Thursday, December 20, 2012

choose love.

I was on my way to Asheville last Friday when news of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting broke. Ever a journalist, I was glued to my phones, fumbling to find the news on the radio, desperate to know every detail.

At Jacob's urging, I forced myself to take breaks from the coverage to try and enjoy myself, listen to music, drink cold beers and soak up Asheville. The town and the people who live there are lovely - especially this time of year.

There were many times I was able to feel festive.


But many times, my mind, and my heart, were with Newtown, and my colleagues doing their best to temper their emotions to carefully cover the story.

When I got back, I became completely immersed, thrown into the fray of covering this horrific tragedy - striving to honor the victims with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, while also delving gently into the confusing, scary place of mental illness, a subject very near and dear to my heart.

I join the ranks of many who wonder, "Is no place safe anymore?" The movies? A grocery store? An elementary school? But mostly, while wiping tears from my face at least once a day at work, and usually several times at home, I just feel heartbroken.

My heart breaks for the citizens of Newtown who lost loved ones and whose sleepy little New England town has become so well known for something so very sad.

My heart breaks for parents everywhere who had to answer their own children's questions about life, death, safety at school. I can't imagine trying to explain to a little one that the world is good, even if for that moment in time, it was not.

My heart breaks for all of us who are guilty, in the wake of tragedies like this, of making empty promises to be kinder, love harder, and hug our children tighter. I worry that within weeks, we will have forgotten the names and stories of the victims, forgotten how we feel right now, only to fall back into our same patterns of short tempers, partisan politics and selfish behaviors.

Tomorrow is the winter solstice, and assuming the Mayans were wrong and the world doesn't end, it will be the shortest, darkest and for many of you, the coldest day of the year.  I'd venture to guess we've all had some dark days lately mourning this tragedy, and I'd like to think our darkest are behind us.

My yoga teacher said today that winter solstice brings the promise of increasing light and the chance for renewal - counterbalance to the dark and the cold.

I've been fortunate, while helping tell this awful story, to see these beacons of light - in the golden retrievers who came to Newtown to cheer up grieving citizens, in the California man who bought the town 100 cups of coffee sparking a random act of kindness movement, and in the endless tributes on television honoring those who died.

By Warren Haynes dedicating, "Imagine," to the Connecticut victims at his Annual Christmas Jam.


There is a sign that has been put up all over Newtown that reads, "We are Sandy Hook. We choose love."

At 9:30am EST tomorrow, I will pause for a moment of silence and reflection for the victims of Sandy Hook. And I am going to do my very best, in the memory of all of the precious souls who lost their life that day, to choose more love.   Now.  A week from now.  Years from now.

Won't you join me?

Perhaps together we can, as President Obama said, "Make this world worthy of their memory."

  Moment of Silence for Sandy Hook Victims on Dec. 21

Find out how you can help the victims of Newtown here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Last weekend, Trish, Momo and I went to Scott's Antique Market. This was the second time I'd ever been to Scott's, which comes to town the first weekend of every month.  

According to their website, Scott's is, "America's Favorite Treasure Hunt."  They couldn't be more accurate with that description.
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Walking through the rows of beautiful furniture and collectibles made me want to buy five houses just so I could decorate them.

I settled for a Christmas present for someone else (picture not included).

If you live in Atlanta, or close to Atlanta, if you own a home, are thinking about buying a home, or renting an apartment or simply laying your head somewhere, or just want to take pretty pictures of gorgeous things, I highly suggest you run, don't walk to Scott's.

Call me.  I'll take you. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

my little miracle baby.

As suspected, the response over my new iPhone has been overwhelmingly positive.

Funeral Guy, who would prefer it if I started calling him by his real name, Jacob, shook his head at me (he does that a lot) when I told him that I couldn't wait to see the looks on my naysayers faces when I told them I'd joined the 21st century.

"I'm Instagramming!," I said, "They're gonna freak."

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I don't think he could quite grasp that anyone would care this much about my phone.

But I knew they would.  And I was right.  

"Your texts are blue - does that mean what I think it means?"

"You got an iPhone?!?!?!?!  OMGGGGGGGGGGGG."

"How's that touchscreen treating you?!"

My friend Amanda came over to my desk and gave me a hug.  Like a for real, two arms around my shoulders hug. 

“I’m so happy for you,” she said. 

I seriously thought she might cry tears of joy.

"You know it's just a phone, right?  Not a child.  A phone," I said as she returned to her chair.  

But she wasn't the only one who treated my new phone like I'd just had a baby.
"How are you adjusting?," someone else asked me. "Don't you just love it soooooo much?!  Isn't it the best?"

These remarks amused me so much that if I didn't think it would send my mom into a tailspin of depression about never getting real grandchildren, I actually thought about sending out a Christmas card featuring me and my new child.

Happy Holidays Apple Nerds!

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I have an iPhone now which makes me infinitely cooler than everyone else!  Sorry if I haven't returned your phone call, I've been too busy Texting, Facebooking, Emailing, Spotifying, Tweeting, Instagramming, Face Timing, Words with Friendsing, or doing other things I could never was able to do with that sucky flip phone.  I still have the flip phone - you know, for posterity's sake.  Can you believe it?!!?!  What was I thinking?!?!?!?!  Hope your holidays are full of easy-to-find 4G hotspots and quick as lightning downloads!!!!!

Happy Holidays!!!
Love, Stephanie (and iPhone)

Don't worry, Mom.  I'm not sending a card like this.  But you'd be embarrassed if I told you how much I actually thought about it.

But the iPhone has become like a child in a way.  I'm always checking on him to make sure he's fed charged and in a safe place (i.e. not bouncing freely in the bottom of my purse).  If this phone is any indication of what kind of parent I will be - my kids can look forward to happily being passed to anyone who can show me what to do with them and therefore might, on occasion, slip from my hands onto the floor.

The teasing hasn't stopped - only instead of teasing me for not having an iPhone, everyone teases me about not knowing how to use it.


It's true, there are things that I need to learn. Like how to save Instagram photos to my photo gallery.  How to clean the screen.  I had to download 3 different Emoji apps just to get the Emoticon tool bar to show up in text messages.

I'm one week in people, cut me some slack!  T9 word wasn't learned in a day - but I'll get there.

People didn’t really answer my requests for the call last week to call me or text me their contact information, so I’ve been forced to fake it on text when they do – asking strangely probing questions over text to see if I can figure out who they are without coming right out and asking.  So if you know my number - "Call me, Maybe?" Sorry - I couldn't help myself.

And I'm still at a loss about apps, so tell me your favorites so I can be in the know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

the dark side.

Recently I was at my parents' house texting in T9-word on my Verizon LG Accolade when my 64-year old mother, with disgust and laughter in her voice, said, "I can't believe you still have a flip phone."

"Mom, you have a flip phone," I shot back.

"I know," she said, "But I'm 64."


This little exchange was the last straw in what had become a years-long public shaming I'd suffered over not having an iPhone.  Feeling as though I could take no more, when the opportunity to upgrade came a few months early, I ventured to the Apple dark side and am now the owner of an iPhone.

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"I feel dirty," I told Funeral Guy when I ordered the phone last week.

"Why do you feel dirty?" he said.  I could almost hear him laughing and see him rolling his eyes and shaking his head at my dramatics. 

"Because," I wrote back, "Now I'm just like everyone else."

For a while, the flip phone was a choice I made for me.  I have a Blackberry for work, so paying extra to have two smart phones seemed a bit excessive.  Plus the flip phone was comfortable and familiar.  And tiny.  And hanging up on someone could be done so in dramatic style, by clapping the sides of the phone together.

When people teased me about it, I laughed along with them, still feeling confident in my reasons for keeping the old phone around.  I am my own person.  I do not do what everyone else is doing just because it's popular.  Electronics are not my thing.  I prefer to spend my money on trips.  And jeans. 

But just like those who find their identity in always having the latest and greatest gadgets, it started becoming clear that I'd established part of my identity in resisting what seemingly everyone in my life had happily and enthusiastically adopted. I was holding on to the flip phone for all the wrong reasons - to be different and to spite everyone else.

I started to notice that having an archaic phone had become to some people, the most hilarious thing about me. And I'd like to think I'm funnier than a flip phone.

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At around 10:15pm last night, I bid my flip phone a fond farewell, and became an "iPhone person" - whatever that means.

Some of those same iPhone owners who have relentlessly made fun of me for not having one are the same people who can't have a normal conversation without also letting everyone know via Twitter or Facebook that it happened.  I sincerely hope that owning an iPhone won't automatically turn me into one of those people, but I have had it for less than 12 hours and I'm already having fun playing on it and figuring out all that it does.

As God is my witness, though, I will never ridicule those without smart phones the way others have ridiculed me.

Contrary to popular iPhoners' beliefs, I do know what popular apps like Instagram and Words with Friends are. I even know how to use them! I'm "stephgalls" on both, so please connect with me. But I am in need of help when it comes to other apps, so if there are any that you love, please share them with me.

And friends, call or text me because most of my contacts didn't transfer.

Happy iPhoning! Or flip phoning!  Or non-phoning!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

the ranch, part two.

This should be a Thanksgiving post.

I mean, I'm posting it on Thanksgiving, but it will not contain all of the warm and fuzziness that it probably should.  I mean, it is every Blogger/Facebooker/Twitterer's duty to post things that they're thankful for each day of November, declare how blessed they are, or at the very least post pictures from a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard, right?

This is not a typical Thanksgiving post, but not because I am not thankful or because I don't realize how completely blessed my life is.  There were challenges, but I can say for certain that expressing gratitude feels much easier to do this year than it did last year and for that I am immensely thankful.

So while this isn't a typical holiday post, it is inspired by something for which I am grateful - my trip to California and my time at the Los Laureles Lodge, aka the ranch.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving and with the hope of finishing writing about Elizabeth's August wedding before the new year, it's back to the ranch we go.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that we woke up after the beach bonfire with a whole slew of stories from the night before.  Some things - like the cab driver's roll call - I didn't even know happened until the next morning. I must've really been into the sing-along because I also missed guests over-pouring their wine glasses in the dark, or guests (ahem, my friends) falling in the sand and flopping around like seals.

Wedding stories - just another reason to be thankful.

While our rooms at the Ranch were stocked full of Sun Chips and muffins from our late-night grocery run, a proper lunch that allowed us to maximize our time in the beautiful scenery as well as rehash all of the evening's transgressions was a definite priority.  We opted to drive south to Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur to enjoy magnificent Pacific Ocean views from their treehouse-esque deck.


Only, once again, visibility was non-existent.  We sat outside and crossed our fingers that the fog would eventually lift, but it never did. The place was cool and happening, though ,and our waiter was friendly (until we asked him if we could pay the bill with more than one credit card.  I honestly thought his head might explode.), so we were happy.    


We shared a lot of laughs about the previous night's debauchery, ate some good food, and most importantly, drank some tasty drinks (read: hair of the dog) of the Bloody Mary and Moscow Mule variety. 

After lunch and our drive back to Carmel that included stops for scenic photos and an errand run to CVS (where there was booze for sale. At a CVS!  Right next to the disposable razors!  Again, THANKFUL.), there wasn't a lot of time to do much more than welcome new friends (aka new campers) who had just arrived and get ready for the rehearsal party.


Despite the fact that her wedding was a destination variety for many of her guests, her wedding still had many guests.  Most everyone who was invited to the wedding was also invited to the rehearsal, so family, childhood friends, college friends, San Francisco friends were all on hand to toast the happy couple.

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The stories were plentiful and varied from humorous to extremely heartfelt.

Greg even wrote a poem.
IMG_4195 I went into my remarks with a, "Make them laugh, make them cry, try not to embarrass yourself or anyone else," mentality. I thought my toast hit on all the appropriate emotions. I even had a woman I did not know come up to me and tell me later that she loved what I had to say.

I'm worried she might've been the only one, though, because just last week one of my girlfriends asked me, "Wasn't it you who brought up all of Elizabeth's ex-boyfriends during your speech at the rehearsal dinner?"

"Um, no," I told her defensively, "I did not."

It was just one.  And I never named him.  And I only used this story to make a point.

Elizabeth and I really didn't know each other that well when we decided to be roommates our last semester at Georgia, which was fine, except for the fact that Elizabeth and her boyfriend broke up days before I moved in.  So while I was pumped to get to know a new, fun girl and make her my friend, she was not really in that mindset. She was in a bad, emotionally low place. 

We laugh about that time now and how we healed her broken heart with Ben & Jerry's, American Idol and the Anna Nicole Smith show.

After she moved away to California, it seemed our visits always occurred during really low lows in my life or really high highs.  The way we met seemed to follow our friendship.  The first time I went to visit her in San Francisco, I'd just ended a four year relationship. Then I whisked into town giddy on romance with Mountain Man.  When that went nowhere, I returned to the west coast for reality television and Elizabeth-time.  
 Our visits are less dramatic than they used to be - and I couldn't be more thankful.

And though I'm embarrassed it took me 32 years to figure it out - watching Elizabeth and Kristof work so easily together, and exists so happily as a couple without the drama that so many of us (me) had confused for true romantic love, it occurred to me that real love isn't cobbled together by a string of highs and lows.


The day-to-day comfort of knowing someone who wants the same out of life that you do, who has your back and will make you laugh and builds you up - that's what solid relationships are all about. It might not make for a Hollywood film or a good romance novel, but off the emotional roller coaster seems to be where all the good stuff happens.

Right in the middle. 

Then again, good stuff also happens at an out of town rehearsal dinner where the wine flows easily.

Considering the groom split his pants before the party even started - (I love you, Kristof!) - I shouldn't have been too surprised that after several (se-ver-al) glasses of wine, and a couple dozen toasts, guests started falling again. Into fountains. And bushes.

There may or may not have been some indecent exposure, and I'm not talking about Kristof.

I'm sure all of the California crowd was looking at us, shaking their heads and thinking, "Who are these Georgia rednecks?"

Country had certainly come to town. And everyone (well, most everyone) was grateful.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I can't figure out if it's these boots or these legs that I covet the most.  

I think it's a tie. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

please don't leave the country.

Since I've made a living learning how to see things on both sides of the political scale, I can, and will, argue both sides.  In fact, I picked a fight with my mom yesterday about the election just because I could.  I didn't necessarily disagree with what she was saying, I just sometimes feel like it's my duty as a journalist to present her with the other side.  Give her some food for thought.  Pester her like I'm a teenager and then get off the phone quickly.  So mature, I know.

Like in sports, in a political democracy, there will always be a winner and there will always be a loser.  Tuesday was like the South Carolina - Georgia game times a million. 

I woke up today, as I'm sure most of you did, to a Facebook feed full of friends on both sides of the happiness scale. 

Half of my friends did not win yesterday.  For that and for them, I am sad.  

I admit I have shared a chuckle over what I think are some of the more dramatic, doomsday type posts from those on the losing side.  But I also understand that if your candidate lost, your concerns about where this country is or is not headed are real.  I sincerely respect that.  I also know that had the election gone the other way, that losing side would've had frustrations too.

But before you pack your bags to leave the country, may I remind you that this is still the greatest nation in the world?  And we need you here! 

I'm still processing everything about last night and what it means and doesn't mean for our country's future.

But here's what I do know - we're all going to be OK.  We have each other.  And wine.  And beer.  And Doritos. And college football.  And the Real Housewives. 

Onward and Upward. That was my brother's motto via text this morning.

Here's mine, shared for the 3rd or 4th time on this blog.


Also, Colorado legalized marijuana, so there's that too.

Friday, November 2, 2012

who's the pumpkin carver?

I feel like I've been keeping a big old blog secret from you - and I'm ready to come clean.

Remember last year when my dad accosted some poor, unsuspecting, grieving guy at a funeral and showed him my picture on his cell phone?  

Well, I've been dating him.

For five months.

I'll spare you the details of how it all played out, because once you get past the funeral/dad thing - which does feel a little twisted sick southern arranged marriage - how we ended up getting together wasn't really all that interesting.  We Facebook stalked, we met for dinner, we drank several beers and realized we actually had quite a bit in common.  

Also, funeral guy isn't sure he wants to be a part of his blog, which I completely understand.  I'm like Taylor Swift of the blog world - you cross me, and I'll totally write about it.  His reluctance was expected.   

But not mentioning him, or blaming him for the reason it's taken me this long to write about the Ranch seemed strange too.

Plus I'd be remiss if I didn't allow you all the opportunity to make fun - or at least roll your eyes - at "New Relationship Steph."

She's different, softer than the cynical, sarcastic gal I've imagined myself to be.  I fear I'm losing my edge, doing "coupley" things that I myself don't even recognize.

I'm blowing off workouts to just "hang out" and eat ice cream or bacon and eggs or both. 

I cooked us dinner in a crock pot.   

We carved pumpkins.


I know, I know.  Barf. 

Sometimes I swear we're weeks away from spending Saturdays at Bed Bath and Beyond and Home Depot if we have time. 


Before you start to hate me - which I totally would if I weren't me - I will tell you that there are signs that the honeymoon period of our new relationship is coming to an end.  I don't think he finds my dramatics and accompanying ADD as cute as he used to.  And I've already started to eye his closet for the things I plan to eliminate. 

But we did carve pumpkins.  And I liked it.


Monday, October 29, 2012

the ranch, part one.

Without necessarily doing new things everyday, which is what I used to blog about before I turned 30 and how this blog got started in the first place, sometimes I wonder where it's going.  What's its purpose?

I mean, I think I'm quite clever sometimes, but my biggest fear is that someone will get to the end of one of these blogs and say, "Yeah?  So what?" 

Perhaps that's why I've tried to look for the larger meaning in just about everything - how can I make this road trip a metaphor for life kind of stuff, which even I recognize can get a little hokey and annoying.  I mean, sometimes a road trip is just a road trip, you know? 

I myself love to read blogs that really have nothing more to say than, "This is my life, these are my crafts, those are my kids."

I do not have crafts or kids, but I do have a pretty good life and I believe it's worth writing about.   I understand that doesn't mean anyone is going to want to read about it, but that's a chance all of us bloggers must take.
So full disclosure here (I don't want anyone getting to the end and saying, "Yeah, so what?"), the next leg of my summertime journey that started at my friend Kelly's has absolutely no deeper meaning than, "wild wedding weekend."  So if you came looking for inspiration or profound words about the meaning of life, you may want to move it along.

Please don't leave without at least perusing the pictures of my hot friends and the gorgeous scenery that we partied in for three days.  This was the kind of weekend that was so much fun, I felt sad when it ended because I knew the anticipation of it was over, and even if I did my best to recreate it, I'd never succeed.

Ranchin . . .in color.

But there is a good chance that these stories I'm about to tell, many of which have been watered down for the parents and children who may visit, are all of the "You had to be there," variety.  

I'm going to tell them anyway.  Besides, I know that there at least 20 people (the cast of characters I call my friends) who will think these stories are worth telling.  I dedicate all of Elizabeth's wedding blogs to them.

Elizabeth's California wedding was in her "backyard," since she lives in San Francisco.  To many of her east coast friends, it was a destination wedding that involved a great deal of planning beforehand, most about where we were going to stay.  

Leave it to the crew from Georgia to decide to take over the cheapest hotel on the list - the Los Laureles Lodge.  Elizabeth's tastes have refined significantly since she moved to California, so I had to believe this place met her standards.  Based on the pictures on the website, though, I couldn't help but think the Lodge reminded me quite a bit of the sublet apartment she and I lived in at Milledge Place in Athens, Georgia.  

I was the first to arrive and I texted Trish, since it was she who had been instrumental in convincing us all to stay there.  

"How is it?" she asked. 

"It's fine," I texted her.  "It's cute.  It kind of reminds me of summer camp."

From the gravel parking lot and the outdated, country decor to the wood paneling and screen doors, it really did remind me of camp.  But not in a negative way.  I mean, it certainly wasn't the Ritz Carlton, but it was affordable, it was clean, it was centrally located, and most importantly - it was a perfect place for my friends and I to completely take over.

And that's exactly what we did.

The innkeepers made a take over easy - putting several of our rooms in a row. 

Despite it having the most occupants in the least amount of space, my room - Room 23 - was a popular meeting place.  Sort of like the front stoop on the television show 227, people were always popping in for a visit. 

The instant camraderie and summer camp feeling often led to unsolicited singing of the theme song from the Nickelodeon show, Salute Your Shorts - "Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts . . ." 

We also started calling the Los Laureles Lodge, the "Ranch."

We referred to the staff of the lodge as the "ranch hands," which in my room full of unmarried women, led to endless teasing about someone making a move on one of the ranch hands, and of course, even more singing.

"I wanna man with a ranch hand . . .," (to the tune of "I wanna man with a slow hand . . .") My friend and trip roommate Lisa made up her own version, "A ranch hand's handssssss . . . ," which I think was a take on the country song, "Daddy's Hands," but I'm honestly not sure.

We talked about "ranch hands" so much during that weekend, that when Rick Santorum delivered his speech at the Republican National Convention and made countless references to hands, my phone immediately started blowing up with friends saying, "Did you hear Santorum talking about hands?  Reminds me of the Ranch!"

The first event of the Elizabeth and Kristof's wedding weekend was on Thursday night - a beach bonfire for all out of town guests. 

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I'd noticed on my ride north on the PCH that the temperature is quite different in the Northern California along the coast.  Elizabeth's instructions for us to "wear a light jacket," were appropriate, however for us thin-skinned humidity loving southerners, we might've been better off had she instead advised, "Pack mittens and a warm coat.  And a hat. And cuddle duds. And brown liquor."

It was freezing.

Certainly nothing a glass (or several glasses) of red wine couldn't fix, so my friends and I enjoyed the festivities, toasting the happy couple and getting to know Kristof's family, many of whom had flown in from Belgium.

I got caught up in caught up in the excitement (and the red wine) of meeting everyone, I brilliantly opted to wait until the sun went down to find myself something to eat which meant I was blindly grabbing at Mexican food in aluminum containers.

Thankfully, the summer camp similiarities were endless.  There were S'mores.  And a sing-along.

Trish embraced the sing-a-long - and brought a little bit of the ranch to the beach, spiritedly leading the group in favorites such as Green Day's "Good Riddance" and Don McClean's "American Pie."


When the party ended and it was time to go home, we called our cab driver that we'd appropriately named "Captain" earlier in the evening when he picked us up for the party.  

He arrived to take us home wearing the same tie-dyed shirt, leather vest and Captain's hat he was wearing when he picked us up.  We forced him to take pictures with us before piling into his cab. He offered us some of his moonshine (which he may or may not have been sipping on himself), let Lisa borrow his leather driving gloves, and then took us to the grocery store so we could pick up some rations that every summer camp full of immature 30-somethings' needs -- breakfast muffins . . . a variety pack of Sun Chips . . .and beer.

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Then, in what is now my favorite cab ride story of all time that Lisa shared with us later, the Captain turned around to make sure all his human passengers were accounted for and then looked down at his center console and counted off his collection of stuffed animals, one by one.

"Squirrel, check!"

"Bear, check!"

"Dog, check!"

"Ok," he said to Lisa, who was riding shotgun, still wearing the gloves, "Everyone's here, we can go."

And we went.  Back to the ranch.