and I'm feeling nostalgic for the days when I got sucked in by that trainwreck more regularly than I'd like to admit). By that I mean that putting myself in a matching database almost guaranteed that I would be asked out by and going on dates with two or more different men near-simultaneously (remember the two-Mike week a while back?), but it also meant that the men I was dating were likely going out with women besides me as well. At some point, decisions have to be made, roses need to be handed out, and perfectly nice, interesting, intelligent, and reasonably attractive girls have to be sent home just because there is only one "girlfriend" slot to fill. It's nothing personal... or, it is personal, of course, but is nothing I can really fault each Bachelor for. It is what it is. Life goes on.

I've remained in sporadic contact with both mMBG #2 and #3 over the months, but by this point, I pretty much assumed that they'd both vanished for good. And then came this week's messages, sent less than 24 hours apart, both small talky and just slightly elusive and open to interpretation in many ways. Or, open to interpretation if you're looking to overanalyze and make some interpretation, which, of course, I almost always am. I really don't know what these guys' motives (if any) are in contacting me now, but if you know me at all, you're well aware of my frequently overactive imagination, so it should come as no surprise that I have a few theories.

  • The most obvious theory, of course, is that they both realized what a huge mistake they made in choosing some other, clearly inferior woman over me. They regretted their decision almost immediately, but stuck it out with the Other Woman for a while anyway, the whole time thinking, "I bet Stefanie would never say that to me" or "Stefanie surely would have had a clever and interesting perspective on this." Recently they both finally accepted that it would never work with Other Woman and they ended that relationship for good. Now, they're easing slowly back into re-established communication with me until they can try to make their move and attempt to rectify past mistakes.

  • That first theory might be a tad lofty and self-absorbed, which is strange, since self-doubt and paranoia are actually much more my style most of the time. Theory #2, therefore, is that mMBG #2 and #3 met and became friends recently (most likely, of course, at some meMarmony Survivors Network meeting or support group of which I am unaware). In comparing notes, they discovered that they both had me in common and decided to see what sort of little mind games they could play to amuse themselves for a while.

  • Only slightly less realistic than that last theory, the next option is that each of these guys recently learned of some serious medical ailment with which they are hoping I might be of help. After already searching their entire friend and family network, they've not yet found a suitable kidney or bone marrow match, and they're now casting the net further and including me (and who knows who else) within the search. That's not the sort of thing you can just come right out and ask, so obviously a cordial sort of "testing the waters" e-mail is the better way to start. I imagine they'll work up to the big question two or three e-mails down the road.

  • Theory number 4 is that one or both of them is still blissfully happy with the woman deemed a better choice than me, and they are, in fact, planning the impending nuptials as I type. What more fun addition to the rehearsal dinner festivities than to bring in a panel of women the groom met and dated before the bride-to-be? Fun for whom, I am not sure, but it is a theory, anyway.

  • And finally, the most cynical (and, according to my friend Amy, the most likely) explanation: that neither guy is quite "done" yet with whatever woman is in his life, but he is feeling some lack of attention or some need to see what's still out there before he commits or calls it quits. Checking in with me on occasion is a way of keeping me in the wings or on a back burner until he finds himself single again.

Most likely, of course, the answer is actually none of these. The purpose of the unexpected e-mails probably goes no deeper that the actual words each guy typed, which were, basically, "Just wanted to say hi, see what you're up to, say I hope you're doing well." There's nothing wrong with that, now, is there? Yet my jaded self apparently can't agree.

I actually agreed to drinks tonight with boomerang guy #3, so perhaps I'll have some answers to relay soon enough.