Monday, October 7, 2013

Meany Pants

I'm having one of those days where I'm losing all faith in mankind.  Walter White has gone Heisenberg, the waitress at the restaurant was as friendly as a scorpion, and the nightly news makes me want to hide in a padlocked closet with a box of extra crispy chicken wings.  Where's the love, people?  Where. Is. The. Damn. Love?

Even the kids at our local playground have been acting like assholes lately.  I had to physically remove Amelia from the jungle gym because a little girl tried to intentionally smash her head into a metal pole.  And I'll be damned if I have a craving again for Skittles---while leaving the American Store yesterday, I accidentally opened the door into an elderly man's face.  I had to cover Amelia's ears from the horrendous French curse words he spewed at me.  I didn't even have a chance to apologize for his bloody nose or offer him a taste of the rainbow before he stormed off in the other direction.

No one holds open doors.  No one offers their seat on the train to exhausted mothers who are carrying a baby and sixteen shopping bags filled with croissants and organic foreign crap because no one in this country appreciates processed foods like I do. I think I could change the entire attitude of the people with the simple introduction of Velveeta Cheese---if it can change my life, it can surely change theirs. 

I'm not suggesting we go all Mayberry on each other, but for a country who swaps three kisses on the cheek for each and every greeting, they sure lack in the hospitality department.  If you're gonna kiss me excessively, you could at least take me to dinner, right?

I'm even having issues with the neighbor's cat, George Clooney (yes, that's real life).  He climbs through our windows uninvited and makes himself at home.  I never thought I'd live to see the day when I kicked George Clooney out of my bedroom, but lo and behold, it's happened.  If we can't even get celebrity cats to mind their manners, then is there really any hope for the rest of us? 

I'm not asking for much, folks.  Just a little more, perhaps. More kindness.  More Velveeta.  A smile here and a smile there.  A few words of good cheer in this sad, sad world.  

Like the famous philosopher Britney Spears once said, just "gimme, gimme more".

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I've been called many things in my 27 years of life, but gym rat isn't one of them.  Though I usually align my workout schedule with that of the solar eclipse, I've learned I can tone these thunder thighs free of charge without ever stepping foot in a YMCA.   I present you the European Squat Toilet:

It also promotes weight loss from the vomiting it induces at the sheer thought of using it..
There are two things I am quite particular about: coffee and self-tanning lotion.  I like my coffee strong and in abundance---the same goes for my self-tanner.  On a recent road trip to Italy, my love for the two left me looking like a jaundiced zebra.

After downing two coffees between Switzerland and France, I was on the lookout for the nearest bathroom (or as they call it here, the Water Closet).  Matt pulled into a rest stop and out I hopped in my new patent leather pumps.

By now, most of my readers realize I suffer from extreme anxiety.  This anxiety is particularly heightened by raw poultry and public bathrooms.  Let me paint you all a quick scene: a chemically-imbalanced brain, a near-sterile pair of fantastic new heels, and a toilet IN which you literally stand. Now let's ponder this...

Yup, you've come to the right conclusion, folks: full on mental meltdown.  I'm in tears at this point as I've just encountered one of my biggest OCD triggers. Quite the conundrum we have here: I badly must pee and we still have three hours of driving time.  Also, if you know much about European interstates, you'll know there aren't rows and rows of fast food restaurants with available toilets at every exit.  When ya find a place to go, then ya better start your flow. 

I consider my options. I could always pee in a bush---this  worked out just fine in college.  However, I am now more fearful of  legal ramifications, and the thought of an indecent exposure ticket and an arrest record trump my fear of MRSA-laced squat toilets.  For a quick, irrational second, I consider strapping on one of Amelia's Elmo diapers, but I then remember that I am a civilized member of society and civilized members pee in toilets.

I elbow the stall door shut and peer down at the gaping hole in the ground.  My teary eyes convince me that it's winking at me; taunting the last of my frayed nerves. 

The whole process is quick and ugly.  Fortunately I am donning a skirt so at least I've got that going for me.  I close my eyes and scream through the whole ordeal, and by the time my vocal cords start aching, I realize I've peed down both of my legs and onto my fancy new shoes.

I bow my head in shame and waddle back to the car. There are vertical stripes streaking my legs from what was once my self-tanner and vertical stripes streaking my face from what was once my mascara.  I lay a towel across the passenger seat and place my heels in a plastic grocery bag.  Because my husband thinks he's clever and  because every scenario needs a little pun, he smiles and asks, "Why the pissy mood?" 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Ick Factor

Like the proverbial tree in the forest, I feel that if I don't share some of this insanity, then it's not really happening. If you don't hear my screams all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, then did I really see an old man's scrotum peek out of his speedos at the pool?

While I have no objection to the male genitalia, I also like to enjoy my ice cream sans nuts.  Positioned quite comfortably on my beach towel,  I simply turned my head to find another view when I locked eyes with a woman breastfeeding in the shallow end.  Yup, two massive, veiny boobs and a baby sucking away right in the middle of an intense game of water tag. 

Shocking, I know

Now Switzerland, riddle me this: it's considered rude to mow our lawns on Sundays, but we're ok with boobs and balls joining our family swim?

What's that, readers? You heard another faint scream from that seashell on your dresser? Yup, that would be me at the market, trying to comprehend why this little boy is eating the crushed ice from the raw fish display.  He is literally grabbing handfuls of blood-tinged ice and sucking each morsel with glee while his mother looks on with indifference.

Perhaps I am just an over-observant American, but I can't help but want to make a scene.  Lady, your son is feasting on bacteria-ridden ice and fish guts. I hate to break it to your free spirit, but that ain't sushi!

Ok, deep breath. Rant over for the day.  It's simply impossible not to recognize cultural differences with every European step I take.  They love their food raw and their bodies rawer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mama, Interrupted

I think I may be in a bit of a slump.

Not the 'can't crawl out of bed', 'fifth of whiskey on the nightstand' type slump, but more like the stay-at-home-mama blues.  Perhaps the days seem extraordinarily long since my husband is away in Romania and I have no one to talk to but the neighbor's temperamental horse.  Or may because Amelia is sick with a cold and refusing to sleep, my patience is wearing extremely thin.  

Whether I be explaining in my adorable baby voice why she can't swim alone in the deep end or counting down the minutes until Amelia takes her comically short nap, I am feeling the guilt and pressure of not being the peppy, glittery glue stick soccer mom who fist pumps at the idea of spending another day at the petting zoo. 

I was a nanny, I tell myself.  I was destined to be a natural at motherhood.  Snot and bloody noses and disobedience and that explorer chick Dora are supposed to be second nature to me. But instead I find myself tired and mentally exhausted---all the while just wanting to curl up in a bed with a smutty novel and another McFlurry for my McShitty mood.

I feel you judging me right now.  Yeah, you.  I have the most wonderful baby girl with the most beautiful set of screaming lungs, and instead of feeling blessed and grateful and proud to have the most precious gift in the world for which I so desperately prayed, I am merely feeling overwhelmed.

Matt says I need an outlet for my boredom and exhaustion.  "Write your book today," he nonchalantly tosses out as he leaves the house for work.  "Ok, sure honey! Just as soon as Amelia finishes pooping in the bathtub, I will get right to it!"

I have no words for a book at the moment.  I can hardly come up with enough letters to send out a decent tweet.  Unless self-pity books or personal essays on McFlurry binges are the new Fifty Shades of Grey, I'd say I'm a few hundred pages short of a best seller.

It's not that I am without joy.  My love for Amelia is without a doubt the most incredible, enormous emotion I will ever experience. Hands down. I would give my life for that child, yet I simultaneously struggle to read her Curious George three times before bedtime.  He will still be curious in the morning, Amelia.  I promise. 

I wish a handbook came out with the placenta explaining exactly how these supermoms do it.  How do they muster the energy to navigate the entire children's museum on four hours of sleep? How on Earth do these superhuman baby-makers do it day after day and never seem to need a break?  Ten minutes into a puppet show and I could already use an intermission. Or a martini.

I constantly find myself wondering if I am truly doing the best I can do.  I stay up late at night worrying that Amelia considers me a bad mother; that I am scarring her for life if we don't finger paint and blow bubbles and pet filthy goats everyday.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things I am a fairly good parent.  My child is happy and clean. She has never gone without, and she will always be taught right from wrong. Yet I had such grandiose ideas when that pregnancy test read positive that I was going to be the mother who never questioned her abilities because she was so busy being wonderful at everything.

I was going to be the mother who hosted play dates all week since the other moms would be too tired to entertain.  I was going to make blanket forts and costumes and spend hours in an over sized toy box filled with educational games and anatomically correct baby dolls so Amelia could get a head start on her medical degree. 

I wasn't supposed to be this blasé.  I wasn't supposed to be this mediocre.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jet Lag Ramblings

"Would you like to make that a medium?" the Swiss McDonald's employee asked me of my Big Mac meal.  "Actually, just make it a large," I sighed, knowing that an extra handful of fries would go a long way tonight after seeing my favorite Swiss family off to the airport. 

"Mademoiselle, we no do large. Medium is biggest size," she responded in broken English. 

Seriously, Switzerland?!?

You don't do large?!?

 You actually thought I wanted to downsize my meal?!?

Can this country get any weirder?!?

Just eight short hours before this preposterous incident, I bid farewell to  my dearest friends Jake, Kate, and Fynn Beaverson as they moved back to the United States after nearly five years of living in Switzerland. Just like that ridiculous medium fry I consumed in three bites---they were gone.  And I was feeling pretty salty.

The hardest part of this whole ex-pat life is the difficulty of starting over in a foreign culture that just doesn't seem to get you.  Kate got me.  For fourteen months, she was my confidant and tour guide, and without her here to ease the transition into Swiss life, I think I may have floundered. 

Until we meet again...

I heard the heartbreaking news of their departure while I was back in Illinois for the summer.  Agreeing I could no longer go without my family, hometown friends, or air conditioning, Matt sent me home for a glorious 36 days. Nostalgia hit me as soon at that 747 landed on Midwest soil. 

I wanted to do the things I had always done, so I drank cheap wine out of the bottle, played Scattegories with my hot headed friends, and took my mom's vintage bicycle for a long ride on the Fairview bike trails.  About four miles in, I gave myself a figurative pat on the back for being in such great shape after a full weekend of nachos and ice cream cake.  Ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit and I had hardly broken a sweat.  Actually, I was not perspiring at all...I paused to ponder this. Before I had time to come to a reasonable conclusion, I fell to the blacktop as nausea and dry heaves overtook me. I tried to call out for help, but the trail was eerily empty.  I could tell I was beginning to lose consciousness as I mapped out a plan in my head as how to call an ambulance, meanwhile cursing myself for leaving home without a telephone or blow horn.  I then realized that my entire body was now saturated in sweat as the sweltering black top burned against my skin.  "Roll to the grass," I told my gargantuan frame.  "Just roll to the shade." 

Spoiler alert: I survived.

It took me around ten minutes to fully catch my breath and gain the strength to stand back up.  I was shaking and terrified, certain I had just stared down death.  Once home and after a very dramatic reenactment for my family, I googled heat exhaustion and realized that certain medications can contribute greatly to this condition.  There it was: Prozac and heat intolerance. 

And this crazy biatch is on the maximum dose.

After stopping and giving my life a long hard look, I've decided I can no longer take unwarranted risks like vintage bicycle rides.  Since my medicated body obviously cannot tolerate rigorous exercise, it may be best to stick to my usual cardio routine of climbing mall escalators and lifting fudge pops.  We only get so many second chances.

Now back to the present: I am currently in Switzerland and am counting down the days until this heat wave is finished; that, or until the day the Swiss realize it is 2013 and air conditioning has already been discovered (along with the size LARGE).

I apologize that this blog post has no real focus.  I am going on day five of little sleep and a jet lagged toddler.  Throw some melancholy into the mix over the absence of Kate, and there you have it: a lonely, heat intolerant, unable-to-get-a-damn-supersize, Mademoiselle.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And There You Are

Sometimes I feel as if that car kept driving through the midnight hour and took you both with it; a seamless transition to the other side. 

Over 4,000 miles and a boundless ocean separate me from the loss that devoured our lives four years ago, yet I now find your memory in the newest of places. Although you've never climbed the Swiss Alps or admired its sunrise, I can't help but think that you can now feel its warmth; that you are familiar with all its beauty. I've often thought that this land must be unquestionably close to the Heavens.

Your death awakened in all of us the fear we so desperately keep at bay---that one day our doubts, questions, and hopes of the afterlife will be fully recognized. Since that cruel November night, I've retold story after story and cried over your pictures.  Once in a while I will even happen upon a certain smell in the air and I am instantly taken back to your college apartment in DeKalb, where the thought of an abbreviated future never crossed our blissful minds. How often we look behind us for what used to be.

For so many years you have been frozen in time at twenty-four.  I couldn't quite seem to look past the date on your headstone.  It was Switzerland that brought me back to the present. 

Something about beauty in its most natural form brings out the spirituality in even the dimmest of us.  I have never felt so absolutely sure that Heaven exists as I do when I'm gazing toward the Swiss skies.  There is a peacefulness here I could not obtain elsewhere; a sense of endlessness that most certainly reminds me of you. 

I will be walking along a quiet brook when I notice the way the sunlight polishes the peaks of the mountains, and there you are in that moment.  My mind can be going in a billion different tangled directions, yet the chaos seems to halt and I can only think of you.  I thank God for those instants.  I thank Him for giving me such hope.

It may be true that grief never ceases in this lifetime; but it is also true that it changes.  The sadness once felt over your death is and will always be a dense fog in our lives, but it slowly lifts when I'm reminded of how infinitely happy you now are---not the type of happy from a successful round of golf and certainly not the type of happy from a late night college party, but true and genuine joy that this life can never give us. 

I think of you now in the present tense, though I will still hang on to these memories for awhile. I don't catch myself looking at your pictures quite as often, nor do I replay stories over and over in my mind.  There is no longer really the need. All I have to do is look around me. It is there that you are.


Monday, May 20, 2013


My sister tried to rock over my tiny baby head when I was only five weeks old.  Fortunately for myself and the rest of mankind,  my mom grabbed her right before the wooden rockers crushed my adorable mug.  If you ask my mom for her side of the story, she will lace it with words like "accidental" and "unpremeditated," but I always knew exactly what was going through little Kelli Jo's advanced mind.

Unbeknownst to the family, I was imposing on Kelli's destiny of remaining an only child. From the moment they placed a Fisher Price microphone in her grabby hands, she became the star. For the next decade, she would write, direct, and star as lead in all her own theatrical works. Some sisters pull hair.  Others slap and claw.  Mine always made me play a dude in her bossy garage productions. 

Kelli and I probably never would have picked each other as friends had we not been born sisters first.  We've had over twenty years of difference and dysfunction to realize that we aren't really all that alike.  She was always the graceful, rhythmic one; I once knocked myself out running into a parking meter.  She had the lovely, soprano voice for the high school musicals; I had the loud obnoxious cackle that landed me the part of the Wicked Witch.

While Kelli always strove for perfection and order, I loved a life of disarray and improv. We never really saw eye to eye (perhaps because I was blessed with an extra six inches) on just about anything.  My friends soon became like sisters to me, and Kelli and I went our separate ways. Though we both thrived in the spotlight, there can only be one star to every show.

Eventually, Kelli and I missed out on knowing each other.  I never knew her favorite book or her first heartbreak; she never knew where I went on the weekends or my favorite nail polish color.  We allowed ourselves to become strangers, and assumed we would always be so. 

It's 9:30 pm in Switzerland as I write this, and I am trying to finish this blog post while waiting for the guest bedroom sheets to dry.  I have a friend arriving on Sunday.  She also happens to be my sister.

If you told the childhood Steffo that people do change and that Kelli and I would one day get over all our stupid drama, I would have told you, "Right. And I'll end up living next to goats in Switzerland."

Crazier things have happened. 

Kelli still rolls her eyes when I have one too many drinks and embarrass her; I still hit ignore on her sixteen phone calls when I don't want to hear about her drastic new hair trim.  I have yet to ask her favorite book (though I would guess it has yet to be written since I am sure it will be her biography), and she still doesn't know that I eat whip cream directly out of the can when I'm feeling a tad blue.

We will never be the Kardashians or Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, but we've finally made room for each other; we respect each other.  Dare I say we even admire the other. 

In a few short days, Kelli will arrive (in style, no doubt) with her Godsend of a boyfriend, Craig, and we will spend an entire week learning to share the spotlight.  Oh, and she says she's bringing a gift for Amelia. 

Here's hoping it's not a Fisher Price mic.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blank Page

The blog ain't-a-growin when the words ain't-a-flowin.  To make this simple: I've got writer's block, folks. 

While any writer can give you numerous reasons and excuses for their brief absence of creativity, I need only relay three letters to my faithful followers. Care to buy a vowel?

In between bursts of sunshine, visitors from the United States, and my new found love for sushi, I somehow let the OCD back into the driver's seat.

Whelp, it was a sane run while it lasted. 

The thing I hate most about OCD is the darkness it brings along with it. My looming anxiety could shade any cloudless, summer day---it's its own SPF. 

Here's a quick rundown of this week's obsession rotation:

1. I will receive a Swiss speeding ticket which will cause the revocation of my driving privileges, therefore forcing me to use germy public transportation where I will surely catch this deadly new coronavirus that they're talking about all over the news

2. My husband will forget to shut the windows when he comes to bed and the neighbor's creepy cats will sneak into Amelia's room and sniff out her milk mustache

3. Someone will accidentally drop a pill at the village playground and Amelia will sneak it in her mouth while I momentarily step away to grab the hand sanitizer

4. That I will never have reprieve from this horrendous disorder that takes so many hours and days from my life; you stupid OCD robber piece of $h*t.

Alright, enough with the sob story. 

Sorry for the scatterbrained, writer-blocked blog dripping with self-pity, and sorry for those who know all too well of what I write.

When the OCD comes, it sure don't come easy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Yes

I was always an advocate for adult-only planes until I was no longer an adult only. If you've ever doubted the existence of hell, I promise I could convert you by means of an international flight with my daughter.

Our first stop through the scorching flames: security. Why yes, TSA worker, that prescription diaper rash cream does happen to be for the baby on my hip. Why no, security lady, I wouldn't mind drinking from each of Amelia's seven pre-made bottles in front of an already annoyed line to disprove any possibility of explosive chemicals.  Why am I dramatically gagging after each taste of hypoallergenic soy formula?  Well, I've always been more of a chocolate milk kind of girl.

Next stop: bacteria infested gate wait.  Why yes, Amelia, please try and eat that newspaper off the airport floor while I search for my lost boarding pass. I'm sure a little extra fiber will do the body good.

And now damnation itself: nine hours of turbulent screaming, snotting, flailing, and bargaining with God for an hour of peace in exchange for a charitable donation.

As it would turn out, God's not much of a negotiator.

Why yes, male flight attendant, I would love to wait in my cramped seat with my daughter and her poop explosion diaper until the seat belt sign un-illuminates. It's truly my pleasure (insert smiley face here).

Inhale. Exhale.  Deep breath. Repeat.

Amelia's draining the last of  her bottle as her eyes finally begin to flutter. Sleep is on the horizon---I can feel it, taste it, almost grasp it. And then I hear it: the damn drink cart clanking down our aisle. "Ma'am, is there anything I can do for you? Perhaps a coffee or an alcoholic beverage?" Why yes, stewardess, do you also offer complimentary horse tranquilizers? (for me, of course...)

So we're five hours into the flight and I have to pee like a racehorse. Since airplane bathrooms are on my OCD top ten list of places most likely to contract flesh-easting bacteria, I've been holding it in for the last three hours.  Another thing I'm holding? Amelia. I carry her into the coffin sized lavatory and try to hold her in the air Simba style while I hover over the filthy toilet seat.

Amelia's amused; I'm horrified. She's also grabbing for anything she can touch which happens to be everything so I'm cringing in disgust when the tears just start flowing. Taking a one year old across the world all by myself?

Why yes, Stefanie, you are certifiably batshit crazy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Protect this House He Will

It would seem that Amelia has given up sleep for Lent (although this wouldn't be much of a sacrifice on her part).  I find myself once again sleeping on a mattress in her nursery, singing her favorite lullabies and begging her to give up this boycott.  Usually by the third refrain of "Oops I Did It Again," her screaming turns to cooing and she finally gives up the fight.  I, too, being soothed by the abstract lyrics, give up the fight as well.

It was during one of these evening rituals that I was awakened to find myself in the middle of a low budget horror movie.  A sound of crashing and yelling echoed through the room and I immediately went into protective mama bear mode.  After peaking my head out from under the crib, I gathered the strength to enter the hallway and face whatever was at the source of this carnage. I wasn't prepared for what I was about to find.  After all, part of  the reason other than chocolate that I agreed to move to this country was its nearly non-existent crime rate.  People just don't get murdered here (although they may die of boredom).  I wasn't ready to discover that my peaceful world had been shattered!  But nevertheless, I opened the nursery door....and then I found him---my husband and his bloodied fist.

After questioning him extensively, I learned that he too was awakened in a state of fear to find a height-challenged intruder standing in the bedroom doorway.  Being the rational man that I love, he questioned the night prowler in a very assertive tone.  "Tell me who you are," he demanded three times.  When the intruder still would not answer (quite rude for being asked more than once), Matt jumped from the bed and landed a firm fist right to that burglar's face.  Not being able to withstand the strength of my ninja husband's blow, our trespasser crashed to the ground in obvious defeat.

Pretty freakin' awesome story, don't ya think---until I tell you that my husband sucker punched a fan. 

I am sure you can understand the confusion
There really is no moral to this story, unless you're a fan, and then I would warn you to watch your back. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Valentine

I'm bound to think there's a heavenly "skip the lines" pass for individuals like Mother Teresa, the Pope, and my husband.  Each and every moment that I see him endure my OCD right along with me, I can't help but think he should be eternally rewarded one day.  The man has seen me through it all, and nothing proves to be too shocking or exhausting for him.  He held my hand as I cried in fear my tight jeans would cause a miscarriage (turns out this fear was unfounded), he paid hundreds of dollars for an unnecessary skin cancer screening so I could get a few extra hours of sleep at night, and he allows me to buy only pre-cooked chicken because he knows the very thought of raw poultry is enough to make me bathe in hand sanitizer.

In all honesty, Valentine's Day usually makes me a little nauseated (I always figured it was the overdone romance, but perhaps it was the chocolate).  I've never been a fan of sentiment, but on days like today I can't help but find joy in all that has been given to me. I once again returned to my story vault and dug out this old piece I wrote after meeting Matt four years ago.  So much has changed since I typed out these words (one of them happens to be pooping in the corner as I blog this)but we still remain an unbeaten team.  To my champion of a husband: thank you for rescuing me from myself (and the psych ward) each and every day. 


A thrift store wedding dress gave me a gruesome rash in our third grade theatre production. Once, right before reading a poem at my good friend’s wedding, I face-planted on stage in front of a crowd of 300 guests. In college, I discovered that talking with one’s hands while considerably intoxicated is also an effortless way to add a touch of unwanted red wine to the bride’s Vera Wang dress. Not my fault the floozy wore white…

I’ve gone into anaphylactic shock at a wedding reception, dropped my bridesmaid's sash into an unflushed public toilet , and once, during one of my finest nuptial moments, I plowed down the flower girl while attempting to master the “percolator” during a dance-off. I’ve decided to take the initiative, fore go medical bills, and self-diagnosis: I am, without a doubt, allergic to marriage.

I think in the back of my mind I’ve known this all along. While my friends cry and convulse through the wedding vows and pathetically elbow their way into the bouquet-toss gaggle, I sit back in horror and watch as the nightmare unfolds. “The happiest day of her life,” they all cluck and coo. Mine was turning 21.

I don’t do romance. I hate flowers, I loathe candlelight (fire hazard), and I utterly despise the idea of whispering sweet nothings into a dirty, unkempt ear. Relationships are stuffy and airless---a suffocating, selfless existence where identities and social lives are de-prioritized and abandoned. They’ve always been a source of oppression in my life; a modern form of captivity and bondage.

I painted a picture in my mind of a girl in designer boots and a cashmere scarf promenading her way down the streets of Manhattan---no one on her arm but Marc Jacobs. She would press the elevator button with her gloved hand and stroll confidently into her corner office, pausing to take in the view. There was no “he” in this painting, no man to interfere with his endless demands and overbearing wants and needs. I tucked men away into an “Only Good for Buying Drinks” file and called it a day.

Then in he walked…or stumbled for that matter. With a sideways smirk and the worst of intentions, there he was---my male counterpart; my saving grace.

There is nothing glamorous about him. He isn’t flashy or romantic; his idea of a perfect date is a case of beer and a handful of cheap feels. He never holds open the door, and he thinks kissing is a lame 8th grade invention.

He doesn’t ask questions; he demands almost nothing and needs only what I can give. He forgets to call back, prefers limited touching, has absolutely no filter on the words exiting his mouth, and sometimes, when all the world is perfectly aligned, he just so happens to take the breath from me.

He doesn’t care that wedding dresses and save-the-date magnets and bouquets of coordinating flowers terrify me---we share a common allergy. He prefers wrestling to cuddling, television to listening, and the majority of the time, he wishes I came without sound.

He is messy. He seldom says the "right" thing, and he always leaves up the toilet seat despite my constant reminders. He lacks sensitivity and is absent of affection, yet he emblazons my life and makes beautiful the wreckage. He is disastrous and impeccably flawed; but somehow in his arms I am put back together. He is a certainty, a crooked kind of wonderful, and so very, very necessary.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's Raining Sin

If OCD had a face, I would gladly punch it right about now.  Be it the lack of sunshine or perpetual rainfall, my disorder has succeeded once again in making me miserable, paranoid, and craving Big Macs.

Due to our weekly monsoons, I sometimes have to check the map to ensure I am actually in Switzerland and not in Seattle. Unfortunately for me and my serotonin imbalanced brain, this has led me to a catastrophic discovery: Google Earth. 

I suppose I was always semi-aware of this satellite technology, yet being geographically challenged and not the least bit interested in any location except the mall, I never took the time to actually sit and study it.  Turns out, Google Earth sees just about everything. 

A common thread between myself and many other OCD sufferers is a debilitating paranoia and fear of being caught doing something sinful or illegal. This anxiety goes way beyond the typical "I hope that cop didn't see me run that stop sign" to "I wonder if Google Earth has footage of me consuming an alcoholic beverage when I was underage." 

After sitting in front of this app on my iPad and retracing every illegal step I may have made on planet Earth, I decided to give my paranoid mind a break and take Amelia for a nice walk now that the rain had finally ceased.  About a third of the way home, I noticed two teenage girls walking behind us and snickering uncontrollably.  Since I've been too busy researching ailments on the Internet to learn any of the French language, I couldn't make out what these little trolls were saying about me.

For a good ten minutes I listened and walked as the girls continued to insult me.  First I assumed they were laughing at my American tennis shoes.  Then I wondered if they were taunting my child.  Before I had time to decide which one it was, I was approaching the road to our house so I began to cross the street.  Not even quite to our sidewalk, I gasped as I heard loud "moo-ing" behind me.  Those little witches were calling me fat! They were actually mooing at me! I spun around as fast as my American shoes would let me, ready to let them have it in my broken Frenglish, but to my surprise, the girls were no longer in sight.

I did a full visual of the area, and just as I was about to give up, I inadvertently made eye contact with an actual cow just grazing in his pasture. I quickly put moo and moo together, and realized he was the one bellowing at me.  Those girls didn't call me fat after all!

I sighed a deep sigh and reminded myself not to let paranoia control the rest of my day.  I wasn't fat, Google Earth didn't capture me jaywalking, and this weather would eventually bring sunshine back to Switzerland. In a moment of clarity and balance, I laughed at how ridiculous I had been for the past two days.

And then it started raining. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

When In Rome

I sympathize with those who need to taste everything.  I, too, have this natural inclination. It would seem, unfortunately, that along with my good looks and modesty, Amelia also inherited my keen sense of taste. Be it her newest toy or my triple scoop ice cream cone, she must have a thorough lick. While most would applaud her desire to explore through utilization of the senses, I cannot think of a worse scenario for my OCD:  my child is a walking tongue. 

She licks our couches; she licks our clothes; once, I caught her licking my hair. Months ago, this would have sent me into a mental downward spiral---the mere thought of the enormous bacterial load entering her vulnerable immune system was enough to make me opt for Google instead of dinner. Yet lately, I have prided myself in behavior modification---I am working with my anxiety and allowing Amelia a little more room to explore.  This "cool as a cucumber" approach literally failed me on one occasion: she licked an unwashed cucumber in our grocery cart. There was nothing cool about that.

Much to my relief, my mom flew out over the holidays and accompanied us on a trip to Rome.  Since childhood, she has been dealing with my OCD and knows how to calm my intense fears and irrational thoughts.  She also lets Millie do the fun things my mind could never allow her to do, like touching the buttons of a store elevator or the leaves of an unknown tree. Since I want Amelia to experience all this world has to offer, I simply ask my mom not to tell me what Amelia touches or licks---it's best I never know. 

After an amazing three days in Italy and a very mild week of OCD symptoms, we took an evening stroll from our guest house to St. Peter's Basilica on New Year's Eve. With thousands in line to enter and see the Pope celebrate mass, we were asked to leave Millie's stroller in a side area to allow more room for the crowds.  Translation: Amelia and her tongue could no longer be contained inside a stroller.

I am not sure on the exact figures, but I have a feeling based on observation alone that St. Peter's Basilica has some of the highest foot traffic numbers in the world.  No less than twenty-thousand shoes dirtied the beautiful marble floors that day, and without my stroller, I was forced to let Amelia's feet add to that number.

Panic slowly overtook me as I watched her hands and bare feet (the child won't leave on socks and shoes) slide over the contaminated marble.  Reminding myself that I was in the presence of the Pope and that he would want me to be at peace, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  Sometime while I was exhaling, I assume something like this went down:

Whatever it was she saw or imagined, she just had to have a taste. In the audience of the holiest man alive, Amelia licked the floor of St. Peter's Basilica. 

Trying to maintain my cool cucumber composure but frozen in place, I screamed internally as my mom quickly removed her from the scene of the crime.  "Calm down, Stefanie, she won't catch anything," my mom said to me.  "It was holy ground she licked."

It has been 168 hours since Amelia tasted sacred marble, and so far she is showing no signs of illness or bacterial infection. In fact, she is healthier and happier than ever.  It would appear my mother was right---all she caught was a blessing. 

Friday, January 4, 2013


No one here wears Tweety Bird slippers to the grocery store.  I noticed this as Amelia and I passed the produce on our way to the chocolate aisle.  My head did a full rotation, but still the same result: no Looney Tune slippers during work hours. Flabbergasting.

Switzerland, in all fairness, does have its perks.  Although I am struggling with way too much time on my over washed hands, I feel safely tucked away in this peaceful, daydream of a world.

Just another afternoon in Switzerland

My surroundings constantly remind me that I am living a modern-day fairytale, yet I still wish I could somehow blend both of my "homes" and make my own village, full of the people I love and miss the most, but absent of the D-town dialect and Daffy Duck slippers.  It would be my very own Swillinois---snowy mountaintops and Steak'n Shakes at every corner.

Since moving here in early June, I began compiling a list of the most essential items I feel are missing from Switzerland.  These are in no particular order of importance:

  1. Hot pockets
  2. Dollar Menu
  3. Air conditioning
  4. English language
  5. Ranch dressing
  6. A sense of humor
  7. Kraft Singles
Being torn between these two worlds is much like trying to decide between two entrees on a menu---do I prefer the richer one even though its flavor is much blander?  In all fairness to the land of cow bells, they do make a pretty mean fondue---and they have clean public bathrooms---and they know their chocolate, but this never will be home without my "people"; it never will be familiar without their laughter.

Another gorgeous day in Switzerland is slowing passing by, and I keep checking my Edward Cullen pocket calendar for the next time I can hop a plane home.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying my few but dear friends here, and until I am elected governor of Swillinois, I am going to soak up Europe and appreciate all of its nuances, cheeses, and absence of public slippers.  It may not be home, but at least they've got an airport.