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.


Back in the 'real' world...

Well, I have returned from Chicago and BlogHer 07 safe and sound, tired and inspired, overwhelmed and excited, and with so many more emotions and ideas. I'm transitioning slowly back to the so-called real world, and will have more to say about the conference and the amazing people I met in the coming days. I'll also be musing on what that phrase "the real world" really means.

If I met you this past weekend and you're reading this, please say hi! (And for all of those who were concerned about my shoe situation, I'll update on that, too.)


add to kirtsy | 5:13 PM | 4 comments


Me in 10 Secs.

I'm a freelance writer and editor who until recently thought I had absolutely no talent in the visual arts. But I've been painting and no one has laughed yet. I long for the sea and feel most like myself near large bodies of water. (Yet I live in a nearly landlocked state.) I need everyday beauty to feel whole. I'm not sure if I've ever been stung by a bee, and my very first cavity at the age of 23 involved a root canal. I'm currently reading The Artist's Way and it's changing my life. If you like good food, deep conversation, and thinking for yourself, let's be friends!

(Why do I feel like I just wrote a personal ad?)

Great idea from Mocha Momma. Meet other BlogHers here.

Intro yo'self in the comments -- whether you're going to Chicago or not!

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add to kirtsy | 5:47 PM | 2 comments

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

BlogHer '07 Banner

I leave for BlogHer tomorrow. I'm excited about this gathering of other smart, sassy women writers. There will be all sorts of interesting people to meet and panels to attend, covering things like: following your passion, self-branding and promotion, politics, crafts, sex, web design, making money, techie tools, storytelling, photography, racial tolerance, artificial intelligence, and food. Where else can you hear Elizabeth Edwards give a keynote address about social media and listen to Amy Sedaris' take on Craftblogging in the same weekend?

My plane leaves in 18 hours. Am I ready to go?

Let's see:

  • Cell phone charging -- check!
  • Camera charging -- check!
  • iPod charging -- check!
  • Packed -- not yet
  • Business Cards ready -- not yet
  • Out of office reply turned on -- not yet
  • House cleaned up so I don't return to a disaster zone on Sunday -- not yet

Hmmm... There seem to be too many things in the "not yet" category. I'd best get to work!

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add to kirtsy | 5:22 PM | 4 comments


A Delightful Summer Tweet from Magpie Girl

The enchanting Rachelle Mee-Chapman, also known as Magpie Girl, has just published Tweet, a lovely little zine full of summer secrets and womanly wishes. In a great interview (on fellow zine-creator Jen Lemen's blog), Rachelle describes her zine as part book and part toy. And let me tell you, any little book that comes with a rub-on tattoo, space to doodle and dream, a sangria recipe, and a "kitschy-retro saint" trading card is my idea of fun. For all kinds of sensuous summer treats, visit the Magpie Girl Etsy shop.

Anybody want to join me in a pitcher of sangria?


add to kirtsy | 1:33 PM | 0 comments


British Invasion

I hate reading blog posts that start out, "Sorry I haven't been posting for awhile..."

So let's just pretend I have been posting for the past week, shall we?

My touchy sinuses finally decided to develop into full-blown infection on Wednesday and I panicked. After all, I'm scheduled to be in Chicago for BlogHer starting next Thursday. I can't be sick! Knowing how these things go with me (sinus infections, not conferences), I called the doctor and managed to get an appointment and an antibiotic that day. I still have a throaty voice that sounds like a muffled Tara Reid impression, and just taking a shower makes me tired, but my daily activities are no longer limited to sitting on the couch being a mouth-breather. Sure, my eyes feel like they might pop out of their sockets from time to time when I blow my nose. But at least my sinuses no longer feel like they're jam-packed with Nargles while a Dementor sucks the lifeblood out of them. (Yes, I saw the latest Harry Potter movie. No, I have not purchased the newest book yet.)

I know that antibiotics are overly-prescribed, and that this is a dangerous thing resulting in superbugs that may one day consume civilization. And I know that there's no cure for the common cold. But the thing is, in my family, we don't get the common cold. We get knock-down-drag-out, kick-you-on-your-ass colds. Or infections. Or whatever. Call it what you will. We get sick and we don't get better until you give us the drugs.

My brother and I have been this way since childhood. One year I missed so much school that I needed notes from my doctor for every single absence in order to be allowed to go to the next grade. Apparently my straight-A's counted less than my attendance. My dad got a sinus infection over a month ago and is just now getting back to full strength. And that's after he took 10 days worth of antibiotics. In my family, we don't get "just a little cold" or "the sniffles." We don't even understand what people mean when they say that. Instead, we get head-throbbing sinus pressure, sore throats that render us mute, and mind-numbing lethargy worthy of mononucleosis. With the possible exception of my mom, who has an extremely high pain threshold, the work ethic of a Protestant, and the guilt complex of a Catholic, "colds" kick the crap out of us and put us out of commission for days on end.

Given this history, it was imperative that I get on an antibiotic at the first sign of illness. And it worked! Instead of spending a week and a half in a fog, I'm coming out from the haze after just five days.

But even I know that there are some things antibiotics really don't help. Like the time I had the stomach flu in England. I was about three months into my one-year stint as a volunteer with a London YMCA, and I had just discovered polenta. A young Australian couple from church introduced it to me over dinner one night. I thought it was great stuff. So I went out and bought me some. Unfortunately, it was the last thing I ate before I came down with the most wicked stomach flu of my life. At first I thought it was the polenta. Then I realized it was a plague from hell.

During my time in England, I lived in the YMCA where I worked. (And yes, there are least a dozen stories to go along with that!) But when I got the flu I was staying in my friend's flat next door while she was in Hong Kong for six weeks. I thank the Queen Mum that I was living there when that damn British bug colonized my Yankee body. Because the bathroom, instead of being at the opposite end of a long hallway, was adjacent to the flat's bedroom. When you sleep for 12 hours at a time and only get up to be sick and moan, you want a bathroom as close to you as possible. You don't want to walk past 10 other rooms to a shared toilet. I like to do my retching in private, thank you very much.

But when you're sick in a foreign country, privacy can begin to feel like isolation. I think I called my mom and literally cried that I wanted my mommy. Still, people were kind to me. My boss stopped by to see if I needed anything. The motherly Scottish woman from HR, who also happened to be the wife of the YMCA's CEO, brought me juice (probably Ribena), crackers, Lemsip, and Paracetamol. When she asked what else I needed, I faced the embarrassing task of finding a delicate way to explain that my bum was sore from repeated trips to the bathroom. How do you ask a near-stranger and co-worker for butt cream? I think I hemmed and hawed, dancing around the topic, saying things like: "Well, I've been using the toilet a lot... and, well, I'm a bit sore... Is there maybe something for that? A cream or salve, perhaps?"

A note on the word toilet. Here in the U.S., it sounds crude to say "I've been using the toilet a lot." And if I had to "go" while at someone's house, I certainly wouldn't ask, "Where's the toilet?" But in the U.K., that's completely fine. I was originally hoping to get to use the term "water closet" or "W.C." while in England, but I think it may be a bit old fashioned and didn't really hear it used much.

In the end, I made it through my bout of the English flu. But now, 10 years later, I can't even smell polenta without feeling sick and practically running to the bathroom.

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add to kirtsy | 12:38 AM | 3 comments


The Lost Boys

While trolling through the mall for fashionable-yet-comfortable shoes today, I encountered two odd children, both funny little boys between the ages of 9 and 11. I would have taken photos of them, but that might have made me seem odd -- and creepy.

The older one was skinny, had a buzz cut, and wore big glasses. His bright pink shirt had black block letters across the front that read: Chicks dig pink. Like this one:

You can see a better picture of it here.

I also found this heat transfer graphic online when I searched for "chicks dig pink." Pink. Punk. Really, what's the difference? Buy it here.

I saw the second kid in Sears, spritzing himself with a sample bottle of With Love, Hilary Duff's perfume. And then I saw him trailing behind his mom, doing a weird little dance to the piped-in muzak. I hope that kid's free spirit inspires him to great creativity (and doesn't get him beat up too often).

Postscript: I was mostly unsuccessful in my shoe search. Please read this post and help me out! I need all the suggestions I can get!


add to kirtsy | 5:04 PM | 2 comments


Hoping to avoid Bandaids and moleskin

Okay, this post may seem shallow, unless you're a woman who understands the quandary of finding fashionable footwear that fits. (I'm also trying to appeal to literati types who appreciate alliteration and assonance.)

I'm going to BlogHer in two weeks (more on that later), and desperately need to find some new shoes that will accomplish two very important tasks:

1. Enable me to rock my outfits while exuding a "I'm-a-cool-blogger-in-the-know" vibe.

2. Allow me to walk around all day without developing blisters and a limp that says, "I chose my footwear poorly and will now pay the price."

Any suggestions? I will be wearing gauchos and capris, and would like something that doesn't make my lower calves look like tree stumps. Sandals with good support are preferable. Other shoes that don't look like I should be exercising in them would also work. And they should match black, brown, and dark blue pants. (Okay, I may need more than one pair.)

If you've been a lurker, now is definitely the time to de-lurk! Tell me your favorite place to buy shoes, your favorite brand of shoes, or get specific and point me to a specific pair.

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add to kirtsy | 7:56 PM | 4 comments


It's a small, interconnected, weird little world

While talking to James on the phone today, the call waiting beeped and the caller ID showed that it was my editor. I'd called her earlier in the day, but hadn't left a message. Apparently my name and number showed up on her caller ID. Here's the madness that ensued.

Me: James, can I call you back? It's my editor. ... Hello, this is Jennifer.

Male Voice: Um, I thought I was calling James Simpson.

Me: That's my husband.

Male: Is he there?

Me: No, he's not. Can I take a message? [At this point, I'm thoroughly confused.]

Male: Oh, well my name is Nick. My wife ordered a piece from your husband and I wanted to check on it.

Me: Um... I know your wife. I'm a writer and she's my editor.... What did you say she ordered from my husband?

Nick: Doesn't your husband make ceramic art pieces?

Me: No. He sells cell phones.

Nick: Oh. [Now Nick is equally confused.]

Me: I called your number earlier today looking for your wife.

Nick: Oh... I swear there's an artist named James Simpson who makes ceramics. My wife ordered a ceramic fish from him.

Me: Oh! I think there's an artist in Pittsburgh with a name similar to that. He hosts the Gist Street Reading Series in his studio. I think his name is James Sampson or something.

Nick: Oh, yeah, I have it here. I just saw the caller ID and thought it was him. ...Did you need to talk to my wife?

The ceramic artist turns out to be James Simon.

And to top it all off, my James recognized Nick's name and thinks he sold him a cell phone.

Cue the annoying Small World music!

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add to kirtsy | 2:59 AM | 1 comments


Sunday Scribblings: What's Your Sign?

Pick-up lines guys have actually used on me:

"My name is Charles, but you can call me tonight."

"Hey -- wanna f**k?"

Oh, and if you must know, I'm a Sagittarius. Unless you subscribe to Sidereal astrology, in which case I'm a Scorpio. And a Wood Rabbit if you follow the Chinese zodiac.

What did other Sunday Scribblers say about their signs? Find out.

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add to kirtsy | 1:29 AM | 0 comments

Sunday Scribblings: I have a secret...

...once or twice in the past 31 years, I've gone to bed without brushing my teeth or washing my face.

...I like to stay up until 3:00 and get up at 11:00.

...I think the band Journey absolutely rocks.

...occasionally, I nap with my contacts in.

...I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Dawson's Creek. I especially love the scene in the finale of Buffy when she says to Angel, "Are you going to go all Dawson on me every time I have a boyfriend?"

...I pick my nose.

...I've tried Spam and pork rinds and found them both to be quite edible.

...I once left a candle burning unattended in my apartment while I went to the grocery store. (And have been uber-vigilant with open flames ever since.)

...I voted for Bush the first time around, but not the second ~ when I finally started paying attention to politics.

...I'm afraid of the dark and things under my bed.

...I still wonder about an old boyfriend (and a few almost-boyfriends) and how my life would be different if we'd ended up together.

...I get sick at the smell of polenta.

...I don't understand why "Citizen Kane" has maintained its number one slot on AFI's list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time.

...not all of the light bulbs in my house are the good-for-the-environment-twisty-kind. And I still haven't managed to buy reusable bags for grocery shopping. (But I do recycle the plastic ones I collect.)

...sometimes I think having children could be fun.

...I think my husband gave me athlete's foot.

...even in the midst of heartache and grief, the writer in my head never stops.

...I stole a vintage cafeteria tray from my college alma mater. high school I watched a friend engage in adultery and didn't step-in to bring her to her senses.

...I've wasted time in toxic relationships because I didn't want to face the alternatives.

...I'm a pregnancy hypochondriac. (It started when I was a kid and learned about the Immaculate Conception. What if I'm next? I wondered. Now, I'm just paranoid.)

...I've peed on four EPT sticks in the past month after my new birth control pills made my hormones go kerflooey.

...the first time I ever tried to pick up a cat I accidentally jammed my finger into its butt. I was like: "Whoa! What the-?" And the cat was like: "Whoa! What the-?"

...the sticks were negative.

...all of these are absolutely true.

I told you mine. Now tell me yours...

(Or read others' here.)

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add to kirtsy | 12:31 AM | 3 comments