Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Special New Year’s Gift

My family got the best New Year’s present today!

My niece Stacy—who’s always been like a sister to me—had a beautiful baby girl at 12:31 AM today (at 12:31 on 12/31—don’t you love it?).

Little Nina Avery is the first child for Stacy and her husband Nabil, and from what I hear, they are absolutely thrilled. Apparently Stacy said, “She’s perfect!” And Nabil said, “She’s really ours!”

It’s just wonderful to see such a sweet, loving couple have a such a sweet little bundle. I am so happy for them!

Here are a couple of pictures for you to enjoy.

Here's the beautiful little girl in her Mommy's arms.



Here are the happy parents with little Nina.



Happy New Year, everyone! May the new year bring you many moments as precious as this.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Highlights

Christmas always goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

Well, here are some of the highlights of my Christmas (besides the aforementioned bacon jam miracle):

--Seeing the video on Facebook of my 2 ½-year-old niece Nora’s face lighting up as she opened her Christmas present from us (a play dough set complete with probably 10 different colors of play dough, and a bunch of play dough toys). (She pointed at the different play dough toys and said she wanted to play with “this and this and this.”)

--Singing Christmas carols with my good friend Jonathan and doing three-part harmony on “Silent Night” with him, Iwanski, and me.

--My coworker very generously giving me a pair of her winter boots that I had borrowed and loved. (I still can’t believe she gave them to me—that was so nice of her!)

--Arriving at my mother-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve to see the traditional “A Christmas Story” leg lamp lit up in her front room window.

--Enjoying some really good wine with Iwanski’s sister Anna, and chatting and telling jokes with her and his Mom while everyone else enjoyed their hundredth (or so) viewing of “A Christmas Story.”

--Cuddling with Iwanski by the fireplace until it was midnight and officially Christmas Day.

--Looking around Iwanski’s Mom’s kitchen and trying to find out exactly what time it was, only to find that she had four clocks in there, all set to a completely different time. That was hilarious!

--Iwanski pointing out that he wanted to find a book to read in his Mom’s house, but the only books he could find were a bunch of books about gambling and the book “Git-R-Done” by Larry the Cable Guy. (To be fair, she also had “My Life in France” by Julia Child, but she was in the middle of reading that one.)

--Taking presents from the back of Iwanski’s Mom’s van in the church parking lot while she was attending mass there. (They were our presents that we were bringing to his sister’s house, but if a cop came along right then, I’m not sure that he would have seen it that way.)

--Stuffing ourselves silly on awesome appetizers at Iwanski’s sister’s house. (I loves me some Spinach dip!)

--Playing “everything goes” ping pong with Iwanski’s nephews, where ping pong balls hit off walls or off the floor were still within play.

--The “re-used/re-gifted” gift exchange, where Iwanski’s Mom generously gave me a wallet full of half-used or unused gift cards. (It was fun finding out the values on all of them—and I’ve already spent the Sears and the Chili’s gift cards—yay!)

--The white elephant gift exchange/Yankee swap game, where we gave a bunch of kitchen items (including a omelet pan and a can of Cuban Black Beans) that we never used and a foot massager that I rarely used—and where I got a cute teapot & mug and Iwanski got a “how to speak Spanish” computer game, which he really wanted. It’s always enjoyable to find out that another person’s trash is indeed another person’s treasure.

--Singing Christmas songs with Iwanski’s sister while helping her in the kitchen (I stirred the gravy—that’s about the extent of my cooking “talent”).

--Stuffing ourselves silly on turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pineapple souffle, cranberries, green beans and spaetzles, parsnips, corn, rolls, and other dishes that I can’t even think of right now.

--Listening to Iwanski’s uncle talk about his days as a cab driver in Chicago.

--Giving presents to and spending time with the lovely adults and children in the Iwanski family.

--Talking to my Daddy-o and Mamacita on the phone and sharing many of these Christmas stories with my Mamacita. (We sent them Christmas gifts and will be seeing them probably in January or February.)

--And last but not least…getting a second Snuggie! My friend Jonathan got me a leopard print one, which I also love. Here’s a picture of him and me in my two Snuggies.



I hope your Christmas was as merry and bright as mine was!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Holly, Jolly, Bacon-y Christmas

Recently, our good friend Lorraine wrote a post on Facebook about bacon jam.

What’s bacon jam, you ask?

Well, according to the website that Lorraine mentioned (skilletstreetfood.com), to make the “jam” (it sounds more like a chutney to me), they “take a big bunch of really really good bacon, and render it down...add a bunch of spices..onions, etc..and let it simmer for about 6 hours…give it a quick puree, and blast chill it…and you have bacon jam.”

Oh, my. I had to have some. More importantly, I had to get Iwanski some. It sounded right up his alley.

So I hopped on the website and ordered me up some bacon jam. Normally I would have tried to keep it a secret from Iwanski, so I could surprise him later, but I couldn’t wait. I told him about the order, and he and I both eagerly awaited the arrival of bacon-y goodness.

Five days later, it had arrived. Iwanski called me at work to tell me about it.

“Well, the bacon jam came today,” he said, “but the jar was already open, and it leaked all over the inside of the box. It smells awful.”

“Oh no!” I exclaimed. Apparently after a jar of bacon jam is opened, it has to be refrigerated. And after five days in the mail, that stuff was NASTY.

After he smelled that stench, I was afraid that Iwanski wouldn’t even want to try the fresh stuff. (And let’s face it—I wanted to try it as much as he did!) But undaunted, Iwanski e-mailed the company to request a replacement jar.

Later that night, I went out to dinner with my friends Jonathan and Liane. We exchanged Christmas presents and began opening them.

As I reached into the gift bag from Liane, I pulled out something wrapped in tissue paper.

I unwrapped it, and I gasped…

BACON JAM!

I was stunned and sat there with my eyes and mouth wide open. “Oh my gosh!” I said, with a huge smile on my face. “If you only knew—I have to tell you a story…” And I told her and Jonathan my tale of bacon jam woe. They were both amazed, too, at the crazy coincidence.

“I have to call my husband,” I said.

So I called Iwanski, and he was really surprised, too. “It’s a gift of the bacon magi!” he exclaimed.

“It’s a Christmas bacon miracle!” I declared.

I still can’t believe that happened. Oh, and the verdict on the bacon jam? I haven’t tried it yet, but Iwanski said that it was pretty good—maybe a little too sweet for his taste—but that means I’ll probably love it.

I think the Universe often delivers us these little miracles that we call “coincidences.” And I think God himself (or herself) had a huge laugh as he/she concocted this little bacon miracle.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Santa Hat Silliness

This past Thanksgiving, I made my whole family put on this little Santa hat and get their pictures taken. It was great fun for me--perhaps not as much fun for them...

Here's just one of the photos; check out the whole album by clicking on this link.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snug-tastic!

I now have a pink Snuggie! Hooray!



My best girlfriend Diane got me a Snuggie for Christmas. She also got me a bunch of spiritual/metaphysical books (yay!) and a Walgreen’s refrigerator magnet (I may have mentioned this before, but I love Walgreen’s). Does Diane know me, or what? What perfect gifts for me!

Anyway, as I sit here typing this blog post, I am all snuggly-warm in my Snuggie—with my hands free to type or to take a drink of water or to pet my cat Autumn, who is hovering nearby.

I love my new Snuggie!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dave

Apparently there's some weather going on in these here parts.

My family in Wisconsin have all been hunkered up under a Blizzard Warning which covers almost the entire state of Wisconsin. There are many school and business cancellations because the weather is just that rough.

Wow, I don't remember seeing that much snow since I was just a wee little girl. Back then, I remember sometimes we would get so much snow that my sister and I would hear the favorite words of every Midwestern kid--SNOW DAY!

To us, a snow day didn't just mean getting the day off school. It also usually meant bundling up and ACTUALLY GOING OUTSIDE in all that snow, trying to build snowmen and snow forts amidst the swirling flakefest.

And whenever I think about building snowmen, my thoughts always go to my brother Dave. Dave is about fifteen years older than me, and he and I have always been known by the rest of my siblings as “Mom’s babies.”

I’m Mom’s baby because I’m the youngest sibling (and that’s the ONLY reason—don’t let them tell you otherwise!). Dave is Mom’s baby for other reasons: one of them, according to my sister Mary, is that when my Mom was pregnant with him, she was in labor for three days (!) before she had him…so my siblings tease him that he didn’t want to leave his Mommy. Another reason is that he’s the youngest boy in my family (after him, my Mom had five daughters)…and yet another reason is that Dave was sick with asthma so often as a child (we’re talking full-blown, horrible, emergency room type asthma), that my Mom paid extra close attention to him (as well she should have). So I guess it must have seemed to the rest of the kids that he was “babied” by my Mom.

The thing about Dave is that he totally takes this “baby” label in stride and laughs about it with the rest of my siblings. And this is only one example of what a likeable, caring, funny guy he is. All of my siblings love him--and in fact, I don't know anyone who doesn't like him. He's just a really great guy.

Dave's goofy sense of humor is something that I’ve always loved about him. Even when I was very little, I can remember being really excited because he was coming home from college for the weekend, and he always took time to play with his baby sister and make her giggle a whole bunch. (I think this picture here shows that pretty well.)



One winter day when I was four years old, I remember that I was waiting for Dave to come home. We had just had one of the first snowfalls of the year, and it was the good “packing” snow, the kind that is most excellent for making a snowman. I kept watching the driveway, hoping to see Dave’s car drive up any minute. Finally, when he arrived, I ran out to greet him, and he scooped me up in a big hug.

“Dave, can you help me build a snowman?” I asked.

Now, I’m sure that there were probably 10,000 other things that a college kid would rather do than build a snowman with his baby sister—like watch sports on t.v. (Dave loves loves loves sports—especially the Packers (boo!) and the Cubs (yay!) )—but right away, Dave agreed to help me build a snowman.

And so there we were, big brother and little sister, spending time together on a winter afternoon, rolling balls of snow around in the yard to build a snowman body and head—and topping it off with a winter hat, scarf, stick arms, mittens, button eyes and nose, and a big yarn smile (not to mention what appears to be a button-down shirt made of snow, according to this picture).



Isn’t this an awesome snowman?

I’ll never forget that day, and not because it was such a great snowman (even though it was)—but because I got to spend the day with my big brother Dave, one of the coolest, most fun people I know.

Nowadays, Dave has five children of his own, and they are all as sweet, funny, and kindhearted as their Dad (and their Mom—my sister-in-law Mary is one of the most kind, caring people you could ever meet).

Dave is a wonderful Dad, just as he is a wonderful brother.

I’m glad that I get to be a "baby" of the family with such a great guy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Zoo at Night

Wow, I seem to be posting a lot of pictures lately! But it would be impossible to tell ya’ll about my fun Saturday night without posting a few pictures. At least I actually took most of these myself this time! (But I’m by no means a great photographer, so please forgive any blurryness, etc.) Iwanski, however, is a great photographer--so his picture is the first one you'll see here.

Anyway, at around 5:00 on Saturday night, Iwanski and I went to see the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo. This amazing display of Christmas lights has been going on for at least a few years now, but this is the first time that Iwanski and I had gone to see it. It was really spectacular! In addition to the thousands of Christmas lights, there were also a couple of synchronized music and light displays, which were really cool. Now I just have to figure out how to post a video that I took of one of those. (I’m also by no means technologically savvy.)

In the meantime, here is just a sample of the amazing Christmas light displays we saw that night.

First, an overall view, as we were walking into the zoo.



This dragon “breathed” fire (flashing lights)—it was pretty cool!



I liked the penguins. (This picture is also for my sister Mary, who loves penguins.)



And of course, I liked the cat! (And my reputation as the cat lady of the family continues…)



This last one was probably my favorite light display—I just loved the pink lights covering this tree—just beautiful!



It was a fun night that got us in the holiday spirit—I even finished writing out my Christmas cards this weekend. (That is way early for me!)

Now I just have to address them (groan)…I’m sure I’ll find a way to procrastinate on that part for a while. That shouldn’t be too hard to do. So what procrastination device should I employ tonight? Facebook or blogs? Hell, why not both?

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Miss Healthypants' Choke Hold

I thought you all would enjoy this picture of me choking Iwanski. I sure enjoyed it!



**Thanks, Sheri & Rick, for taking and sharing this silly picture!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Day Recap (Mainly in Pictures)

Thanksgiving was a lovely, noisy, fun time with my family. And because I'm too lazy to write about it all, instead I'll post some pictures here for you to enjoy. (And to add to my laziness, these are not even pictures I took--so I have to give credit to my niece Stephanie for taking them. Thanks, Steph!)

All but one of my siblings was able to make it to my parents on Thanksgiving. (My oldest brother lives in Utah, so it's not as quick a trip for him as it is for the rest of us.)



And just to show how much we love each other... :)



Even my littlest cutie-pie nephew, Almanzo David, was there. (That's my lovely Mamacita holding him.)



And here's Almanzo's "big" sister, cute little Valerie--and yes, she's playing with a flyswatter. Even though my parents have boxes and boxes of toys for the young'uns, the flyswatter toy was the biggest hit of the night!



And of course, my adorable niecey Nora Lu was there. She is growing up so fast!



So if Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of fun and love of family, I would say that this year's Thanksgiving was a great success!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Many Small Thanksgivings

At Thanksgiving, it’s natural for us to be grateful for our family and friends—the loved ones in our lives.

But what about those people who touch us in small ways, throughout the year? I’m very grateful for those people—the people who make our lives brighter in little ways, every day.

Like our morning doorman, Danny. Danny is in his 80’s, and yet every morning he opens the door for us, and with a big smile on his face, says, “Good morning. How are you doing? Are you alright? Have a good day!” Every single weekday, without fail (unless he’s on vacation), he greets us cheerfully. It always makes our days brighter. I’m very grateful for Danny.

I’m grateful for the security guard at Walgreen’s, who always smiles at me and gives me a cart (and later returns it to the cart corral for me), and sometimes jokes around with me, saying stuff like, “Wow, you got done with your shopping fast today!”

I’m also grateful for the woman who stocks shelves at Walgreen’s (yes, I am a regular at Walgreen’s—can you tell?), who is always pleasant and helpful to me, even when I’ve asked her if she can “check in the back” for canned mushrooms or Diet Mountain Dew or skim milk for the third day in a row…and who even offered me some valuable advice once when I was having a really crappy day, telling me that she’s realized that things always work out better when you have a positive attitude.

I’m grateful for the old guy who works behind the counter at Quizno’s, who, when I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted to order, and then ended up spilling my soda all over the floor, was infinitely patient with me, and just smiled pleasantly and said, “It’s okay, just leave it, take another soda,” and wouldn’t even let me try to clean it up.

I’m grateful for the guys at Lake and Union Grill, who always greet me with a pleasant smile and make sure (without my even having to ask) that my chicken salad has no onions or olives on it. (I like onions, but I don’t want my coworkers to have to smell my onion breath. Olives are just plain disgusting.)

And I’m grateful for the very cheerful, friendly cashier at Arby’s, who is the very definition of excellent customer service. She is probably the friendliest, most personable and efficient fast food worker I’ve ever met. And if she’s bagging your order, you can be sure that it will always be 100% correct, and that you won’t be missing a Beef ‘N Cheddar sandwich or an order of curly fries when you get home. If someone else bags the order and they forget something, she’ll apologize up and down and give you a free order of fries. Whenever I walk into Arby’s and see her working behind the counter, I’m instantly happier.

People like this, even though they may not be solving all the world’s problems, they are making the world better, in their own little ways.

And I, for one, am very grateful for them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Struggle Continues...

I want to lose weight.

Doctors say that in order to lose weight, you should eat right and exercise.

So I guess playing around on Facebook for three hours and eating half a box of Strawberry Shredded Wheat cereal isn’t exactly the right plan, is it?

Sigh…I’m off to exercise now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Seemingly Human

Iwanski hates it when I refer to him as “Daddy” (to one of our cats).

“I am not that cat’s Dad,” he says.

But that doesn’t stop me. I always tell the cats to “Go by your Daddy,” or “Ask Daddy to feed you.”

Recently, this has spilled over into my dreams.

One night, as I was sound asleep, I dreamed that our cat Autumn walked up to Iwanski, who was sitting in the recliner, and said, “Hi, Daddy!” in the cutest little kitten voice. (Yes, she spoke English words in a little kitten voice. Trust me, it was cute.)

When I woke up, I could have sworn it was real. I actually looked at Autumn, who was curled up at the foot of the bed, and said, “Autumn, can you say ‘Hi Daddy’?”

She just stared at me and yawned.

So much for that.

But I’m not the only one who’s had human-like dreams about Autumn. One night, Iwanski dreamed that Autumn was piloting a plane on which we were passengers. Apparently she was even wearing tiny pilots’ goggles.

Another time, Iwanski dreamed that his boss had hired Autumn to be an insurance claims analyst at his job. In the dream, she was sitting in a chair in a cubicle with a stack of files in front of her.

The thing is, between our two felines, Autumn seems to have more “human-like” qualities. She is spunky, tough, and alternately sweet and loving, and cranky/bitchy. I’m sure that if left alone in nature, Autumn could totally survive on her own. She is one tough cookie.

But as for Hattie, she is just a perpetual helpless kitten. She is terrified of pretty much everything (balloons and being taken outside of the apartment are her biggest fears), and her life is spent eating, lying around, and rolling around on the floor, whining for her “people” to pet her fat belly. (I like to refer to her as “Whine-stein.”) But she’s an extremely sweet cat. She’s just not as “human-like” as Autumn is. If left alone in nature, Hattie would probably run, terrified, up a tree, and would never be heard from again.

There’s no way that I’d ever let Hattie pilot my plane.

Autumn, maybe.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fish-Tastic!

According to the comments on my last blog post, it seems that not everyone knows what Swedish Fish are—and I am considering it my duty to inform all of you who have not yet tasted this sweet little delight.

Truth be told, up until a year or so ago, I had no idea what Swedish Fish candy was, either. When Iwanski mentioned one day how much he liked Swedish Fish, I assumed he was talking about some gross fish like herring. But it turns out, he was talking about candy!

I thought that perhaps this type of candy was only sold in the Chicago-area, since I had never heard of it growing up. But I noticed that some of my blog buddies who live in other states seem to have heard of it, too. Perhaps it’s only sold in certain states.

Anyway, without further adieu, here is what Swedish Fish candy is:

It’s a unique gummy type of candy in a fish shape. But it’s not exactly like other kinds of gummy candy—according to Wikipedia, Swedish Fish are one of the few gummy candies that contain no gelatin. Who knew?

Most Swedish fish that are sold in the U.S. are of the unique “red” flavor. It tastes sort-of cherry-ish, but not exactly.



And it’s YUMMY!

Now I know you’re all going to run out and buy some Swedish Fish. I should totally get a commission on this, don’t you think?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Iwanski's Favorite Things

Being Miss Healthypants, I tend to harass Iwanski a bit about eating healthy. (He might say that I harass him more than “a bit,” but hell, that’s my prerogative. It’s in the job description.)

However, on his birthday, I decided to skip the harassment and actually encourage unhealthy/yummy eating. Hence, here’s his birthday present from me…



The bag of “Iwanski’s Favorite Things” contained the following items:

Bite-Size Milky Way Bars

Old World Wisconsin Beef Stick

Cookies

Swedish Fish

Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey

Synder's Pretzel Bites

Honey Roasted Cashews

King Cobra Malt Liquor

Amazon Gift Card

Wendy's Gift Card

Fresh Olives


I had a lot of fun gathering up his favorite items for this bag, and Iwanski’s already had some fun sampling some of the products.

And I even learned something today. Swedish Fish are actually kinda good.

Happy Birthday, Iwanski!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Tomorrow is Iwanski’s birthday. Hooray!



I can’t even explain how much I love this man.

He is caring, loving, fun, hilarious, handsome, brilliant, creative, and talented. (He’s also silly, as evidenced by this picture.)

I thank God every day for him.

Happy Birthday, honey! I’m so happy and proud to be your wife.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thhppt!

In my lifetime so far, I have won a writing contest (in 7th grade), played a musical instrument, graduated college, married my favorite person in the world, taught middle school students for two years, moved from a town of 1,000 people to a town of 40,000 people to a city of three million people, written on a blog for one-and-a-half years, acted on stage, and also acted in a short film.

But despite all of these accomplishments, there is something I have never been able to do.

I have never been able to blow a raspberry. You know, that noise you make when you put your tongue between your lips and blow? Nope, I can’t do it. No matter how hard I try, I cannot blow one.

This is truly embarrassing. I’ve seen two-month old babies blow raspberries, and I can’t do it. When I try, all that comes out is this pathetic little “thuh” sound. It is quite sad.

Iwanski has even tried to teach me how to do it, but alas, I cannot be taught.

I guess there are just some things that I am not meant to learn.

Like how to pronounce words in German. My good friend Buck, who at one point was giving me voice lessons, tried to teach me one night how to pronounce/sing words in German. He tried for several hours, but I just couldn’t seem to remember the right sounds for the various letters.

It was actually surprising that it was so difficult for me. After all, I had taken a foreign language class (Spanish) in high school, and learning how to speak Spanish seemed to come pretty easy for me. And after all, my family is pretty much 100% German (there may be a little bit of French in there, but we’re not really sure), so I would think that speaking German would be in my blood. But alas, it is not. I am a dufus at speaking German. Der Dufenstein.

I remember several years ago, when I had my very first audition at the acting school where I had been taking classes.

They handed me the script a couple days ahead of time, and I began looking it over.

And there, in the script, I saw that my character not only had to speak German, but also had to blow a raspberry!

I was horrified.

I called my friend Buck in a panic, asking him to help me pronounce the German words, and then I sat home trying to speak German and blow raspberries for several hours.

Finally, the moment had arrived. I actually thought I did pretty well at speaking the words…but then it came to the raspberry. I stuck my tongue between my teeth and began blowing.

“Thuh.”

That was it. I think I ended up blowing more spit at my fellow actor than actually making any sound. I felt my face grow red with embarrassment, and I stumbled over my remaining lines.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the part.

And honestly, I was relieved.

I really didn’t want to call attention to the fact that I, a twenty-nine-year-old woman, couldn’t blow a raspberry.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Cereal's Cold, But Why Do I Have To Be?

This morning, I woke up and dragged my ass out of bed and into the kitchen (with a brief layover in the bathroom).

I was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and my legs felt cold, so I wrapped our Cubs throw blanket around my middle.

I took the milk out of the fridge, the cereal from the pantry, and a bowl and spoon from the cupboard…and then attempted a balancing act of carrying them all over to the table in the living room, while still holding the Cubs blanket around me.

It was then that I realized something. I NEED A SNUGGIE!

With a Snuggie on me, I could have had both hands free to carry my breakfast paraphernalia into the living room. I would not have had to struggle! (I know, I know, I could have made more than one trip from the kitchen to the living room, but that would just be too much work at 7:00 in the morning.)

For weeks now, I’ve been saying that I want a Snuggie—and I’ve only been halfway kidding about it.

Now I’m not kidding at all. I want one.

I love love love the fact that when the Snuggie came out, it was just a big joke—and now it’s attracting somewhat of a cult following. And I am jumping on the Snuggie bandwagon!

Here in Chicago, they actually have organized Snuggie pub crawls—where everyone has to wear a Snuggie during the whole thing. I SO want to go on a Snuggie pub crawl.

Then the other night on David Letterman, he had on the band Weezer, and they all were wearing special Weezer Snuggies! I kid you not—check it out! (You can even buy your own special Weezer Snuggie online.)




I really get a kick out of seemingly goofy products that for some reason people start to like.

Remember legwarmers? Why the hell did those ever go out of style? I would so totally wear leg warmers today.

Hmmm…apparently I just like products that make you warm…and leg warmers seem like a pretty good way to keep your legs nice and toasty.

I could just see myself walking down the street wearing leg warmers and a Snuggie. I might not be the picture of fashion, but hell, at least I would be warm!

P.S. In case anyone is wondering, I’m partial to pink Snuggies.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Very Proud Wife I Am

Hello all my bloggy friends…I just wanted to share with you my husband’s latest photography book, which I love!

Check it out at chitownphotos.com. (His prior photo book is also shown at the same link.)

It could be a good Christmas gift for someone special in your life…I’m just sayin’.

I am so very proud of him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Old (Hiccup) Family (Hiccup) Remedy

One of my bloggy/Facebooky friends, Yellowdog Granny, posted on her Facebook status yesterday that she had the hiccups.

Right away, I thought, “Drink a glass of water with a pencil.”

What, you’ve never heard of that hiccup remedy?

Well, it’s just the most effective one there is!

What you do is take a pencil (or pen) and hold it lengthwise across the top of a glass of water…then drink the glass of water while making sure the pencil is under your nose the whole time.

It sounds weird, but it really does work. I think the pencil distracts you from breathing through your nose, so you drink the whole glass of water without stopping.

And in case you’re wondering (I’m sure you are; I know that this is the most fascinating topic ever), your finger will work in a pinch, if you don’t have a pen or pencil.

Anyway, so after I shared this old family remedy with Yellowdog Granny, I started to think:

Where the heck did that come from? Who was the first person to come up with this idea?

I can picture it now. (Cue flashback music.)

It’s the early 1920’s, and a bunch of guys are sitting around passing a reefer.

All of the sudden, one of them gets the hiccups really bad. He holds his breath for a few seconds, but then he starts to get paranoid that he might accidentally stop breathing for good. He lets the air out and hiccups again.

Then he tries to drink some water, but that doesn’t work. His friends try to scare the hiccups out of him, but that doesn’t work, either.

He starts to get really worried that he will have the hiccups forever.

Suddenly, he says, “I know! I’ll stick a pencil under my nose and drink some water!”

“Friend, that sounds like a bully idea!” says one of the other guys.

“Yes, a smashing idea!” says another.

And miraculously, it does work.

They are all surprised, and from then on, whenever anyone has the hiccups, they tell them about their “miracle hiccups cure.”

And somehow, eventually, somewhere down the line, one of my relatives finds out about it…and thus it becomes an old family remedy.

What? It could happen.

But of course, it didn’t. My curiosity about the hiccups remedy got the best of me, and I called my Mom to find out if she knew anything about where it came from.

“Oh, that’s from a long time ago,” she said. “I think I read it in “Woman’s Day” or one of those women’s magazines.”

She read it in a magazine? That’s it?

Hmm, sometimes stories are much more interesting in the imagination. Still, who was the first person to come up with that idea?

We may never know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Target Rats

And yet another example of how important it is to use correct punctuation...



There are, indeed, no such things as "Target Rats."

I'm sorry for any confusion that my punctuation error caused among my blog buddies...although I'm guessing you may have been thinking of some very creative ideas for what "target rats" might be!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is This Anything?

Here have been the exciting events of the past few days of Miss Healthypants’ life:

--Taking an “alley walk” with Iwanski through many of Chicago’s back alleys.

--Seeing “Warning: Target Rats” signs in nearly every alley.

--Eating a gigantic plate of delectable grilled meats (and a side of garlic broccoli and carrots) at a Hawaiian restaurant.

--Being chased after by a maniac squirrel in Lincoln Park.

--Not being able to breathe through my nose.

--Having to stay home sick, and watching an insane amount of t.v. judge shows.

--Watching “Bewitched” for the first time in ten years.

--Writing this crappy list and presenting it to you as if it were a decent blog entry.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obsessed with Obsessions

I am fascinated by strange behavior.

More specifically, I am extremely interested in people with anxiety and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Honestly, I suspect that everyone has a little OCD in them.

My husband, for example, is a bit of a germaphobe. For instance, after ordering in a restaurant (and his hands—God forbid—have touched the menu), he has to go wash his hands—and then if he uses the ketchup bottle on the table, he has to pick it up with a napkin. And his germaphobia is not just limited to public places. In our own kitchen, if a kitchen towel accidentally comes in contact with anything except for a clean dish, he immediately quarantines it and banishes it to the laundry basket along with the other “germy” items.

I myself have a strange little behavior that I’m a little embarrassed to admit here. As I walked down the street to work, every few minutes, I check to be sure my pants zipper is still up. When I told my friend Diane this, she said, “So what would happen if it was down?” Hmm, I had never thought about that… I guess it wouldn’t really be that big a deal, but still, I feel compelled to check it every few minutes. Don’t ask me why.

So when I heard that there was a new t.v. show about people with even stranger compulsions, I couldn’t wait to see it. The show is called “Obsessed,” and I’ve only seen a few of the episodes so far (I’m going to watch the rest of them online), but already I am hooked. I saw an episode about a guy who was an extreme hoarder, who couldn’t throw away anything that belonged to his dead mother—including her prescription medication. And then there was the germaphobe woman who scrubbed herself for so long and so hard in the shower, that she had been hospitalized twice for losing too much blood from her skin that she had scrubbed raw. Then there was the guy who was so obsessed with exercise (and preventing death) that he worked out something like ten times a day.

These people are crazy, I thought. And I loved not only hearing about their strange behaviors, but also about how their psychiatrists managed to help them.

Then I heard about this book called “Life In Rewind,” about a guy with severe obsessive compulsive disorder—so severe that he had shut himself in his basement and did not take a shower for two whole years. I had to read it.

At first, as I began reading it, it was just an interesting (if slightly sad) story about a guy who witnessed his beloved mother’s death at the age of eleven…and then developed the belief that if going forward in time moves him closer to death, reversing the action will take him—and his loved ones—away from death. Therefore, no matter what he did, he had to reverse that same action. For example, if he walked somewhere, he had to walk backwards the same exact way. He would even speak every sentence that he uttered, backwards. And that was only the beginning of his odd behaviors.

I was riveted by his story.

But the more that I read, the more that I realized something that I really had been missing the whole time I had been watching and reading stories about people with OCD: compassion.

For the first time, it really hit me how awful it must be to be someone with OCD. I found myself grieving for this man, and for his severe depression that resulted from his not being able to control these behaviors. It was indeed a very lonely life for him, and my mind was begging the story to take a positive turn.

And then, he began to get well, and I was so relieved. (I won’t tell you the details of how he got well, in case you want to read this fascinating book.)

But even though now he lives a pretty normal life, he still struggles with his OCD, day in and day out. It’s like this evil monster inside of him that tries to convince him that if he doesn’t do certain behaviors, people that he loves will die—and he has to figure out a way to ignore or even just slightly appease that voice.

It must be awful. I feel so much compassion for him.

And I thank God that the worst obsession I have is a compulsion to check my pants zipper every now and then.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cheese + Fried: How Could You Go Wrong?

The Great Frying Cheese Experiment of 2009 (i.e. two dudes and a chick sitting around eating fried cheese) was a success.

It turns out, I rather like fried cheese. This was not really a surprise to me, as I come from Wisconsin and love cheese almost as much as life itself. Fried cheese curds, a Wisconsin delicacy, have always been a favorite of mine.

But I was surprised at how very different this cheese was than fried cheese curds.

Frying cheese, to me, looks and even tastes a bit like French toast sticks—albeit with a bit of a mozzarella-type undertone. The package recommended serving it with jam or syrup on top, and what do you know, it was actually quite tasty that way. I particularly enjoyed it with strawberry jam…mmmmm…..

Here’s a pic of my good friend Jonathan fryin’ up the cheese in a little bit of olive oil.



Here’s a pic of the cheese being fried up—shortly before we almost burned it. (If you buy this stuff, be sure to only let it heat up on one side on medium heat for about a minute or so—it fries really quickly.)



And here’s Iwanski, enjoying a delicious stick of fried cheese with jam on top.



He says he thought the cheese was “just okay,” but pictures don’t lie. He obviously enjoyed it. Also, he is a huge goofball.

I would definitely recommend this frying cheese (the Trader Joe’s brand, anyway—I haven’t tried any other brand) to anyone who likes cheese.

And I would definitely buy it again sometime. But at 100 calories and 7 grams of fat for just one ounce of the stuff (and that’s even before you fry it), I have the feeling this will just be a once-in-a-while special treat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Me

This week, a couple of my blog buddies have written about their pasts and “what if” they had taken a different path—what would their lives be like?

I think it’s the change in seasons—I’ve noticed that for some reason, fall seems to bring out the introspective side of people.

So of course, they both got me thinking, too—what if my life had taken a different path? Would I be a professional musician (trombonist) in a famous band, playing on some late-night t.v. show? Or would I be an elementary school teacher, living on a farm in some small town? (Wow, I would really hope for the former, over the latter!)

And then I started to think about what I thought life was all about ten, twenty, even thirty years ago.

Thirty years ago, I was just a wee little girl of almost seven years old. I was very shy and very sensitive, and I would cry at the drop of a hat, especially to certain songs (for some reason, “Silent Night” and “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” by Sue Thompson always put me in tears). But I was also a very happy child, riding bikes with my best friend Cari and pretending we were “Daisy 1” and “Daisy 2” from the Dukes of Hazzard (how creative, huh?), and playing down by “The Crick,” a little creek around the corner from our house.

I loved to write and dreamed about being a great writer someday. (My sister Sheri was a very talented artist, so I figured I would write the books, and she would illustrate them.) I also wanted to be a teacher and a nun, and I idolized the third-grade teacher, Sister Clarine. I thought I would grow up and be just like her, a nun living in a small town, teaching in a Catholic school—and of course, doing some writing on the side.

And in the blink of an eye it seems, ten years went by.

At the age of 17, I was excited that I’d be starting college soon. I wondered what life would be like for me in college, whether I could handle being away from home so much, would I make lots of friends, would I party a lot (um, yeah), would I get a chance to play the trombone in our college’s jazz band—but mostly, would I meet the man of my dreams? Oh, and yeah, I did think at least a little about my future career. I still wanted to be a teacher, so I had decided to major in Elementary Education…but what I mainly wanted to do (even at that age) was to get married and settle down. I thought I would live the rest of my life as an elementary school teacher, living somewhere in Wisconsin with my soulmate.

And even more quickly, the next ten years flew by…

Ten years ago, my soulmate and I had just moved to Chicago, and I was a brand new, starry-eyed city girl feeling excited--and admittedly, nervous--by the possibilities of living in a big city. How different would my life be, living in downtown Chicago? Would I be able to handle not having a car, and taking public transit everywhere? Would I be scared to go out by myself at night? Would I find a job that I liked?

I also had high hopes about how my life might really take off in the big city. Would I finally fulfill my dream of acting on stage?—would I be good at it?—would I be discovered and become a famous actor? Would we then have to move to L.A.? (Yes, I really thought this. Like I said, I was starry-eyed.)

And oh so suddenly, it is now ten years later, and I’m still married to the man of my dreams, loving city life (and not owning a car), and working in a job that I love. I did do some acting, but no, I did not make it big…yet! That would actually require working hard at being an actor, and I’m not so much into the working hard thing—at least, not when I’m not getting paid a dime for it. But who knows, maybe someday I will change my mind.

Who knows what the future will bring? It’s clear to me from looking back on the past 30 years of my life, that I’ve never really known what to expect. I could never have expected my life to turn out the way it is right now, and I think that’s the brilliance and magic of living.

If we knew what to expect, where would the excitement be? I think it would be awfully boring.

Looking back like this also reminds me of how quickly life moves on. While I was busy making plans for my future, where did the time go?

There have definitely been so many little happy moments in my life, and right now, I am vowing to try to really live every moment, and appreciate my life for what it really is—this moment. Right here and right now. I am profoundly grateful for it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I'm Gonna Fry It and Try It

Last night, my good friend Jonathan and I went to Trader Joe’s, our most favoritest grocery store on the planet.

One of the best parts about going to Trader Joe’s with Jonathan is that we love to hunt for the most unique, weirdest, or most appealing foods to try.

For example, last night I bought a container of little itty bitty tiny Thompson seedless white grapes—which ended up being the sweetest, most delicious grapes I’ve ever had. Seriously, one of my coworkers went nuts over them and grabbed a whole big stem of them to eat at her desk. Now, those are some good grapes.

I also bought a mouthwatering Honeycrisp apple—a to-die-for apple variety that is only on grocery store shelves for about a month, this time of year.

Of course, my taste-testing isn’t always quite that successful. A few months ago, I bought a container of kumquats (hmm…I guess I’m all about the fruit) that were so sour that I cringed whenever I tried to eat them. Luckily, I had a coworker who loved them, so I pawned them off on her.

I just love going through the aisles at Trader Joe’s with Jonathan, finding new, interesting foods like these to try.

But nothing could have prepared me for the temptation that this raised-in-Wisconsin girl was about to experience.

Last night, as we perused the cheese section, I spied this:



Oh my God. Frying Cheese. Could you get any more yummy/unhealthy sounding?

And for some reason, it really hit my funny bone. At $3.68 for a half-pound package, there was no way I was going to buy it (besides the fact that it’s not very healthypants at all), but it just made me laugh. Frying cheese, really? It just sounded mighty unhealthy.*

The very idea kept me giggling as we wandered through the rest of Trader Joe’s.

After we checked out and I bought at least ten more things than I had thought I would buy, we took our reusable shopping bags (we are such good little environmentalists, aren’t we?) and headed over to Jonathan’s to hang out for a bit before I returned home with my loot.

As we walked into his apartment and put our bags in the kitchen, Jonathan reached into his bag and pulled out—you guessed it—a package of frying cheese!

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you bought that!” I laughed.

“It’s for you!” he said, smiling. (What a nice guy, huh?)

“Aww, really? Thanks, dude!” I grinned. “Now I get to try frying cheese!”

“I’ll tell you what,” I added. “Why don’t you come over and exercise with me tomorrow night, and then after we exercise, we’ll fry up some cheese?”

We both laughed.

Well, at least that way we wouldn’t have to feel guilty about eating it. Exercise negates cheese, right?

Anyway, so far today we haven’t exercised nor eaten fried cheese together…but I can’t wait.

For the cheese, I mean.

Exercise still sucks ass.



* Later on, I found out that it’s actually a Middle Eastern type of cheese—not just any old cheese that you can fry. But with the name alone, you can see why this cheese would appeal to Americans.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jungle Jitters

The day of the big contest was finally here. I was in fifth grade, and I was a fantastic speller.

I had won our school’s 5th & 6th grade spelling contest and was now heading to the regional contest in our area. It was my parents, my fifth grade teacher, and me riding in the car, and I was beside myself with excitement and nervousness. I couldn’t believe even my teacher had decided to come! I had barely slept at all the night before, and now my heart was racing with anticipation.

As we arrived at the contest and checked in, they quickly ushered me to the stage area, while my parents and teacher took their place in the audience.

I took my assigned seat amongst my fellow contestants, and then looked down from the stage. My eyes grew big as I surveyed the large crowd that was gathering in the audience. Having grown up in a small town, I was pretty sure that I had never seen such a big crowd before in my life. There were probably hundreds of people there! My hands started shaking, as I waved at my parents and teacher and smiled nervously.

But no matter how anxious I felt, I also felt confident that I was a very good speller. I thought back to my school’s spelling contest, and how I had overheard one of my classmates spell the word “ballet”, B-A-L-L-A-Y. I laughed to myself, feeling a little superior, and thinking that surely, I would do well in this contest. Now if only I could convince my hands to stop shaking…

Finally, the big moment had come. It was time for us each to step forward on stage and spell our first word. I was the fourth speller, and I listened eagerly to the words that the other contestants had been given. They were simple words, like “whistle” and “volcano.” I took a deep breath. I could do this.

My name was called, and I stepped forward. Suddenly, my heart started thundering in my chest, and I felt like my chest was going to explode. I took another breath, trying to steady myself.

“Your word is ‘jungle’,” said the announcer.

I felt a wave of relief wash over me. What an easy word to spell!

Quickly, I spelled the word, and began walking back to my seat.

“That is—incorrect,” the announcer said.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“What?” I asked incredulously. “I spelled it right.”

“It’s spelled J-U-N-G-L-E,” said the announcer.

“I know!” I insisted. “That’s how I spelled it.”

The announcer just looked at me.

“Would you like to review the tape?” he asked.

“Yes, please,” I said.

They replayed the tape.

And standing there, on stage in front of hundreds of people, I very clearly heard myself say:

“J-O-N-G-L-E.”

I was stunned. I felt my face burning red with embarrassment, as I stumbled backstage, tears springing into my eyes.

How could I have said that? I knew how to spell the word jungle, for God’s sake! Now everyone thought that I was a big idiot—and then I had even asked them to review the tape! And my teacher had given up her Saturday to come to this contest, and my parents and she had driven more than an hour to be there with me.

I felt like I was going to die from embarrassment.

Very quickly, my parents and teacher showed up backstage, and I burst into tears as my Mom and Dad both gave me a big hug.

“It’s okay,” they both said. My teacher looked at me sympathetically.

“But I know how to spell the word jungle!” I exclaimed through my tears.

My teacher nodded. “It’s okay, you were just nervous,” she said understandingly. “Everyone knows that. This kind of thing happens to everyone sometimes,” she added, putting her arm around my shoulder.

I sighed, trying to stop crying. I knew she was right, but it was just so embarrassing! I knew that it would be a little while before I felt better about this.


That was twenty-five (yikes!) years ago, and I still remember it like it happened only yesterday.

But nowadays, when I tell this story, I always end up laughing about it. And it reminds me that no matter how awful and embarrassing some things seem to be while they’re happening, usually you end up laughing about them in the end.

That’s e-n-d. End.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Miss Quarter

There is a homeless guy that hangs out outside our apartment building that Iwanski and I call "Goddammit Guy." We call him that because he often paces back and forth on the sidewalk outside our building, occasionally belting out swear words (usually goddammit) at the top of his lungs.

Some days it really catches me off-guard, as I walk out of our building, don’t realize he’s there, and jump about a foot in the air when he suddenly yells out "GOD-DAMMIT!" in a really deep, extremely loud voice.

Other days, I see him from a few blocks away, pacing back and forth, and I ready myself for the barrage of swear words—but no swear words come. He just paces back and forth, back and forth, not saying a word. And he rarely asks for money. He just paces.

Iwanski and I think he probably has Tourette's Syndrome, but who knows. Maybe he’s just crazy.

But I really don’t think he’s dangerous or anything; except for the swearing, he seems to pretty much mind his own business.

So anyway, this past Saturday night, my friend Diane and I were standing in line at 7-Eleven, when Goddammit Guy got in line behind us.

He began muttering obscenities and other unintelligible words under his breath, and Diane and I did our best to ignore him as I paid for my food.

Then he began asking for money.

"Do you have a quarter?" he asked.

"No, sorry," I said. It was a total gut reaction on my part; I get asked for money by homeless people usually at least once or twice a day, and unless I decide to give a dollar, my standard response is "No, sorry."

The cashier handed me my change—three crisp dollar bills—and he stared at me angrily.

"You don’t have ONE quarter?" he insisted loudly.

He was making me nervous, so I shook my head no as I shoved the dollar bills into my purse.

"Mother f**cker!" he yelled out, and then kept cursing me out with every other swear word he could think of.

Diane and I ran out of the 7-Eleven and back into my apartment building. But honestly, I’m pretty sure Goddammit Guy is more bark than bite, so at that point, I was feeling more irritated than anything.

"I don’t like it when people accost me for money when I’m in line at a store," I said. "It’s annoying. And he apparently thinks I owe him a quarter or something."

And then I remembered another "quarter incident" that had happened several years earlier.

My sister Sheri, Iwanski, and I had gone to a Bulls game one night, back when I was pretty new to the city. Sheri and I decided to go get a beer, so we went to the concession stand.

We each ordered a beer, and the cashier said, "That’s $4.75 each."

I gave her a $5.00 bill for my beer, and waited for my quarter in change. I didn’t even think about tipping her; I hadn’t been to many sports games before, and I didn’t even know that tipping at the concession stand was something that people did sometimes.

As I was waiting for my change, I accidentally spilled a bit of my beer on the counter, and the cashier glared at me, clearly annoyed.

Meanwhile, Sheri gave the cashier a $10.00 bill…and I was still waiting for my change.

"Did she forget about my quarter?" I whispered to Sheri.

"I don’t know," she said, "Ask her."

I decided to speak up. "Um, I think you forgot to give me my change," I said.

The cashier glared at me again, and this time glared at Sheri, too.

Then, she took the $5 bill that was part of Sheri’s change and dragged it through the spilled beer on the counter as she handed it—and a quarter—back to Sheri.

"Whoa!" Sheri and I both reacted in surprise. We could hardly believe she had just dragged the money through the beer.

Then she slammed my quarter in change on the counter in front of me and snarled, "There you go, Miss Quarter," and turned away.

Sheri and I were both shocked. We didn’t know whether to laugh or to get angry.

So, we chose to laugh.

And for the rest of the night, I was referred to as "Miss Quarter."
 
So this past Saturday night, after the incident with Goddammit Guy, I asked Iwanski, "Is there something about me that makes people think I owe them a quarter? Do I have ‘Miss Quarter’ written on my forehead?"

I’m beginning to think I really do…because this morning, I was sitting at my desk doing my work, when my coworker Kevin came up to me and asked, "Do you have a quarter?"

I looked at him in surprise, laughed, and then told him of the misadventures of Miss Quarter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

My husband is normally a very logical and skeptical person.

While I tend to believe in things like chakras, energy healing, and psychics, he finds those things kind-of funny and sometimes jokes with me about my believing in them.*

In fact, recently, when we were playing the game “Apples to Apples” at his aunt’s house, and he had to match the word “hilarious” with the card that he thought had the most hilarious thing on it, he picked the word “psychics.”

But when it comes to ghosts, he seems to have an odd fascination with them. That doesn’t mean he believes in ghosts—on the contrary, he does not believe in them in the least—but he finds ghost stories extremely interesting. He owns two Chicago ghost story books that he’s read from cover to cover, and he regularly Tivo’s and watches the show “Ghostly Encounters.” He also intently listens when his sisters talk about the ghosts that they’ve heard in the past. (Yes, both of his sisters claim to have heard ghosts. They’re a unique family.)

Anyway, a couple of months ago, Iwanski’s obsession with ghosts led to us going to Bachelors Grove Cemetery in Midlothian, Illinois.

Bachelor's Grove is a very old cemetery, founded in the mid-1800's, now part of the Cook County Forest Preserves. And although the cemetery is now abandoned and hasn’t actually been used for burials in a long time (the last burial there was 20 years ago—but most of the graves are from the early 1900’s), people regularly flock there to see if they can see any of the reported ghosts.

There have been many reported “sightings” at Bachelor’s Grove. People have claimed to have seen a ghostly woman dressed in all white, and some claim to have seen a horse pulling a plow behind it that is steered by the apparition of an old man. People also often claim to see “orbs”—floating balls of light—in the air.

Iwanski had been wanting to see Bachelor’s Grove for a long time…so finally, on a warm July day, we decided to check it out.

When we arrived at the Forest Preserves, we started on the half-mile walk to the cemetery. It was a beautiful day, and the trail leading to Bachelor’s Grove was lined with lovely trees, plants, and flowers.

We hiked a half-mile through the woods and found the cemetery.

It was surprising to me how overgrown all the graves were, and how far apart each of them was (they were not right next to each other, like in a “normal” cemetery). And it was interesting to see how old some of the gravestones were. But other than that, it honestly just seemed to me like a pretty little spot in the woods. We didn’t see any orbs, or a woman in white, or a horse and an old man. So much for the supernatural.

Or so I thought.

We came upon a gravestone labeled “Infant Daughter,” which was surrounded and covered by toys and trinkets that people had left for the baby girl.

“Wow,” we both said.

“I wonder how she died,” I said softly, imagining her poor parents that had to bury her. And I looked with amazement at the countless little gifts that people had left for her.

I wanted to leave something for her, too, but I didn’t really have anything on me for a baby girl. (I know it seems silly, but at that moment I felt like I really wanted to leave her something.)

The only thing I could think of to leave her was the ponytail holder in my hair…so that’s exactly what I did.

“Rest in peace, Baby Girl,” I said, placing it on her gravestone.

Iwanski and I looked around the cemetery some more, but my thoughts were still with the baby girl. How tragic it must be for parents to lose an infant daughter or son!

Finally, we had seen all the graves, and it was time to leave.

As we trekked through the forest back to our rental car in the 85-degree heat, I started to feel really warm from my hair not being in a ponytail.

“Damn, I wish I had another ponytail holder!” I said. And just at that moment, I looked down and saw a ponytail holder, sitting there on some rocks right in front of me.

“Oh my God, look!” I said and picked it up, showing it to Iwanski.

Iwanski looked at me. “That’s weird,” he said.

I looked up at the sky. “Thanks, Baby Girl!” I said, and put the ponytail holder in my hair. It fit perfectly.

Iwanski and I went about the rest of our day and the rest of our week, but I never forgot about the baby girl.

And over the next few weeks—and still today—I have noticed something strange happening.

Almost every single day, I see a ponytail holder lying on the sidewalk.

Even last night, as I was walking with my friend Jonathan, I saw one on the sidewalk right in front of us.

When I told Jonathan the story, he asked “Are ponytail holders easy to lose?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I’ve never lost one. Maybe kids might lose them, though?”

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but I would prefer to think of it as the baby girl’s spirit having fun with me.



*Although he must love me, because one Christmas, he bought me a CD called “Chakra Suite.” What a guy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whoo-Hoo!

Remember that Giant Massive Work Project that I was dreading working on a couple of weeks ago?

Well...(drum roll please)...I finished it today!

Here's how happy and excited I feel right now.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finer Than A Frog's Hair

I have to say, I’m pretty amazed at how quickly my Dad has progressed since his quadruple bypass surgery a few weeks ago. The guy is walking up and down stairs and walking on a treadmill, and getting more and more active every day.

I shouldn’t be surprised, though. My Dad is one tough cookie. I don’t think you can live through the Great Depression, two World Wars, serving in the army, and raising eight children and not be a tough person.

I’m sure his sense of humor helped a lot, as well. He has a lot of “sayings”—and I’m beginning to notice that my siblings are starting to use those sayings, too.

Like whenever you ask my Dad how he’s doing, he pretty much always says the same thing:

“Finer than a frog’s hair.” (Think about it—that’s pretty fine!) The funny thing is, I heard my husband say that the other day. It’s even starting to rub off on him!

Or when you ask my Dad how he knew something or figured something out, he often points to his head and says:

“Kidneys.” That always makes me giggle.

And then there’s the one line of German that he’d sometimes yell at us kids, that wasn’t so funny—and that we all dreaded hearing when we were kids:

“Dooner vetter knockemout!” I did some research a while back and could at least translate the first two words of this phrase—actually spelled “Donner Wetter”—which literally means “thunder weather.” As far as I could tell, it meant that if we didn’t stop misbehaving, then “thunder weather” was gonna come soon!

And when Dad said “Dooner vetter knockemout!” in his big booming voice, we knew that he meant business.

That’s one thing that reveals his true toughness—and made all the neighborhood kids scared of him—he has a very loud, deep voice. Even though he is not by any stretch of the imagination a large man, that voice could make all the kids in the neighborhood run away in fear.

And yet, truth be known, he’s also quite a softie at heart. But I never minded that all the neighborhood kids were scared of my Dad. It sure helped keep the bratty kids from messing with us—at least most of the time. On the rare occasion when those kids were mean to my sister or me and we went crying to Dad, all he would have to do is step out into the driveway, and the bratty kids immediately took off.

And when I got older and made new friends in high school, my Dad’s voice and boldness sometimes made them nervous, too—especially when they called to talk to me.

You see, my Dad was adamant about teaching us kids to speak correctly. Using good grammar was one rule in my house—which I think was a very good thing. Unfortunately for my friends, though, they didn’t always speak with correct grammar, and my Dad couldn’t resist correcting (i.e. messing with) them.

So usually when my friends would call me, it would go something like this:

My friend would ask “Is Carla there?”

Dad would reply, “Yes” and then wait. And wait. And wait. (He was very patient when it came to messing with my friends.)

Finally, my friend would—most of the time—catch on and ask, “Well, may I talk to her?” and Dad would reply, “Oh, sure.”

But woe be to the friend who, instead of asking “May I talk to her?”, instead asked:

“Can I talk to her?”

To which my Dad would reply, “I don’t know, can you?”

Then came the longest silence of all, when my friend fumbled around, trying in vain to figure out what the heck to say.

Finally, my Dad would end the torture and say, “You may” and then put me on the phone.

Hmm, looking back, I wonder if that’s why I didn’t have very many friends in high school?

Anyway, nowadays it makes me laugh to think of those days. And every time I hear “finer than a frog’s hair,” it immediately makes me smile.

I am so grateful for these gems that my Dad passed on to my siblings and me.

And I’m grateful to his heart surgeon for helping him stay around longer, so we can continue to enjoy him and his silly phrases.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Castle Blanco

During every weekend for the past two years, Iwanski has tried to get me to go to White Castle for lunch…but I have always refused based on the Healthypants Principle.

Recently, I finally relented, and we took the half-hour train ride to the Thorndale stop on the red line—and then walked four blocks to the friendly neighborhood White Castle.

There, we indulged in cheeseburgers, jalapeno cheeseburgers, pulled pork sliders, chicken rings, onion rings, and fries. Not at all healthy, but the yummiest freakin’ food on the planet. I especially enjoyed the pulled pork sammich and the chicken rings—fan-freakin-tastic!

Hmm, I have this feeling that it will be much sooner than two years from now when I return to the Castle Blanco.

Screw the Healthypants Principle. That shit is good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grrrr.....

Today started out just fine.

I got a really good night’s sleep last night, and I woke up feeling better than I had the day before, with only a slight sinus headache. (Believe me, this was a huge improvement over the previous three days of sinus hell.)

I ate a yummy bowl of apple cinnamon oatmeal and took a nice long hot shower.

I did my hair and it actually turned out really cute. (I am normally hair-styling challenged.)

I headed off to work, and the weather was bright and sunny and finally starting to feel more like summer again. (Note to Mother Nature: You do realize that summer doesn’t end until September 23rd, right? Just checking.)

I walked into my office building trying to think positively about how much I might be able to get done today on the Giant Massive Work Project that I have to have done by the end of next week.

Then, I got to my desk.

Immediately, my coworker informed me, “The network is down.”

Translation? We had basically no computers. And so I would not be able to work on the Giant Massive Project until our network came back up. Grrrrrrr…..

Okay, take a deep breath, Carla. I’m sure the network will be up soon.

Then, another coworker came by and reminded me that I was late for a 9 a.m. meeting that I totally forgot about.

Grrrrrr….

The 9 a.m. meeting was followed by another spur-of-the-moment meeting, which ended up lasting almost until 11 a.m.

I got back to my desk, and miracle of miracles, the network was up!

But naturally, all the programs I needed were moving WAY too slowly for me to actually use them. Grrrrr….

I called our IT Department and was told to shut down and re-start my computer, which I did. Then I tried to sign on to our network, and it wouldn’t work. That damn hourglass just sat there on my screen, mocking me. Grrrr….

By this time, it was 1:00, and I had gotten nothing done on the Giant Massive Project.

So what did I do? I went to lunch.

I put on disco music on my MP-3 player (disco music is usually good for what ails me) and went for a very fast walk around the neighborhood.

Once I calmed down a bit, I tried to think about all the things I’m grateful for in my life. Like my wonderful husband who makes me laugh every day, and my fantastic friends that I can always count on. And my loving family…and my Daddy-o!

Yes, I am so very grateful that my Daddy-o is doing so well these days, and recuperating very quickly from a heart attack and open-heart surgery. I can hardly believe that it’s been only two weeks, and already, he’s up and about and has even been walking up and down stairs! Thank God, Thank God.

And so, as I began counting my blessings and enjoying the Village People, my frustrations melted away, and I was left feeling very lucky and blessed.

And when I got back to my desk, the network was working perfectly.

I guess taking a break and listening to disco music helped me remember to count my blessings and not sweat the small stuff so much.

Yes, disco truly saved the day--as it always does.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Freakin' Huge!

Today, Iwanski and I went to Bacci Pizzeria for lunch.

We each ordered a “jumbo slice” of pizza.

And when I say “jumbo slice,” I mean HUMUNGOUS slice. Seriously, this was the biggest piece of pizza I have ever seen. I couldn’t finish it.

Check it out. (The picture doesn’t even do it justice.)



This is why I love living in America.


P.S. Notice the bowl of baby carrots next to me on the table? (I am, after all, still Miss Healthypants.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rough Week

This past week was very rough for my family and me—but at least it ended well!

On Tuesday night, I got a phone call from my sister saying that my Dad had had a heart attack and was in the hospital—but no further details. I was SO shocked. My Dad eats right (for the most part) and exercises!—how could he, of all people, have had a heart attack?! So I got on the phone with my other family members to find out more details, and eventually learned that Dad was stable, but that he needed open heart surgery the next day.

Open-heart surgery!!—that sounded so scary to me!! My hubby and I packed our bags and headed up to Wisconsin (to the hospital) early the next morning.

I saw Dad before his surgery, and he expressed to me that he couldn’t believe that most of his kids came to be with him. (I have a brother who lives in Utah, so he unfortunately couldn’t make it—but the rest of us—I have 7 siblings—live at least within a 4-5 hour drive of him…so we all came to be with him and my Mom in the hospital.) And even my brother and sister-in-law in Utah were calling and on Facebook often to hear updates, so Dad knew they were there with us, too. As Dad told me that he couldn’t believe we were all there with him, he got teary-eyed and said that he was so touched that we were all there. Well, of course then I cried, too. I love my Daddy-o so much!

My Mom had a rough time with this, too. She—like all of us—never expected that my Dad would have a heart attack. He was always so healthy! In fact, the day he had the heart attack, he had been having chest pains (he thought it was heartburn), and he went out and mowed the lawn! That’s just the way Dad is.

But I’m happy to report that my Dad is doing well right now. He had the surgery late on Wednesday night, and today, the doctors told him that he’ll be going home! That was great news. I called Dad and told him to be sure to take it easy when he goes home, and he said “Carla, I’m not that dumb.” I had to laugh.

I know it won’t be easy for him—or Mom—since he can’t do all of the things he used to do just yet. But I think (I hope!) that he’ll follow the doctor’s orders and get lots of rest.

One good thing about this past week (besides the fact that my Dad is doing better) is that my siblings and I (and their wonderful spouses) really reconnected. We really came together to support each other, and in the process, grew closer. I saw my sister Holly (who lives in Minnesota) for the first time in two years. It was wonderful to see her again. Since Holly and I live in different states (Minnesota and Illinois), we don’t see each other very often, so at one point someone commented that they barely ever see her and I together. Then someone else said, “I was beginning to wonder if you two maybe were both the same person.” We laughed and laughed—and then of course, everyone had to get out their cameras and take pictures of Holly and me sitting next to each other. It was too funny!

I also talked to so many of my siblings and their spouses on the phone. I talked to my sister-in-law in Utah for the first time in probably almost ten years. It was so great to hear her voice!

Then, one day, a few days after Dad’s surgery, I had been on the phone a lot and suddenly realized that I had talked on the phone to four of my sisters in one day! I don’t think that’s ever happened!

And when you’re waiting in the hospital, there’s not much to do but talk, so talk we did. One day, I heard the stories of how two of my sisters met their spouses. I had never heard those stories before, and it was fun to hear about all of that! It was just so great reconnecting with all of them.

I also felt like I reconnected with my Mom, too. My hubby and I spent almost four days with my Mom (most of the time at the hospital), and even though it wasn’t under the best circumstances, I really enjoyed spending time with her. In the hospital, to pass the time when we couldn’t be with Dad, we fixed puzzles…and we ate together and shared stories. It sounds weird to say this, but it really was a nice time.

And also, it was great to see how strong we all were together, and how we all possess different strengths. Two of my sisters and my sister-in-law are all in the medical profession (one’s a respiratory therapist; the other two are nurses), so they could offer a lot of insight into what was happening with Dad. What did it mean when Dad’s hands were puffy? That’s normal. Why does he have that “Frankenstein-looking thing” attached to his neck? That’s normal, too. (I think it was for delivering drugs or checking his blood pressure; I can’t exactly remember.)

And my sister-in-law Mary is just a gem. She works at the hospital where my Dad was staying (she works in the OB-GYN area, with nursing mothers)—so that gave us all a certain comfort level. And every morning, she’d wake up really early (like at 6 a.m.—or maybe earlier) and then go over to the hospital to see Dad. It was such a comfort to know that she’d always be there in the morning. When I told her, “Mary, that’s so nice of you to get here so early to see Dad,” she said, “Oh, it’s no problem. I’m a morning person, anyway.” Still, she didn’t have to be there, and she was. What a lovely person!

So I guess you can say that even though it was a tough week, it was also a good week.

I told my siblings that we need to get together (ALL of us) more often, and my Dad agreed. He told me that although we normally have a “January Birthday Bash” and a “May Birthday Bash" (we have a lot of January and May birthdays in my family), we didn’t have either of those this year, since everyone was so busy. He sounded a little sad about it, and it made me feel even more determined to make sure we all get together—at least once a year.

Maybe this year—after Dad’s feeling even better—Thanksgiving will be the right time to get together and thank God for the blessing of healing my wonderful Daddy-o.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Climbing Roastburger Mountain

Well, I finally did it. After months of longing to try an Arby’s Roastburger, I finally ate one. And I only had to walk up fourteen flights of stairs to eat it.

Let me ‘splain.

Last night, we had storms in Chicago. This morning, we woke up with no water and no air conditioning. It was a power issue, we were told, and Giant Massive Power Company was working on it.

By 5:00 PM, we still had no water or air conditioning. Then Iwanski called me at work to tell me that now the elevators weren’t working in our building, either. Our apartment management told him that Giant Massive Power Company was waiting on some part to fix the problem, and then all three would be up and running again.

Iwanski suggested that I might want to stay at work later tonight, to wait for everything to be fixed.

So I worked and I waited. I called him at 6:00 PM. Still no water/air conditioning/elevators. Then at 6:30 PM. Still not working.

Finally, at close to 7:00 PM, I had had enough of this work crap and was ready to come home…even if it meant that I had to walk up the twenty-one flights to our apartment.

On my way home, I called Iwanski. “The water just came on,” he reported.

“Yay!” I replied. “I’m going to stop and get us some Arby’s.” I was so glad that I’d be coming home to all the modern conveniences of elevators, running water, and air conditioning. An occasion like this, I thought to myself, calls for a Roastburger.

So I forked over the $3.59 (man, some fast food sandwiches are pricey!), plus the cost of Iwanski’s requested foods, and walked home, gleefully carrying the bag with my precious Roastburger in it.

As I approached the elevators in our building, I could see that something was wrong. For one thing, there were like ten people waiting in the lobby. For another thing, three of the elevators were standing wide open, with the lights off.

“What’s going on? Are the elevators working?” I inquired.

“Only one of them,” said the woman standing in front of me.

Okay. One elevator. I could live with this.

So all ten of us piled into the one working elevator, and it slowly closed and began ascending.

After a few floors, all of the sudden the whole elevator jolted, and then stood still.

“Oh man,” said a fellow passenger.

“Oh shit!” I said. I am pretty clausterphobic at times, so I absolutely dread getting stuck in an elevator. “Someone push the down button,” I said. “I want to get off.”

Suddenly, the elevator jolted again and began going down. It got down to the first floor, but then the door didn’t open.

We all stood there holding our breaths.

The elevator jolted once more, and once again began ascending. It stopped on the seventh floor, and the door finally opened.

“I’m getting off!” I proclaimed, and one dude and I both pushed our way out.

“What floor do you have to walk up to?” I asked the dude as we began walking up the stairs.

“The ninth floor,” he said. “How about you?”

“The twenty-first floor,” I replied.

“Whew, man—you’re athletic,” he remarked.

“Not really,” I said. “I just hate getting stuck in elevators. I once got stuck in an elevator in this building, for ten minutes. I was really scared.”

“I can understand that,” he said as he opened the door for the ninth floor. “Good luck!”

“Thanks!” I replied, and continued to huff and puff my way up the stairs.

On the thirteenth floor, I called Iwanski and told him that I was on my way up the stairs.

“Oh my gosh, honey! I’m sorry!” (Iwanski often apologizes for things that aren’t his fault.)

“It’s—okay,” I said, trying to catch my breath. “I’ll be up soon.”

Finally, I made it up to our apartment.

Still huffing and puffing, I settled down to eat my Roastburger.

So after all that…how was the Roastburger, you may ask?

Well, it was nothing but a damn roast beef sandwich!

Yeah, I don’t know what I was expecting, but the advertisements had just made it look SO good. But when it came right down to it, it was just a big roast beef sandwich with no sauce on it.

No sauce! What were they thinking?! Don’t they know that Miss Healthypants likes her food MOIST? (That’s my #1 requirement of food—it’s got to be moist. Buck can attest to that.)

So I squeezed some barbecue sauce on it and polished off my long-awaited Roastburger, which turned out to be just a regular ole’ roast beef sandwich.

I’ve learned an important lesson today. Sometimes the anticipation is much better than the Roastburger.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Moment

A soft cat gently settling upon my lap,
The rain coming down in sheets,
Refreshing the earth,
Refreshing my soul.

A single strawberry, so sweet upon my tongue,
The warmth of an August evening,
Putting on shorts and a t-shirt
And going for a walk in the air
Which envelopes me
In softness, warmth,
Summer.

Blessings in the rain,
Blessings in the sun.
A ripe tomato, juicy and light.
A spicy red onion,
A touch of fresh basil.

Experiencing life.
How could I have missed it?
These precious days,
These precious moments.

A frosty fruit smoothie
As I meander down the street
Taking in the sights,
The people,
The energy,
The lightness.

And later, the light dimming softly,
The cool evening breeze
A child giggling in pleasure
As the swing slowly swings,
Back and forth,
Back and forth.

A little boy throws a ball
It goes into the bushes.
Laughing, smiling,
Happiness.

This is happiness.
Dollar bills?
No.
Fancy meals?
No.
Expensive cars?
No.
A humongous house?
No.

The moment?
Yes.
That’s all there is.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Actual Conversation Had At Two In The Morning at the Best Western in Maysville, Kentucky

Miss Healthypants (video taping Iwanski, who’s lying down on the bed): Are you drunk on wine?

Iwanski (drunk on wine for the first time in fifteen years): Turn the video off.

Miss Healthypants: Just tell me—are you drunk on wine?

Iwanski: Shut up, you know I am. I just stumbled into the bathroom wall.

Miss Healthypants: So would you say that you’re a Stumbly-Wumbly?

Iwanski: If there’s Wumblies, I’m one of the Stumblies.

Miss Healthypants: Say “I’m a Stumbly-Wumbly.”

Iwanski: If there is a Wumbly population, I am one of the Stumblies of such.

Miss Healthypants (laughing): Say “I am a Stumbly-Wumbly.”

Iwanski: There’s a chance…I don’t believe in labels.

Miss Healthypants: Come on, be a Stumbly Wumbly!

Iwanski: Let’s say I’m a Blue Dog Stumbly.

Miss Healthypants (laughing): Is that like a Blue Dog Democrat?

Iwanski: It’s better. Hey, you’re not going to blog about this, are you?

Miss Healthypants: No, of course not.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Miss Travelpants Has Returned!

Iwanski and I are back from a road trip through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania…and oh, what a trip it was! We had so much fun, and took so many pictures, that it was hard for me to decide what pictures to share with y’all. (I love the word “y’all”—definitely my favorite word in the Southern dialect. At least I like it as long as the person saying it has more than two teeth—but more about that later.)

Anyway, without further adieu, I hope y’all enjoy the following road trip pictures.

As we approached our first hotel room in Kentucky, we saw this scene.



Hot air balloons! There was a race going on in the town where we were staying. I never thought I’d be into hot air balloons at all, but it was quite an awesome sight!

The next day, it was my first time in West Virginia!



Here's the New River Gorge in West Virginia—one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.



This was also my first time in rural Virginia! (I was in urban Virginia—in Arlington—during our Washington, DC trip.)



Here's a view from the George Washington National Forest in Virginia:



Finally, we made it to our main destination—the beautiful Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains.



Here’s Iwanski standing on an abandoned railroad in the Blue Ridge Mountains.



We saw several deer hanging out in the forest. They seemed very unafraid of people.



Then, to our delight, we saw one of these fellas on the side of the road! The next day, we even saw a mother bear and her little cub. It was too cool!



Apparently this is how the Shenandoah residents know what time it is.



And of course, to have the whole John Denver experience (“Almost heaven, West Virginia…Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…”), I had to see the Shenandoah River. (I just like how these chairs look next to the river.)



We had an amazing walk through the Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia.



We also visited Harpers Ferry (the site of John Brown’s famous “attack on slavery”) and saw this very old building.



Gettysburg National Military Park and Gettysburg National Cemetery were amazing places to visit.



Here is the view from our hotel room in Virginia, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.



We absolutely loved our Southern/Shenandoah road trip!