Tag Archives: gemini girl in a random world

How Real Winners Turn March Madness Into a Billion Dollar Payday

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It’s that time of year again when the U.S. male population exists solely on pork rinds, queso, and Miller Light, worker productivity falls 3,000%, and people stop spitting on math majors.

“I just love March Madness!” Image via lifestyleet.com

That’s right, March Madness is here, and with it, your chance to skim a billion dollars right out of Warren Buffet’s polyester pants by creating a perfect NCAA tournament bracket.

Who needs a bitcoin when you have a million freaskishly huge bags of cash? Image via gstatic.com

Everyone knows that with the right guidance and a lot of tequila, a billion dollar bracket is yours for the making. Because Gemini Girl likes winners (and pretty people with shiny teeth) I’m here to show you a foolproof method to do something considered statistically impossible by everyone at Berkshire Hathaway, Yahoo, and His Emperorship, USSR Czar Vladimir Putin (er, I mean President of Russia and someday soon, the world).

“I pick Republic of Florida to win tourney, then I get on boat, invade nude beaches, and steal most happiest place on earth for Mother Russia!” Image via businessinsider.com

A Number’s Just a Number Until it’s a Winning Powerball Ticket

Everyone thinks bracket rankings are meaningful, but Gemini Girl says don’t believe the hype. Just because Florida’s only been to the tournament once (1 Florida) and Coastal Carolina’s been, like, sixteen times (16 Coastal Car.) doesn’t necessarily mean the Coastal Chanticleers should be in your final four. Why? Because their mascot is from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and everyone who took A.P. English knows that book blows. Any team represented by a Middle English rooster is a guaranteed first round loser, plus, the only mascot I’d ever put money on is Smeagol.

Smeagol invested his tourney winnings in Lebron James. Image via dailypicksandflicks.com

Never Underestimate the Well-Endowed Team

Not the cheerleaders, the school with serious cash on hand. Cheerleaders are athletes too so stop laughing.

They’re real, and they’re spectacular! Image via cracked.com

Anyway, everyone knows that in order to build a successful college basketball program, you have to provide recruits with a lot of Benzies, babes, and weed. Not every deep-pocket donor feels comfortable carpooling to the local strip club with a freshman phenom though, and that’s where an institution’s endowment really comes into play. According to Forbes magazine, Harvard has more money than the entire GDP of the USSR (we all know that’s exactly where Putin is going, so don’t be a hater).

“First I take Republic of Mickey Mouse then I sneak up lazy river to take capital of U.S.A…Las Vegas!” Image via businessinsider.com.

If you ask Gemini Girl, deep-pocket donors = recruit lap dances = Letters of Intent  = guaranteed Final Four appearance. Get it? All those math majors who think anyone cares about their groundbreaking algorithms can suck it. Combine Harvard’s greenbacks with the fact that they’ve appeared in the tournament twelve times (12 Harvard), and you’ve got a combo that’s screaming final four.

This dude loves throwing cash around at Juicy Lucy’s, but don’t tell the Tea Party I said so. Image via datingolders.com.

When in Doubt, Go to Your Happy Place

Sometimes the NCAA men’s selection committee throws everyone for a loop and chooses a team no one’s ever heard of, like Nebraska, probably because Warren Buffet paid them all off. A lot of people don’t realize it’s even a state, and since most guys I know cut geography in high school to go smoke weed with the freshman basketball phenom, things can get a little confusing when trying to make winning first round picks that include areas of the country which might not even be real.

Not a basketball phenom. Image via perezhilton.com

In order to maximize efficiency and minimize the likelihood of the dude in the cubicle next to you who wears a Dennis Rodman Bulls jersey to work, like, every day calling you a poser, use Gemini Girl’s Word Association Tool to make perfect first round tourney picks.

“I’m so Russdiculous!” Image via baconsports.com

Example 1

Memphis: Elvis

George Washington: Wig

Word Association Winner? Elvis

 Example 2

Oregon: Duck

BYU: Polygamy

Word Association Winner? Polygamy

Example 3

Colorado: Weed

Pittsburgh: Blah

Word Association Winner? Weed

“March whhaaattt?” Image via thejointshop.blogspot.com

It’s like, freakishly easy, right?

So there you have it. As soon as you gather all of your well-endowed friends at a random happy place to buy a winning lottery ticket you’re pretty much guaranteed a perfect tournament bracket. But please, don’t tell anyone that Gemini Girl gave you the winning edge. Tell everyone. Then cut me in on 15% of your pre-tax earnings and get me an autographed picture of Warren Buffet (but if you have to use the Word Association Winner tool in an either/or scenario, I’ll take the cash).

***

If you’d like to fill out a 2014 NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket and win $1,000,000,000, go here: How to fleece Warren Buffet!

If you’d like to find the closest strip club to your office, go here: Don’t tell my girlfriend!

If you think Nebraska is ground zero for paranormal activity, go here: Nebraska is for losers!

Is That Your Daughter’s Bra Hanging From A Tree?

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Because it’s not my daughter’s bra. Or at least, not yet.

This is your daughter’s bra and there’s nothing you can do about it. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

I took my girls to the mountains last week for some didn’t-get-around-to-doing-all-the-cool-things-I-promised-you-this-summer-and-sort-of-need-to-fit-it-all-into-one-day family fun. Well, family – two + two, because my husband had to work, my son was already back at school, and each of my daughters decided that bringing a friend would be a much better option than hanging out with me.

That used to be me on the left side of the picture, but my daughter’s friends know the lyrics to every Taylor Swift song ever written, are much more supportive of her attraction to anything dramatic, and never make her empty the dishwasher. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

As the trip drew closer, I watched my self-declared, starring role in their lives casually deflate with the slow hiss of a forgotten balloon, to the point that the character I’ve played for the past ten years and know by heart dwindled to nothing more than a cameo appearance. I was a ride up the mountain, someone to hold discarded clothing (not lingerie), and a human ATM.

The minute we hit the resort parking lot (well not really “we”, the kids paired off in twos as I struggled behind the weight of a broken cooler and enough outerwear to float Mariah Carey safely through the streets of Aspen), they were off without a second glance my way. Determined not to be ditched, I jog-limped behind, scrambling to keep up as they raced from the human maze to a zip line, then over the bungee tramps and up the lift so they could fly back down the alpine slide.

Mariah Carey sometimes gets scuba gear and snow gear confused. Image via telepix.com.

Thanks to my newly acquired, D-list status in their lives, I had a chairlift all to myself, and that’s when I drifted over a piece of material placed so far from its intended purpose that I was momentarily stunned. Feeling a little confused, it took my mind a few seconds to catch up with my eyes… “What’s a bra doing in a tree? How did it get there? Why would someone throw away something so….oh yeah, never mind.”

As I gazed down, the future reached back up and hit me with a stiff sucker punch to the gut. For me, that Victoria’s Secret 34C (give or take a cup) was a physical manifestation of one thing. Fear.

Gisele is not my daughter. Image via fashionlogie.com

As happy as I am that they’re now back in school (be honest, you’re happy your kids are gone too), it’s because I know that when they leave in the morning they’ll come home again. Today, I’m still allowed to enter their rooms unannounced, pack their lunch, braid hair, and read them their favorite bedtime stories. I’m close enough to be counted on as a mother, and not yet so far away that we can’t be friends.

Notice the veins popping out of my hand. Nothing says “You’ll Always Be My Daughter” like a death grip. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

But they’re growing up and moving beyond me in ways both insignificant and profound. I feel it as acutely as a shift in the wind or the distant smell of burning leaves that signals a change of season. I’m now chasing the girls who used to cling to my side. Our family trips to the mountains already look a little different than they used to due to a newly revolving cast of characters; like a funhouse mirror that looks back at you with a reflection that’s familiar and different at the same time. And forget about leading. Before I know it, I won’t even be able to follow them. They’ll be heading in their own direction without a map, hair flying in the wind, with besties and boyfriends by their sides.

I spawned something from the other side of the funhouse mirror. Image via The Church of Scientology.

And that’s how a bra ends up in a tree. I mean, that’s how your daughter’s bra ends up in a tree. Not mine. There’s no way I’m giving a jewel-encrusted key to some lifeguard from the beach who’s all “I love you and you’re so beautiful and you look just like Selena Gomez and I play guitar plus my dad has a boat, and I’m pretty sure he knows Justin Bieber and all that, and so yeah, like do you wanna take a ride up the mountain at night to check out the awesome view or something?”

It’s the “or something” that plasticizes my inner organs, rendering me completely unable to move.

Saving lives and deflowering your daughter, one bottle of baby oil at a time. Image via dontletyourdaughterwearabikini.com.

As long as they live in my house, my daughters’ lingerie will come from the sale rack at Sears. For now and maybe forever, I’m keeping my cash in my pocket and my eyes wide open. Call it a survival instinct, sixth sense, whatever you want. Any way you look at it, you’ll be surprised what you can see from so far behind.

That’s Essa, flying away from me on the alpine slide of life. Image via Stacie Chadwick

I Said I’d Never Write About Politics, But I Know Paul Ryan and I’ve Got Some Advice.

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Who am I to Paul Ryan? No one and everyone.

I’m a forty-two year old suburban mom who knew Paul in college. I’m also a registered Democrat who has voted for both parties over the last twenty-four years. I live in Colorado, a state that offers electoral votes crucial to the outcome of this year’s presidential race. I’m a bleeding heart who lives in a gated community. I’m self-sufficient, yet I feel a responsibility to help others who are in need. As a voter, I’m a pretty interesting mix, difficult to label and hard to define. In my experience, most women are, and from what I understand, our demographic will be a deciding factor in November.

Who is Paul Ryan to me? Someone to watch.

As a U.S. citizen, I’m troubled by the precarious spot our nation occupies on an international chessboard of pieces in constant flux. I don’t support finger-pointing and placing blame for an economy that was weakened by both parties as much as free will. I’m concerned about the future of my children. I dislike negative politics and am frustrated by the inability of our bipartisan House and Senate to find common ground. I’m an optimist who believes tomorrow will be a brighter day, but I see real storm clouds in my direct line of sight. I want our country to move forward, and I’m worried about falling behind.

I’m a daughter, a sister, a mother, and a friend. I vote with my head and I vote with my heart. I read. I listen. I debate. I decide. I’m a potential liability and asset to both campaigns.

Three generations of women who don’t always vote the same way. Image via Stacie Chadwick

And with Mitt Romney’s introduction of Paul Ryan as his running mate, I’m now engaged in this race in a way that I hadn’t been before. Maybe it’s the deepening differences I see in the platforms of the two opposing parties. Better yet, a curiosity around the potential impact of a clear, if not controversial voice. Perhaps it’s due simply to the fact that I know Paul. More likely, it’s my hope that he’ll take the time to reacquaint himself with me, and by that I mean millions of women like me who will vote in the upcoming election.

I also consider Paul to be a friend. Am I jumping on the bandwagon headed straight from Janesville, WI to a national stage? Probably. Although I’ve followed his career, I haven’t spoken with Paul in over twenty years. But something about his addition to the shape of our legislative landscape piques my interest. Regardless of political beliefs, I’m proud that we graduated in the same class at Miami, watched votes together in the Senate gallery when we interned in D.C., and hung out on campus. I’m betting on an accurate memory of the person he was when we were college kids masquerading as adults, and a time-honored belief that as individuals, we don’t really change. In the heat of battle, we often forget the people behind the politics. I knew him as a smart, ambitious, honest guy with Midwestern values and a focused vision. I’m sure he still is. And now? He’s running for Vice President of the United States of America. When I tell my children that they can be anyone they want to be, I can now point to someone I know who is.

Children masquerading as adults. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

So surrounded by a cacophony of shrieks and giggles sung by kids who are stealing the last ounce out of summer on their way back to school, enough dirty laundry to fill a semi, and a stack of bills, I’m doing what I said I never would. I’m flipping my position and writing about politics. I’m offering unsolicited advice to someone who pays people to advise him. I do this because I’m a woman and a friend. It’s my nature. Humor me.

***

Dear Paul,

Mitt Romney’s misspoken reference to you as “the next president of the United States” plays directly into what should be the underlying backbone of your political strategy. Run with a broader vision than the role of Vice President and set your own course.

Show us how you simultaneously lower government spending and make a real commitment to education and job creation. As mothers, we have children who are high school dropouts and can’t support themselves, and post-college boomerang kids who are underemployed. We understand that there’s a real chance their generation will reach a ceiling constructed at a lower height and of lesser materials than ours, buttressed by flawed trusses and support beams. Show us a concrete plan to correct a system that’s broken and produces students who continue to slide behind other countries in core curriculum, is rooted in the industrial age, and pays teachers much less than what they’re worth.

Addressing the economy is a given, so consider looking at it from our point of view. As mothers and wives, we’re often the emotional backbone as well as a financial anchor for our families. What we earn in a paycheck we give back in time spent away from our children. Dig deeper than budget cuts and tax reform in addressing our role in this issue, and show your sensitivity to our increasingly complex jobs.

The Wall Street Journal has championed your cause for years, but the majority of its readership is already part of your base. Embrace media outlets that will challenge your voice, but give you a long runway. With your intelligence and passion, a successful one-on-one with someone like Katie Couric could be a brilliant move, made more so by the failure of your predecessor’s endeavor.

Show us how you privatize Medicare without decimating it. We’re the daughters of aging parents and the mothers of children with disabilities, and often serve as emotional and physical lifelines to three generations of our family. We’re taxed and we’re tired, and yes, a little scared.

Disclose your tax statements. Immediately.

Follow your heart. The ugly side of bipartisanship is based on a world painted in black and white, when most of reality exists in various shades of gray.

Channel Alex Trebek and brush up on foreign affairs. You already know that Syria is further away from Wisconsin than Russia is from Alaska, so silence the naysayers.

Dial down the camo and the ammo. There’s a large group of undecided female voters who will roll their SUVs to save one of the thousands of overpopulated jackrabbits darting in front of their truck as they race off to the grocery store to figure out what’s for dinner.

Give us a small glimpse of the family behind the photo op. To the extent it’s not invasive, let us see the side of your life that we live every day…dropping the kids off at school after the tardy bell rings and staying up late to watch the Olympics as laughter turns to tired tears. We’ll relate to the emotions behind the smiles on your annual holiday card because we know how many tries it takes to get the perfect picture.

My family had to climb a fourteener, build a guard rail, and go without water for three days to get this pic. OK, not really, but it felt like it. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

You’re a well-versed, physical, engaging public speaker: use your open hand gesture and tone down the finger pointing. The first makes us feel included and the second one doesn’t.

You’re an athlete, you vacation in Colorado, and you love the outdoors. It might be a good idea to take a well-documented run through our great state. There are a lot of thirty to fifty year-old female voters who are athletes, live in Colorado, and love the outdoors.

Act like both a CEO and a salesman. Use your gut to champion causes and finesse to drive them home. Women follow people we trust and hire people we like.

Translate the budget deficit into a language we understand: a realistic picture of how the current trajectory will impact our children and our grandchildren’s lives is much more meaningful than rhetoric.

You’re at the heart of our demographic, and your youthful enthusiasm is appealing. Don’t run away from your age.

As women and constituents, we’re straight, gay, wealthy, and poor. We’re married, divorced, widowed, and single. We’re CFOs of corporations and Treasurers of the family budget. We’ve started businesses that have flourished and others that have failed. We’ve decimated our savings accounts and we’ve cut our discretionary spending to build them back up. We’ve sacrificed for our families and feel a twinge of guilt whenever we take time for ourselves. We’re smart, dedicated, and we care about the future of our country. We’re uneasy about the prospect of war but are passionately committed to taking care of our soldiers. We’re healers who want to leave the world a better place for our children than the one we gave them, and we’re not sure that we can.

We vote with our heads, and we vote with our hearts. Understanding the significance of that phrase is the key to your success in our demographic. Your introduction to this race has attracted our attention. My best unsolicited advice? Find a way to keep it.

Regards,

Stacie Whitten Chadwick

No matter where you go, your friends will always have your back. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment. My only request is that you refrain from personal attacks and inflammatory statements. Due to the polarizing nature of the subject matter, this is my first and last foray into politics. I think.

Why You Can’t Pimp My Ride

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Most people view the car they drive as a direct portal to their super-shiny souls.

O.K. that’s not true.

They actually see their wheels as a reflection of the bulging, glossy, shark skin wallet poached off an endangered Great White on some spendy dive trip to Belize.

Why drive when you can fly? Image via blogcdn.com.

Not me though. I consider my car, or rather, my kick ass 2004 GMC Yukon XL truck, as a means to an end. It’s not pretty, but it gets the ankle-biters from Point A to Point B if not in style, then in one piece. Any first responder will tell you that in the case of oh, let’s say a mom of three who takes her eyes off the road while she’s trying to find the 2Pac station on Pandora and is so real she can’t figure out her smart phone? Big car wins. Period. And I like to win. Period.

2Pac forgot to order bullet-proof windows. Oops. Image via mainlinemusic.com

So while my neighbors half-wave at me from the confines of their ergonomically correct, 8,000,000,000 miles to the gallon, time traveling, put fifteen kids from Africa through college or drive this Batmobilesque, star-stalker, status symbol? I’m letting the kids egg my truck. Since an appearance in the Summer Olympics is their best chance at higher education, practice makes perfect, and throwing an oval-shaped animal embryo at a stationary target is a lot like the shot put.

Rio de Janeiro 2012 here we come! Image via Stacie Chadwick.

We only use 100% organic, farm raised, extra omega three fatty acid embryos when egging my Yukon. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

Plus I like to keep it real, and nothing says, “My girl is so down with that!” like a bullet hole. Well, a fake bullet hole that’s really a dent my babysitter put in the passenger side door bringing my girls back from hip-hop camp while I was getting my face blasted off during a chemical peel.

GANGSTA! Image via Stacie Chadwick.

Fake bullet holes look cool as long as they aren’t on your body. Like veneers. Or a dirty wife beater. Or pulling out a huge wad of small bills wrapped in a fifty at the corner lemonade stand and pretending to donate a lot of money to the neighborhood kid’s two-week old dream to go to computer camp at Stanford when you’re really just dropping a George Washington.

When I’m trying to set a good example being down with it, sometimes I get bored. When I get bored I do stupid stuff, like blindfolding myself with the zebra print bandana my daughter won at hip-hop camp for being so fly during the lyrical portion of her routine.

Word. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

When I’m blindfolded I feel super-chill, so I try to back into the garage using only four senses instead of all five. Like taste. Or smell. But mostly feel and sometimes sound. Occasionally I miss and actually hit the garage, because it didn’t smell like I thought it would, and not because I was trying to find 2Pac on Pandora and I couldn’t figure out my smart phone, or putting on a super-fun shade of Bonnie Bell lip gloss in the rearview mirror, or yelling at my kids.

That’s my garage. Holla if you hit that shit! Image via Stacie Chadwick.

Plus, to train for the Olympics or not get kicked out of the state of Colorado, my kids need to be fit. To cut corners and burn calories, I throw them in the Yukon, stream some 2Pac through my subwoofers, and blast the air. A lot of times it comes out hot instead of cold, especially when it’s like, 1,000,000,000 degrees outside, and we can get through Sting’s entire “Ashtanga Yoga for Homies” DVD while I’m chasing people on the highway in their Batmobilesque, star-stalker, status symbol rides who text while driving. I don’t care if parts fall off in-flight, so the truck’s especially awesome for harassing strangers, plus my state-required front license plate was ripped off at the car wash a long time ago, so it’s hard for the cops to catch me as I flee the scene with California Love blaring through my eight-speaker (well, three now), surround-sound system and a zebra print bandana hanging out the window.

No license plate means I don’t even exist, so that blur of obscenities you experienced when you were updating your Facebook status while driving? Wasn’t me. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

So while you’re at the dealer parting with about $2K to repair an electrical short in the auto lift component of your rear door, I’ll be kickin’ it old school style, training my shorties for fame, and keepin’ it real for the moms of greater suburbia. Ahite?

Seven Ways To Get Me On My Back

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Having just returned from my annual pilgrimage to Labialand, where the scale sits five pounds too high and peeing in a cup is a full contact sport, I’ve come to an obvious conclusion.

Visiting your OB/GYN for any reason other than having a baby seriously blows.

Even though my childbearing days are long gone, I force myself up on the pleather-covered table once a year because experts swear that a smiling vagina makes the world a better place. Since we could all use a little more peace, love and understanding, following are some ideas that the Board of Obstetrics and Gynaecology might want to consider discussing with its clamp-carrying members to make the ride a little less rough.

Image via laserlabs.com.

If Happy Wife = Happy Life, then Healthy Lips = Less Hormonal Dips. You can quote me on that, but not in public or in front of my dad. He gets super-embarrassed when you shout VAGINA! during thought-provoking dinner conversation with the new neighbors and prefers to use the word bohunky instead.

Anyway, if you happen to be my OB, here are seven ways to increase your chances of getting me on my back (sorry Simon, it’s another hook, but if you’re still here, you’ve earned major props for reading this far since you’re a dude).

1. Replace this:

Yep, that’s me. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

With this:

Beam me up! This couple laughed all the way through menopause. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

2. Don’t pull the surprise “Time to prick your finger and check those iron levels!” gig right after shoving a three-foot long Q-tip halfway up my small intestines through a hole I didn’t want to explore in the first place. You’re a doctor after all, and should already know that my sweet summer tan and glow-in-the-dark teeth are proof positive of my excellent health.

This is how I feel about getting my finger pricked. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

3. Replace this wall art:

Birth Control is so mid-twenties. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

With this wall art:

Image via fanpop.com.

4. Please stop asking if I remembered to do my kegels after each pregnancy. I’m sorry if I’m leaking all over your bifocals, but I haven’t been pregnant for nine years. The answer is no. It’s always been no. It will always be no, and while we’re at it no, I don’t want an inpatient, hook and needle craft kit suture to tighten up the opening to my woman-cave. When it comes to peeing all over yourself on a regular basis you have to think positively. Adult diapers are a lot more form-fitting than the package leads you to believe, and paired with a new set of Spanx, take playing on the slip-and-slide with the kids to a whole new level.

That’s not me. Image via geekinheels.squarespace.com

5. Replace this:

Country-chic tampon holder. Image via Stacie Chadwick.

With this:

Cristy Carrington knows how to choose an OB. Image via myopera.com

6. Consider exchanging those flimsy paper gowns that barely cover my cheeks and catch the draft of every open door in the building for Snuggies. If you’re interested, Walgreens has an entire landfill’s worth of the 2011 Tim Tebow Broncos version that you can pick up for next to nothing.

A three-month pregnant Le Clown could use a Snuggie to protect his Tori Spellingesque silhouette. Image via clownonfire.wordpress.com

7. Replace this:

Image via Stacie Chadwick.

With this:

I’ve never read Fifty Shades of Grey, but 100,000,000,000,000,000 women can’t be wrong. Image via Wikipedia.

And there you have it. If you, Dr. Feelgood, can find a way for me to kick back with a cocktail in a barcalounger wrapped in the cocoon-like warmth of a Tim Tebow blanket while I gaze up at Johnny Depp and read porn, I’ll come visit once a week instead of once a year. Promise.

Colorado is Burning

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I’ve always been a big non-believer in luck, at least the kind that bleeds bank accounts dry because it’s tied to an arbitrary sequence of numbers that careen down a treacherous path to nowhere. The definition of luck I subscribe to isn’t random. It can’t be bought or sold. It’s more of that mathematical equation based on the concept of preparation plus opportunity yielding positive results…a fortunate position that’s actually earned through hard work, dedication, and skill.

With devastating fires consuming large chunks of my state, I’ve thought a lot about luck lately, and how my perception of its significance is changing as quickly as the landscape morphs outside, both products of a caustic natural catastrophe fueled by a flame that flickers and fades only to catch the wind and ignite under a hazy cloak of dark sky.

Image via notmytribe.com

Colorado is one of those rare places that captures the attention of anyone with vision. If you’re fortunate enough to get here, you never want to leave, because the perspective inspires artists and poets, athletes and day-trippers, and you and me to harness a small piece of the beauty surrounding us and do more. Become better. Grow stronger. Rise to the occasion of a 360-degree view.

But Colorado is burning, and I want to know why.

Image via canoncitydailyrecord.com

Someone who’s deeply religious might say that the fires are simply God’s Will. I’m not that person, because many of the things I want to see stretch beyond the grasp of my mind’s reach and are firmly rooted in the beauty of the landscape that is now being destroyed. Any higher power I might believe in doesn’t cherry pick victims.

Image via foxnews.com

A scientist could point to Global Warming, one of the probable causes of the lingering beetle infestation that’s killed so many of our trees and created forests full of kindling. While that’s arguably a factor, trees don’t spontaneously combust.

Image via handcraftedsites.com

An ecologist may speculate that the fires are simply a means of deforestation, and thus, a necessary part of life’s natural cycle, but this point of view doesn’t take into account the loss of hundreds of homes and displacement of tens of thousands of evacuees who sit in a daze on second-hand sleeping bags with the pins and needles of loss stinging their spines.

Image via tampabay.com

As I watch the smoke plume into the sky, surrounding and swallowing the mountain views I’ve always taken for granted, there’s one thing that’s clear. Short of the sickening thought of an arsonist lighting a match and letting it fly, there isn’t a single spot to place blame. These fires belong to everyone and no one, because as much as any other factor, they are the result of luck. Horrible, catastrophic, painful, defective, damaged luck.

Image via bloomberg.com

Colorado is burning, and similar to the view out my window, the way I see the role that luck plays in life is different today than it was last week. There’s the luck tied to opportunity…a cooler day, a subtle shift in the wind patterns, or a sudden storm over the foothills that sneaks up unannounced. We need that.

Image via forbes.com

Then there’s the luck associated with preparation that will impact the trajectory of this fire…the complex matrix of organizers, first responders to the scene, and thousands of volunteers working 24/7 to help those in need. Without them, this fire would be a raging incumbent, unchallenged and out of control.

Image via coloradodaily.com

Finally, there’s the luck I didn’t quite believe in before this catastrophe…call it serendipity, kismet, karma, or a fluke. It’s that point in time when everything right or something deeply wrong happens for no apparent reason, and life simply looks up. Or down.

My state has been on the wrong side of luck for too many days in a row now, and we’re all trying to do whatever we can to force change. Thanks to the generous residents of this amazing place I’m fortunate enough to call home, a group of us will take a truckload of supplies down to Colorado Springs today in an attempt to help those who are fighting future loss, and others mourning the things that are gone.

Image via 2amazonaws.com

But in an attempt to somehow brush up against that serendipity, kismet, karma, or fluke from above, I’m also crossing my fingers, doing a rain dance, and wishing on a star with the hope that the skies will clear, the fires will retreat, tomorrow will be better, and the kind of luck we need so badly will come back around to the right side.

If you would like to contribute to the fire relief efforts, place considering making a donation to the American Red Cross http://www.coloradoredcross.org.

If It’s True You Can’t Go Home Again, Does It Matter If You Get Close Enough To Knock On The Door?

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Everyone on earth yearns to connect with someone, to find meaning in the moment and value beyond the day-to-day. Unless you’re that dude wearing yellow crocs and a vacant stare trolling up and down the street. If that’s the case and all you want is a Butterfinger and a ride on your pet unicorn so you can time travel through a space portal and enter the third dimension? I’m not talking to you, so feel free to jump the cracks in the sidewalk all the way to crazy and ignore this post.

Charlie Sheen. Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a nicely padded, white cell. Image via celebrityhealthcare24.com

Assuming you’re sane, curious, and reasonably interested in what life’s all about, the question becomes a little more relevant.

Twenty-four years ago, I fluttered off to college wearing a Laura Ashley jumpsuit and gravity-defying bangs. Physical evidence proves that I came of age in an era of hideous fashion. So what if I longed for a pair of blue polka-dotted J. Crew shorts four times the size of my waist, a button-down shirt straight from my dad’s closet, shoulder pads, and a fake tan? Don’t judge me. It was a sign of the times.

Dear Stacie, Laura Ingalls Wilder wants her housecoat back.

A more important marker of that period though, was the ease with which I maneuvered life. The only things I worried about then were grades and my checking account, because bottoming out in either meant an unwanted call from Mom. As long as I maintained a healthy balance, I was free to test my fake I.D. at every bar in town, sleep through an 8:00 a.m. Victorian Poetry class the next day, head to Bagel Deli for a late lunch, and start the cycle anew. I didn’t appreciate the value of doing absolutely anything I wanted every single day without encumbrances or constraints, because it was the only language I knew how to speak.

Why go to class when you can pass out fully clothed with your besties instead?

Fast forward two decades plus, and things look a lot different. My world is now colored in deeper hues, painted from a time worn palette, and buffered by the tiny yet significant details relevant to growing up. Things don’t look as simple as they did back then, but to compare a black and white charcoal drawing to an oil-on-canvas piece created in the dark with a palette knife doesn’t make any sense. They aren’t even close to the same thing.

Deep thoughts at our twenty-year reunion as we debate the long-term effects of botox, chemical peels, and whether or not hormone injections from baby giraffes is an ethical way to battle sagging skin.

What I failed to understand in my haze of studying, partying, and not enough sleep, was that college was never meant to be a destination, just a rest stop off the side of the road to fuel up with the necessary caffeine and carbs to make it to whatever comes next. If I lived in a bubble back then, today I exist in the shadow of the sun, often rising and sometimes fading, but always growing under the heat of filtered light tinged in infinitely more interesting shades.

Can true enlightenment really be found at the bottom of a champagne bottle? My twenty-one year-old self says “Hell yes!”

This past weekend, I took a step back in time to my twenty-year college reunion, just to check out the view. What I found once I’d settled in and looked around, was that while the campus landscape has changed a little over the years, the structure is the same. Like a stalactite. Or the ocean. Like me. Or you.

So the question remains, if you can’t really go home again, can you at least get close enough to knock on the door? And if life’s about the journey, what do you want to find when you get to the other side?

What would you do if you found this on the other side of the door?

Twenty Year College Reunion Observation and Etiquette Guide

1. We may be older and wiser, but we still make stupid mistakes.

2. Although modern medicine has advanced dramatically since 1988, hair plugs have not. So don’t go there. Ever. It will never be an attractive alternative to a shiny dome.

3. If you’ve come back to college looking for the One Who Got Away, reconsider. The person you were then and the one you’ve become today share an important trait. You’re both the product of free will. Back then, you each made conscious decisions that put you on different paths, so keep that ring on your finger and your mouth shut.

4. Party pics trump viral pics.

5. Skip the room temperature, keg-flavored Keystone Light in favor of a Maker’s over ice. Corporate domination, siphoning unnoticed cash from the family checking account, or both have earned you the golden ticket to a sweet buzz.

6. Memories are as clear or fuzzy as the glasses you see them through.

7. You aren’t a better dancer at 2:00 a.m. and you never were.

8. If you refuse to listen to #3, then please consider wearing Spanx. There’s no better deterrent to what will become a regrettable decision than the modern-day equivalent of scuba-inspired latex lingerie.

9. Frat house stalking is a lot more rewarding than Facebook stalking. Not that I’d know.

10. Hand sanitizer is now more important than the buddy system when it comes to going to the bathroom at any local bar.

11. Don’t be afraid to replace what you’ve lost in elasticity with filler. A little goes a long way.

12. Grab-a-dates trump Match.com.

13. Today’s college kids don’t look younger than we did; their apparent toehold on the fountain of youth is just the blurry aftermath of your Lasik eye surgery wearing off.

14. If you’ve ignored items 3 and 7, and you’re still trolling Facebook for the One Who Got Away, don’t go to your college reunion and fire up to Journey’s Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’ unless you’ve got a raging case of halitosis. And adult back acne. And a lazy eye.

15. Mystery trumps technology.

16. Don’t do shots with a kid who was born the year you graduated from college, in fact, don’t do anything with a kid who was born the year you graduated from college.

17. Female hormones rage with as much intensity at 42 as they did at 22…they’re just a lot more unpredictable.

18. Remember that Sangria you drank from the Delt’s bathtub at your first frat party freshman year? No amount of recreational Prozac can overcome the recurring visual of what was really floating at the top of that cup.

19. And if you refuse to listen to items 3, 7, and 14? Understand that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the space-time continuum-inspired fence. It just looks that way because there’s no mortgage, demanding boss, and needy kids to kill the color. Weeds tend to suddenly appear where you least expect them though, so do yourself a favor and tend your own garden instead of trying to plant a new one.

20. Your college friends are your besties for life, and they’ll always have your back, even when you’re sweating through your shirt.

Photo Gallery, ‘Cause Sorority Chics Love Looking at Pictures of Themselves

Litehouse 1992

Litehouse today.

Activewear 1990 (notice the "dad" shorts and XXL t-shirts)

Activewear 1992 (notice the “dad” shorts, XXL t-shirts on the girls and half-shirts on the token dudes).

Activewear today (this picture was taken sans make-up after a four-hour Tough Mudder/Crossfit/P90X stroll through campus).

1992

2012

1992

2012

1992

2012

1992

2012

How Do You Move Forward When You’re Grinding All Your Gears?

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As humans, we’re constantly in motion. But motion and movement are two very different things. Just because you’re in motion doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going anywhere.

Trust me on this, I know.

If I could catch a ride with Richard Branson on his uber-expensive Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, I’d easily be able to assess the difference between the two. But first I’d hit him up for drink. Specifically? A glass of 1907 Heidsieck. At $275,000 a bottle, it would help defray my ticket price while momentarily absolving me of the guilt associated with blowing the kids’ college tuition just to prove a point. BOGO at its highest and best use.

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

Space cowboy Richard Branson. Image via cognitivelibertyuk.wordpress.com

The second thing I’d do is settle in to check out the real estate, because isn’t leveraging my children’s future to see the world from a different point of view all about perspective? I imagine myself staring out the window at an earth below that looks less and less like the picture we all try to paint on a daily basis. Not so much a three-dimensional place anymore, but from way up above? A ginormous chessboard marked with clearly defined grids, gateways, and boundaries, as tiny balls of energy collide, advance, deflect, promote, dodge, gather, seek and recede in an endless effort to check the king.

Image via portwallpaper.com

Image via portwallpaper.com

Fascinated with the sparkly surface patterns of intricate motion that everyone on earth longs to be, and all happy-tingly-woozy from my six-figure, speed of sound buzz, I’d almost miss what I didn’t know I flew so high to see. Something small and seemingly insignificant situated inside the massive advance of energy that everyone else on board paid a lifetime of 401K savings to witness.

I’m talking about inert matter. Those pinpricks of light that mimic motion, but whose movement is an optical illusion: running in circles, dancing in place, and bumping up against imaginary walls. As everyone else on board focuses on the obvious, I’d be able to drill down a little deeper. But only because I’ve been there. Stuck. In motion, but not really going anywhere.

Image via trojantimes.org

Image via trojantimes.org

Looking back at my adult life, it’s easy to categorize it into a series of phases.

Phase 1/1980s: The Sussana Hoffs era of Big Hair and Big Dreams.

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Big hair is hot. Image via houston.culturemap.com

Phase 2/1990s: The Yves Saint Laurent era of Big Black Suit and Big Career.

Don't look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Don’t look at my body. Look at my soul. Image via http://www.girlsguidetoparis.com

Phase 3/2000s: The Barbara Billingsley era of Big Belly and Big Bills.

That’s not me. OK it is. On the verge of birthing an alien.

I’ve always considered myself fairly stealth, able to move seamlessly in and out of various roles at-will to the beat of a metronome perfectly synchronized to my tune. But about three years ago, on the cusp of my 40th birthday, everything changed. For someone who’s always been confident enough to chart her own course, I suddenly found myself drifting. I was lost and knee-deep in the weeds without a compass, while a storm of my own design grew larger than it appeared in my peripheral view.

Somewhere between my career and the kids, buried in a pile of laundry or possibly lurking inside a box in the basement that I hadn’t opened for years, I lost my perspective and appreciation for the life I’d so carefully built. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt like I simply woke up one day yearning to be anywhere and anyone but who I was. Confused, I couldn’t seem to recognize the woman looking back at me in the mirror when I washed my face every night.

No matter how enlightened I become, I will always hate matching socks.

It’s easy to get lost in a pile of socks.

I was that person who, although constantly in motion, wasn’t actually moving. Busy with my responsibilities as a parent and a wife, I had somehow forgotten about the inner workings that support the common denominator between the two, and then the kids went off to school, and could tie their own shoes, and make sound decisions without being told how, and I realized that I had unintentionally parked myself on an island and hadn’t taken the time to learn to swim. Even in the middle of paradise, isolation is lonely, and days on end of the most beautiful sunset somehow lose their color. Things that shine on the surface, like the tiny balls of energy you might see from outer space, sometimes look entirely different from the inside out.

Telluride, CO August 2011

When you’re stuck, you’re forced to stop. You don’t have a choice. And then when you’re ready to move forward, you have to look around and figure out where you want to go next rather than simply allowing the tide to sweep you along. That initial inertia and subsequent plotting of a new path has great value, even though in the moment it feels miserable, like treading water in quicksand.

One of the side effects of getting lost is the unexpected places you get to visit on your way to a new destination. Like for me? Writing. This blog is a direct result of a yearlong, step-by-step, rocky hike on a circuitous path. And I’m still going. I’m a constant work in progress, but I’m now comfortable with my ever-changing state of being because I’m doing the work to figure out where I want to end up. Plus I reserve the right to change my mind, which is a great back-up plan when all else fails.

I believe that in life, we all get stuck at some point. Whether it’s due to things like divorce, disease, death, or distraction, almost everyone loses their way. Sometimes we have to move backwards to go forward, or hit a bottom so hard that the force of impact acts like a catapult up to the top, but the a-ha realization at the end, when lessons are learned and intersecting lines actually connect, is priceless. It isn’t easy, but almost everything worth accomplishing in life is born from some type of hardship or loss. So what about you? Are you simply in motion or are you actually moving? It’s a question worth asking, even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear.

Taking the road less traveled and finding my way.

I Think I’m Smarter Than You

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No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.

Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.

Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.

Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.

Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.

Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)

It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:

Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.

Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.

And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.

My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.

So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.

 Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t

1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.

2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.

3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.

4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.

5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.

6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.

7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.

8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”

9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.

10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.

I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.

Coming of Age in a Jeep Wagoneer

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During a Christmas break sophomore year in college so lame it seared a slow burn straight through the shelf, my mother released me from the death-grip of boredom and into the open arms of memories being made. The call to adventure went something like this:

Susie, college friend from not-so-sunny Cleveland: “Hey Stacie, wanna go to Florida?

Me, stuck in sucky Louisville: “Totally. When?”

Susie: “Tomorrow. We’ll pick you up at 9:00 a.m.”

Me: “Awesome!”

I had no idea who Susie was with, where we were headed, or how long we’d be gone. And I didn’t care. All I knew was that Florida, surrounded on three sides by the ocean, was a hell of a lot warmer than Kentucky, and there was a hot pink, strapless bikini with the tags still attached suffocating under a pile of long underwear in my drawer.

Susie and Rob picking me up in Kentucky where everything was...cold.

The only barrier between the freedom I’d come to take for granted while away at college and the freedom I desperately missed from…being away at college?

My Mom.

In high school, I didn’t call her Big Bad Brenda because she was particularly mean. She earned this nickname because she appeared, in 3-D technicolor megapixels, right in the middle of every lie, plan to lie, or daydream of lying that crossed my mind.

Here’s a parenting tip for anyone lucky enough to have spawned a teenage daughter. When she tells you she’s going to the youth group lock-in at church but is really planning to sneak over to Jenny Clark’s house because her parents are out of town? Don’t believe her. In fact, follow her not-so-subtle scent straight to Long Run Park, post-football game, where she’s hanging out on the hood of Will Anson’s red Camaro with the sole purpose of getting a ride to school on Monday because the bus is for losers.

Watch where you walk. The air is so thick with humidity, heat, and hormones that you can hardly elbow your way through the haze. But please. Persevere. Move to the dead center of the crowd and pull out a bullhorn. That’s right. A bullhorn. Something to amplify your voice above the fully synchronized, eight-speaker, subwoofered surround sound stereos blaring Lynyrd Skynyrd, because by now your daughter has been alerted to your arrival, and she is hauling it toward the woods in her Dr. Scholls. Which is fun to watch if you happen to see her stop, drop, and roll into the dense underbrush for cover. Put the bullhorn to your lips, and with the best mom stare you can pull out from under your sensible shoes, scream the following,

“If anyone has seen Stacie Whitten tonight, please tell her that her mother is looking for her.”

And then leave.

The utter humiliation your daughter will feel as she frog-hops fallen trees in an attempt to escape her now not-so-cool life is more effective than any corporal punishment you could inflict.

I know. I was there.

With that small incident (and it wasn’t the only one), burned into the folds of my impressionable brain, I couldn’t quite figure out why Mom said yes when I casually asked the next morning, after getting up early to clean the house, fry her some bologna for breakfast, and hum Kumbaya under my breath whenever she passed by, if I could go to the beach with my friend. But she did, so before her pre-caffeinated mind had the chance to catch up with her mouth, I was out the door, and into this:

Image via my cool friend Matt, who posted this on Facebook.

There is nothing that screams road trip like the faux wood-paneled siding of a Jeep Wagoneer, so as Susie, her big brother Rob, and his friend waved to Mom from the curb, I slid into the plush, pleather middle row, took in the Waxman-like scent with a deep breath, and settled in for the ride.

Still pasty, but happy.

Still pasty, but happy.

These are the things I remember about that trip:

  1. Rob drives really fast, but in a safe kind of way.
  2. Rob has a lot of spendy friends. We couch-hopped for over a week in some of the most expensive real estate on the planet.
  3. Drinks taste better by the ocean.
  4. Susie doesn’t just sing karaoke. She sings karaoke to win.
  5. Susie’s favorite thing to win, while singing karaoke, is free drinks.
  6. Free drinks also taste better by the ocean.
  7. If you’re not by the ocean, it’s perfectly acceptable to down your free drinks while playing pool.
  8. I look older in Florida than I do in Kentucky, which is a bonus when you’re 19.
  9. If Susie just won another karaoke contest and everyone’s downing free drinks by a pool table instead of the ocean? It’s fun to share them with some random dude named Enis who looks like he could use a free drink.
  10. Getting a free ride, free drinks, a free place to stay, and a free tan in December is awesome.
Me, Susie, and Enis.

Me, Susie, and Enis.

For me, there was a time when “road trip” simply meant getting in my car and going…with a Big Gulp, mix tape, and limitless possibility staring back at me through the rearview mirror. But now I map directions and time my ride, living a life so synchronized to the tune of obligation that an open lane has become nothing more than a means to an end.

When did taking the road less traveled morph into plotting the easiest path?

I was thinking about this as I touched down in Atlanta last week and made my way to the rental car counter to pick up the Ford Focus I planned to drive to my Dad’s farm. But the rental agent, who is now officially my new best friend, gave me the keys to a brand new, black-on-black BMW 528i instead. I am not lying. Go ask my mom.

As I slid into my practically self-propelled, fully loaded, freaking awesome ride with a Big Gulp and my mix tape (O.K., iPod), I realized that if life is really all about the journey? It looks a lot sweeter from behind the wheel of a $60,000 car.

I can't drive 55 in a brand new BMW 528i

I can't drive 55 in a brand new BMW 528i