Watch this space… 

My friend Jon and I are going to entertain you with stories and confuse you with our segues in our podcast that will be published sometime in the future! Isn’t that so exciting and hilariously unspecific as to the arrival of this thing I’m touting with such a bombastic flourish? I’m going to force the issue by publishing a post that says it’s going to happen. Dear Jon, get your podcast pipes primed. Alliteration, baby! Obviously, I’ll have to talk Jon BACK into participating. And of course, I’ll have to get all of the specifics figured out as far as actually producing the podcast. Which is a touch alarming as I can’t seem to get the damn comments to work on this pathetic blog anymore. They used to work. Now? Yeah, not so much. So yes, a podcast seems totally doable. And Jon and I will have you in tears. Tears of laughter, people. There’s even talk of a third person on the ‘cast. That’s right. Emily has said she might join us. You’re pretty sure this is a thing that is never going to happen, right? And you don’t much care one way or the other, right? Eh, I hear you. Hell, I hadn’t even produced a blog post in two lousy months before day before yesterday. You may have a point. 

I claim to take ping pong seriously, but this video proves I’m a liar.

I don’t come off well in this. First, because I haven’t played in months, and so my game is quite sucky. Second, it’s clear that I’m a complete fool, and I’m prone to celebrating at even the most pathetic of winning shots in a most obnoxious manner. Real adult-like. But Sebastian has a cameo in here, and that makes it worth a little something.

[Ed. Note: I should mention that I didn’t wear the togs in preparation for ping pong. I had just returned from a bike ride. Yesterday, I played in a t-shirt and sweats. Hmmmm, yesterday I played even worse than I did today. Maybe I should keep that in mind. Although yesterday I played without shoes. Bare feet don’t have the same type of traction. Something to keep in mind for next time. Wait, maybe I do take ping pong seriously….]

The Day the Music Died. Alternate Title: Karaoke Is Hard, You Guys.

I had to do it. I did wait an acceptable amount of time, so I could blame any inaccuracies, missing moments, or outright falsifications on my spotty memory. I got to hang with these three awesome women, and we tried to put a reasonable amount of hurt on a Tuesday night in RVA. I wouldn’t call it a beatdown, but I’m proud of what we accomplished. And now I have to tell you guys about it, so the gelatinous monster will leave me alone for one tiny second. She’s seriously upset that I screwed up the karaoke experience, and made my friends share in my humiliation. I sing ALL THE TIME. Why was I so inept?! She will not let it go.

IMG_4664brightWe look harmless, right? But we closed down each of the 3 bars we visited.

[Ed. Note: Names have been altered to protect the innocent.]

Recently, Lissa, Marta and I decided that we should get together on the semi-regular and try to destroy local bars as an unscheduled and, if I’m honest, unrequested disaster testing exercise to make sure they’ve done their disaster planning adequately. This is a strategic and helpful service that we’re happy to provide for our local biz owners, and we’re not even charging for it. We’re pretty awesome that way. We heard that Emcee’s in da house was coming to town and insisted that she join us for one of our Tuesday Teardown Events, and she agreed. The four of us had a blast. We talked about old times. We talked about our families, and we talked about things that are above your clearance level, unless one of you in the picture is reading this, and you know what we talked about. (Relax, Emcee’s in da house, Lissa, and Marta — alpha order so nobody gets aggro on me — I’m not going to spill the deets on anything except the events of the night in question. So, don’t spill any dirt on me. Remember we took that oath? I know, I know, we didn’t. We should have, but we didn’t.)

Anyway, I want to talk about the karaoke, because I just didn’t know. All my life. In the dark. And my life has been a nearly constant training session for a karaoke extravaganza that people would talk about in reverent and glowing terms for weeks afterward. In my head. Where reality has no business holding court.

[Ed. Note: Speaking of reality and such: Emcee, Lissa, and Marta, hit me up with any corrections and additions, right? I’m not exaggerating intentionally. This time.]

Things I didn’t know about karaoke:

  • People take it really seriously. Like really fucking seriously. I’m exaggerating, you say? I am not. I have proof. For our first song, Emcee’s in da house selected ‘We Are Family’ and, while I was not sure about it at first, I calmed myself down as I remembered that the lyrics are supplied for you. I’m chuckling and shaking my head even now as I remember that this was my only concern then. We all got up to sing. I may have strutted up to the front. I’m extremely shy, but I assumed the ridiculous number of years I’ve spent on this fine planet engaged in exuberant singing meant I would rock at karaoke. Emcee grabbed one microphone for the two of us. I think Lissa grabbed the other. I’m not convinced that Marta EVER planned on singing as she was sober. SOBER, PEOPLE. Yes. Give her a hand. That woman accompanied us to karaoke night with no alcohol on board. I’m reasonably certain the constant refrain in her head was, “Fuck this noise. Fuck this noise. Fuck this noise.” But I could be projecting. I stood next to Emcee preparing for my debut. The lyrics began to scroll. And…….we missed our cue. Somehow. I think it was at this point that Emcee and I exchanged the look of “Whuh? This doesn’t work exactly as expected. Wait, we might be drunk. This is probably best attempted buzzed and not drunk. Nah. We’ve got this.” Then, she looked away and began to give it a go. But my look changed back to something of the nature of “No. I don’t have this. I don’t really know this song at all. Is this a different version of this song? I’ve certainly never practiced this song. I may have only really sung this song once over the entire course of my lifetime. That’s insufficient. Abort. Abort. Abort. No. Better plan. Giggle. Giggle loudly and with abandon because this is really fucking funny. Wait. Look at those faces. People are fierce mad, yo. Wait. Are you laughing harder? Yes. You’re laughing harder. Now, you’re doubled over and clutching your stomach. Stop that. Don’t laugh harder. That’s making them angrier.” I’m certain that Lissa abandoned us long before we got 3 lines deep into the lyrics and just looked at us like, “WTF, women?” But with a humorous and patient kind of look. She’s a seasoned pro. There was nothing for her to do but watch the trainwreck and help with the carnage when the smoke cleared. Emcee really did us proud. She might have faltered at the beginning with me, but she finished strong. Then, she and Lissa danced like it was no big thing while we waited to see if we would be booted from the bar for being a bane to the existence of karaoke fans across the land.
  • If you catch someone late to the party who hasn’t witnessed your epic failure, you will get a second chance to party. Marta and I sat and talked and tried to make sense of the crazy that is a karaoke bar on a Tuesday night. Some dude decided to sit on my lap. I’m still unsure what makes me look like a chair, but I’ll concede that the guy had partaken of a fair share of adult brews. Yes, kids DO have brewskis. Of the root variety. Anyway, somewhere in here (I, unlike Marta, was experiencing the sensation of blood combined with my glorious friend, Tito’s) a guy comes over and asks if we know Love Shack. I don’t need Marta to confirm that I lit up like I’d just been plugged in a socket. I think I said, “Of course!” I meant, “Duh, you giant jackass, and thank you for not being here earlier to witness our epic failure. We will not let you down. You can be certain I have rocked the SHIT out of that song so many times I cannot count them. Let’s get this thing on the books.”

Dear Emcee, I must out you here and alert the readers (all one of them) that you tried to shut this shit down. I forgive you, because we delivered a performance that still brings tears to my eyes. We were spot on. My drunk self is certain of this. I will not ask Marta to confirm as the truth is sure to disappoint me. Love, Steph

  • A karaoke bar can yield some really dramatic situations. For example, Emcee and I met this woman who was pining for her friend at the bar with her boyfriend. A classic triangle. This poor woman had reached a standard of overserved that I haven’t seen in a while. I was a bit afraid for her as the night progressed. I was heartily rooting for her to boot by the time we all left the bar because, at a certain point, you just have to get that poison out. But at any rate, Emcee and I were enlisted to help her win her friend over with the song ‘Push It’ which is another one that has enjoyed a decent rotation in my playlists over the years. So, I assured this woman that we would do right by her. [This song came after Lissa selected a country song that she shooed us up to accompany her on. I think I was the sole idiot that made it all the way to the stage area. Which was tragic for Lissa as she killed it, and my presence up there did nothing but distract from the awesome. I believe my ratio of correct words to incorrect was 1:1,000,000. Nailed it! Still sorry, Lissa!] For ‘Push It’ we were sadly relegated to backup dancer status. Which we worked like “In Living Color” extras. Again, how successful my performance was might be a figment of my imagination. You decide. Emcee took a run at backup singer, but the woman was having none of that. So, we did our thing, but it wasn’t enough. Her friend left with the guy. Sad, but we tried. I think the song was at fault. Bad song.

It was a great night. With some great people. Marta, you’re a rock star. No alcohol at a karaoke bar. Still impressed. Emcee, this town isn’t quite complete without you. Lissa, you brighten whatever place you inhabit. I’m ready for the next time!!

IMG_1109

 

Life is a bowl of cherries consumed while riding a rollercoaster.

[Ed. Note: Don’t grade me on this one, people. There was no editing AT ALL. There’s usually SOME editing. A smidge of editing. At least a glance at my completed post before I actually publish. This time? Nothing. There will be blood mistakes.]

Yeah. I could have just used a sarcasm tag at the end of “cherries” in that title, but I really needed to get the image of a rollercoaster in your head to explain that there are highs and lows around these parts. And, people, every low is a real shit show. But enough about the lows. I’d rather talk about the fact that at some point relatively recently, I regained the ability to succumb to the giggles. I’d lost that for a while. A really long while. As in years. You know the giggles I’m talking about, right? Those really great belly laughs where you finally regain your composure only to be triggered again, and you’re off and running for an unbearable (to anyone unlucky enough to be a part of your surroundings) period of time. Helpless to stop the madness until it’s runs its course. The people around you are either: involved in the joke and are crying with laughter as well; slightly amused at your inability to control the snort that slips out from time to time; puzzled; or rapidly losing patience. Two of my best friends from back in our Cisco days — (Hi, Kathy! See you tomorrow!) (Hi, Vicky!) — and I were often reduced to stumbling around doubled over with laughter and tears of epic proportions. Ah, the good old days. I can’t even remember the things that would set us off, but I remember so many days spent laughing together with complete abandon, and with utter disregard to any spectacle we might be making of ourselves. Laughing until my stomach hurt so badly, and I’d have to grab a seat to regain my composure.

And those days are apparently back. I’m desperately hoping I’ll never lose them again. Conversations with my daughter are the genesis of many of these fits of uncontrollable and prolonged bouts of laughter. She is a loon. Like me. I worry about that sometimes, but she’s much more together than I ever was at her age, so I think she’s going to be all right. I subjected one of my other really good friends to one of these terrible fests of hilarity on a phone call recently as I was trying to recount an earlier laughing spell and triggered an entirely new one when I used the wrong word and basically spent stupid amounts of time laughing helplessly and trying desperately to regain some measure of control so we could continue talking. He was not similarly amused. Which helped me get my shit together enough to continue our conversation, and I allowed myself full privileges on prolonged laughter later in the day whenever I remembered what I said along with his deadpan response.

I went out to dinner with some friends recently, (Howdy, Stephen! I know you read this, so I’m calling you out, man.) and I found myself back in the laughter zone when my brother recounted a story about his mailbox. If I told the story it would sound about as banal as a story could get (mailbox?!), but my brother’s delivery is spot on every damn time and typically has a way of hitting that sweet spot of making it impossible for me not to laugh uproariously, regardless of my current circumstances. Like, if I was in the middle of a restaurant, and it would behoove me not to be quite so loud and obnoxious. Eh. Whatever. That story was funny! And it could have been tears, people. Like I said, rollercoaster. I’m thrilled to be spending this much time howling with laughter these days.

Hey, it’s time to get to the point of my story, and it’s going to be so damn weak after all that. I work in a tall building, and I attended an emergency response training. Something I’ve never done before. It was pretty fascinating. I’ve worked in a number of tall buildings. Never considered much of any of the things we covered in that meeting. Yay, I’m stupid. It was interesting to note that when the security guard asked if anyone had felt the building move in strong winds, some of the people looked a little weirded out. Even though they were on a high floor in the last location. I think it’s because you get used to the sensation and don’t realize what you’re experiencing. I notice it often and find it oddly cool. Why? I have no idea. I’m one of the biggest chicken babies you’ll ever meet. Would I find a fire in that same tall building cool? I would very, very much not find it cool. I would find it beyond terrifying because a lot of people have to get out of that tall building in a very short period of time by descending a narrow and terribly long stairwell. Did I mention that we are on one of the highest floors? That spells trouble, people. But I also have a bit of a dark sense of humor. Therein lies the problem. Couple the ability to anticipate how terrifying that situation would be, and add in a dash of dark humor while your charming security guards are demonstrating the handy safety travel seat that’s available to transport those who are unable to navigate the stairs in an evacuation because they are incapacitated in some way. Et voilà. During the demonstration, the security guard said something about the safety travel seats being a real slowdown in the evacuation process. And mentioned that an alternative to taking the poor chap strapped into the seat all the way down to the first floor and out of the building would be to leave that same unlucky dude stationed by one of the stairwell doors. He very emphatically stated that it was critical to come and tell someone in charge that the fellow was without transport and would need a lift out of the building. I believe this is when I chimed in with, “Well, this got very dark pretty quickly.” And I laughed heartily. Please understand that this was a group of like-minded people, and everyone was dark humor-equipped. It was not only me. Stop judging.

And as we strolled back into our offices after the demonstration, I said that our lesson of the day was that you either needed to make sure you were always capable of navigating the stairs in the case of an evacuation, or make sure you were well-liked. I mentioned to everyone that my only chance of scoring a ride all the way down to the first floor would be to offer a bribe. I began with $400 but immediately upped it to $1000. And as I mentioned it to one of my friends, she said, “Exactly. The minute they deliver you to the exit, you hand them the cash.” I confessed to her that I had foolishly pictured in my head handing them the fat stack of cash at the TOP OF THE STAIRWELL. You know, like a boss. Which means I’d be up there all strapped in to my neon yellow safety travel seat parked at the stairwell door awaiting the firemen to come and collect my stupid ass. Because my co-workers would be downstairs already planning all their new purchases with my $1000. And this is when the giggles came. Because I couldn’t get the visual out of my head. My look of surprise as they accepted my money with looks of pity mixed with a healthy dose of barely-disguised disdain. My look of disgust as they parked me by the stairwell door of 17. And, finally, my look of chagrin as I realized I had no one to blame but my own damn self. Come on, firemen. Please save my stupid, sorry ass. And on and on, the images swirled through my head. I couldn’t stop laughing. But then it was time for the security guards to wrap up the training. Which meant it was time for me to pull my shit together. Stop the giggles. But I can’t control them! And DEFINITELY DON’T SNORT, STEPHANIE!!! Slight snort squeaks out. Did anybody hear that? Damn IT! I don’t know if they heard it, but the giggles are now out of control. Hide your face behind a tissue. They think you aren’t taking this seriously. DUDE! They have guns!! Well, I mean I don’t know if they have guns at the current moment, but they have access to guns. They told us so. They might have a baton. They are going to knock my ass out. I’m going to be laid out unconscious on the floor because I’ve got the giggles. Is my bladder full? For real?! Am I going to have a bladder control situation as well? Silent laughter is the bulging bladder’s killer.  Oh hell no. Why are you doing this to yourself??? You know the tears are falling now, right? You are laughing that damn hard. Sure, it’s silent laughter, but you look completely nuts. I mean, seriously?! Tears? OK, casually wipe your eyes with the napkin while continuing to try to suppress the giggles. Pull yourself together, woman!

I hope I continue to struggle with giggle suppression. Because it means that I still have the ability to laugh with abandon like this. Nothing beats uncontrollable laughter in my book.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day which means it’s time for kids in elementary school to pretend they like everyone. I’m here to assist.

So your kid wants to write a personal message on all her valentines this year, but that one kid keeps calling her miscreant and she’s not really feeling the love on that one, huh? No worries. I’ve got some very nice entries below for your kid to use. No charge. Seriously.

  • You are a person that I know. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • You’re dressed in clothes. That naked dream didn’t come true today. Yay! Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • The girl that sits next to you is named Callie. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • It is winter. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • Your pet appears to like you. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • You rode the bus to school today. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • You’ve never peed your pants at school. That I know of. Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • One whole day you traveled the entire school with your zipper down. You displayed an enormous amount of fortitude that day. Everyone in school was immensely proud of you. We wanted to tell you, but we didn’t want to negatively impact your act of courage. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now get out there and write those cards, kiddos! They’re due tomorrow.

Want a story created on the fly? I’ve got you covered. Please note, it’s going to get weird.

I used to tell the kids stories before bed. Anna, in particular, used to love them. I’d start at point A and move to point B using a rambling plot that never made much sense until the story ended. But I never started the story with a plot in mind. I’d start with one character. Then I’d just build from there on the fly, speaking the words as my brain supplied them. My only restriction for a story would be that it couldn’t start with some starry-eyed damsel trying to get with some dude as her sole purpose in life because, nuh uh. Life’s got more to offer than that.

JT started losing patience with my absurd stories years ago. He’s pretty grounded, and I’m quite the opposite. He’s still able to summon an appreciation for the ridiculous, especially when he is the ringleader, and, though his humor doesn’t trend anywhere near as dark as Anna’s and mine, he shows potential. I’m always glad to see that he’s kept some of his appreciation for the ridiculous, because I know embracing absurdity and allowing my imagination to run wild has served me well over the years. It’s helped me get over some internal struggles, and it’s a key component of my ability to troubleshoot obstacles that block my path personally and professionally. It sounds like I’m making excuses for being flighty, right? But retaining the ability to consider that anything is possible, regardless of how absurd it might sound on the surface, is helpful in more situations than you might think. Relax. I’m not suggesting that unicorns are really a thing that exist in this world. Although they did show up in Anna’s story last night. And I said that the people who don’t believe in them were drinkers of lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid as children. It made sense within the context of the story. Ask Anna.

As I alluded to above, the stories have started again. Anna asked me for a story night before last. Greenie, the caterpillar, was the protagonist. It was such a rousing success, that I told her another one at her behest last night. It was about unicorns. Did you know that they pee on humans? And that they eat brussels sprout leaves? No. Not brussels sprouts. Brussels sprout leaves. It’s a very important distinction. If you give them a whole brussels sprout, they will shoot you the evil eye, and they will load up the brussels sprout in their butt and shoot it out at you. It will hurt. Plus, it’s no fun to be hit with a brussels sprout that’s covered in unicorn poo which is red with sparkly, shiny [Ed. Note: Redundant. Dumbass. Love, You] flecks in it. Trust me on this.

And now that you’re kind of horrified that poo was a feature of the unicorn story, I’ll get to my point. There is this thing called Rory’s Story Cubes that you really need to get if you want to compose some kick-ass stories. Check it out.

The alien, the scary shadow (or is it a MONSTER?), and the sheep walk into a bar.....
The alien, the scary shadow (or is it a MONSTER?), and the sheep walk into a bar…..

So, here’s the thing. I could tell you the story that I’d compose from this, but I’ll let you in on a secret. When the alien, the shadow (or is it a MONSTER?), and the sheep show up, the story invariably goes very, very dark. Why is the sheep involved in the darkness? I have no idea. Somehow the sheep always ends up in a river because the alien is chasing it with a giant probe. And if I’m telling the story to Anna, I’m trying to avoid telling her what aliens do with the probe. It’s all very stressful. Look. My brain’s in charge. I just voice her content. So, make up your own story. Have fun with it. This game rocks, and I haven’t even tried it with alcohol. Please report back if you do.