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.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is this why people thought prohibition was a good idea?

Remember a couple months ago when I talked about having an absinthe party? (What do you mean, "No"? You expect me to believe you have better things to do than retain everything I ever say? Impossible.) Anyway, my friend Carrie and I co-hosted that event last night, and though I spent most of today feeling as sodden and benumbed as the tortured artists who made the Green Fairy legendary in its day, I would venture to say that the party was a success and a good time was had by nearly all.

I am feeling rather foggy headed, not so much from absinthe specifically but from absinthe and vodka and champagne and wine, not to mention a 6:00 a.m. bedtime. People, I am too old for this. I know this, and yet I continue to pretend I can party like a rock star. Or, in the case of an absinthe-centered event, party like Hemingway. And when it comes to indulging in absinthe, Hemingway was just a damn fool. I mean, the man mixed his absinthe with champagne. I am no expert on the substance, but I can say that of all the concoctions I sampled last night, that one was, hands-down, the most vile.

I was going to proceed with a list of other absinthe-related lessons I learned, but frankly, I am too damn tired at the moment for even a bullet-point post of laziness. So how about a photo essay instead? Work for you? Oh good. Here we go.

Me pouring my first absinthe of the night

Michael demonstrating the ritual as well

Carrie demonstrating for another absinthe apprentice

Look! Even -R- came. If only I could drink with all my blog friends... Incidentally, -H- still thinks we look like sisters. I don't see it; do you?

Carrie and the Green Fairy (I suppose they were my TWO co-hosts for the night)

Full set is on Flickr if you're interested. And now I'm off to bed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Movin' right along

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

Yesterday, 3Carnations tagged me for a meme, and I thought, "Perfect! Meme starts with M..." It's one I'm pretty sure I've already done (that "seven random or weird things about yourself" list), but I can always come up with seven more absurd things about myself to share.

Or so I thought. Frankly, at the moment, I feel like I have told the Internet everything there possibly is to tell about myself. NaBloPoMo must be wearing on me, I think.

So "M" is not for meme. I'll have to do that meme another day. Meanwhile, I'll stick with the "M" I was planning to write yesterday, before I realized that posting twice in one day just to get through the alphabet by the end of the month was just plain craziness.

M is for movies. Despite the slow track record exhibited by my list for the year (have I really seen only five movies in theaters in the past five months?), I do love movies, and always have. There were many, many times during the run of Gilmore Girls that I related easily to Lorelei Gilmore, and one that always comes to mind is the night Luke first asks her on a date. He suggests a movie, saying, "You like movies, right?" "I do," she replies. "Good, bad, and indifferent."

I know what she means. I love the very experience of going to a movie (provided the crowd around me is quiet and well behaved, which granted, becomes less and less likely all the time). I have never walked out of a theater movie, no matter how awful the film is, and I don't think I've stopped a video or DVD more than twice in my life. Any movie I start, I need to see through to the end.

We all have movies we grew up on--ones we saw countless times during our childhood years. I think it's fun to compare lists and see how many overlap--how many other kids grew up watching the same tapes with their siblings that I watched with mine. Lots of people probably saw The Sound of Music in their parents' living room just as many times as I did, but did they also have Pump up the Volume and Heathers memorized as well? Am I the only one in my generation who didn't see Grease until high school, or who never saw Star Wars in its entirety until a boy in college insisted it was a crime that she hadn't?

I skipped my Friday Five yesterday, so I'll make this "M" post a list and call it a Saturday Six... Six movies my sisters and I watched so many times, we damn-near wore out the VHS tape.

  1. The Sound of Music (I can't sing; I've got a sore finger. It got caught... in Fredrick's teeth.)
  2. The Muppet Movie (Ahh, a bear in his natural habitat - a Studebaker)
  3. The Princess Bride (Stop that rhyming now; I mean it! Anybody want a peanut?)
  4. The Brave Little Toaster (Oh, I'm really scared there, Kirby. What are you going to do, suck me to death?)
  5. Say Anything (Hey my brother, can I borrow a copy of your "Hey Soul Classics"? No, my brother; you have to buy your own.)
  6. Pump up the Volume (The truth is a virus)

Tell, me--what movies are on your most-memorable list?

Friday, November 16, 2007

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library

I'm sorry, but as awesome as my anonymous guest poster's entry was yesterday, I just cannot let Leonard Nimoy be the "L" in my Encyclopedia of Me. I am going to pick another L word mentioned in that entry, though.

L is for library.

I love the library. I was going to try to type out all the reasons I love the library, but then I remembered that I already did that once before. In fact, if I type "library" into the search box on my blog, no fewer than 20 entries come up. And that's just using Blogger's less-than-stellar, unreliable search system. Surely there are a few more.

About a year ago, I did a meme requiring me to list ten "L" things that I love. I still cannot believe that I damn-near completely forgot to include libraries in that post. I have so many fond memories of the library. I could tell you about all sorts of them... about my mom taking me to evening story hour in my pajamas, about collecting stamps on my card for the Summer Reading Program every year, about how every kid in my hometown remembers climbing on the giant rock in front of our public library (and how every one of us has likely had a moment when we returned to that spot as a grown up and thought, "didn't that rock used to be a whole lot bigger??").

I remember being fascinated and overwhelmed by the amazing size of my college library (which likely really isn't so big as far as university libraries go, but was large enough to fit at least 23 of my hometown libraries inside and therefore was astounding to my 18-year-old self).

I remember walking past a library with some friends on a weekend trip several years ago and watching as my friend Dale opened the book depository and stuck his head inside. "It smells like books!" he said. And it did. I never realized libraries have a unique and distinctive smell, much less a smell that involuntarily makes me smile. Sniff a book depository next time you get a chance and I think you'll see what I mean.

Bad things never happen at the library. Or, they almost never do, anyway. Libraries are a sacred place, a perfect democracy, a free pass to a workshop on any topic you choose.

I just Googled the quote in my subject line to remind myself who said it (Jorge Luis Borges), and I found a long list of other excellent quotes that prove I'm not the only one with lofty opinions about libraries. It includes one of my favorites, from one of my favorite books (Hallie in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams saying "Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn't rip off"). But they left out another of my favorites, from a book I've read more recently:

"I have sort of a Christmas-morning sense of the library as a big box full of beautiful books."

- Clare, in The Time Traveler's Wife

I know what she means.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

On a completely different note, how about one last round of applause for -R- and the fantastic Blog Share she organized? Seriously, people, that was so much fun. I know I am not supposed to tell you which "anonypost" (TM 3Carnations) was mine, but the truth is I don't even care if anyone in Blogland figures it out. It was just fun to tell a story that was so screaming to be blogged about but which I could not in good conscious put on my own site. In fact, I almost wish I could put my name on my post on its host site, because when you read a comment like "I wish I knew who this was so I could read their blog" or "Tell us who you are so we can come over," I want to say, "Me! It's me! And I'd love if you come over!"

But then again, not every day is candid Blog Share Day, so maybe it's best those commenters don't know who I am after all. I'd hate to disappoint anyone who comes here looking for absurdity and scandal only to find a mundane post about the library or my grandma or the inappropriate things I tell my doctor.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next Blog Share Day, though. Start saving up your secret stories now, folks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ooh! It! Feels good to be free!*

Many of you have probably already heard about this fun little experiment called the Blog Share, which -R- organized as a way for all of us to air our dirty little secrets to the Internet anonymously. That means today's post here at Stefanie Says comes from an unnamed blogger, and I have an anonymous post floating around somewhere on the Internet as well.

My guest blogger has obviously familiarized herself with my blog, as she chose to let her post continue my alphabet theme. I assure you, however, her chosen subject is not my "L" entry in the Encyclopedia of Me. I may be a liberal with a love of lip balm and libraries, but that's about as far as I relate to this one.

And with that, take it away, anonymous poster!


"L" is for "Leonard."

Leonard, you say? What with the huh now?

I refer, of course, to Leonard Nimoy, otherwise known (to me, and those few select friends with whom I have previously shared this particular attraction) as the SEXIEST MAN ALIVE. (And let me just be clear--I do not have a crush on Mr. Spock. Okay, wait... I do, a little. But I have an even bigger crush on Leonard.)

I'm not kidding. I love him. I have a life-sized cutout of him (as Mr. Spock) in my living room. (Well, actually I have the top half of the cutout--he was cut off at the knees by an evil cat and her claws. Sorry, Lenny!) I used to write in his name in all the sexy man magazine polls. I don't know why he never won.

Seriously, watch this, and then tell me the man's not hot! (And dig those hip backup dancers. Groovy, baby!)

He's a true Renaissance man--actor, writer, director, singer, photographer, and poet. I actually purchased a book of his poetry on Ebay (for $1--what a deal!), and I will quote some of it for you now (with Leonard's own inimitable spacing): (Editor's note: Sorry, guest poster; I don't think Blogger likes the forced spacing. My apologies that this likely won't look as it's supposed to.

You mean so much
to me

I wish
I could be

A cushion following you
Wherever you go
To be there
In case you should fall.

I won't do that.

It would deprive you
Of your self-respect
But please,
If there is a bruise,

Let me help to heal it.

See? Deep. He wrote it just for me. Really. The name of the collection is "These Words Are For You." For ME. Swoon. He wants to heal MY bruises. (He might want to rethink that particular phrasing, actually, given how clumsy and accident-prone I am. He might not have time to do anything else but tend my bruises, and the world NEEDS his special talents.)

Okay, true confession time. His poetry is crap. (WHO SAID THAT?) But I stand by my declaration of love, nonetheless. Oh, Leonard... I hope you live long and prosper. (Call me!)

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'll attempt a quick and dirty list of other "L" items that give or have given me pleasure.

  • Lilies, stargazer (Want to woo me? This is how.)

  • Lyle Lovett ('nuff said.)

  • Lifetime TV movies (You watch 'em, too!)

  • Lemons (Tart!)

  • Limes (Tangy!)

  • Lean Cuisines (The single gal's best friend.)

  • Lipstick, lipgloss, lip balm (Say no to chapped lips!)

  • Lapidary (Pretty, pretty stones.)

  • Language (Duh.)

  • Laughter (The best medicine.)

  • Libraries (Books, books, books!)

  • Limericks (There once was a man from Nantucket...)

  • L'Engle, Madeleine (Rest in peace.)

  • Lettuce (Something's got to hold the dressing.)

  • Liturgy (Rites and rituals.)

  • Lift-off tape (What, you've never made a mistake?)

  • London (I see London, I see France...)

  • Lucy (I Love.)

  • Lipman, Elinor (Sometimes you just want a fun read.)

  • Lamps (Say no to harsh overhead lighting.)

  • Liberals (Lean to the left!)

  • Loaves of bread (Take that, Dr. Atkins.)

  • Linda Lovelace (Kidding! Wanted to see if you were still with me.)

Okay, now my brain hurts. So I'm going to get the "L" out of here (groan) before I start adding things like "La Brea Tar Pits," "Liberace" and "Loch Ness Monster."


Want to read more anonymous posts? Here's a list of all the participating blogs--one of which is hosting an anonymous post by yours truly. Think you know which one it is? (If so, don't spill it in the comments here! It's a secret. Got it? OK!)

And You Know What Else
Bright Yellow World
Confessions of a Novice
Everything I Like Causes Cancer
Face Down
Liz Land
Muse On Vacation
Nancy Pearl Wannabe
Not What You Think It Is
Operation Pink Herring
Red Red Whine
Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills
Sass Attack
Stefanie Says
Thinking Some More

* I doubt even my guest poster caught the reference in the subject line, but surely there are at least a few Rilo Kiley fans out there!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

K is for Knitting

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

Many of the knitters and crocheters I know learned the craft from their mothers or grandmothers. I learned from someone's grandmother, but she wasn't mine. In fact, my own grandmother, watching me knit by the Christmas tree a few years ago, shook her head in wonder and said, "How do you do that?" Apparently she forgot that my mom actually has saved in a cedar chest at home no fewer than three baby outfits that my grandma once knit for me or one of my sisters. I wonder what I can expect to forget in another few decades. I'm hoping it's something particularly useless, like any and all memory of Who Let the Dogs Out. (Do not click that link. No. Seriously. Don't do it. I'm sorry I even tempted you like that.)

Where I did learn to knit was in a community ed class, from a pair of lively old ladies who couldn't decide who was in charge. Come to think of it, the way they bickered and consistently talked over one another reminded me quite a bit of my grandma and my great aunt (her twin sister), so maybe it's almost as if I learned from family after all.

I hadn't even particularly wanted to learn to knit. It was my friend Lisa's idea, but I agreed to go with her because oh hell, why not. What's strange is that I took to the sticks pretty much immediately, and I don't think Lisa ever finished her first scarf.

I'm not sure exactly why I do it... I like being able to knit home-made gifts for friends and family, but they aren't exactly time-efficient gifts, and not everyone appreciates a gift made of yarn anyway. Knitting is therapeutic, I suppose, but depending on the pattern, it can be tense and frustrating as well. Maybe what I like about it is that it manages to feed simultaneously two conflicting urges constantly battling in my head: my desire to sit around lazily and my guilt if I'm not doing anything productive. I have a hard time watching a movie now without knitting during it; I almost feel I'm wasting that time by not multi-tasking.

Another thing I like about knitting is that it's both creative and systematic. I think a big part of why I was never a great artist is that I'm always too stuck in my left brain. Knitting is an art that more or less requires order and structure; pay attention to the careful way the same two basic stitches are alternated, and suddenly after a few rows, something surprising and beautiful starts to appear.

I recently finished an afghan for a friend's wedding (you know--the wedding I called on your help for with the reading?), and I'm finally putting the finishing touches on a very belated baby gift I started ages ago as well.

This leaves me without a project--something I need to remedy rather soon. Since I started knitting, I've come to view works in progress much like I view books. Even if I'm not charging through a book quickly--even if it sits on my nightstand untouched for a full week at a time (cough--Calamity Physics-cough), I don't like to be in between books. The same goes for knitting: if I don't have something on the needles, I feel a little antsy somehow. Luckily, just like books, there are a hundred projects I have bookmarked to attempt. And as with books, I can't say which one will strike me next.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

There's nothing wrong with being a bit of a dandy

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

For the first time since I started this whole Encyclopedia game, I am at a bit of a loss. J... J... Lots of things start with J! Why are none of them resonating with me enough to write a post about them? I am sure that immediately after I click "Publish Post," I will think of something perfect and then slap my forehead in disbelief at the obviousness of it, but right now, all I can think is, "Jury duty?" "Aunt Jemima?" "Justice League?" People, I do not even know who exactly was in the Justice League. Clearly that is not a meaningful J entry for me. And if I am stuck on a letter as prevalent as J, what in the name of Aunt Jemima am I going to do when I get to Z? (Go Zebras! Love the stripes! Keep on keeping on!)

I was thinking about this earlier today, right before I read Noelle's latest entry. She talked about mailing a letter at the grand and historical Poughkeepsie Post Office whilst wearing a jaunty hat, and I smiled to myself and said, "I love the word jaunty." I do! I mean, it's an excellent enough word on its own, but even better is that if you visit the dictionary definition, every word and phrase associated with it is fun as well! Consider all of the examples...

  1. Easy and sprightly in manner or bearing (to walk with a jaunty step)
  2. Smartly trim, as clothing (a jaunty hat)
  3. Crisp and dapper in appearance; natty

Smartly trim! Natty! Sounds lovely and dignified, right? Although I am generally opposed to all things fake-British (see: Gwyneth Paltrow's accent), I do on occasion enjoy some quaint Olde-Tyme British speak. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my sisters and I for some reason adopted the code-phrase "Tea and Crumpets" whenever we'd sneak downstairs for a midnight snack. We never had tea, and I doubt I even knew what a crumpet was, but the phrase amused us no end. "Do you want some tea and crumpets?" one of us would ask. "Yes; let's go!" the other would reply. And we'd crawl out of bed and rush downstairs for cookies or cereal or whatever else was on hand. Sometimes we would stop in our little sister's room on the way down to invite her; other times we'd leave her out and then lord it over her the next day. "We had tea and crumpets without you!" we'd say, just to torture her pointlessly.

I can't explain any of this. But it's funny what can trigger a random memory to resurface.

Anyway, jaunty. Fun word, no doubt. But to describe me? Not so much. In fact, today in particular I was anything but jaunty. Every time I looked down at myself, I had to wonder (out loud, on more than one occasion) if I'd gotten dressed in the dark. It's not that I was mismatched, exactly, but something about all the components I'd assembled just didn't work collectively. I felt like the frumpy, tragically unhip older woman I'm sure I'm bound to be someday, but I'm not quite ready to be there yet.

So I guess I'm not jaunty, which leaves me still without a J word. How about I just list some other J words I am not? I think I like that plan instead.

I am not a jackal, a jaguar, Jack the Ripper, or Mick Jagger. I'm not Japanese or Jewish and I don't particularly like jazz. I've never been on Jeopardy (but Oh! I love that show! That maybe could've been my J word...), and I don't juggle (well) or practice Judo. I don't believe in jingoism and I've never played in a jug band. I wasn't born in June, and I'm not a junkyard dog. I don't particularly like the smell of jonquil.

(Yes, I did just get out my dictionary. Was it really that obvious?)

Monday, November 12, 2007

It wouldn't be an Encyclopedia of ME if it didn't have at least one grammar-related post

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

I am a huge nerd. We all know this. No need for me to apologize for it, right? I mean, I campaigned for an award that Poppy almost removed from the list due to lack of interest. As I said back then, Coca Cola wanted to teach the world to sing; I want to teach the Internet the difference between its and it's. And would you look at that? Both of those words start with I! I think you know what that means...

The letter I is for its... and also, conveniently enough, for it's. Two words! Two different meanings! Let's review them, shall we?

It's means it is (or it has). It's what we call a contraction--a way of combining and shortening two words by omitting some letters and adding an apostrophe. That is the ONLY TIME "it" and "s" are joined together in this way. If you don't mean it is (or it has), then it's is not the word for you.

This smart lady is just as adamant as I am about every blogger just learning this already, and she posted a handy little tip that I'd like to repeat here:

"Imagine that the little apostrophe is the letter i. Therefore, when you write it's, you are writing it is."

Good tip! Let's all keep that in mind; shall we?

Now on to the no-apostrophe version.
Its is the possessive form of it. I know this is a little tricky. Apostrophes usually make things possessive. In the case of its, however, not so much. Forget the apostrophe; we'll know you're implying ownership even without it. Would you say your's? Her's? Their's? No, right? (Or, lord I hope not, anyway!) The possessive of it works just like those other pronouns. No apostrophe. Never ever. OK?

Are you ready for some examples? Let's go!

Right: Hooray! It's time for a grammar lesson! The blogosphere needs to get its pronouns straight.

WRONG: No one but you gives a damn about this, Stefanie. Its all stupid, nit-picky nonsense.


Right: Hold that mug by its handle, fool. Or, you know, drop it like it's hot.

WRONG: Good grammar is it's own reward. But most of us would rather have ice cream.


Right: The dog might lick you, but that's just its way of making friends.

WRONG: I know I am prettier than some of you; try not to let jealousy rear it's ugly head.

All right; I think I've made my point. End grammar rant. End nerdery... for now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

H is for House

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

I bought my house when I was 29. I didn't do it the smart way... I didn't prepare for it and plan for it and save a respectable down payment like most responsible adults do. No, despite how terrible I am at making decisions, it was really almost an impulse buy.

My older sister had been nagging me for a while, saying, "You really should buy a house, you know. You're throwing money away on rent." To this day, I still say that is the most ridiculous argument anyone can present to a would-be home-buyer. I was not throwing money away on rent. In exchange for that rent, I was getting not only a place to live, but the security of knowing that if anything went wrong with that place to live, it was not my responsibility to remedy. Leaky faucet? Broken refrigerator? Snapped garage door spring? Someone else's bank account or man-hours were going to be drained to take care of it, not mine. Throwing money away? On piece of mind? Hardly. In fact, for my rental dollars, I even had someone else shoveling the snow, mowing the lawn, and raking the leaves for me. All for less than I currently pay for my mortgage. Without a house payment, only one of my arms would hurt right now (the one stabbed with a tetanus vaccine the other day), and I would maybe be able to afford cute new fall clothes. I mean, I like my house and all, but frankly that doesn't sound like such a bad deal.

I must have gotten tired of my sister's arguments, though, because I finally agreed to meet with her realtor friend. We started looking at houses even before I was sure I wanted to buy one, and about twelve houses in, I said, "Um, I think this one feels sort of right..."

I don't even know what in particular drew me to this house. It's nothing special, nothing fancy; it certainly isn't my all-time dream house. It's a basic little 1950 shoebox, but for some reason, I had a good feeling about it. It all comes down to gut instincts, right? My gut may be squashy and unreliable, but I trusted it and bought the house anyway. I even looked pretty happy about it, didn't I?

Note: The American flag is not mine. It was gone before I moved in. And if you're worried about that scary roof with the dark streaks through it, I had it replaced as part of the purchase deal. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my oh my was my hair flippy back then!

The house that I bought was built right on the cusp of when developers stopped injecting character into homes by default. I had hardwood beneath the carpeting and real, solid wood doors throughout the house, but I didn't have any rounded archways or built-in buffets or other fancy woodwork. My garage, thankfully, doesn't protrude from the front of my house as its most notable architectural feature, but it also doesn't have a charming carriage house up top.

Luckily, the previous owners left plenty of character behind to balance things out.

My house is 57 years old, and I am only its second owner so far. When I moved in, my neighbors to the north, a lovely old couple named Don and Lucy, gained the position of seniority on the block. They've been here since 1958. Ralph (who owned my house) had been here since 1950.

It's remarkable how much stuff I've accumulated in just ten years out in the world on my own--how many possessions (both pointless and not) I've carted from apartment to apartment to first house. Just imagine the amount of stuff one can accumulate in 53 years.

I'm sure Ralph's children spent a good deal of time clearing out this house after he died. I'm sure they spent full weekends reminiscing and divvying up and marking things for Goodwill. But they clearly got a bit lazy towards the end, because when I moved in, several remnants of Ralph were still here. And obviously I am just as lazy as they are, because four years later, several of those remnants still remain.

This was originally going to be a post about all the things I've learned about home ownership and maintenance, all the ridiculous moments of ineptitude I've had since I moved in. But frankly, that post is just not flowing, so I thought I'd just take you on a photo tour instead. I mean, I did damn near break my toe photo-documenting, so I might as well make use of those pictures, don't you think? So here we go.

First, we have the charming remembrances of occupants past that one would expect to find in an old house. Ralph raised two kids here, after all. It seems only logical that we'd see evidence of their growth marked on the walls...

It's also sort of charming to learn about Ralph's unique quirks and obsessions. We're all tremendous nerds in some way or another. Ralph's area of nerdery must have been the weather (or at least temperature). My house came with no fewer than five thermometers. I can only assume there were several more before his kids started cleaning this place out.

Then there are the things Ralph's kids maybe left behind by accident... Like the ice skates for some reason tucked away between the ceiling beams in the basement and the makeshift fishing rod (fashioned from what seems to be a table leg and a length of string) hidden behind a support beam...

Behind that fishing rod, you can see Ralph's worktable. I would like to point out that only the paint cans and drill case in that photo are mine. EVERYTHING ELSE came with the house. Would you like to take a closer look? I thought so.

Do you need a golf ball marker? (Specifically one already set up to stamp the name "Ralph"?)

What about an envelope of keys that open lord only knows what?

Or a motor of some sort... Do you need one of these?

If so, obviously I am your gal.

One thing that I wish were still on that workbench is the device that originally came in this box.

I mean, I could feel livelier! Look lovelier! Where, really, would be the fault in that?

Alas, all that was in that box was the faucet that presumably used to be installed in my bathroom sink.

I could make use of the exercise bike Ralph left behind in my basement, but as I'm lazy, I'm more likely to make use of the couch. Yes, they left a whole COUCH behind. And an awesome one at that, don't you agree?

I'm actually assuming at this point that the couch is probably safe. I mean, if no rats or other critters have crawled out in the past four years, chances are none are still making their home in there. I have lofty dreams of overcoming my laziness and actually making something of my basement someday... of putting in some carpeting, throwing a clean slipcover on that couch, and creating a party room of sorts down there. There's actually a funky old bar and light fixture and a couple of leftover beer steins and bottle openers, too. Oh, and an old retro rotary-dial telephone. I actually really wish I could still plug this into a phone jack today.

My house has even maybe suggested to me some new hobbies. I mean, I said I wanted to reclaim my interest in art... Perhaps whittling is the handicraft for me...

I have no idea who Willie is, but he does some fine work; wouldn't you agree?