Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lost in Translation

I had an absolutely wonderful birthday—thanks again to all of you for the birthday wishes!

Iwanski got me some really great gifts, including a new exercise game for the Wii! (EA Sports Active.) Whoo-hoo! More on that later…but speaking of games, I played Bookworm Adventures for over two and a half hours last night. It’s just as addictive as the original! I will surely need my new exercise game, after spending three hours a day sitting on my ass playing Bookworm.

Anyway, I realized that I forgot to tell y’all about the packing slip that came in the Bookworm package from My sister had asked that a message be printed on the packing slip, and this is how Amazon printed it:


Happy Birthday, Carly! I hope that this Hoo! is as much fun as the original compensation will follow. Love,


Say what????

This is what the message was supposed to read (which I think is almost as funny as what Amazon printed):


Happy Birthday, Carly! I hope that this NEW Bookworm game (Adventures! Woo Hoo!) is as much fun as the original. (An application for IL unemployment compensation will follow... :))

Love you!

Sheki (and Rick and Nora, too!)


I guess I owe both my sister, and someone at Amazon, for giving me a big laugh on my birthday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Birthday Worm

On Friday, I will be turning a whopping thirty-six years old.

Thirty-six!—yikes! Where has the time gone????

But I will say that overall, I am happier now that I’ve ever been in my life.

I am married to my favorite person in the whole world, we both enjoy our chosen career paths, and I have many wonderful family members, friends, and blog buddies.

And now, I have something even more.

I have my very own Bookworm game.

And even better, it’s “Bookworm Adventures”! What could that mean? What possible adventures might await me in Bookworm-land?

Thanks to my sister Sheri, I will soon find out.

And I’m pretty sure that I won’t be leaving the house for the next several days.

I can’t wait!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dune The Best We Can

Over the past several years, Iwanski and I have spent many hours walking in the forests of northern Wisconsin and Michigan, the Ozark Mountains, and the Smokey Mountains. For a couple of city people like us, we sure do like the country.

And as a former Girl Scout like me, I always come prepared. I always bring SPF-15 Sunscreen, Deep Woods Off, a bottle or two of water, some kind of snack, and an extra sweatshirt in case I get cold. I do not like to be itchy, sunburned, thirsty, hungry, or cold. I am pretty much the definition of high maintenance.

Iwanski, on the other hand, brings along his sunglasses and his camera. That’s it—that’s all he needs. But being a smart guy, he also uses the sunscreen and insect repellant that I bring along. He is especially adamant about the bug repellant. And it’s not so much the mosquitos he’s concerned about; it’s the ticks. For as long as I’ve known him, Iwanski has been very concerned about ticks. Okay, not just concerned—downright paranoid. Every time we go to a wooded area, he warns me over and over again about ticks, and sprays every square inch of his body with insect repellant. (He spent a lot of time in his childhood in Central Wisconsin, during a time when Lyme Disease was very prevalent and he had been warned over and over again by everyone he knew to avoid ticks.) But it’s okay, because MHP was a Girl Scout and never forgets to bring along the Deep Woods Off.

Except for this weekend. This weekend, we decided to take a train ride to the Indiana Dunes. I had never been to the Dunes, but the word “dunes” conjured up in my head images of huge mounds of sand that people would try to climb up and slide back down. And yes, that was partly true. But there were also lots of trees and plants and a fair amount of insects, which I had not anticipated. So of course, I had not brought along my trusty bottle of Deep Woods Off. But the mosquitos weren’t biting too badly, so we lucked out on that aspect.

We enjoyed sojourning among the tall sand dunes, imagining ourselves wandering through the Sahara Desert—and we even saw little lizards and an occasional cactus (yes, there are both lizards and one type of cactus in that area of the Midwest). It is an amazing, beautiful place—very unique in our part of the country.

Then we took our hour-long train ride back to downtown Chi-town and wrapped up the lovely day with a couple of ice-cold beers, and fell asleep dreaming of the dunes.

And then it happened.

It was 5:00 in the morning, and I suddenly heard Iwanski talking, “Honey, wake up! I have to tell you something.” He turned on the closet light, and I squinted back at him. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I got bit by a tick,” he said.

“What?!” I bolted up right in bed. Now I was wide awake. “Where? When?”

“Just now,” he said. “I went to the bathroom, and I noticed something biting me on my shoulder. I grabbed it and yanked it off of me. See?” He showed me a small red mark on his shoulder. He paused for a moment and then said nervously, “Oh my God, now I have Lyme Disease!”

“Oh, don’t worry honey, you probably don’t have Lyme Disease.” Then I started to think about the tick crawling around in our bed, and I got really creeped out. I jumped out of bed and asked Iwanski to check me for ticks, and we stood there at five in the morning looking over each other’s bodies for any signs of another little arachnid. (I found out later that a tick is not an insect, but an arachnid. Not that that knowledge made me feel any better about it!) But thankfully, that appeared to be the lone tick. (Still, I’m itching right now just thinking about it.)

The next hour was spent with Iwanski huddled nervously over the laptop, looking up the incidences of Lyme Disease in the Indiana Dunes area, and the symptoms of Lyme Disease—while I lay on the couch trying to calm him—and myself—down. Luckily, the incidences of Lyme Disease in the Indiana Dunes area is very small, and we learned that overall, way less than 1% of people that get bitten by ticks end up with Lyme Disease. Well, thank God for that!

We could finally go back to bed—but not without first thoroughly inspecting and shaking out every pillow, sheet, and blanket on our bed. Then finally, we both fell asleep again, but this time, dreaming of ticks crawling all over our house. Yuck!

Miss Girlscoutpants has learned a big lesson this weekend, folks—and she will never again be caught in the country without a bottle of Deep Woods Off.

Because as much as I like to call Iwanski “paranoid” for his concern about ticks, I did not like the fact that he got bitten by one—and I sure would not want to be bit by one of those icky little suckers myself.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Makes Me Laugh

I live with one silly dude. Iwanski makes me laugh every single day. Here are but a few of the sentences that he’s uttered lately, that have made me giggle:

“That is one erotic bear.”

“Love me, love my stubble.”

“I pick up socks, you pick up socks, we all pick up socks.”

“I don’t need to be told to look at a pug when I’m doing something else.”

And then there was this exchange:

Miss Healthypants: Did you ever go skateboarding when you were a kid?

Iwanski: Sometimes. I remember my friends were always doing tricks on their skateboards. My trick was not falling off and breaking my neck.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Go West, Miss Healthypants!

Whenever Iwanski and I go visit a different neighborhood, I decide I want to live there. It never fails—we could be in West Hollywood or in Branson, Missouri, and I inevitably want to make it my home.

Anyway, when Iwanski and I woke up this morning, we were pondering visiting a forest preserve in the city or suburbs for a lovely nature walk. Then we thought, with yesterday’s gargantuan amount of rainfall, perhaps a walk in a muddy forest might not be the best idea.

So…what to do? What to do? Our stomachs piped up “Feed us!” and hunger became the determining factor in our day’s plans. “We could go eat at Mickey’s in Oak Park,” Iwanski suggested, half-kidding. Mickey’s is a burger/hot dog fast food kind of place, and he knows that Miss Healthypants isn’t prone to going to a place that doesn’t advertise salad as one of their main menu items. But little did he know, Miss Healthypants was in the mood for some greasy food today.

So we hopped on a green line el train and rode 20 minutes west to the lovely tree-lined suburb of Oak Park. On the way, I ate a snacky-poo (a packet of nuts and dried fruit), so by the time we got there, I wasn’t quite as hungry. And Iwanski is pretty much a food camel, so we decided to wait a bit before eating and instead take a walk around Oak Park. And what the hell, since we were already there, we thought we might as well walk to the forest preserves in the area. So we headed down Lake Street to the preserves (kind-of sounds like a bottle of jam, doesn’t it? ).

Anyway, I absolutely fell in love with Oak Park.

There are two big reasons why I really like Oak Park (besides the fact that it is a quick 20-minute el train ride from downtown): 1) It is a walking suburb. Unlike some suburbs, there are sidewalks and little shops along the streets of Oak Park, which encourage pedestrian traffic. You don’t have to drive everywhere in Oak Park; and 2) There are a million parks in Oak Park. Okay, a million might be exaggerating it just a little, but in our three-hour walk, we passed by or walked through at least six parks. That was pretty refreshing to a city girl like me. In my neighborhood, we have some parks, but in general, there is not too much green to be found, unless you venture closer to the lakefront.

To me, Oak Park felt like the city and nature, all rolled into one. Score!

And surprisingly, the forest preserves in the area (which are actually in the neighboring suburb of River Forest) were not muddy all over—just in certain spots. Iwanski and I headed down a service road to higher, dryer land within the woods, and walked down a picturesque trail. The birds were singing and the sun was shining…ah, what a perfect day! Then we came upon a steep, slightly muddy hill and ventured up it. Unfortunately, after a few minutes it became quite apparent that we would have to venture back down it again. Going downhill on a slippery, muddy path was not exactly my idea of a good time. I crawled down ever-so-slowly, and Iwanski snapped this unflattering picture of me. (Hey, you try looking attractive when you’re sweating in the hot sun, trying to balance going down a steep, muddy hill and carrying a Whole Foods Bag full of bottled water and snacks and not fall on your ass in the mud!)

Anyway, I made it down without a trace of mud on my clothes—yay! But by now, my stomach had had just about enough of this crap, and I was ready to eat. So we ventured out of the pre-serves and headed back down the streets of River Forest and Oak Park to Mickey’s. I ended up getting a gyro salad—a green salad with greasy gyro meat on it. I know, kind-of defeats the purpose of the salad, but what the hell, it’s Saturday—I had to be a little bad! And it was totally freakin’ yummy.

As we walked back to the train, I saw even more of Miss Healthypants’ favorite things: a Trader Joe’s grocery store, a TGI Friday’s, and then—wonder of wonders, a froo-froo oil and vinegar store! Whoo-hoo! If I lived here, I could still get my fancy-ass oil and vinegar.

And just before we got on the train, Iwanski and I took a seat on the grass in a beautiful little park, alongside other couples, Moms with their kids, and people with their dogs, all listening to a groovy drummer and keyboard player kicking out some funky tunes. It was the perfect end to a beautiful visit to Oak Park.

Honestly, I had never seriously considered living in Oak Park before, but who knows? Maybe someday, I could be—horror of horrors!—a suburbanite.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sister Carla Jean

When I was a little kid—about seven or eight years old—I was convinced that I was going to become a nun someday. And I was serious about it.

I was going to become Sister Carla Jean. I was so serious about it that I even corresponded several times with a missionary nun who worked somewhere in Africa, and I told her that I wanted to be just like her.

But the truth was, I didn’t want to become a missionary nun. I wanted to be a teacher nun in the small town I grew up in, just like my favorite teachers at the Catholic elementary school I attended. I still remember my favorite teacher nun, Sister Clarine.

Sister Clarine was a gray-haired lady when she taught my third grade class—so I’m sure that she’s long ago passed away by now. But I will never forget the impact she made on my life.

Sister Clarine was spunky but kind. She was quick to laugh, and very sweet—but she was also tough enough that the kids in my class didn’t take advantage of her kindness. I loved her. And I remember every day, asking her if I could help her carry her black leather bag full of “teacher’s stuff” to the convent after school. Looking back, even though the bag was light enough for an eight-year-old with scrawny arms to carry, and the convent was only about 200 feet away (so she obviously didn’t need my help), she always let me carry her bag for her. It was our chance to chat a little bit, and I loved it.

Sometimes on those chats, I would tell Sister Clarine about my ideas for the stories I was writing. At the age of eight, I used to write tons and tons of “stories.” I loved to write even at that young age, and it seems like I was constantly bursting with new ideas. But I never really shared them with anyone except maybe my Mom and Dad—until Sister Clarine became my teacher.

And one day, I decided to give her a copy of one of the stories I had written.

The next day, she greeted me at the door of our classroom with a big smile. “This is wonderful!” she said. “How would you like to read it in front of the class today?”

I flushed with pride. “Do you really like it?”

“Yes!” she affirmed. “It’s just beautiful. I’d like you to read it in front of the class, if it’s okay with you.”

I thought about it for a minute. “Um, okay,” I finally said. Even though I was a pretty shy child, she made me feel confident about my writing.

And later that day, when she told the class about what I would be reading to them, she was full of even more praise for me. I beamed and read the story to the class, and at the end, they all clapped for me.

I remember being so happy. I was flying high for the rest of the school day.

Then, after school, when I was carrying Sister Clarine’s bag home for her, I will never forget what she said to me.

She said, “Carla, don’t ever stop writing. I mean it—always keep writing. You have a talent for it.”

Now do you see why she was my favorite teacher?

So I think it was only natural that my love and admiration for Sister Clarine led to my wanting to be a nun, just like her.

And my parents, who are devoted Catholics, were tickled pink that their little daughter was so interested in the idea of being a nun—at least, until I wrote/carved “Sister Carla Jean” in blue ink on the closet door of my Mom’s sewing room. My parents were NOT pleased with that.

But that didn’t stop me from writing “Sister Carla Jean” all over the wall of our basement—but I didn’t get in trouble for that, because there was one wall in the basement that we were allowed to write and draw all over. (Don’t you just love it?)

I even dressed up as a nun one Halloween. See?

So what finally made me decide not to become a nun?

Well, his name was Brian, and he was my very first crush. Yes, I had discovered boys—and in the following years, I continued to discover them.

But even though I never became a nun, I will never forget Sister Clarine. I just hope she knew how much she—and her wonderful kindness—meant to me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sheki!

It was my sister Sheri’s birthday today. I often call her Sheki (long story).

Sheri and I have been through lots of good times and bad times together, and I’m so grateful to have her in my life. Here is a picture of us when we were just wee little ones. (To those of you that don’t know, Sheri’s the cute little brunette, and I’m the blondie.)

Now Sheri has her own wee little daughter, my cute little niecey Nora Lu…and Sheri is simply a wonderful mother. Wow, time flies by…

Happy Birthday, Sheki!! I hope you had a perfectly lovely day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Worming Its Way Into My Heart

For the past month or so, I have been addicted to the internet game “Word Twist.” I’m not sure why I like to play Word Twist so much—I mean, it’s basically unscrambling letters to form words. Whoo hoo. And yet, when I start playing, it’s like I just can’t stop. I don’t know; maybe it has something to do with the fact that I can’t seem to get anywhere close to beating Sfoofie at Word Twist. She is the Queen of Word Twist, and my competitive side just wants to dethrone her so bad.

Plus, it’s a really really good way to avoid exercising or doing anything else remotely productive.

Anyway, last night I played a game that’s even BETTER THAN WORD TWIST.

How could it be, you ask? How could there ever be anything more exciting that unscrambling letters to form words? I know, it’s hard to believe—but it’s true.

The time was 7:30 PM, and Iwanski and I were visiting my parents in my itty bitty hometown of Hilbert, Wisconsin. My Dad mentioned that my Mom had a new computer game that she played all the time, called “Book Worm.”

Okay, I thought. If there ever was a title that screamed “Exciting!”—then it had to be “Book Worm.” But I thought what the hell, I’ll check it out. I mean, it wasn’t as if there were lots of other exciting things to do on a Sunday night in Hilbert, Wisconsin. So I followed my Mom into their den/computer room.

My Mom started the game, and within the first 5 minutes, I realized two things:

1. Book Worm is very similar to Word Twist, except that it also involves strategizing to make sure you’re using the right letters at the right time. It’s kind-of like a combination of Word Twist and Checkers.

2. I can never EVER own the game Book Worm, or I will never EVER do anything but play Book Worm. I’m seriously afraid I wouldn’t even remember to go to work if I had this game. I would be standing in the unemployment line with my laptop, playing Book Worm.

Oh, and one of my favorite parts of the game is that there’s actually a cartoon worm that not only eats your words, but also belches periodically throughout the game.

Anyway, my Mom and I started playing the game together, and a few minutes later, Iwanski and my Dad joined us. So there we were, the four of us, huddled around the computer and shouting out words.

The highest score my Mom had ever gotten in Book Worm was just above 200,000 points, so we first tried to beat her high score. An hour later, we had crossed the 200,000 point threshold and were heading to 300,000 points.

An hour later, we reached 300,000 points—and now our new goal was 400,000 points. When would it end?

So many times, we were sure we had just lost the game—but then one of us came up with a new word that the others hadn’t thought of—or a new strategy that the others hadn’t thought of.

Then, yours truly almost made a mistake that cost us the whole game. I was spelling a word that ended in an “e,” but I almost picked the wrong “e.” God forbid! Immediately Iwanski, my Mom, and my Dad started yelling “NO! NOT THAT E!” I swear, they acted like I almost cost them a million dollars. You should have seen the looks on their faces! I started laughing hysterically—and of course, I then chose the correct e. Because if I hadn’t—oh my God, Lord only knows what would have happened!

Another hour later, we had reached 400,000 points. At this point, I wasn’t sure whether we’d be playing Book Worm all through the night. We just kept on laughing at the belching worm and at ourselves, at how seriously we were playing the game.

And then it happened. We got stuck in a Book Worm situation that we just couldn’t get out of, and we finally lost the game. Bright lights flashed across the screen, proclaiming the end of the game, and we all headed into the living room to try to settle down and relax before bed.

On my way to the living room, I saw my Dad lining up four wine glasses on the kitchen counter. I guess he figured we all needed a glass of wine to help us relax from all the excitement. (I think he was right!)

But despite the wine and the relaxing conversation that followed the game, when I closed my eyes to go to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking of new words to spell.

But mostly I was thinking about my Mom and my Dad and Iwanski, and how lucky I am to have shared such a fun evening with three people I love very much.

Update: I have just discovered that there is a free online version of Wordworm. I'm in trouble now!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Medium Yoga and a Large Cry

I woke up this morning with a sore back and a headache, and feeling down in the dumps.

Right now, my back and my head feel great, and I am feeling supremely relaxed and happy.

Would you believe that all this happened from one yoga class? (Okay, I suppose it doesn’t hurt that it’s Friday night, too!)

Anyway, in yoga class today (at my job, we get a free hour-long yoga class every week), the teacher taught us a new kind of yoga that I’d never tried before. I can’t remember what it was called (I REALLY wish I could remember what it was called), but it was a more meditative type of yoga, where the poses aren’t super-difficult, but you hold each pose for at least 2-3 minutes while really focusing on your breathing.

Although it wasn’t necessarily an easy yoga class, it felt WONDERFUL.

Honestly, it felt like the kind of yoga that was perfect for me. I feel like I literally felt myself opening up, and my negative energy draining away.

And the hour went by extremely fast. I was so surprised when she told us it was time to go into the final relaxation pose. Usually by that time, I am pretty much ready to punch the teacher in order to get her to end the class. But today, even though I was sweaty and my heart was pounding, I know I could have gone on even longer.

And then something amazing happened. As I lay in relaxation pose, I suddenly felt myself completely let go of EVERYTHING that had been bothering me this past week…and as my body sunk into the floor, I felt my emotions also beginning to let go…

And as we sat up and ended the class with our usual bow and said “Namaste,” I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.

The teacher said, “Don’t be surprised if you feel emotional at times, off and on throughout the day. This kind of practice tends to do that to people sometimes.”

No kidding!

I looked over at one of my coworkers, and I may be wrong, but I think I saw that her eyes were red, too.

Slowly, I rolled up my mat and gathered up my things, and I went into the bathroom to change. And then…I just let go.

I cried and cried—and it felt so wonderful! I felt like every part of me just completely let go.

For those of you who don’t know what it’s like to have a good cry—well, you just don’t know what you’re missing! It can be an absolutely beautiful experience.

And no, there’s nothing really terrible happening in my life right now. Sometimes I just bottle lots of little things up, and a good cry is all I need to feel all better again.

Later this afternoon, my coworker remarked that she felt like “mush.”

I know exactly what she meant. Feeling like mush is pretty freakin’ awesome.