Friday, February 29, 2008

Some things are best left unsaid

Since this week we had a get-things-off-your-chest week (or rather, day), it seems as good a time as any to jump on a bandwagon I've seen rolling by a few times. I have no idea anymore where I first saw these "Things I wish I could say" lists, but I know Lara's done it and -R-'s done it and Abbersnail's done it... (Who am I missing? NPW? You did this too, right? Sorry to you and anyone else whose lists I'm too lazy to find.)

I'm going to limit my list to five because... well, because it's Friday and I need a Friday Five, but also because if I write any more than that, I'm apt to write things that people who actually read this will wonder about, and then they'll be all "Was that about me?? This one's towards me, right?" So let me just avoid any trouble and say right now: if you're reading this, it's not about you! (If it is about you but I don't know you're reading this, well, then, that's hardly my fault, is it? It is? Oh. Whoops.)

ANYWAY. Five things I wish I could say, or I haven't said, or I really probably shouldn't say.

  1. No one wants to hear you sing.

  2. Why aren't any of your pants long enough? I am taller than you are, and MY pants fit! Do you not own a mirror, perhaps?

  3. You really, really don't need to touch me just to get past me in a two-foot-wide hallway. In fact, you don't need to touch me ever. At all.

  4. I'm over it, but I still sometimes feel you owe me an apology for breaking my heart and a thank you for fixing yours.

  5. I know you've got some stuff to work through, but I still wish you'd try harder.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blog Share 2.0

Hey kids. Guess what today is? You might not have realized that it's Blog Share day, because for some reason, I neglected to mention I would be participating. You know what they say about Blog Share, though: The first rule of Blog Share is you do not talk about Blog Share. Oh. Right. That's Fight Club. Never mind.

Anyway, in case you forgot how this works, the post below was not written by me. It's from another blogger who shall remain anonymous so that she can speak her mind freely. In turn, I've got an anonypost floating around somewhere on the Internet today as well. We did this once before; remember? My guest poster confessed her love for Leonard Nimoy, and I told the Internet all about... well, never mind what I told the Internet all about. It was anonymous for a reason, right?

Today's anonymous poster has some pretty intense and serious things to share, so I'll quit my rattling now and give her the floor. Let's give her a warm welcome. Take it away, guest poster.


People often fondly discuss how and when they lost their virginity. I listen, laugh or sympathise but, for once, I don't have a witty anecdote of my own to share.

I didn't lose my virginity. Mine was stolen when I was 16 years old, in a brutal and terrifying attack that lasted the best part of 24 hours. The three men who attacked and raped me were never found and whilst I hope they never tortured anyone else in the same way that they did me, I was glad in a way that they were never brought to justice as I don't think I would have coped with reliving what happened in public at a trial.

I didn't really cope anyway. No-one did. I think sometimes it was harder for my parents than it was for me. I wish they had not had to see the state I was in when I was found, or listened as I tried to describe to the police in detail exactly what had happened. It would have been easier for them and in the long run, probably easier for me too, if they had not been there. Because I don't think the attack was the worst of it really, it was later I needed them most.

The attack was terrifying, mostly because I thought they would kill me. A sort of self-preservation instinct set in and I did none of those things you might expect, I didn't scream, struggle or fight back. I just let them do whatever they wanted in the hope that they would let me go. I've read lots of accounts of rape since and I think that this shut-down response is quite common, a way of preserving not only your life but also your sense of self in a situation where you would think you could not.

The real pain came later. After the initial furor was over, there was a sense of relief that I was not pregnant and that physically I was largely all right. My parents could not understand why I did not have the sort of reaction you might expect, I never broke down in tears or clung to anyone. They tried many times to speak to me about it but getting no response retreated back to normal life and familiar routines. My friends didn't know what to say so they avoided me and I couldn't smile and be jolly and pretend nothing had changed so I just shut myself in my room and got on with my schoolwork. There were no counselling sessions, no-one to tell me it was OK to feel the things I did. I felt guilt that I hadn't done more to escape my attackers, I felt revulsion at what they had done to me, I felt grief for the life I had suddenly lost and I was confused, frightened and intensely lonely. I threw myself into my schoolwork, I didn't go out with friends, I just worked and worked and worked. It was a form of therapy really and it did help. I got the highest marks anyone had ever scored in the public examinations I took in my final year at school. I had my picture in the local paper and easily secured a place at a University in the big city. For once I was famous for something positive, I wasn't just the rape victim.

Escaping from my home town was a good move and it was easier for me in the big city where I felt anonymous. I made a friend and together we cooked up the sort of mischief I had enjoyed as a schoolgirl and still do to this day. Emotionally I was fragile but I regained some of my confidence and it is this friend I have to thank for that. She was my saviour. She helped me to accept that whilst what had happened to me could never be changed, it didn't have to determine the course of the rest of my life. She listened to me talk about it, held me in her arms night after night, without any expectation of anything more. She arranged for me to see a counsellor who helped me to develop strategies for dealing with the memories of what had happened. With her unconditional, undemanding love and support my wounds slowly healed and I learnt to live and love again.

I know you will feel revulsion at what happened and feel sorry for the 16 year-old me. But that is not me any more. I no longer need sympathy and understanding. More than 25 years have passed since I was raped. Whilst I know I will always have nightmares, will always bear the physical scars of the assault, it is just one very small fragment of my life, just one part of what makes me what I am today. The only reason I keep this a secret, the reason I am not writing about it on my own blog (although I have considered doing so and may still do so yet) is not because I feel ashamed of or embarrassed about what happened to me, but simply that when I have told people in the past I think it has changed their opinion of me as I am now. And I do not want that to happen to me in blogworld.


Want to read more anonymous posts? Here's the list of participating blogs (a list that's over twice as long as last time... detectives, you've got your work cut out for you if you're trying to match post with blogger this time).

The Adventures of Shelagh
Alice's Wonderland
And You Know What Else
Bright Yellow World
Daily Tannenbaum
Du Wax Loolu
Everything I Like Causes Cancer
Face Down
Fretting the Small Stuff
For the Long Run
Galoot's Hoot Page
Granted Null
Grumpy Frump
Just Below 63
Life After AC
Liz Land
Mamma Ren
Muse On Vacation
Muze News
Nancy Pearl Wannabe
Not What You Think It Should Be
One New Duck
Rankin Inlet: A Journey Northwards
Red Red Whine
Reflections in the Snow-Covered Hills
The Reluctant Blogger
Sass Attack
Sauntering Soul
Sparkling Cipher
Stefanie Says
Three Carnations
Tracy Out Loud
Way Way Up

Monday, February 25, 2008

I was probably also the kid who didn't like slumber parties because it messed with my sleep schedule*

Hey, you know what's fun? Tossing in my two cents about a movie that the rest of you either saw eight months ago or decided never to see. Maybe next I'll weigh in on that whole Britney head-shaving debacle. (No I won't. And it actually sort of pains me that I can't come up with a better example of the untimely than that.)

That said, what did we all think of Ratatouille? (Or, as -R- calls it, Rat-tat-tooey, which I'll agree does make the title that much more fun to say.)

My take? I feel there are moments in life that sort of crystallize who I am as a person... defining thoughts or comments that make me say, "Oh. Damn. That is who I am?" And who I am this time is someone who really needs to lighten up and take things a little less literally from time to time. Why? Because charming as Rat-tat-tooey was purported to be (what with the 95% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar and all), throughout the entire movie I simply could not get past the fact that there was a wiry-haired RAT in the kitchen, touching food with his pointy, rodenty little paws. And it revolted me. I know rats are supposed to be cute and harmless in animated form, but all I could think was "Rats! In the kitchen! Excuse me while I lose my dinner..."

Internets, help me out on this. It wasn't just me, was it?

It was? Yeah, I thought so. I'll take my pocket protector and antibacterial wipes and move along now. Thanks.

* No, I wasn't that kid, actually, but I went to Girl Scout camp with her. And man, if ever there was a 35-year-old woman trapped in a ten-year-old's body... Actually she'd probably be with me on the Ratatouille thing. Oddly, I take no comfort in that.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I use The Google

My friend Carrie is in Milwaukee visiting her mom this weekend, and earlier today she sent me a text message with a comment she thought I'd enjoy:

I asked my mom if she knows what a blog is, and she said, "Yeah, it's kind of like a Google, right?"

My reply?

That is the best thing I've heard all week. I may have to put it on my blog. I mean, my Google.

And so I did.

It's easy to laugh at the late middle aged and borderline elderly... I enjoy Carrie's stories about all her mother's baffling quirks (consolidating her kitchen by storing her microwave inside the oven; fearing that pretzels might go bad if she doesn't store them in the fridge and leftover salad is precarious enough to require the freezer), but really I appreciate these bits of information not because I'm judging her mother in any way (I've met the woman, and she's a terribly sweet and well-mannered lady towards whom I certainly mean no ill will or disrespect), but because it makes my own parents look a little less strange by comparison. They actually have the opposite problem (spreading out more and more stuff across every possible surface in their home, and testing the limits of expiration dates and proper food storage on an all-too-regular basis) but old and crazy is old and crazy either way.

Truth be told, maybe I appreciate these stories just because I feel a bit old and crazy myself at times, and I like to think maybe age has nothing to do with idiosyncrasy; maybe we should embrace our quirks as charms at any age, without worrying that they might compound over time.

I'm saying all this, of course, at the end of another of my weekends of hermitude, so maybe I'm trying to justify my lifestyle in some way. Yesterday I didn't talk to anyone (unless e-mail counts as conversation), and I stepped outside my house only far enough to get my mail, and today I left only to buy fabric for a quilting class I'm taking soon. Apparently I'm practicing for old age: as if being a shut-in who knits isn't enough, I've decided I need a few other proper and traditionally ladylike hobbies as well. Oh! And I'm buying things in bulk, too, as if stock piling for a nuclear disaster. But instead of canned goods or toilet paper, I'm stockpiling lip gloss.

Yes, I said lip gloss. Neutrogena has this nasty and annoying habit of discontinuing products immediately after I've fallen solidly in love with them (oh, HeatSafe spray, how my dry, split ends miss you so), and MoistureShine Tinted Lip Balm seems to be the latest perfect item in their collection to fall to such fate. First I saw the near-empty bins with clearance tags at Target; next I saw the same sad thing at Ulta. Today I searched online and bought approximately half of the remaining stock at Amazon. I spent $36 on drugstore brand lip gloss, and my only regret is that perhaps I should have spent $36 more.

Moving on. I may have been an old lady and a hermit this weekend, but I was also quite productive and domestic. I made some solid progress on my basement beautifying project, and I also cooked three times in three days as well. Cooked! For real! With mostly non-processed, legitimate ingredients and with use of pans and stove burners! No Kraft singles! No microwave! Forgive all the exclamation points. It's just been a while is all. Incidentally, dinner both Friday and Saturday went just fine, but breakfast this morning? Not so much. I think I've decided that making pancakes, simple a process as that should be, is just going to rest solidly and permanently in the "Things I cannot do" column. I don't know what the science is; I don't know why I need to throw out not just the first pancake, but the four after that as well... All I know is eleven hours later, everything in my house still smells like burnt pancake, so maybe making pancakes is just something I'm not meant to do.

Luckily, mastery of grammar and spelling is still in the arsenal of skills I can call my own. The 2008 Poppy Awards were recently announced, and I took home the Grammar and Spelling award for the second year in a row.

I've got mad grammar skillz

This year I apparently had some competition. I had to share the award with another worthy contender. Maybe if Poppy knew Aaron's preemptively named me Grammar Czar for his soon-to-be-elected administration? Maybe that would have tipped the scales in my favor? Who knows.

I received another Poppy award as well, though it's one I was a proverbial shoe-in for, as Poppy created the category with me in mind. (Thanks, Poppy!)

Lima beans. Dammit.

In case you've forgotten, that award is in reference to this post, and is in honor of my recently departed grandmother, god rest her crazy old soul. Her funeral last week actually brought up a few things I thought bloggable, but I've already forgotten most of them by now. One still stands out, however, and seems appropriate to mention here. Following the service there was a lunch in the church basement for any family and friends who cared to come. My mom chose to include mashed potatoes because my grandma always made them for me, and kneecaps because they were my grandma's favorite at the Easter and Thanksgiving buffets. I'm guessing she did not have anything to do with the vegetable selection, however. I was directly behind my younger sister in the buffet line at the lunch, and as she peered in the pan of mixed vegetables on the food table, she looked at me and said, "Look: Lima beans." Without missing a beat, I said, "Dammit." Good thing Grandma wasn't actually at that lunch, I guess.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I couldn't help but wonder...

OK, seriously, Universe. Did you not get my memo? It is the Year of Stef, dammit. I proclaimed it; you are to make it so. And that means all bullshit where dating is concerned is to vanish and Mr. Considerate and Right-for-Me is supposed to appear. This new "positive attitude and optimism" thing I'm trying can go only so far; you really do need to pitch in a bit and throw me a bone.

All this is to say that I am home alone on a Friday night, partaking in long-neglected household chores like doing laundry and cooking a proper dinner and purging expired food from my cupboard and fridge, instead of hanging out with either of the prospects I was so excited and optimistic about a mere week ago. Mind you, I am actually not at all bothered by my home alone state right now... I'm sort of a hermit by nature, and frankly, all this exciting whirlwind single girl stuff does tend to wear on me fairly quickly and make me long for my couch and solitude. But still. It would be nice to have some options.

Date #2 with The Scientist was far from awful; it had its "on" and clever moments, I'd say. But thanks to either my near complete lack of sleep the previous night or the precarious phase of the moon (or some unfortunate combination thereof), the overall event was shrouded in a disconnect and awkwardness that I'm not entirely sure he's convinced is worth trying to charge past. Never mind the magic of that first date; apparently in the early stages, one "off" night just can't be overlooked. We shall see.

As for The Neighborhood Giant, I'm entirely baffled. Trust me; I have dated enough to know when to expect a vanishing act. I've been on both sides of that act more times than I care to recount, and I'd like to think I have a good feel for when to expect some follow up and when not to be surprised by a quiet slinking away. Last week's date (for which I'd rate rapport and conversation as comfortable and lively, respectively, and post-Boggle action as a second-date-appropriate PG-13) did not warrant any sort of vanishing act. In fact, it did not even occur to me to say, "So, give me a call..." as we parted, because it did not occur to me that he would not, in fact, call or write.

And yet, here I am, a week later, with no contact whatsoever, even after I gave in and broke all those stupid rules by sending a cleverish follow-up myself.

Since my life is apparently Sex & the City to some of you, I can explain this only in terms Miranda taught me. Remember that episode where she was stood up for a date, and decided it was so unforgivably rude that she was going to call the man on it and give him a piece of her feisty, red-headed mind? Remember how she phoned his home only to have his mother answer and find out he'd very recently died of a heart attack? Well, I'm going to presume The Neighborhood Giant clearly succumbed to some similar and dismal fate. It's the only excuse, wouldn't you say?

Except that no--it's maybe not the only explanation, and it would be harsh to wish him dead anyway. I haven't done a proper Friday Five in a while, so how's about I give you five other possible explanations for the unwarranted and unexpected disappearing act?

  1. He carelessly walked his 6'7" self into the upper edge of a door frame (whilst daydreaming about me, most likely), and the impact caused short-term amnesia. The poor guy can't even remember where he works, I suspect; how can I fault him for forgetting about me?

  2. Being a less-than-brilliant computer user, he foolishly visited a Web site that infected his computer with a virus and wiped out his entire mailbox, thereby losing both my e-mail address and any reference to my phone number. He's currently wandering my neighborhood, trying to remember exactly which blue house on which nearby street is mine, so he can come over to apologize and reunite in person.

  3. He was more bothered than he let on by his tragic loss in Boggle, and he's simply too ashamed and wounded to ever show his face to me again.

  4. He ate some bad sushi the day after our date and has been in a hospital bed, writhing in pain from a horrible bout of food poisoning ever since.

  5. I have a secret admirer with a disturbing possessive and violent streak who didn't like the idea of any competition for my affection and therefore found The Neighborhood Giant and chained him to a pipe in a dark and scary basement, where no one can hear him scream.

All of these are valid explanations, I'm sure. It's just a matter of deciding which is most plausible, right?

And with that, I'm going to get on with my spinsterrific Friday. My oven timer just beeped, my dinner looks and smells awesome, and I've got a Netflix envelope I've been ignoring for weeks to open. Hope your weekend is less tinged with confusion and bitterness than mine's started with, and I'll catch up with all of you a bit later.

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

Update 2/24: OK, so he actually did e-mail me, approximately two hours after I posted this. His message was so maddeningly flip and casual, however, that I still don't know for sure what to make of it. Also, The Scientist finally called me tonight, so perhaps he has not written me off just yet either. See, this is why I generally avoid documenting date details unless I'm sure I am or am not going to see the guy again. This sort of back-and-forth overanalysis is really best left in my own head or in a private journal. Carry on.

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

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Little records

First off, I want to thank all of you for your kind words in the comments on that last post. I really appreciate all your lovely sentiments of support, and I'm sure if I ever told my family about this little corner of the Internet, they would, too.

I'm actually trying to decide just what my grandma would say if she knew her picture was on the Internet right now. She never understood the Internet, of course, and probably never touched a computer keyboard in her life. I remember my mom trying to explain e-mail to her... The closest she ever came to any wording my grandma understood was, "I write letters to people through the TV." On a semi-related note, CDs have always been "little records." We never even tried to explain MP3 players to her. Technology was not the woman's forte, obviously. Frankly, if my grandma knew that a stranger in China could, if they were so inclined, pull up a picture of her on a screen in their living room right now, it would blow her fragile little 96-year-old mind. Let's hope there's no Wi-Fi where she is now, shall we?

Dead relatives aside, I had a busy and mostly fun weekend, and I hope all of you did as well. Last night into today was a two-part birthday party for a good friend, and Friday night was date #2 with the man we're apparently now calling the The Neighborhood Giant. We had drinks at an Irish pub near my house, which was interesting because at the same time, my friend Carrie was enjoying drinks with an older gentleman I know as The Bohemian Woodworker at a different Irish pub across town.

I got an e-mail earlier this week from One Smart Cookie, saying she enjoys reading my dating stories because she feels like I am her own personal Sex & the City episode. I say that if that were true, I would be getting decidedly more action and I would require decidedly more fabulous shoes. But still. If I were writing this in Sex & the City style, it would be hard not to segue from my date at Keegan's to Carrie's date at Brit's by saying, "Meanwhile, in an Irish pub downtown..." I'll resist the urge to take that comparison any further. Instead I will just say that following the drinks, I took the Neighborhood Giant back to my house, where instead of doing Carrie Bradshaw (or Carrie [LastName]) proud by engaging in the sorts of things that require a cut-away camera shot, I simply kicked his ass in Boggle. "You bring dates back to your house to seduce them," I e-mailed to Carrie yesterday. "I bring them over to destroy them with my superior word power."

All right. Between some deadlines at work and a trip home for my grandma's funeral, I'll probably be pretty scarce on the Internet this week. Try not to do anything too exciting while I'm gone, OK? I so hate being the last to know.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


My mom called me at work this morning--something I think she's done possibly only once before in the entire ten years I've been a gainfully employed adult. I didn't recognize the number on my caller ID display, but the 920 area code told me immediately who it was and why she was calling.

My grandma died at about 2:00 this morning. It's sad, but it's also a relief. We knew it was coming, and she was definitely ready to go. She hadn't been herself since she had the stroke shortly after Thanksgiving... She was in a nursing home, where she was miserable, where she never wanted to be. She was in a lot of pain, and she didn't understand why her stubborn old body wouldn't listen to her weary and broken spirit and just give in. I'll miss her (obviously I'll miss her--that crazy old broad with her dollar bills stapled to birthday cards and her unwanted lima beans permanently labeled with negative commentary and stashed in the freezer), but clearly, it was her time. I'm glad she's at peace.


If you want to know more about this tough old lady, you can check out any of these posts. I guess I don't have a whole lot else to add right now.

  • In the cards (wherein we learn that mailmen can't be trusted)
  • I can take a hint (wherein Grandma experiments with the best ways to get more frequent letters from grandkids)
  • We can't work it out (which is primarily a post about my gym, but is also about how my grandma outfitted me with other people's hand-me-downs for the better part of my youth)
  • G is for Grandma (wherein I use the Encyclopedia of Me and a Friday Five to tell you all the things my grandma taught me)
  • Come and see me; I'm the same girl I used to be (which was really a post for my sister, but as I wrote it the day of my grandma's stroke, there's a lot of her in there, too)
  • Life lint (the infamous "Lima beans. Dammit." post with which I'm pretty sure I've got Poppy Award #22 all wrapped up)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bachelor #3

Me: So basically you're a huge snob?
The Scientist: Yeah, pretty much. Is that a problem?
Me: Not necessarily. I guess it depends on whether my type of snobbery intersects with your type of snobbery in the Venn diagram of snobbery.
TS: My type of snobbery includes appreciation for the "Venn diagram of snobbery."
Me: Oh. Well then maybe we're good.

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

The Scientist: I'm really glad you emailed me. So... do you have any sort of rules about calling?
Me: What?
TS: You know... Three days? Two days? Is that too soon? Does that freak you out?
Me: Oh. That. I hate those stupid rules. I was just talking about this with a friend today, actually... She thinks three days is entirely acceptable and that even a week is standard. Maybe I've just lucked out with the guys I've gone out with; maybe that fact that most communication is through email now speeds up the timeline. Whatever--usually they email me either the next day or not at all. Why would any man who actually wants to see me again wait a week to contact me and expect me to go out with him again??
TS: ...
Me: So, um, to answer your question...
TS: I'd better email you tomorrow.

(I think I might actually like this guy.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

NPW is a mind reader

That's the only explanation, folks. Seriously, the woman keeps winning stuff! It's almost as though the universe was misinformed or lost the memo and thinks it is NPW's year, instead of mine! NPW, if you've ever thought of buying a stack of lottery tickets or betting on some horses, now might be a good time. Quite clearly you're on a roll. (The snowy TMBG ticket denial was obviously just a fluke.)

I wrote down three numbers before I clicked "Publish Post" last night. Those numbers were 1, 11, and 17. Let's take a look at those corresponding comments, shall we?

Comment #1: NPW
You know how I have to win. But I am afraid to keep winning these pay it forward prizes because then I have to actually pay it forward. Yay E for Excellent!

Indeed, now you have to pay it forward. Heads up, everyone--NPW is running another contest! (It's an unending cycle, my friend. Have fun with that.)

Before I copy and paste comment #11, I have to share with you comment #10. Comment #10 came from Lara, who said...

"I can feel it -- number 9 is the winner."

While Lara was typing that, however, Erikka sneaked in with comment #9, making Lara's comment #10. Seeing her numbering flaw, Lara posted a second comment:

Comment #11: Lara
Crap. When I started typing that, I would have been comment number 9. I must amend my previous statement. TEN is the winner! TEN TEN TEN!

In fact, ten was not the winner. But eleven was, so you win anyway. Whoo.

I actually thought about the fact that I just sent Lara a prize not too long ago (well, a Christmas present, but close enough, I think), not to mention the fact that my friendship is surely prize enough... But if I skipped over her and went to the next commenter, that next commenter would be NPW again--with her third comment, asking, "Did I win yet?" (You did, in fact. Eleven comments ago.) And if I skipped to the comment after that, the winner would be me. This is all getting far too complicated. My point is, Lara, you win.

Which brings us to our third winner, comment #17:

Comment #17: -R-
Was I one of the winners? Why do you tease me so?

You were, in fact, one of the winners, -R-. Now I just have to figure out what your prize should be (which is tough, when all that's coming to mind immediately is "Ann Taylor Loft gift card").

So. Congrats to NPW, Lara, and -R-. Prizes are forthcoming (though I know not yet what or when).

In related news, I am a winner, too! Today in the mail I received two very exciting items. The first was a package from Noelle containing a collection of surprises from her December NaChriCoMo contest that I already forgot I won. (Note: I may not be remembering that acronym right, but since Aaron's on a blog break, no one's here to correct me.) Noelle sent me two holidays worth of candy (Christmas M&Ms and Valentine hearts... what, no Cadbury Creme Eggs?), an all-Lola mix on CD, and a Steve Martin book that, coincidentally, I actually just read about today. All in all, it was a fine prize package, and Noelle, I thank you kindly.

And nestled up right alongside Noelle's prize pack in my mailbox was a prize almost equally exciting: a $10 coupon from my favorite liquor store, finally making good on the rewards they promised me as part of the "Heart Healthy Wine Club" I joined months ago. I thought drinking wine was its own reward, but no! More wine (for free!) is an even better prize.

Yes, I drank $250 worth of wine to get this. But I promise it wasn't all in one week.

Maybe the universe got the memo after all. Say it with me: Year of Stef! Thank you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm a winner (and you can be, too)

People, I have news. The unthinkable has happened. I had two dates and a phone screening this weekend (yes, phone screening--haven't I told you that dating is a lot like work?), and believe it or not... none of them sucked!

I'll just pause for a second while you absorb that. Frankly I'm as shocked as you. I am reminded suddenly of one of Lara's very earliest haikus, written during her days...


Have received emails
From various
Boyfriends today. These

Guys are great! Honest!
What if I fall in love with ALL
Of them? Might happen.

Because I am nowhere near the shining ray of unbridled optimism that Lara is, I do not honestly anticipate falling in love with all three of these men and having to either move to Utah or hold some sort of awkward rose ceremony as an elimination round. But still. Two dates and a phone screening and I'm not writing any of them off yet? I'm pretty certain this is a first for me.

Bachelor #1 is six-foot-seven (six-foot-SEVEN!) and lives a mile and a half away from me. He is tall and geographically desirable! And he cooks, too! Also, he is an editor by day, which means that even though he inexplicably eschews capitalization in emails, he most likely knows the difference between its and it's. Obviously a second date is in order to find out more. On the negative side, if it doesn't work out, since he lives so close, we all know I am bound to run into him at Target. At least at 6'7" I'll see him coming. Advance warning always makes for an easier escape.

Bachelor #2 is a bit soft-spoken and hard to read, but aligns with me on several important life views (political, cinematic, etc.). He'd also very effectively round out my life menu with all sorts of useful skills I lack. He's worked as a chef, so he's likely even a better cook than the neighborhood giant, and he used to refurbish houses, so he could probably tell me exactly what I'm doing wrong with the half-assed basement beautification project I'm in the midst of currently. Incidentally, I might not actually have a second date with either of these men, as I may have picked up some sort of potentially fatal respiratory ailment by not wearing the proper safety equipment as I scraped the loose [undoubtedly lead-based] paint off said basement walls today and swept years of dust and debris into the trash. [Cough.]

I don't have much of a report on Bachelor #3 at the moment, as we haven't actually met in person yet. But we know that he digs bookish girls in sensible shoes, so clearly why wouldn't he like me, right?

Know who else likes me? My pal NPW, who was kind enough to bestow on me that "E for Excellent" award that's been making the rounds. You know the one...

Aw, thanks!

Thanks, NPW. I'm sending an "E for Excellent" nod right back at you, my friend. Actually, I was planning to repay that kindness by passing the award on to other excellent bloggers, but I have such a damn hard time narrowing those things down, and attempting to do so was creating entirely more stress than seemed reasonable or necessary. You're all excellent, really. Well, maybe not you. Kidding. You too. Give yourself a little pat on the back today.

I do have to pass out some other prizes, however, so let's get to that, shall we? I've been terribly remiss in not acknowledging Poppy's recent Pay it Forward contest, wherein NPW and I both won fabulous prizes from the Popster. NPW got a quiz bowl t-shirt in honor of her brilliant little nerdlets, and I got this:

You remember Jim Halpert, don't you? He was on this television show that we all liked to watch before that never-ending writer's strike took it away from us. I'll wear this shirt and think of you, Jim. Please come back to us soon, OK?

Anyway, to keep the good vibes and prize-winning going, I need to pass along some prizes here as well. I'm going to keep this simple and borrow Poppy's rules. I'm thinking of three numbers (I'll even write them down, to be all official, though of course I won't tell you what I wrote just yet). If your comment number is one of the numbers I choose, you win! I have no idea what your prize will be, but I promise it very likely will not suck. It also will (hopefully) arrive more expeditiously than the fabled Funky Carter prize packages. We shall see. So. In summary: leave me a comment (a nice one, please), and you might win a prize. Comments for me, prizes for you. It's a win-win, I say.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Five things I have relayed via email in the past 24 hours

(You know--because apparently I've forgotten how either complete and coherent posts or this Friday Five thing are supposed to work)

  1. Methinks [personals site I'm on now] is where the lazy date seekers are. meHarmony is like the freshman mixer, where everyone's all gun-ho and dead-set on meeting people, walking up to each other and saying, "Hi! Nice to meet you! You're single? I'm single, too!" [New site] is like some random bar downtown--a bunch of people sitting around scoping each other out but not motivated enough to take any action. We're all just parked on a barstool, thinking, "Eh. If someone talks to me, I won't make them go away, but I'm not putting forth any effort." We could do this just as easily, well, at a BAR. And there'd be drinks there! Perhaps we should rethink our strategies.

  2. I am continually ashamed about my dietary habits. Why do I eat massive quantities of absurd things? Tonight I have eaten likely a full half cup of shredded parmesan--one tiny handful after another out of the canister in succession. Mind you, I said shredded, not that powdery grated stuff, but still. I need help. A culinary intervention might be in order.

  3. If you are a horrible person, then I am, too. If you weren't a hidden ball of rage who's given up gossiping for lent, I would suggest we get together to dissect all of this very soon.

  4. I have a theory about my athletic ability (or lack thereof). I'm pretty sure my parents planned to have only two children; I think my younger sister was an unplanned surprise to some extent. As a result, they had only enough "stuff" to pass along two two kids. My older sister got half of the athletic ability available to all of us, and my younger sister and I had to split the meager amount that was left. I lucked out and got probably 65% of that remaining half, whereas my little sister was so shafted in this area that she can barely enter a room without running into the door frame. I could provide additional examples of this "not enough 'stuff' for three kids" theory, but it's really not important, and as a scientist, you're probably horrified that I'm even joking about something so ridiculous and medically improbable. I'll stop now.

  5. I'm going to hope he had a thesaurus nearby when he wrote that. Also, WHY no capital letters? Dammit, why does everyone think they're e.e. cummings?

So that's my end-of-week, in email snippets. What's on your mind (or in your correspondence) lately?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday indeed

In all the excitement over the historic nature of today's caucuses and primaries, I almost forgot that a woman and a black man aren't the only notable names I'll see on my ballot tonight. No, I forgot that, in Minnesota, anyway, we get the chance to cast a vote for Stuart Smalley.

Go Al. You can do it. Because you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. And to you, Mayor Quimby? It's been real. Don't let the door hit you on your way out.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I promise I'll stop talking about spelling after this. (Well, for a while, anyway.)

All right then. At the risk of being anticlimactic, I am finally ready to share all the spelling bee details. Or, some of the details, anyway. The number of local search engine hits I've gotten in the past two days traced to the name of that event has made me leery of typing "unken-dray elling-spay ee-bay" any more times than necessary. I had fully intended to be pretty generous with the editorializing, but since I don't know which other participants or spectators might Google their way in, I'm hesitant to do so now. I mean, I could go on and on about the prick from Indiana who thought he'd been sprinkled by the spelling gods with immunity dust, but "prick" is really a relative term; it's all subjective, isn't it? And besides that, his half-naked girlfriend couldn't correctly spell "butterflies," so clearly he has his own cross to bear, doesn't he?

First off, I would just like to say a hearty "thank you kindly" to all of you who said you were entirely unsurprised by my victory. When I asked my friend Michael (who forced me into participating in the first place) why it was so important to him that I get up there, he said, "Because I want to see you WIN." I promise you, I had no intention of winning. Spelling bees are a crapshoot; we all know that. My goal was only not to humiliate myself--more specifically, not to be eliminated in the first round.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Speller #1 was eliminated immediately... on the word accessory. The crowd was surprised but pretty forgiving. Plying people with alcohol always helps; does it not? And following that, at least half the first round contenders were ousted. (It's sad; spelling really is a lost art.) My first round word was nugatory--a word I couldn't define but have actually seen before, and therefore I spelled with no problem at all. I eased up and had the requisite inter-round drink. If I went out on "millennium" (which I surely would have spelled either "millenium" or "milennium"), so be it. We were all just there to have fun.

In the second round, I lucked out and got a word from the "Hipster" category. When I heard the word in a sentence, I wasn't at all worried I'd spell celibating wrong. But the third round, I actually worked for it. That round went something like this...

Judge: Speller number [I forget her number], your word is "Butt fuck."
Nice girl whose number I forget: Butt fuck? Oh, OK. B-U-T-T space F-U-C-K.
Crowd: [Various cheers, hoots, and hollers. Obvious general appreciation for the Hipster and Pop Culture categories]
Judge: Speller number 28 [that's me], your word is "Ooh-blee-ett."
Crowd: [General menacing and foreboding groan]
Me: Ooh-blee-ett? Um, can I spell "Butt fuck" instead?
Judge: Nope. Sorry. Your word is "Ooh-blee-ett."
Me: Can I have the definition and origin, please?
Judge: An Ooh-blee-ett is a dungeon with an opening only at the top. Origin: French
Me: [seemingly long pause] Ooh-blee-ett... O-U-...
Crowd: Oooh! [General groans and whistles signaling "clearly you are WRONG!"]
Judge: Quiet, please. I need to hear the speller. Keep going, please, 28.
Me: Wait. O-U was right?
Judge: [Nods]
Me: O-U is RIGHT??
Judge: [Still nodding]
Crowd: [Suddenly silent]
Judge: [pause] That's correct.
Crowd: [Mad cheering all around, signifying clearly I AM a spelling goddess.]
Following that round was a sexy hula hoop routine, which some of you likely saw on Flickr. (Note: I left out the last photo in that series. Somehow I suspect posting a woman wearing only pasties above the waist might violate Flickr's terms of use.) And following that was the nearly naked round, where contestants who'd already been eliminated were allowed to come back on stage and compete in their underwear. I didn't post those photos either, for reasons that are probably equally obvious. Suffice it to say I have a bra-and-jeans-only photo of Jackass from Indiana's seemingly nice but bad-spelling girlfriend, but I'll do the right thing and not post it for the Interwebs to see. (This might also be a good time to mention that I didn't take any of those pictures. Michael was in charge of my camera the entire night.)

The winner of the nearly-naked round was a fun little man named Jaime, who was so unshy about photodocumenting the performance that he urgently thrust his own camera in my hands before he went on stage. Again, I don't feel right about posting him in his tighty-whiteys, but here's a shot of him (with me) fully clothed after the whole event.

The best speller and the best almost naked speller

In round four, my word was conflagration, which I know only because I am a huge enough nerd that I took notes as we went along. Apparently the "drunken" part of this bee was getting to me by then, because I don't remember spelling that word at all. That round wasn't actually a total blur, though. I do remember counting the five remaining contestants around me and thinking surely I was doomed to fail at that point. "Maybe coming in sixth at spelling bees is what I do," I thought, remembering my sixth grade defeat in the regional bee. Maybe it's an unavoidable jinx in some way. If my word in that round had been pejorative, I've have thought the universe was speaking to me. Instead, I correctly spelled conflagration, proving again that the universe really pays no attention to me.

By round five, there were only four of us still in the running, and the three women in that group had formed an alliance, all saying (while glaring at Indiana Boy), "I don't care which one of us wins. But ONE of us has to TAKE. HIM. DOWN." I should note that he may not have actually been so awful. Alcohol does have a tendency to heighten emotions. But he rubbed most of us the wrong way in the first round (when the judges asked him to repeat the last part of his spelling and he pranced off the stage scoffing, "No. I spelled it right"), and his attitude only escalated from there. Also, he may not have actually been from Indiana, but I don't remember precisely which "I" state he claimed to be a former champ of, so for the sake of my story, he's Indiana's black sheep to bear.

In round five, I actually went down, by mysteriously trying to put a "th" in proselytize. (Was I thinking of "prosthetic"? I have no idea. Apparently I just never learned how to spell that word.) Luckily, all four of us tanked in that round, so they brought us all back up on stage. (Mind you, brought us back only after Indiana Boy tried to claim victory as last-man-standing by virtue only of his later-number place in line. Luckily, the judges said, "No, you have to spell first" and when he blew his word, we all got another try.)

At that point, they mixed up our order and made Indiana spell his word first. They also made him spell sans his pants, which tells me the judges didn't like him any more than we did. He flubbed his word, as did the two nice women who followed him, and then it was my turn again. (Note: What was that I said about not editorializing? Sorry, Indiana; you just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess.)

Judge: Speller number 28, your word is "guy-no-bib-la-phobia."
Me: Can I have the definition, please?
Judge: "Guy-no-bib-la-phobia." A fear or dislike of women authors.
Me: [Silently breaking down the root words, using that awesome liberal arts education of mine...] Guy-no-bib-LEE-OH-phobia?
Judge: [Squinting at the paper the word was printed on, obviously feeling the effects of the free PBR herself] Oh. Yes. Guy-no-bib-lee-OH-phobia.
Me: G-Y-N-O-B-I-B-L-I-O-P-H-O-B-I-A

My friend Michael says as soon as he heard me question the pronunciation, he knew I had the bee wrapped up. The host descended on me with that yellow and black striped hat and matching scarf and she declared me the winner of the whole bee. The scarf and hat wasn't the only prize, though. The grand prize was a free tattoo, courtesy of a local tattoo spot. It wasn't just any tattoo, however. Apparently I got very little say in it. "It's a tattoo of a drunken bee," she said. "And if you take it, you HAVE to get it, and you HAVE to decide RIGHT NOW. Otherwise we'll give it to someone else."

The crowd was cheering, saying, "Yeah! Get it!" But I'm far, far too practical for that. Suddenly I saw myself at 96, wondering why on earth I had a shriveled, dizzy bee on my ass. I mean, a bee tattoo, for the rest of my life? All because I won a spelling bee in a bar? But then again, a BEE TATTOO! For the rest of my life! All because I won a spelling bee in a bar!! Frankly, I'm having a smidge of winner's remorse about passing on the prize. They couldn't really force me to get a drunken bee, could they? Maybe at least a sober bee? Wouldn't that have been fun? Alas, I turned it down, and it's too late to change my mind now.

And with that, I think I've answered all of your questions. Oh. Except for -R-'s, regarding the 3D glasses. Those were for the burlesque show that followed the bee. One girl performed her act behind a curtain lit with a red and blue light. Hence, 3D glasses for the full effect.

I actually got to talking with one of the performers later, and she handed me her card and asked if I'd be interested in a burlesque class. Tempting, I suppose. A useful skill, maybe. But I think I'll stick to spelling for now.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Patience, nerdlings

I know, I know. You are waiting for an update about the spelling bee. And I had fully intended to write one tonight. But you know what? After downing a drink every round of the spelling bee (plus a few more congratulatory ones post-bee), going to bed after 3:00 a.m., and spending the day doing manual labor (namely, step 1 of the basement beautification project I've got planned), I am way too damn tired for a full story tonight.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I promise.

Meanwhile, pics are up on Flickr if you're interested. Peace out.

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

People! I fucking WON the first-ever Minneapolis Drunken Spelling Bee. Can you even believe it?? I still pretty much can't. More details later, when it's not 3:10 in the morning and when the alcohol level in my bloodstream isn't such that I'm bound to mistype some very simple word and effectively negate my victory.

Seriously though. I WON. Did you honestly see that coming?? I sure didn't. Wow.

P.S. My defeat in the 1986 Sheboygan County Regional Spelling Bee is officially redeemed. Thank you, and good night.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Democrats and garlic and tequila (oh my)

So remember when I used to post a list of five things every single Friday, and those five things actually had some sort of unifying theme to them? Yeah, I remember that, too. This is not one of those unified sort of lists, by the way. Randomness is the only theme today.

  1. With Edwards out of the race, it occurs to me that the dumbest man I have ever wasted two hours of my life with was actually right: the next president is going to be a woman or a black man! (Or, I sure hope is it, anyway.) I wonder if Mr. Nonfiction-Means-Not-True finally knows that particular black man's name by now. I sure hope so.

  2. On a related note, can I just say how very happy I am to have nerdy and civic-minded friends who actually think watching the Democratic presidential candidate debate is a valid excuse for a get-together? I am tired and groggy and nursing a food and wine hangover today (Helpful tip: garlic in the pasta, garlic in the hummus, and garlic in the guacamole is a little too much garlic for one night, unless you really still want to taste garlic in your throat 14 hours and two teeth brushings later), but for once, the grogginess and hangover isn't due to staying out well past my bedtime at a noisy concert or crowded bar. No, it's from hanging out in my living room, striving to be an informed participant in the political process. Oh, and also from hours of post-debate chatting about books and gyms and boys (OK, mostly boys). But still! Nerdy friends! I love you guys.

  3. Speaking of nerdery (Hey! Maybe there is a theme to this list after all!), I am very much looking forward to the Drunken Spelling Bee tomorrow night. I don't know that I'll actually be playing, as pre-registration was already full when I tried to sign up, but I'm preparing for the possible spell-off anyway. Also, nervous about what "dirty words" they might ask me to spell, I actually found myself looking up a few words that I haven't tried to locate in a dictionary since I was twelve years old. That four-syllable word that starts with "c" and ends with "gus"? I know how to spell it. I wasn't positive before, but I'm sure of it now. And the related one that starts with "f" and ends with "tio"? Yep; I've got that one covered, too. Because I'm extra awesome and professional, I even looked them up at work. And now I feel all dirty and wrong. (Hi, company IT manager! Have fun perusing my web use logs this week!)

  4. Just as I was starting to remember to check my blood pressure (like my new geriatric doctor recommended) every time I go to Target, it appears Target has decided not to provide free blood pressure screening machines any longer. This means I may have to visit the potentially hot and helpful firefighters for this service after all. I'll keep you posted if I do so, of course.

  5. And finally, although I may have slightly high blood pressure, my muscles are obviously still super-strong and healthy... Seeing as it has been colder than any other place on earth here lately (or so said a woman at my gym, who swears she heard it on the news), and seeing as I had some leftover limes in my kitchen that I felt the need to use, I decided a random sub-zero Wednesday was as good a night as any to pretend I was someplace tropical and mix up a margarita in my kitchen. On my first squeeze of the lime with my handy citrus squeezer, however, the handle snapped right off the cup and pinched my poor unprepared palm. Mind you, this was a metal handle fused with a metal cup. Clearly I don't know my own strength. (Shoddy workmanship could not possibly be a factor here.)

(Note: Right here is where I was going to insert a picture of the poor useless bits of broken metal as evidence of my alarming hand strength, but alas, I neglected to pull them off my camera and upload them to the Web. You'll just have to take my word for it on this.)

By the way, should you want to have a tropical margarita night yourself sometime (with or without the help of a metal citrus smasher), I have an excellent recipe for you. It is tasty and strong and sure to obliterate your unsuspecting friends, but if you're willing to take that risk, here's what you'll need:

  • Lime juice (fresh-squeezed is best)

  • Triple sec

  • Tequila

  • Margarita salt for the rim

Ratio those liquids thusly: one part lime juice, two parts triple sec, and three parts tequila. (Yes, three parts tequila. Do it!) Shake it all up in a cocktail shaker and pour in a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice. Enjoy while thinking of warm sand beaches, and don't drive anywhere for a good long while. (Safety first, safety always, my friends.)