Gluten-Free Stephie

Did you know that I stopped eating gluten? I stopped eating gluten about a month ago.

We’re not trying to have a baby right now, but we’re talking and planning … and for the first time, I realized that I would have to stop taking all of my daily meds. I don’t take a lot of medicine, but I take stuff for allergies, sleeping … and (in the summer) sweating. I have a friend who sweats even more than I do, and she told me that she found out that her sweating was because of a gluten intolerance. I read up on gluten intolerance symptoms, and so many of them are things that I suffer from (joint pain, anxiety, sleep issues, etc).

I have friends with serious, severe Celiac Disease and I’ve witnessed how hard it is for them. I also used to work in a health food store, where people with gluten allergies have always had to shop until recently, so I’ve been aware of this issue for a long time. I am very, very grateful that I do not have Celiac Disease, so let’s make it clear that I don’t just think of this as a fun experiment. But if there’s any time to try avoiding gluten and find out for myself if this is my problem, it’s now.

These days, people tend to roll their eyes when someone mentions they’re avoiding gluten because they think it is just a fad diet. They bring up the low carb craze and try to mansplain to me that it’s not actually going to help me lose weight. I love telling those people that I wrote my master’s thesis ab0ut the low carb diet and the marketing and advertising behind it, so I fully understand how those diets and fads gain momentum.

However, while avoiding gluten is tied to one fad diet (paleo), it’s also an easy way for grocery stores to bring in an entire segment of people that couldn’t shop at their store before. And because of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, grocery stores need to compete with health food stores more than ever, so they are paying attention. This may stick for a while. I don’t think that stores will keep their giant gluten-free aisles for more than a couple years, but hopefully places will be permanently conscious of carrying gluten-free alternatives.

To be honest, I am eating more paleo than anything these days. Aside from gluten-free pizzas when I go out with friends and the occasional bowl of corn/rice cereal, I haven’t bought any products that are specifically gluten free. I don’t usually buy bread or baked goods anyway. So the only change I’ve really made is that I stopped buying fast food or pigging out on goodies at work. I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination or anything, so while this is by no means an easy lifestyle for people with Celiac, it has been relatively painless for me.

It’s been working, believe it or not. I still sweat in 90-degree weather, that is just science, but I’ve been more comfortable outside recently than most of my friends and I’m not afraid of going out at all. Justin is usually the one to turn on the air conditioning, not me. I don’t need a fan when I’m getting ready in our muggy bathroom. These are huge developments. And because the main reason I’m avoiding gluten is sweating, I’ll be able to slip up occasionally in the winter. I plan on avoiding gluten year-round, but I can still eat stuffing on Thanksgiving or an Easter casserole and suffer through the side effects with minimal discomfort.

I also feel amazing these days, but the fact that I do all of my shopping at the Farmers Market probably has something to do with it. This boost in my mood is much needed because I’m also cutting out sleeping pills and we all know how great that works for me. Shit’s been rough. At least I can take my old friend Benadryl.

My goal to sit up straight this month was serendipitous because work is nuts and I will be spending all month sitting at my desk. Anyway, that’s going well.

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Sit-Up-Straight September

I miss having month-long goals. I feel like they did mold me, in some weird way. I’m always the most open to evolving when I’m depressed or I’ve been through something awful, which right now is both. I’m trying to do nice things for other people and ask them about their day, which always makes me feel better in general, but I need to work on me, too.

I mentioned before that I’ve been re-watching this show called Orphan Black. The lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, plays clones–seven so far. You forget that each character is played by the same person. It’s astonishing, and it’s especially great when one clone pretends to be another clone. You know exactly who that person is, even if they are dressed up as someone else. Hell, there is one episode where the clone with dreads, Cosima, isn’t wearing her glasses–and my first reaction was, “She looks so weird without her glasses!” even though that face is everywhere, in every episode.

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One reason Maslany pulls this off so wonderfully is that her background is dance. So she doesn’t just get into a character mentally–she puts thought and work into what moves them. Allison has this little high-strung tick with her hand that I love, Helena is like a feral animal, Rachel moves with entitlement, etc. It isn’t just the way they talk or dress, it’s the air about them.

I was thinking about this yesterday–the way you feel inside can define the way you carry yourself, and vice versa. You look the way you live. I was also thinking about my Grandma’s favorite mantra: Fake it til you make it.

So for September, my goal is to carry myself with confidence and strength that I don’t exactly have right now. Time to sit up straight. Throw those shoulders back. Engage the core.

And get that fucking chin up. For good.

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And the Lorde Sayeth

I love Lorde! She is incredible and she’s only 16. She writes all her own stuff; her lyrics are so smart and well constructed. And her harmonies in “Royals” are wonderful. It reminds me of Swedish pop that I enjoy so much like First Aid Kit, Lykke Li and Robyn.

And I love that the “Royals” video leads right into “Tennis Courts.” This video is so simple, yet so creepy and mesmerizing.

Another band I’ve been digging lately is Haim; they are so talented and fun. Este Haim looks like a young Melanie Hutsell, which gives them a comedy vibe even when there aren’t SNL people in their videos:

I usually only listen to music when I’m running, so I mostly listen to Jay Z and shit that gets me off of my ass, but it’s nice to have music that I want to listen to while I’m cooking and stuff. Justin usually plays something from his 10,000 iTunes or streams KDHX on his computer, so I haven’t been in the mindset to play music on my own since I’ve lived here.

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Another reason to play music at home is that Justin is fixing my parents’ gorgeous 1965 record player (it helps that his friend at work actually worked at RCA when this was built; he is freaking out over this thing). It hasn’t worked since 1992 when my brother stole one of the speakers to build a sub-woofer. I have a tiny but respectable record collection; it will be fun to build it with current stuff, too.

AND I grabbed this fantastic little radio from my Grandma’s house; it actually picks up KDHX which is rare in my building. I love playing this while reading next to the windows.

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I remember the last time I was as massively depressed as I am now–I discovered Mates of State, Lykke Li and Gogol Bordello, and they helped lift me out of the fog and into one of the happiest years of my life. Maybe all I was missing was music to relax to and heal with, as opposed to the harsh stuff that forces me through a 5-mile run. I’m starting to feel like me again, slowly but surely. It’s nice.

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Charlotte

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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I’ve been trying all week to write some beautiful, elegant entry about the past 3 weeks, but then it feels like I’m too detailed, too intimate, too self-absorbed, too wordy. So I’ll just say it.

I watched my Grandma die last week. I sat with her for her last hour on earth. I watched each breath take longer and longer, I saw the panic in her eyes, I told her it was okay, I told her that I loved her, and I held her hand until I felt her let go.

A week earlier, exactly a week earlier, I had a great visit with her. I said goodbye, then popped back into her room – and she was sitting up, having a major stroke. I held her hand during that, too. There was nothing they could do to stop it, so I just sat with her. She cracked joke after joke with a half-frozen face, slurring her words. I was the only person who could understand her. I stayed until she fell asleep.

Part of me feels like this has profoundly changed me–that I’ll appreciate life more or magically become a wiser, better person. The other half can’t believe how natural it all feels, to the point where maybe it hasn’t changed me at all.

I mean, when I lost my dad, the grief was normal and manageable but what I witnessed during the year leading up to that moment messed me up beyond belief. So I have no idea what I’m like right now. I’m not drinking. I’m reading, sleeping and walking a lot. Every time she said goodbye to me, she would say, “Take care of yourself.” So I’m treading lightly.

She was my Dad’s mom. So going through all of her papers and pictures hasn’t just been a reminder about her–it’s been a reminder of my Dad and my Grandpa, too. My Dad’s 70th birthday is coming up, so he was already on my mind. It gets a little overwhelming.

A few days before she died, she hugged me and said, “Thank God he gave us to each other.” That’s all I can think about. I know it was her time; I know it was natural. But it hurts so much. She was so incredible, so funny, so talented, so brave. I could write about her forever. She was one of my best friends. I really just fucking miss her.

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Long Form, Short Fuse

Don’t expend energy in writing and publishing that would be better used in your family or community. Become tempered by life. Make compromises for love. Provide a service to the world.

Sarah Manguso

If anyone needs me, I’m still at Instagram and Tumblr and Twitter. If I’m not there, then I’m obsessively binge-watching Orange Is The New Black and rewatching Orphan Black. You guys. Those shows. Do it.

The internet has been leaving a really bad taste in my mouth lately. Not all of it; mainly just blogs and Facebook. The majority of the blogs I read have evolved into a sort of “I don’t understand this thing so I’m going to bitch about how it’s stupid” attitude (and I’m sure I have too; shit’s contagious). I have trouble reading that stuff. I want to comment on it, to tell people they’re wrong, to ask why they care if they’ve never been there/done that, but if they have enough energy to bitch about something for 500 words then they certainly have no problem arguing with me*. And I can’t tell them to not care if I care that they care. You know? Anyway.

And Facebook is just, like, a shitty family arguing about politics and social issues at the dinner table 24/7. We shouldn’t be allowed to interact like that with every person we’ve ever met all at once, you guys. And even though I try so hard to avoid commenting and getting myself in trouble/unfriended, I just watch it happen and seethe. And it’s not even Republican/racist/religious stuff! It’s like, nice stuff posted by people who RSVP’d to my wedding and didn’t show up. “Oh, a picture of flowers? SCREW YOU.”**

All the negativity is making me sick to my stomach and it’s also making me a bad person. So I’m just trying to stay away for a while, sticking to little snippets and jokes and a little bitching, but just 140-character baby bitching.

I’m finally able to run again, thanks to my dad’s old podiatrist/roommate. I can’t run long distances yet because I took such a long break, so I’m finally able to build up my speed without tiring myself out. Just a couple 10-minute miles a day along with some walking. And p90x in the evenings. These 2-a-days aren’t helping me lose weight faster, but they’re making me feel amazing and helping me sleep like a baby, so Imma keep it up.

I realized that next year will be this blog’s 10-year anniversary, so I’m not ready to give it up just yet. Just … taking a vacation in a few other spots, is all, until I have something of substance to say. Come find me! I’m fun over there.

*Erin probably thinks this is referring to her post about not believing in fibromyalgia, and it’s not. It is a little bit about her cool friend who called me a “retard”  in the comments, though.

**I don’t usually lord this over people, but I went to a wedding when my dad was on hospice and I had a top secret emergency plan in place in case he died that day (which included Erin, thanks girl) because when you RSVP that means YOU SHOW UP.

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Warrior One

My PTSD about my dad is back with a vengeance. I’m learning that it gets the worst in the summer because weather can be the easiest trigger, and that’s when I really took care of him and things got super traumatizing. So I have at least another month of this.

Life is so much easier when you understand exactly what is happening to you emotionally and physically. More important, it’s easier when you understand why. Even if it’s just PMS or being tired. Even if it’s full-blown depression. It’s a chance to be proactive or give yourself permission to cocoon up and rest.

Justin is gone several nights in a row again, and I hurt my ankle so I can’t go to the Y and run. (It will probably be safe to walk in a couple weeks and I will; I just have a history of not waiting long enough for these things to get better.)

Anyway, my way of coping for the longest time was just, like, wine and Totino’s and a Netflix marathon. But I’m trying to read and cook time-consuming-yet-healthy dinners and do p90x, which I couldn’t bring myself to do last time around but now that I can’t go to the Y, it’s nice to have.

I need to just make an effort to spend time with friends on those nights but it’s so hot and I’m so tired and emotionally drained from all of this. It’s not something I can really talk about with friends because they treat it like I’m still deeply grieving after 3 years and that’s not what PTSD is about at all. The last thing I need is someone talking to me like I’m a little kid, which is what a lot of my friends tend to do for some reason. Anyway. I’m fragile but I know I’ll snap out of it when the weather changes.

I’m doing fine about the big move; I automatically stuck memories of the house into that big box in the back of my brain where I keep memories of my dad, my grandpa and my dog. Do you guys have a box like that? One where small memories and stories escape and it’s okay, but you never open it up and look inside because everything floods out and it would hurt too much? Anyway, 908 is there.

Marriage is awesome. I suppose right now we’re starting to talk about getting a bigger place, and that will eventually lead to babies, so maybe in a month or so I will be like OH MY GOD JUSTIN STOP MAKING CHARTS AND JUST PICK A HOUSE GAH but for now I am really digging marriage and I feel so lucky that Justin is my husband.

I will try to tell you all about our trip to Iceland soon. Is there anything else you want me to write about? Random requests really help me get off of my ass, so to speak.

I love you guys.

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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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Icelandic Fun Facts

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  1. Iceland was formed due to volcanic activity in the rift between the North American and European continents. (We actually stood on 2 continents at the same time; more about that later.) It is still volcanically and geologically active – in fact, the planet’s newest island just recently appeared in Iceland. Lava fields are everywhere and it looks like the moon.
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  2. Until the Norse moved to Iceland, the only creature on the entire island besides birds was the Arctic Fox. Pretty sure Iceland is Justin’s favorite country because there are no snakes.
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  3. As of right now, there are 320,000 people in Iceland (and 4 times as many sheep). 2/3 of the country lives in Reykjavík and the 2 neighboring cities. The majority of the rest live in a large city in the north. No one lives in the middle. 90% of the towns you see on an Icelandic map are composed of 3-5 homes. One town we passed was just, like, a broken down barn. I cannot stress this enough: it is so empty. People have an entire mountain range and waterfalls in their backyards with no neighbors in sight.
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  4. Because the inhabitants of Iceland only go back about 7 generations, everyone in the country is related somehow. The government recently introduced an iPhone app with the entire country’s genealogy. Meet a cute girl at a bar? Bump phones and make sure you’re not cousins before you make a move.
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  5. There are no last names in Iceland, at least not family names like ours. (The few that exist are Danes.) Everyone’s last name ends with either –dottir or –son, meaning “daughter of” or “son of”. Bjork’s last name is Guðmundsdóttir, meaning, “daughter of Guðmundur.” For this reason, the phone book is alphabetized by first names.
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  6. They are one of the most environmentally efficient countries in the world – 13th, I believe. Our hotel rooms required us to put a key in the wall in order for us to have power. Most cars run on hydrogen. Everyone recycles. No litter, no pollution. (And yet, TONS of graffiti.) The head of the Icelanic Electricians’ union? Guðmundur of “Guðmundsdóttir.”
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  7. Some cars run on garbage! Our driver to and from from the airport had one of these cars. The government rewards you by giving you free parking for an hour and a half anywhere you want. These cars have a tiny clock on the dashboard to time the free parking.
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  8. Icelandic continental breakfast: a huge spread of swiss cheese, salami, salmon, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and cucumber – all sliced so that you can put them on pieces of toast. Usually bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, yogurt and cereal were in the mix. If you really lucked out, heart-shaped waffles. One hotel had shot glasses of fish oil. (P.S. Popular dinner dishes include whale and puffin! We stuck to lamb and lobster. SO much lamb and lobster.)
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  9. The sun is out for the majority of the summer. In the north, it never sets at all during the month of June. The darkest I ever saw Iceland in May was a glowing dusk. We drank in Reykjavík until 1 in the morning and the sun was still up.
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  10. Much like St. Louis, the famous saying in Iceland is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.”

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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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On Our Way To Iceland, But First …

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May 13, 2013 · 11:04 pm

Engagement Pictures! Hooray!

This was the best day, just wandering around our neighborhood with Ben (Benjamin Trevor Photography).

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Moodboard 7: Bride Pass

Oh my god. You guys want me to fucking blog right now?

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2 weeks until the wedding. I am officially insane; stalking package tracking and texting nonstop and not drinking but then DRINKING and then not drinking again.

If you need me, I am at Instagram and at Twitter and Tumblr and of course if you know me, Facebook. That’s how you get the dirt.

I’m trying this new thing where I just try to love myself and how I look and my body and try to not care about what I weigh. It’s very hard, but I’m getting there. I look like a motherfucking precious angel in my wedding dress just FYI.

I am so tired and busy right now. Excuse me while I fill some vases with foam and some fake grass shit. And please kill me.

Also Justin and I practice dancing all the time, even in the elevator, and when he spins me I want to have 20 of his babies, so this isn’t all bad.

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Breaking Bride

Sorry for the lack of posts; I am getting RILL sick of talking about myself.

7 more weeks of answering questions and harassing people and stressing about literally every worst case scenario, then an avalanche of Iceland pictures, and then hopefully I will get back to regular blogging about … home renovations? Recipes? Fertility? What the hell do married people blog about? (I keed, but really. Nothing will be as interesting as when I was single; sorry.)

My RSVP due date is aligning nicely with my PMS, resulting in some hilarious silent rage and borderline passive-aggressive texts on my end.

Meanwhile I have been doing a lot of “Blogging for Lazy People” aka Tumblr.* You can find me at secretlystephie.tumblr.com.

Mortified Monday update: I haven’t really lost weight but I’ve been noticing some serious Michelle Obama muscles on my arms and I actually wore size 6 skinny jeans without being run out of town with pitchforks. So maybe that “muscle weighs more than fat” thing isn’t just a lie that I tell myself when I’m fat? Anyway, these days I have enough teeth bleach and spray tan in my system to feel pretty in spite of my weight, so whatever.

*I don’t want to hear your sass, Erin; rebloggling is lay-zay.

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The Dave Painting

Last weekend, my work friends and I threw a surprise 30th birthday party for our friend Ben. 90% of the hilarity that ensued is based on inside jokes or Breaking Bad humor (homemade blue rock candy, anyone?), but I need to tell you about Dave’s painting.

Dave and his wife hosted the party in their gorgeous new house, and he mentioned some of the things that he found in the move. Many of my co-workers have known each other for at least a decade, so when he mentioned the painting they all cracked up. But since Justin, Liz and I are a little new to the party, he told us the story.

Dave had a cleaning lady who would sometimes buy him strange presents. “But she wouldn’t give them to me; she would just put them on my mantel or nightstand.” When he would ask her about them, she would just say, “Oh, I thought that would look nice there.”

“Then,” Dave said, “She just started rearranging my furniture? Like full rooms. Without asking.”

“And then I guess I left some pictures of me laying around? Old ones,” he continued. “And then one day, she said, ‘I painted this for you.'”

And then

she gave

him this:

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Did she sign it? No. She kissed the back:

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“AAAAAND that’s when I fired her.”

P.S. Look at Kim’s Bencakes!

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Things I Am Afraid Will Happen On My Wedding Day

  • Conversations about politics.
  • Someone freaks out about my “something blue“.
  • My fake tooth falls out.
  • My dress rips.
  • My Grandma dies.
  • Grandma calls me fat.
  • Grandma calls one of my friends fat.
  • Grandma sees Erin and Rachael’s tattoos, then dies.
  • Our family members’ reaction to Rob. Any reaction. This will be weird.
  • My parents’ friends try to “save” my friends who are gay.
  • I cry my fake eyelashes off in front of everyone.
  • I spend my whole wedding like I always spend weddings: drunk on the smoking patio.
  • Grandma will ask my bosses to give me a raise.
  • I TRIP WHILE WALKING DOWN THE AISLE NOOO
  • I pull a, “Take thee, Rachel” even though I’m not in love with someone else.
  • I develop gall bladder stones and have to get my gall bladder removed.
  • I develop kidney stones and have to pee them out on my wedding day.
  • I develop Tourettes at the alter. Like, all of a sudden.
  • Tony, Peter or Teets ends up hitting on my boss.
  • My sister-in-law says something that puts one of my friends in therapy for years.
  • My cousin’s husband calls everything “gay”.
  • Frank and Erik do a scathing review of my wedding on their podcast. “Two tall, handsome thumbs DOWN.”
  • The wedding venue is bombed by North Korea.
  • Tony sees my friends and starts telling incredibly dated “hipster jokes”.
  • Ty farts just as we are all walking down the aisle.
  • Someone gets in a car accident.
  • Someone has a seizure.
  • Someone has a heart attack.
  • Liz’s speech is embarrassing. (I am not worried about Jen’s speech.)
  • Justin’s family somehow ends up in East St. Louis.
  • My mothers-in-law catch me having a cigarette.
  • My hair. Just, you know, in general.
  • The DJ makes an error and I have to walk down the aisle to “Fergalicious.”
  • My bosses talk to someone who once made a gravity bong on my porch.
  • Someone offers to pray for the bride and groom and ends up speaking in tongues.
  • Adam throws in a final “big boobs” joke before I am wed, ending a 20-year tradition.
  • I get pregnant before the big day (even though I am clearly still a virgin).
  • Someone insults the Indiana Hoosiers; a tall, polite riot ensues.

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Mortified Monday – Austin Stephie Limits

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Currently eating my way through Austin. Um, for work. See you next week.

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Mortified Monday #8 – Fat Tuesday Edition

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Last week the drinking ban ended, just when about 5 shitstorms hit all at once. So I figured I’d live a little. I was a little scared to see what I weighed last week. And then …

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WILD CARD!

Justin is currently in Vegas with his brothers and bffs for his bachelor party. A lot of girls would be concerned if their fiance was partying in Vegas. What if he gets a hooker? What if he gambles away all our savings? What if he ends up missing, Hangover-style?

Well, most girls aren’t engaged to Justin.

Because when Justin goes to Vegas …
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… he makes a fucking game show wheel full of Vegas activities.

Oh, there’s more:
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I helped him assemble all the velcro backing a few nights ago. Chauncey also helped in typical fashion:
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My favorite ones are “Solve a murder”, “Watch Bachelor Party” and visiting the Sex & The City penny slots. The descriptions on the back are the best part (click to expand if needed; it’s worth it):
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Most girls say, “Please don’t tell me if there’s a stripper.” I say, “Please don’t tell me how much those arts & crafts supplies cost.” That wheel is dry-erase, and obviously I will be trotting it out for every party I have until the end of time.
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.I can never say this enough: I’m marrying a mad scientist.
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Mortified Monday #7

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AAAAAGGGHHHHH Continue reading

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Just Listen To The Music Of The Traffic In The City

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Last week, there was a school shooting two doors down from my building that made national news. (These days “school shooting” is synonymous with “mass shooting” but only two people were shot and they’re both still alive.) News vans have been parked outside of my front door all week. Even though it was a personal dispute that could have happened anywhere (a mentally-ill student shot a financial aid officer), the dialogue in the city immediately turned to downtown safety.

Oh and then. Then! A week later the former Governor of Missouri got robbed a couple blocks from my neighborhood. (This was a silly story because (a) a panhandler was asking for gas money and everybody knows it’s never “gas money”, (b) the Governor whipped out his money-clip, like who isn’t going to grab that and run, and (c) he was walking down a 2-block stretch that I never walk down even with Justin because it’s just parking garages and alleyways and creepily empty.)

Anyway, conversations about downtown safety infuriate me because these conversations are usually sparked by people in the county who have no idea what they are talking about. Hell, I knew nothing about downtown until I moved here. People come here for games or the occasional festival and then leave, and unless they work downtown, county people just imagine it as this desolate concrete wasteland full of boarded up windows, homeless people and gunfire.

They aren’t completely to blame for this, though. Justin has been living here for about 8 years and said it was a completely different world back then – he barely felt safe walking to his car. But thanks to redevelopment grants, the addition of cool places like City Garden and the City Museum, and the first grocery store in forever, Downtown’s population increased by almost 3,000% in the last 10 years. It’s an awesome street now.

My street is almost always in the news for bad reasons. It’s a shame because Washington Avenue has such a rich history, a vibrant community, and it’s absolutely stunning. In fact, it was voted one of the Top 10 Streets in the country.

Usually it’s in the news because Washington Avenue is where everyone parties on the weekend, and during the summer the crowds and noise are totally out of control. It used to be known as the nightclub district, but there were tons of shootings when the clubs got out at 1:30 or 3am, and eventually they shut down the problem clubs. However, there are still shootings, robberies, and other violent crimes. Hell, someone got murdered over a bag of Cheetos a few months ago.

Directly north of Washington is Delmar, a street so notorious for its divisiveness that the BBC made a documentary about it. (I don’t live in the rich white neighborhood that the documentary covers, though – that would be the Central West End.) Delmar marks the entrance to North City, which is where St. Louis earns the statistics that make it the most dangerous city in the county. There’s at least one murder a week. Contrary to popular belief, North City is much more dangerous than East St. Louis. So the juxtaposition of (mostly) wealthy loft dwellers to North City residents is a little jarring, and they typically don’t mesh well.

South of Washington is Locust. Up until a few months ago, Locust was in the news because of a homeless shelter run by an infamous televangelist named Larry Rice. Larry Rice allows people to loiter on his sidewalks. This usually bled over to the park across the street between Locust and Washington–a park which no one went to because it was full of sleeping homeless people and smelled like urine. The sidewalks surrounding his shelter were always packed with people.

I walk past this shelter every day and witnessed the crowds firsthand. They circled around the entire block of the building and even the sidewalk in front of the school across the street. This was a problem not because they were homeless but because Larry Rice does not allow drunk or high people inside of his building, and he doesn’t let people come and go during the night. If you’re in, you’re in. So the people who were outside waiting for food were the people who did not want to follow his rules. These people liked to yell lewd things at women (including me in my running pants), urinate on the street, do drugs and more.

Eventually, I started seeing more and more women out there. And then I started seeing strollers. This is when the city shut down the sidewalks AND put a fence around the park for “construction”. (You’ll recognize that reporter as the guy who got that infamous Todd Akin quote.) In fact, the sidewalks are still fenced off.

Back when all the nightclub shootings were happening, Erin T. asked me  to write about what it’s like to be a Washington Avenue resident. Honestly, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I’m far enough away from the main stretch of bars that the noise doesn’t bother me. The most noise I usually get is when a wedding reception lets out at 11 (drunk bridesmaids are THE WORST) or if a band is playing at the City Museum.

Sure, it’s noisy. It’s dangerous at night. There are break-ins in my parking lot. There are muggings near me. People try to break into my building. I get asked for “gas money” every day. Dudes like to rev their engines in my alley at 2am and it echoes off all of the buildings. There’s one asshole who has a train horn instead of a car horn. I hate that guy. And when I’m visiting my mom or my friends in my hometown, I miss it. I miss running around in the middle of the night, feeling 100% safe. I miss the crickets and back porches and trees.

But I LOVE walking to work. I love walking to the grocery store and the general store and bars and restaurants and games and concerts and festivals and the MetroLink. It’s the closest I’ve felt to living in London since I was there – every errand feels like a little journey because I have to walk to get there. I love seeing so many familiar faces on such busy sidewalks. I love the diversity and the noise and the action. I love my building full of riff-raff artists; it leads to something hilarious and weird every day. I live in the same building as a pig, for pete’s sake. In my front yard? THE WIENERMOBILE. (Okay, once.) And my backyard? My backyard is one of the most incredible, insane, weirdly beautiful buildings in the entire country.

I’m a huge advocate for living downtown, but I’m not a total idiot about it. I stay on populated streets. I don’t walk alone at night unless it’s busy and full of people. I stay away from empty, shadowy blocks during the day. If an inebriated/mentally-ill person is screaming in the middle of the sidewalk (at least once a month), I cross the street or I wait until he’s distracted. I tell panhandlers that I have no cash on me, and I’m usually telling the truth. I carry mace in my hand when I walk to the Y at 5 in the morning. I also learn my lessons:

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I’ve been trying to make an effort to get more involved, too. I plan on volunteering at shelters once the wedding hoopla is over (just not Larry Rice’s shelter). My next-door neighbor runs Town Hall Meetings and they are my new favorite thing. (It is truly a Parks & Rec episode brought to life.) Here’s me at 14:20 rambling about downtown safety with my hand in front of my face:

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I plan on living down here for as long as I can. In St. Louis speak, that means until my kids are old enough to go to school. The biggest problem that downtown or any other part of the city has is that the schools are heartbreakingly awful. So unless you can afford Catholic School, you move to the county when the oldest turns 5. That’s just how it is. But who knows? We’re currently having an election for a new mayor for the first time since 2001, and both the current mayor and his opponent are making schools a central issue. So maybe it will continue to get better, and maybe I can stay here a little longer. I hope so. Downtown West is the best.

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