Category Archives: Favorite Stories

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Mostly brick exterior with attached oversized 2 car garage with
My mom officially sold her house. I spent all weekend helping her pack and move. The movers are there right now. The new family moves in on Friday. I am heartbroken.

Packing up the house where you spent 2/3 of your life – birth through grad school – is always rough. But packing up that house, the house where your dad died, on Father’s Day is torture. It makes me feel like I’ve lost him all over again.

Most of my friends have already been through this – hell, some of those homes have been bull-dozed – and I’m anticipating some friends sharing their stories and telling me to basically get over it. But, you know, I need a little fucking time.

I hope none of my friends ever have to move back home to take care of their parents, but doing so really helped me to appreciate where I grew up with adult eyes. Taking care of him in the place where he took care of me felt like completing the circle. They say you can never go back home again, but you can. And when you leave again, it hurts twice as much.

I thought I would have time to come by one last time for a visit. But Justin works Monday and Tuesday, I have plans with my friends on Wednesday, and the lady has her final walk-through on Thursday. We were halfway to my mom’s new house before I realized I may have just driven away from there for the last time, forever. I called Liz, sobbing. She’s probably the one friend I have who knew how hard that was for me. Hell, she’s the only friend of mine who saw my dad when he had no legs.

I’m going to find a way to go there one more time. I have to. Even if it’s me just sobbing alone in the basement, without Justin there to hold on to. Even if we have to leave Niki’s house before everyone actually walks to the Gardens. Even if we have to sneak over Thursday night when I’m already so busy and sleep-deprived.

My whole life, I’ve always noticed when the clock hit 9:08. I know that it just stood out to me because it was so familiar, but it really felt like it happened so much for a reason. After my dad died, any time I saw 9:08 on the clock, I would whisper hello to him or just tell him that I miss him. It’s our little moment, at least a couple times a week. (I asked my shrink if this was weird and he said, “Do you freak out if you miss it? No? Then I think it’s really sweet.”) Anyway, I think for a little while it’s just going to make me sad.

I could write forever about that house – my house. But if I start to list all reasons I love this house, all the memories I have, all the time I spent there, all of my landmark moments, the fact that I have known our neighbors for 32 years and they’re like my family, the fact that my friends basically lived here, too … I would go on forever. And maybe I will, someday.

But for now, I’m practically paralyzed with sadness. I can’t even eat. I just sit and stare into space and sigh. It was so much easier when I could feel this way sitting on that back patio, surrounded by trees and smoking cigarettes, knowing an old friend would probably drop by at any moment, with my dad listening to the radio on the porch directly above me.

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The Greatest Wedding of All Time

So … we got married! Honestly, I’m so overwhelmed with the trip to Iceland and all of the organization that comes with wedding gifts … not to mention a wicked sinus infection that I picked up somewhere … that the wedding feels almost like a fever dream or acid trip that I barely remember. Everyone warned me that it would go fast, that I would barely have time to dance or eat or talk to people, that I would have to make an effort to remember things. And wow, they weren’t kidding.

I’ve put together some things I DO remember very well, and in the fine tradition started with Kevin at Jen and Ron’s wedding almost a decade ago, I present:

Stephie’s Top 10 Memories of The Greatest Wedding of All Time

1. The Rehearsal

IMG_0380The wedding rehearsal was a hot mess. Our officiant Røb had stayed up all night practicing for the rehearsal, then took a nap and promptly slept through 99% of it. But I kept trying to remind myself of my theater/choir days: things would turn out okay.

Either way, it was the first time that I had seen my brother’s family, Erin, or Liz in a very long time. We had our very best friends and our entire extended families all in one room. Because Røb wasn’t there until the last 5 minutes, we had plenty of time to catch up with each other. And after a quick run-through, we got to get drunk and eat fried alligator. Yeesssss.

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2. When Justin Saw Me for the First Time

Pre-make-up.

Pre-make-up.

When you’ve worn your make-up the same way for at least a decade, it can be a shock to be made-up a different way. My hair? My hair that I worried about for so long? It turned out perfect. More beautiful than I ever imagined I could look. My dress? Fit like a glove, so comfortable and so adorable. My face, on the other hand, I hated. Looking back on pictures now, I think it looks okay, maybe even pretty, but I almost cried the first time I saw it. I kept asking my bridesmaids if they liked it, praying that they would demand that Kristin change it, but they all said it looked pretty. And when I came out in my dress, they all kind of melted and I almost cried. (P.S. I don’t have this in the list but I would like to mention that we were in a 4-room suite; BALLER.)

IMG_0476I was unsure all the way until the First Look pictures. We took them at this cute building across the street from ours that we’ve always wanted to buy. He stood around the corner from me, and Ben snapped a couple pictures of us holding hands, and then we turned to look at each other. Justin’s face immediately crumpled, his eyes filled with tears, and he softly whispered, “Oh, buddy!” Then I knew everything would be okay. P.S. Justin, in his red bow-tie and sneakers, looked 100% cute and 100% handsome as hell.

3. The Program

IMG_0485Old friends will appreciate this more than new, but Justin put the bridal party into a Brady Bunch picture, and he came up with that idea completely on his own. If that isn’t a sign that he’s the perfect man for me, I don’t know what is.

We listed the wedding party as “The Cast”, the parents and siblings (also parents) as “The Producers”, and made the events look like a TV Guide. Justin coined a new term, “Mom’voyage” to describe the Unity PBJ that we had our moms make, and that word makes me laugh so hard. I was also able to let everyone know that the wedding march music was a tribute to my dad. It was basically perfect.

4. The Wedding March

I first heard this instrumental version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as Love” on a mix CD that Warren gave guests at his wedding. Honestly, the first time I heard it, years before I met Justin, I knew that I would walk down the aisle to this. And when I realized that my dad would not be there to walk with me, there was no talking me out of this idea, but thankfully everyone was game. See, my dad introduced me to Jimi Hendrix when I was in 6th grade. He introduced me to all of the greats. So, as I said in the program, “Since Jim can’t be here today, Stephanie will be escorted down the aisle by their two favorite dudes: [my brother] and Mr. Jimi Hendrix.”

I was determined to hit my mark at the prettiest part at 3:15 and have it fade out when I reached the end of the aisle, and I really thought it would be impossible to do. The rehearsal attempts were a disaster and I pretty much gave up. But then – it worked out perfectly! All the parents and bridesmaids made it down the aisle, the flower girls and ring bearer were hilariously adorable. I almost started walking, and something told me to wait. And then BOOM. I rounded the corner and hit my mark exactly. I had my brother next to me with his colorful medals. I had my “something blue” (and something important) pinned to my bouquet. I saw Steve, Ron and Peter on the ends of the aisles, beaming at me. And of course, my perfect husband at the end.

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5. Røb

JandS-283-XLNot going to lie, we were all worried about Røb after the rehearsal. But damn, he nailed it. It started with a song that I’m going to link to and man, I hope you can see this. (I’ll make a more accessible video eventually.) But from the accordion serenade to the side jokes (“The wedding ring, like the donut …”) to the perfect vows that made me burst into tears (“I Stephanie, take you Justin as you are, to be my companion and my best friend …”) to the very end (shouting “Let’s get drunk!” as we walked down the aisle) … it was flawless. We probably got more compliments about Røb than the actual marriage; it was that great. Plus, because his song was titled, “The Greatest Wedding of All Time,” that’s how people refer to our wedding now. Victory!

Note everyone cracking up in the background.

Note everyone cracking up in the background.

6. Brent’s Speech

945629_951203912806_586270824_nAll of the speeches were amazing and made me tear up (Jen gave a shoutout to Team Papoose), but Brent’s speech was astonishing. It’s probably too personal to print here, but it was hilarious, heartwarming, surprising and unforgettable. And it ended with, “May you have children of average height.”

 

 

 

7. Friends

Obviously, seeing everyone was a big deal, and so many people said things that touch my heart that I’ll remember forever. But some I’ll remember more than others. Like spending tons of time with Steve, Meredith and Janet at a wedding-themed TV Time the night before the wedding. Or when my dear friend Adam told me that he rearranged an entire family reunion (with his 6,000 in-laws) to be there. But especially when I snuck out for a cigarette and Tony handed me a phone … and my dear friend Tim, who has been wrongly imprisoned for over a year for a crime he didn’t commit, was on the other end. He had a phone smuggled into his cell just to call me. I never expected my favorite wedding memory to be me huddled behind Tony while sneaking a smoke and talking to a prison inmate, but marriage can surprise you.

Our gift bag for out-of-town guests.

Our gift bag for out-of-town guests.

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8. Dollar Dance

Most people keep the money for themselves, but Justin and I donated our money to charity. His bucket went to the MS Society and mine went to the Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation. We collected over $200! But mostly, this is a favorite memory because I got to dance to all of my favorite dudes to the tune of “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

9. Photobooth

The set-up didn’t turn out exactly like we planned, but it was still great and everyone loved it so much. Here’s the full gallery. Designed and built by Justin, run by our friend Ann’s awesome business, Photomaton.

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Justin’s initial mockup. He sewed the curtains himself!


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10. Things Get A Little Pornographic

Again, God, I hope you guys can see this video. I think Sarah has it set to my “Friends of Friends” on Facebook. I’m going to ask her eventually for a file so I can YouTube this shit. But guys, Røb wanted to serenade me with my favorite song, and then he remembered that a million years ago I wrote this blog entry, and Justin thought it was the funniest idea he had ever heard of in his life, and that’s how I got serenaded with “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” on my wedding night by someone who is not my husband, and at one point by an entire room of my friends and family. Sarah’s video perfectly captures Jen and Ron’s laughter, Fritz and Jenny’s dancing, Røb’s flawless performance, and my simultaneous delight and mortification.

Up Next: The Honeymoon! Probably more lists. I am exhausted.

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Alley Cats

So, remember when I said I had no responsibilities for the New Year, so I could focus on all this stuff and get my life under control?

Well, approximately 5 hours later, this happened:

Sorry, this is the only picture I have of me with my ring. I’m engaged!

Yup! It happened on New Year’s Eve. I had just gotten back from saying goodbye to my niece, so I was sniffly and exhausted. I laid down for a rare nap, and Justin said he had something to show me. It was a video set to “Alley Cats” by Hot Chip with tons of pictures and videos of us, including a bunch from when we were kids.

Every now and then there would be random scenes from old Nintendo games. First it was scenes of the main characters running, then there was a montage of big fights (Mike Tyson’s Punchout was the best), and finally at the end, a montage of scenes where the guy rescues the princess. (Erin was right to cry, “Nerds!” when I told her this part, but with the song and his editing, somehow it worked and was insanely sweet.)

The whole time I was watching it, I was like, “Is he going to propose?” But the video ended, and there was a long pause. I waited a few beats just in case, then finally told him that I loved it.

But before I could finish my sentence, I heard 8-bit music blaring out of the speakers, and a perfect Zelda takeoff appeared:

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And then all of a sudden he was on his knee with a ring. It’s adorable and totally me; it looks like a peapod. You can kinda see it if you click & enlarge that picture. He got it from this tiny jewelry store by my parent’s house because a long time ago, my dad bought my mom a pair of emerald earrings from there. Every time we walked by that place, I would tell Justin about how I drove my dad there to pick up the earrings and he was so excited when he saw them, like a little kid. “Stephie! They’re perfect!” my Dad yelled as he ran back to the car. I get emotional every time I picture how happy he was; it’s hard for me to tell that story without crying. So it means the world to me that Justin bought the ring there.

Oh yeah, in addition to asking my Dad for permission a year and a half ago when he was on hospice, Justin asked my mom and brother this weekend, too. And he said that he decided to propose to me on that day exactly a year ago.

He rented a chauffeured Town Car for the night, so we could drink and celebrate while we party-hopped. The first stop was Ari’s, a Greek restaurant where we had our first dinner date for our one month anniversary. The staff and people sitting around us were so excited for us.

After that we went to Brent’s friends house–a mansion in Webster Groves with an actual speakeasy in the basement! All the fixtures, furniture and everything is from the twenties, fully restored. There was a foxhunting mural on the walls, antler tap handles, and red leather couches and stools. They even made a batch of moonshine served in mason jars!

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After that, our driver George took us to Nick and Jessica’s house so I could tell all my friends in person, which was so great. To get from one party to the other, we drove through Webster, so we passed our college (where we had a class together freshman year) and the bar where he first asked me out. All in all, a perfect night!

Yesterday, Justin and I spent the entire day in our PJs, playing with our Christmas presents (Apple TV and Kindle Fire), then Erin invited a bunch of us over for Hoppin’ John, a traditional stew that ensures good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. Erin made it so obviously it was amazing.

Today (I have literally been waiting 25 years to say this:) I saw The Muppets with my fiance. (I spotted Cloud during the first dance number! Haha!) Then we planned the shit out of our wedding. We’ve already roughly picked the date, the wedding party, officiant, photographer, guest list, invitations and save the dates. I haven’t even gotten my ring sized yet! I have a hair-tie looped onto the back!

So yeah, some of those Fs (finances, anyone?) may be going out the window. But now I have some sort of dress I have to fit into and some pictures I have to look hot for, so it’s time to get my ass into gear. This month, the main goals are hiring a trainer and picking a venue. Oh, and finally blogging about The Spot.

Wedding Stuff You May or May Not Care About:

I refuse to turn my blog into a wedding blog or an eventual baby blog. So aside from rare long entries about it, in the future I’ll be throwing all the details I feel compelled to share at the bottom of entries for you to ignore. You’re welcome!

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March Plus: A New Job!

YUP! For the 2 readers who didn’t hear it directly from me, I got a new job! More specifically, my dream job. I’ve known about it for a few weeks, but I had to wait for all the paperwork, background checks, and everything else before I could put in my two weeks. Which I just did. WOO!

Back in December and January,  I was literally crying about my current work situation every day and it was taking such a toll on me. One night when I was still at my mom’s house, I was having trouble sleeping (which hadn’t happened in months, surprisingly). I was full of stress and anxiety and anger and I couldn’t relax. I decided to check this company’s website on a whim (they rarely have openings because no one wants to leave) and there it was.

And while I haven’t really believed it until this very second, the tiny optimist that lives inside my pinky toe said, “You got this.” I stayed up two more hours updating my resume and cover letter. It was 3:35 am when I finally hit  “submit”.

It’s for one of the biggest companies in the world, so it would probably be really dumb to say the name of the company or get too detailed here. (Oh, and whatever I write here will never reflect the views of my employer and all that jazz.) But I will list a few (of the million) awesome things about this place.

1. It’s downtown like me, so I no longer have to drive across the entire city and county of St. Louis every day. I will save millions in gas and get an hour of my life back. Justin suggested taking popular downtown transportation like a bike rickshaw or a horse-drawn carriage. (Realistically, on nice days he will drop me off in the morning and I’ll walk home.)

2. I will no longer be the only copywriter at my work, which means I will no longer be the only person forced to explain why something is terribly written, why this apostrophe goes here, what semicolons are for, etc. I feel like the Bee Girl at the end of the “No Rain” video.

3. I can take dogs to work. There is a dogpark. This means I have to get a dog, right?

4. It is voted one of the best places to work in St. Louis every single year, and often it’s among the best in the country.

5. The people there are hilarious and brilliant and amazing. Plus, I’ll have a Creative Director! My agency friends may be groaning, but trust me, having one is better than having … what I currently have. It will be awesome to work for someone who really encourages me to grow and think and challenge myself. It’s all the best parts of an agency, plus the job security and benefits of, you know, other jobs.

6. NO MORE PR. They have people for that.

7. My dad worked at this company for 25 years. Here he is at some parade thing that they used to throw in the seventies:

I put that picture on my cover letter, which I’m sure is 60% of the reason I landed the job.

(If you’ve guessed where, please don’t type it in the comments. The less googleable I am, the better.)(God bless that actress with the same name as me.)

So, I’m aware that this was painfully obvious and I’ve “announced” it like 6,000 times already, but it ain’t complete until I say it here:

I JUST SCORED MY DREAM JOB.

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3 Cheers for the Weirs – Revisited

It’s been exactly a year since I threw the concert for my parents, and I feel like if I’m ever going to write about it, it might as well be now.

For those of you who don’t know, my dad had both of his legs amputated about 15 months ago, due to Type 1 diabetes. This was after a triple bypass and several vein replacements the year before, not to mention losing an eye two decades earlier. When I first thought about this concert, only one leg was missing and I had hoped to buy a prosthetic with the money. Soon, both legs were gone, he developed a category 4 bedsore, and it became apparent that (because of his blindness), he would require 24/7 care – most likely (and as it turns out) for the rest of his life.

The actual money I raised (around $3,000) paid for a hospital bed, a trapeze bar for above the bed (so he could exercise), a portion of an expensive wheelchair and medical supplies. It was much needed, and I know this because I had to pick up a lot of equipment and run to the pharmacy for him almost daily. My dad was expensive – worth every penny, but expensive. Above, you’ll see the receipt for my first trip to the pharmacy for him – $538.39.

I didn’t write about it right away because I wanted time to let it absorb. Then, around the middle of December, he got sick again. He had gastroparesis, which makes patients feel full even though they haven’t eaten. As a diabetic, eating was essential, and the doctors were having trouble getting a feeding tube to work. The day before Christmas, my brother went to the hospital with my mom to speak to counselors about end-of-life decisions. I thought he was going to die on Christmas. My concert seemed pretty pointless, my initial optimism  seemed childish, and in addition to the sadness, I felt like I had let everyone down.

However, he came home soon after, and aside from one more hospital stay, he spent the last 7 months of his life at home, in the house where he lived for over 30 years. My mom was with him almost 24/7, and when I moved home in mid-May, he got to see me every day, too. He had a lot of visitors and got to spend holidays like Easter sitting at the head of the dining room table, just like he used to. The equipment helped make all of this possible, and the concert helped bring the equipment home, so it was worth it.

Man, when I started this entry, I wanted it to be about the concert itself and all the positivity, but it’s impossible to explain even the facts of my dad’s story without being long-winded and heavy. Anyway:

The concert was amazing. There were so many friends from so many different parts of my life, and I think I even remarked onstage that it was kind of like a wedding in that respect – when would I get all of those people in the same room again? I remember choking up during my speech (and saying, “Shit.” when I did). I told everyone that my family spent so much time sitting around in hospital rooms that we would run out of things to talk about. And when that happened, I would tell them about my friends. My parents knew about almost everything that happened to my friends, and asked about them, too. “How’s Warren’s house?” “How’s Emily’s baby?” “Does Ron like teaching?” “Did Jen get over her cold?”

I told the crowd, “You all mean a lot to my parents, because you mean a lot to me. And it’s really nice that I can tell my parents that the same is true about them.”

I can’t tell you how amazing it was in the weeks leading up to the show – businesses handed over gift certificates without blinking, Off Broadway opened their doors gladly (and for free), friends like Janet and Ann pitched in to make fliers and banners, Rob brought pizza for the bands, and all the musicians/friends I asked to play gladly accepted.  Erin (who was still a relatively new friend at the time) gathered money from her co-workers, promoted the shit out of the show, and brought several friends with her.

Friends bought insane amounts of raffle tickets from my boyfriend (in his cute raffle outfit). I remember one friend buying 40 at once! Oh, here’s one complaint – I kept picking the same 5 winners, no matter how hard I shook that bucket. What the hell? One friend handed me a $100 check on the spot and another friend hugged me and slipped me a wad of cash for just as much.

I also got tons of checks in the mail – one of the first was from my first grade teacher, all the way from Texas. Hell, I even got a huge check from an ex who had every right to hate me. I raised almost twice as much from these checks – a part I wasn’t even expecting as first – than I did from the actual concert.

The staff at Off Broadway was awesome, too. They gave me drinks on the house and the door guy kept diligent track of the amount of guests (80) and the money they gave. He made me pull up to the front door and walked me to the car with all of my cash. And speaking of the cash – have y’all ever walked downtown with a huge stack of bills? I had to, because that’s where my bank is. I thought I was going to die.

Overall, the whole experience was overwhelming. When I got home that night, I was sitting on my bed holding all the money, and I just burst into tears out of exhaustion and gratitude. And as you’ll see from the following video, my mom did, too:

So I know this is about a year too late, and I thanked everyone who needed to be thanked already, but I wanted to reiterate how amazing this was. I knew that putting together a concert would be helpful and therapeutic, but I wasn’t expecting so much support and kindness and positivity. I didn’t have the time or the money to help my parents, so I used what I had – friends. Talented, generous, incredible friends. And what I received from everyone involved didn’t just carry me financially – it gave me what I needed emotionally to survive this last year. So once again, thank you from the bottom (and top, and middle) of my heart.

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Bible Halloween is Sexist

Halloween at the height of my parents’ evangelism. My brother was David from David & Goliath. I was the Virgin Mary. HE got an awesome slingshot. I got a baby Jesus.

This was when I started realizing that girls get screwed over sometimes. I wanted a slingshot, not some dumb-ass doll that I had to treat like the Son of God. LOOK HOW PISSED I AM.

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And They’re All Made Out of Ticky-Tacky

Justin emptied out the prop room with all of his puppet-movie props. It was this big grand gesture for me (and seemingly impossible to anyone who has seen that room) because eventually that will be “our” room.

Well, most of the props, anyway.

The spaceship was especially hard:

I have better pictures of everything, I just don’t have my camera cord here. I’d say 1/3 of the room made it to the dumpster and 1/3 to the building’s (always amazing) “free pile”. Currently, he’s obsessing over making a town with a mountain view above our kitchen cabinets. I love him.

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