Feb 15, 2013 - Vacay    2 Comments

Cruise Chronicles – The Old Man and the Sea

The last few days have been interesting.  Lee and I have been fascinated with the number of old people on this cruise.  When we embarked on the ship, we caught a glimpse of several with walkers, and a few with IV drips.  But being here over the last few days, we’ve had a chance to observe the entire landscape of the boat, and we’ve determined that the median age of Cruisies is roughly 60 – which even takes into account the multitudes of children that are running around.

The Sea Geezers, as I’ve come to call them, are a special breed of Cruisie.  They’ve been on several cruises and enjoy rolling their little scooters up to the poker table where they will post up for hours, spending their retirement funds on hand after hand.  They’re also very aggressive in the buffet lines, where they become scrappy over pieces of bacon and “good looking sandwiches.”  I’ve nearly been taken out by Sea Geezers on wheels, although I’m never in competition for those items (given that I hate the buffet, and there’s nothing there worth killing anyone’s great grandfather over)

We spend most of our time in the adults only section, lounging in one of the hot tubs while waving at one of the servers to fetch us drinks.  Not a bad life.

And just so that everyone is clear, I’m NOT on the famed Sewer Cruise.  Thank God.

Feb 11, 2013 - Vacay    1 Comment

Cruise Chronicles 2 – DM me for pword

We’re still at sea.  If you’ve never been on a cruise before, walking around feels like you’re on an airplane that is experiencing slight turbulence – or heavy turbulence, depending on how rough and choppy things are.  This has been a choppy trip thus far, and I find myself walking like I’m drunk (even though most of the time I’m not).

Lee, who was in the Navy, is devoid of sympathy and keeps reminding me that he took a cruise for several years.  Pfft.

So far, the bane of Lee’s existence is the PA system.  Every so many minutes in the morning, there is an announcement that Bingo is starting, or that everyone should meet in the deck for some sort of activity that we’re not planning to participate in.  All of these announcements interrupt Lee’s slumber, which is a problem.  Have I mentioned that he put the Lee in Sleep?

The bane of my existence?  The buffet!  I protested yesterday when I could no longer take eating a variation of the same food for the third meal.  Lee likes it because he could eat leftovers every single day, and it’s easy to grab.  I hate it because I’m somewhat particular and abhor foraging for my food unless I’m grocery shopping and about to cook.  We’re committed to higher quality signature restaurants for the remainder of the trip.   Which will keep me away from the ice cream machine and dessert selection.  I’m sure that Lee will pout at some point and convince me to revisit the buffet.  I’m sure I’ll cave in.

We jumped in the hot tub with a couple from Minnesota and a family from Brazil.  We were happy to see each other because it’s nice to find more young adults on this trip.  We were fortunate enough to choose the cruise that is comprised of 1) a group of grammar school students, and 2) an elderly group of farmers/fertilizer salesmen (no, I’m not kidding).  I’m not sure which group is more annoying.  I’m not partial to the sound of screaming children, nor do I care for moving behind a herd of slow almost-retired people from South Dakota and Nebraska.

The good news is that this ship is SO large that we’ve yet to see the same people twice.

Also?  The people on this trip LOVE to gamble.  The casinos are clogged at any time of day with people catching “the fever” on the roulette wheel, and cautious gamblers who are spending hours at the $0.05 slot machines.  I’d generally prefer to keep my money in my pocket, but the blackjack table is beckoning.  Almost as loudly as the ice cream machine.  One of them is going to make me its bitch before this trip is over.

We tried our first signature restaurant for dinner last night.  Oddly we chose a steakhouse.  Even though neither of us partake in red meat, steakhouses usually feature amazing seafood.  This one didn’t disappoint.  But the cool thing is that if you order a bottle of wine and don’t finish it, you can either have them save it for you, or carry the remainder around the ship with you.  I preferred to take it with, and walk about the boat like a wino who could take a swig at any moment.  Cause that’s how I roll.

In search of more young people, we dropped off our bottle in the cabin (to add to our growing collection of alcohol) and proceeded to Bliss, the onboard nightclub.  It was a fun extravaganza of people watching.  The Cruisies crowded the dance floor when Gangnam Style was played, fist-pumping and seizing. (What I would love?  Is if we translated that horrific song from Korean to English and determined that the lyrics were something like “I’m cashing in on you stupid Americans and your lack of musical taste.”)  We were perplexed by the unfortunate 21-year-old black guy with the white man’s overbite.  We were also taken with the older man (whom Lee dubbed Ricardo Montalban) who was clearly outpartying his significantly younger date, and singing along with We Found Love in a Hopeless Place like he was getting paid.

All the while, Lee was critiquing the DJ (surprise, surprise).  The verdict is that he had pretty good blends, even though his top 40 selection was for shit.

Today?  More hot-tubbing, laying out, poolside drinking, laziness, and Second City!


Jan 27, 2013 - Rants    3 Comments

People will eat anything . . . .

I’m a particular eater.  I don’t eat red meat or processed foods.  I don’t drink soda.  I stay away from rich cream sauces, and if it weren’t for my love of cheese I would probably forego dairy altogether.   I’m not thrilled about genetically engineered or modified food or ingredients, and if it can be left on a shelf indefinitely or concocted from a strange powder in a packet, I steer clear.  I can’t help thinking that fake meat soy products are a very, very bad idea.  I don’t eat Chinese food — largely because I watch too much Dateline.  My favorite foods contain 5 ingredients or less.

Sure, I can be annoying, but I like to know what I’m eating.

That said, I’m always amazed at the people who will stick things in their mouths and ask questions later (you can take that any way you want).

Let me be clear . . . I’m not a perfect eater (because if I were, I wouldn’t be in a constant battle with my thighs).  One of my guiltiest pleasures is frozen yogurt.

Now . . . there are many problems with fro-yo.  It goes against all of my food sensibilities.  It emanates mysteriously from a silver machine. God only knows what goes into that machine, and how often it’s cleaned.  I try to determine the ingredients, but I’m usually far too enamored with the possibility of Red Velvet Cake mixed with Cookies and Cream to employ my usual diligence in deconstructing the ingredients.

Honestly, if I really wanted to be a frozen treat purist, I would go for ice cream.  But ice cream, while delicious, is too rich and makes me nauseous.  Fro-yo it is.

I’m in Miami Beach for a while, tagging along with the boyfriend while he works on a TV show.  I can think of worse places to be than South Beach in the first quarter of the year.    I’ve had to learn the city and find favorite spots, which would be more fun if the food quality in Miami were higher.  I’m a Chicagoan, and since we have nothing better to do in piercing cold weather than entertain ourselves with good meals, our restaurants are usually incredible.  The food isn’t so great in Miami, which is probably why everyone is, on average, about 20 lbs lighter than the typical Chicagoan.

I was craving frozen yogurt the other day.  I saw several people shopping on Lincoln Road with what appeared to be cups full of frozen yogurt complete with yummy toppings, and I set myself on a mission to find yogurt ground zero.

Finally I found a place that resembled one of my favorite spots in Chicago.  It was called Tasti something-or-other.   The only issue was the product. It resembled frozen yogurt, but it wasn’t advertised as frozen yogurt.  Nor was it advertised as ice cream.  Given my pickiness, I began to question the salesperson:

Gina:  So . . . is your product frozen yogurt?

Salesperson:  No

G:  Okay.  Is it ice cream?

S:  No.  It’s somewhere in the middle.

G:  Hmmm.  Is it dairy?

S:  I think so.

G:  Okay, so let me get this straight . . .  what you’re selling isn’t frozen yogurt, nor is it ice cream, and it is dairy — although you seem uncertain about that?

S:  Right

G:  Well, since you’re so great at telling me what it’s not, would you mind telling me what it is?

The salesperson points to a large poster on the wall.  The content on this poster was virtually useless.  I learned that the unknown substance was fewer calories than ice cream and contained fewer grams of fat.  Whoo hoo!  I learned that the company is dedicated to making a tasty, creamy product.   Fabulous! The company even touts the use of natural products and no artificial sweeteners.  Yippee!  Okay, so WTF IS it?

They lost me with the phrase “perfected in the lab.”  Which means that even THEY don’t know what it is.

Essentially it’s Faux-Yo!

I took a pass, but as I watched the multitudes of people who mindlessly shuffled in, asked no questions, and shoveled an unknown product into their mouths, I wondered if anyone bothers to question what they eat.  Or does everyone assume that if it’s sold in a retail outlet it “must be okay.”  Because that would be the very wrong assumption.

There is very low quality-control with foods that we buy from restaurants.  They have to meet health code requirements, but other than that, as long as they’re not killing people, anything goes.  It’s scary, if you really think about it.

I challenge everyone to REALLY think about what you eat on a regular basis, and then tell me your craziest guilty pleasure.

Thanks for reading!



Dec 16, 2012 - Unfit godparent    1 Comment

The Anti-Parent


Have you ever met that person who just isn’t cut out to be a parent?


Fortunately I’ve never wanted to be, and maybe if I had have, I would have taken the time to develop some of the maternal traits that currently aren’t present in my being.  Like picking up a baby, changing a diaper or quieting a crying child (without the use of a pacifier, bourbon or duct tape) or the general use of good judgment.

Believe it or not, I do have godchildren, which is always amazing to me because I’m not the best influence.  In fact, I’m probably the most adult person that I know.   I have been ever since I was a child.  I don’t understand the way that kids think, I have no language filter, I have zero interest in kiddie movies or Disney, I’m not appreciative of the noise or messiness, I’m deterred by bodily functions, and I’m always terrified that I will say something that will put them in therapy for their entire adult lives.

Of the four godchildren, there are two that I haven’t seen in a while, mostly because one is far away, and the other is usually extremely busy with her huge natural family.  I feel guilty because of this, which is saying a lot because being raised by a Catholic mother has desensitized me to guilt.  But I digress . . .

The remaining two — the 12 year old boy and 16 year old girl —  have always been my little appendages as little adults in their own rights.  They have been trained to me, and they know and accommodate many things about me.  They’re aware that I have road rage, a fluency in profanity, and they know not to repeat anything I say.

Fortunately, their parents actually get a kick out of the things that I tell them that no adult in their right mind would share with a child.  Did I mention that I have no filter?

We had brunch today, and here are the topics that we covered:

  1. Why Auntie Gina sometimes needs a cocktail
  2. What “proof” means when it comes to liquor (to my credit, their father who was also present, helped with that one)
  3. How sugar and liquor together is usually a bad idea
  4. The order in which one consumes wine and hard liquor (I went all physiological on their asses)
  5. The circumstances under which marriage is a good idea
  6. What is a prenuptial agreement, what it protects, and why it’s smart to have one


Bad, right?  But the good news is that I countered the corruption with a few good lessons:

  1. Why a car is not an asset
  2. The total cost of ownership of a vehicle
  3. Why it’s stupid to own a luxury vehicle without having given thought to purchasing a home, which is an asset, for the most part
  4. How to think proactively about college selections

All of this in less than two hours!  I’m more effective than an online university!

Is there any wonder that the 16 year old gleefully refers to me as the “anti-parent?”  (I earned this title last year when I told her that one of her little friends might be a bit of a slut and is not to be emulated.)  She would like to drink with me on her 21st birthday.  I’m not sure if I should be proud or mortified.

In the interest of full disclosure, I called their mother as soon as I dropped them off today to share the topics of our brunch.  She laughed, because she’s used to me, and told me that she would provide me with a list of things that she’d like for me to teach her daughter before she goes off to college.

The good news is that they don’t take me seriously . . . against all odds.

Dec 1, 2012 - Rants    5 Comments

Grocery store rant

When I die, I want to be reincarnated and come back as the BF.  Since we started dating, he has managed to foist several unpleasant activities onto my plate, and I, for some reason, have willingly taken them.  I will admit that some of them have been for selfish reasons — like if I let him put things away in my kitchen, Lord only knows where half of them will end up. Or, if I send him to the grocery store, I’m pretty sure that half of my coveted items will be omitted.

The grocery store has become the bane of my existence.  Inner city grocery stores are typically a combination of comical, pathetic, and treacherous.

When I lived on the Gold Coast, the famed “Jungle Jewel” on Clark and Division was my shopping option.   It was a socioeconomic nightmare and a haven for street crazies.  Every time I braved that store, I felt like wearing camouflage and combat boots. I couldn’t even tune out and put on headphones while I shopped, because it was important to be on guard.  Someone tried to run a “lost wallet” scam on me there once (I didn’t fall for it), and a dirty guy exposed himself to me (I suggested he take “that thing” to the produce section).

Now that I’m in a different ‘hood, I shop in the South Loop Jewel for pedestrian items and visit Whole Foods for specialty fun stuff.  This Jewel isn’t nearly as bad as the Jungle, but still has its trappings.

For example, I always seem to end up with the “mind of its own” basket.   I know to avoid the lone basket because I’m certain that it’s left for a reason (similar to that one seat on the crowded bus that nobody wants for fear that the smelly man in the adjacent seat is afflicted with chiggers), so the frequency with which I happen to choose a ghost basket that meanders to the side or stops defiantly without warning or provocation, makes me think that at least 50% of the basket population is defective.  If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would accuse Jewel executives of taping shoppers and watching the footage of us struggling with the metal torturers on wheels for their comedic pleasure.

The entertaining aspect of Jewel is the greasy-haired special Chinese stock guy who is clearly OCD, wears coke bottle glasses, steamrolls customers, and emphatically repeats what must be the only English phrase he knows:  ”I’m so berry sorry.”  (If you shop there and see this man, take my advice and do not — DO NOT — ask the location of any items.  He will either fly through the store at breakneck speed to show you, or he will say something that you’ll never understand.  Either way you’ll get a headache.  Trust me.)

The other odd thing about this Jewel is that if you leave your basket unattended for one minute, the workers will abscond with it and start reshelving your items.  Somehow, the very basket that you’ve been struggling with can be whisked away in an instant by an overzealous Jewel employee.

But, the piece de resistance for me is always the self-checkout line.  I love the self-checkout line.  I use it when I’m in a hurry, don’t really want to have conversation with the cashier, or when I’m buying an embarrassing item.  Which pretty much means that I use them exclusively unless I have a full basket.  (Oddly, the BF hates the self-checkout line because he says that they’re taking the place of real people and reducing jobs.  My point being that if he were that damned concerned about inflating the economy, he should visit the store a little more frequently and reinvigorate it himself. )

But here’s what I hate — when people who don’t know what they hell they’re doing use the self-checkout line and slow down those of us who are experienced, well-oiled machines.

There are rules.

1.  Count your items.  If you have upward of 20 items in your basket, please use the regular aisle.

2.  Prepare. This means have your loyalty card ready to scan BEFORE arriving at the machine.   Beulah, who is lethargically manning the self-checkout station, is not going to expediently dash over to scan her card for you.  She will, in fact, arrive with disdain simply because you made her move.  People behind you will want to throttle you.  Just have it ready.  Also, if you are an extreme couponer, have them ready to run through, and don’t summon Beulah when your $0.50 coupon only impacted your bill by $0.40.  She really won’t care.  And neither will the people behind you.

3.  Avoid buying alcohol while in this line.  While I realize that your 40 ounce can of malt liquor will make or break your evening, having to call an attendant to check your ID or retrieve it from the cage actually undermines the premise of a FAST lane.

4.  Understand the concept of a bar code and know your limitations.  If you don’t understand the concept of scanning an item, or if your dexterity prevents you from quickly running said bar code over the scanner, move to the regular aisle.

5.  If you have something from the produce section that needs to be weighed, there are two things to know:  a) what it is, and b) how to spell it.  You’d be surprised at how many times Beulah gets called to discern between oranges and clementines.

5.  Have a bagging strategy.  I’ll admit that I’m a bit anal about this.  I put like items together in my basket, so that the bagging process can move smoothly.  For example, all of the frozen and refrigerated items are together so that they’re quickly put into one bag.  There was a woman today who spent about 10 minutes post-purchase making sure that the Lysol wasn’t near the apples and that neither of things were near the tampons.  I get it, but damn!  Organize!

6.  Move out of the way.  Don’t stand there post-purchase pondering your receipt while others are salivating to occupy your machine.  Also, don’t leave your basket lingering around.  Oh, and if you have a stroller and a basket, don’t scowl at others who are scowling at you because they can’t get through.

If anyone else has grocery store woes, I would love to hear them.

Thanks for reading!

Nov 12, 2012 - Holidaze, Rants    1 Comment

Holidaze and Mourning My Vacation

Is everyone ready?  I’m not.  And probably never will be.

While I realize that holidays should be a festive time of joy and surprises, I can never seem to get my head wrapped around it.  I see instead bad weather, congestion, bills, an over-infestation of cookies, dealing with family obligations, blah, blah, blah.

Yep, I’m all Scrooged out.

I began boycotting Christmas several years ago.  My family has always been a bit boring.  I’m an only child with distant extended family.  There were just the three of us, staring at each other, eating dinner, and generally disgruntled about what we found under the tree.

There were things that I could count on:

1)  My father, who suffers from gift paralysis (which I’m convinced is a clinical term), would wait until the last possible second to purchase gifts for my mother and me.  And by “last possible second,” I really do mean 9:00pm on Christmas Eve, when he would brave the worst possible malls (or drug stores), in the company of the most befuddled fellow gift slackers.

2)  My mother would hate whatever my father gave her.  Because who wouldn’t hate a pre-packaged perfume set desperately plucked from the aisles of Carson Pirie Scott from piles of picked over boxes.  (At a young age, I surmised that it added insult to injury that the fine holiday edition of Lady Stetson was given to her by the man who’s supposed to know and love her more than anyone else on Earth.  At a young age, I also realized that it was a bad idea to introduce my theory.)

3)  I would inevitably hate whatever either of my parents gave me, except for the rare occasion when I would ask for something very specific (in which case, there was absolutely no mystery in the process).  As if he didn’t know me at all, my father would give an assortment of small, weird things, like outsized candy canes (that I’m almost certain he procured for 2/$1.00 at Walgreens) and books that I would never read.  Unlike my mother, I accepted such gifts gratefully (largely because it made him feel good, and they were always accompanied by an envelope of cash).  My mother would always seem to retrofit something that she’d bought me over the course of the year as a Christmas gift.  “Remember that coat I bought you in June?  That was your Christmas present.”

3)  Marginal, if not bad food.  My mother wasn’t the best cook, but she was Ina Garten in comparison to some of the culinary skills displayed by the others that were on her list of people to visit.  I threw in the (tacky holiday) towel after one fateful holiday visit to her friend’s house where I was duped by a gorgeous triple layer chocolate cake that sat majestically inside of an expensive crystal dome.  It was beautiful, and could have been a contender for the cover of Gourmet Magazine.

Now . . . for those who don’t know me well . . . cake is a food group, in my opinion.  I love nothing more than a succulent moist cake, and even though I’ve ironically developed a cake intolerance over the years, I will indulge in good cake, even if I’m pretty sure it’s going to make me nauseous. 

My mouth watered for this cake, and I ignored the rest of food, eager for the large slice that was cut specifically for me.  I imagined the melt-in-your mouth buttery flavor of the yellow cake, complimented perfectly by the rich, creamy chocolate icing.

Imagine my disappointment when I was met, instead, with a mouthful of sawdust, and an icing that had the consistency of spackle and forced me to drink about 1/2 gallon of water to flush it through.  (If you know me, you’ll also know that as much as I love cake, I have equal hatred for drinking water.) And, to make it even worse, because my mother was a stickler for manners and etiquette, she all but insisted that I finish every morsel of food on my plate.  But I digress . . .

4) Expectations.  I’m a little obstinate, so being expected to buy things, be places and do things never resonates well — whether or not it’s holiday season.

The cake episode was pivotal, and after it, I embraced my free-thinker persona, and made the executive decision to abandon my family celebration and opt instead for television marathons, thai food, a movie (at the theatre), and lots of wine.  These activities became my own personal rituals that I grew to love.  I felt like I was stealing time from the world, and while everyone else was ensconced in holiday angst (except for the Jews and Muslims, who were my kindred spirits in pad see eiw), I was the genius who was having a fabulous time in a home that didn’t have tinsel strewn about the floor and tacky flashing lights.  My parents were a little irritated initially, but probably because I had the courage to opt out.

Oddly, I participate happily in gift-giving – mostly because my Godchildren would throw fits — and because, despite my Christmas uneasiness, I’m actually a good gift-giver.  As proof that we’re not always products of our environment, my gifts are typically thoughtful and useful.  (Another personal tidbit is that, as much as I love giving gifts, I’m extremely uncomfortable on the receiving end.  I’m a horrible person to buy for anyway, because I indulge myself often.  [I just realized that  learned this behavior in retaliation to the heinous gifts that I expected from my parents.  Hmmm.  Maybe I AM a product of my environment!])

Since my mother passed away, my father has come over to my side of the camp, and would be happier’n a pig in shit if he were allowed to cook his own food, and just be left alone to watch football.

And then, along came the BF to attempt to add some normalcy to my life.  I’m determined to bring him over to my sedate holiday darkside (because, really?  When you dance with the devil, you don’t change the devil.  The devil changes you.)

But seriously? Don’t mind me.  I’m just bitter, and upset that the holidays can’t be more like last year.

This time last year, I was in a dream state, anticipating my pending 12-day Jamaican vacation with the BF at a beautiful resort.   Lemme tell ya . . .  if you haven’t experienced Christmas day on a hot beach, drinking from a coconut, you haven’t lived.  It was absolutely incredible.

There was no tug-of-war for my time.  All of my friends knew that I would be out of the country and therefore unable to do whatever the hell it was they wanted me to do.

Granted, it wasn’t perfect.  There were little things, like the BF forgetting to pack ANY socks or underwear, and allowing himself to be SO overworked prior to our departure that he spent the first four days under the weather (and by “under the weather,” I mean “near death”).  But?  The bigger picture is that I was able to escape all of the typical holiday nastiness and return after all of the Christmas craziness.

This Christmas?  Sigh.  No planned vacation in paradise – time got away from me this year.  No imminent getaway or well-timed escape hatch.


But . . .the good news is that I have plenty of time to plan for next year, and I get to resume my ritual.

I might even do a little shopping, and I’m definitely baking my own cake!


Oct 17, 2012 - Brown Chickery    5 Comments

After the experience

I’m flip-flopping this week.  Most of the Chicks are writing about their experiences on Iyanla, but for some reason I decided to write about being a cool girl.  If you’ve stumbled across my blog today, this is what I owe you . . .

If you follow us, you’ve probably seen the “Fix My Backstabbing” friends episode of “Iyanla Fix My Life” that debuted on the OWN Network on October 6th.  If not, and if interested, you can watch enough clips on the website to get a good idea of what you missed.

I have to admit that before the airing I was a tangle of nerves.  For several reasons.

First, because I’ve seen people falter in the spotlight.  Funny thing, that spotlight.  Everyone wants to be the face on which the light shines, but few understand that with the glory comes much scrutiny — which is the piece that gives me anxiety.  I am the antithesis of Zondra, who was seemingly born to be there, and shrugs off her criticism with a smile and a shrug.   On Fix My Life, all of us had at least a little bit of bad behavior — with the exception of Yanni, probably.  While I didn’t love the concept of being made the poster children of mean girls, I remained hopeful that the audience would watch our dysfunctional interactions and like us anyway.

Some did; some didn’t.

Our supporters have been nothing short of amazing, and we are very appreciative of the kind sentiments and well wishes. But I have to admit that I got the biggest kick out of our critics.

I did the thing that you’re not supposed to do when you’ve appeared on TV. I delved into the message boards to see what people were writing.  What I learned was that, as mean as we could be?  The message board members are far more caustic.   There’s a lot of freedom of speech when you’re sitting idly at home, in your PJs, computer in lap, with the ability to espouse your raw opinion.

I loved how our natures could be encapsulated in one (typically poorly constructed and grammatically atrocious) sentence.

For example, I became “The one in orange who thinks she’s better than everyone else and won’t cry.”   (That sentence is 2/3 correct.  I was indeed wearing orange, and I rarely cry, if ever.  It’s just not my tendency.  I’m usually too busy analyzing to cry.  For the record, I don’t think I’m “better than everyone else,” but there are certain things that I simply refuse to argue about.)  I received direct messages from people who felt the need to tell me that I’m emotionless and have “ice in my veins.” (Again, only partially accurate.  The BF says that I do have emotion — although it’s usually anger.  Also?  At least half of my blood is a proprietary blend pinot noir and zinfandel [Red, not white!  How dare you?], which has a warming factor and counters the iciness.) 

But I digress . . .

All in all, I have to say that the Iyanla experience was a good one.  Some of my fellow chicks came away from our show with mantras to live by. While I appreciate the affirmations, my value was in getting to know what makes everyone tick, and learning how to accept my five co-horts for who they are and embrace our individual and collective idiosyncracies.

My second bit of nervousness had to do with timing.

I’ve been working on launching a digital publishing company, Enemy Books, for the better part of a year. Along the way, I decided that Brown Sugar, written by the Six Brown Chicks had to be re-edited and would be the perfect first release on the EB imprint, and could coincide with the air date of Fix My Backstabbing Friends.

Ummm . . . what was I thinking?  I don’t think I’ve ever been more of a Murphy’s Law victim.  Ever.  The fact that I didn’t become addicted to mood-altering drugs is nothing short of amazing.  But . . . the book is out as a sneak peek for IPAD USERS ONLY. More formats to be released when the technology decides to cooperate.

In case you missed the last bit of the episode, I will stress that we are still together as a group and moving forward.  We’re blogging for the moment, but we’re crossing our fingers that there’s more to come.

Oct 2, 2012 - Rants    1 Comment

More Things That Keep Me Up At Night

Judging by the time, I mean that quite literally.

There are moments when I feel like a writer, and many more moments that I don’t.  But irrespective of how I identify, I know what’s entailed.  For example, I know that love stories are written either by writers who are in great relationships that they are driven to share with the world, or people who have no relationship or any relationship in sight, but they’re interested in playing out their fantasies on the page.  Either way, whenever a writer is moved to write, it’s because he/she is working some shit out.  Kind of like I’m doing right now.

It’s the nature of writing.  We write the best when it’s what we know or what we have living vividly in our heads.   The problem is the reader.  The reader is the person who interprets, and the person who believes that whatever is written could actually happen.  Because it’s written, after all!  It must be so.

Ummm, no.

For example I believe that, if wielded improperly, chick lit can be one of the most dangerous forms of literature (if we can call it that).  I’m convinced that some people use chick lit to set expectations for their own lives, while I refer to chick lit as a writer’s whack-off.  (People who are less crass might refer to them as adult fairy tales.)  Why?  Well . . . let’s look at the formula.

The protagonist is an office worker — sometimes even a frustrated journalist or a PR agent.  She wants love, but can’t seem to find it.  She has friends — maybe one with the perfect relationship, and another who’s even more of a mess than she.  (The friendship mix will depend on who’s in the writer’s life at the time.) She’s given up on love, and has taken to harvesting stray animals or allowing herself to be seduced by a man who is horribly wrong for her — maybe he’s married, or he’s her boss, or he’s her married boss.   But there’s another man in picture.  He’s a nice man.  A nice unsuspecting man.  Maybe he’s her neighbor, or the guy she talks to in the morning before work as she gets her Venti-skim-latte-with-a-triple-shot-double-whip.  The problem?  He’s too nice and normal for her neurotic ass.  He’s around, but he’s nobody that she would consider because she’s too busy dealing with Mr. Selfish Asshole.  Finally, when Mr. SA shows his true colors (usually in the form of something drastic, like sleeping with her messy best friend),  she turns to the unsuspecting nice guy.   Funny . . . he’s been there all along, but she’s never noticed him.  But when he takes on the role as her consistent, unwavering shoulder to cry on, she notices his cuteness.  And little does she know that he’s been harboring a secret — he’s really a Prince.  A Prince of a tiny European country (that doesn’t exist).  Or maybe he’s the heir to a $30B company, and he’s been rejecting his family because he’s so misunderstood.  Or maybe he’s quietly the owner of his own profitable business.  Either way, he’s loaded, dammit, and he would like to share his booty with her.  (Provided that she share her booty with him.)  They get married and all is right in a world that was oh, so frustrating a mere 315 pages ago.

Sound familiar?  And if you think that the story described above is anything but masturbation involving a plotline and computer, then, seriously?  You’re a little cray-cray.

But believe me . . . some of my best friends write chick lit, and they’re brilliant at what they do.  They serve a serious purpose, and I don’t begrudge them their successes.  I just wish that average readers would understand that what they’re consuming is little more than escapism and behave accordingly.

I watch a lot of movies (and what is a movie, if not a book played out on celluloid?), and I find it interesting to juxtapose the plots of films and the realities of the life that I observe.  Don’t get me wrong . . . I devour good, well-written, cerebral, dark movies.  Or anything with action . . . or death and dismemberment.  I don’t mind chick flicks, but I try not to overconsume them . . . .unless I need a special lift.  I have my moments.

Chick lit has a usefulness when I’m overtaken by life.  Like most of us, at any given time I know many people who are in financial situations that range from less-than-ideal to crisis mode.  Some of those same people are in the midst of nasty divorces, heinous breakups, and horrifically expensive custody battles.  A certain faction admits to being in bad marriages, but would rather stay than embark on an ugly divorce.  Others are dealing with health issues.  This is all normal life stuff, and unfortunately I tend to be used to it — without awareness of how sour I can become.

I know that I’m in need of a lift is when I hear a friend’s good news, and I can’t even be truly happy for him/her.

For example, an old friend called last week, exuberant.  She’s getting married and she needed my address to invite me to her wedding.   I’m primarily happy for her because she’s been wanting a family for so long.  She was engaged in the past, but called it off (luckily, because had she gone through with it, she would have been trying to extricate herself from a relationship with a sociopath).

Because I love her and would never dare shit on her happiness, I outwardly rose to the occasion and gave her the reaction that she was looking for.  But, if I were being honest, a bigger part of me internally shrieked: “Oh sweet mother of God!  Are you KIDDING me??  MARRIED??  WHY??!!  Most people I know are trying to get OUT of their marriages, and you want IN?  Why don’t you start smoking while you’re at it.”    And then I flipped through my mental rolodex of everyone in my life who’d had a bad marriage experience, and I recalled the divorce rate in the US, and wondered why anyone bothered, and why she’s bothering.

I realize that it’s not the best attitude, but this is where chick lit or more likely chick flicks, come in to give me a little reset.

Life can be so ugly. It’s nice to watch (or read) a slice of someone’s life where things work out . .  . even if it’s only for a little while.  It doesn’t matter that the story is born in the head of a writer, or that it might be lacking in realism.  I don’t walk away from the viewing experience thinking that my life will change as a result of having watched it, but I’m happy to have had the escapism.  Even better that I didn’t have to write it myself.  Because, really?  I would suck at it.

Sep 30, 2012 - American Horror Stories    4 Comments

Things That Keep Me Up At Night

So . . . I have an eidetic memory, also known as a photographic memory, which means that I’m one of those annoying people who can remember everything in vivid details, and I don’t have the luxury of forgetting.  (Nobody is more annoyed by this than the BF, who has a habit of misremembering things and gets tired of being corrected by me.  But, seriously?  When I’m right I’m right.  As usual, I digress.) 

The point of divulging that little tidbit is not to brag about my memory (because I truly feel that it’s a curse and a disorder), rather to let everyone know how much certain stories heard over the years have resonated with me, and how they can remain equally frightening each time I think about them.  For example, there are certain episodes of Dateline that will remain indelibly stamped in my head.  But, the stories that are the ultimate in scary?  Are the pregnancy stories!

I’m not talking about routine stories about childbirth, although those are typically hellatious, disgusting, and make me shut my legs tightly in anguish.  I’m talking about the “I didn’t know I was pregnant” stories.  Because being accidentally pregnant is one of my greatest fears, as I’ve never wanted kids, and as the BF has recently pointed out, I’m not even remotely maternal (he’s convinced I’m somehow coded differently, which I somehow don’t see as a compliment, even though he shrugs it off and says “it is what it is.”  I happen to hate the phrase “it is what it is,” and think it translates into either “I have nothing meaningful to say,” or in this case, ”it isn’t an ideal situation, but I guess I’ll deal with it for the time being.”  Okay, digress, digress, digre-hess!). 

When I was in college, there was a classmate who mysteriously missed a trimester.  When she returned, I made a point of catching up with her in the caf.  She told me that she’d had a baby — meaning that, while she was missing a trimester in school, she was having her own third trimester at home.  I had a really confused look on my face, so she told her story.

To set the scene, she’s one of those diminutive little women — enviably petite and cute (even after having a baby).  Although she’s tiny and adorable, with that body type occasionally comes menstrual issues.  She said that she had already been irregular, so missing a few periods was never cause for alarm.  What WAS cause for alarm was a curious chronic swelling of her feet, which finally drove her to the doctor, who in turn told her that she was five months pregnant.  I nearly dropped my sandwich.  (Thank God for her vanity and love of cute, tight shoes.)  Are you fucking kidding me??  FIVE MONTHS pregnant?  As in too-late-to-do-anything-about-it-if-you’re-so-inclined (at least in the state of Illinois.  [Don't ask why I know that.  Just know that I'm on top of my shit!])??  And for the first time in my life, I felt really good about my muscular, highly regular body type

I asked a lot of questions.  So . . . the ONLY thing you noticed was foot swelling?  Your stomach didn’t hurt?  It wasn’t moving?  You weren’t hungry?  No weight gain?  Are you kidding?  She calmly answered my questions: Yes, No, No, No, No, Hell no I’m not kidding.  I’ve got the baby pics to prove it.

I finally asked if she was on birth control.  She revealed that she was on the Sponge.

Mmm hmmm, I thought, channeling my mother’s skepticism.  See, I don’t trust that damned Sponge.  It never seemed like a good idea.  First of all, it’s too damned big.  Why don’t you just cram a kitchen sponge up there, for chrissakes?  Then, how do you know it’s in the right spot?  I guess you just stick it in, and put it in the hands of the Universe?  Also, if you have a . . . ummm . . . man of substance (which I pray you do) . . . isn’t he knocking that thing into the next organ?  (FYI, another story that scares me is a friend who had to report to the emergency room for Sponge removal.  Her boyfriend must have been a champion.  I will stop this trend of digression one day.  I promise.) It had been taken off the market for a reason!

So, I blamed this story on the Sponge, and told myself that if I used multiple forms of birth control, that there would never be a surprise addition to the family.

Fast forward some years later. I’m still “safety girl,” and have remained successful. Probably TMI, but I’m proving a point.

We were in NY last week, talking to a random man, and the subject of the birth of his son came up.  I’m not sure why because his son is a teenager, but again, this is a story that I’ll never forget.

Allegedly, his girlfriend was having intense abdominal pain one night, so he took her to the hospital where, after an hour or so, she gave birth to their son.  Hunh?  Okay . . . according to him, neither of them knew she was pregnant.

Pardon me, but WTF?

I damn near had to sit down and fan myself while the BF laughed at my apparent shock and awe.  Then I couldn’t help thinking that these people were idiots.

“So,” I said, “what you’re telling me is that you had NO IDEA that she was NINE MONTHS pregnant?”  He shook his head no.

I was persistent, and he was used to it, as I guess nobody reacts well to this story.  Because why would they?  “There were NO symptoms?  She hadn’t gained any weight?  NOTHING???  No baby bump whatsoever??”

He explained that she carried the baby beneath her rib cage.  This made no sense to me.  And it continues to make no sense.  I’ve since examined my rib cage.  Extensively.  I can count each rib through my skin.  There is no way in HELL that a baby could be “hiding” under there, unless it was replacing a lung.  Yet it happened to her.  And again, I’m scared to death.

As I didn’t know this man, I couldn’t really delve into his birth control methods in an attempt to analyze and deconstruct how this could have POSSIBLY happened.

Now really . .  . even if you are open to having kids, could you imagine going into the hospital with what you hope is either a bad case of gas, or in the worst case scenario, acute appendicitis, and coming out with a BABY??  One that you didn’t plan?  Or even think about?  One that you were actually taking medical measures to avoid?  Forget that cute house you were thinking about buying — or even that hot dress; now you have to plan for an education!

If that ever happened to me, there would be a few issues.  Because I’ve never wanted to have kids, I would feel like the Universe was playing the cruelest joke possible.  Also?  If I had an unplanned pregnancy? Carried unknowingly to term?  I shudder to think of the birth defects that child would have suffered at my hand.  His/her blood type would certainly be an exotic (albeit disgusting) blend of Ciroc Coconut and Pinot Noir.   He/she would have subsisted on an irregularly distributed diet of sushi, pizza, trail mix, the occasional post-hangover turkey burger, and all things spicy.

One would think that my fear would send me into a life of celibacy, but somehow I keep taking the risk.  With several forms of birth control (none of which are the proven-to-be-horribly-unreliable Sponge or Depo shot), a calculated ovulation schedule and regular, surprise pregnancy tests.  Call me paranoid if you like, but I plan to never make one tuition payment during the course of my life.

But here’s the thing . . . if I did manage to get pregnant, with all of my preventative measures, I would have to have the baby and name him Houdini (before putting him up for adoption  What?  I kid!  I kid!  [pardon the pun]), because he will have been the greatest escape artist to have ever survived.  He would either be very cool or a diabolical sociopath.  Come to think of it, never mind.