Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Less Entertaining Than Watching Paint Dry

Updated with details!

Because my paint is already dry!

Yeah. I took this very brief video footage with my camera. It's a quick, dimly lit walk-through of my apartment. With ridiculous commentary.

Hey, at least it's not a post about a mailer!

But my sisters have never seen what my place looks like and they asked. And then I put it up on YouTube and so I dunno. Lame. But here it is.

A couple things to note (as though anything at ALL about this is notable):

1. I was sorting through some laundry before shooting this, and for whatever reason, didn't finish the job. That's what's on my bed. With Sherlock behind it.

2. I stop myself from saying "my TINY livingroom" because I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. But it's not like you can't HEAR that that's what I'm saying, so it's just weird.

3. And speaking of dry paint, you can almost make out the color of my hallway.

4. Also, I sigh very loudly in the kitchen and I don't know why. And that squeaking sound is my Crocs on the fake linoleum floor.

* * * * *

In the meantime, look at all the help with paperwork I'm getting...

* * * * * *

More details than you'd ever, ever want...

1. The unmistakable book jacket of The Joy Of Cooking. My very first copy, in fact, given to me by my cousin Nate this Christmas. Perfect!

2. The pink cutting board Ish got me for Christmas last year. I wrote about it and then had to take the post down because of drama, which (hi, Kirin) I'll be getting into more later.

I should (must) note here that the shelf above the sink was installed by Ish. It took a few tries, holes, plastering, more holes, more plastering, tape, and my getting to use a level, but it looks great now.

3. Knick-knacks. I guess maybe everyone is like this, but I know exactly where every little piece of everything in my apartment came from.

The yellow watering can on the left and the yellow vase in the windowsill were my mom's, from before I was born. The decorative cutting board there in the center was something she picked up in DisneyWorld (from the English shop in Epcot). The tiny little clump of an object directly to the left of the candle-lamp is acutally a small mustard pot; my mom and aunt both purchased one of these when they were in Dijon, France. (Lisa, if you're reading, please tell Aunt Mar I have this!)

The vase was something I picked up in the Italian shop in Epcot on -- yes -- my honeymoon. I believe it is the last remaining piece of anything I own from my honeymoon, short of the Disney vacation video that Dave and I are on. (Now THERE is something I should YouTube!)

The flowers in the vase are fake silk flowers I found in an antique shop. In my former life, I once actually drove up to New Hampshire with my also-youngly-married friend for the sole purpose of spending a weekend antiqueing with my mother. This is the lone remnant.

Finally, the candle-lamp thing. It's red (duh) and beaded. It matches the desk lamp and floor lamp that came in a set from Pottery Barn. I purchased them in September or October of 1997, just before Dave and I would move into our apartment. The lamps are the first pieces of "actual furniture" I ever bought, and they are the only things that started in my parents' house, went to my first apartment in Stamford, CT to my home in Faifield, CT, to my first apartment in San Francisco...then my second and third apartment in SF, and are finally here with me now, in my fourth.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Cat's Meow

Ever notice that there are phrases that, in this day and age, ONLY get used in ad copy? As puns?

For example, have you ever been anywhere in the last three decades where someone actually referred to something as being the cat's meow?

No. You haven't.

You have, however, seen cat food, furniture, and toys referring to themselves that way.

Try our new catnip-flavored jingle ball! Mittens with think it's the cat's meow!

No, Mittens won't.

(Mittens will actually probably try and eat the ball to get at the catnip, and, failing that, pounce on, forcing it till to roll under the couch where you'll both forget about it until three years later when you sell the couch on Craigslist.)

(I'm just saying.)

Anyway, there are a bunch of these phrases, and this blog post would list all of them, except I can't think of any more right now. (Now THERE is some honest advertising, huh?)

I will, however, leave you with this brilliant mailer I received the other day. Because don't know, it's just some kind of modern day mailer miracle.

Who makes ads like this these days? Who?
Say No Senior

Well, Life Alert, I guess. Remember them? The creators of I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up?

I suppose if I wanted to get SENIOR's attention, maybe using brightly colored scare tactics really is the best way to go.

On the other hand, what I really want to know is, what was that photo shoot like?

Photograher: Okay, Ma'am, what we want from you is to look tough. You're standing your ground. You are saying NO to those nursing home bitches.

Senior: [makes a face]

Photographer: That's good, but it's not quite tough enough. Pretend they just called you SENIOR and slapped your picture on a bright yellow and red flyer...perfect!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Um. x3.

Um. #1: Oh, I see. Well then.


I guess on the one hand, it's really great that you can download firmware to fix the tiny little issue of your COMPUTER JUST TURNING OFF RANDOMLY.


Of course, there's also this message on the bottom of the same page.


Maybe I am seeing things in black and white, and not from the eyes of a tech person, but I think having a line of computers that just GO OFF is kind of a big issue. Yeah? No? Anyone?

So I installed the firmware updates, which then led to my computer turning itself off even more than before. Yay!

I had to call directory assistance to get the 800 AppleCare number because my computer wouldn't stay on long enough to provide me with the number itself.

The man I spoke with was very pleasant, which secretly annoyed the piss out of me, because MY COMPUTER JUST GOES OFF. I feel like, say, having trouble with one's email settings? Internet connections? That's cause for AppleCare folks to be chipper and helpful, a la "let me explain to you what your Extensions folder is." You know?

But when your computer seems to think that being ON is optional? Um, Mr.AppleCare man? "Won't stay on" is not a what I call a bug. I hate you and your "yes, this is a known problem" ways.

Anyway, the guy at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store seemed to be able to fix my known issue (so far, so good), but the entire experience makes me a bit leary, because I'd really prefer that my computer be, like, functional. As opposed to a really pretty paperweight with a Mac logo.

* * * * *

Um. #2: I'll Bet She Was Chewing Gum, Too.

As I mentioned earlier, I am helping my friend and co-singer, OneBadSue, plan her wedding. I couldn't be more excited about this, as she and her fiance are fabulous people and plus a little bit crazy (in the good way that we like here at She Walks) and the event is going to be fun and awesome even if I have nothing to do with it whatsoever.

They are thinking about having their rehearsal dinner at a non-traditional spot (a low-key eating place with great beer we'll call "The Spot"), and I am working on securing it for them. Which may be more difficult than I first thought. As illustrated below.

I call The Spot when I know they are open but probably not too busy, and am immediately thwarted by their automated phone system. Would I like to be connected to the bar? I figure there's probably someone there, so why not? I hit "5" and get an answering machine, followed by a hang-up.

I call back.

"0" for more information gives me three minutes of recorded details about their hours of operation, calendar of live events, and -- of course -- driving directions -- but zero information of how one might go about speaking to a live human being. Cool.

Fine, then, despite that I don't know who "Ginny" is, I will call back and hit "1" to speak with her. But then she never picks up.

I call back a FOURTH TIME, and picked "2" to place a to-go order.

The Hostess answers the phone.

Hostess: Hello, The Spot, can I take your order?

Me: Hi there. I'm not calling with an order; actually, I'm calling about a private event.

Hostess: A what?

Me, clearer, because perhaps she didn't hear me: A private event.

Hostess: Like, what do you mean?

This is a very bad sign.

And honestly, I wasn't sure which was more problematic: that she, as hostess of a restaurant had never heard of the phrase "private event," or that she couldn't figure out the meaning in context.

Me: I'd like to have a large group of people in for a private dinner. Do you do that?

Hostess: Oh, ah...I don't know.



Me, politely: Okay. Is there a manager or someone there I can speak to about it?

And then, as though this were the dumbest question she'd ever been asked and gosh, what kind of idiot is on the phone, replies:

Hostess: You can talk to ME!



Me: Okay.

Hostess: many people would this be?

Me: Probably around 45 people.

Hostess: Hold on.

I can hear as the phone is put down on something hard. There's restaurant din in the background. A few seconds later, the phone is picked back up.

Hostess: Yeah, we can do that. So...


Hostess: Let me make this reservation --

And before I had a chance to clarify that just "making a reservation" for 40 probably wouldn't work, she asked:

Hostess: When is this for?

Me: October.

Hostess: OCTOBER?!?!

She said "October" absolutely incredulously, as though the month of October were as far away as the year 2050 and, really, who could possibly know if they'd even be alive then, let alone where they'd want to be for dinner. And also I'm guessing she wouldn't have any idea how to make that reservation anyway because her book only went as far as, like, next month.

Me, as seriously as possible: Yes. October. This is a rehearsal dinner. For a wedding. That is why I'm asking about private dining options.

I think these were the magic words, because it seemed I had finally revealed to her exactly what a "private event" is. Because she next says:

Hostess: Oh, well, like. There's the Board Room.



Me: And do you do private events there?

Hostess: Well, sometimes groups eat in there. I'm not sure how they reserve it.



Um. But. Um.


Me: Do you know how many it seats?

Hostess: Hold on.

At this point I'm guessing whoever she spoke to earlier is now standing within earshot because rather than put the phone down, she simply covers it with her hand.

Hostess: It seats like, 30.


I wonder if at any point she is going to pick up on the fact that by and large? 30 is LESS THAN 45.

Me: That probably won't work then. Do you know how many the restaurant seats in total?

Hostess: Like, the whole place?

Me: Yes.

Hostess, exasperated: Hold on.

More murmuring.

Hostess: We don't know how many exactly, but it's a lot.

Oh, well, then! Perfect!

Me, knowing full well what the answer would be: Do you know how much it would cost to have the entire restaurant for a few hours?

Hostess: You mean like, have the whole place private? I don't know if we do that.

You don't say.

Hostess: Hold on.

There was murmuring in the background again, but it was cut short when whoever the Hostess was talking to had lost her patience and grabbed the phone from her.

Hostess's boss: Hello there, may I help you?

She sounded as though she was already fed up with me, as though I were asking ridiculous questions for no good reason.

Me: I just wanted to talk to someone about a private event.

Hostess's boss: Ohhhh!

SOMEHOW the Hostess had not managed to communicate this to her boss, which is maybe even harder to comprehend than the the "You can talk to me!" comment.

Perhaps not surprisingly, her boss recommended that I call back this week and ask to speak to the manager.

Yeah. No kidding.

* * * * * *

Um. #3: Not cute enough.

There are a few establishments in San Francisco where I can safely assume that the male manager has hired the scantily-clad, none-too-bright-but-awfully-cute female staff based not so much on their technical skills.

One such establishment is a coffee shop between Ish's apartment and the garage where he keeps his car parked. When I sleep at Ish's, I get coffee at this shop on my way home because it is convenient.

Except when it isn't.

The New Girl is young, probably 19ish, and cute. She also doesn't speak so good English.

Which would not be an issue for me at all if she weren't also incompetent. But simply getting a medium coffee has proven difficult in the past, and on the days when I add something to my order -- say, a bagel, or a bottle of water -- the exchange becomes downright painful. She doesn't understand what I am saying, and feels self-conscious about it so she giggles and blushes, and then gets things wrong and giggles more. And you know? At 7:30 a.m. I really just want to get on with my day.

One morning last week I was really hungry and decided I would stop in the cafe. As we walked in, I told Ish that I wanted a bagel, and he looked at me nervously.

"Don't worry," I said. "I won't have her toast it."

And here is pretty much how our exchange went:

New Girl: Good morning!

Me: Hi. Can I have a medium drip coffee, please?

New Girl: Just drip?


Me: Yes(?)

New Girl: What size?

Me: Medium.

New Girl: You want leave room for cream?

Me: No, thank you.

New Girl: Is that all?

Me: Actually, I would like... [I eye my choices] a poppy seed bagel. With cream cheese, but NOT toasted.

New Girl: Okay. [She pours the coffee and puts that down on the counter in front of me. She has left room for cream.] What bagel?

Me, pointing: The poppy seed.

She grabs the bagel and brings it over to the counter behind her. She goes into the fridge and gets out a tub of cream cheese, and goes to the sink and gets a knife. Then she starts slicing the bagel, but about half-way through the process turns back to me.

This has already taken twice as long as it should.

New Girl: You want cream cheese and slice?


What? I just want to go. But since she's already started with the slicing process, and um, because they apparently don't have cream cheese packets, what other choice is there?

Me: Yes(?)

She then finishes slicing the bagel and goes back to the fridge and pulls out tomatoes.


And then I realize. "Slice" is in reference to "tomatoes." Got it.

Me, to her back: Oh! Sorry, no! No tomatoes!

She turns to me, confused.

Me: I'm sorry, I do not want those. No tomatoes.

I shake my head and hands to indicate no. She then sort of shrugs and returns the tomatoes to the fridge and completes spreading the cream cheese on the bagel.

And then, without a word or any kind of warning at all, she puts the bagel and cream cheese in the microwave.

I stood there, confounded. I had clearly lost the battle.

Ish leaned in to me and said, "Your mouth just actually twitched."

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Go on, check it out. Consider it "in beta."

(Note that it's also in WordPress. That's because the NEW blogger is also in beta, even though it pretends it isn't, and frankly, we can't deal with it anymore.)

Top Chef, American Idol, The Apprentice, You're The One That I Want. Followed by Top Design.

And possibly Survivor.

The Darwin Salon

stephanie said...

...Anthropoligically speaking, we're hardwired to compete for mates - whether or not we already have a mate. It's why I gave up on female hairdressers.

This is quite possibly the most brilliant thing anyone has ever spelled out for me. Not only that, but it's quite timely.

Because Invisible Internet Friends, I have some news for you.

I have a mullet.

Let me say that again. Because it bears repeating because it's a mullet.

I have a mullet.

How does one get a mullet, you ask? How do the forces of evil and nature and hilarity conspire against a reasonably aware and un-mullet-friendly 31-year-old who is just trying to get to the point of being able to walk down the street and not feel like she should be wearing a canvas sack to cover her enormous body, let alone her mullet-ed head, too?

Because I will tell you one thing: I may be "spirited" and "interesting" and all, but I am not so well advanced in my interesting-ness that I think I should voluntarily sport a mullet.

Here is what happened:

I have once or twice mentioned my hairdresser, whose name is Emily, here before. Because she is awesome and hysterical and reasonably priced and knows me and we have good chats. The color she gives me is usually pretty good, too.


But you notice how up there, where I praise my hairdresser, I do not actually mention anything about loving her for giving me good haircuts?

So let me go back a step.

The best cut and color I have ever had in San Francisco was administered by a hairdresser I was afraid of. She had a bleached blond MOHAWK and I am not in any way kidding about that.

I am also not kidding when I say the mohawk wasn't the reason I stopped seeing her. Even though it was a TALL and SPIKED mohawk.

It's that she used to have me help her with my color. I had to hold up a board against my head so she could paint on the highlights allllllllll the way down to the roots. She insisted that it was the best way to get the color onto the roots, and I believed her, except what I really wanted to tell her was that it was not my idea of a good time.

I don't actually like going to a salon and being forced hand over gobs of my salary just for the privelege of GETTING TO DO MY OWN HAIR.

Plus, it's not like sitting in the chair with the apron on that makes you look even fatter than you already do with your hair teased out in aluminum foil makes you feel glamorous, exactly.

Foiled Again!
(um, this is not me, but i felt like including a picture. i hijacked it from another blog. so there.)

And you know? Holding some sort of board to your head while a very determined and brusque lady with a mohawk jabs at your scalp with a paintbrush of toxic chemicals DOES NOT MAKE IT BETTER.

But I was too afraid of her to tell her this.

So rather than be confrontational in any way ("Um, it's really okay if you don't manage to access that 0.000016" of roots there at the surface of my scalp. I don't think anyone will notice. I won't even notice, to be perfectly honest with you. And also? My arm is tired and cramping, and you don't know me very well but I should not be trusted to hold anything near a reasonably dangerous substance because if I'm left unattended I might cause an explosion of some sort."), I did the only reasonable thing.

I found a new salon.

Enter Emily, and the funny things she says. Hurrah! for not being afraid of my hairdresser.

On the downside, "can I have some layers" never quite translated to what I hoped. In the three years I've been going to Emily, "layers" always seemed to result in the same thing: one long layer, with one shorter layer on top. A la mushroomhead.

No matter how I would try and clarify that "layerS" meant more than ONE, my hair always came out the same.

So finally, one day last week, I decided my hair'd been growing for too long and it was time to get it cut and
[I made a deal with myself a long time ago. I would grow my hair out and long and would not revert to cutting it shorter (above the shoulders) again until I have lost the weight I want to. I don't have a goal weight for this, but I am not allowed to significantly shorten my hair until I'm happy with my body. Just one of those things. Issues. You know.]

thought maybe it was time to let liking my haircut be a more important criterion in selecting a salon than liking my stylist.

Especially now, since my hair's getting kind of long and heavy and stringy and it needs professional help. It needs more than one layer. Thus, I bit the bullet and went to a new place. To a new hairdresser.

Her name is Emily.

When I arrived, she told me to look at pictures and tell her what I wanted. We discussed, at great length (har, har) what I was going for and what I didn't like about my current look.

I was excited. She clearly understood where I was coming from. She clearly had excellent training and schooling and spoke with all sorts of precision and technical jargon and was nice and sweet and then she started cutting.

Remember the Rachel haircut?
Styling my hair like this was the best it's ever looked. I don't care if it's outdated now, it's just the best shape for my face ever. I always ask for it. I never get it.

Somewhere about 5/8 of the way through this session, my hair looked great: thicker and fuller and shaped and perfect. She's done a great job, I thought.

And then she kept going.

You know that feeling. I know you know that feeling. That feeling where you're in the chair and you feel the scissors and you think, "she's not really cutting THAT much is she?" but you don't look down on the floor because you know. You know you will look down and there, on the floor, will lie a massive heap of hair, representing months of strife and "growing out" and remnants of previous colors and what is it doing there? On the floor? And not on your head? And you know if you see it your stomach will lurch and it won't be good. So you pretend.

But things got undeniably short when we got to my bangs. Do you want your bangs a little shorter than they are now? she asked. And my thought was, I have bangs now? So I said yes, a little.

But IIFs, we all know that "a little" never means what we non-scissor-wielding people think it does.

When all was said and done, I walked out of the salon feeling fine. I hadn't gotten any coloring (I'm taking a break on highlights for now; I haven't NOT had to worry about roots in 15 years, which is freeing; plus damn! are they ever expensive), but with so much of my previously lightened hair cut off, it looked darker. And sure, my bangs were shorter than I wanted, but they were styled cutely so I didn't really notice.

Except. As the afternoon wore on, and I started playing with my hair and trying new looks, I realized it: she gave me the "now it will grow out much better" cut. Which is what I wanted. And asked for.

But it didn't occur to me what that actually meant.

Translation: your hair will look better in 3-6 months. For now? Ahahahahahahaahahahahaaaaah!

So the next day when I showed my hair to my friend -- yes, that's right, my friend EMILY -- and said I'm not happy with it, that I will be happy with it, but I'm not now, because the layers are great but so much shorter than I'm used to, especially the ones on top and yes, the back is still long and what is that face you're making? it all came into focus.

Yeah, she said, pretty much trying not to laugh at me, you kind of have a mullet!

At which point Ish could not contain himself. Joe Dirt! JOE DIRT! he exclaimed in a white trash accent, while pointing at my head and snorting with laughter.


All I can say is, Hairdresser Emily II has no idea what kind of mate she's competing for.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Getting To The Bottom Of Some Seriously Big Issues

It's hard to be a blogaholic. I mean, it's great and awesome and YAY! for social media, but it can be a little frustrating because I find if I look hard enough, someone has already written what I've wanted to, and written it better.

I often feel this way about Laurie, but this post of hers (which is garnering a lot of attention in the blogosphere) is pretty KAPOW!

The interesting thing about this for me is that she's saying a lot of things I want to be saying, as usual, except.

Oh, except, except.

This time, she's not just writing something I wish I'd written. She's writing something I wish I felt.

But I don't.

I cried and felt exposed when reading her post, but not -- as many others expressed -- because she feels the way I feel. Instead (for one of the first times) I read her and felt sad and exposed because I am 31 and on the other side of some pretty big struggles too, and I don't feel the way she does.

Am I wrong? Am I immature? Am I in desperate need of therapy? Am I hopeless? Am I stubborn and obstinate and troubled, deeply troubled, and also doomed? Am I just petty?

If you're not going to go read her, then let me summarize some of her points:
  • She grew up on weight-patrol. She has lived a life of dieting and watching her figure for reasons such as wanting to be popular/be a cheerleader/fit into that dress/have X guy notice her, date her, love her, marry her (or any variation thereof).

  • When her life took a dramatically unfortunate turn, she gained more weight than she'd ever put on before. And then she suffered the wrath of the overweight (i.e., much of the world ignoring you, thinking you invisible, less important, blah blah blah -- if you're overweight, you know).

  • But Ah-ha! She also discovered during her "downturn" that when you don't want the world intruding, that a layer of insulation can feel kind of cozy. That feeling invisible is sometimes welcomed.

  • Um, but over time, she's healed. She's gotten stronger and better and more whole and declares:

    "...for the first time in maybe my whole life I'm okay. I have challenges and lots of work to do, but at a fundamental level I'm mostly happy with my new self. My life as a thirty-something divorcee with a herd of cats and some quirks.

    So now being overweight isn't really giving me the payoff it once did. Or, more specifically, it's no longer good for me to be bad to myself."

  • And THEN she makes her big, declarative statement which is the crux of her post and where, I believe, we all want to be. She announces she cannot -- will not -- go on another diet.

Basically, she believes she needs to eat, be, live healthy for the sake of eating, being, living healthy.

To which I say, hallelujah!

And also, let me know how that works out for you.

* * * * *

She's right. I know she's right. I just can't get on board because it does not work for me.

And that, dear invisible internet friends, is a pretty new revelation. Sad and shameful, perhaps, but there it is. After a few years of trying to convince myself of it, I must accept that "being healthy" isn't a good motivator. How can that be? How can being healthy not be a goal? I ask myself.

And you know? My honest self answers:

Because your desire to "be healthy" is nowhere near as great as your desire to "look damn hot."

Awesome! So basically after years of trials and tribulations, weight loss and weight gain, marriage, divorce, death, moving, career shifts, and myriad other life-altering experiences, I have still have the value system of a 15-year-old.

Cool. Pass the Twizzlers and Diet Coke.

But in all seriousness, I think it's time I take a new approach. By which I mean I have to stop lying to myself (ex: I don't care what I look like, I just want to be healthy!), and use what's worked for me in the past.

I have spent a lot -- a LOT -- of time thinking, believing (convincing?) myself that I'm a different person now that I'm in San Francisco and in my 30s; my "old tricks" would never work anymore.

Except at least my "old tricks" have worked before, and well. Whereas my "new tricks" -- the ones I've been trying to embrace as the new, happy and healthy me -- result in lots of blog posts and zero weight loss.

You see my inner conflict?

When I lost weight in college, I was motivated by anger. I wanted to "show them all" that I was as beautiful as any of the thinner girls I'd grown up with. I wanted to go back and see jaws drop and be taken as seriously as I always should have been. I'm smart, funny, and capable, yes, but now I'm beautiful and have a kickin' bod. Fear me, love me, envy me. That's what I wanted.

Um, and that's what I got.

When I lost weight in college, I was also motivated by what I would finally get. Sure, I'd be valued more and taken more seriously...but what would that mean? Well, I figured, that would mean better job offers, more dating opportunities, more life opportunities.

And it did.


So what happened? How did I gain it back?

The answer could be a novel in itself, but the nutshell is this: when I got what I wanted, my motivation disappeared. Then I got unhappy, and I just didn't care. Then I wanted to get my life back on track, but I could only manage so many things at one time; I needed all my strength to just figure out how to get out of bed every day, to know which way was up...I didn't have the bandwidth to also motivate myself to lose weight (because it is NOT easy and never was and never will be).

But so okay. So now here I am, today. My life is pretty much how I wanted it to be when I was a 19-year-old looking ahead at the 30-year-old me.

Which leaves me with what? If I have what I want, then where's my motivation? Being healthy? Not so far.

Thus, petty as it may be, I'm thinking it can't hurt to going back to the old ways. Meaning:

1. Focusing (again) on what I don't have right now that I could have if I were thinner. I don't mean "inner-self" wise, either. "Being healthy" is one thing, but being able to wear heels again? Maybe that's a more realistic carrot. And the really plain truth? I could come up with a real, genuine, motivational list of all sorts of these things.

And I'm gonna.

2. Owning up to what I am NOT happy about right now. For five years -- ever since I moved to San Francisco -- I have been surrounded by supportive, loving, accepting, encouraging people. Who I love. But who also have allowed me (or indulged me, or inspired me) to ignore that I do NOT like my upper arms looking like potato sacks, that ONE chin is really all I need, that my below-belly-button pouch is NOT cute like a kangaroo, that a puckered ass is NOT PREFERRED. I have spent five-plus years accepting me for who I am, not what I look like. Learning that there are many, MANY people out there who think I'm damn fine just the way I am.

But I am not one of them. I'm just not. And it's been a self-deluding game to say that I am.

I can't be okay with myself as I am and lose weight.

I want to lose weight.

I need to recognize that I'm not happy with myself. And be okay with that. (Ha!)

But really: maybe if I let myself acknowledge just how damn unhappy I am with my body as-is (and how happy I'd be with some weight-loss-related enhancements), I'll see some results.

This marks a radical shift in my approach, but I will confess -- it feels kind of good. It feels real.

I genuinely think that if I let my defenses down, and let myself think all those horrible thoughts I know lay buried, I will be motivated to exorcise them. Again.

For good.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You Know What? Why Don't YOU Pack Your Knives And Go. Seriously.

Dear Top Chef,


Bravo comes up with the classiest, most dazzling version of a reality television show ever -- oh, Project Runway, how I adore thee! -- and then you come along. You're like Project Runway's bitchy little sister. You wear your big sister's clothes and mimick her walk, and then get all pissy when you're not asked to the dance. Well, I got news for you. It's not the clothes and it's not the walk; it's about the bigger picture. It's about the attitude.

And your attitude? It sucks.

Anyone else concerned that I'm writing a letter to a television show? Mm, yeah.

Project Runway did it first, did it right, did it better. Why do you feel the need to alter their formula? Pardon the punnery, but you're messing with a winning recipe, and it's leaving quite a bad taste in my mouth.

Project Runway's formula works:
  • Find contestants who are talented
  • Give them challenges that test their abilities
  • If you give them really difficult challenges, with extra twists and turns, be fair when you judge them
  • Give them someone they can turn to for a little objective advice and support

I'm not saying that the judges on Project Runway are all sunshine and lollipops, but they offer fairly balanced feedback -- even with the disasters -- and recognize when challenges were tricky for everyone. They show compassion.

With the exception of Ted (we love you, Ted! Doo doo doo do do doo doot dooooo*), Top Chef's panels don't do the same. It's as though the judges take an "us against them" attitude. Every time Tom and Gail approach a challenge, they seem to walk into it with the expectation that the contestants will have sucked. "I wonder how bad they'll be THIS time."

They are smug and snide and unhelpful.

They are surprised, visibly and verbally, when contestants do well.

Their critiques are probably correct from an objective standpoint, but they never take into account how challenging the circumstances were. "If this were a real restaurant, we would have left." Um, if it were a real restaurant, it wouldn't have been BUILT IN 45 MINUTES.


I think it's ridiculous that during the restaurant challenge, Tom declared that there WERE NO WINNERS. That they had all failed.

Yeah, hi. Red flag. If a manager, or director, or coach, or CEO sets a challenge for her entire team and the entire team fails, guess who is responsible? (I'll give you a hint, Top Chef: it's not the team.)

Last year, I started off loving the show just as much as this year, but by the end I was just as pissed off. Remember last year's wedding challenge? Let me remind you:

For the Quickfire Challenge, you asked the chefs to come up with a unique and gourmet menu for a wedding. The winning menu would be selected by an engaged couple.

Given the openness of the challenge, the contestants came up with some really creative and difficult ideas.

But when the winner was selected, and you dropped the bombshell: that the winning menu had to be served at a wedding. THE NEXT DAY. You gave them extremely limited time and resources to pull something amazing off, they busted their asses to do it, and you? Rather than acknowledge how impossible the task had been, you GOT MAD WHEN THEY CUT CORNERS.

And then, yes you did, you said they'd all failed.

Don't you think they would have come up with different menus if they'd known they had 24 hours to pull it off, with only one overnight supermarket to buy from, with limited funds? Don't you think you were unfair? Don't you think you could have taken ANY of your limitations into account when judging?

Yeah. I noticed you didn't let them spout off about that during the reunion show.

So in looking back throughout this season and the (again with the punning) "meltdowns" that more than one contestant has had, I no longer thing it's their fault. I blame you.

Of course I think that there are more mature ways for contestants to handle themselves. Obviously they are under a lot of pressure and it's no wonder that they snap and spout off now and then. A reasonable amount of "losing it" happens on Project Runway every season. (Say it again with me: Where the HELL is my chiffon!)

But. As I've re-watched Mia's breakdown (since the first time it seemed bizarre to me), and the Lord Of The Flies-like treatment of Marcel, and Cliff's complete undoing, I can't believe it's just them being sensitive.

I think it's you, Top Chef, and your petulant, hypocritical, compassionless judges.

And before you go defending yourself about "some" cruel judges on "some other well loved reality show" being popular, I'll put it out there for you. I actually think Simon Cowell is kinder to the top 12 American Idol competitors than Tom is to his contestants. Simon has announced on more than one occassion that the contestants have had an off night, but he never calls them all failures. He doesn't always feel the need to qualify good performances. He doesn't go in expecting to be disappointed. And you know? Even when he is tough, he has a different job than your judges do, because he's not the one sending contestants home.

Yep. I think Simon is a more "palatable" judge than Tom. And that is really saying something.

Honestly, I believe it comes down to this: no one wants to watch a show where everyone loses. No one wants to watch a show where everyone is declared a failure. It makes your judges seem mean, and it turns us viewers off. It makes us uncomfortable. And angry.

The show is set up to have us rooting for our favorites, and so we do! And then when you slap them down, over and over, our spirits are diminished, too.

Don't you think that's kind of stupid?


I do. And I feel like your machinations have left me so that I almost don't care who wins anymore.

Marcel is weird and a little creepy, and obviously egotistical. But exactly who on the show isn't? Every single one of the contestants believes he/she is good enough to be there. Maybe editing has saved me from having to see all the really horrid aspects of Marcel, but he was ostracized early and completely. He's shouldered it pretty well, and he's never really lost his focus. I don't think he's ever even raised his voice, while I can count at least five other contestants who have outright yelled at him. I'm not saying I want him to win, but at this point, why not?

I really like Top Chef (and Project Runway) because the show, at least in pretense, focuses more on talent than interpersonal relationships. Marcel is the only one who has said more than once at the judges' table, "Can we just talk about the food?" Bonus points for that.

I'm surprised Elia is still around, except that I figure they can't very well send ALL the women home and none to the finale. (For what it's worth, I don't think the show is sexist, but I don't think they found very strong female competitors this year.)

Elia is young, and I think she shows it. She has not handled the pressure very well. Her decisions have been very inconsistent -- she's missed the mark completely as many times as she's been spot-on. She is not (yet) a good leader, and has not seemed to make very good interpersonal choices (she has consistently befriended under-performers). She has professed all along to like Marcel, but has been inactive and silent in his defense, especially in the last episode. Overall, I think she's cute, smart, interesting, multi-faceted and talented...but still learning. She comes across as too timid and unsure of herself to be a good leader.

And I don't think someone who tried to flambe with red wine should be Top Chef.

Ilan is now my least favorite, and I really liked him in the beginning. He's clearly a talented cook with sophisticated ideas and tastes. However, his complete inability to get over his dislike for Marcel is childish and annoying. If he were Top Chef material, he'd stay above the fray. As it is, he seems way too preoccupied with Marcel. Why is that, hmmm? Obviously, Ilan feels threatened...I wonder if it's because he's afraid of Marcel's talent, or if it's because Marcel hits a little too close to home? I suspect Ilan is afraid of being everything he accuses Marcel of.

And his crush on Elia is cloying.

Did anyone not think Sam would win from the very beginning? I mean, the winner might very well be an upset (because this whole season has gone south and who's to say anymore, really) but he's clearly the favorite. Unfortunately, he, too, can't seem to get over his hatred for Marcel, and it makes him seem petty. Harold -- last year's winner, who Sam certainly resembles in many ways -- kept his mouth shut and his focus on executing flawless challenges. Sam has not been able to do that. He's also off-puttingly cocky. A degree of arrogance is required, I think, but if he were really THAT sure of himself, he wouldn't feel the need to constantly put Marcel in his place.


In the end, Top Chef, I want to see the personalityless-(but-oh-so-much-better-than-Katie-blink-blink-Joel)-Padma turn to Gail and Tom and, quoting them as often as possible, thank them for their time but tell them they have been a complete failure. That waltzing in at the end of a challenge to offer nothing but smirks and raised eyebrows is in poor taste, and that they should have been able to offer more. That shaking their heads disapprovingly and laughing at your contestants is unnacceptable. That you don't understand why their feedback was never more balanced.

And then tell them to pack their knives and go.

Short of that, at least (pleaseohpleaseohplease) let Ted serve as Top Chef's Tim Gunn.

Let me know what you think,

*That'd be the theme song from Queer Eye, obviously. Duh.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Best Vegetarian Chili Recipe EVER!

Awesome recipe below, though this isn't technically a food blog.
I typically blog funny stuff, mostly about how I'm kind of a mess.
Please check out the archives and favorite posts on the right. Thanks!


1 package of vegetarian taco filling
(Kiki says: SoyTaco rocks, as does MorningStar Farms' ground beef. I tried some stuff called GoLean last night, and it didn't break down very easily and required lots of fork mashing. In any case, the stuff that comes in a tube should do the trick.)
1 Large onion, severely diced
1 Green pepper, also severely diced
2 Cloves garlic, likewise diced up really fine
1 Jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and very finely diced
Ginger Root-- Diced to equal about as much as 1/2 of your thumb
3 TBS oil, I prefer canola
1/2 TBS Chili Powder
2 ts Cumin
1 (rounded) ts cayenne
1/2 TBS salt, adjusted to taste depending on the beans used
1/2 ts Cocoa Powder
1 (rounded) TBS ground Mustard Seed
1 can (the big ones) (@ 1 pound) tomatoes, I prefer the crushed kind
4 (15 oz) cans of Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
1 (6 oz) can of Tomato Paste
some water
some wine


Open all the cans of beans, tomatoes and tomato paste. Set aside.
Drain and rinse the beans until all the canning fluid is gone. Set aside (typing 'set aside' makes me feel all cook-bookey...).

Heat the oil in a big ol' pot. A non-metal pot is best, really. (Kiki says: El_G is suggesting Pyrex/glass type pots because metals can interact with the tomato juices, but he also says that's being a bit particular. I use metal and it's fine.)

Dice up the onion, peppers, ginger and garlic. Dice them up as finely as is possible with a knife, although food processors do a great job of this as well.
Saute the diced vegetables on medium-low heat until the onions are clear, but not brown.
Add some red wine if you want to.
Add the crushed tomatoes and stir.
Add the tomato paste and some water. Stir.
Add the kidney beans.
Add the taco filling.
Stir, stir, stir.
If it looks too thick, add some more water.
Reduce the heat to a very low flame.
Add all of the spices.
Stir some more.
Put the lid on the pot and let it all simmer for at least an hour. More simmering won't hurt it, but I usually serve it once the onions aren't crunchy.

* * * * *
A Brief History

My ex, El_Gallo, put this recipe together ages ago, and re-emailed* it to me today. If you use the right fake meat, it thickens just like "real" chili, but is ever so much more healthful and scrumptious!

I had never liked chili -- hell, I'd never even liked beans before I tried this -- but for whatever reason (the weather, my mood, my newfound San Francisco open-mindedness) it just hit the spot lo those many moons ago.

Now, every year I make it when we're experiencing weather like this. Brrrr!


*El_G has emailed me this recipe no fewer than five times. I thought I had it stored in my Gmail, but apparently not. So now I figure I am immortalizing it by putting it here. No matter where I am, I can Google "El_Gallo vegetarian chili" et voila! Bon appetite!

They're Writing Blogs Of Love, But Not For Meeeee...

You know, I am very much enjoying writing these blog letters.

Dear Google,

I hear the New Blogger is out of beta. Congratulations on getting another step closer to ruling the world. I'm totally down.

Just um, could you please stop with the taunting? I'm starting to feel like a loser.

For months, you have been winking at me, suggesting that soon I, too, would be able to switch over. Soon I, too, would be rewarded with really cool New Blogger thingamabobs.

And I waited. And I watched.

I watched as my neighbors switched. I saw them all with their new labels and tags and who knows what all awesome doodads in their dashboards.

And then today -- just today! -- you appear on MY dashboard.


Oh, lucky day!

I am ready!

So I click. But...

I have to say, I grew a bit concerned about biting the bullet. You weren't exactly winning the highest marks when the New Blogger was in beta, and I was a bit nervous about moving allllllll of She Walks over.

But you know? You assured me.


Well, okay then.

So I signed on in.

And you know what happened, don't you? DON'T YOU!?!?

You are a lying, teasing hussy, Google.


You know what's especially nice about this message? The fact that, according to this, your entire reason for not being able to move one or more of my blogs over is that one or more of my blogs cannot be moved.


That's like telling me the reason the flight was cancelled is because there was a cancellation of the flight.


I shall now resume waiting for my turn while I continue to not understand typepad.


p.s. I especially like that after I wrote this post and published it successfully, you sent me this message:

Seriously. Hussy.

Where Did That Week Go?

There just isn't enough time.

January always seems like it's going to be a sucky month, back when you're looking at it from November and December. I always think, Man, after the rush of the holiday season, January is going to be dull and dreary and cold and dark and depressing. I wonder if there'll be anything to do.

But then it IS January and your days are jam-packed with all the stuff you didn't do for two months because you'd "get to it after the holidays."

At least, that's how it is for me.

I get these urges to start all sorts of projects because it's a New Year! New Start! Yay for resolutions! But also I have a backlog of stuff I put off, so anything I do that isn't work involves some sort of tradeoff...

If I read blogs today, I won't have time to write mine.
If I get back to knitting that scarf, I can't also go grocery shopping and make dinner.
If I start working on the novel, I can't read all the news/political websites I'd like.
If I arrange that song for my a cappella group, no writing, reading, or cooking is getting done.

You know how it goes. And when you add the copious dinners/happy hours/visits with friends you haven't seen in too long, there are just not enough hours.

Plus! I have also recently taken on another project -- the best, most awesome project ever: I am helping a friend plan and coordinate her wedding. HOW COOL! This is an actual, paid, professional gig, and I couldn't be more stoked about it.

But this leads me down a very, very dangerous road.

Because last Sunday when I wasn't running any errands, cleaning my apartment, or otherwise writing/reading/knitting/cooking/doing any of the things I promised I would this year, I was attending a wedding fair with miss OneBadSue.

And this is not just dangerous for the obvious reasons, such as the unlimited champagne or the cowering boyfriend at home with the cold sweats ("you're going WHERE?"). No.

Dangerous because I see all these fancy things and get inspired to be MORE CREATIVE and then decide, in addition to a professional wedding planner, that I should totally be a DESIGNER CAKE CHEF.

Yeah. Stay tuned for how THAT ambition turns out. I suspect I'll get to mixing fondants right after I finish this scarf.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Netflix" for Books

Speaking of reading...

I can't remember if I've mentioned it here before or not, but it's worth mentioning again.

BooksFree is a service that works just like Netflix except for paperbacks and audio books. For people who aren't near a library, or who just don't have the time to go to the library, this is a really cool site.

When I was devouring books during the last few months of my commute, it was an awesome option. Ish, whose commute is over an hour each way, uses this to get books on CD.

Anyway, it's a great resource. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Young Female English Major Sounds Off

Written on an airplane.

(That'd be me, in case you had any doubt.)

I stood in the bookstore at the Oakland Airport yesterday morning for a good thirty minutes, trying to figure out which of the limited titles in front of me would suffice for (yet another) cross-country plane ride.

I picked a Scott Turow novel because I'd never read him before, and he's always getting compared to Grisham, and maybe it would be "fun."

And halfway through his newest book -- a plodding, self-indulgent best-seller -- I discovered I was really, really frustrated.

I get that there's a difference between great literary works and the kind of books people buy to read on planes. I mean, I buy stuff just to read on planes. I enjoy fast, thrilling page-turners that sometimes also have some literary merit (Harlan Coben), but mostly just serve as literary quickies. I get writing for mass appeal.


It hit me over the head like a ton of bricks: all of these fast-paced, suspenseful-like thrillers are written by men over the age of 45.

After a few minutes, I sort of felt like this particular airport bookstore wall of "best-selling" options was smirking at me. I had so few choices:
  • I could read suspense novels written by men twenty years my senior.

  • I could read any of the "pink books" -- i.e., "fun" girlish books about things women do, like buy pink things or have dating problems.

  • I could read non-pink fiction books by women, but those seem to involve a lot of Victorian settings and/or vampires.

  • I could read Sue Grafton.

  • (I suppose I could read something non-fiction about my finances or blood pressure or new SUCCESSFUL! business strategies written by people whose only real business experience has been telling other people how to run a successful business; I could also stuff in-flight peanuts up my nose.)
Do you see my point? I have nothing against the pink books (if anything, this blog is a pink blog, you know?) but even those are few and far between, whereas Patterson is churning out #1 -- NUMBER ONE -- bestsellers left and right and what is going on there?

How is it there are almost no women writing hard-boiled, fun, suspenseful thrillers?

Is it because there aren't women buying them? That seems hard to believe. So what else is it?

I don't know, but I will tell you what I do know. Or rather, what I'm tired of. Publishing houses, take heed.

Dear Rapidly Approaching Middle-Aged White Authors of "Suspenseful" Best-Sellers:

I know you are too busy lighting your cigars with $100 bills to listen to my whiney little blog entry, but that's why folks like me have blogs. Are you familiar with the term, "blog"? It's like an online journal that encourages two-way communication between author and audience and is changing the very notions of media-- huh? What's that? Yes, I did mean "online" as in "the internet." You know Nevermind. Let's just say I have a few prickly suggestions.

For one, I would greatly appreciate it if for your next best-selling novel you would refrain from trying to write "strong" female characters. You aren't good at it. Most strong women aren't also always stunning beauties with a wooden-intended-as-wry sense of humor hoping -- just hoping -- for the not-as-good-looking older man to charm them into having wild sex in inappropriate places.

Also, strong women aren't prone to winking a lot, nor to referencing their partner's penis, directly or by nickname, in "sly" conversation.

I don't know where you picked up on this habit, either, but for the record: most white women do not call their female friends "girlfriend!" in casual conversation. No, not even in jest. Please stop with that.

In fact, do you think it would be possible for you to stop with dialogue altogether? Hmm? Because honestly, sirs, no one talks like that. Do you? No, I didn't think so.

I'm also not sure where you get your characters' names from, but I have a sneaking suspicion you troll the made-for-Lifetime movies on Sunday mornings hoping to find something you like. It is going well beyond cliche to have a brash character with the last name of Kincaid. In fact, if you have any character with the last name of Kincaid (or Kincaide, which no, does not make you cleverer), I will giggle at you. Tee hee.

Same goes for any "glamorous" female character you write with the last name of Sinclair.

I also think it would be great if the next time you decided to write about characters who come from or venture into poor, urban neighborhoods, you could find a way to write about rap or hip-hop music without sounding crushingly condescending.

And speaking of condescending, I don't know if it's you or if it's your editors or what, but unless you're a tech person, you might wanna lay off the "technical" jargon altogether. It's my personal opinion that you're shooting yourself in the foot with your brand of computer-speak. For example, when you're right smack in the middle of telling a very exciting tale about someone doing something nefarious, please don't interrupt the action to describe what email is.

Because sirs (and really, I cannot emphasize this enough): I know what email is.

It honestly frightens me to think you need to explain it. Perhaps this is more a reflection of you and your high-tech ways of having your girl -- pardon me, I mean, your secretary -- check your email for you, print it all out, and then give you the hard copies (that means something tangible, like print-outs) in a file marked "RECEIVED EMAILS." Yes? Am I getting warm?

Alright, alright, I know I'm sounding bitchy. But so long as I'm subjected to you, I feel you should be subjected to me.

It's the wave of the future.


p.s. It's [ctrl + P].

Sunday, January 07, 2007

All That's Right With Television

It's 8:03 p.m. and "You're The One That I Want" has begun.

In the THREE MINUTES that have aired so far, I've already caught glimpses of the Simon Cowell wannabe, a whole lot of winking (true Broadway style), and Olivia "I've Had Some Work Done" Newton "But Now My Face Doesn't Match My Neck" John.

This is going to be glorious.

For the record, in addition to the requisite inexhaustable pre-teen slumber-party viewing of Grease (times seen: 2,684), I actually got to see it on Broadway when it was revived the first time.

If you can believe it, the version I saw starred Maureen McCormick (that would be Marcia from the real Brady Bunch)...but not as Sandy. No, she starred as Rizzo.

I thought that experience would never be topped, but I have hope for this show.

Friday, January 05, 2007

About The Bra

It's been a long time since I've posted any of my keyword analyses.

And because someone usually asks, I get them through Statcounter. It's a free service, and allows me to see the words/phrases people entered into search engines that then led them to my blog.

In some cases, their searches seem perfectly reasonable. For example, I am pretty certain that someone who entered "she just walks around with it" was indeed looking for this site.

In other cases, I have quite a time trying to imagine a. what people were really looking for in the first place, and b. why they thought that this blog would supply it.


I don't think a lot of commentary is really necessary here, although really? Someone really Googled "stop my ass is on fire"?


And also, I am starting to think I should create a special section of this blog specifically for providing information about the Hip Hugger in Kokomo, Indiana. I believe El_G mentioned it once in a comment, and since then, I seem to be the destination of choice for people wanting to know more about this strip club in the middle of nowhere. I'm also thinking maybe Indiana is under-represented on the Internet.

Dear People Who Are Here To Get Info About The Hip Hugger:

Hi, and welcome to my website! I am not a stripper.

(I have never been a stripper.)

This blog doesn't even have pictures of naked women (uh, unless you count the time I posted the picture of my naked and bruised ass, or the sad drawing I did of an ill-fitting sundress).

Sidenote To Those Who Come Here Looking For Pictures Of Sundresses:
Sorry, I know it's not what you wanted, either.

I have only been to Indiana a couple times, and I have never stepped foot inside the Hip Hugger. And while I'm sure it's a fine establishment, full of happy, confident women and polite men who have nothing but respect for the female form, I am probably not the authority you are seeking. In fact, as a typical liberal, gay-friendly San Francisan, I'm suspecting I'm about the opposite of what you were hoping to find. Might I suggest Google maps?

Finally: restaruant boobs?

* * * *

Ish went home to visit his family on Thanksgiving, and I spent the day and evening with my urban family.

There was, as there always is, an abundance of food and fun and champagne. And so after several hours of good old fashioned gluttony, one of the guests remembered she'd been given a goodie bag of clothes samples from a friend of hers who is starting a business. One of the samples was a bra. And when it was determined that I was the only one in the room who might actually *fit* the bra, it was only polite for me to put it on. So I did.

I went to the host's dressing room, put the bra on, and put my button-down shirt on over it. I then spent the remainder of the evening donning the new bra, with my shirt buttoned down far enough that everyone could see it, but still be somewhat covered up.

And at this point I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Ah yes. Champagne and lingerie and partial nudity, just like the Pilgrims! Did you also make pasties out of cranberry sauce?

To which I am somewhat proud to answer, no, I did not. I may have woken the next morning with gravy in my hair, but that is an entirely separate thing.

You are also probably wondering why I'm bringing this up, but I'm nearly to the point now.

When I woke up the next morning, hungover and bleary and with gravy in my hair, I did not maybe immediately remember that I had switched bras halfway through the traditional Thanksgiving fete. I did not maybe immediately remember my name, either, though, so there you go.

I eventually managed to get vertical and to my kitchen, hoping I'd find something suitable for consuming. And since I had been cooking the day before, there existed the slight possibility that something nourishing might actually exist in my fridge.

It didn't.

But the fact remained that I had to get something non-champagne-y into my system. Which is when I decided to get dressed and go to the local mart for some Gatorade. Which is when I started looking for clothes to wear. Which is when I noticed that my clothes from the night before were strewn about my entire apartment, because (apparently) when I'd gotten home, I decided to disrobe in stages.

My jacket was in the hallway. My shoes were under the coffee table. My shirt was over by the computer. My pants? Those had made it to the hamper. My bra?


My bra's location was eluding me, and so began the unfortunate, morning-after game of trying to convince myself I'm a grown-up while also trying to remember where I've left my underwear.

It was then that I spotted my "new" bra hanging off my livingroom chair. Oh right, I changed my bra in the middle of the party. Right, right. Hurrah, adulthood!

But then I couldn't figure out where my "regular" bra was, since I'd surely worn that home.

Hadn't I?

Had I?

Did I leave my new bra on all the way through the cab ride home? Did I leave my other bra at the hosts'? I thought hard and long, and pieced together having packed up stuff at the end of the night...

...including leftovers.

Yes! Leftovers! I forgot all about those! Hmmm...maybe they are a CLUE...

I had forgotten I'd packed leftovers, but I was pretty sure I'd remembered to bring them home. I was even pretty sure I'd managed to get them into the fridge, even though I hadn't noticed them in my first glance inside it.

My champagne-addled brain then attempted to do the math. If there are leftovers in my fridge...

I laughed and shook my head. I couldn't have, could I?

But of course I had.

I went to the fridge again, and this time I saw the bag that contained the tupperware of leftovers there in the back. So I grabbed it, opened it, and yep. There was my bra.

A bit chilly, but no worse for the wear. As it were.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Best Christmas Present

Part II

Aside from Christmas, my family had few other "special" times.

It's weird to note now, because it seemed so normal growing up (I guess you only know what you know), but my family didn't eat dinner together except on special occassions. My father was raised in a rather old-fashioned, comfortable, WASPish manor. The children had a nursery and a nanny. The parents had cocktail hour and dinner at 8. When my father became an adult, he maintained that "civilized" people -- a ridiculous notion if you ever witnessed his utter lack of basic table manners -- didn't eat before 8 p.m. Thus, growing up, my sisters and I ate between 5 and 6, a dinner my mom made us but didn't join us for. She would then prepare an entirely separate meal for my dad, who would take his meal to his room and the two of them would eat away from us.

Our eating habits would shift when we were on vacation, though. We didn't go away a lot, but when we did it was It meant spending more time as a cohesive family, and in my memory, that especially meant usually we all ate dinner all at the same time.

Thus, as a "cohesive family" we traveled a handful of times to DisneyWorld; otherwise, the only other place we went was Nantucket.

For over a decade, my grandparents rented the same house on Nantucket, and visited there for nearly a month each summer. When we could manage it, the five of us would join them for a week or so, coordinated to be there with my Aunt Kathy and my cousin Nate and his brother, Matt.

I'd say we went maybe three times altogether, and they were great trips. Our days consisted mostly of getting up, packing lunches into coolers, driving out to a beach with surf, and spending the day on the sand and in the ocean. We'd read, chat, play games, bodysurf, eat lunch, build sandcastles, dig holes (why? we never knew), and soak up the sun.

healy sam sand.jpg
My sisters, doing sand things.

We'd then return to the house, shower the sand and seaweed off, and prepare for dinner.

Mom Sets Table
My mom, setting the table, clearly not expecting me to photographing her.
I was using my snazzy new "Kodak Disc" camera.

Later, when we were all a little older, after my grandparents had stopped going to the island, my mom had the grand and romantic idea of going to Nantucket for Thanksgiving. Tres New England and all that. Her idea led to a huge coordinated effort among several families who decided to come along, too. The lot of us rented three big houses along the same ocean-adjacent road, and spent our days days eating, drinking, and being merry. I remember it snowing on the beach on Thanksgiving.

I also remember, in particular, a moment on the ferry ride out. There were a whole bunch of us, including a few cynical teenagers, and it was well below freezing and windy and damp. Yet as the boat approached the island, my mom insisted we all go outside to watch. We resisted, until she laid down the law: "Get the hell out there and make a friggin' memory!"

Only my mom could force teenagers to make a memory.

It worked, of course.

I want to be clear here, though. I think sometimes when I mention my childhood trips to Nantucket, it gives the wrong impression. It's not like we rented multi-million dollar houses without blinking an eye, or that Nantucket was just one of many rich-and-famous destinations we traversed to. My family only traveled every few years, and only when special opportunities came up (like being able to share the cost of the house rental, or having friends supplement our hotel bills...).

I think that's why those special occassions, trips and Christmastime, remained so special. And when I got married, I wanted to recreate those feelings I had as a kid. I wanted to have an event that reminded me (and gave my guests the feelings) of love and warmth that I felt when we could all be together. Which is why I was married on Nantucket.

A Road
My Nantucket wedding. Neat, huh?


All of this is merely to provide context for why choosing Nantucket for Christmas this year was a good, special, cool idea.

Although until we got there, I had no idea how it would feel. I assumed it would be "nice," but I was afraid it would be sad, or weird, or simply too nostalgic. Would I miss my family of years before? Would I think only of how happy my wedding was? Would it feel like we were imposters?

You aren't the family you once were, so stop trying to get it back!

But I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't like that at all. In fact, it was kind of amazing.

Somehow we got ourselves together and to the island and to a most gorgeous house. It wasn't like any place we'd stayed before or any place we'd ever had Christmas, so it had nothing to live up to. And without set expectations, we were able to just kind of "be."

My Aunt Kathy (my dad's only sibling) and her son, my Cousin Nate; Brian and Healy and Charlie, and Brian's mom, too; and Sam and Mike; and, yes, even Ish hunkered down for our first "offsite" Christmas.

There were pounds of food, fresh and spectacular, expertly prepared by my cousin (who has been known to moonlight as a chef). Cases of wine, and select bottles of glorious other potent potables (because my cousin is also known to moonlight as "Boozy Clause").

We played games. We connected. We laughed. We lived.

Ish stayed only until the 24th, as he still has his own family obligations, but the night before he left -- perhaps with some encouragement from Knob Creek, who's to say -- he performed a good 20 minutes of his stand-up material. It's maybe a small point, but for me, it was a living, breathing showcase of my past and present lives converging.

And while we were all milling about the house, Charlie, my cool-ass nephew, started walking. Really walking! All things considered, it was an enormous achievement for him; I like to think that his being surrounded by so many people who love him had to have helped.

We did not speak much of my parents. Where would we start?

When Christmas dinner was served, after a morning's worth of gift-opening and an afternoon of lolling about, watching videos and playing games, Nate volunteered to say a few words. We bowed our heads, and Brian's mom, Carol, reached out her hands. We followed suit, and all of us held hands around the table -- something my family has never done -- as Nate gave a blessing of sorts.

He spoke eloquently, almost as though rehearsed. Words poured out of him as he spoke of family and love. Of the beauty of the island. Of my grandparents, strong and willful and great, the ones who began most of our traditions.

And when he spoke about my parents, John and Linda, and how their spirits will always be with us -- especially at Christmas -- we cried.

But not for long. He finished, and we wiped our eyes and began our meal because that's what we do. And only minutes later, we launched into our merry tradition of toasting to just about everyone and everything (oh, how my family loves its toasts!). And amid our boisterous toasting and cheering and announcing, we got some fabulous news.

Sam and Mike told us that they were engaged.

Earlier that afternoon, Mike had taken Sam out to the beach, and gotten down on one knee, and asked her to be his wife. And when she said yes, because of course you say yes, because she loves him and it is the beach on Nantucket on Christmas, he offered her a most gorgeous ring.

My mother's.

This Christmas was one of the best I have ever experienced, because it was about -- forgive me, please -- what Christmas should be about. We were together, regardless of how the "we" has changed. And boy, we done good.

I believe my mom would say "we rallied."

So look at that. Life is moving on and it's not how I pictured it seven years ago or ten or twenty, but maybe it never is.

We made the absolute most of what we have, and it turns out that the best we could do was pretty great.

It was a lovely Christmas present.

Merry Christmas 1989
My family would send Christmas cards some years, but not always. This was our card in 1989.
My dad took this picture on Nantucket the month before.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Part I

Sometime around August or September, my sister Healy called me.

"I don't even want to have Christmas," she said.

Growing up in my household, Christmas took on some other-worldly significance. It wasn't just a day of something fun, it was the only time of year where my whole family spent a lot of time together NOT yelling at each other. Or at least, trying not to.

My household was loud, and there was a lot of fighting. My parents fought constantly. My sisters and I fought constantly. Later, my mom and I fought constantly. We were yellers and screamers. Lots of crying and slamming doors and throwing tantrums.

My mother was the emotional epicenter of our family, and her mood -- whatever it happened to be, one could never guess or control -- would dictate how the family would function that day, or days, or weeks.

My mom wasn't bi-polar, but pretty damn close. And undiagnosed. And unmedicated. And God, not easy to write about. But for the purpose of this entry, it should suffice to say that Christmas was the only time of year where my mom would do her best to Be Happy. Which meant that we -- my sisters and I, and even my dad -- could breathe easier and love the season because my mom probably wasn't going to be up in her room crying or insanely angry with one of us for an unpredictable reason.

Christmastime in the Sammis Family Household was really something spectacular. And even if the rest of the year was rocky and hard, with tremendous highs and lows, Christmas seemed to matter more. All other sins, all other hardships could be ignored in time for the holidays. We all lived for December and its immediate aftermath.

Years later, we still do.

When my sister called me this fall to say she didn't even want to have Christmas, I understood right away. Frankly, we are tired. The last six years haven't been entirely easy...

* * * * * *
Christmas of 2000 my mom was in the hospital, having her appendix removed following her mystery illness. It was the first Christmas my family was ever split up -- me in my house with my sister Sam and aunt and cousin and failing marriage and visiting in-laws, and Healy traveling to New Hampshire to be with our parents.

By Christmas of 2001, my mother was dying. I was divorced, and El_G came with me to New Hampshire because I knew that if I didn't have someone with me, I would crumble. It was absolutely gut-wrenching. Two days before Christmas, my mother -- having been bed-ridden for 8 months and hooked up to more tubes and bags and monitors than any human being should ever be -- forced her at-home nurse to pack her in a car and take her shopping...wheelchair, bags, drips, morphine and all. The bills had added up and the only place they could afford to go was Wal-Mart, but at least it meant she could find everything in one place. Christmas was Christmas, and my 84-pound mother wouldn't let her cancer get in the way of her family's traditions. She bought gifts for everyone, and somehow -- honestly, it was incredible -- managed to wrap them herself.

Christmas of 2002 was spent in Massachusetts, in Healy and Brian's new house, following their marriage a month before. It was nice to be in a new place for the holiday. Our first one without mom. We were all heartbroken, but it was quiet and sweet and dad was there, but only for two days. He couldn't stand more than that, I'm sure.

By the following year, things were a little lighter for us. Healy and Brian's house was our new tradition, and our family was feeling a bit more whole. My father had been dating Jane, and that was going really well. Healy and Brian had gotten Sully (their dog). And El_G came back with me again. And even though Sam's boyfriend broke his leg(!) on December 23, we all managed to be together (with a little help from OxyCodone).

By 2004 we seemed to be pretty well patched up. We'd all helped Dad move from the big house in New Hampshire to much smaller and more manageable digs. Dad and Jane were doing great, and we were moving on with our lives without our mom. And we rather enjoyed having Dad living in a "manufactured home" because it gave the lot of us ample opportunity to give my dad white-trash-themed Christmas presents.

But it was not long after that Christmas that dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. And as much as we wanted to ignore it, or believe it would be okay, a familiar shadow was cast over my family.

Christmas of 2005 we plowed through, as merry as could be, but it was a really hard year for me. I hadn't seen my dad in several months, and was surprised -- he no longer looked like he could kick chemo's ass. And Samantha was dating a new man, and they seemed very serious about each other. And Healy and Brian were doing well and baby Charlie had come into our lives. And yet there I was, living thousands of miles away...away from my dad, my family, a stable, suburban life. Everyone back east was getting married and settling down and having babies, and yet there I was, living like a college kid in some crazy city with no prospects for stability except for being madly in love with a man who was in no position to reciprocate.

I felt out of place and out of sorts, something I'd never felt around my family. Especially not at Christmas. I longed for the days of our my younger Christmases. I feared for my dad. I missed my mom.

* * * * *

"I just don't think I could do it," Healy said, exhausted. "It would just be too sad." Our newest tradition, having Christmas at Healy and Brian's would be hard this year without either of our parents. And after the funeral and ordeal with my dad's house (plus Healy's own trauma with her dog's death and son's sudden need to be tested for genetic disorders), facing the stress and loss just seemed too much.

"Unless..." she offered. "Maybe we should just do something totally different."

And what started out as her throw-away comment became an actual conversation and then became actual plans. We decided to rent a house on Nantucket.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Positively Un-Boring: 07/70

I declared last year that 2006 was going to be my year of "no joy." I was supposed to reel it all in and be More Responsible.

My thought was that, you know, it's kind of cute how I spent my late 20s as most people spend their college years, but maybe I should perhaps behave a little more like a thirtysomething.

11 months later, the Friday after Thanksgiving in fact, I woke up with a raging hangover (love you, urban family!) and stumbled into my kitchen. I trudged to my fridge, hoping against hope that I'd find something, anything, in it that could qualify as "nourishing." Instead I found 16-month-old salad dressing, expired milk, 3 sticks of butter, and my bra.


Thus, without going into details, I think it's pretty safe to say that the "No Joy in '06" mantra didn't exactly catapult me into responsible adulthood.

But then, I shouldn't be too hard on myself, either. My goals for '06 were mostly vague and generic. "Consume less" is hardly measurable. And looking back, I think NJ06 was really about laying the groundwork for some great things to happen in '07.

Let's review, shall we?

(Shush. I am sure you're all bored to tears with blog entries about resolutions and lists and blah blah blah. I know. But if I don't do it here, it seems less "real." Plus, it's a good exercise in seeing the glass half full.)

(And if you're already bored by this entry, skip to the end. There's something of an epiphany. And also a new '07 mantra.)

Year In Review / The Year Ahead

The Financial Picture
"Spend less" is a great idea, but that's hard to do when you don't actually know how much you're spending in the first place. I basically lived just ever-so-slightly beyond my means for about 18 months, without ever bothering to really monitor it. Just, every month I spent a little more than I took home. Over time, that compounded. Thus, debt.

So even though I didn't really tighten my purse strings in 2006, I did do two little things that helped a lot:

1. I built a spreadsheet to track my bills. All in one place, all with due dates outlined. Now I know exactly how much I owe, when, and to whom. Seems like a "duh" thing to you probably, but mapping it all out for me made a big difference.

2. I pre-emptively saved money for "big ticket" items. There were a few things I knew I'd be spending money on this year, and instead of just sucking up and putting them on a credit card, I saved money and put it away (like for my computer, and for my plane ticket home at Christmas).

The way I see it, I got my finances "in order" in 2006. Now I can focus on actually improving my financial situation this year.

Creative Endeavors
2006 was not a complete bust as far as starting projects was concerned. I just failed to have much discipline (oops) about them, and they got all muddled and confused and most just fell to the wayside, unfinished.

I jumped into comedy and worked on developing stand-up material. I started a comic novel. I wrote about my divorce here, and from there was inspired to write/propose a memoir. I continued to try and grow our a cappella group, and wanted to arrange at least one song for us. I tried to teach myself CSS and regularly redesign this blog. I wanted to start a political blog. Started a book with Ish. Started designing a website for the a cappella group. Knitting! Ha!

And the list goes on, down a windy path into a rabbit hole.

Basically, without plans or forethought, very little of the above list got "accomplished." 2006 was apparently the Year Of The Dabbler. It was certainly exciting to have an agent consider my memoir proposal, but her rejection was warranted (I had NOT spent enough time figuring out what I wanted it to be, and it was -- at best -- inconsistent). I can't spend my after-work hours knitting and writing and learning code and design and Photoshop and arranging and.

Or maybe I can, but not if I want to get anything done.

So I am going to focus and prioritize.

1. Blogging: More, better, often. I feel like I have worked myself up into a self-censored corner. I tell myself I can't write about x because of this, or y because of that, or z because of the other thing. It's stifling, and unlike me, and results in stilted entries. I have come to care more about what my readers think than what I think, and that's the exact opposite of why blogs matter.

2. The novel. I vow to work on it, in one form or another, at least once a week. My goal is to complete it this year. For reals. My stuckness is similar to that with my blogging. I censor as I go, so much that I just stop writing. I really believe that if I could just "let go," it would come.

3. Everything else. I will allow myself to dabble in other interests, but not at the expense of 1 or 2.

Weight Loss
I guess the main thing here is that I joined a gym in 2006. Well, actually, I joined two. I was good about going to the first one, back when Risey and I were working together and going to the gym together and had a routine. But that fell away when she changed jobs, and I didn't do anything for a while. Then this summer I joined a different gym, and went for a few weeks.

And that, dear IIFs, is about the extent of my weight loss efforts in 2006.

What the hell is wrong with me?

If I can't stay motivated to lose weight and get healthy, and yet bitch about it constantly...what's wrong? Where is the disconnect? Do I, under it all, really NOT care? Am I "afraid of success"?

I really can't say. But here we are, two years after starting this blog, and I've barely begun to scratch the surface of my weight/health goals, despite oh-so-much posturing about it.

So the best I can do right now is announce, declare, proclaim that 2007 is THE YEAR I lose weight. Again.

And the best thing I can think of to make THIS year different from LAST year and different from THE YEAR BEFORE that, is to give it a number.

::::drumroll, please::::


Yep. Seventy. Seven-oh.

I am aiming to lose s-e-v-e-n-t-y pounds this year. I can't even believe it myself, that number. But there it is. Stark and real and in print and adequately horrifying. shudder

The upshot is that it works very well with this year. As in, "getting rid of my 07/70."

Or just 07/70 for short.

* * * * *

As I was writing this all out, I was struck by my resolve related to writing: stop self-censoring I said.

And that's my biggest goal for this year, even bigger than 07/70: Writing without heeding my inner critic. Going for it. Reminding myself constantly that getting it out is more important than getting it right. I can always edit later.

And yet even as I write this, I hear my inner critic say, "Your big goal for this year is to not listen to me when you write? Isn't that kind of shallow and stupid? Who cares?"

But I'm not listening because, deep down, I know it's not stupid. And any of you who write blogs or read them or keep journals or have any passion for writing, you know too. Writing isn't just about writing, it's about expressing your inner narrative. It's how you think. It's how you process your whole world.

Writing is never just about writing words; it's about writing who you are.

So I know that if I can ignore that nasty little voice, the one that creeps in and tells me "don't" or "can't" or "shouldn't" or "not now" or "shhhhhh," then I don't just write better.

I live better.

And isn't that the whole damn point?

So here is to a new year full of being brave and real and not listening to the inner critic when she tells me it's not interesting, or funny. When she says I needn't bother putting lipstick on because it's not going to make the extra 58 lbs. of ass I'm carrying around look any better. When she says 70 is too much. When she says it's not worth it.

She's not the boss of me.

Sure, ignoring her might mean I occassionally wake up with my bra in the fridge. But you know? At least I won't be boring.