Thursday, December 29, 2011

Positivity. . . One Post-It at a Time.


Okay, guys. . . When I sat down to do this blog my thought was that I would choose a picture of a Post-It with some sort of inspirational message on it and stem from there (hence the photo above) but this amazing thing happened: I stumbled across a website that BLEW. MY. MIND. It's called Operation Beautiful and here is their mission statement:
The goal of the Operation Beautiful website is to end negative self-talk or “Fat Talk.”  If this little blog only does one productive thing, I hope it helps readers realize how truly toxic negative self-talk is  — it hurts you emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

Through my own experiences fighting Fat Talk, I’ve realized the power behind an anonymous act such as Operation Beautiful.  When I post a note, I’m saying, “I CHOOSE to be positive!”

I began Operation Beautiful by leaving positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms — at work, at the gym, at the grocery store.  I scribble down whatever comes to mind — "You are beautiful!" or "You are amazing just the way you are!"  My personal goal is to leave as many Operation Beautiful notes as I can. Maybe some people read them and just smile, but I bet some people are truly touched by the effort of a random stranger.
Operation Beautiful is simple: all you need is a pen and a piece of paper.  If you want to join the mission, send me an e-mail at with a photograph of your Operation Beautiful note or a description of your experience, and I’ll post it on the Operation Beautiful site for thousands of others to read and enjoy!

I don't know about all of you, but this brought tears to my eyes. How many of you have had a bad day and were just waiting for someone to say a kind word, give a friendly smile, or envelope you in a hug? Anyone? Huh? ALL of you? That's what I thought. . . and I also know that on those particular days, I have had someone smile at me walking down a hallway, I have had a friend give me a big hug, and I have had a random person I've never spoken to compliment my outfit, or hair, or perfume, or something and it changed my mood for the better.

In today's time, with the heavy addiction and deep dependency on technology, texting, and e-mailing I think people begin to overlook the effect we can have on each other. . . in simple, simple ways. . . and we forget how important we are, as humans, to each other and the production of positivity in the universe.

This website, this mission statement- it makes me want to buy a packet of Post-Its in every color available and spread the words of inspiration and beauty all over the world. . . okay, all over the county, but still!

I have posted about  body image before, but it truly is not something that can be overlooked, in my opinion. . . little girls deserve to grow up hearing that they are precious and beautiful and worth it. Teenage girls deserve to grow up hearing they are strong, intelligent, and valuable. Grown women deserve to wake up hearing they are treasures, they are irreplaceable, they are loved. And this is not just females. . . little boys, teenage boys, grown men- they deserve love and they deserve to be told they're loved everyday for forever.
Life is hard, society is tough, and as human beings, we can be so mean and so discouraging to one another. The idea of changing someone's life, which in turn will change someone else's life, is not only gratifying, but unbelievably hopeful.

If I could place specific messages in specific places I would go to the restrooms of elementary schools and write things like "Your smile lights up a room," "You are precious and special," "You are made for great things," "You are wonderful," "You are beautiful, just as you are."

I would go to high school locker rooms and write things like "You are more than the clothes you wear," "Your existence is important," "Your opinions matter," "You will change the world someday," "Your 4 years here do not define your life."

I would go to public restrooms and elevators in corporate buildings and write things like "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? Now, go do it," "Someone waits to see you everyday," "You're touching a life today, whether you know it or not," "Smile: take someone's breath away," "You're fulfilling a purpose right now."

If I could take back every mean word or thought I said three years ago, three months ago, three days ago, three hours ago, I would. . . because every negative wave I put out in the world effects someone and I don't like the residue of that feeling on my skin.

I may not be able to change the world, I may not even be able to change someone I share space with in my own house, but I can change my attitude, I can change a single, solitary moment in someone's day. . . and that is certainly starting somewhere.

I challenge you to go get some Post-Its and fun colored pens. . . carry them in your car, keep them in your purse and try to remember those days when you could've used a pick-me-up. . . and make a motion to be someone else's pick-me-up. I don't think Caitlin of Operation Beautiful could have started a more positive movement and I cannot wait to be a part of it.

While you are out posting positive messages for the world to see, remember how incredible you are. . . remember it everyday. If I could, I would post notes all over the country inspiring boys and girls and men and women, but before I can do that, I have to be able to look at myself and know I'm worth something, too. . .
I have to realize I am something much more other than fat, ugly, or undeserving. . .

If I were to leave myself a Post-It I would say this: "You are worthy. . . you are lovely. . . you deserve to be cherished."

So write yourself, and others, a Post-It. . . What do you need to say?

-Stephi D.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who Run the World? GIRLS. . . Likely in Heels. . .

Like many people in the world I am deeply troubled and stumped by many a thing. . . Some things that deeply trouble me are quite serious: human trafficking, hunger, poverty, child pornography, basic mistreatment of humans and some things that deeply stump me are not of such a serious matter: why can't I eat chocolate and LOSE weight? Why are hips and thighs and curves so looked down upon? And WHY are stilettos so damn sexy but hurt so baaad?!

People- I am not tall in stature, some may even dare to call me short, so you would think I would be of the opinion that heels are the end all, be all of shoe heaven. . . Wrong.
I own heels. . . three pairs. . . three pairs of leg slimming, calf cramp inducing, high heeled stilettos. And they are hot: one pair is a black, patent leather number, one pair is black and brown leather peep toed lovelies, and one pair is deep, red velvet. They are delicious, people! And there is a very high chance that I can count the total minutes they have each been worn by my feet on one hand.

Here are a few things you should know about me to understand the full irony of this situation: I am a girly girl. I was the Barbie queen growing up- I had the hot pink limo, the Barbie dream house, and home made Barbie clothes from my precious, Aunt Martha. I also had, and still have, an American Girl doll; Samantha, and her bed and a "closet" of her clothes. I love purses, clothes, and shopping. . . I also adore shoes. If you were to ask my mother about my relationship with shoes she would likely scoff in disgust, roll her eyes, and proceed to tell you about how the amount of shoes I have is insurmountable to any other female country wide (Clearly the woman has never watched any of the Real Housewives of any city.) So, yeah, I am a girly kind of girl. . . I enjoy pink, all day shopping trips, and being spoiled. . . Just don't buy me pink heels, take me on shopping trips for heels, or spoil me with heels.

Let me clarify this post by saying that on the list of things I greatly desire there is the wish that I maintained the ability to enjoy wearing heels. I know that girls look good in heels. . . and I am already short, therefore, heels would do a great deal to enhance any look. . . So I truly do want to wear heels. . . the pain just takes over. Heels are not comfortable, no matter how sexy one may look in them.

I have a high school friend who towers over me in a great, statuesque, model body and she rocks heels- and she forever makes me jealous of how glamorous she always looks. I also have a cousin from Colorado who is a skier, yoga instructor, and all around sexified lean, mean, body of muscle. . . and she wears heels, too. . . and she's forever wearing short little dress numbers with heels that essentially put my eyes on the level of her ample bosom. . . and it makes me want to wear heels with such a fevered desperation, but then I have nightmare-ish foreshadowing moments in which I exit a car, thinking I am unbelievably irresistible to everyone in sight, only to hit the pavement, not with my slinky, sexy heels, but my knees, and perhaps my hands, in preventative measures of saving my teeth. And any great desire to wear heels dissipates into the night air, not dissimilar to the way my cries of pain would, had I given into this great notion in the first place.

I, Stephi Duff, will likely forever be the short girl who should wear heels, but doesn't, or if I do, always have a pair of flats in my purse. I will likely forever be the girl who, when shopping, will see a stunning, breathtaking pair of heels and then emit a small cry of "oh!" but will ultimately pass them by, because- really, who am I kidding? I will likely forever be the girl who watches, with admiration and slight jealousy, the girls of all shapes and sizes that kick ass in heels miles high. I will likely forever be the girl who shakes her head and  thinks to herself, "Work IT, sister!" when I see a girl in heels. And I, Stephi Duff, will likely forever be the girl that will always wear a pair of heels on New Years Eve, and inevitably be the one running like a 'one leg short' cat behind her girlfriends yelling, "GUYS! SLOW DOWN! I have heels on!' (You've been warned, lovies. . . now you know what to look out for this coming weekend.)

So, ladies of the world, rockin' their stilettos and getting the attention of all the guys: geetttttt iiiiiittttt!!!! While you're out on the dance floor shaking your money makers in heels, I'll be the girl on the other side of the dance floor wearing flats. . . or better yet, Chuck Taylors. . . and eventually that will catch a guy's attention, too.

-Stephi D.

Monday, December 26, 2011


In honor of the upcoming New Years Eve I have decided to dedicate my post to America's favorite pastime! Oh, wait. . . that's baseball- Okay, well I've decided to dedicate my post to MY favorite pastime. . .

Pucker up, boo.

Some Famous Words on Kissing:

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.  ~Albert Einstein

[T]hen I did the simplest thing in the world.  I leaned down... and kissed him.  And the world cracked open.  ~Agnes de Mille

I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. -Audrey Hepburn

'Where should one use perfume?' a young woman asked. 'Wherever one wants to be kissed,' I said. -Coco Chanel

A friend is always good to have, but a lover's kiss is better than angels raining down on me.  -Dave Matthews

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. -Song of Solomon 1:2

Some History on Kissing:

*Anthropologists believe that the origin of the kiss is found in primitive times when mothers chewed food for their babies and then transmitted it from mouth to mouth.

*As early as 2000 BC many cultures believed that bringing mouths together in a kiss was a way to join two souls.

*Romans are attributed to perfecting the kiss as we know it today as they kissed each other hello on the mouth, eyes, or rings to signify respect to statues of gods.

*Throughout history kissing became the means in which many deals and bargains were sealed.

*Russians are believed to be the first to incorporate kissing into the marriage ceremony and France is credited with the first to accept kissing in courtship (Hell to the YEAH.)

Stephi's Ideals, Opinions, and Thoughts on Kissing:

I can sum it up in 3 simple words: unbelievably bad ass.

I first encountered  the luxury and deliciousness of a kiss when I was approximately 12 years of age. . . it was on my back yard basketball court. . . I realize this is ridiculously glamorous and you are all likely frothing at the mouth with jealousy- let me just say I'm deeply apologetic. . . but I was just born a rock star.

And on more serious topics. . . Let us review the  plethora of ways in which one may increase their pulse (By kissing, sickos!)
----> The ever exciting, but never deeply arousing, closed mouth kiss: typically associated with the first kiss, the good morning kiss, and the goodnight kiss, unless, ya know. . . *bow chica bow wow*
---->The somewhat more stimulating, DNA swapping event of the open mouth (without tongue) kiss: One of my favorites as it is romantic and arousing without taking the chance of having to keep a napkin or tissue product nearby on the chance that one must wipe goobish slobber off one's face.
---->The big time, seriously sexy French kiss: The kiss that can take a "kinda" couple to a "full blown" couple, the kiss that has started  dances of baby making, the kiss that every girl wants to have be that effortless combination of perfectly innocent and insanely sexy, the kiss to end all kisses, people.
---->The perfectly cute, always acceptable cheek kiss: not typically handed out by boys once they hit puberty, but often bestowed upon precious babes with delicious, fat cheeks, and sometimes appearing in wedding albums as an innocent photo op between the bride and groom.
---->The "every girl wants, dreams, and hopes for" forehead kiss: Listen up, dudes: Chicks DIG this. . . kiss her on the forehead and you'll likely win a second date (as long as you weren't, ya know, a total jack wagon, sloppy eater, sexist pig). . . The forehead kiss is special, intimate, and comforting. Ahem- you're welcome, fellas.
---->The cold weather warmer, precious picture moment, Eskimo kiss: I love the Eskimo kiss. . . I taught this to Belle and B and they are the most special kisses one can receive. . . I may be corny, but an Eskimo kiss melts my heart. Quit judging me, people.

I'm a big believer in kissing (And what girl wouldn't be? Aurora was brought back to life by a kiss, as was Snow White, frogs turn to princes with a kiss, and I have yet to see a single moment in motion picture in which some sort of symphony did not occur when lips are locked). . . I enjoy it greatly, even if I haven't done it in a while. . . but I'm not bitter. . . Really!  

So whether you are a closed mouth-er, an open mouth-er, a French-er, or of the more innocent variety, always remember that kisses are magical, they spice things up, slow speech down, and quicken a heart in seconds flat.

Girls- make sure your guy knows how you enjoy being kissed. . . and make sure it happens a lot
Guys- a girl will tremble like farted in water if you touch her face while you're putting your lips on hers

So, what's your favorite kind of kiss? Got it? Now go lay a smooch on somebody cute!

-Stephi D.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Season of Love. . . and Other Magical Things

"It's the most wonderful time of the year. . ."

What do you love most about Christmas? What are your favorite Christmas traditions? What does Christmas mean to you? These are always common questions this time of year and I have been reflecting on them quite a bit the last few days. . . so I shall share...

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about what hot pink Mattel items would be under the tree with my name on them. . . at 24 Christmas is all about find meaningful, memorable gifts for the people I love.

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about being the first one up, to wake everyone else up, and be annoyed when mom and dad made me wait for coffee making, picture taking, bathroom breaking nonsense. . . at 24 Christmas is all about being the first one up, to wake every else up, and be annoyed when mom and dad make me wait for coffee making, picture taking, bathroom breaking nonsense. (Some things just never change, I guess.)

When I was a little girl Christmas Eve was all about fighting sleep, waiting for sleigh bells in the distance, and sneaking a peek at the gifts under the tree way before mommy and daddy knew I saw. . . at 24 Christmas Eve is all about church service with my family, a long, laughter filled dinner out, remembering the man who gave me the greatest woman I know, and wrapping all the gifts the men in my life effortlessly purchase, but are helpless to wrap themselves.

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about ripping through gifts and counting down until we got to go to grandma's house for the rest of the day/night. . . at 24 Christmas is all about opening gifts, watching eyes light up and tears roll down cheeks, and a big breakfast prepared by my gorgeous mom. . . and counting down until we get to go to grandma's house for the rest of the day/night.

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about packing into Daddy's truck, picking out a live tree together, and singing carols accapella on the way home. . . at 24 Christmas is all about the guys picking the perfect tree, Mommy and I decorating it, and having the fresh evergreen smell in our home for the holiday season.

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about what I was getting, not what everyone else was getting. . . at 24 Christmas is all about the joy I get from watching my loves open things they would never buy for themselves. . . and still a little about getting wonderfully thoughtful gifts for myself.

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about Grandpy telling us to "quit the damn passing and get to eating" at the dinner table, matching pajamas and pictures on the stairwell, and falling asleep on the living room floor surrounded by cousins and love. . . at 24 Christmas is all about making sure wreaths are placed at certain markers in a cemetery in Casstown, quieter, but still gorgeous and joyful, family dinners, and laughing about Christmases passed when we thought we'd have a million more all together.

When I was a little girl Christmas was all about being with my mommy, my daddy, my brother, and as many family members we could get to visit Ohio. . . at 24 Christmas is all about being with my mommy, my daddy, my brother, and as many family members we can get to visit Ohio, and when they can't make it, phone calls, text messages, and the realization that love is undeniably eternal- no matter the miles, both earth and heaven bound.

Christmas is the time of year to remember how very lucky we are for life and the opportunities we are given each and every new year. Christmas is about laughing with family, loving through indiscretions, and remembering the true reason for the season- not physical presents, but simple blessings.

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year and as I've grown, my reasons have fluctuated and changed (even if I still do LOVE getting presents) but this year, there are a few things I hope to remember to carry with me on the way to 2012:
Love the people around you, cherish the time you have, laugh as much as you can, tell your family how much they matter to you, and remember- today is a gift, tomorrow is never guaranteed, and if it weren't for Christ, we'd have no reason for CHRISTmas.

Christmas was, is, will always be about my family, the love I have for the people in my life, and rejoicing in the sweet victory of another day to touch a person's life.
So put your Santa hat on, believe in magic, and love the people around you. . . because there is a reason for the season. . . and He's kept you around to celebrate.

What does Christmas mean to you?

-Stephi D.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Heart's Road Map

If your heart were this page, whose hand prints and fingerprints would be covering it? Would it be full with little white space left? Would it be a selection of only the finest hand prints around? Would it be colorful or a monochromatic mile map of significant moments of your existence?

If this page were my heart, the deepest layer of it would be beautiful fingerprints of teals and turquoise from my first days wrapped up in hospital blankets in my mom's arms. There would be polka-dotted scenes in hot pink with traces of glitter from those three years I was an only child. I'm sure somewhere in there there would be John Deere green and Carhartt brown from the little brother that drove me crazy but was always around anyway. . .

If this page were my heart you would see black and white spots from pre school conversations with friends that still touch my life today, yellows and greens from car drives to Rainbow Gymnastics with Jenna, and warm, soft pinks from shopping trips with Gran, sleep overs with Aunts from far away, and late night readings of Charlotte's Web in a perfect, canopy bed.

There would be prints of blue from the little girl I thought was my best friend, but ended up teaching me what a best friend actually wasn't instead. There would be full hand prints from that dreaded 4th grade teacher who ended up changing my life for the better, fingerprints from that boy who was my first kiss and still is who I measure every guy by. . . as what I do not ever want to be with, again.

There's likely multiple hand prints of gorgeous parents that never let their love fade for their only daughter, growing hand prints of the younger brother I couldn't help but like, in the end. You will see fast fading fingerprints of friends I thought would last forever and vibrant hand prints of souls that mine would drowned without- new and old.

There are sure to be tiny hand prints from Christopher when he called me 'Tet,' Belle and Braden's beautiful prints would trace a fast, concrete map to the center of my heart, and Max and Joseph's would trace the outline of my heart- as they are part of the loud entity that created my life.

If this page were my heart there would be few spaces found between all the hand prints, fingerprints, and traces of people who make the surface of the only organ that can keep you alive long after it's been broken; the only organ that is sure to melt when blue eyed blondes look right in your eyes and whisper "hey, Stephi! Love you;" the only organ that takes the most hits, endures the most strain, swells from great pride, and continues to pump in your chest cavity, allow goosebumps to stain the surface of your skin, make sure your body registers when all these experiences mean something.

 If this page were my heart- somewhere you would likely find your fingerprints because somehow, some way, you've touched my life, you've kissed my cheek, you've taught me a lesson. If this page were my heart- somewhere you would likely find your fingerprints because somehow, some way, you've left an impression.

If this page were my heart it would be covered in red- it would be covered in love- built by fingerprints who map out my soul.

Go leave your fingerprints on some one's heart today. . . and paint it a rainbow.

-Stephi D.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Aaaaaand SCENE!

Here's a little secret about me, guys. . . I keep everything. Some things kept are highly unnecessary, others are fun to come back across. Among items that are fun to look back over are writing prompts from previous creative writing classes I've taken. I'm going to share one with you. . . The prompt was simply to write about a room- there were no other points of criteria, so naturally I took it to an inappropriate level . . . I think I could potentially have a run at raunchy romance novels. . . Look out, Danielle Steel!

Here's a room I'd love to walk into:

I was meandering down the hall and saw the door barely cracked. There was a "do not disturb" sign hanging from the ornate, gold handle. Was someone in there? Were they okay?

I walked up to the door and listened- French music- slow and seductive- played from within. I tapped lightly with the knuckle of my index finger; no answer. I knocked a bit harder. . . still, no answer.

My pulse quickened- what if someone had swallowed too many white tablets from an old, orange bottle? I slowly eased the door open-
"He-hello?" I whispered.
I put my body in the room. . . I saw that the music was coming from a CD player in the corner.

There was a soft, billowing haze that hovered and permeated the room that was likely the result of the two lit cigarettes in each ash tray on either nightstand. I stepped over clothing and took a drag off the cool, menthol Marlboro.

The bed smelled of lust, of sweat. The room was swampy with humidity. The sheets of the bed were rumpled and pulled off the corners.

I stepped into the bathroom. Nothing there but a tube of red lipstick and the white, collared, dress shirt it stained.

The French music played on, the cigarettes ceaselessly burned. I stepped back out of the room, brought the door to a near close.

I touched the cheap, plastic sign. . . Do Not Disturb, indeed.

What kind of room would you meander into, if you could?

-Stephi D.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

There's Something About a Woman. . .

As an aspiring writer there are many things I enjoy about reading a good book, becoming educated by an article, coming across a single quote. . . one of the greatest enjoyments I get out of reading is the ways in which characters, women specifically, are described. Words are extremely powerful and have a way of moving me in a way that actions sometimes lack. The quote below moved me in an indescribable way. . . to tears, to an increased pulse, to aspire to write better:

“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” -John Green Looking for Alaska

So, here's my question- if you could be written- your character, your looks, your actions, what you mean to people- how would you want to be written?
In a perfect world, this is how someone would write me. . . in a perfect world, this is how you would see me, perceive me, write me:

She sits with her back to me. The chair in which she is perched is heavy, gold and bronze, and with thick padded straw pieces making up the cushion for the bottom. She is curled up within herself; one leg under her butt and the other folded as she delicately rests the chin of her heart-shaped face on her knee.
Her hair is an exquisite mess; piled high on top her head in what looks to be an effortless masterpiece. What makes it so lovely is that her hair is far too short, so although there are brown and black bobby pins sporadically placed throughout, her silky, shiny hair falls in delicate tendrils all about her face.
She stares at the white screen, the cursor blinks- taunting, bullying. She shifts herself, raises her hands above her head, revealing skin that begs to be traced,  then reaches for the sweating glass of iced tea on the desk; She brings the tall glass to her full, parted lips and takes a swallow of the refreshing brew.
She softly hums and drums the chipped, red polished fingernails upon the arm of the chair. I don't know what the tune is, but it is so sweet a tune she deserves a harpist in accompaniment.
I watch as she turns her neck, her eyes meet mine- a gift in the form of a smile. . .
She returns to face the daunting task of a game of concentration against that God forsaken cursor. . . A long lock of hair falls swiftly from the arrayed birds' nest atop her head.
Her hands move to the keyboard. . . A life is born.

Would you be sexy? Would you be sweet? Would your author write you as untouchable? As irresistible? As irreplaceable?

I am a firm believer in the written word, clearly, and I can assure you that every author in existence has fallen in love and written that love in a story. . . at least once. I can also assure you that a woman's curves, the luxurious purr of her voice, the way her tongue might feel inside your mouth- it's going to be softer, sexier, and more erotic on a page than spoken across telephone wires. The way you're shaken to the core with adoration for your beloved? More lovely written on college ruled notebook paper than whispered in an ear.

Words are powerful, meaningful, forever. So- shake some one's core- write them a love letter. Quicken a pulse- write about what you want to do to your lover tomorrow night. Make an impression- create a journal out of fragments of moments that took your breath away, out of the plethora of dimensions that are in the iris of her eye, out of the simple things that that person does to make your toes curl, heighten your senses, make them that person.

In a perfect world, when someone would write me, this is what the reader would learn about me: I'm a writer, I'm special, I am unforgettable, irreplaceable, a core shaker.

Your turn . . .

-Stephi D.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Little Princesses

I was watching a Christmas version of Beauty and the Beast earlier with Braden and he said, "there are two Belles, Stephi, one is a princess and one is my sister" and I said, "B, your sister is a princess, too.. all girls are" He looked at me, smiled and said. . . "you're right, Stephi." I really wish it was this easy to convince everyone, especially other girls that all girls are princesses.

When I was in elementary school I thought I had myself a tied and true best friend. We did everything together and I just knew we would be friends forever. I was wrong. There came a time when she just completely stopped speaking to me for no clear reason and I was devastated. I remember going home to my mom and crying and begging for her to tell me what I possibly could have done wrong. She never had the answer to that question, but she always made me feel totally loved, totally wanted, and totally like a princess. I was very fortunate to have made wonderful friends at a reasonably young age and am still able to call them friends. Some I don't talk to weekly, or even monthly, and some I am lucky to see every six months, but I know they are my friends and they are true ones at that.

As a nanny I get to watch two beautiful kids grow and come more into themselves, I get to watch them play and maintain a freedom I have come to envy, but I also get to watch a precious little girl get off the bus and, on some days, it is not with as big of a smile as she possesses. I know from conversation and simply watching interaction that she is experiencing some of the disappointment I remember with a fondness that is lacking.

Looking back on those memories, watching a little girl grow, and knowing what I know at 24, I maintain, without a doubt, that there are few things harder than being a little girl growing wings, a young adult coming into puberty, or a young woman getting comfortable in her own skin. I was lucky enough to have a mom that told me how fabulous I was every time I needed to hear it and Belle is lucky to have a mom that does the same for her, but as many of you know, sometimes that just isn't enough. It is a hard thing to go to school and not be sure of whom you will be sitting with in the cafeteria, it is a hard thing not knowing if you will be invited to a slumber party/birthday celebration that everyone is anticipating, it is a hard thing to be a little girl.

I am not a mom, but I love Belle like a little sister. So when I get the sense that she is experiencing pain, when I hear stories of school friends being unfair, when I know exactly how it feels to feel left out I want to hold her, I want to protect her, and I want to make sure she knows that as long as she keeps smiling and letting her pretty, blue eyes light up- she will meet the girls that will prove their loyalty to her, she will meet the girls who will stand behind her when she's being mistreated, she will meet the girls who will likely end up in her wedding 20 years from now.

I am not a mom, but I am a girl. I am a girl who was once a smaller version of who you know now; I am a girl who thought she found a friend for life in that first grade class but ended up being disappointed; I am a girl who was told everyday how special she was, how priceless she was, and how loved she was. And I'm still that girl- the girl who is self-conscious around new people, the girl who is shy until you get to know me, the girl who wants to do everything but disappoint the people around me. I am the girl who still gets told everyday how special I am, how priceless I am, how loved I am. Some of you may not hear this everyday, and I am sorry. Know that there are parts of you that can never be duplicated, never be replaced, never be forgotten.

I guess what I want out of this blog post most of all is for all the girls out there to realize a few things. . .
*We set the tone for how our peers will treat us- be kind and smile- even in the scariest faces of adversity because, although it may not seem it now, it will pay off for you in the end.
*Be aware of what others may be going through. Life is rough for everyone. . . just in different ways. A smile from you can change someone's entire outlook.
*Everyone needs a friend.
*You are a princess, I am a princess, we are all princesses. From our hair to our toes, inside and out, front to back. And if you are reading this and this concept hasn't occurred to you then soak it up, take it in, meditate on it. Because every little girl deserves to be told she's wonderful, every little girl deserves to come out of adolescence as unscathed as possible, every little girl deserves to grow up and be a woman who knows her worth, who understands the effects she has on others, and who raises little princesses of her own.

So, tell the next girl you see she's precious, stick a Post-It on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself you're beautiful, be aware that being a princess is so much more than 'Happily Ever After' and great hair, and make sure the little eyes and ears around you know that kind words will change lives, real friends are forever, and everyone deserves to know they are someone.

Treat yourself to a princess day, today. . . and everyday.

-Stephi D.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Fair Lady. . . Or Yours, If You're Lucky

So, here's the deal, lovers- I am far from perfect in the relationship department. . . in fact I have a few failures under my belt, but as some of you know I am opinionated. . . a little. And there has been something on my mind for a while now. . . and I believe it's time to share it with the world. . . also known as my "friends list" on Facebook.

It is 2011 and I am 24 years of age, but over the last year I feel as if I have reversed the years by many and increased my age by plenty. Why, you ask? Let me give you a little back story. . .

Until two years ago I was in a relationship that lasted four years. It began in my Senior year of high school and he was three years younger than me. When the time came and we parted ways, I found myself in my twenties having never actually dated a boy in his twenties. . . and this realization hit me like a mack truck; it left me breathless; it fucking terrified me. So what did I do? I set out to date a boy in his twenties. . . it was not a pretty time, folks. The air was thick and saucy with desperation. I would think a guy was cute and commence into full throttle Facebook stalk-age, trying to figure out if he was in a relationship, and clearly, it all led nowhere because I was being ridiculous and clingy and weird. In the event of a guy actually taking an interest in me and giving me his number, I would find reasons to text him on a regular basis- trying to find out what he was doing, whom he was with, and how late he would be out. It never ended well, I never got asked out on dates, and eventually they would end up not answering my text messages. I, ladies and gentlemen, was a hot, scary, terrified mess.

In the last year, over many pep talks, prayers to Jesus, and therapeutic writing on this blog, I realized that I need not Facebook stalk or cell phone creep. . . because I am worth more than chasing some dude around. Can I get a hell yea?

Ladies, it is 2011 and guys. . .well some of them have gotten lazy (sorry, fellas. . . bear with me, please.) Just because our T.V.s are in color now, and not black and white, just because girls wear jeans, and not corsets with fine, lacy dresses, just because it's the modern day and texting is the new communication norm, girls are ballsier than ever, and flowers are not a first date must, it does not mean that guys get to say "let's kick it sometime" and then wait on you to set up the plans. I have experienced this very situation recently and I am here to tell you, and him if he's reading, I am sticking to my guns, baby.

It is 2011 and here are my new rules when it comes to dating: If you are interested in me, make sure to "friend" me on the Internet, make sure we have each other's numbers, but never specifically set up a time to take me to dinner, call me to talk, or look at me outside of a club- you will continue to be interested in me and not take me to dinner, call me to talk, or look at me outside of a club. Because I am a lady; I may say fuck more times than your dirty uncle Leonard, I might flirt with you openly, in public, after a couple beers, and I may text you from time to time to say, and I quote, "I hope you're having a good week!" but I am a lady. I want you to work for my time, I want you to call me and get to know me, I want you to take the time to set up an afternoon or evening in which we can communicate when there is not LMFAO singing "I'm sexy and I know it" in the background, when there is not liquor being dumped down my back, when there is not alcohol present to make us both "braver."

I am confident that this will work out for the both of us, in the end, because how many guys really want  a girl who is always right there, always texting him to say what's up, always chasing after him instead of looking over her shoulder with a look that says 'come hither' ? Clearly not that many because last year I was that girl. . . and it was lonely. I am confident that if I enter into a relationship making sure you know that, at my core, I am a girl who wants to feel like a princess, I am a girl who wants to be swept off her feet, I am a girl who is aware that it is 2011, but sees no issue with you opening my car doors, showing up with a flower from time to time, and you know. . . acting like you actually enjoy pursuing me, getting to know me, making some plans - a very solid relationship has the capability of growing.

I realize that every girl reading this is not going to agree with me. I am sure there are some girls out there who can walk into a room, point at a guy, and it all be done, unfortunately God did not think it would be fair to give me the eyelashes I have and this trait. . . so I simply have good eyelashes- therefore I do not have the option of walking into a room and owning it in any way I see fit. I realize that some ladies like being the ones to take charge, set up plans, and make the moves. . . and on the real, more power to you. . . rock on- I value the ways in which you work. I just wish guys realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with romancing a girl from time to time.

I take no issue, once I'm in a relationship, at calling first or suggesting a date night, but right now? Before you know my favorite color, that my eyes are green most of the time, but all the time, that Drops of Jupiter is my all time favorite song, but I can rap with Wayne like I'm Nicki Minaj- you should be the one to set up a date night and call me first. . . because I want to be the old married lady with a husband that still thinks I'm a rock star after 50 years, I want to be the girl who has a guy that adores her and wants everyone to know it, I want to be courted. And I don't think what year it is has a god damn thing to do with it.

It is 2011 and I am 24 years of age. I am also single, but because I am standing my ground, telling you what I want, and knowing what I deserve- I won't be single forever, and when I'm no longer single. . . it'll be just right.

Ladies- make sure he knows he's damn lucky to have you on his arm, make sure he knows how a real man treats a real lady, and make sure you're both aware of how priceless your heart is.

Gents- make sure she knows you want to be a part of her life, make sure she knows you know you're lucky to be there, and for heaven's sake- open her car door, tell her she smells good, and buy her a friggin rose from time to time!

Whether you are a girl who loves to chase or a girl who wants to be chased; whether you are a guy who likes a forward girl or a guy who likes to make the moves- make sure you know what you each deserve and realize that, even though it's 2011, a girl always hopes for a little fairy-tale. . . and she deserves that, too.

-Stephi D.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So This is Love. . .

Let's talk about this. . . When did you realize you truly knew and understood the concept of love, as it is described above? I don't know that this is the definition by which everyone else operates under for the meaning of love, but this is truly, quite, almost, exactly what I believe love to be.

When I was in 6th grade, I thought I knew what love was. In 6th grade love was me thinking a boy was cute, going to the movies with him on the weekends, and letting him kiss me in the back seat of my mom's car. I also happened to think that love meant being insanely jealous, controlling, and mean to get your way. It is very sad, at 24, to look back and think that for so many years, that was the idea I had about love. When exactly did I stop believing in the prince that swept me off my feet with adoration and start to believe in a guy who would threaten to "kick the ass" of any other guy who looked or spoke to me in a way that he saw unfit?

When I was a freshman, I thought love was staying with a guy, whether I was truly happy or not, because he told me he loved me, he called me beautiful, and he bought me a "promise ring." I also happened to think that when a guy was there through one of the single most difficult times of your life, he deserved to have my whole heart, no matter what I was neglecting in myself in the meantime. It is difficult to look back on that time in my life and realize that I had so effortlessly convinced myself that because someone withstood the pain and sadness I was going through, I didn't deserve any better but him. When did I stop believing in a unified happiness between two people and start to believe that not hurting  someone else was more important than me being happy, period?

When I was a junior, I thought love was giving myself to someone in a way no one else had experienced me. I also thought love was finding a best friend in someone and convincing myself it was the kind of relationship, the real, true love I'd always dreamed of. It is interesting to look back at this time in my life, at the person I gave myself to, and know that while I will never regret it, I may have been too quick to decide who received me in that way. . . and as a result, try to make some long lasting love out of it. When did I stop believing in the fiery passion that overtook your senses and start to believe that love was something you had to make fiery and passionate?

As a senior, I thought love was starting a relationship with honesty, taking things slow, and getting to know someone on their level. I also thought that after four years with one person, planning the house we would build together, naming our hypothetical children together, deciding the ways in which we would save money together, love was being able to step back and realize that I may not be everything he needs me to be, I may be the cause of more than a few fights between he and his parents, I may be who he think he's supposed to marry because I've been his first and only girlfriend. Love was being able to look myself in the mirror and recognize that I was never going to be athletic like he wanted me to be, I was never going to be patient enough to handle the child he still harboured inside, and I was never going to be able to overlook people that had hurt him in his life that he would one day need to forgive, in order to heal.

As a junior in college I knew love was loving someone enough to know that even though this relationship was far from being over, it needed to end. . . because we were both putting too much of ourselves into the each other when we needed to be putting a lot more of ourselves into ourselves.

At 24 I know that love, real love, is recognizing when someone you love may not be the right person for you. Real love is wanting some one's happiness, whether that happiness is at your hands or someone else's. Real love is knowing when you need to step back, when you need to give someone their freedom, and when  you need to learn to love yourself so that when the right person comes along, you can give them everything and it will be right. 

No one ever said love was easy and I am pretty sure that even when it's right there are going to be times you want out, but I'm willing to bet that the same person that said it wasn't easy also mentioned that love was totally worth it. So whether you're in 6th grade and love means jealousy to you, you're a freshman and love means sticking it out even if it's not exactly where you want to be, you're a junior and love means going where you've never gone before with someone, you're a senior in high school and love means taking it slow and being honest, or you're in college and 24 and love means walking away from someone you thought held your future in their eyes . . . get to know you and before you give yourself to someone, take it slow, or quick, and start planning a future, make sure you're in love with yourself. Because if you aren't happy and in love with you, being happy and in love with someone else will never work.

Please know that real love is faithful, patient, and never jealous. Please know that real love is unforgettable, heart skipping beats, world on fire amazing. Please know that real love starts at home, when you look in the mirror and know exactly what you're worth and what you deserve.

-Stephi D.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Calling all Book Worms!

As a self proclaimed book worm and great lover of the Christmas season I have decided to dedicate today's blog to listing my top ten favorite books that you MUST read, or share as gifts! Here we go:

1. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

 The general synopsis of this book is about two unmarried adult siblings, Marilla and Matthew, that are getting older. They live on Green Gables in Prince Edward Island. They decide to adopt an orphan boy in order to help Matthew with farm work. When Matthew shows up at the train station to pick up the orphan boy he finds a freckled, red headed little girl by the name of Anne Shirley. Her spunk and talkative ways charm Matthew and he talks Marilla into keeping her. This first book in the series recount Anne becoming familiar with Greene Gables, meeting friends, and growing up.
I read this book for the first time in the 3rd or 4th grade and have re read it multiple times since then. It is considered a children's book, but I never cease to thoroughly enjoy it. When I am reading this book, I become Anne, I find myself totally enamoured with the White Way of Delight, I am "bosom friends" with Diana, and I thoroughly detest Gilbert Blythe. It is a beautiful coming of age story and remains my most favorite book of all time.

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
 In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't. 
This book blew my mind. I didn't read it as soon as it came out. . . I actually didn't read it until my gran recommended it and I read a review for the movie. The characters are rich with believable antics, voices, and memorable personalities. I find Stockett to be brave beyond belief at writing such a thought provoking, core shaking novel. I couldn't put it down and when I finished, I felt sad. I did see the movie, which was particularly good for a book adaptation, but as always, the screen cannot do justice to the words. This is a book about equality and recognizing that we are all from the same original fabric, no matter our color or social status.

3. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Jacob was there because his luck had run out – orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive “ship of fools”. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act – in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.         
This book was absolutely incredible. The ending is both astonishing and breath taking and totally unexpected. Although this novel is a love story between a man and a woman it is also a love story between humans and animals. It is a story that makes the reader aware of animal cruelty, human cruelty, and what it takes for hearts of all shapes and sizes to heal. Again, I could not put it down and recommend it to as many people as I can. Do not just see the movie. . . the book is more than worth the time and money.

4. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

 Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now.
Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister - and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?
 This was the first book I read by Jodi Picoult, and as many of you know, she is now my favorite author of all friggin time. No one writes quite like Picoult and I've never read stories or characters that resonate with me quite like Picoult's. My Sister's Keeper is the first book that ever truly made me sob. I'm not talking a quiet trickle of tears, I am talking full on, shoulder shaking, breath gasping, sobs. This is a story about the love of siblings and when a young child learns that everything their parents say and do is not, in fact, always right. It is not a happy ending type of book, but I promise you these characters and this story will remain with you long after you turn the last page.

5. Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
  In this novel, Jodi Picoult interweaves five rich narrative voices to tell a story of love, loss, and self-discovery. The voices belong to a mother, her daughter, and three very different men.
Jane had always lived in somebody's shadow. Escaping a childhood of abuse by marrying oceanographer Oliver Jones, she finds herself taking second place to his increasingly successful career. However, when her daughter Rebecca is slighted, Jane's dramatic stand takes them all by surprise.
Leaving Oliver and his whale tapes behind in San Diego, Jane and Rebecca set out to drive across America to Uncle Joley and the sanctuary of the Massachusetts apple orchard where he works. Joley directs Jane across the United States in a series of letters waiting for her in designated post offices. Each letter gives concise directions to the next post office; each letter provides Jane with a chance to reflect on her forgotten past.
Oliver, used to tracking male humpback whales across vast oceans, now has the task of tracking his tantalizingly unpredictable wife across a continent. To do so he must learn to see the world-- and even himself-- through her eyes.
Songs of the Humpback Whale is a powerful and sensitive novel of family life that questions how songs are passed down from male speaker to male speaker, but also examines the female tradition of listening that women unconsciously pass on to their daughters.

Once again, Picoult left me speechless (as many of you know, this is a difficult task) with this heartbreaking novel about relationships between parents and children, first loves, and deciding when enough is enough and when to hold on a little bit longer. Again, this is not a fairy tale ending type of book, but the language took my breath away and there is a scene towards the end of the book in which the protagonist's daughter is described as "trying to rip her heart out" that made me weep and became a line I always come back to.

6. Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler

One fall night off the coast of a remote island in Nova Scotia, an airplane plummets to the sea as an innkeeper watches from the shore. Miles away in New York City, ornithologist Ana Gathreaux works in a darkened room full of sparrows, testing their migratory instincts. Soon, Ana will be bound for Trachis Island, along with other relatives of victims who converge on the site of the tragedy. As the search for survivors envelops the island, the mourning families gather at the inn, waiting for news of those they have lost. Here among strangers, and watched over by innkeeper Kevin Gearns, they form an unusual community, struggling for comfort and consolation. A Taiwanese couple sets out fruit for their daughter's ghost. A Bulgarian man plays piano in the dark, sending the music to his lost wife, a cellist. Two Dutch teenagers, a brother and sister, rage against their parents' death. An Iranian exile, mourning his niece, recites the Persian tales that carry the wisdom of centuries.
At the center of "Birds in Fall" lies Ana Gathreaux, whose story Brad Kessler tells with deep compassion: from her days in the field with her husband, observing and banding migratory birds, to her enduring grief and gradual reengagement with life.
Kessler's knowledge of the natural world, music, and myth enriches every page of this hauntingly beautiful and moving novel about solitude, love, losing your way, and finding something like home.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kessler at Wright State when he did a reading for one of my Creative Writing classes. He did a reading from another book, but while he was reading I felt as though I was experiencing a religion. Kessler is eloquently beautiful with words and I was mesmerized. I received this book as a gift and it remains one of the most delicious pieces of fiction I've ever laid eyes on. It truly is a story about the human condition and the devestation that happens when we are reminded of our human-ness. This is a beautiful book.

7. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

Sarah Dessen is my favorite YA author. She writes both humor and emotion with astute clarity and every character and story that has her name on it is believable and relative. I think this is my most favorite Dessen novel because it is all about coming into your own skin and liking what you see and feel. Colie gives voice to every young girl's insecurities and to their wishes and desires.

8. Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big; or, Why Pie is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster
 Are you tired of books where the self-loathing heroine is teased to the point where she starves herself tiny in hopes of a fabulous new life?  Do you hate the message that we women can't possibly be happy until we fit into our skinny jeans? 
Yeah?  Well, Jen Lancaster is, too. 
 Jen doesn't find stories like this uplifting; rather, they make her want to hug these women and take them out for fizzy champagne drinks and cheesecake and explain to them that until they figure out their insides, their outsides don't matter.
Unfortunately, being overweight isn't simply a societal issue that can be fixed with a dose of positive self-esteem. 
 It's a health matter, so on the eve of Jen's 40th birthday she decides to make changes so she doesn't, you know, die.  Because what good is finally being able to afford a pedicure if she loses a foot to adult onset diabetes?

 This book. . . is batshit crazy funny. I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. She is everything I love: sarcastic, negative, loves food, and hell bent on being heard. I love this book, I love this author. Go get it. NOW.

9. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey.
But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.
 Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

I totally stumbled upon this book by accident at Wal-Mart and I am so incredibly bad I did. This novel is beyond amazing as it follows a young woman during two of the most important and unforgettable times in a person's life: your first love and your first loss. I could not put this book down and I cannot wait for Jandy Nelson to write something else. This book is about growing up, growing into your skin, and learning to love it there.

10. Here on Earth  by Alice Hoffman

After nearly twenty years of living in California, March Murray, along with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, returns to the sleepy Massachusetts town where she grew up to attend the funeral of Judith Dale, the beloved housekeeper who raised her. Yet returning to her hometown also brings her back to Hollis, March's former soul mate and lover. March's father had taken the teenaged Hollis, an abandoned child, and the product of a series of detention homes, into his house as a boarder, and treated him like a son. Yet March and Hollis's passionate love was hardly a normal sibling relationship. When Hollis left her after a petty fight, March waited for him three long years, wondering what she had done wrong.
Encountering Hollis again makes March acutely aware of the choices that she has made, and the choices everyone around her has made--including Mrs. Dale, who knew more of love than March could ever have suspected, and her brother Alan, whose tragic history has left him grief-struck, with alcohol as his only solace. Her attraction to Hollis is overwhelming and March jeopardizes her marriage, her relationship with her daughter and her own happiness in an attempt to reclaim the past.

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors and this is by far her best book. It's all about first loves revisited and the toxicity that can accompany them. I don't even know if I can put into words why this book means so much to me, but it blew me away. She writes unforgettable fiction.

So, that's it, folks! My top ten books of all time. . . until I discover another amazing one! But seriously- these authors and books have touched my life, opened my eyes, and nestled inside my heart for one reason or another. . . and as an aspiring author, there is no higher goal than to have a blog written about the way I touch someone's life and heart with words. Please go read these books! Or share them. . .  Give someone a reason to fall in love with words.

-Stephi D.

*All book synopsis are from each author's website.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Table for Two, Please

You know those lists we all make. . . questions we need answers to before we decide if someone we are interested in will make the "cut." Okay, maybe you all don't have these lists, but I do. Questions like "what's your favorite ice cream flavor?" "if you could have any super power, what would it be and why?" "do you fold the toilet paper with the extra hanging over the roll or below it or, do you play it cool and have a nice basket of T.P. next to your toilet?" You know, the really important things one must know about a significant other. I always have many more questions of this caliber of importance, but there is a particular one I am very interested in knowing. . . because I am a naturally curious person: "if you could have dinner with anyone, alive or passed, who would it be and why?"
I think it is a fun, interesting question and will often lead to other conversation topics and has the potential for revealing more about their personalities than what they are actually saying to you. In thinking about this particular question I have decided I will answer it for you. . . but I will answer it by process of trial and error. Let's go.

An initial response would clearly be the always nerd-chic John Krasinski. I have admired him from a far for many a moon. . . but what sealed the deal on his sex symbol status was when he appeared as love sick best friend Ethan in "Something Borrowed." There really is nothing quite like a man who can sport low slung, tight in the ass, blue jeans and a lovable smile to get a bookworm's heart a pumpin'. That being said, John would not be my final choice for dinner date because of the following reasons: a). I am not in any way, shape, or form as scandalously smokin' hot as his wife, Emily Blunt. b). I would surely be carted off by some form of body guard/police officer/great protector of John seriously sexy Krasinski because I would just have to know whether he was of the boxer or brief wearing family. c). I am stupendously positive that in my great, amorous, not unhealthy at all, devotion to him I would surely bring the art of blubbering to an unparalleled height.

Another quick to name choice would be Natalie Portman. She is stylish, beautiful, and brilliant on screen, but she's also extremely intelligent and trained as a ballerina for Black Swan, I don't think I need to give you many more reasons as to why she would be an obvious choice. I could imagine us meeting at a very hip, but not mainstream, coffee shop that boasts their delicious soy and chai drinks. We would meet at a quiet table near the back of an outdoor patio. . . there would be umbrellas over the tables with different floral designs and with each purchase of a beverage one receives a small square chocolate. I am sure that conversation would be both eventful and stimulating and give me an insider's look on this well known woman's life and as much as I thoroughly enjoy this scene in my head, she will not end up as my final choice. . . here are a couple reasons: a). the bitch is skinny, beautiful, but skinny and I am. . . well, not. So there are strong chances I would order extra beverages just to receive the free chocolates and then feel like a complete lard as she would daintily nibble on a small corner of her square of chocolate, only to announce moments later she was "totally stuffed." b). She trained as a ballerina for Black Swan. I am not too proud to admit that, at 24, I still maintain glorious, fairy-tale like dreams in which I will dance in a beautifully created, lace tu-tu, center stage with toe shoes on, tiara and all. I fear that a meeting with the ever graceful Natalie Portman would bring a crashing reality check down on my childhood aspirations.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a strong infatuation with Marilyn Monroe. She was a bad ass lady, a total fox, and she got to swap spit with some good looking guys (what up, Frank Sinatra?) I think we would probably skip the meal, go straight to the bottles of wine, and talk about all the important things in life: lipstick, perfume, and what braziers make your girls say 'bonjour' the right boys. Although this would most clearly be the best girls night in existence, I fear Marilyn would not be my final choice, either. . . because: a). She was a blonde. . . I take that back. . . she was the blonde. No one rocked blonde like she did before her time and no one has yet to rock it like her since. I have an inferiority complex around blondes. They, apparently, have more fun, they tend to catch a fella's attention above any other hair color, and. . . well, I am just insecure. b). She's friggin Marilyn MONROE. c). My mother was named after Marilyn. As you all know, my mother is the cat's meow, the dog's tuxedo, the SHIZ. If I were to meet Ms. Monroe and realize she and my mother have nothing in common save their name, I don't believe I could handle it. Because, as far as I'm concerned, my mom is the best Marilyn around. . . so I'll just keep each of these lovelies on their separate, albeit high, pedestals.

As another male option, I would likely pick John Mayer as a gut reaction. Now, bear with me here. . . he is beautiful, his voice makes my knees shake, and any man who can play a guitar like that will jump right to the front of the line of what might make Stephi lose her shit and flash said sexy crooner. But, alas, Mr. Mayer. . . you will not have the pleasure of making my acquaintance. Here's why: a). That picture of you in People magazine in the neon green unitard that cupped your junk? So. Not. Sexy. b). I thoroughly maintain you are a giant dickwad, douchehound, son-of-a-bitch. Why did you say those things about Jessica and Jennifer in Playboy, huh? Who talks smack about Jennifer Aniston?! And Taylor Swift. Really, dude? She's an infant. . . why'd you have to go and mess her up (but kudos to T.Swift for rocking that song, "Dear John.") c). Because you are potentially the douchiest of douches, I would very much take pleasure in making you sing for me (acoustic, of course) my favorite song of yours, then proceed to throw a bow at your face and knee you in your genals. . . and really? I enjoy your voice far too much to risk you losing a testicle and somehow altering that. (I realize medically this may have no effect on his voice. . . but I think you see where I'm going with it, anyway.)

Now, as I am sure I have you all on the very edge of your seats, I will finally reveal to you who I would choose for my dinner partner for one night. Ready? Okay. . . my grandma Arlene.
For those of you who do not know, that is my mommy's mommy. Aside from never having met this glorious woman, there are various other reasons I would pick her above anyone else: a). I desperately wish I had anecdotes of when my mom was little. I know that Nana (that's what I would've called her) would have a ton of stories for me. b). My Nana used to make my mom's clothing. . . so I would've have handmade outfits, possibly formal dresses, and maybe someday a wedding dress that was crafted, in same way, by my grandmother's hands. c). She was elegant, sophisticated, and totally loving. I strongly believe she was exactly who my mom is. . . and who wouldn't want two of those people in their life? d) She would've looked at me and believed in everything I believe in, she would've been at all of the football and basketball games I cheered at, she would've ordered extra buttons, wallets, and 8x10 photographs to decorate her home with, she would've taught me a few things mom may have forgotten and we would've talked on the phone everyday. e). She's my history. And everyday since I've learned her name, I've missed her. A dinner with her would be like coming home. A dinner with her would never be enough time, but at least I would be able to memorize the lines in her face, the smell of her skin, the feeling her smile would cause to my heart.

So here's the deal. . . my favorite ice cream flavor? Mint chocolate chip. My choice super power? To fly. . . because it would bring me closer to God. My toilet paper situation? In a basket, because I'm far too lazy to replace the rolls on the wall. My dinner partner? My Nana. What does this say about me? Even through all the sarcasm, the fun, the knowledge about who was in what film, who wrote what book, and who dated whom in Hollywood- none of this really matters or says anything about the kind of girl I am, if you don't know my family. . . 'cause they're my roots, my beginning and ending, my motivation, my questions, but most importantly, my family. . . well they're my answers, above all- they are the answers to all the most important inquiries.

Who would you take to dinner, if you had your pick?

-Stephi D.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Write a Letter to Your Heart


It still comes as a surprise to me when I remember your true shape. All through elementary school I attempted to draw you perfectly, to cut you precisely. I never thought for a second you weren't that exact same shape fluttering inside the cavity of my chest.

I suppose this very well should be a letter of apology. Over the last 24 years I have put you under a lot of weight, put you under a lot of pressure. I've made you succumb to being audience to unconvincing soliloquies in front of bathroom mirrors, and made you a contender in matches of much more brutal and bloody battle fields.

I have overlooked how you may react in certain situations, I am also guilty of trying to let my brain crush you in a fencing match of who is wrong and who is right. In the end, you always proved your worth.

I lay flat on my back and watch my abdomen pulsate with your entity. . . You have always sped up at the right times, never allowing me to think something was right when we both were acutely aware of its inaccurate nature. Alas, that did not stop the cracks in your once seamless surface.

You are no longer whole. And that is where my fault lies. I have led us on long and tiring journeys. . . I have allowed you to be bruised more often than I should. I have always thought I was the leader in this co-operation, but I believe I have been wrong all this time.

You are the center of my existence, you are the internal melody of my instrument, you are the soul, the life of what makes me who I am.

I have harmed you and yet you stay true. I keep going back for more long after you make it infinitely clear you cannot possibly endure another second. I give you away too easily and always end up with far less of you than when I began. I am fearful I will not ever be able to make this up to you.

Please just know that after all this time, I realize it was only you and me from the start. . . Just you and me baby.

If you were to write a letter to your heart, what would you say?

-Stephi D.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Laugh a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Laughter: not just cheap medicine, but also known to be the best kind of medicine. Do you laugh a lot? Not just smirk, but full out belly laugh? With your mouth wide open, eyes scrunched up, head flung back in pure, un-embarrass-able joy? I try to. . . it's not always easy, sometimes I have to tell myself to quit with the tears and laugh out loud. . . but I really do try to. A lot.

And what does laughter look like to you? I know this seems like an odd question, but let me try to show you what laughter looks like to me. . . Laughter looks like my brother after a few brewskies, dancing to "Booty Work" in his well worn, bill bent into severe submission, camouflage, baseball hat. Laughter looks like my mom watching those creepy Target commercials with the crazy, blonde lady exercising with her present-filled, red shopping baskets and having tears pool and run down her face in glee. Laughter is chasing my curly-haired, perfectly complected, baby cousins around Gran's house while they squeal in delightful protest. Laughter looks like pictures from high school football games, impromptu photo shoots in a bedroom, and that look. . . ya know. . . where you appear as if you are attempting to sniff your upper lip, but you are actually thinking you look sexy and mysterious. . . yeah- laughter looks like three huge stacks of snapshots of my best friends and I doing that over, and over, and over, again.

And what does laughter sound like to you? Not sound as in, how does your actual laugh sound, but what are the sounds that provoke your laughter? To me. . . laughter sounds like a brilliantly sarcastic story being regaled by a particular family member I am told I resemble. Laughter sounds like Braden "beat boxing" in my back seat along to a Jay-Z song, Belle "teaching" a class in her "classroom," and the two of them scheming to convince me they fully deserve an ice cream treat from Holly's for snack. Laughter sounds like Lindsey and I talking in "that voice" that TJ is convinced I made up ( I did not), Emily and I planning how we will flirt with that hottie Steve at Red Robin, my deep, serious conversations with my mother in which I firmly tell her she knows nothing about my life, and locked and saved text messages with my brother in which I quote a lyric from a song and he returns with the next line. Laughter sounds like pig snorts, knee slaps, and smoker's coughs.

And how does laughter feel to you? Laughter feels like stomach cramps because I'm doubled over in pure, giddy pleasure. Laughter feels like little hands grabbing at my wrists to put a stop to the tickling they asked for in the first place. Laughter feels like bass pumping through my veins and a cold beer in my hand. Laughter feels like a warm room, anywhere my family is, sunshine on the crown of my head.

It has come to my attention that even on my saddest days, the hardest trials, the cloudiest horizons, I can find laughter welling up inside my chest, giggles over moments past that will never be forgotten, knee slaps in a chair that a great man used to occupy. Laughter is a memory taking place of a person that's never really gone, sunshine on a day in which there should be a down pour, "freeze frame-d" in rustic picture frames lining walls and crowding tables. Laughter is an epidemic for which there should never be a remedy, an ice cold elixir of magic available to all, even if you aren't 21, a tear-stopper, smile-inducer, acronym filled sentiment posted all over the world in mere seconds on Facebook. Laughter is something that looks good on everyone, sounds perfectly in tune to everyone, and never goes out of style.

Laughter can alter a mood, create an atmosphere, change a life. So on those days you can't seem to muster the energy for a smirk, think about that little guy you used to baby sit and the crazy antics he tried to pull; on the day you have to let someone go forever, remember the reasons they told you they loved your smile; on the days you're so pissed off you can't see straight, remember a car drive with your best friend from high school, that game you used to play with your cousins when you were kids, the night out last weekend that started too late, ended too early in a McDonald's parking lot, and is burnt in your memory for forever.

My laughter is loud, probably obnoxious, but surely unforgettable. . . and much like yours, it's contagious. So go spread it- like wildfire.

-Stephi D.