Saturday, December 22, 2007

The standard "see you later" entry

So is anyone still around and reading blogs, or have we all retreated to our respective relatives' homes for heavy drinking and family infighting warm moments of family togetherness? I'm heading out tomorrow myself, but before I go, I wanted to report that I deservedly won the holiday attire contest (which I mentioned earlier this week) at my good friend Lisa's "Cocktails from Around the World" party last night. I narrowly edged out some fine contenders, including a snowman-printed turtleneck, a sweater tacky enough to feature both a Christmas tree and Winnie the Pooh, and an awesomely retro plaid dinner jacket culled straight from the wearer's dad's closet. It was a very tough call for the judges, I'm sure. I think hand-sewing gold pipe cleaners onto my sweater vest is what secured the prize for me.

Incidentally, I have no idea why every photo taken of me while in this lineup makes me look "special" in a The Other Sister sort of way. Obviously I should watch those mad wild hand gestures, whether I'm holding a cocktail plate and drink or no.

Steve also wanted to see my cheerful Christmas footwear, so here's a shot of that. I actually rather like these bright and stripey socks, and frankly I'm semi-seriously wondering if I can get away with wearing them throughout the entire year. What do you think?

I also have festive snowman socks, which I wore one day earlier this week. I would like to point out that my ankles are not as thick as they look in this photo. You'll just have to take my word on that.

I had several other things to tell you, but I think lack of sleep and poor nutrition is affecting my memory and train of thought. I received an awesome box of treats in the mail from my pal Nabbalicious today, and between those and the leftover cookies from last night's party, I have eaten nothing but sugary carbs nearly all day. I actually wish my family was the usual cooking type. I could probably stand to eat a vegetable or two right now, but where I'm headed, those are even more scarce than in my home.

So with that, I'm out of here, and I'll likely be making myself scarce for the next several days. I expect most of you will be doing the same, but don't worry: our friend Aaron has already pledged to keep the Internet running for all of us while we're gone. You're a good man, Charlie Brown Aaron. I admire that you're still going strong with this post-every-day nonsense.

Merry Christmas if you celebrate it and happy long weekend to you if you don't. Catch you all next week.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is anyone tired of holiday-related posts yet? If so, I apologize.

First off, a note to Noelle (and to anyone else with a non-Blogger blog who is still having trouble commenting but hasn't been as vocal about it as my good friend on the Christmas tree farm has)... I just saw the following update on the Blogger dashboard, which should (hopefully for real, this time!) fix that pesky "Why can't I leave my damn link?" issue. Blogger says...

Unregistered commenters can once again provide an auto-linked URL... We apologize for having broken this feature for you. Your blogs and Help Group posts showed us the true extent to which you used and cared about this feature, so please let us know if it's still being problematic.

Damn straight, Blogger. Why you be making life difficult for my WordPress friends? I just checked it out myself and it seems to be the real deal. I very much hope I'm not leading you astray by telling you that yet again.

With that little bit of housekeeping out of the way, on to the Friday Five. I am highly anticipating getting the heck out of Dodge (and by "Dodge," I mean my office, of course) for a while, and since the primary reason for this getaway is Christmas, for better or worse the holiday season is on my mind. Let's start with the worse.

Five Christmas-related things I could really do without:
  1. The sound of children singing. Specifically on professionally-recorded tracks getting radio play and being featured on television commercials, I mean--I'm sure your kid singing is angelic and adorable.

  2. Those damn giant inflatable lawn decorations. Specifically the super-sized snowglobe one and Snoopy as the Red Baron. What does Snoopy have to do with Christmas?? (Don't answer that, Aaron. I promise I'm not hating on A Charlie Brown Christmas with this.) Every day on my way to work I pass a house that has three such inflatable eyesores in their yard. Every night, they are fully inflated; every morning, they are lying flat and lifeless on the snow. I'm convinced a neighbor who's as put off by these as I am is responsible for the sabotage. I swear it is not me.

  3. Candy canes. Tell me, do these multiply inexplicably when we leave the room? Why are there so many of them around? And does anyone ever actually eat a whole candy cane? I surely haven't. You have to eat them all in one sitting or you get that sticky mess of tangled wrapper, and really, who wants to hold on to a half-sucked candy for later anyway? I realize I am overanalyzing this. Nevertheless, if you are buying me any Christmas candy, skip the candy canes. More Ghirardelli, please, instead.

  4. The phrase "stocking stuffer." Actually, if your family is German like mine, you know that stockings aren't even supposed to be part of Christmas. You get goodies in your stocking on December 6, for St. Nick's Day, not on Christmas. I don't mean to be a stickler about that; feel free to choose your own traditions, of course. It's just that corny phrase I could do without.

  5. Diamond commercials. No one is buying me something very special in a burgundy box; no one is telling me I am his with the diamond Journey pendant; and no one is giving me a gift that prompts me to blurt out "He went to Jarod!!" to all of my friends. I honestly am fully OK with that, but I don't need to be reminded constantly anyway. (Incidentally, this is another reason I so very heart The Current and its member-supported no-commercials format.)

I am not a total Scrooge, however, so here are some things about the holiday season that I really do quite enjoy:

  1. ELEVEN DAYS OFF IN A ROW!! Yes, I have to spend nearly half of them in my parents' house rather than on a warm beach somewhere or even in my own home enjoying peace and solitude, but still--eleven consecutive days with likely no alarm clock is a very good thing indeed.

  2. A Charlie Brown Christmas, which I plan to watch with my little sister at some point while I'm home. (See? Like I said, nothing against Charlie Brown and his holiday special; I just don't think the Red Baron belongs on our lawns.)

  3. Presents. Duh. Yes, I am a grown-up and should be above and beyond such frivolities, but come on. Don't we all still love getting surprises in wrapped packages? To quote Sally in the aforementioned Christmas classic, "All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share..."

  4. The excuse to wear ridiculous socks, which fall into a completely different category than appliqued vests and festive sweaters (in that holiday socks I will wear with no apologies while vests and sweaters I will not). I shall have to take a photo later of the excellent Christmas striped socks I am wearing to a party tonight.

  5. "It's the holidays!" is a perfectly valid reason for a cocktail.

I'm sure I'm forgetting several very important things on both of those lists. So what's on your love/hate list this festive week?

Edited to add:
I knew I was forgetting something important... Gingerbread lattes! Yum. Which reminds me, I saw a supposedly very tasty recipe for gingerbread cookies on someone's blog recently... I remember the author mentioned it being a good excuse to use the molasses that's been in her cupboard for ages, and I thought, "Hey! I have molasses to use in my cupboard, too! And I was going to make cookies for my snow-blowing neighbor anyway!" And then I promptly forgot whose blog it was and hence, have lost the recipe. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? If so, please fill me in. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the season

Tonight is the night I swore I was absolutely, positively, definitely going to write my Christmas cards (as opposed to the last two nights, when I was probably or certainly going to write my Christmas cards). I really need to write those damn Christmas cards. So of course, I am writing a blog entry instead.

It's not even the cards themselves I am so unmotivated to do. Scrawl a "happy holidays" message, sign my name, stamp and address it? Not a problem. I could casually get that done while simultaneously enjoying the second season of Weeds on DVD. It's the damn letter that needs to accompany several of those cards that's the problem.

Yes, I am writing a Christmas card letter. Yes, I realize that might be an unforgivably self-absorbed and lazy thing for a single person with no children or even pets to do. I do not care. I am all about granting Singletons the same rights enjoyed by Marrieds, and it starts with the Christmas letter, I say. As a matter of fact, I made that same very bold declaration in the Christmas letter I sent out last year. I know this because I just opened up last year's letter on my computer in the hopes that it might spark some ideas for this year's letter, and I saw it right there in the first paragraph.

As it turns out, I could probably recycle the same damn letter, as not a lot in my life has changed in the past year. Replace Jamaica and New York with Austin, Columbus, and Seattle in the paragraph about my travels for the year; up the ridiculous number of years I have been with the same company by one more digit... that about covers it, I guess. Still single. Still in Minneapolis. Still sending my Christmas cards mere days before the holiday with not a single present wrapped yet. Do you think anybody would actually notice if I simply sent the same letter again this year? I'd best not dwell on that idea too long. It's entirely too tempting, I think.

On the up side, I do believe I have all of my Christmas shopping done, and thanks to a desperate email to Amazon customer service, I may even actually receive all of my purchases on time. (I've often heard that sometimes it helps to complain, but rarely has it actually panned out for me. This time it did. Yay!) Of course, I do not have any of said purchases wrapped yet, but surely that will take just a moment or three, right? (File "wrapping Christmas gifts" under that list of things I always remember as being far less time consuming than it actually is. Whoops.)

Also on my list for this week was to find some holiday flair to wear to my friend Lisa's party on Friday night. It turns out my local Goodwill had a "Tacky Sweater Event" two weekends ago, so their inventory was decidedly lacking in festive Christmas apparel when I stopped in tonight. Consequently, I did not find the appliqu├ęd vest and the turtleneck printed with tiny candy canes or gingerbread men that I'd so hoped to find there. I was more than a bit disappointed, but I think I've assembled some pieces that will give me a sure-fire shot at the prize anyway. The items I purchased were not overtly Christmasy on their own, but the cashier who rung them up actually raised her eyebrows when she saw them together on the counter and said, "Well, you're just going to be the happiest elf at the party, aren't you?" Indeed, I am, miss. Thanks for noticing.

In other good news, I survived my company's holiday party Saturday, thanks at least in part to the male friend who was kind enough to accompany me even though I am no longer dating him. (Hey! The invitation said "Stefanie and Guest"; it did not say "Stefanie and Boyfriend, if You Have One." Everybody likes a free meal and free drinks, right?) It was a mostly uneventful event; for all my sublimated worrying about it, I barely even made eye contact with my ex-boyfriend coworker and his new wife. And while I did get a bit unexpectedly drunk and subsequently found myself nursing a nearly two-day hangover, at least I had the good sense to do most of my drinking after the party, with some friends at a bar in an entirely different city, rather than with my coworkers. When I walked into work Monday morning, I felt that hazy cloud of shamefulness shadowing my thoughts, but thankfully no one in that building is any the wiser about it. Whew.

And with that, I really, really must get to that Christmas letter. Tell me, what holiday-related chores are you procrastinating on as you're reading this?

Sunday, December 16, 2007


About a hundred years ago (or maybe only a month ago), 3Carnations tagged me for that "seven things" meme. I was caught up in NaBloPoMo at the time, but in the spirit of "better late than never," let's take care of that now, shall we?

Seven random/weird/miscellaneous facts about Stefanie (you know, in addition to the 327 already buried somewhere in my archives):

  1. I have never been anywhere close to fluent in Spanish, and yet, certain Spanish phrases regularly pop into my head in response to various things. "Que ganga," I'll think, when something is particularly a bargain. "Listos?" I'll ask instead of just saying, "We ready?" Possibly the strangest, though, is how often I start an inner dialog with "El eso es..." I'm not examining the rest of my thoughts in Spanish, so I have no idea why my brain begins with, "The thing is..." in Spanish, and yet, for some reason, it often does.

  2. A few weeks ago, in my Stations of the Cross post, I mentioned playing the flute in grade school, and the woman I know as "Vermont Stefanie" left what was one of my favorite comments ever in reply. "I'd have pegged you more as an oboist, or maybe a cellist. Something more mysterious and complicated," she said. Mysterious and complicated. I love it. Again, if I were a tag line sort of girl, "I'm mysterious and complicated" would be another fine tag line for my blog. Anyway, in response to that comment, I thought I should explain exactly why I picked the flute, way back when fifth-grade me signed up for band. I had actually been leaning towards the saxophone, but since several of my friends were taking flute, that seemed like a good choice, too. So how did I pick? Well, I rode the bus to and from school every day, and I thought about carrying a saxophone case on the bus several times a week, and then thought about carrying a much smaller and less cumbersome flute case instead, and flute seemed like the obvious choice. You know, it's memories like those that make me realize I have always been the practical-to-a-fault over-thinker I am today. I didn't grow into this as an adult; even as a kid I was too sensible for my own good.

  3. Somewhere buried in the "100 Things" list I wrote ages ago is a line that says "You will never, ever hear me say 'Let's go dancing!'" This is true. I hate to dance in public. I will attempt to play along and be a good sport on occasion, particularly at weddings or when sufficient alcohol is involved, but I never feel comfortable or confident about it. At home, though? At home, when the right song comes on the radio, I love to dance. Unfortunately, the dancing I do is in no way suitable for public viewing. There is kicking and jumping and side-to-side bopping. There are many wild arm gestures. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only way dancing is fun, but I will not let anyone (except possibly--inadvertently--my across-the-street neighbors) see me do it.

  4. Much as I complain about shoveling when it snows, I actually sort of like shoveling at night. It's so dark and peaceful--the only light is from the streetlights and the only noise is the sound of my shovel scraping against the sidewalk and the similar scrapes from neighbors' shovels down the block. It's almost meditative, and though I have no interest in making time for shoveling every night (You hear that, snow? Don't go getting any ideas, OK??), as a once-in-a-while thing, it's actually sort of calming and nice.

  5. Jingle Bell Rock has long been one of my very least favorite Christmas songs, but at some point in my childhood, I must have actually liked it, because I chose it to play for the Christmas piano recital one year. Our teacher believed in the Suzuki "learn by ear" method, and she instructed us all to pick a Christmas song and learn to play it without any sheet music. Our parents and other guests at the recital were to guess what each song was. My sister won some sort of prize for stumping the audience... not because she wrote her song so poorly it was unrecognizable but because she picked a relatively obscure one--the song the Whos of Whoville sang in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

  6. As a kid I was irrationally afraid of flies. Not even the giant biting kind, but just regular tiny houseflies. My mom still enjoys telling people about the day she came running outside to my blood-curdling scream expecting to see me missing a limb or something, only to find that I was wailing only because a fly had landed on my arm. I cannot explain this; all I can say is thankfully I'm over it by now.

  7. Whenever I'm on an airplane, I order orange juice or ginger ale. Planes are typically the only place I drink either of those.

The follow-up to this meme is that I'm to tag five other people to participate, but I think most of you have probably already done this one by now. If you haven't (or if you have but want to do it again), feel free to consider yourself tagged. Leave me a note in the comments if you do it and I'll be sure to stop by to see your list!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Santa's got nothin' on me

As you know, I was on a plane last week. Well, two planes, actually, if we're going to be precise. Do you know what that means? Lots of things, I'm sure, but the one I have in mind is that I got to peruse the Skymall catalog. Usually this is a fun diversion for me. This time, however, it didn't really hold my interest. Maybe the creepy animatronic Elvis on the cover irrevocably put me off. Or maybe the fact that I now regularly receive catalogs in my own home that are filled with items easily rivaling Skymall's fabulously unnecessary wares sort of dimmed the novelty of Skymall in my mind. Last year, I listed several such items in a probably not-too-helpful holiday gift guide for all of you. This year, how about I list some things people you know might actually want? That is, if the people you know are anything like people like me. Because personally, I think all of these are excellent ideas. I could put plenty of things on this list, but since it is Friday, I shall stop at only five of them.

Five fine gifts for the nerd/girly-girl/wino on your list:
  1. My friend Carrie has often commented on what she calls my "animated hand gestures." If I do talk with my hands more often than the average person, perhaps that is why I always feel I am one hand short when circulating about parties. More likely, though, I think it's that if you have a drink in one hand and a plate of snacks in the other, it's generally frowned upon to lean forward and retrieve those snacks from the plate using only your mouth. Clearly we need a third hand. OR! Or, we need cocktail plates cleverly designed to hold your wine or martini glass while you gesture madly or recover appetizers from your plate. Problem solved! Amen.

    Here. Let me hold that for you.
    Note: These are currently ON SALE, and at this price, you should really buy at least two sets. If there are only four people at your party, they'll probably have no trouble finding a flat surface on which to set their wine while they snack. Get eight or twelve people in the room, though, and look out! Lassoing your glass on your plate becomes much more useful at that point.

  2. Last week, I looked down at my keyboard and decided it was high time I did something about the layer of dust between all the keys. Unfortunately, since the supplies I had on hand were minimal and my attention span was short, this means what I did about it was run the edge of a damp cleaning rag between each row in a haphazard and half-assed fashion. I'm looking down at my keyboard now and realizing my efforts really didn't do a whole lot of good at all. But if I had THIS! If I had this, then I'd have no excuse for messy and revolting keys. Generally I am opposed to single-purpose gadgets and gimmicks. The fact that this item is sold out, however, tells me I'm not the only one who thinks this one's a fine idea.

    Suck on this.

  3. Strange as this sounds, I am often envious of girls with perfect, medium-sized breasts who can wear cheapo sports bras and can don low v-neck shirts and wrap tops without hazard. Me, I've got to layer sports bras or pony up for a pricey, genuinely supportive one, and I have to spend ten minutes wrangling a safety pin across a wrap neck if I want to avoid looking like a tramp. That's why the Bosom Button is such a fabulous idea. This surely falls into the "Why didn't I think of that??" category, which means that if I just wait a few years for the patent to expire, equally useful knockoffs will be everywhere for a fraction of the price. Meanwhile, I wonder if Craftster has some ideas for a make-your-own version for me.

    Bosom Buddy

  4. Despite possible evidence to the contrary, I maintain some modicum of confidence that I am a catch, dammit, and should I ever actually get a boyfriend again, he will be lucky to have me. I base this statement on several points of proof, only one of which is that although I would very much like some new jewelry, the diamond "Journey" pendant I keep seeing on TV is really not for me. I'm a girl with somewhat quirkier and less conventional tastes, and while I'll admit that someday I actually would like a genuine diamond on my ring finger, until then, I'd actually much prefer something like one of these.

  5. And finally, a gift that is maybe more a good idea in theory than in practice... You know how all of us library-loving nerds smile fondly at the mere thought of the scent of books? Well, apparently someone's captured that in a perfume. And while I have to question whether I truly want to smell like musty old paper, I still definitely love the romantic ideal of this product. Too bad Macy's likely doesn't have a tester I can try.

    Smells like library spirit

So I hope that helps you all with your holiday shopping dilemmas. In addition, in case you hadn't yet noticed, Blogger's got a Christmas present for us, too! It looks like my friends with WordPress blogs can comment with a link again! How about you test that out right now by leaving a note to say hello, OK?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hey there, strangers

Woo! Two hours after I first sat down to "just take a quick skim through Bloglines," and finally I am all caught up! Unfortunately, that means the time I had allotted to write a post on my own blog was instead spent reading everyone else's blog, but such is the life of an Internet addict. It's all take and no give some days; am I right?

In any case, I had a lovely time in Seattle... It was a brief trip, and I don't really feel like I fully experienced Seattle by any means, but I did very much enjoy getting to know a friend-of-a-friend better... she's a friend-of-a-friend who's actually moving here next month, and I can certainly see her becoming a full-fledged friend (with no hyphens attaching that word to other words) quite shortly. So yay for that.

Unfortunately, I did probably a worse job photo-documenting this trip than any other in recent memory, but if you're interested in the not-so-interesting photos anyway, you can find them in this Flickr set. Try not to get too excited, if uneventful and craptastic photos aren't exactly your thing.

In addition to gallivanting about Seattle and Seattle-adjacent, I've been busy with various other things lately. Things like getting damn-near all of my Christmas shopping done in three hours flat (at only two stores plus the Internet... God bless you, dear, sweet friend the Internet), and having dinner with friends both near and far (dinner that included lobster macaroni & cheese TWO nights in the same week! Check out me and my decadent rock star life...). I also had Guinness ice cream, which bears mentioning if we're talking decadent and unnecessary food indulgences. Me = not a fan of Guinness (or any beer, really... I know--if I hadn't moved out of Wisconsin on my own volition, they'd have excommunicated me by now for sure), but that stuff was damn tasty anyway.

And on an entirely unrelated note that I mention only because I've gotten a few e-mails asking about it, my grandma is still hanging in there like the invincible and fabulous old biddy that she is. Judging from the video my little sister sent me earlier, she's looking worse for wear and it breaks my heart more than a little bit, but she's still charmingly ornery as always, and I'm still convinced that woman is going to outlive all of us, despite all her sad hopes and best intentions. Thanks for all your kind thoughts for her well-being. I do appreciate it, more than you know.

And that about catches you up, I guess. I'm still in catch-up mode myself after a few days mostly offline. More of a "real" post to follow eventually, I'm sure. Meanwhile, what have all of you been up to (what that I haven't already read and possibly not commented on due to speed feed-reading, I mean)?

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I finally got around to adding an "I did it" NaBlo badge to my sidebar, and I cannot tell you how excited I was to find a Mary Tyler Moore badge as an option.

Who can turn the world on with her smile?

I think sometimes about adding a tag line to my blog header, but I've resisted thus far because 1) Tag lines are for more clever people and 2) Given that my blog is named "Stefanie Says," any tag line that follows would sound like I'm making a direct quote. (I am a nerd. I overthink these sorts of things.)

Anyway, if I were a tag line sort of girl, surely by now I would have used "Like Mary Tyler Moore, but without the great legs and anachronistic gender roles." But then, since I am one of only five people in my generation to appreciate MTM, I would also be the only one to get that line. So. No tag line for me. But I do love my new NaBloPoMo badge anyway.

OK. Seriously. Must pack now. Later, all.

I've got questions; you've got answers (don't you?)

First off, it is snowing. Again. I guess I'm sort of embracing it at this point. If it's going to be teeth-chatteringly cold outside, it might as well be all pretty and sparkly and white, too. It's weird because I don't remember any time in my adult life when we've had this much snow in December, but I have to admit, Christmas decorations look a lot more festive when there's snow.

That said, I am happy to be getting out of town today and getting on a plane bound for someplace warmer. Of course, by "warmer," I mean it will be 40 degrees instead of 3. To call Seattle in December "balmy" would be a stretch.

Oh. That's right. Did I not mention I'm going to Seattle? I don't think I did. I was all caught up in NaBloPoMo when I booked it--too busy detailing my life in alphabet form to stop and rattle on about a trip. By the way, I realize I still have X, Y, and Z to do in my Encyclopedia, and I intend to do that eventually... even if my friend who rarely reads and never mentions my blog did make a point of bringing it up recently just to say, "You know, I don't really like the alphabet posts." The nerve. (Kidding. Love you, Lisa.)

Anyway, so I am off to Seattle, and it all seems a bit silly, because it is a very brief trip (only two full days) and I didn't even make any effort to contact the very few Seattle blog-folks I know are out there to ask for suggestions or possibly see about meeting for a drink. Oh well. Perhaps I will run into them anyway. Notorious T.O.G., if you see me wandering about your city this weekend, feel free to flag me down and say hi. Of course, I have no idea what you look like, so if you would actually prefer to avoid me, that shouldn't be a problem either.

Short trip or no, it will be good to get away for a bit. Given the fact that I had 115 hours of unused vacation time left at the beginning of this month, I obviously don't do this enough.

I'd love to give you some things to ponder during my absence, and since I won't be near a computer to post a Friday Five tomorrow, how about a Thursday Three instead? Here are three things I am wondering this week. If you have answers to any of these questions, by all means let me know.

  1. Why do I forget my gym socks only on the days I've worn black socks to work? And furthermore, why is it only on the days when I am actually feeling motivated to run on the treadmill, rather than being content to just lift a few weights standing in one place? Wearing running shoes without socks isn't terribly uncomfortable. Actually running in them without socks definitely is.

  2. Why does every "Dad" birthday card that isn't sappy involve jokes about farts, fishing, or fixing things? I would like to wish my father a happy birthday next week without once again alluding to a little elephant running by (his bizarre code phrase for passing gas), but what am I to do when he's also not a fisherman or in any way handy? Hallmark, get on that, would you?

  3. Why do I keep getting email from a music publicist mentioning bands I've never heard of and videos and press packs I've never received? If she's actually a blog reader, I don't want to offend the woman by ignoring her, but if that's the case, I wish she would identify herself as such. If not, I would like to know how I got on her mailing list and why she thinks Stefanie Says is a music blog. (Oh. Right. Because I go on and on about things like dinner with near Bob Schneider and my undying love of my fake boyfriend Rhett Miller. I see her point, I guess. But really--are any of the rest of you getting mail like this?)

And with that, I'd better pack and get moving. Happy (early) weekend, all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Weekend Update

Surely by now we're all familiar with the bullet-point weekend recap, aren't we? I mean, it's almost a meme, right? Right. Well here's another one.

Things I did NOT do this weekend:
  • Get any Christmas shopping done. (Damn you, No Coast, with all your clever, pretty things that were calling MY name but not the names of any of my friends! It's back to proverbial Square One for me on gifts.)

  • Get any grocery shopping done. (Do you ever end up with random non-perishable food that has been in your cupboard or freezer for so long, you do not actually remember purchasing it? Since it has already been so long since I went shopping, I suddenly have this twisted idea that maybe I should not go grocery shopping again until all of those items are gone. I am running out of food that does not fit into this category, and rather than shop, perhaps this is a good excuse to do some forced using-up of neglected food. Hell, who needs fresh produce when I have Lipton cup-a-soup from the late 90s and mini corn dogs that expired last summer? Surely not me!)

  • Clean my bathroom.

  • Clean my living room.

  • Clean my ANYTHING in my house. (Seriously, do not come over until further notice. Even hobos might shake their heads at the filth and squalor I'm living in currently.)

Things I DID do this weekend:
  • Get in a fight with H about the Catholic Church's view on birth control. (Kidding. It was not a fight at all, and I was actually sort of hoping H was right and my very Catholic mother was wrong. This site suggests otherwise, however. Incidentally, for some reason I thought it might be funny to pretend that H threatened to throw down with me over something so unlikely, but it now occurs to me that joking about religious warfare is maybe not so funny at all. In that case, you can go here for the much more accurate and complete recap of the overall delightful dinner that H and R and I had at Nye's Polonaise. H, can I still come over to play Guitar Hero sometime? Because playing Guitar Hero is on the list of things I did NOT do this weekend, too, and from what I hear, I need to remedy that.)

  • Win the first game of Balderdash I've convinced anyone to play with me in the past five years. And now I would like to revise my answer to the very important question Malia posed recently and say that if I had to save the world from aliens or giant robots using only my prowess in one board game, I think I'd place the fate of the planet on Balderdash. Seriously, I could totally kick some robot/alien ass. In the event of a tie-breaker situation, however, Boggle remains my very close backup choice.

  • Shovel my way out of the first big snowfall of the year (made a lot easier by my helpful neighbor, "Reed," snowblowing my driveway and front sidewalk again... seriously, I won the neighbor jackpot with that guy... I would like to ask that he please, please never move).

  • Have dinner with Bob Schneider. OK, so he was at the next table eating dinner with other people, but he was a mere foot and a half away from me(!!)--close enough to actually see what he was eating and ask him to pass the salt, if I'd felt so inclined. My friend Lisa and I are big fans, but we managed not to bother him at all during his dinner--only caught his eye and said, "Hi, we're coming to your show tonight!" when he was getting up to leave. I was all proud of myself for maintaining my composure and not saying anything too ridiculous whilst talking to a bona fide famous person (particularly one I routinely refer to as one of my fake boyfriends). But then Bob kindly and graciously asked if we had any requests for the show, and I drew a complete blank and forgot the title to any and every of my favorite Bob songs. Because I am smooth like that. So instead of answering, "Sure! How about A Long Way to Get?" or "The Way Life is Supposed to Be" or "God is My Friend" or "Round and Round" or any number of songs I could have suggested I'd like, I said, "Well, Batman, of course" (which is pretty much like requesting Birdhouse in Your Soul at a TMBG show, I think--he's going to play it, but he's likely sick to death of it at this point), and followed that with, "and, um... you know, whatever; I like almost everything you do." Almost? Almost? And then, because I am insane and obviously self-centered, I spent the next two hours convinced that Bob was worrying his pretty little head over which of his songs I don't think were worth recording. You know, because the opinion of one random girl in Minnesota is obviously so important to him. Lord. I need help.

    I actually thought about posting the footage from Batman that I recorded for my own amusement during last night's show, but that would involve file compression or "multi-video upload" or some other fancy term I read about in You Tube's help files but have no idea at the moment how to accomplish. Besides that, recording at the show was probably illegal, and I think I've offended Bob enough for one week, don't you? So you'll just have to settle for someone else's video instead. Looks like there's plenty of it out there to choose from.

And that about wraps up my weekend. Tell me, what did you do with yours?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's like a sickness at this point

For some reason, I actually felt compelled to stop in today to say, "I don't have to post today!!"

Also, it is snowing. The weather people are getting everyone riled up as though it will be the storm of the century. I am pretty sure people are running out for supplies and then changing all plans so they can stay holed up in their homes all weekend. Me? I'm going out. Because I throw caution to the wind like that. Oh, and because No Coast is today. I didn't get my picture in the paper before it this year, but I intend to stop in anyway. If you are a "real life" friend, there's a good chance you're getting a clever little hand-made gift for Christmas that I shall be purchasing today. Hope you like it!

Buy local; buy often, as they say.

Friday, November 30, 2007

My cat's breath smells like cat food.

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

W is for Wiggum. As in Ralph Wiggum, who is, hands-down, my very favorite character on The Simpsons.

I'm a unitard!

I have been a bit lapse in posting my usual Friday Fives lately (I'm in the middle of a theme, people! And it can't always be enumerated in list form!), but I thought I would make this last post of NaBloPleaseNoMo* short and sweet (we're all weary of reading so damn many posts every day anyhow, right?) and finish the month off in brief five-point form.

Five of my favorite Ralph Wiggum quotes
  1. That's where I met the leprechaun. He told me to burn things.

  2. Oh boy! Sleep! That's where I'm a Viking!

  3. Slow down Bart! My legs don't know how to be as long as yours.

  4. When I grow up, I want to be a principal or a caterpillar.

    And my personal favorite, from my favorite Ralph-centered episode (This Little Wiggy)...

  5. The pointy kitty took it!

Speaking of The Simpsons, know what else starts with W? One of Homer's favorite phrases. No, not "D'oh!" of course. I'm talking about Woo-hoo! And that is what I say to the end of NaBloPoMo. It's been fun, but I am done.

P.S. I'll still be finishing the alphabet. I just wouldn't count on it until next week. Peace out.

* Someone else penned this (or something very similar to this) yesterday, and I'm very sorry I don't remember which one of you it was. Claim credit in the comments if you like.

Update: It was NPW! Thank you for that addition to the blog-lexicon, you clever girl.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Come and see me; I'm the same girl I used to be

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

V is for my little sister, who, in the interest of maintaining at least a modicum of anonymity (at least where Googlers are concerned), I am not going to name by name. I will say, though, that despite the fact that her name is decidedly less common than mine, there are no fewer than five songs featuring it, the most notable being ones by Steve Winwood, Material Issue, and most recently, Amy Winehouse. (Incidentally, how do we feel about Amy Winehouse? I cannot decide if she is fabulously bold and inventive with her devil-may-care whatnot or if she's just plain annoying and sad. Thoughts? Votes? Let me know.) Conversely, I have heard only ONE song with my name in it (the one with the title you see in my banner up there), and Velvet Underground didn't even have the decency to spell it right.

In any case, V is for my little sister, which seems maybe a tad unfair, since I didn't use N for my older one. I had neighbors to talk about! Stories to share! Lesbians to woo into friendship! Incidentally, that last one might somehow have been successful, because I am actually invited to a party at their house this week! It is a Sunday afternoon party, which seems a bit odd to me (Will there be drinks at an afternoon event? And if not, why not, I say?), but I'll take what I can get. One step at a time, of course.

I keep getting off track. Veering back now. (Hey. "Veering" starts with "V," too. What do you know?) My sister. She's an incredibly cool kid who's never quite realized it. (I say "kid" even though she is older than some of you--27 on her last birthday, to be precise.) She's always been above caring much what anybody else thinks, always done her own thing and not worried about fitting in. I wish that meant she got a crazy haircut and moved to Thailand and lives a life of adventure and constant surprise. It does not. The girl has not yet found her path in life, but the path she's been on so far is not the exploring life. She doesn't make friends easily, and she's more of a homebody hermit than I am. There are lots of things I wish for her, but I can't make any of them happen on her behalf. I wish she'd finish school. I wish she'd enjoy some hobbies that involve leaving the house and talking to others. I wish she knew how smart and funny and interesting she is... or, if she knows it, I wish she could figure out how to clue people her own age into knowing that as well.

She and I didn't always get along. She wailed instantly the moment my parents first put her in my arms, after all (on my sixth birthday, the day they brought her home). We wanted nothing to do with each other for our entire childhoods. But then I graduated from college and I spent three months living back at home while I half-assedly searched for someone willing to hire an English major. I refer to that time as the Dark Period in my life. Living back in my old bedroom, working at Shopko for extra cash and for something to do, running into people from my high school class while wearing a red smock and manning a cash register... it was not the life I'd planned for myself post-graduation. But during that time, my little sister and I became friends. We got to know each other. We realized we had more in common than we ever thought we did. It bothers me that we sort of lost that when I moved out again, but I'm glad we had that time to get to know each other as almost-adults. And I'm pretty sure she feels the same way.

I feel like this post is even more scattered than usual, but there's actually a reason for that (and for once, it is a reason that involves no wine at all). As I started typing tonight, I got a call from my mother, who informed me that my grandma had a stroke today. My mom was on her way back to the hospital to talk to the doctors, so we still don't really know how she is. Obviously I am worried about her. Obviously I want her to be OK. But I also know that she is 96, and if this is her time, this is her time. I just want her to be at peace. Comfortable. Not scared. Not sad. Not in a state of alive-but-not-there. I know she wouldn't want to be in that state, either. So I'm sending positive thoughts for whatever is best for her, and if it's not too much trouble, it'd be great if you guys could do the same.

This post is about my sister, but I have one more grandma tidbit to share--something I had completely forgotten about but remembered and had to laugh at when my mom mentioned it earlier. I've written about some of my parents' quirks before, but obviously my grandma has some excellent ones as well. For instance, for the past ten years, the woman has had a note thumb-tacked beside her door, reminding her to lock the door and turn off the lights. I used to laugh at her, wondering why on earth she'd need a reminder for those things, but then several years ago I moved into an apartment in which I had no programmable thermostat but had to pay for my own heat. I taped a similar note beside my door, too, saying "Turn off heat!" Clearly I'm in no place to judge. Know what I don't do, though? Hide my purse in my own home. I may occasionally worry about intruders (both the real and the ghostly kind), but I do not store my purse in my dryer. My grandma does.

I don't know about you, but I find that delightfully insane yet charming. Let's send some happy thoughts my grandma's way, OK?

(Also, if you know where my grandma lives, please, please don't steal her purse. Thank you.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This post is brought to you by the letter U and by the shoddy service of Qwest

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

How many of these encyclopedia entries have I started with "[this letter] was going to be for [this], but now it's going to be for [this]"? Please, don't go back and count. I know I don't always need to share every tedious thought process of mine. Just be glad most of you don't know me in real life. I have a bad habit of telling people things I've already decided not to tell them there, too. I'm fun. Don't you wish you knew me? Sigh.

All of this is to say that I just considered scrapping the "U" entry I had in mind and instead going with "U is for Umbrage," in honor of the surly and awful woman I had the displeasure of speaking with about my Internet service bill this evening. I know that whole "the customer is always right" mantra is a bit trite, and service reps probably have a hundred snappy comebacks in response to it. But in this case, I am right!! And this woman works for a company whose very slogan is "Spirit of Service"! You'd think she could throw me a fucking bone. You call your credit card company to ask them to remove an unwarranted charge and they do it happily, nearly no questions asked. You call your Internet service provider and you're still stuck with the damn $18 extra you DO NOT OWE, and you're slapped with an extra year on your service contract because the yahoo who processed your order a year ago apparently entered it in the system wrong. Argh. Umbrage indeed.

I was going to try not to focus on the negative over here, though, so I'll try to put all seething aside and return to the "U" I had in mind. The problem is, I didn't really have a good "U" word in mind, so I went to the dictionary. (Is that cheating? I hope not. Because I'll probably be doing it on "X," too.)

Not a lot of "U" words are very meaningful to me, but the first one I stopped on and smiled at was Ubermensch. (Note: I do not know how to put the little dots over that "U" in Blogger, so just pretend there's an umlaut there, OK?)

Am I a Nietzsche devotee? No, not particularly. (That's actually my friend Carrie's department.) But Ubermensch is still a terribly fun word; is it not? Moreover, it reminds me of the brief phase a few friends and I went though several years ago when we enjoyed incorporating the prefix "uber-" as much as possible. "I am ubertired." "He is uberannoying." You get the idea, I'm sure.

For some reason, there is one instance of uber-ing that I remember the most. My friends Dale and Greg were visiting for the weekend, and we were discussing dinner plans. "Is anyone hungry yet?" "What are you in the mood for?" "How hungry are you?" That sort of thing. And Greg spoke up, straight-faced as usual, "Well, I'm not uberhungry..." Incidentally, Greg is never uberhungry. Dude eats like a bird. But it made us laugh anyway.

I'm also suddenly remembering another "U" word I once heard that thankfully didn't catch on. Remember Jimmy? The ex-boyfriend now responsible for at least 15 "pothead boyfriend"-related search engine hits on my blog each week? He had his own lexicon as well. You know how damn near every one of us squirms in disgust at the word "panties"? Well, thankfully, he didn't call them "panties." But the word he used was nearly as bad. Friends, he called them "unders." As in, "Are you going to take your unders off?" and "Oh, those are pretty unders!" I am sorry, but if I am in a situation where my "unders" are coming off, using a word like "unders" isn't likely to provoke the intended effect. A romantic he was not. But damn, I liked him anyway.

I could list plenty of other words known and used only by select people in my past. Friends always have their own unique language, right? Schmaegers. Digger. Nuggets.

What words do only you and your friends know?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

T, a drink with jam and bread

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

So I was thinking that T was going to be for technical writer. I was going to talk about what I do and how I ended up not hating technical writing and editing even though it was the one thing I was not going to do with my English degree. (Scratch that. Teaching was the one thing I was not going to do with my English degree. But tech writing was in the list as well.) I was going to write about that, but then I remembered that the whole reason I started a blog in the first place was to encourage myself to write non-technically more often, and just thinking about technical writing in my non-technical forum seems counterproductive. Not to mention boring. To me and all of you.

Besides that, I have already told you what I do. Remember? I make fake flow charts and explain to grown adults how time zones work. Good times, right?

Instead then, T is for They Might Be Giants. Why? Because they have consistently ranked as one of my very, very favorites ever since my friend Zoey introduced me to them seventeen years ago. (Remember the opening bars of Flood? "A brand-new record for 1990?" I had that album in 1990. Lordy be, among a lot of you whippersnappers, I am old.)

Zoey, by the way, is the friend I ran into at the Andrew Bird show I was very late for several months ago, and I am still a little hurt that he apparently didn't want to follow-up and rekindle our long lost friendship. I cannot hold a grudge, however, because without Zoey, I might never have discovered the awesomeness that is John and John--the original (for me) smart and funny nerdy boys. And I do love me a smart and funny nerdy boy.

I'll admit I have not really kept up with everything Linnell and Flansburgh have done in recent years, but they still make the short list whenever anyone asks that "desert island" question, and they will always have a place in my head (and my music collection). Besides that, the classics are all I need anyway.

Check it: my very first embedded YouTube clip! Maybe I am a whippersnapper after all. (And speaking of young whippersnappers, check out the baby face on Linnell!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stations of the Cross

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

It's unlikely, I know, given my general aversion to (or at least suspicion of) organized religion, but S is for Stations of the Cross.

From first through eighth grade, I attended Catholic school. I did not wear a plaid skirt and blue cardigan, and the nuns never slapped my fingers on my desk with a ruler. I was, however, forced to go to church enough times in those eight years that I graduated feeling I should be exempt for the rest of my life, much the way my dad has always weaseled out of doing dishes on the grounds that he "did [his] KP in the army." Both arguments are based on faulty and ridiculous logic, of course, but oddly, my mother questioned only mine.

By now, I've pushed Catholicism out of my head for enough years that I'm actually sort of alarmed when, at church with my parents on holidays, I can't remember bits and pieces of the Nicene Creed. Most of the responses and rituals still work on auto-pilot, but apparently a few little tidbits have slipped out of the spot where they were embedded in my brain, most likely replaced with something undoubtedly more important, like the name of Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck's baby* or the recipe for a perfect margarita.**

Among those tidbits I've surprisingly lost over the years is nearly all recollection of the Stations of the Cross. If you were raised Catholic, you likely know what these are. If you went to a Catholic grade school, you not only know what they are, but you probably remember filing into church every Friday afternoon of Lent to recite the fifteen consecutive prayers from a little religious picture book, alternating a tedious stand-kneel-stand-kneel routine between each one.

Stations of the Cross were my second-least favorite thing about Lent--the first being that "No meat on Fridays" rule in a house for which "no meat" meant "fish." I have never particularly liked fish, but rather than respect that and realize that "no meat" could mean macaroni and cheese, or spaghetti with tomato sauce, or cheese pizza, or any other of several meatless entrees well known even in the tiny tofu-less town where I was raised, my parents insisted that Fridays invariably meant fish. (Clearly I've been as traumatized by this as I was by the whole scrambled egg thing.)

Although I couldn't have named more than two of the stations without consulting Google just now, and although I remember likely no parts of the prayers I at one point had memorized, I actually think about the Stations of the Cross somewhat regularly. Or, maybe not regularly, but every time I hear a certain Bruce Springsteen song.

I could have told you without even consulting that page I just linked that "One Step Up" was released somewhere around 1987 or 1988. I remember this because it was popular on the radio during my seventh or eighth grade year, and I remember that because Christine Mellanowski and I used to sing it often on our way back from flute lessons that year.

Because our school was too small for its own band or proper music department, we all walked over to the public middle school three blocks away for music lessons (as well as for Home Ec, Tech Ed, and hot lunch). My flute lessons were scheduled on Friday afternoons, which means I was excused from whatever class was held at that same time, as well as the beginning of Lenten Stations of the Cross. Christine and I weren't dumb. We realized that the longer we took walking back to school, the more of the time in church we would miss.

Enter Bruce Springsteen. We didn't sing that song because either of us were particularly big fans of The Boss. We sang it because when we did just what the chorus described, the three-block journey worked in reverse. One step up and two steps back. One step forward, two behind. Three blocks could take forever with this song inspiring us.

Amazingly, Sr. Rose never caught on. Or, if she did, she never said anything. Maybe she hated Stations of the Cross as much as we did. Or maybe (although less likely), she was a Boss fan herself.

* Violet.
** Three parts tequila, two parts triple sec, one part fresh squeezed lime juice. (Don't forget the salt on the rim!)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

R is for Reality

Going home to Wisconsin always puts my head in a weird place. It's as though the further I drive into the state, the further from my real life I feel. The self who lived in that town, in that house, in that green and yellow bedroom, doesn't exist anymore, but the self I am now is someone no one there really knows.

What do you talk about with the people who remember your eighth birthday party but can't name three of your current best friends... the people who know how you earned the trophies and ribbons packed up in a box in your old room but couldn't really explain what you do from 8:00 to 5:00 each work day?

I'm sure my parents view me in a different light than they did ten years ago, five years ago, maybe even last year. I don't really know what they see, though. Are they worried that I'll never get married? Wondering if they'll ever have grandchildren? Just pondering what they did wrong that I ended up one of those bleeding heart liberals they're convinced is ruining the country? Or am I giving them not enough credit?--Do they look at me, assume that I'm happy, and figure that's all that matters? I hope it's the latter. I really don't know for sure.

My parents aren't the same people they were ten, five, or even one year ago, either. Each time I see them, they've picked up some new quirk. They're hoarders now, more than they ever were before. For my dad, it's videotapes and off-brand snack foods. For my mom, it's baskets and fake flowers. I can't explain either of those addictions, but I hope it's not hereditary.

Moreover, with each visit I just notice how much older they're getting. My parents are senior citizens now. They shuffle and hobble under aches and pains they would have shrugged off years ago. Scattered throughout their sadly unkempt house are prescription bottles and medical boxes and blood sugar meters. My mom retreats off to the kitchen to give herself an insulin shot. My dad curses that he's forgotten his pills again. My parents are the elderly couples on TV commercials, talking about the high cost of prescriptions in the US. I used to wonder why old people took so many drugs anyway; now I'm sure my parents could explain it to me.

I watched my mother on Thanksgiving, going through my grandma's bank statements and bills, writing out checks from my grandma's account and sliding them across the table for her to sign. And I realized it's only a matter of time before my sisters and I will need to do those same tasks ourselves. I worry lately that it will be sooner rather than later. I see adult children on TV and in movies, coming home to take care of their aging parents. For some reason I never made the connection that eventually that adult child would be me. I froze my parents in time when they were around 50, back when I first left home and went out on my own. Only recently have I really noticed how much they've continued to age since then.

Thinking about this suddenly made me fast-forward my own life. I'm not a worrier by nature, and I rarely give much thought to where I'll be any further than a few months from the present, but this weekend, I caught myself having a mild panic attack as I wondered what would become of me when I'm my grandma's age. Who's going to take me to the bank and the doctor's office? Who's going to decipher my bills for my no-longer-sharp mind? I have never been all that social with strangers, never felt the urge to befriend anyone more than ten years younger than I. I may have to fight that urge as I get older, might have to hope a nice young someone moves in next door and takes me into her life as though I'm a surrogate aunt.

These aren't the things I want to worry about, aren't the things I need to focus on quite yet, I know. But as I drove into Minnesota yesterday, closer and closer to the landmarks of my daily life, I didn't shake off the out-of-sorts feelings like I usually do. Hence, yesterday's late-night post of suckitude. Believe it or not, the "R" post you're reading now is one step chippier than the one I was writing before I posted that. At the moment, I'm really grateful for NaBloPoMo. I don't want this somber rambling to stay in top position for very long.

I shouldn't claim Thanksgiving weekend was all bad, though. In fact, perhaps now's a good time for a comparison sort of list.

The not-good: A dead iFraud just when I was in the mood for a little Lucy Kaplansky in my car.
The good: A fun no-iFraud-necessary road mix to keep me company while driving, courtesy of a friend with excellent taste in music. Also, finding This American Life (followed by Prairie Home Companion) on a Wisconsin Public Radio station on the way back.

The not-good: No pumpkin pie, stuffing, or proper wine. Instead, stale, freezer-burned apple pie from last year's church fundraiser, day-old KFC, and chilled Lambrusco.
The good: An excellent (and cheap!) meal at a new restaurant in Sheboygan with a high school friend. (Seriously--entree, wine, tax, and tip, all for less than $20. Can't get that in Minneapolis, I'll admit.)

The not-good: Bandaging up a nasty cut that my 96-year-old grandma didn't even notice she had.
The good: Realizing she still has a sense of humor, even if it doesn't come out much anymore. (I am still smiling at the way she said, "This chair puzzles me," and I'm sure my little sister is, too.)

The not-good: Futile conversations with my dad about politics. Biting my tongue as he proclaimed, "Rudy Giuliani is going to be the next president" and "Those damn Democrats are ruining the country." (Um, yeah, because they're the ones who've been in power the past eight years?)
The good: Realizing I'm not the only one from a mixed political family.

The not-good: Twiddling my thumbs in my parents' house most of the day Friday, for lack of anything better to do.
The good: Finally (finally, finally!) finishing that damn Calamity Physics book!! I knew I'd get through it eventually. Even if it did take me the better part of the year.

Let's bow our heads in thanks for that last one in particular. Goodbye and good riddance, I say.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blah blah blah

It's twelve minutes to midnight, and I've spent the last hour staring at a post that I assure you, none of you want to read. Thanksgiving weekend has put me in a bit of a funk... rather than making me focus on all of the positive and good things in my life, I'm stuck in a crisis of mortality and loneliness that is not at all the norm for me. This is the sort of day that it's really best not to blog, but when you've committed to this NaBloPoMo nonsense, that "Close" button in the upper-right corner is really not an option. I must post something, so here I am rattling on nonsensically.

And now it is four minutes to midnight, because apparently when I am at a loss for things to write, it takes me eight minutes to write one paragraph. Also, I have apparently lost all ability to do math, as I had to count on my fingers to determine the elapsed time from one paragraph to the next. Also (also), I have had wine. Perhaps we can blame the unnecessary funk (not to mention the lapse in math skills) on that.

Regardless, I will be back tomorrow with hopefully more positivity to share. For now, hope you all had a lovelier Thanksgiving weekend than I. Peace out and good night.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I'll get to the letter. I promise. "Q" is a tough one, OK?

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

I've never been particularly savvy with men. As much as I hate the phrase, I have to call myself a late bloomer. I've always been about five years behind everyone else in terms of the romance part of social development. It may have started in first grade, when David DiTroi* smiled and flirted with me like he was my secret little boyfriend for three months and then suddenly turned and became the guy who slammed my fingers in my desk and buried my hat in a snowbank at recess and generally made my life miserable for the next seven years. Or maybe it was in fourth grade, when my friend Christine showed me her dad's Hustler magazines and I decided there was no way, no chance I was ever doing anything naked with a man.

I was probably well on my way to spinsterhood already in sixth grade, when John Aidelmen** pulled me aside on the bus to tell me that he liked me, and despite my having an enormous crush on him up until that moment, I was suddenly petrified and wanted nothing to do with him. Yep, I'm pretty sure that was the incident that set the course for the next several years of my life. (Or so I remember it, anyway.)

All of this background is my way of explaining why, even by my sophomore year of college, I still had no idea what I was doing where men were concerned, and why I was still entirely baffled when I watched other girls seemingly effortlessly execute that process of turning a boy they liked into a boy who was their boyfriend. Or hell, even just a boy they occasionally made out with.

In retrospect, I don't think it was entirely my fault. I think I was for some reason drawn to young men who were nearly as inexperienced as I was, so the two of us together were a nearly hopeless experiment in social ineptitude.

Joe was one of those young men.

We met in our residence hall. We were both tremendous nerds who spent every night in the study lounge and who much preferred to stay in on Saturdays watching videos than venture out to a house party and drink bad beer out of plastic cups in a stranger's sticky-floored basement. In short, we got along great. And we spent countless nights talking and laughing together, sitting in his room watching movies, arms occasionally brushing, hands close enough to feel heat radiating from them but never actually moving those two centimeters closer to touch.

We were both idiots, obviously. Neither of us had any idea how to make the first move. But people saw us together often enough that they all assumed we were dating. I half expected that if one of them just called him my boyfriend in front of him, that would be that and it would finally all be squared away.

Alas, that didn't happen. In the end, we never even kissed. The following fall, he moved off campus, and I ran into him only once every few months. He told me that over the summer he'd gotten a girlfriend--some girl in his hometown whom he worked with at the restaurant where he waited tables. I don't remember which restaurant it was, but I do remember the girl's name. I remember because, I'm sorry, no offense to the girl or her parents, but it was without a doubt the stupidest name I'd ever heard.

Her name was Quay. Pronounced "Kway." And no, she wasn't from Laos or Vietnam or any other country that might make that a reasonable name I should not mock. I half-wanted to believe she didn't exist, that she was Joe's imaginary Canadian girlfriend. I couldn't decide if a name that ridiculous meant she had to be real, or if it only proved he was a clever, clever boy--he knew enough to pick a name everyone would think there was no way he could have made up.

I never met the girl, and I've never heard of another Quay since then. That is, until I got an Electronic Boggle. The beauty of Electronic Boggle is that after each round, the game lets you scroll through a list of valid and acceptable words you somehow missed. And in one of those lists, I saw the word quay. Perhaps you've got a more plenary lexicon than I, and you were already well aware this was a real word. I was not. I had to look it up. Maybe I don't spend enough time around open waters.

/kee/ n. A platform that runs along the edge of a port or harbor, where boats are loaded and unloaded.

It's not pronounced the same, but it amuses me anyway. It's also now one of my standard Boggle words whenever "Q" comes up on the board. I'm always challenged on it, but I always win the point. And now you will, too. Unless of course, you're playing with me.

Boggle, anyone?


* Not the real spelling of his last name. As usual, I'm trying to avoid getting found during a vanity Google.
** Again, working with phonetics here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Obligatory Thanksgiving Entry

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

P is for Pumpkin Pie.

It's a cop-out, I know, and frankly, while I like pumpkin pie perfectly well, I'll admit it's really not a significant enough part of my life to warrant inclusion my the Encyclopedia of Me. P should be for piano lessons. Or Poochie (my first dog). Or Peter & Paul (my grade school). Or any number of more meaningful-to-me words that start with that letter. I don't care. It is Thanksgiving. Is there really any more fitting "P" word for today? I think not.

I am off to my parents' house in Wisconsin in a few minutes (or "Sconnie," as H insists on calling it, seemingly just to annoy me--I swear, he found at least three opportunities to work it into conversation at the Absinthe Party last weekend, and I did not take the bait even once). It's going to be a traditional family meal, and since this is my family I'm talking about and not any truly "traditional" one, that means we'll be having day-old KFC reheated in my grandmother's microwave. You think I am kidding. I assure you, I am not. Really.

There will be pumpkin pie, though. Homemade with love and care by a stranger at the Copps grocery store bakery. Undoubtedly topped off with Cool-Whip from my grandma's fridge. Whoo. So I am thankful for that. And in the spirit of the obligatory Thanksgiving entry, here are a few more things for which I give thanks. In fact, in the spirit of the "Thursday Thirteen" tradition that led me to start Friday Fives, how about I list 13 of them?

I'm thankful...

  1. That all lanes of Highway 36 are finally open again.
  2. That my little sister will be home for Thanksgiving, so we can continue our Home for the Holidays screening tradition.
  3. For libraries.
  4. For NPR (and even more, for MPR's The Current).
  5. For Netflix.
  6. For my health, and the health of those I care about.
  7. For the Internet and all the fabulous friends I've met through it.
  8. For wine.
  9. And cheese.
  10. And chocolate brownies.
  11. For my blue yoga pants, which continue to make me as happy as many of the boys I've dated ever could.
  12. For indoor plumbing and heating and all sorts of lovely conveniences not available at the first Thanksgiving.
  13. That I have a home, a job, a caring family, and good friends--all things it's far too easy to take for granted but which I appreciate immeasurably.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Olives and Turkey and Puffins (oh my)

Incidentally, if that last post seemed a little strange, please refer to my first NaBloPoMo 2006 post. Yes, yes, I know an important link in it is dead, but that is not my fault. That is the fault of the fabulously hilarious woman who goes by the name The Other Girl (I prefer to call her Notorious T.O.G.), who took down her blog for apparently no other reason than to deprive the people of what they want ("what they want" being more posts from The Other Girl, of course). Anyway, she warned that if she was going to do NaBloPoMo and write something every damn day, at least one post was bound to say nothing more than "I like peas." I'm more partial to olives. And I needed an "O" post. And Liz was patiently waiting for what she called "The olive post" anyway.

So that's that.

In other news, I took Aaron's advice and watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving last night. I thought I had somehow managed never to have seen that one yet, but in the middle of Peppermint Patty's angry rant at the dinner ping-pong table, I suddenly said, "Hey, this does sound familiar..." And then I remembered that every Charlie Brown special involves at least one angry rant directed at poor Chuck, so I may or may not have ever seen that one after all.

I'm going to have to agree with Aaron that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving isn't in the same league as A Charlie Brown Christmas, but I did enjoy it nonetheless. My favorite part, hands down, was when Charlie Brown was fretting over how he could possibly make a Thanksgiving dinner for an uninvited group of friends all by himself. "All I know how to make is cold cereal! And maybe toast," he said.

Oddly, I was actually having cold cereal for dinner while I watched this, which means I am at least as good a cook as Charlie Brown. Yay for that. And also Yay for Peanut Butter Puffins, which I just realized could totally be my "P" post.

Could, but won't. I promise.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

O is for Olives

I like olives.

That is all.

Carry on.

Yay for olives!

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post. For a rationalization of why three sentences and a photo totally counts as a post, bite me. (I kid! I kid! But did you see the absurdly long post yesterday? I say that totally buys me two days.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

N is for neighbors

For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.

When I bought my house, obviously I had no idea what I'd draw in the neighbor lottery. As it turns out, I did OK. Sure, there's that one certifiable psychopath kitty-corner across the alley, but last I heard she was still locked up in a state-run loony bin for an undetermined amount of time, so things are pretty peaceful on my block.

My neighbors across the street are a kind middle-aged couple with two small children. The wife is from France and enjoys gardening. She dug up the grass on the strip of boulevard in front of their house and planted flowers in its place. A little metal and plastic community lives there among the flowers, complete with a miniature Eiffel Tower with a tiny King Kong climbing it. I don't even know the woman, but I like her. I appreciate her sense of whimsy. The husband waves to me whenever he sees me outside, and I feel terrible because he always shouts, "Hi Stefanie!" and I have no idea whatsoever what his name is. In the beginning, I could have asked--could have said, "I'm sorry; I don't think we've formally met yet. Your wife must have told you my name." Now, however, I've lived here for four years. It's too late to ask for clarification. A "Hello to you, too," sans name, is all I can offer.

Next door to the north is a nice old couple who've lived in their home since 1958. They're retired, of course, which means they are home a lot, and while I like to think they mind their own business and have no idea what I'm doing with my time, I secretly hope they are keeping an eye on me like good-hearted nosy elderly folks. They aren't judging when I come and go, but maybe they'll call the police if they see anything suspect while I'm out of town.

A few years ago, I went on a date with a guy who, one block from the restaurant, realized he'd forgotten his wallet. Since I barely knew the guy, I might have thought it was a line, a lame-ass way of getting out of footing the bill, but it was obvious he felt terrible about it. The next day, he sent flowers to my house, and because I wasn't there to receive them, the delivery guy left them with my elderly neighbors. When I saw the note, I walked over, and as soon as they opened the door, I could see the couple beaming with excitement. "Who are the flowers from? Must be your boyfriend, right?" I told them I didn't have a boyfriend. Then I looked at the card, laughed, and explained the story. "I went on a date with this guy last night, and he forgot his wallet." That was all I needed to say. My 80-something-year-old neighbor, a frail and withering old man nearly disappearing into his armchair, took his hand off of his oxygen tank and slapped it against his forehead. He closed his eyes and shook his head slowly side to side. He didn't even have to say anything. His whole body said, "Stupid, stupid boy." Incidentally, that boy was the semicolon stealer, so I guess maybe my neighbor was right.

In the two houses behind me across the alley are two same-sex couples about my age. We've chatted on occasion, when they're outside with their dogs and I'm doing yard work or taking out the trash. I've even invited them to a couple of parties, and at least one representative from each couple has shown up each time. They have never returned the favor, however, which really is quite a shame, because they all seem delightful. Besides that, between the four of them, I could possibly score cheap haircuts, free theater tickets, informal psychiatric advice, and... um, I'm not really sure what the second half of the lesbian half of this neighbor quartet does, actually, but I'm sure it's equally useful. I'm not strictly an opportunist, of course. I'd bring them benefits, too! Surely my witty banter would be a fine addition to the fabulous get-togethers I'm convinced they're having without me. They probably have great dinner parties and uproarious game nights. I bet they even play Balderdash (a game I love but can no longer convince any of my friends to play with me). I just need to convince them that there is room for a straight girl in their troop. Liz got in the club somehow; surely I could do the same. (What do you say, Liz? Any tips on getting in good with lesbians?)

The neighbor I see the most, though (for better or worse, it seems) is the one next door to the south. He has a somewhat uncommon name, and he's extremely web-savvy, so for the sake of this story, I'm going to call him Reed. I've written about Reed before... he's the entrepreneur who was lauded in a national magazine for starting a million-dollar business before he was 25. He's also the very nice man who snowblows my driveway when we have a blizzard. And in case you're wondering, no he's not single. But he is extremely handy and helpful.

Usually I appreciate having Reed around. He's happily helped me carry heavy things into my house. He has a seemingly magical garage from which he can produce any tool known to man (and often, in my case, unknown to woman). He has climbed up on my roof to secure stray pieces of siding. He's offered advice on painting and planting and nearly everything else he's seen me attempt. And usually, his advice is warranted and welcome. It's also, however, given me a bit of an inferiority complex.

As a homeowner with little expendable cash to pay someone else to do things, I've often taken sort of a Rosy the Riveter attitude about maintenance and repairs. "I can DO it," I think optimistically. "How hard can it be?" It doesn't matter that I've shown no evidence of any aptitude in this area, that I've had no experience or training at all. Some people learn these sorts of things from their parents. My dad is an insurance agent who much favors paperwork and the indoors. I did not pick up any useful home-related life skills from him. In fact, the only time I recall him using tools was the summer he decided to build us a tree house. It had eight sides, all unequal in length and none matching up at the edges. Frankly I'm still more than shocked my mother ever let us climb up there.

Since I know I have no skills in this area, sometimes I Google tasks before I take them on. I'm hesitant to charge right into something, throwing caution to the wind, if it's going to end badly and with an audience. A few weeks ago, I decided to trim a large shrub in my back yard, and as I grabbed branches seemingly at random, cutting at any place and angle that was convenient, I thought to myself, "Is there a right and a wrong way to do this? Should I have looked this up?" I wondered if Reed was going to wander out at any moment and ask, "Do you have any idea what you're doing?" To which my reply, in my best Homer Simpson voice of indignation, would have been, "I think it's pretty obvious that I don't!"

Luckily, Reed wasn't home that day. I noticed later that his truck was not out front. Not that it really matters. He's already well aware that I'm marginally inept. I can't even start my lawn mower, after all. It's been an ongoing source of frustration for quite some time. Trust me; I know how to start a lawn mower. Really, honestly, I do. My lawn mower, unfortunately, hates me. It does, however, like Reed. I can fight with the pull cord for a half hour or more, wondering if I should prime it some more or if I've primed it too much. Reed will take sideways glances over at me from his yard, eventually come over, give it one tug, and start it up.

My mower is sexist. I'm convinced it's not just me. Like I said, though, it's bruised my confidence--made me second guess myself constantly.

Now whatever I do, I imagine Reed is watching from his window, maybe even calling his wife over to enjoy the show. "Look what she's trying to do now! Should I go tell her what she's doing wrong?" I suspect I'm a fine source of amusement for him. I've even asked him, "Do you ever just look at me and think, 'Why didn't that girl buy a condo?'" He smiled and said "No," but he definitely paused a bit too long before answering.

Someone whose name I don't recall once said, "If you can't be a good example, perhaps you can serve as a horrible warning." I sort of feel that me buying a house serves exactly that purpose to other unskilled would-be homeowners. But I'll keep trying, anyway. And when I don't succeed, I will swallow my pride and rely on kind, marginally smug neighbors for some help.