Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Remember, Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever

So I've been playing with the wording: long-term hiatus, extended leave, sabbatical, retirement, deep sleep.

My three years of writing this blog are among the most rewarding in my life. This little corner of the webworld has given my writing a double-shot of incentive and adrenalin. More important, I've forged friendships with the most incredible people.

But the fact is, it's time for me to focus on other things--and for now, this blog isn't one of them.

I'm not sure what the future holds for this space, or when I might return here with similar musings or else an entirely new incarnation. Never say never. (Yes, as soon as the floodgate of writing responsibility is released, the cliches come rushing out...)

My writer friends can rest assured that I'll still be dropping by your places. And I hope the rest of you will friend me on Facebook or drop me an occasional line. Plus, be sure to subscribe by email here for any future possible posts--just in case, three months from now, I have an itch to scratch.

Thanks to every one of you for reading, commenting, and being a weekly part of my world.

So long, for now.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Just Along for the Ride

5:03 P.M.
THE DRIVER: I apologize for the long delay, folks. Totally out of my control. Looks like we'll be heading through Chicago in the middle of rush hour, which can't be helped. And if the WiFi doesn't work, there's nothing I can do about it. So now, just sit back, relax and enjoy your ride!

THE FRETTER: Oh my God! Why do you think the bus ran so late? What if it's a mechanical problem? I hope we don't break down on the turnpike! Do you think we'll have to wait until it's fixed? Or do you think they'll send another bus? I hope they remember all our luggage if we have to transfer! My medication is in my bag! I really, really need my medication!

THE TALKER: (nudging me) They always run late. And the WiFi never works. My sister-in-law's mother's friend works for the bus company, and she once posted on Facebook that...

THE EATER: (Rips open bag of Cheetos. Selects one. Chews loudly. Swallows. Crumples bag shut.)

THE MOTHER: Joe-Bob! Put those pants right back on!

THE BABY: *howl*

6:15 P.M.
THE DRIVER: (swerves into other lane)

THE FRETTER: (reaching across aisle to grasp my hand) Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Did you see how the driver just missed that semi? I wonder if she's ever even driven a bus before! Do you think she's new? Someone should ask her if she's new. I'll bet she's new!

THE TALKER: Well, then I told the CVS clerk that if I ever get a tattoo...

THE EATER: (Reopens Cheetos bag. Selects one. Chomps. LOUDLY. Scrunches bag shut.)

THE MOTHER: Jody-Mae! Stop sucking on that lady's elbow this very instant!


8:36 P.M.
THE DRIVER: (Pulls over to side of highway. Heads to back of bus, where she spend ten minutes talking to passenger in hushed tones but with very animated hand gestures.)

THE FRETTER: What's going on? Can you hear what they're saying? It looks like they're conspiring! Do you think they're terrorists? Do you think we should gather everyone together and come up with a plan?

THE TALKER: But trust me on this, I follow all the Republican candidates on Twitter, and so I can definitely tell you...

THE EATER: (Opens Cheetos bag. Searches thoughtfully. Selects just the right one. Chews. Chews. Chews. Closes bag.)

THE MOTHER: Jizzy-Sue! I said get away from that steering wheel!

THE BABY: *HOWL* *giggle* *HOWL*

9:47 p.m.
THE DRIVER: Well, we're just twenty minutes away from our stop in Toledo, folks, but first we're going to pull over here at this next plaza for a half-hour or so. Could be longer. I can't say for sure.

THE FRETTER: Why do you think we're stopping? Do you think we should get off? Do you think it will be safe to get back on? Should we grab our luggage?

THE TALKER: ... which is totally ludicrous, and I should know, since my mother was Catholic and my father was Jewish, and ...

THE EATER: (Opens Cheetos bag. Chooses one. Chews, as if every bite is amplified throughout bus. Closes bag. Reopens it. Pauses. Closes it again.)

THE MOTHER: Jehovah-George! How many times do I have to tell you, we do not eat chewing gum from the bottom of the bus seat!


11:06 P.M.
THE DRIVER: Well, here we are in Toledo, folks. Again, sorry for the delays. Hope you enjoyed your ride, and that you'll travel with us again soon!

THE FRETTER: Why do you think the police were at the plaza to meet us? Do you think they went through our luggage? Do you think we should report this to the bus company? If I report it, do you think I'll have to give my name? I'm afraid to give my name.

THE TALKER: So, wait, I never caught your name. Hey, we should exchange phone numbers! And I'll be sure to friend you on Facebook! Do you tweet?

THE EATER: (Opens Cheetos bag. Dumps the rest into his hand and swallows. Crumples empty bag shut. Drops it on the floor.)

THE MOTHER: Are we all here? One, two, three... eighteen, nineteen, still counting...

THE BABY: (sound asleep)

Any roadtrip stories you care to share? Who's up for the next bus ride with me?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

And Finally, I'd Like to Thank Anyone at All Who Is Still Listening

First, I will pose with the utmost grace--as anyone who knows me can attest is my normal M.O.--for my interview on the Red Carpet.

"And who are you wearing tonight?" the emcee will ask. (That other Red Carpet emcee. I plan to avoid Joan Rivers at all cost because I fear her plasticized face will finally freeze for good, and I will be forced to take over my own interview. Awkward.)

Turning and twirling for the screaming onlookers, I will reply, "Tonight, I'm wearing a gorgeous gown from Tar-Jhay."

The crowd will go wild.

"Well, it's, um, certainly unique," the emcee will say.

"Yes, indeedy. It was the last one of its kind on the store rack, marked down 40 percent!"

She'll reach a tentative hand toward my flowered frock. "Is that flannel?"

"Duh. And my matching bootie slippers are from last year's Dearfoam line."

J. Lo and Angie will look on, in blatant envy. One guess what those wannabees will wish they were wearing, three hours into this far too friggin' long show.

The ushers will quickly lead me to my seat. I'm certain to be situated in the front row, so Billy can pop down easily during his opening number to razz me. With my usual class, I'll smile sweetly and appear to take his kidding in stride. As Billy heads back to the stage, my date will wrap his arm around me, whispering his diabolical plan of revenge. I will titter with laughter. Oh my darling George Clooney and his practical jokes!

I will be asked to present an award, of course. And when I do, I will smile provocatively at the audience, hiking my gown and sticking out my right leg, to show off a little pasty white skin. When the cameraman focuses in, I will promptly cover up with my chenille robe. Such a teasing vamp I am. Besides, it's February. I can't be certain when I last shaved my legs.

Finally, my name will be called as I am chosen, among all the other nearly as deserving nominees, to accept my award.

As the crowd rises in a standing ovation, I will blink away the tears from my eyes. I will pull out my notes and commence my poignant words of thanks.

"I want to thank my fans, my children, my mother, my sixth-grade teacher, the saintly folks who make Diet Coke, my dog Ringo and assorted cats, my two Facebook stalkers..."

This much I know: If that orchestra music suddenly starts playing, in an attempt to drown me out and bully me into hurrying my speech along, I will keep right on talking.

I bought a brand new flannel nightgown for this evening. I'm going to milk this damn moment for every penny of that $6.95 plus tax.

Givenchy or Garage Sale? George or Brad? And who will you thank for your award?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why I Need to Learn Italian, Presto!

Like many office commuters, I spend my daily trip to work making phone calls, reading the morning headlines, and doing my makeup. I can only imagine what more I might accomplish if I wasn't the one driving.

But in preparation for my upcoming summer trip to Italy, I am now multitasking--much to my car insurance company's relief--with my new "Listen and Learn Italian" CD.

It's terrifico.

Five minutes into my first audio lesson, I called my mother for our usual a.m. conversation.

"Good morning, mia madre!"

Long pause.

"It's Sherry. Your daughter. I'm practicing my Italian. I know, practically fluent already, huh?"

"Oh! Yes, very good. What else have you learned?"

I frowned. Perhaps "mia madre" wasn't enough. After all, how many Italian strangers could I effectively greet by addressing them as my mother?

"That's it, so far," I admitted. "Plus, I know how to say "wine" in Italian." ("Vino!" A crucial piece of terminology which I mastered, I might add, even before my first lesson.)

"Well, don't you worry," she said. "I've been to Europe several times, knowing just the bare language basics of whatever country I was visiting."

I closed my eyes, cringing and nearly sideswiping the car whose driver clearly wasn't practicing good defensive driving.

Yes, this was my fear exactly. That like mia madre, Gloria, I would know just enough of a second language to be dangerous. And that I might possibly find myself, in Italy, recreating The Unfortunate and Forever Embarrassing Elevator Incident.

A few years back, we spent a week vacationing in Arizona. The region has a high Hispanic population, and a certain percentage of our hotel staff reflected this.

My mother, my youngest son and I found ourselves on the elevator one day with a raven-haired housekeeper.

"Hola!" my mother greeted her.

The housekeeper smiled in return and then resumed proper elevator protocol by turning to face the elevator door.

My mother--never one to let a stranger remain a stranger, as much as said stranger might prefer--glanced at her name tag.

"Oh, Gloria!" My mom's eyes widened. "I'm Gloria, too!" Before the woman had a chance to respond, Mother Gloria began executing a series of excited and rudimentary hand gestures.

"You, Gloria," she said, pointing her finger at the woman's name tag, "and me, Gloria," she explained, pointing to herself.

The woman silently studied her.

Mother Gloria glanced over at her grandson and me. She frowned in frustration. The housekeeper was apparently a bit slow on the uptake, unable to comprehend even the universal language of hand gestures.

She turned back to the housekeeper and resumed gesturing. "Me, Gloria," she said while patting her chest emphatically and then repeatedly poking the woman as she chanted, "You, Gloria!"

Finally, she managed to gather every ounce of her Spanish language skills and held up two fingers. "Dos! Dos Glorias!"

Pleased with her ability to lower herself to the woman's sparse communication level, she winked and nodded at her teenage grandson. He stared, wordlessly, at the elevator floor, in the hope that it might suddenly drop and put us both out of our embarrassed misery.

The housekeeper remained stone-faced and silent until the elevator door opened. She stepped off and turned toward the hallway.

Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced back at my mother. And, with the slightest of smirks and in perfect English, she said, "Have a good day, Gloria."


So, needless to say, I've been frantically listening and learning Italian on CD all week.

I'm afraid I can't rely solely on being able to order vino or pizza. (It is "pizza" in Italian, too, right?) And even though Italians are famous for talking with their hands, I'm reluctant to rely upon communicating through my own combination of questionable language skills and hand gestures.

I have an uncanny ability to offend people, on a regular basis, in my own language. And in my desperation to be understood in another country, Lord only knows the damage I might do--even in conversation with those whom I may come to find out speak perfect English.

When I do, I'm certain I know just the hand gesture to expect in return.

I saw that same gesture, while doing my makeup today on my drive to work, from the driver of a passing car.

Any tips for traveling abroad? Do you multitask when you drive? How do you say "OMG, please just kill me now" in Italian?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Food Diary of an Almost Honest Dieter

Day One
  • Sugar-free, fat-free yogurt
  • Low-calorie English muffin--plain
  • Banana
  • Frozen low-calorie meal
  • Tossed salad with light dressing
  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Steamed broccoli with light, artificial butter spray
  • Tossed salad with light dressing
  • Apple
  • Sugar-free, fat-free pudding
Diary comments: Stomach rumbling a bit, but I remained below my calorie count for the whole day! Fully confident about this new diet! Only a few months to go before I can pull out that bikini from 1993!

Day Three
  • Sugar-free, fat-free yogurt
  • English muffin with just a smidge of peanut butter
  • Banana
  • Half a bagel from office meeting (with barely noticeable smidge of cream cheese)
  • Frozen low-cal meal
  • Tossed salad with light dressing
  • Raw veggies
  • Apple
  • More veggies (and light ranch dip)
  • Slim-Fast shake
  • Grilled salmon with lemon
  • Green beans with that fake butter crap (and just a couple pats of the good stuff, because I read that fats are an essential part of any healthy diet)
  • Tossed salad with light dressing (and a sprinkling of croutons, bacon bits, and cheese, for flavor)
  • Apple
  • Apple
  • Apple
  • Sugar-free, fat-free pudding
  • One Hershey's miniature (maybe four, can't remember, but they're really, really tiny)
  • Apple
Comments: Already lost one pound! At this rate, I shall be a goddess by summer! Have fully lost my appetite for apples though. But fortunately, I finished off all the Hershey miniatures, so I won't be tempted by those again!

Day Five
  • Sugar-free, fat-free yogurt
  • English muffin, etc., etc.
  • Banana
  • Banana
  • Peanut butter crackers from the office vending machine (feeling light-headed, and they say protein is so very important)
  • Slim-Fast shake
  • Whopper (no mayonnaise!)
  • Tossed salad with light dressing, etc.
  • Veggies and spinach dip
  • Crackers and spinach dip
  • Pretzels and spinach dip
  • Slim-Fast shake
  • Smallest grilled steak on the restaurant menu
  • Mixed vegetables (probably steamed without butter)
  • Plain baked potato (added sour cream and butter only because potato was unusually dry)
  • Tossed salad with light dressing, etc., etc.
  • Two Bloody Marys (with healthy bonus of a celery stalk in each!)
  • Sugar-free, fat-free pudding
  • A few small handfuls of Ballreich's potato chips from the shared bag on the office breakroom counter (Just a little splurge because they were Ballreich's! But I totally ignored the birthday cupcakes, thank-you-very-much.)
  • Slim-Fast shake
Comments: Was forced to eat out for two meals today, but proud of my healthy selections! Sampled just a handful of fries from my coworker's BK order. (So few that she almost didn't notice.) Added note: The dip was made with spinach. Lots of iron there. Am also guessing two Bloody Marys count as two vegetable servings. Maybe four.

Day Eight
  • Sugar-free, fat-free yogurt
  • English muffin with peanut butter and jelly
  • Half a donut (frosted without any sprinkles)
  • Slim-Fast shake
  • Frozen low-calorie meal
  • Tossed salad with light dressing
  • Veggies with dip
  • Slim-Fast shake
  • The other donut half
Dinner: (with dinner guests)
  • Roast chicken (Seemed rude to skin it. And the skin was perfectly crisp.)
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes, but no gravy (except a spoonful)
  • Green bean casserole
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Roll (homemade, so felt practically obligated)
  • Tossed salad (showed constraint by not finishing)
  • Four light beers
  • Sugar-free, fat-free pudding
  • Donut
  • Left-over cold chicken, eaten over the kitchen sink
  • Left-over cold stuffing with gravy
  • Slim-Fast shake
Comments: What masochist invented the tossed salad anyway? From now on, I'm tossing the salad! (Haha! Did you see what I did there?) Walked on the damn treadmill for an extra three minutes to make up for the stuffing. Donuts were completely the fault of my inconsiderate co-workers. Bastards. My scale says I gained back the pound I lost (plus two more), but I'm pretty sure I'm retaining water this week.

Day Eighteen
Breakfast: (blank)


Dinner: (blank)

Snacks: (blank)

Comments: Have been far too busy to journal, but certain I've been eating mostly fruits, vegetables, and a couple Slim-Fast shakes. So it's totally inconceivable that I could have gained these four pounds.

I believe my scale may need calibrating.

And if it weren't for this water retention, I'd be wearing that bikini already.

Is weight-loss just an old wives' tale? How's your diet plan going? Don't those Slim-Fast shakes make for a delicious dessert?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What We Believe When We Are Fifty

A follow-up to my last post, in which we reflected on what we believed when we were six:

Now that I'm fifty, I realize I may still know more than my young adult children, but that the gap is quickly narrowing.

I believe that no one should ever try to run away from their problems, but that a temporary escape into a great book or movie can be a life-saver.

I've concluded that each time I watch the movie Groundhog Day, I learn as much about how to live one single day as Bill Murray did, while laughing twice as much as the first (or eighth) time.

I realize my parents didn't know everything, but they weren't too far off about much.

I may be fifty, but I still believe in magic.

I've learned that pets may interfere with my independence, my housekeeping, and my sanity, but that I still wouldn't want to live without them.

After studying old photos, I now know the tight perm and oversized glasses I wore in the eighties were not, in retrospect, such a good idea after all.

I've come to accept I may never again be a size six, but that being healthier and happier are still good and achievable goals.

I realize that I've sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed, but that the two weren't always mutually exclusive.

I know that yesterday lingers and tomorrow beckons. And I believe that what's important, today, is to make the most of them both.

What have you learned, at your age?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What We Believe When We Are Six

When I was six, I believed that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy most certainly did exist, because my own parents would never lie to me.

I knew that the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys were images on my television screen, but this didn't mean they couldn't reach out and grab me.

Somehow, I was sure that Toledo and Detroit were just different names for the same city where I lived, much like my sister Denise also went by the nickname of DC.

When I was six and a first-grader in my Catholic school, I thought that being forced to wear a paper towel or a boy's baseball cap on my head--when I forgot my chapel veil for a school Mass--seemed, well, wrong. (I was right. I just didn't know the word "sacrilegious" yet.)

I was absolutely confident I could train a cat.

At the age of six, I believed the public library to be the most wonderful, magical place in the world. (I haven't changed my mind.)

I thought the words to The Lord's Prayer were as follows, "Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hell be thy name."

If I was in big trouble, and I hid between the two mattresses of my twin bed and lay there VERY STILL AND VERY QUIET FOR HOURS, I believed my parents would never find me.

I was certain that I really would have run away from home and never returned, as I stood with my pink plastic suitcase at the front door and announced this, if my mother hadn't reminded me that "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" was starting in just five minutes.

I believed that no one should ever be served liver and onions, with a side of lima beans, and not be expected to discretely spit each unchewed bite into a wadded napkin.

What truths or untruths did you know when you were six? When did you stop believing? Brussel sprouts or lima beans?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Raising Iron Man

When my two boys were very young, we were frequent flyers at the ER.

If we could have accrued points for our visits, we'd have achieved Medallion status and gotten all the great perks, like priority first-class seating in the waiting room and free drinks. Sadly, the hospital never once offered free Bloody Marys, even at those times when I could use one most.

After the fourth ER visit in a three-month period, I cowered in the corner of the exam room. "I hope all these repeated visits won't prompt a call from Children's Services," I told the doctor, with a nervous laugh.

He reached into my older son's nose with what appeared to be needle-nosed pliers. I watched as he pulled out a tiny wad of clothes dryer-hardened Kleenex, which Son #1 had apparently relocated from his pants pocket into the nether regions of his nostrils.

"I wouldn't worry too much about Children's Services," he said. "I haven't seen an abusive parent yet who shoves balled-up pieces of tissue up their child's nose."

Son #1 had his share of ER trips for sure. But Son #2 was an ornery, hyperactive youngster, particularly prone to accidents and mishaps. His younger years presented a unique set of parental challenges. (Son #1 surpassed those challenges in his teenage years.)

Fortunately, we of the Stanfa lineage are a tough bunch. As my dad was fond of saying, "When it gets too rough for everyone else, it's just about right for us."

Yet no one in the family was tougher and more resilient, in times of medical crisis, than Son #2.

Many of his injuries were endured with little or no complaint. He barely whimpered about his two fractured wrists, so I refused to feel too guilty for waiting weeks after both incidents to finally haul him off to see a doctor.

But some occasions demanded immediate attention. Like the time he was a toddler and I found him belting down a bottle of cough syrup.

We headed off to our second home, where the ER nurse handed us a tall glass of some charcoal-flavored antidote. "It tastes God-awful, so we can never get any child to drink it, but let's see if we manage to get just a sip or two down him."

I sighed and handed my two-year-old the witches brew.

He took one sip. He swallowed. He peered down at the cup. And he then proceeded to chug, hardly bothering to breathe between gulps. When he finished the entire contents, he handed the cup back to me. Awaiting a refill.

The nurse watched, bug-eyed. "In all my years here, I have never--not once--seen a child drink the whole thing."

A stomach of steel. Yes, I was raising Iron Man.

I didn't comprehend the strength of his super powers until years later, when we learned his too-small palate couldn't accommodate a normal full set of teeth. Consequently, the orthodontist recommended that he have several pulled. We headed off to the dentist--a man aptly named Dr. Moeller.

Dr. Moeller reached toward his young patient, with the first in a planned series of novacaine shots.

Son #2 clamped his hand over his mouth, releasing it just long enough to shout. "No shots! I don't need any shots! Just pull the teeth."

Dr. Moeller tried to reason with him: The novacaine would numb his mouth. The extractions would be far more painful without it than with it. He'd never pulled a tooth before, in all his years as a dentist, without numbing the patient's mouth first.

His pleas were to no avail. Young Iron Man shook his head, folding his arms across his chest. "No shots. Just pull them out."

Finally, Dr. Moeller nodded. "OK. I'll start to pull on the first tooth, and you let me know when to stop. Then we'll talk again about some novacaine."

He winked at me. I nodded back. We both knew how this was sure to play out.

Dr. Moeller reached back into the boy's mouth, this time with dental forceps. I watched him take hold of the tooth. No reaction.

He jiggled it. Nothing.

He began to pull. I cringed and turned my face away, holding my hands over my sensitive maternal ears to block out my child's inevitable scream of agony.

Not a sound.

I looked back to see the dentist holding a tooth, roots and all, within his forceps. He shook his head in disbelief, and we both glanced back at the boy in the chair.

"See? Easy," said Son #2.

Within minutes, the dentist had pulled the other three teeth. Iron Man lay silently until the dentist announced he was finished. Then he opened his eyes and grinned.

"See? Easy," he repeated, as blood dripped from the corners of his smile.

Within an hour of returning home, young Iron Man was requesting macaroni and cheese for dinner. I managed to appease him with a glass of chocolate milk.

I needed a drink that night too. Something with a much bigger kick.

But somehow, I couldn't face a Bloody Mary.

Did parenthood provide you with a card-carrying ER membership? Are you a wimp or are you Iron Man?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Notes of Interest

I went to lunch last week with two close high school friends with whom I hadn't spoken in twenty years. Inconceivable, wasn't it, that we'd go from being nearly inseparable, to sending Christmas cards, to... nothing?

Yet over our salads and sandwiches, the years melted away. One moment we were middle-aged near-strangers, and the next, we had managed to conjure up some semblance of what is was to be fifteen.

As we reminisced about our collective pasts and caught up with our current lives, my friend Sue reached for her purse.

"I put these aside to bring to our last class reunion, but I never made it there," she said. "So I figured I'd bring them along today." She pulled out a plastic baggie stuffed with paper and handed it to me.

I opened the baggie and began unfolding one of the pages. "Dear Susie Baby," it began. The writing, in faded purple ink, seemed familiar. I squinted at the page and glanced up at her.

"These are all the notes you wrote me in high school. Most of them during biology class in sophomore year," she said. "I saved them all, in a cookie jar."

"You're kidding."

She shrugged and smiled. "Every time I moved, I'd find them and think about tossing them, but I never did. I don't know why. But they're a hoot. You should take them home and read them."

And so I did.

I'd like to say she saved them for thirty-five years because I was a teenage prodigy and the words I wrote as a high school sophomore were already Pulitzer-worthy. They were, indeed, sometimes funny and heart-warming.

But what they contained wasn't some award-winning writing. What was meaningful about these words, scrawled during a single hour each day during a single school year, was that they provided a written snapshot: a clear image of one short but meaningful time in each of our lives.

What I read reminded me about events I'd fully forgotten. About our favorite catchphrases and favorite people. About the person my friend was at fifteen, and the person I was then, too.

My last words were written in June 1977. "Well, Big Baby, this is the last note I will ever write to you in biology class... I hope you have kept all my notes this year. It's a valuable collection!"

None of my high school scribblings would net a dime on Pawn Stars. But valuable? Ah, such a subjective term when it comes to pieces of our past.

Stashed away in my basement, amidst holiday decorations and cartons of books, are cardboard boxes filled with mementos. Among these are countless handwritten memories: postmarked envelopes with letters written in a long-gone aunt's cursive script. Handmade birthday cards from my sons, in a child's clumsy printing. And somewhere, for certain, contraband notes from old friends written during school days when we knew friendships to be far more important than any teacher's lectures.

Will today's generation still have the ability to capture this magic of their past, thirty or more years from now? Will they be able to scroll through old text messages and emails and Facebook posts from long-lost friends or deceased loved ones? If so, will those electronic words in some computer-generated sans-serif font still hold the same meaning?

I hope so.

The passing of years turns our memories into muddied images. But what remains behind in paper and ink enlightens the past in vivid detail, often more so than a photograph. It recaptures meaningful moments from the writer's point of view. It reminds us of who and what was once important to us, and often explains why we are whom we are today.

I might not still be that fifteen-year-old telling bad jokes, practicing even worse Spanish skills and plotting big plans for the weekend.

But thanks to my words, preserved by a friend for thirty-five years, I had one hell of a time getting reacquainted with her.

Do you still believe in paper and ink? When's the last time you sent snail mail? Who were you at fifteen?

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Is the text on this blog blinking and switching fonts and disappearing altogether?

You say the comment section has totally disappeared, and you can no longer post a comment or even read what others had to say? 

No, it wasn't an intentional statement to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act under consideration in the Senate. It's just my Blogger program. Or me. Or a combination of both.

I made some recent layout changes--ironically during National Delurking Week--that wreaked havoc on the blog's appearance for some readers. Apparently, these are issues only with certain versions of Internet Explorer. Therefore, the simple remedy is to open the blog in a different browser. (I understand Firefox and Chrome both work well. Don't have Firefox? You can download it free here.)

Thank you!

Back soon with a real post. And hopefully one that won't blink and change before your very eyes...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Top Ten Reasons to Delurk

Hello! Oh, it's you? Thanks for stopping by again! I would love to address each of you by name, except a crapload of you frequently stop by without introducing yourselves. What's up with that? (I'm talking especially to you, anonymous readers in Canada, the U.K., and Chase Bank.) (Regarding the latter: Please reassure me you're not just my creditors.)

Not that I mind your dropping in that way. (Unidentified guests are better than no guests at all). But I'm hoping this week will be different: I am told this is "International Blog Delurking Week." The theory is that formerly shy readers, or those who have apparently been afraid that commenting here might tarnish their image, will finally break down and let the rest of us know you're lurking out there, by leaving a comment.

Yes! Please do!

Why? I'll give you ten good reasons.

Top Ten Reasons for You to Delurk on This Blog

10) All commenters receive a free, personalized response, so your life will *finally* be complete!

9) My regular commenters are bound to start finding something more interesting and worthy of their time, such as cleaning the litterbox or sorting out their Tupperware drawer, and where will that leave me?

8) You will not be contacted by any third-parties, including insurance salesmen, vinyl siding companies or Jehovah's Witnesses.

7) I'll derive great comfort in knowing a few of my unidentified blog hits are actual readers who didn't just happen upon this site by Googling, "Is the cat peeing in the bathtub unhygienic?" or "syndrome for losing keys" or "burying dead bodies."

6) Commenting requires you only to provide your name, social security number and banking information. OK, perhaps just your name and how you found me here?

5) Commenting on a blog is like Paying It Forward; you get nothing in return except knowing the world is a better place for your actions. So basically, commenting here is a humanitarian effort that you sadly can't write off on your taxes.

4) I can only guess that you non-commenters are deviant stalkers with pin-ups of odd middle-aged women on your dilapidated apartment walls, and I will be forced to hire a really cheap attorney.

3) If you are not a deranged stalker, I will have to assume all unidentifiable blog hits are the actions of that relentless George Clooney, who refuses to leave me the hell alone.

2) A blog is like a party; everyone who attends is socially obligated to either bring the hostess a bottle of wine or at least say "hello" when they show up. (Your choice. If you prefer to send me wine, I'm totally good with that.)

1) After just one comment, you will gain fame and wealth, lose ten pounds and be featured on the cover of People magazine!*

*not a lifetime warranty

Do us both a favor during International Delurking Week, won't you, and enter and sign in, please?

Are you experiencing technical difficulties when you try to comment? (If so, email me.) Should I have offered prizes, like a free, chronically irritable cat? Regular commenters won't forsake me for your Tupperware drawer this week, will you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Shucks, Folks, I'm Speechless

During my recent Holiday Hiatus, I was pleased to be given the honor of the Versatile Blogger Award by Ashlee, of Something to Say. In return for accepting this award, I was asked to reveal seven snippets of information about myself and then to bestow the same honor upon five of my favorite bloggers.

After nearly three years of this blog, most of you know everything you might possibly care to know about me (and some stuff you rather wish I never shared). But I dug deep tonight. And so, here goes:

  1. I've been warned to never admit, if visiting Philadelphia, that my name is "Stanfa." The jury's still out on whether being shirttail relatives with this guy would be a disgrace or possibly an advantage of sorts. Meanwhile, you may want to stay on my good side.
  2. When I was growing up, my family referred to dinner time as Sarcasm Hour (indicating no chance in hell that I'd ever amount to normal).
  3. I always suspected I'd have three sons, and planned to name them John, Paul and George--reserving "Ringo" for a family pet. I did indeed name Son #1 George, but changed my name plans when Son #2 was born. I quit birthing babies altogether after two boys. (Sanity prevailed.) Yet I did name the dog Ringo. And although Demon Cat has shown no inclination whatsoever to give peace a chance, his given name is Lennon.
  4. I go through vacuum sweepers, lawnmowers and telephones like nobody's business. I ruin them all, toss them out and move on to new ones--hoping no one will take notice. Much like politicians go through mistresses and naive interns.
  5. I had a job for two years during high school playing the Easter Bunny at our local mall. Best. Job. Ever.
  6. My pet peeve? Gum-snapping. Hate. Double hate! LOATHE ENTIRELY!
  7. My first job out of college was as a staff reporter for a small newspaper named The Expositor (which I fondly called The Suppository). I immediately proved myself to be the consummate writer and ace photographer, but when researching my first big expose'--a story about the operations of the county dog pound--I blew my blossoming professional persona by breaking down and bawling on the spot.
So, that's the goods on me, in a nutshell.

Although I'm hard-pressed to choose only five fellow bloggers on which to bestow this award, I'm pleased to pass it on to these favorites, for whom I'm hoping this is a first-time honor:

Sarah: Sharpest librarian on the whole World Wide Web. Not a poetry aficionado? She'll convert you.
MSB: Her writing? Swoon. Her photography? Double swoon.
Amanda: Read her blog for a week, and I promise you'll soon be running away. And I mean that in the good and healthy way.
Teri: Read about her life. Read about her take on books. Love it all. Rinse and repeat.
Carrie: She cooks, she writes, and she posts mouth-watering photos of every dish, making you wish she'd invite you to dinner some evening.

Thank you, once again, Ashlee! So you'll blurb my book, right?

Can you suggest a favorite blogger who isn't already on my blogroll? What don't we know about you? Does gum-snapping drive you, too, to the brink of insanity?