Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Christmas. In Quotes.

I like to think of myself as a good writer. But sometimes, this Christmas for example, my friends and family can tell the story better than I can.

"Why don't you get him something for his garage? He looooooves hanging out in his garage.
" --my friend Lindsay on what to get my brother for Christmas.

I got him a dart board (for his garage, of course).
IMG_0277 IMG_0284
"Well, you only go around once," -my Dad about going overboard on gifts.

"You better hurry up, because I'm going to be listening to Fox News and you don't want me to get brainwashed." -my Mom when she reluctantly dropped me off at the busy mall to pick up one more Christmas gift.
"Dad, that gift is way too big for those little bows." -Me
"Well, I was sort of thinking I could do a collage." -my Dad

Honestly, his "collage" consisted of three bows scattered randomly on the front of the gift. My dad and I could make a Father-Daughter wrapping presents reality show. I believe it would be highly entertaining.

"She uses really bad language. You know, like you." -my Mom describing her friend's daughter who she says tells hilarious stories. What Christmas is complete without hearing about your parents' friends' kids? I mean, really?

"This says I live in Alabama." -my brother Jeff

Whoops. I wrote the wills my dad requested but wrote the wrong state.

"I think Jeff might quit drinking in 2012." -my sister-in-law Katie
"Well, have fun with that." -my Dad

"I think there is something wrong with this hoop. It's not heavy enough. Or maybe I'm just heavier." -my Mom

I bought everyone hula hoops for Christmas this year. They were a hit. For at least 15 minutes.
IMG_0257 IMG_0256
"This thing is so powerful it'll suck your toenails off." -my Dad

"The guy told me it's the nicest vacuum you've never heard of." -my Dad

"I just watched my Dad vacuum the floor with my brother's new vacuum and was highly entertained. I think this is rock bottom." -Me in an email to a friend.

All of these quotes are in reference to the biggest hit of Christmas, my brother and Katie's new vacuum cleaner. That's right, we have now reached the age that we are not only receiving vacuum cleaners as Christmas gifts, but we are also blissfully excited about them.

"Stephanie, you need to buy a house." -my Dad
"I know, but what if I decide to leave Atlanta?" -Me
"You've been saying you're leaving Atlanta for five years." -my Dad

"Well that's bullshit." -my Mom on her fortune at the local Chinese restaurant. The fortune said, "Turn your thoughts within. Find yourself." This quote was both funny and shocking, because my mom almost never says "bad" words.

"That key lime pie is on time." -Katie
IMG_0177 IMG_0170
I hope your Christmas was "on time" as well. Please share your favorite quote from your celebration.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me.

Despite getting completely out of hand while shopping for others during the holiday season (I almost bought my dad a Pabst Blue Ribbon t-shirt the other day, certain that it's EXACTLY what he needed), I've managed to keep it together when it comes to purchasing things for myself.

But this Christmas, I did something I've never done. Say hello to my new friend; my very first self-bought Christmas present.


Isn't she lovely?

I'd been thinking about investing in a good camera for a while, ever since I lost my POS point-and-shoot in the snowy streets of New York in January. And because I think and obsess over doing things for months and months and then pick the most expensive month of the year to actually bite the bullet, it's only natural that I'd buy the camera just weeks before Christmas.

There were several challenges that almost prevent this purchase -- I thought that the universe was conspiring against me for my poor timing. But I refused to let a less than intelligent saleswoman, a personal in-store freak out about spending this money on myself during the month of December, and a domestic dispute at Best Buy that involved quite a few F-bombs and all of the shopping center's rent-a-cops rushing to the scene to prevent me from establishing my new tradition.

I pushed through. And now this beauty belongs to me.

We're still getting to know each other and I have a lot to learn. IMG_0059

But we've already shared some good times. Some laughs, even.

Merry Christmas to me. And a very Merry Christmas to you.


And while you're here, avoiding your family, you must tell me, what's the best Christmas present you ever bought yourself? Please, because I'm starting to feel bad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Funnies

A few weeks ago, my dad sent me his Christmas list (I realize that we're adults and are probably too old to write lists, but the Gallmans are list people; we always have been) and it seemed pretty standard: a shirt, a suitcase, a golf club, a belt.

He closed his email with,

"The most important thing I want from my children is for each of them to have a will written. You both own property and need to have it in writing who gets what if anything should happen to you. Jeff needs to have one so Katie doesn't have to go through hell if anything should happen to him."

I read it twice just so I was clear that what my dad wants most for Christmas is for my brother and I to write wills. He wrote it. In an email. A CHRISTMAS email.

Then I burst out laughing at the coffee shop. So much so, that people stared at me inquisitively.

I responded, "Dad, is this for real? If so, you just made the blog again!!!!!!!!!! Freaking hilarious."

He was serious. Jeff and I not having wills has been on his mind for a while. Knowing our desire to please him, especially at Christmas, he just threw it in there with everything else, even if it sort of sucked the joy out of the holiday momentarily.

I had to consider, between this and the life insurance policy he's been giving my brother and me for years, that perhaps my father is planning my death.

Not to be outdone, when my mom sent me her list, she ended with, "I think I'm going to have to block the Hallmark channel from our cable. They've been airing Christmas movies 24/7 and I can't get anything done."

I keep telling myself I need to start doing new things or I'm going to run out of topics to blog about, but with parents like mine, I think I'll be good for a while.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Punctuation is Important

Back in September, my mom sent me an email asking me what I wanted for my birthday. She aims to please, and always feels more comfortable shopping with guidelines. I was busy at work and couldn't think of anything specific that I really wanted, so I hastily wrote her back a generic list of things that I certainly didn't need, but always appreciate receiving as gifts -- clothes, shoes, books, jewelry.

Later that week, I remembered that there was something that I wanted that wasn't on that original list, so I emailed her again.

Subject: Also . . .

Email: ...I would like some good sunglasses for my bday...if Jeff and Katie ask what I would like. Haha RayBans are about 100-150

I said "Haha," because I would never expect my brother and his wife to purchase $100 sunglasses for me. "Haha" = That's funny!

My mother read "Haha," however, went to Sunglasses Hut and told the salesman that she was looking for a pair of "Haha Raybans." The clerk, puzzled, searched high and low for this brand of Raybans he'd never heard of, even opening up the merchandise catalog to do a search for "Hahas."

The day of my birthday, my mom called me in hysterics. She could barely catch her breath as she told me, in between her bouts of laughter, that she'd been purging old emails. When she reread the sunglasses exchange, she saw how I intended the "Haha." She couldn't believe what she'd done, but blamed me for not putting a period before starting a new thought.

After our conversation, she sent me an email.

The manager even tried finding them in the catalog! I'm such a dork, but YOU really need to work on your punctuation.

We've shared quite a few laughs over this story, and now refer to all sunglasses as "Hahas." I recently asked my mom what she wanted for Christmas this year and she said, "The only thing I can really think that I want are some Haha Raybans."

I think she's earned them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I did this Thanksgiving

In the spirit of my last post, I enthusiastically said, "yes" when my mom asked me if I would be willing to answer phones at the Families Helping Families charity phone bank on Thanksgiving Day. My family celebrates Thanksgiving on Friday (to accommodate my unpredictable work schedule and my sister-in-law's family dinner), so giving back felt like the perfect way to spend the holiday.

While the rest of the country was loafing around their houses watching football and enjoying their turkey coma, this is what I was doing:

Amazing, right?

I work in television and have been on television enough times for this to not be that big of a deal for me, yet something about being sandwiched in between my parents answering phones on local TV completely tickled me and I could not keep it together.

I blame my dad, who screwed up the name of the charity every time he answered the phones, "Family Helping Families? Helloooooo?" Or when he asked me, "Do you think we look fat on TV?" right before the reporter went on air.

Regardless, when people ask me how I spent the Thanksgiving holidays, instead of just saying, "I ate too much," I can say, "I ate too much and I was on the local news answering phones and helping people!"

Hope you all had a great holiday! If you are in the Columbia area and would like to adopt a family, you can do so here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude. Just Do It.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

When I was growing up, anytime my brother or I whined to our parents that we didn't want to do something, they usually responded with some variation of, "Do it anyway."

"I don't wannnnnna clean my room." I don't care. Clean it anyway.

"I don't wannnnnna do my homework." I know. Do it anyway.

"I don't wannnnnna take a shower." That's gross, Stephanie. Take one anyway.

It's not that they didn't care about what my brother and I wanted, or weren't sympathetic to our desires. They just hated whining. In life, there are plenty of unpleasant things that we're not going to want to do -- work, pay taxes, go to the DMV; whether or not we want to do them is inconsequential because we have to. This unfortunate reality was one my mom and dad wanted us to learn about at a young age.

Do (insert undesirable activity) anyway. Because you have to. Because we said so.

Thanks to them, expressing gratitude for the many blessings in my life has come very naturally for me. Thanking the military for their service and making a list of the things I am most thankful for were just two of the gratitude-related activities I participated in on my journey to turning 30; neither was all that hard. Seeing the good all around me and feeling thankful for it was easy. Life was easy.

That's what Thanksgiving is all about; gathering with family and friends and saying "thank you" for all of the year's blessings. But lately life hasn't felt so easy; this year has presented challenges that have left me feeling lost, uncertain, and at times, very sad. For the first time in my life, feeling thankful feels like a really difficult thing to do. As embarrassing as it sounds, I want to channel my inner 8-year old, and scream, "I don't wannnnnna give thanks. I just don’t feel like it!”

I haven't discussed these feelings with them, but I'll bet if I did, my parents would probably turn on the same voice they did when I was a child and say to me, "I'm sorry you feel that way. Be thankful anyway. You have to."

Because despite the challenges I've faced this year, I do have many blessings to be thankful for. A supportive family, loyal (and hilarious) friends, a challenging job, the greatest pair of jeans that I've ever owned. Life IS good, even though sometimes (right now especially) it feels really bad.

Earlier this year, I began reading a food blog by a New York based food writer named Jennie. She's witty, smart and cooks beautiful food that I long to eat and could only hope to recreate.

In August, Jennie's husband Mikey died unexpectedly, leaving her a young widow and a solo parent to two young daughters. In a recent post, she wrote about how she was feeling leading up to her first Thanksgiving without her beloved:

As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, instead of focusing on what we have lost, I will remind the girls of everything that enriches our lives. I will remind them to be thankful for the new warm blankets we just bought, for the apartment we now call home, for the love of friends and family.

Jennie's ability to mourn her husband while also recognizing how blessed she and her daughters are for the time they spent with Mikey reminds me that feeling sad and feeling hopeful are not mutually exclusive. I may feel like crying this Thanksgiving, but I know I'll probably laugh a lot too, and for that I am extremely thankful.

If Jennie can find a way to be grateful for things this Thanksgiving, then so can I. Even though lately I haven't really felt like it.

So here I go, starting small.

Thank you, homeless man in the Target parking lot who whistled at me when I was wearing no makeup and yoga pants. You clearly saw beauty where most people see none, and I appreciate it.

Thank you, co-worker who said I was so funny I should be on Saturday Night Live. Honestly, best compliment ever.

Thank you, Bravo, for recognizing the genius of Andy Cohen and extending his show, Watch What Happens Live, to five days instead of just two. I suspect my productivity might plummet, but I will be highly entertained, so I really don't care.

Indeed, there is much joy in my life; finding it has just been a bit more challenging this year.

I would love to hear what you're thankful for this year, no matter how big or small.

Have a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wardrobe Crisis

My roots are with the Gamecocks . . .

My degree is from Georgia (and I'm a proud Bulldog through and through) . . .

But my wardrobe, as much I hate to say it, is Auburn. All the way.

This insane springtime ensemble that I sported yesterday got a lot of attention (and not necessarily the good kind). It wasn't for lack of trying -- I pride myself on being able to dress myself pretty well most of the time. But thanks to the abnormally warm weather in Atlanta and the uncomfortably warm temperatures in my office, I'm finding it more and more difficult to get dressed. My legs and arms are pale and no one should be subjected to seeing that. Still, it's 78 degrees outside and 85 degrees at my desk.

Suggestions welcome.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Funeral Set Ups

A few weeks ago, I went home to South Carolina for a funeral for an old family friend. Randy was the first boy I ever liked and the first boy I ever kissed (in a hotel room while our parents partied in the room next door). His death, at age 33, was a shock; thinking of the grief his family was suffering was devastating for my family and me.

"Death is just so final," my mom said on the phone. "One minute he was here, the next minute he's gone."

I made plans to attend, but I dreaded the funeral, knowing how terribly sad it would be to see so many other young people all grieving for Randy's untimely death. All funerals are sad, but even more so, I find, when the person dies so unexpectedly and so early in their life. My heart ached for those closest to him, especially his mom and sister.

The morning of the funeral, I woke up in my bed at my parents’ house with a lump in my throat. I showered and went downstairs with wet hair to retrieve something from my mother.

"How are you going to wear your hair?," she asked me as I turned to leave.

I chuckled, and paused, looking at her inquisitively. Our house had been abnormally melancholy that morning; her question came completely out of left field.

"Well I don't know. I hadn't really thought about it*."

(*it = how I'm going to wear my hair to this super sad, horribly unexpected FUNERAL.)

"Straight, I guess,” I said, while shrugging my shoulders. “It takes me less time."

She looked at me with disappointment in her eyes, and then cocked her head to the side.

"I really think you should wear it curly. It looks so much better curly."

Perhaps I was distracted by the HORRIBLY SAD FUNERAL that we were about to attend, or maybe I knew what she was saying was right, and that my hair does look better curly; regardless, I didn't protest. I had no energy to fight with her. As I walked back to my own room to do exactly what she wanted me to, I mumbled under my breath, "I don't know why it matters, but alright."

Not until I had completed curling half of my hair to my mother's liking did it occur to me why she'd strongly advised me to wear it this way. The unfortunate thing about a young person's funeral (and I have attended far too many in my life), is that they are full of other young (and possibly single!) people. And seemingly in my mother's eyes, this was reason to wear my hair curly.

When I was ready and returned downstairs, I joked with my dad, "Hey, did you hear mom tell me to curl my hair? I think she's hoping I'll meet someone at this funeral."

My dad laughed, but when my mom learned about my theory, she was not amused.

She'll tell you, like she did that day, that this was not the reason for the hair comment at all, and that I am, in fact, projecting my own ideas onto her.

"It makes a good story when you tell it the way YOU tell it," she said, accusing me of exaggerating for the sake of the blog (Who, me?).

But need I remind you that this is the woman who, of all the new things I did during my 30th year, got the most bent out of shape over me not wearing makeup to work? I'll rest my case.

Maybe her intention wasn't to set me up someone, but she always wants me to look my best, and my best, in her opinion, is with curly hair.

No, much to my surprise, and chagrin, it turns out it was my dad who actually attempted to pair me off. At a funeral.

My parents helped host a reception following the service at a neighbor's home so that friends could visit with Randy's family. My brother and I followed our parents there and stayed for a while, before leaving to return to our respective cities.

On my way back to Atlanta, I checked in with my mom and dad to find out how the rest of the day went. I spoke to my dad first, then my mom. In the middle of my conversation with my mother, I could hear my dad speaking loudly in the background.

"Let me have the phone back before you hang up," he said to my mom who was still trying to talk to me. "I need to ask her if she knows . . ."

When my mom, clearly annoyed at this point, handed my father his phone back, my dad sounded almost excited as he said, "Steph. Do you know Mike Morris**?"

(**Name has been changed to protect the very blindsided, very innocent person in this scenario)

The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember ever meeting him.

"No, I don't think I know Mike Morris. Who is he?"

"Well," he sounded almost excited at his point. All of his sentences were coming on top of each other and he barely paused for a breath.

"He is a very nice young man. He knew Randy in college. Now he works and lives in Atlanta. He does a job similar to yours. Likes music. Listens to Phish. Says he likes Atlanta but is looking for a change. I showed him your picture but he didn't recognize you."

I almost ran off the road. I had been amused that my dad struck up a conversation with this 30-something year old guy at a funeral reception and had liked him enough to mention me. But a picture? Is he serious?

"You showed him my picture? Are you serious? What picture?" (I know, does it matter what picture? Yes, in fact, it does. The whole thing is humiliating regardless, but the picture DOES matter.)

The picture was one my dad had taken that morning on his new cell phone. At least my hair was curly!

I was mildly annoyed at what he'd done, but in the context of the day, the whole thing seemed pretty insignificant and silly. I knew I'd be sharing this story to anyone who would listen. I thanked my dad for again supplying me with fabulous blog material, but before we hung up the phone, I strongly advised against him ever doing this again.

As I continued driving, I tried to picture how the whole scene played out.

What was this poor guy supposed to say to my over-eager dad goofily smiling, proudly holding his little girl's picture on his phone in hopes of making a love connection?

"Dude, your daughter's smoking hot and I'd totally like to hook up with her. Can you give me her number?"

"Your daughter is hideous and disgusting and not at all my type. No thanks, bro."

Poor Mike Morris -- he had to have felt trapped and in a no-win situation. I hope he found a quick exit and that this conversation gave him the levity we all needed on an emotional day.

Randy's untimely death has made me think about a lot of things -- life, death, and thanks to my parents, the importance of always looking my best.

Because you really never know when or where you'll meet people, or in my case, when your dad is going to whip out his cell phone and show your picture to random unsuspecting strangers grieving the loss of their friend.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bachelorette Breakdown

**Editor's Note: Finding pictures of Bachelorette parties that wouldn't completely embarrass myself or my friends was challenging for this post.

One of the quirks/frustrations of working on Saturday night is that by the time I get off work and want to hang out, my friends are either already at home and headed to bed or they've already been out for several hours and well on their way to making bad decisions.

There is no in between.

Trying to play "catch up" with a bunch of people who have been fully engrossed in partying is not ideal, but it is a risk every "weekend warrior" must take, or else I could go months and never see anyone outside of work.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I took a chance on my friends and went to Midtown to meet them out after they'd been at a pool party that started in the early evening.

As I made my way in that direction, I crossed the street and saw a cute, young, belligerently drunk girl wearing a short, tight dress and high-heeled shoes. She had a bachelorette sash across her body and a shiny, silver tiara on her head. Her getup reminded me of the last bachelorette party I attended and I sighed; I've reached the age where these over-the-top celebrations are happening less and less frequently. Sad.

As I started crossing the street towards her, I could see that she was crying and screaming at someone through her cell phone.

Angry drunk girl screaming on her phone? Oh how very cliche.

And then the bachelorette screamed, loud enough that everyone on the block turned to look, "I DON'T WANT TO MARRY YOU ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"


A group of guys walking past me right at that moment burst out laughing while giving each other the "That's a crazy bitch," look.

I looked away when I first heard the words come out of her mouth, embarrassed for her and for myself and for the guy on the other end of the phone. But as quickly as I looked away, something compelled me to turn back and once I did, I was unable to turn away from the train wreck. I almost tripped walking across the street, hanging on her every word and chuckling to myself. Mean, maybe, but what else is there to do but laugh at drunk people? Specifically a drunk, crying bachelorette who may be calling off her wedding after a night out with her friends?

Having planned and attended a plethora of Bachelorette Parties in my day, I scanned my memory bank to recall if I'd ever witness a similar outburst by one of my own bride friends. These weekend-long extravaganzas have had no shortage of drama, and have certainly included massive amounts of drinking for which I am not necessarily proud. But our drama has been more of the dancing on stage, pack 21 people into a mini-van cab playing disco music, and then fall through a screened-in door variety. Never a wasted, tearful, game-changing phone call.

In fact, aren't calls to the husband-to-be forbidden at bachelorette parties?

A bridesmaid 12 times now, I truly thought I'd seen it all when it came to wedding festivities. I had to pause and acknowledge that this was something I'd never seen before.

Many thoughts ran through my head:

Someone take her phone. (If this conversation needs to happen, it shouldn't happen like this.)

What did the guy on the other end of the phone do/not do to spark such a visceral, hateful reaction from his fiance? (I hope it involves strippers.)

I'd really like that dress if it wasn't so tight and short (In times of crisis, focus on the positive.)

I judged this girl immediately for airing her drama for all of Midtown to see and hear. What kind of a classless person does that? If the guy on the other end of the phone could see what a disaster she is he probably wouldn't have wanted to marry her either. What a nightmare.

Yet, there was a part of me that wanted to help her pull her skirt down so that it was covering her who-ha and then take her in my arms and remind her that bachelorette parties are more fun with karaoke, less fun with crying.

"Stop embarrassing yourself dear, that's just the tequila talking."

Despite the internal conflict I was having, I was certain about one thing: I couldn't wait to tell my friends. And I did immediately when I arrived.

"You. Are. Never. Going. To. Believe. What. I. Just. Saw."

My audience, of course, ate it up and we continued to laugh about it several times throughout the night.

The next day, however, I couldn't stop thinking and wondering about the girl and her fiance and what would become of them. Despite continuing to tell the story at least a dozen more times, I started to feel bad. I also started hypothesizing about what was really going on with them.

Maybe, I thought, the bachelorette is a drama queen Bridezilla and a couple of drinks only exacerbates her unreasonable behavior. Her groom is used to it and it doesn't bother him. He thinks her drama keeps the relationship spicy. They've already made up and the wedding is still on.

Or maybe the relationship was already on the brink of disaster and all it took was a wild night out with her friends for everything to click. In which case, her timing and delivery could use some work, but I'm happy that she came to this realization while she was still wearing that cheap tiara and not after she'd already walked down the aisle.

Regardless, I had to feel for her and what I can only imagine was the worst physical and emotional hangover she's ever had.

My mom was wrong when she said "Nothing good ever happens after midnight." Sometimes that's when it gets really interesting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Put Your Mind to It, Break a Sweat

Last Friday Mario Lopez (aka A.C. Slater from Saved by the Bell) came to the gym at my office to participate in two exercise classes.

I know what you're thinking:

Say what?



I could bore you with all of those details, but what's the point? When it comes to anything that has to do with Saved by the Bell, you shouldn't think too much about it, you just go with it. I obviously jumped at the chance and signed up immediately if for no other reason, then it would at least give me something to write about.

After plenty of email conversation about what I should wear (A thong? My birthday suit? Acid washed pleated jeans and a hot pink wife beater?) or what I should say to him should an opportunity for conversation arise (How did it feel to always be in Zach Morris' shadow? Are your dimples surgically enhanced?, Do you really think "there's no hope with dope?"), I arrived at the class ready to get fit with Mario Lopez.

There was an adequate amount of fanfare, the amount you might expect for a child star turned entertainment journalist turned reality star's appearance at a corporate health club, complete with security standing by in case anyone got out of hand.

I checked in for the class, grabbed my weights and found a spot on the floor, chuckling to myself at the palpable sense of excitement permeating the class. Why were we so excited about exercising with a B-level celebrity? I was seeking material to write about, but what was in it for everyone else? Does Mario Lopez have this much of a following?

I glanced at a girl standing to my left one row back from the front and noticed she was wearing a "Bayside Tigers" wife beater in honor of Slater's visit.

I smiled at her and her attempt to be clever, but then turned instantly cynical and downright mean inside my head.

How dare she use this shameless technique to get Mario's attention?! I pictured her buying the shirt on eBay and setting it aside, keeping it special for this very day. What did she think was going to happen? That he'd see the shirt and the two of them would be instant best friends?

I was embarrassed for her, and embarrassed that the rest of us had to be associated with her and that silly little shirt.

Her stunt reminded me of woman at Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up act a few years ago who slid a black and white cookie inside a plastic container onto the stage at the Fox Theatre. She stood there waiting for him to notice, pointing wildly at the cookie and acting like a complete idiot.

When Seinfeld couldn't ignore her anymore, he picked up the cookie and said, with his impeccable timing, "Ahh, yes, a black and white cookie. I was there when they wrote that joke."


I'd hoped Mario might react the same way to this girl and her Bayside shirt, but he didn't seem to notice her, her shirt, or anyone in the class for that matter. In fact, he said nothing from the time he entered the room until the end of class, when he reluctantly waited to take pictures with his adoring fans, and those of us who were just looking to something to blog about.

And that was it. Hardly the exceptional workout experience that was advertised, but it's nice that I will be able to live the rest of my life knowing that I worked out with A.C. Slater.

Be-Bu-Be-Bu-Bu-Bu-Beat, Go Bayside!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I am conflicted about what to do with this blog.

My mother always says, "If you don't know what to do, then don't do anything." I think this is her way of keeping me from making any hasty decisions like quitting my job after having a bad day or ending a friendship over a simple misunderstanding.

Maybe I'm older and wiser (I am 30, after all), but I'm starting to think my mom actually does know what she's talking about. So, for the last several months, I have done just that. Nothing.

I mean, don't get me wrong, my life didn't stop once I turned 30. It couldn't, really, because I had to continue writing about being 29 well into my thirties. But aside from all of that, I've still been living.

Living large, indeed.

Trying new things. Visiting new places. Meeting new friends.

And (happily) NOT writing about any of it.

I'm ashamed, and kind of surprised, at how easily I gave up writing. After doing it every single day for a year (give or take a few weeks), I hit "publish" on Day 365, burst into tears (the way I imagine mothers do when they put their kids on the school bus for the first time), and then I just stopped writing.

I'm sure if we wanted to psychoanalyze my reasons for quickly abandoning the only thing in my life I could lose track of time while doing, we'd probably find that I'm seriously screwed up (and I'm absolutely certain that I am), but really the reason that I just stopped was because I was tired. Physically tired, yes, but mostly just tired of myself. Personal reflection is important, and it's something I hope I will always do for the rest of my life. But it is exhausting.

So, I've been sleeping late, working out, reading books and enjoying repeating the same day over and over. Yep, it's like Groundhog Day over here in Stephanie land. So much so, in fact, I've been causing drama and picking fights with people just to jazz things up.

Ok, not really. But I have missed writing tremendously. I miss the blogging community of which I'd become apart. The conversation that happens when you share your life with others - I miss that connection with people. I think, shamefully, I also miss people telling me that I'm funny.

Over the year, I developed an identity as the wacky gal that tries new things and writes about them. Since losing the stress of having to write everyday, I have felt a bit lost.

Without a gimmick, though, without trying something new every single day, I'm not really sure I have anything to say that will matter to anyone else. Most bloggers that I like take beautiful pictures and bake delicious things (like my girl Olivia, who I met in person back in May. She is, no surprise, as lovely as her blog). They write about their health goals or about their families or their gorgeous stationery.

I'm just me. Without any real goal other than to live. Big.

So again, I'm conflicted.

I have stories to tell and ideas about things, but will anyone care?

My friend and fellow writer Julie is thinking about getting back into blogging again too after completing her Julie vs. Vegetables blog. She and I have become writing buddies, bouncing ideas off each other and berating each other to stop being lazy and start writing again already.

"We were so structured before with our other blogs, why don't we try and keep it loose this time around?," she suggested when I was whining about wanting to write but not having anything to write about.

I prefer guidelines and parameters. I don't always follow the rules, but I at least like to know what they are. But maybe this old dog can learn new tricks?

Maybe I can, as Julie suggested, keep it loose?

Someone said a good blog should be short and timely (the exact opposite of my old blog) and should have lots of pictures. Considering I'm still long-winded and I've managed to lose or destroy 6 cameras in the last two years, these are lofty goals.

But I'm happy to include other people's pictures, like this one of me "owling" at work. Apparently owling is the new planking, and it was definitely something I'd never done before. I thought this was a pretty funny picture until my hairdresser Moses asked me if I was trying to go to the bathroom on the floor.

(Note to self: Must get new profile picture)

So I'm back. With absolutely no plan except to write. I don't know how often I plan on writing, or what I'm even going to talk about. But I did just buy my own web domain: -- so I think it's high-time I put that sucker to use.

Oh, and in case you care, here is what I have been up to since I turned 30:


I personally thanked everyone on Facebook for their happy birthday messages, I went to ESPN's Gameday and then saw South Carolina beat Alabama, I played in my company's golf tournament (and wasn't the worst player!), I went to the UGA/Auburn game and (unfortunately) saw the now diseased trees at Toomer's corner get rolled; my family started a new oyster roast tradition for Thanksgiving, I snuck into the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome, I bought a new television and a new computer, I received one of the most special gifts - an antique typewriter - that sparked a trip to an antique mall so that I could find a table to put it on, I worked/lived in New York for a month, I met with a book agent (!); I went skiing in Telluride, biking in California wine country, clam-baking in Newport, Rhode Island; I fractured my foot at a party when someone stepped on me and just weeks later sprained my wrist when I fell off a bike; someone recently compared me to Lucille Ball (perhaps it has something to do with the fractured foot and sprained wrist) and I realized that's exactly who I want to be; I saw Prince, the National, Band of Horses in concert, Phish several times, and this past weekend - Steely Dan - with my entire family.

(Now Exhale)

I'm back.

For how long, I don't know. But for now, it feels good. Almost as good as dancing in Washington Square feels.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 365: The Bittersweet End

On Day 365, I woke up as a 30-year old.

As suspected, I didn't look or feel any different than I did the day before, except for the fact that I hardly slept and was so nervous I wanted to throw up.

I might've assumed I was having a physical reaction to my thirties, but I knew why I couldn't sleep and why my insides were turning over and it didn't have anything to do with getting older. The tossing and turning and nerves were because of Day 365's thing that I've never done before: to join a popular radio show to talk about Project 29 to 30.

Sometime around January of 2010 (about 100 days in), I sent Jenn Hobby, co-host of the Bert Show, an email telling her about Project 29 to 30. She and I share a mutual friend (John) and I thought she might think the idea was cool. What exactly I wanted from her and the show I wasn't sure, and I didn't exactly say it in the email. They had an intern at the time who was aspiring to dance 100 days in a row and I thought maybe I could join her. But obviously I was up for anything at that point, and with the help of their listeners I knew they could come up with some great ideas.

Best case scenario, I thought, she would love the idea, love me and I'd become a regular, "girl trying new things," segment on the show. A win-win for us both. Worst case scenario, they'd never respond and I'd be no worse off than I was when I started. I'd never know if I didn't ask, though, so I did.

Within a day, Jenn responded and told me that she loved the idea. She said she'd share it with the others and see if she could make something work out. I was elated. A few days after that, the show's producer, Tracey, emailed me and asked me for my phone number. I emailed her back and checked my phone like a psycho waiting for a guy to call me.

I waited and waited, but just like the guys who have taken my number and never called, I never heard from Tracey.

My friend Emily, a big Bert Show fan, followed up with an email on my behalf, but still nothing. I know that many times in situations like this, persistence is the way to go, but I also find there is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. And I didn't want to cross that line. Plus, I had a blog to write and new things to do, so I just let it go.

I forgot about the show until I was listening to them one morning do a segment that was so terrible, I htought, "My idea is way better than this!" Clearly they were at one time interested in it, so I emailed Tracey one more time, told her that my birthday was a month away and that I'd love their help thinking of new things to do.

And just like that, she called. We played phone tag a few times, but when we finally connected, she suggested that I come in studio on the morning of my birthday at around 9am.


Emily, who had already taken the day off from school to recover from the weekend, offered to come with me and to drive us to the station, which is in an office building north of Atlanta. But since I was a ball of nervous energy, I told her I'd prefer driving so that I would at least have something else to focus on.

I was a complete spaz, though, and we passed the building a few times before pulling in. I'd already put my phone on silent, but Tracey had been calling me wanting to know if I was still coming. We finally arrived and after sitting silent in the waiting room, Producer Tracey came out to get us.

The co-hosts of the show are local celebrities in Atlanta, so I knew what they looked like, so there wasn't the, "Oh, YOU'RE Bert?! I thought you'd look different!" What was odd, was shaking their hands as if we were strangers; I was definitely a stranger to them, but since the show can get quite personal, I knew quite a few details about each of them. I'm sure they're quite used to this, but I felt creepy asking Jenn about her wedding or Tracey about her infant daughter.

While Emily and I were standing outside the studio waiting to go in, the host of the show, Bert, teased my segment saying something to the effect of, "Stephanie just did 364 things and one of the last things on her bucket list was to meet the cast of the Bert Show. We'll talk to her next."

I work in media, and I understand the art of a good tease, but I was a little confused as to how they got "bucket list," and, "wanting to meet the cast of the Bert Show," from the correspondence we'd had. Now everyone thinks I'm some obsessed radio show fan. Let's be clear, if I did have a bucket list, the only "must meet" people on it would be Paula Deen or Kelly Ripa.

As much as I wanted to clarify, I decided to let it go. I refused to get caught up in the details. I was about to be on the radio.

When I walked into the studio, I noticed first how small the room is. The show was in a commercial break, so everyone was sort of chilling out and doing their own thing. I was in the next segment, so they showed me my seat, gave me a headset and showed me the microphone that I was supposed to talk into.

I sat to the right of Jenn, and she and I started talking about her guest spot on Live with Regis and Kelly (amazing, so jealous). She started asking me about the blog and then she stopped herself, and "Wait, I'm sorry. Let me hear about it with everyone else."

I've heard that on radio shows and television shows that they refrain from a lot of pre-interviews so as not to ruin the conversation on air. If Jenn and I had this conversation now, then having it again minutes later might sound a little forced.

Coming out of the break, Bert welcomed me to the show and he asked me to talk about the blog and I went for it. Emily said she tried to take pictures of me, but I was talking with my hands so much that it was hard to get a good one.

I hesitate to say, "radio is easy," because I was there for less than ten minutes, but the whole segment went by so fast. The co-hosts were friendly and engaging and since they're all right there in the room, it felt like I was just having a conversation with them. After my initial nerves calmed down, I forgot that I was talking on the radio.

Though I don't think my blog is terribly controversial, or worthy of further discussion, part of me hoped they would take calls from listeners. I really wanted someone to call in and say something hateful like, "You've got a lot of nerve, Stephanie."

But they didn't, and before I knew it, someone brought in a beautiful birthday cake and the segment was over.

I can't even tell you all that we talked about, because it all went by so fast. Even as I walked out of the show, I looked at Emily and said, "Did that just happen? What did I say?"

The whole segment is still on their website and you can listen here.

After we left the Bert Show and headed back to Emily's, I felt so jacked up, like I could've lifted my car or run a marathon. It was so much fun and such a perfect way to end the year of doing things I'd never done before. It sure didn't hurt that my cell phone immediately started blowing up with sweet phone calls and emails from my parents, friends and colleagues all telling me that I did a great job. And, no surprise, my blog was never more popular. The Bert Show bump is for real.

Since Trish (just one month into motherhood) couldn't make it to the birthday weekend, she offered to take me to lunch on my birthday. Emily and Kyle were off work too, so we all met at Henri's for two of my favorite things: sandwiches and gossip.

Emily offered to let me leave my car at her house so she could drive us, and we stayed well over an hour just catching up. Little did I know that when everyone abruptly said we had to go was because there was another surprise in store for me back at Emily's.

Her offer to drive to lunch was not simply a nice gesture, but actually premeditated move, orchestrated by our friend Lisa, who on my birthday, avenged the Valentine's Day prank Elizabeth and I played on her with a little prank of her own.

When we turned the corner down to Emily's house, all I could see were balloons tied to the top of my car, which was covered in paint, fake mustaches, and even a cougar tail. I know I overuse this word a lot when I'm speaking, but it was hilarious. She did such a good job and pulled off the greatest prank. Nine months later, after several washes, there are still flecks of paint on my windows.

We stood around laughing and taking pictures for a while and Lisa declared a truce. I'm not so sure either of us is going to stick to that but I agreed for the time being.

Not quite ready to head home, and unable to convince anyone to come out with me for another night of celebrating, I spent the rest of the night at Trish's house, drinking wine and talking. Not exactly a raucous birthday celebration, but exactly what I needed.

I could end this with a lot of sappy reflection about age and say all of the right things about how age is just a number and you're only as old as you feel. I do believe all of those things, and from where I sit, it's difficult even at age 30, to look at my life and feel anything but great.

But to be honest, I still freak about getting older. Less so because I feel old and am worried that I'm not where I should be at this age; more because I know how much the world has to offer. How will I ever find enough time (and money) to do it all?

I still struggle with the unknown and I worry, despite truly believing, "All who wander are not lost," that the only true obstacle holding me back from getting what I want is my inability to identify what that is. But with each day and each new experience, I think I'm getting closer to defining what success and happiness is for me.

This blog hasgiven me an outlet for which to share my joy and my sorrow, something that strangely, does bring me much happiness. What that means for the future, I'm not really sure.

But I have enjoyed this ride so very much.

To Mo and to Lauren, who tirelessly edited versions of these entries that were all over the place and filled with typos, it's OVER! WE did it. Thank you. Seriously. What a shitty job. Thank you times a million.

To my parents, I'm pretty sure "blogger" wasn't exactly what you meant when you said I could be anything I wanted to be, but thanks for always supporting my adventurous spirit. I am who I am because of you, and I'm sorry for the times when that's not a positive thing.

To everyone who participated in this blog, read it, commented on it, stuck with it despite it taking me so long to finish, there will never be the appropriate words for me to thank you enough for making me what I always wanted to be. A writer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 364: Happy Freaking Birthday to Me

I woke up on Day 364 to the sound of productivity in the living area of Grouper Therapy.

Like the seasoned professionals they are, my mom and her friend Ellen had come over early to gather all of the various things they'd brought over to the house for the dinner party and to clean the house as well as they would've if they were cleaning their own. I may have been a day away from turning 30, but my mom was still treating me like a child, certain that I wouldn't have done as good of a job as she did with the sorting and the cleaning. Under any other circumstances, I would've been bothered by the fact that she sometimes finds me completely incapable. On this particular day, however, I was just fine with it.

We had to check out of the house by noon so that the real cleaning crew could come in and get the house ready for the next guests. I did my part, carrying things from one side of the room to the next and overall keeping my personal cleaning crew entertained with stories from the night before that happened after they left.

After all the furniture had been returned to its correct spot, the beds were stripped, and I'd packed all of the luggage I'd brought (and there was a lot), I gave an appreciative head nod to Grouper Therapy, thanking it for allowing me to make many memories there, and crossing my fingers that we hadn't done any permanent damage to the place.

After dropping the key off at the realty company, I headed downtown with Lauren to meet a group for lunch. After we ate and shared many a laughs (again), I said good-bye to my mom and Mark and Jen, and then per her request, I took Lauren on a mini-tour of downtown Charleston.

If you've talked to me for an hour, or read this blog at all, you know I've had a love affair with Charleston that has been going on for quite a while; yet for some reason, I always get nervous sharing it with people who have never been there, fearing that I may have oversold it. What if the person I'm showing it to isn't that impressed and they feel like they have to fake interest just to spare my feelings? Awkward.

Luckily, Lauren seemed sincerely impressed by my favorite city as I walked her through Waterfront Park and then down to the Battery. It was a beautiful day. Hot, but beautiful.

I didn't really have a tour mapped out, so we just walked and I tried to drop some of the historical knowledge on Lauren ("There's Fort Sumter! Where the Civil War started!")

As we made our way back to Market Street, we saw a group of tourists take a right into a grave site with historical markers and we followed them. As we roamed through the grave markers, I laughed thinking about my friend Jen, who used to tell anyone getting bent out of shape about their birthday, "Well if you weren't getting older, then it would mean you're dead." She was right - there are far worse things than being 30. Being dead is just one of them.

While walking through the Charleston market, where we ran into Amanda and Stephen, we stopped for a drink and then I drove Lauren to the airport. I hugged her tightly goodbye and then drove away, my destination unknown.

I considered jumping on the interstate and heading back to Atlanta, but for some reason, I just wasn't ready to go. I just couldn't leave the beach. So I just drove around the city, by the house that I used to live in and by the health club where I used to work. Finally alone with my own thoughts for the first time in three days, I realized I still hadn't done anything I'd never done before (besides see John Rutledge's grave), and I panicked.

Really, Stephanie? One day to go and nothing planned?

Ahead of the birthday trip to Folly Beach, an old friend from college, now a Charleston resident, reached out to me and suggested that I paint the Folly Beach Boat as something I'd never done before. The Folly Beach Boat is an abandoned boat that washed ashore after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. No one ever claimed the boat, so it stayed, right there on the side of the road. A year after the hurricane, someone painted a message on the boat and ever since, others have followed suit, leaving behind birthday and anniversary messages for their friends and family. I've driven past the boat hundreds of times on my way out to the beach, and I absolutely loved the idea.

Unfortunately, as we all know, planning and executing are not my strong suits. I never really put forth any effort to get the Birthday Party Crew in on this, and since we were very busy with the responsibilities of the weekend like eating and drinking and relaxing, I never got around to it. By the time I remembered the great idea, in my car panicking, everyone was already on their way back home.

I took a few deep breaths and tried to channel the brave girl who started this insane task back on September 27, 2009, and I drove to Wal-Mart, picked up two cans of spray paint, and went back to the boat, by myself, to make Day 364's thing I've never done before to wish myself a happy birthday on the Folly Beach Boat.

On the way over to the boat with my two cans of spray paint, I started thinking, a little too deeply, about what a full circle moment this would be to paint a message to myself. I was brainstorming ideas of clever sayings to put on the boat, and coming up with some pretty awesome rhymes. I was really excited.

Only when I got there, I saw that some woman named Laura's friends had already been there, writing "Thirty-Forty-Fifty, Laura is now Sixty. We Love our Old Bird." My rhymes were way better than that, but their mural was quite colorful and there was a picture of a bird next to it, as well as the words, "Love U Nana."

There are no rules about how long messages have to be left on the Folly Boat before someone else can come and paint over it, so if I wanted to ruin Laura's message with my own, I could have. But whoever painted the message to Laura had taken a lot of time to do it, and I just couldn't justify ruining their artwork with my two cheap cans of spray paint.

Plus, when I reread the words, "Thirty-Forty-Fifty," somehow turning 30 didn't seem so monumental anymore.

I stood there for a minute, cars whizzing by me, unsure of what to do next. Then, without really thinking, I walked around to the back of the boat, to an area that's hardly visible to anyone driving by; I popped the lid off the red spray paint can, and painted, simply, "Happy Birthday Steph."

A birthday wish to myself.

I grabbed the light blue can and painted a little lame flower next to my happy birthday message, and then I got in my car and I drove away, unsure if anyone would ever see the message.

Indeed, it became a full circle moment.

When I started writing this blog, I called it, "my birthday present to myself." For me, it was an opportunity to challenge myself and do things that I'd never done and get back into writing like I'd always wanted to. I'd hoped, but wasn't at all confident, that anyone would ever read it.

Taking that risk, exposing myself has further solidified what I already knew: the best things in life aren't things.

In fact, the best presents are sometimes the ones that challenge us to think about our lives in a different way; the ones that demand us to recognize the wonderful people we've invited to share our journey, and the ones that force us to see the beauty that's all around us. This project did that. I would leave my twenties humbled by the many blessings in my life, and eager for the next chapter, whatever it might hold. There are days when this "present" to myself felt more like a curse. But I know now what I'm capable of, and it's far greater, so much sweeter, than I could've imagined.

That's the real payoff. The fact that so many others connected to my words, or were amused by them or inspired by them has been more than I could've ever hoped for.

I'd like to think though, that like the private birthday message I wrote on the Folly Beach Boat that day, that even if I knew no one would ever see it, I would've written it anyway. Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we give ourselves.

Happy Birthday to me.