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.

Sep 3, 2012 - Brown Chickery    1 Comment

The Clip — Link to Full Episode In Case You Missed It!

First, thanks to everyone who tuned in to OWN and watched the teaser last night.  We didn’t know what to expect, and quite frankly still don’t.  When our episode of Fix My Life airs (whenever that is), I’m sure that there will be things that the six of us have forgotten we’ve said, and hopefully we can laugh at those things collectively (Because what is comedy, if not tragedy plus time? My trouble is that I find humor in many things before enough time has passed.  What?  We all have our strengths!).

If you missed it, and have a burning desire to see it –>  check this link for the entire episode: http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Oprah-s-Lifeclass/172715/2274715999/Terrible-Things-Women-Do-to-Each-Other/videos

We’re on very briefly!  But Oprah mentions us, which is very humbling for us.  Let us know what you think!


Sep 2, 2012 - Brown Chickery    4 Comments

Brown Chicks, Fix My Life and the OWN Network

If you know me, or have been following my other blog, you might know that I’m a part of Six Brown Chicks   The quick story is that Six Brown Chicks is a group of women who originally joined forces in early 2011 to provide daily content to our collective blog on ChicagoNow.  A few weeks after the blog began, we were approached by WCIU to do a talk show to be aired online.  The format was kind of like The View, but there were six of us.  We taped several shows . . . and then we imploded (which tends to happen among a group of six black women).  I could go into more detail, but that’s the gist.

Zondra Hughes, our creator, was particularly upset by our implosion and wrote into the OWN Network to submit our story to the Iyanla Vanzant “Fix My Life” show.  They found us to be interesting (who knew?), so we got the original band back together and taped an intense episode of the show with Iyanla.  The entire point of our appearance on the show was to foster healing among the group so that we can move forward and operate as an entity.

Whether or not the healing worked remains to be seen.  I will encourage you to stay tuned. ;-)

In the meantime, this evening (Sunday, September 2nd) at 9:00 EST/8:00 CST, the topic of Oprah’s Lifeclass show is “Women Who Do Terrible Things to Each Other.”  Iyanla will be joining her for this episode.  It is with mixed feelings that I announce that the clip of our show will run during this show.  (Because, apparently we’re mean girls and our content is appropriate.)

Zondra and Yanni were present at the taping of this particular episode, and the MOST exciting piece for us is that Lady O herself mentioned Six Brown Chicks, and even alluded to having watched us herself.

I don’t know when our episode of Fix My Life will air, but I think the indecision has something to do with the fact that Iyanla also taped an episode with Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Evelyn Lozada — his Basketball Wife bride — prior to the head-butting episode that prompted her divorce filing mere weeks after their nuptials.  I’m certain that their episode will air before ours, because, really?  As fucked up as WE are, I’m thrilled to take a backseat to people who are clearly more scandalous.

Not that I’m a fan of Basketball Wives (in fact, I’m hoping that dear Evelyn is on her 14th minute and 59th second), or Ocho’s antics (nor do I really care), but this should be an interesting episode because I know from experience that Iyanla really tries to get to the heart of most matters, and if she did as I predict, the audience will be privy to a lot of interpersonal stuff that we wouldn’t normally see.

I can’t help but be slightly nervous about the release of our hour-long episode.  The format is reality tv-esque.  We haven’t seen the edited version, and won’t have that opportunity before the rest of the world views it.  As individuals, the six of us have extremely strong personalities and none of us were quiet during the taping.  Many cried.  It will be interesting to see how we’re portrayed, although I can tell you that if you’re hoping to see cat fights or anyone overturning tables in anger, you’ll need to tune into a different show.  I will also reveal that I’m the stoic dry-eyed one (which will be a big shock for those who know me well).

That said, either tune into OWN this evening, or watch online if you’re interested in seeing a clip, and follow me on Twitter for live tweets during the show, and for the air date of our episode.

Aug 28, 2012 - Rants    2 Comments

When Do We Become Prey?

There are two kinds of people (for purposes of this blog).  The first group has a natural gullibility and naivete that borders on the unbelievable.  They seem to have been born that way.  It’s easy to pull a fast one on them, but they somehow manage to bumble through life, relatively unscathed but usually with hilarious stories that make the rest of us wonder “how the hell did she fall for THAT?”

And then there’s the second group — the ones who go through life with a good degree of common sense and street smarts.  This faction tends to make sound decisions with the ability to discern a good deal from a bad one, and suss out a scam quite effortlessly.

Oddly, at some point, these two groups end up in the same place.  I’m convinced that there is a tipping point in every person’s life — first and second group alike — where they become prey.

Last year, I was in disbelief that my aunt and uncle fell victim to a team of roof-laying travelling gypsies.  They drove by in their raggedy Sanford-and-Son-mobile, conned my uncle into allowing them to inspect the roof, and delivered the ominous prognosis that my unsuspecting relatives were in danger of the entire roof caving in.  Wow!  What a good thing they passed by!  And for a mere $15,000, my aunt and uncle could escape the possibility of their home turning into one big skylight.  Fortunately, my cousins arrived just as they were working and threatened to kick some gypsy ass if they didn’t leave.

My father and I chuckled about this story, and I counted myself among the lucky ones that he still had his faculties and common sense.

Firmly rooted in the second group, my father is nice, but can usually sniff a bad deal. (My mother [who was probably voted "Most Likely to Give the Side-Eye" in her graduating class] would disagree with this statement were she alive, and always claimed that my father would buy snake oil if presented nicely.  While he unbelievably swallowed a few of my tall teenage tales, I choose to believe he did so to spare himself.)  But as he grows older, I become more concerned that my mother’s theory was correct.

I received a somewhat surprised call from him a few weeks ago.  Apparently he had won $100K.

Now . . . most people would have blown the whistle immediately.  But I have a history of a) entering contests, b) entering contests in his name, and c) winning said contests.  At 15 I was bored in the Marshall Fields home section while my mother was making the difficult drawn-out decision between Le Creuset and some other set of pots.  To amuse myself I entered a Farberware giveaway and won $500 worth of cookware in my dad’s name, as I was too young to enter the sweepstakes myself.  Some years later I won a diamond ring in a raffle and other prizes in random drawings.

I bought my dad a stove for Christmas and I entered his name into a contest at that time, so the prospect of his winning something was totally feasible.  But as an avid Dateline fanatic, I was suspicious.

He had received three letters, the first two of which he ignored.  The third time’s clearly the charm, because when he received a “final notice,” he decided to call.  Why the hell not?

My suspicions grew as my father told me that the contact was in England, although he convinced me that the letter looked official.  My father is no stranger to news shows (he never misses an episode of 60 Minutes), so he informed Ramsey – his British contact — that he would not be paying any money, nor would he reveal his bank account number, or give any personal information.  Ramsey assured him, in his smug British way, that there was no way that this was a scam, and that he would certainly not owe any money.  The ONLY thing is that there would be a “handling fee” that would be taken prior to my dad’s receipt of the cashier’s check.  All told, he would receive roughly $95,010.

Ramsey told my father that he shouldn’t tell anyone about his winnings, for security purposes (although he failed to specify just whose security would have been jeopardized).

Then, the rules of the game changed.

My father received a check via certified mail for $4,910, which he immediately deposited.  Ramsey called to ensure receipt of the check, and told my father that in order for him to receive the rest of the money, he would have to wire two separate payments of $1,200 to two individuals.  For alleged taxes.  Which made absolutely no sense.  If you can find a country that would ask for less than 5% taxation on winnings, please let me know and I’ll be moving there this week.

When my father told me that part, I thought: “Gotcha, Ramsey old chum.  You bloody piece of shit!  You fat article! Nah-sty bah-stard! [insert any other rant from a Guy Ritchie film]“  Certainly my father would be on the same page!  We had caught this scamming sack of of crap.

But then my father said something that scared the shit out of me:  “So, I guess I have to wire the money if I’m to receive the rest.”  He went on to ask what the harm could have been since the check (officially drawn on Mellon Bank) had already cleared.

No, Dad!  NOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Et tu?

So I  told him not to send a damned thing — ESPECIALLY not via an untraceable wire transfer.  I instructed him to call his personal banker to investigate the check, and to bring all of the paperwork to my house.  Stat!

He followed my orders.  The “official” bit of documentation that he received?  Could have been printed on my old dot matrix printer.  I called the number.  There was no announcement; the voicemail was mysteriously full.  There was no website.  No email address.  Nothing.  Just the handiwork of an international scammer attempting to take advantage of an octogenarian.

His personal banker called to say that upon further examination, that check wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Although I’d seen these kinds of scams documented online or featured on Dateline, it really pissed me off that my father could have been a victim.  So I made a call to Ramsey during British scam artist business hours.

When he answered, I introduced myself as the daughter of his latest victim, and produced the faux claim number and account number.  I told him that I was an official agent (of some sort), and expressed my concern in a mild way, initially.  He tried to backpedal and reassure me, so I aggressively informed him that he was under international investigation and that I had contacts in the British police force (I wanted so desperately to say that I knew people at Scotland Yard, but I chose to remain credible).  I stressed that what he should really be frightened of is my ability (and extreme desire) to cross the pond, find him and beat his pale, bony, 22-tooth-having, Cadbury eating ass until he’s unable to type, lick a stamp or partake in high tea.

Ramsey had the nerve to say that I was harassing him before hanging up on me.  The nerve!

I find it sad that my father has clearly reached the tipping point.  Or that my mother had been right all along.  Either way, I need to be more alert now than ever.

Thanks for reading my brand new blog!!