The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


Pirates of the Many Plots

I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean this week. It was the first of the double feature at the drive-in, so I figured what the hey? I vaguely remember seeing the first one and not hating it. I skipped the second, but no matter. These types of sequel franchises are always made to be self-contained, right?

We missed the beginning of the movie and were mostly to completely lost for the next two hours. I have no idea how much we missed, but figured it must have been a lot, either in terms of quantity or quality. By the end of the movie, James and I were still left saying, what the hey?

Apparently I'm not alone in my analysis. And it seems that seeing the whole movie may not have been much of a help. Here's someone who says it better than I could, because he's a ninja.

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add to kirtsy | 9:37 PM | 1 comments

Bonus First!

Because you've all been so patient waiting for the stories of my days as a Greek-letter wearing hottie and my sweet dance moves in fifth grade, here's a little bonus first story.

Bonus First: My first bra.

By the time I was in fifth grade, someone (my mom? me?) decided that I should get my first bra. I have no idea why this is so. Because I distinctly remember Heidi Nichols making fun of me in sixth grade (a full year later) about barely having a "fingerful," let alone a "handful." Then again, people also made fun of my nose in middle school, and I seem to have grown into that!

So. Mom and I are at the mall for a bra. I'm sure we shopped at JCPenney or Sears. I remember nothing about the whole experience except what my dad said when he picked us up. I guess he wanted to show that he had some relevance to the world of his 12-year-old daughter. Instead, he made me want to die of embarrassment.

Dad smiled encouragingly at me and said lightly, "Feels just like wearing a small undershirt, doesn't it?"

The question in my mind now, 19 years later, is: How would he know?

I swear to you: My father is not a creepy guy. He's just a guy. And a McGuiggan. Which means that weirdly inappropriate things come out of his mouth with the best and most innocent of intentions. I may not be a guy, but I'm most definitely a McGuiggan. And if I ever have kids I'm sure I will horrify them with my words. I'm sure I've horrified friends and family my own age. I once said the following to a girl in college, not realizing that it might sound insulting: "Did you say something as stupid as I think you just said?" The weird part is that she didn't even seem to get mad.

But back to the bra. If only my dad had had this resource to consult when I was young: (Apparently was already taken.) Then he would have known that, "For a young girl, a bra is more than an article of clothing, more than a necessity; her bra is her symbol of maturity and growth, an item of fantasy." Yes, an item of fantasy. Exactly. It's not a small undershirt, it's an item of fantasy! In comparison, I'd say that my dad was considerably less creepy than that website.

Go ahead -- Tell me about your first little undershirt in the comments!

Or if you're desperate for more of my firsts, go read the other four.

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add to kirtsy | 1:40 PM | 3 comments


Reader Poll Results Are In!

Thanks to everyone who voted to choose the "Final First." It's a tie! My first night as a sorority girl and my first talent show received an equal number of votes, thanks to one person who split her vote. (You know who you are, Melissa.) If a person voted multiple times for one topic, I only counted it as one vote. (You know who you are, Hannah.)

And my sincere apologies to Jess, who will have to live through the sorority saga once more. But at least the topic that you voted for is also a winner!

Stay tuned for the gripping details...

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add to kirtsy | 12:55 PM | 3 comments


Sunday Scribblings: Simple

flowering chives (watercolor)

This week's prompt at Sunday Scribblings is "simple." I've been dabbling in watercolor for the past two weeks, and my results are rather simplistic. But I like a few of them for their lovely simplicity. This is one that I did today. May you have a lovely holiday (if you're in the U.S.) full of simple pleasures. And even if you're not celebrating a long weekend, I hope you have a lovely day nonetheless.

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add to kirtsy | 9:19 PM | 7 comments


Final First: Readers' Choice

Okay, it's time for the *~*~*First Official Reader Poll*~*~* here at The Stories I Tell.

I have one more "first" left in the Five Firsts series. So, you handful of faithful followers. What story do you want to hear?

Choose from the list below or add your write-in vote in the comments section. I'll reveal the gory or geeky or girly details based on your votes.

1. My first night as a sorority girl. (Gasp! Yes it's true. I wore the Greek letters, people.)

2. My first day of first grade. (The story involves Cap'n Crunch cereal, a rhyming poem, and a brown crayon.)

3. My first training bra. (Featuring mortifying comments by my dad.)

4. My first job. (Complete with a motley crew of employees that include an ex-con, a woman who regularly forgot to eat, and the owner, whom we called "Flipper," for good reason, mind you.)

5. My first talent show. (Madonna, a blue sparkly glove, and fifth grade band geeks. Fun times!)

Vote now! Lines open at the end of the show and stay open until midnight. Who will be the next American Idol? (...wait, I don't even watch that show. Talk about the infiltration of pop culture!)

Seriously, I'll leave voting open until Friday (5/25/07) or until I have 20 votes (from 20 different people -- and no aliases!), whichever comes first.

Edited to add: I'm leaving voting open until midnight tonight (Friday). That means you have six hours to cast your vote. Hurry!

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add to kirtsy | 4:34 PM | 17 comments


Sunday Scribblings: Masks

In some ways, I'm not so much into matching. An eclectic set of furniture, cobbled together from different sources and time periods can add a lovely sense of personality to a room. I'll wear navy socks with black pants if the difference is undetectable at normal sock-viewing distances (a fashion faux pas that would drive my husband into obsessive-compulsive overdrive).

But when it comes to insides and outsides, I want things to match. Food should look just as good as it tastes. A good book really should have a lovely cover. And I desperately want my outside to match my inside. I want my appearance and demeanor to say something significant about who I am. I believe that first impressions count, even if they're not the only impression that sticks.

Think about someone that you've known for years, someone that you're really close to. Now think back to the first time you met him or her. Is it the same person? When I do this, I feel like I'm seeing two completely different people. Of course, people change. And our perceptions also change over time. But it's impossible to accurately portray ourselves in all of our complexities and subtleties simply by appearance alone.

I don't know what kind of first impression I make. My problem is that I have a handful of "insides" fighting for dominance at any given time. Do I want to be outgoing and bubbly? Or filled with the type of quiet joy that infuses a room with warmth? Do I want to appear professional and poised? Or just quirky enough to have "street cred" as a writer?

Yes! To all of it. I'm all of these things. But my struggle is how to put together an "outside" that can adequately reflect this. I imagine that when my friends think back to meeting me, they remember a completely different person than who they know me to be now.

I rarely feel like my external appearance, the mask I present to the world, matches my internal being. I blame it on my clothes. I blame it on my weight. Sometimes, I blame it on my hair. Most of the time I try to forget the mask and just be me, whoever that is at the moment. Because anything else is just too exhausting.

What's your mask?

Here's what others are saying at Sunday Scribblings.


add to kirtsy | 9:40 PM | 4 comments



Life has been so full of serendipity lately that I can practically hear the Universe singing. But my little world has also been full of confusion, sadness, and wounds that won't heal. I'm living a double life. My one face can't see the sun for all the storm clouds and tears. My other face is upturned, scanning the heavens for signs and shooting stars, rejoicing in the sheer magic and connectedness of it all. I'm an emotional Janus. I'm doing my best to hold on to the synchronicity and the magic because I desperately need them.

A few weeks ago I wrote about what it means to call myself a "writer" and to go one step further and use the term "artist." A few days later several of my favorite bloggers wrote similar thoughts on the topic, including this one that introduced me to a book called The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I posted a note in the comments section noting the synchronicity of our blog posts. Then I went out the next day to buy the book because it sounded just like what I needed.

As I read the opening chapters, I was excited about the idea of connecting with and nurturing my creative and spiritual sides at the same time. I've felt battered and bruised in both of these areas lately and was looking forward to some healing. When I got to the following passage of the book, I had to chuckle at the alignment of everything:

As you work with the tools in this book, as you undertake the weekly tasks, many changes will be set in motion. Chief among these changes will be the triggering of synchronicity: we change and the universe furthers and expands that change. I have an irreverent shorthand for this that I keep taped to my writing desk: "Leap, and the net will appear." (p.2)

Even the introduction of the book contained little bits of synchronicity for me. Cameron writes about living and working in New York and refers to places in Manhattan. I'd just come back from a weekend in the city and was -- for the first time in my life -- familiar with some of the places she described. It felt like everything was converging to make sense for me, in big and small ways. That New York trip itself was full of serendipity, including old friends, an Orthodox nun's prediction, and a new friend who felt like an old one.

What's the serendipity in your life these days?

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add to kirtsy | 10:44 PM | 0 comments


Sunday Scribblings: Second Chance

Areas of life in which second chances are invaluable and should always be allowed:
  • Miniature golf
  • Relationships
  • Trying a new recipe
  • Playing Frisbee
  • Remembering someone's name
  • Math
  • First impressions
  • Job interviews
  • First dates

Areas of life in which a do-over is a bad sign:
  • Surgery
  • Dentistry
  • Anything involving needles, including tattoos and piercings
  • Piloting a flight

Feel free to add to the lists.


add to kirtsy | 12:37 AM | 7 comments

It's a bird, it's a plane...

Overheard today in Jen and Eddie's UFO (Used Furniture Outlet):

"Engelbert Humperdinck -- it's not a what. It's a person! You've never heard of him?"


"How about Mahalia Jackson? I've never heard of her."

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add to kirtsy | 12:32 AM | 1 comments


At least it's curable

According to this wacky Dr. Unheimlich's Disease Registry, I suffer from the following: Jennifer's Syndrome.

Cause: drug abuse

Symptoms: bad poetry, indigestion, occasional phantom pregnancy

Cure: psychiatry

This freaked me out a bit, because it's all true. Except for the drug abuse. Which makes the symptoms even more disturbing if I don't have a mind-altering substance to blame.

What's your disease? Tell me in the comments.


add to kirtsy | 10:09 PM | 10 comments


Phone Fun with Dave

Phone conversations with my brother are usually hilarious, at least for the other person in the room listening to my end of the conversation. He invariably calls me when I'm hanging out with my friend Jess, and I can see the anticipation on her face when I say, "It's my brother." Because she knows that a bizarre encounter is about to take place. My husband gets the same kick out of these phone calls, which usually consist of me saying the same few phrases over and over: "What? Wait, what? What are you talking about? Um, okay."

Today I had the pleasure of listening to my mom's side of a phone call with her son. I'm not sure if it's funnier when you hear just her side of it or the whole thing. You decide:

Version 1
Mom: Hello. ...What?... No, it was a goat!!

Version 2:
Mom: Hello.

Bro: When you were a kid at Aunt Mid's, what chased you?

Mom: What?

Bro: Was it a turkey or a peacock?

Mom: No, it was a goat!!

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add to kirtsy | 9:19 PM | 1 comments

My First Car Accident (4th 1st)

[Stephanie over at Cool People I Know (whom I found via Jen Lemen) has tagged her readers to jump in on her meme and provide a list of five firsts. This is my third first. Read the others here.]

I'm sitting in a line of traffic about 10 cars long, backed up at a busy intersection. To my left, and across the oncoming lane of traffic, is the parking lot of a bar/pizza joint. I see a car start to back out of the parking lot. He backs across the oncoming lane of traffic and right into my front driver's side.

We both pull into the parking lot and get out of our cars. The other driver, a guy in his early 20's, speaks the first words between us: "Didn't you see me?"

I want to say: "Yes, I saw you as you backed into oncoming traffic and then into my car. Yes. I saw you, dude."

But in the end, I just say: "Didn't you see me?"

At first he seems stunned to realize that the accident is his fault, but then quickly adopts a "my bad" attitude and apologizes several times. We exchange insurance information.

While we sit there and wait for the police, whom I called after realizing that he smelled strongly of beer, he tries to bond with me. "Hey, I see the sticker in your window for that local public radio station. I listen to them to!"

Then he tries to make me feel bad for him because now he'll be late for the gig his band is playing at a house party tonight. I tell him that I'll be late for friends who were going to stop by my place. I also explain that if he's drunk, I don't want him to hurt anyone or himself. He says, "I told you. I had one beer. That's all."

I want to keep him in a good mood so he'll stick around. (I'm actually surprised he hasn't gotten belligerent or just taken off.) I say, "Tell you what. If the cops tell me you're not drunk, I will apologize to you."

"Okay," he says. "But I think you're gonna owe me an apology."

Forty minutes later a State Trooper is handcuffing him and arresting him for DUI.


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add to kirtsy | 3:54 PM | 0 comments