Planet Stef

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big and small April 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 6:27 pm

see the water tower? my grandpa had that built when he was mayor.

A couple of weeks ago, I staggered out of the tanning salon (before Florida! before the 10% tax!), all yawny and relaxed when I happened to glance up and see the signage on the side of the big, Morton-type building–“Bahama Mama Tanning Salon.” Yep, you can get a tropical tan right here in Illinois. I climbed in my car and crawled the three blocks to my house (still on Jefferson St.). Oh, this was after I travelled right past my old high school (on Jefferson St.) a couple of blocks further to my gym (right around the corner and next door to my grandma’s apartment). It was even worse a couple of years ago when I worked at the high school. I could literally spend my entire day travelling Jefferson. My world is so small.

My world is so big, I think, as I listen to my friends SH and J talk about their Canadian roots. I learn about upper New York (SP and JD) and good ole’ Cali (EB). I can travel in my head to Ohio (TW-F) and even a bit further into Appalachia (DDD). When I really want to escape, TW-F tells me all about the magic land of Michigan.

My world is so small, I think, as I shop uptown at Lindy’s, stopping to say hello to all my ex-students who work there, checking in with Jim to see if any new wine has caught his fancy. I hop on my bike and ride to my parents house. (I’ve been visiting there since I was born as it used to house my Grandma Dot and even at one time my beloved Grandpa Don.) It’s right next door to the house they used to live in that I bought. They moved back to their house on Knollcrest, currently occupied by my sister. (My cousin lives in the apartment attached to the house.) It’s approximately three blocks from Jefferson. I forgot to mention, one block up the street from my house is St. Pat’s grade school, where my aunt (Tante!) is principal and spends her days. JJ, pioneer, lives the furthest away. All the way out off of Nofsinger Road.

Wow, this is a big world, I think as I crack open a memoir by Ishmael Beah and walk the dusty roads of Sierra Leone. My recent Food and Wine brings me a delicious pasta dish perfect for a Sonoma-themed dinner. Running my fingers over my sculpted lamps, I think of KS’s first years in Japan. I pine for Portland, and revisit San Fransisco every day in my memories.



my inner loup*garou March 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 7:48 pm

For those of you unfamiliar with this sweet word, a loup garou is a fancy-pants frenchie word for “werewolf.” (Check out the pronunciation on This semester, the loup garou has made numerous and fortuitous appearances in my daily life. I’ve read two novels featuring this creature: Liar (Justine Labalastier) and Sharp Teeth (Toby Barlow). In both, the females rule the pack. The Reader’s Digest version? Don’t fuck with the girlie garou.

Although admittedly a bit freaked out by even the hint of a fang, I’m still attracted to the mythology. I’ve learned that the full-moon theory is bullshit. Some wolves change with their “monthly visitor.” (Seriously? Doesn’t that explain a lot?) Some change on a dime–totally at will. Some are full-fledged wolves, some more like wild dogs. No matter what physical form the creatures take, the emotional and spiritual implications are the same. These girls are ruled by id. When they’ve changed they do whatever they damn well please. They take what they want and no prisoners.

What I mean is, these bitches play to win.

I’ve been watching for signs of my own little wolf, a bit bedraggled and out-of-shape since she’s been fed a steady diet of work, house-cleaning, and errands, and more work. 

Here’s to the wolf in me and in you.

My inner loup-garou likes to howl at the sun. She eats strawberry shortcake for breakfast  and often doesn’t wash her hands after going to the bathroom. Forgoing deoderant for a more bestial scent, my inner garou doesn’t shower every day. She likes to close her eyes while driving and run her finger through candle flames.

My inner garou is embodied in the chunky little blonde on the beach the other day who when beckoned by her dad, dropped on the ground and busted out some seriously legit sand angels, all giggly and pug-nosed, covering herself from head to toe in sand. Right before her car ride home.

My inner loup garou HATES vampires. But loves cats. She’s enigmatic like that. Caviar and peanut butter. Tattoos and lace.

Speaking of tattoos, my inner wolf loves the burn of the needle as it sears something permanent and lovely into her pink skin. Well, permanent until she’s covered with soft, downy fur with graphite highlights. 

She has been known to play naughty in a mosh pit and likes the feel of skin between her teeth.

My garou sleeps during the day and waits. And waits.

who's your wolf?


the first time March 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 8:21 pm

No, not the first time for that. That wouldn’t probably make a very long or interesting blog entry. Kind of like smoking pot…really? This is what all the hoopla’s about? Hmmm.

No, the first time I ever wrote something that grabbed me. That very first connection with the written word. The first time I must have realized, subconsciously, that writing was going to mean something to me.

Junior year of high school–the history term paper. Mrs. Luthy left the entire century of US History open to us for possibility. Actually, it might have been anything post WW2 was game, since it’s utterly impossible to cover the curriculum in a year. Well, still pretty jazzed with my sophomore year English paper titled “Double Trouble in the Wild West,” a searing account of the lives and hijinks of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I was ready to rock. After some fairly cursory brainstorming I felt the “click,” you know, when your topic settles in perfectly in your skin and you begin to see the world through your new idea. I would pursue the Hippies of Haight-Ashbury. (Really, even then, under layers of Paul Harris purple shorts and right-wing fundamentalism, the beating of my heart could be faintly heard if you stopped to listen.)

The research process transformed itself. The pictures of the long-haired runaways wearing daisy chains and mumus, the first-hand accounts of the acid experimentation, the fanatic embrace of counter-culture…finally I understood the thrill of discovery. Back in the dark ages, when we had to research in books, I actually read more than the pertinent pages. I became a mini-expert on the movement, and imagined myself making love not war right alongside of these beautiful people.

I easily busted out the required pages. I scrolled up the paper in my Selectric typewriter and documented copious sources in awkward footnotes. I quoted those hippies and wrote a term paper that was part expose, part tribute. (I remember, particularly, one story comparing the layers of consciousness, probably from LSD usage, to that of an onion.)

My memory is fuzzy for the next part. Did I ask my dad to read it, secretly proud of my hard work, and wanting him to see what a budding genius his daughter was? I think so. I doubt he would have volunteered. Anyway, I remember handing it over and hovering as he took in the pages of what I thought were the defining moments on recent history. Waiting, impatiently, for that moment to arrive when he would put down the paper and validate this act of creation–the act of self–that writing would become for me.

After he finished, he put it down (after a few “huffs” while reading) and said, “You call that good writing?”

That part I remember like it was yesterday.

As a writer, I experienced my first negative review and that stung. On the other hand, as a writer, I knew that I had experienced something new and kind of precious as far as academic exercises go and when I turned that paper in to my teacher, I did so knowing I was giving her a piece of my authentic self.

As a daughter? Well, that’s another story. For another day and another blog.


daddy’s little girl… March 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 6:30 pm

…well, not really. I mean it could have definitely been worse, but there have been times. There have been times.

But, when Dad and I load up the Cannondale Silk Trails (his–bee yellow and mine fire engine red) and hit the road there is little space for differences. The journey cares little about overpaid educators or the restaurants of New York wanting to take away our salt rights. On the bike, it’s about the trail, the road flowers, the gears, the wind direction. It’s about a shared bottle of lukewarm water or a funny memory. He always offers to let me go first, but I like to follow, instead, right on his back tire, anticipating each turn and stroke. It’s easy for me to give him this control. He zips out into traffic, and I don’t even pause to look before I blindly pedal behind. He is the master, and I am the apprentice on the bike. It feels comfortable and safe.

On the bike, Dad is democratic in his thinking. Lulled by the rolling of the miles underneath our knobby tires, the endorphins even the playing field. He’s willing to consider alternatives and has the time to explain the reasons behind his thinking. He listens better, too.

Most importantly, it’s something that just the two of us share. God knows I don’t understand 88% of the things he does or thinks, but I understand, completely, his relationship to his bike–his love affair with the road. And he gets this part of me.

Today, we curved around palm fronds and hibiscus trees–the ocean behind us and coconuts overhead. I think it was the most beautiful ride we’ve been on. Dad says, it’s good, but not Boreas Pass. We remembered the time the two of us took on that bad boy, the time Dad’s heart started beating funny. He didn’t have his nitroglycerin with him, and we rested in a mountain meadow while I prayed desperately and silently that his heart wouldn’t quit, miles above sea level, miles from anyone who could help.

My dad and I will never agree on politics, education, religion, and pretty much everything else. But we do agree that a 20-mile bike ride in sunny 75 degree weather with a tailwind and each other for company is just about the best way to spend a couple of hours.

tdawg and steph on the cannondales


Humiliation Steph-style March 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 7:28 pm

K, here’s my list for all you interested bloggers:

  1. Catch 22 (Tried it twice, no dice.)
  2. Cry the Beloved Country (Want to, never gotten to it.)
  3. The Red Badge of Courage (American…yawn.)
  4. Naked Lunch
  5. A Clockwork Orange (Too freaky-deaky)
  6. Ulysses (Too much work.)
  7. Gravity’s Rainbow (Totally off my radar.)
  8. Infinite Jest (Too damn long.)
  9. Lolita
  10. War and Peace

Isn’t the last one sort of self-explanatory? I mean, rilly.


Stephie’s Choice March 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 8:36 pm

let's hear it for evil

This weekend I did the unthinkable.

I said “no” to grading. It was so simple and so liberating. I thought about all those silly assignments parked at Blackboard and thought “Thank you, no. I won’t be having any of that this weekend.”

“What? Papers? Thanks,  but I’ll pass.”

What did I do instead? Well, what didn’t I do? I woke up Saturday morning eager to greet the day (a first in too long), I did an abs workout, I organized stuff for vacation, I ran errands, I tanned, I got my toe nails did, I met for coffee with an old student, I took a nice, long nap, I cooked dinner for my blondes, I read a book, I hung out with KS. Sigh.

Sunday? Well, equally exciting. I cleaned. I cleaned, and cleaned, and then cleaned some more. Sometime between vacuuming my back stairsteps and scrubbing my whirlpool jets I thought about how NONE of this glorious cleansing would be happening if I were grading papers. Nope. In my life I have had to make a choice. Either I grade papers or have a clean house. And, really it’s more than just a clean house. Have a clean life. I can’t do both.

It’s a good thing SB is right around the corner because otherwise I think I’d have to make some serious life choices.

Oh yeah. I’ll be grading tomorrow night for penance. But I. Don’t. Give. A. Shit.


I’m starting to see why… March 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steph @ 8:58 pm

…people like these blog thingies. (This from the girl who checks her Facebook, like, every 10 days.) So, I logged onto WordPress tonight and lo and behold I see this:


Do you mean to tell me that not only does someone (else!) love paint chips, but that someone loves them enough to create gorgeous retro-ish art with them!!!??!

Who knew?

Well, not me if I hadn’t been part of a blog community. So, I clicked on this person’s blog (Thoroughly Modern Tillie) and learned all sorts of interesting such and such about some neat-o artsy girl who makes jewelry and hair baubles and pictures out of paint chips. Really? It’s like she peeked inside my closet and desk drawers (so many paint chips) and then wrote her blog.

So, is this the attraction of online community–the ability to make connections across time and space? Do we blog and Facebook and Twitter and what have you for the same reason we read–to not feel alone? When we’re in our forties, and thirties, and even twenties and the possiblities of true human connections become more and more scarce, do we look outside of our homes and schools and offices and towns, even states and countries, for someone who gets it?

(Image above from Veronica Diego at WARNING: extremely cool etsy stuff.)