laughing quietly to myself

About how I told Shane this morning that I was "working" on the computer and he busted me looking at all the new Frye boot styles on Zappos.com.


Back in college I spent whatever free time that wasn't sucked up cavorting around bonfires and drum circles researching cultural studies and public health, women's health in particular. I loved the subject of women's health and anything related to the cultural interpretation and treatment of women's bodies. Wanna discuss menstruation? Awesome, I could go on for hours! Abortion? Birth? Party!

I volunteered at Safeplace, a women's shelter for ladies getting out of violent relationships, and was a legal advocate for those who filed protection orders. When I moved to Seattle a few years later, I wanted to help women be in control of whatever decision they made about whether to have babies or not and almost became a volunteer advocate at an abortion clinic. In the end, I trained to be a childbirth assistant, or doula.

I took a class at the Seattle Midwifery School on how to give emotional, physical, and informational support to laboring women and attended births until it became too hard to manage with the rest of my work schedule. Because fetuses don't tend to care if you're scheduled to bartend on the night they decide to make their big debut and the people you work with don't like to keep covering for you at the last minute. It was around this time that Sunny's then-boyfriend/now-husband was out in the Seattle area doing interviews for a freelance article and Sunny said he and I should hang out.

I hadn't yet decided whether Shane was a keeper or, as he put it, THE ONE. Shane came to the pub to drink and play pool during my shift and asked me if I thought he was THE ONE for Sunny. I froze and didn't say a word. Awkward! I have got to learn how to lie better. But, quite honestly, Shane had a lot more proving to do. If not to Sunny, then to me.

We recovered from that overly honest moment and bonded that night to the point that I started saying hi to him when I called their apartment in Chicago and didn't just ask for Sunny immediately. Shane also started to tease me about being a doula, or as he calls it, a mahdoula. Shane cracked mahdoula jokes at my expense for years but guess who's happy I'm a doula now since I'm attending the birth of their kid soon?

In my role as #1 mahdoula, I recently spent some time reading about childbirth and remembering what doulas actually do since it's been so long. Last weekend I took the bus to Chicago to talk to them about the good times ahead and I brought materials, comics that I'd made for the occasion.

Some were more useful than others.

Hopefully their baby comes out so easily that Sunny never gets to this point.

So excited.



I've been 34 for five days and I have to say, it's a lot different than 33. WOW. Okay, it's exactly the same. Except I'm upping my calcium intake because my mom told me on my birthday that I'm at risk for osteoporosis now. I bought a strawberry smoothie yesterday and imagined my brittle bones crumbling inside my legs while drinking it. It is possible that with age comes more exaggeration.

Something else that isn't going away anytime soon is the unicorn theme begun last year when Gus and Matthew, several months and time zones apart, spontaneously started referring to me as a unicorn. Like bacon, unicorns are hip now but I don't care. I'll own it. And that's why I also now own Good vs. Evil unicorn plastic toys, a t-shirt that says that I would look cooler if I were riding a unicorn and my birthday present come in envelopes like this.

In addition to many sweet birthday phone calls and text messages and holy crap, the outpouring on Facebook, I got a amazing cards from Carl "Even if it was in haste I'm glad your parents had unprotected sex around nine months prior to your birthdate" Rogers and Ali "You would have loved the gift I didn't bother getting you" Schumacher. And Jocardo has shown me why video stores become obsolete.

And I would like to say, as someone who is: a) a confirmed grinch b) gets all shitty about attention (and yet blogs thereby drawing attention to myself, hm) c) loves giving gifts but forgets a lot of birthdays so as my friend you're more likely to get some random thing in the mail for no reason, THANK YOU. x


Bockfest: the flavor of Cincinnati

I was going to write a big long post about Bockfest and its celebration of Cincinnati's beer brewing history and how I attended because I heard a SAUSAGE QUEEN would be crowned. Instead I'm just posting my favorite photo of Renee from the event. 

(Mainly because I got so wrapped up in talking to Renee that even though we marched in the parade we kept going off course and losing the pack and when we got to Bockfest Hall, I got so freaked out by the pageant crowd that I just made a beeline for the back patio and Nick and his hat and missed everything else.)


Reality Tuesday

Jocardo recently asked me where I was going to work on the computer and I said, "The cafe up the street."

"What's that place called again?" He asked.

I thought for a minute and told him, "Reality Tuesday."

I also told him that though I've lived here for five months and pass the cafe almost every day, I have a hard time remembering its name. It has no ring to it.

"I like it there," I said. "People are nice, there are outlets for laptops and good chairs but I usually find it easier to call it THE CAFE UP THE STREET YOU KNOW THE ONE BY SNAPPY TOMATO PIZZA."

On and on we complained about why they called it that and how we don't like cute names like Shear Madness for barber shops but at least you remember it and we ranted against alternative spellings and then finally shut up.

Jocardo then did some research and sent me an email:

The cafe was started in order to attract the young adult population to an alternative Christian scene. It was an idea born out of a Tuesday evening Bible study group that has evolved into a reality.

Oh. I see.

Later I text Jocardo and ask for his address and he sends it back to me and said "We've been friends for how long and you still don't know my address?"

I could have been sarcastic back but chose instead to write, "You almost sound sincere and now that I know I go to a Christian cafe, I am sensitive to that."

I am also more sensitive to the Jesus art in the bathroom that I never noticed before because I was too busy being psyched that the cafe's so clean. Apparently I am more concerned with hepatitis than God when it comes to my coffeeshop.


Not exactly smiling: Part 1988

After writing about that smirky face I make, I saw an old photo on Facebook, a junior high photo.

I keep thinking about quitting Facebook because I hate the vortex I go into when checking for updates. I'd liken it to how Silk Spectre seems after Doctor Manhattan teleports her ass around in The Watchmen: out of it, exhausted, somewhat confused. I do not always think the Facebook portal is on my side and it can, in certain moods, inspire similar questions broached by The Watchmen.

Is humanity inherently good or evil?

Are good and evil objective or relative?

Is it ever okay to break the law and/or kill a bunch of people?

And right when I'm on the brink of answering evil, relative, yes, an old friend I lost fifteen years ago writes and makes my day and I see a photo from junior high. The photo which proves that I've had this smirky attitude for awhile:


Getting older and going to Confession

Today I got this birthday card from Cathy.

My birthday is coming up in a few days and while I don't think I'm all that afraid of getting older, I did take some time out today to dye my roots and ask my mother if 34 counts as middle-aged. So yes, apparently I have concerns.

But whatever, we are all on our way to the inevitable, what is important here is whether you have spent quality time sending someecards before you check out.

Why? Because you care enough to hit send. And because they rule. If you doubt, let me remind you of one of my favorites - You never pee on me anymore - or the one I sent Lindsay today - I believe I'm getting closer to God by spending a few weeks not eating M&M's.

Actually, the last time I remember observing Lenten sacrifice was around my first confession, when I stood outside our parish priest's office trying desperately to think of something I could talk about.

I believe I said I was impatient with my brother. Or didn't want to help do dishes. Both of which were surely true, I just don't if they were awful enough to warrant an official church confession.

What I remember most was my sense of this is bullshit but might impress them, the same sense I had when I raised my hand in third grade during a class discussion on the theme of Determination and told my teacher Ms. Jansen that I was DETERMINED to be the first female president.

Ms. Jansen exclaimed something along the lines of, "There we go, children! THAT is determination!" and I relaxed my hand and looked smug.

Yeah, that was a big lie.

A lie that I could have, in good faith, confessed to Father Nastold instead of making up some crap about dishes.


I just joined the bacon movement

I know it's a cliche to talk about bacon. It's become almost trendy. I don't know when it started but I've seen this bacon reverence on other blogs and I always thought it was kind of silly, as if bacon is somehow a MOVEMENT. Not just a pork product but something to actually believe in.

I'd never bought bacon, though. Eaten it, yes; cooked it, no. I recently purchased a pack of applewood-smoked bacon, however, and thought I'd cook it up with some pancakes. Matthew reminded me that it's really messy and that deterred me for a minute until I decided to just microwave it between some paper towels.

And that shit was TASTY.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've thought about bacon every day since then. Last night I caved and made a salad and put bacon on top of it. Eating it, I felt such elation that I thought "Between bacon and Barack, the world is going to be okay."


marathons and other problems of evil

Marisa told me last week that in addition to her grad school philosophy seminars on Plato and Problems of Evil and the 29 espressos she drinks a day just to deal with the sheer amount of reading and thinking required of her, she just ran her first half marathon. Nice one, Marisa. Sometimes I wonder I should try something like that - run for an unreasonably long amount of time - and then I immediately think, "Or not."

When my cousin Lauren accidentally finished the Chicago marathon a few years ago for fun (jerk!), I asked how she knew how to train for a marathon. Not that she trained. Again, jerk. And she said "Um, from your dad's website?" Oh yeah, ha ha. That. I did not get that gene.

Marisa said her half marathon felt great even though her knees and possibly her soul were pissed off but the whole being passed by an 83-year-old on the course part was not cool.

"Oh, shit," I said. "83 years old?" I know that feeling.

I had a flashback of being in Mexico when I was 20. I told Marisa I didn't know what my problem was at the time but I was DRAGGING. I was literally shuffling down the Mexican sidewalk inch by inch and got totally passed by an crippled old man using a TAPED-TOGETHER CRUTCH.

Way later, like a million weeks after I should have gone to the doctor, I finally found out that I had both parasites and salmonella. I had just thought it was weird that I kept passing out and curling up on the ground to hold my stomach while it rocked with spasms of pain. It was in this period of practically having worms crawl out of my ears that an elderly crippled type with a jacked up crutch passed me.

Marisa and I got a good little laugh over that and then she sent me this lovely photo.

For all I know, this IS the man who passed Marisa on the course. I grew up with some of the most outstanding examples of what people can do, like my dad's employee who was in his 70s and still competing in the Ironman Triathlon. For those who forget how hardcore that is: 2.4 mile swim, 112 bike, and 26.2 marathon run. Right after each other! You don't get to rest for a month between each event!

OMG. I'm in my 30s and am psyched when I walk to the park.

Or his customer, also an older man, diagnosed with advanced cancer and told he'd be dead any minute, who went nuts on an alternative (extremely restrictive + extremely healthy) diet that eradicated his cancer and is now back to canoeing and running his ass off.

Don't even get me started on the disability angle. Having a disabled brother and disability activist mom, I was familiar with the Special Olympics and I have a vague memory of a house guest named Jerry who had, I think, cerebral palsy and may have walked across the United States with his crutches.

Or my very able father who saw the temperature dropping to terrible, hideous numbers like fifty below zero as a great opportunity to test out the cold weather gear he sells. Runner crampons, Gore-Tex, icicles in his beard, big smile.

In this crowd, you can't really get away with saying you can't do something. You have to lay it out straight like me and say, "That's just not my style."

So I was about to believe that the little old man in that photo is the one who kicked Marisa's butt in the half marathon until she threw in,

"Don't believe the hype. He ditched the walker halfway through the race and started moonwalking past me just to rub it in."

Bob got the glory

You're going to want to click on this:

The kitchen of Bob and Mary Ann Roncker. Maile did the work. BOB GOT THE GLORY.

I'd heard about this photo. Mom told me a while back that there was some official photo taken of her kissing dad's cheek in their new kitchen and I responded by making a very mature gagging noise.

She said it was for Cincinnati Magazine and I thought it was an article for the home section or something. Yesterday I did laundry at their house and she whipped this out. It's an ad for the company who recently redid their kitchen.

I studied it. "So, mom, why are you kissing his cheek?"

"Uh, I don't know," she said.

"Did dad pay for the kitchen?" I wondered.

"No, I did," she said.

"So you're just happy about it in general," I said. "You're not, like, thanking him?"

"It's advertising," she replied. "This sells with, you know, the older set."

A-ha. What I find funny about this picture, besides the fact that mom's sweater has elbow patches (LOVE THAT) and the random green banana on the counter next to my dad is that he looks so pleased with the situation, like he's thinking, "Yeah, I got it. You know what I'm talking about...THE GLORY."

Which is not at all his personality.

More likely, mom told him one day that the kitchen should be redone and he had just come back from a run or woken up from a nap and was like, "Wha?" And "That sounds nice, honey," and then she did it. I'm not saying he didn't have input and they weren't a team about it but glory on his part might be pushing it.


Making coffee like it's the Civil War

In the Trader Joe's checkout line a week ago, Margarita commented that I shop quickly.

"Yeaaah, that's because you were following me and watching," I admitted. I don't usually spend $200 in twenty minutes.

"You were supposed to pretend I'm not here!" she said. I smiled guiltily and hoped I didn't skew her grocery shopping habits results.

I've been buying pre-ground coffee beans because the electric grinder has developed an attitude. Sometimes it works but more and more often it only responds to an increasingly exact formula of pounds per square inch in just the right place at just the right angle. If the barometric pressure, humidity, or temperature in the room shifts, forget it. If Mercury goes in retrograde, no coffee.

With Margarita on my heels, I'd rushed past the Trader Joe's coffee shelf and plucked off a canister of whole beans. And this morning I got up to grind those beans. Nothing. I worked my way around the grinder, pressing on the edge and the center. I plugged it into different outlets. I STOOD ON THE COFFEE GRINDER. It did not break but neither did it grind.

I recalled hearing that in the Civil War soldiers carried small burlap bags of beans and crushed them with the butts of their rifles to make coffee. I don't own a rifle so this didn't help but it DID remind me of something. I bought a mortar and pestle when I moved into this apartment!

In what was clearly a hypnotic trance at the Linens 'n Things liquidation sale, I imagined that I'd turn overnight from being someone who doesn't cook much to someone who grinds her own spices. The heavy mortar and pestle has since sat stonily in the back of the cabinet. Until now.

pretending like I don't see you

After writing about my former/current fixation on Kevin Bacon and Footloose, Halle wrote to tell me that KB just ate at her restaurant the night before and that she had to kill the urge to talk to him about Footloose.

That's good, I wrote back, I just got to Los Angeles. The first thing I did was go to Trader Joe’s where I saw a woman spooning ice cream into Ben Kingsley’s mouth. I imagined myself tapping him on the head and commenting that I didn’t think Gandhi ate ice cream – obviously a dumb thing to do on several levels - but the thought made me giggle, which is motivation for 90 percent of my thoughts.

If Sir Ben Kingsley/Gandhi wants to canoodle in the frozen section, right on. Live your life, Ben Kingsley. I shall not fuck with that. In LA, one expects to see you and one ignores you coolly. In other parts of the country, it’ll take you more by surprise.

A few months ago, Jocardo and I flew together to New York. On the train to Terminal B at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport, we saw a familiar face.

"That’s that funny guy in those indie movies," we whispered to each other, "What’s his name again?" We were temporarily separated from funny indie guy by the entire University of Cincinnati dance squad who tumbled onto the train into matching track suits, red scrunchies, and bouncy ponytails.

When we got to our gate, indie guy was seated across from us in a section alone. A man approached him and said something while we rolled our eyes and sneered quietly to each other, "Leave him alone," but still with our, "Who IS that? It’s going to bug me."

Finally I remembered. "Steve Zahn!" We googled him on Jocardo’s Blackberry to find out that his family has a horse farm in Lexington which isn’t so far away and explained why he might be departing from our not so celebrity prone airport. That settled, I forgot about Steve Zahn until we were deplaning.

I was trying to get out of my seat with my seat belt still accidentally buckled, which is awkward. I looked up apologetically to whoever was waiting for me to figure out my situation and it was Steve.

He bore an air of disinterest or irritation, looking away quickly and scowling into space. Maybe he was tired. Whatever his deal was, he was not amused by the fact that seat belts confuse me and I secretly had a conversation with him in which I told him that his character Wayne Wayne Wayne, Jr. in Happy, Texas would have said something funny about what a silly knucklehead I am.

In truth, though, fuck that. There is the concept of being cool to strangers and people in general and there is also the reality of being in a rush and tired on a morning flight and having human moods on top of being a public figure with people approaching you to say shit you might not always feel like dealing with. I get it. Not that I was TRYING to get his attention.

There are very few people I’d actually get shit-mouthed over upon seeing: 1. Bono 2. Barack and maybe a few others who I can’t think of right now. Robert Downey Jr.

When I was in seventh grade, I saw Tom Cruise on a movie set. Part of Rainman was shot in a house a few blocks from my dad’s store and my dad knew the owner of the house. Dad had me DELIVER A PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES to the Rainman house, a perfect cover. I watched Tom Cruise walk into his trailer and I knew for certain that I was about to get a lot more popular at school, armed with that killer story.

For my 16th birthday, I saw Sting in concert and I remember thinking, "Sting is BREATHING THE SAME AIR AS ME." Mind-blowing stuff. What the hell? What else would he be breathing? Special fancy air? Nope, unless he's one of those stars who spends lots of quality time in an oxygen tank.

My thinking about star culture has come a long way since then. It’s just funny how you do or don’t get used to the idea that people are people. I mean, some famous types get all entitled and start acting crazy but they probably remember driving a used Subaru to work at TCBY and might be a little taken aback by the current force field of hoo-ha surrounding them.