Article on my newspaper kids and me!

Not a real post from me, but my students and I were featured in a local newspaper and I figured it was worth sharing!

Full article available here

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Watkins Mill High School revives student newspaper

by Alex Ruoff

The Gazette
This month a lost tradition is expected to return to Watkins Mill High School: the student newspaper.

The newspaper, The Current, has been absent from the school for more than five years after interest in it reportedly waned and student participation fell.

This year, English teacher Sara Goodman began an introductory journalism class at Watkins Mill aimed at reviving the once award-winning paper and, she hopes, inspiring a few writers in the process.

“I want these kids to see that words have power,” she said. “I want them to see that writing matters.”

Although several articles already have run on the newspaper’s website, the first print edition of The Current is expected to be published March 23, Goodman said. The inaugural edition has a budget of $1,500, and will be eight pages and void of any advertising.

Watkins Mill senior Angela Nino, 17, was preparing stories for the edition Thursday, editing another student’s preview of a performance of the musical “Guys and Dolls,” set to premiere at the school. She said she elected to take the class to help improve her creative writing skills.

The staff for The Current range from freshman to senior students, most of whom will help write, edit and lay out the paper, as well as seek advertisers.

For the upcoming edition, Nino is writing a feature on Matthew Johnson, a paraeducator at Watkins Mill who moonlights as a mascot for the Baltimore Orioles, and will help put together a story on which of her school’s teachers have tattoos; pieces she hopes will get the school talking.

“Well, we knew that some teachers had tattoos, but like almost the whole social studies department has them,” she said.

The school will offer the Journalism 1 class as an elective again next year — introducing students to Associated Press style, the basics of newspaper design and interviewing skills — and introduce Journalism 2, a more advanced writing class, both taught by Goodman, to help generate longer articles for the paper. Currently, the school’s only journalism class has 17 students enrolled in it.

The Current was last listed in publication with the National Scholastic Press Association, a nonprofit group that aims to provide students and teachers with journalism education services as well as critiques of student-operated newspapers, in 1997, two years after the paper earned an award for quality high school journalism from the group.

The Current is not the first student paper Goodman, a published author and former journalism student at the University of Maryland, where she wrote for the student newspaper The Diamondback, has needed to build from the ground up.

When Clarksburg High School opened in 2006, Goodman said the local booster club gave her $500 to start The Howl, now published monthly at the school.

Montgomery County schools are home to several nationally recognized student newspapers, including The Rockville High School Rampage, the paper at Rockville High School in Rockville, and Silver Chips, the paper at Silver Spring’s Montgomery Blair High School, both of which were finalists for last year’s National Scholastic Press Association’s Online Pacemaker award, which is given to school newspapers on the cutting edge of online journalism.

Blair’s Silver Chips has been in publication for nearly 75 years, requires its student reporters to first complete a yearlong journalism course, and employs an eight-person advertising staff, said Claire Boston, the editor-in-chief of Silver Chips and a Blair senior. The magnet school also boasts a communication arts program that specializes in journalism.

The quality of a student newspaper at any high school generally varies depending on a number of factors, such as student interest and if the school provides journalism classes, which are not required in many school districts such as Montgomery County Public Schools, said Logan Aimone, executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association.

“Some schools have 100-year-old traditions, where teachers are teaching journalism all day … and some don’t,” he said. “It just depends on the school and the students.”

Moving on: The blog is back in town!

So a lot of people have been whining about the lack of blogs lately.

To those people, I would like to say, WHERE ARE YOUR BLOGS? Oh, that’s right, most of you don’t have them! Do you think I’m just some monkey who’s supposed to dance for your amusement? Sheesh…

You all just collectively said yes to that, didn’t you?


Okay, well here’s my attempt to rationalize why there haven’t been any blogs lately with some semi-valid excuses.

Excuse #1: I’ve been busy! I’m at a new school this year and in addition to meeting all new teachers and students, I’m responsible for starting the newspaper there. So while, in past years, I had all of my little newspaper lackeys (no offense guys, I love you!!!) in place ready to do my bidding, this year I’m on my own. Which means my desk looks like a scene from Hoarders, no one brings me yummy snack food (which does mean I’ve lost a little weight… who would have thought there was a correlation between cake and weight gain?), and I actually have to do horrible menial tasks like grading quizzes. Myself. Oh the humanity.

In other words, teaching sucks when I don’t have my newspaper slaves—I mean students! I said students, right? Besides, they’re not really like SLAVES. I don’t make them build pyramids or pick cotton. They’re more like unpaid interns or fraternity pledges. (Note to self: once I actually have newspaper kids next year, make them wear pledge pins.)

Excuse #2: I’ve been… well… happy. And it’s hard to make fun of stuff when I’m one of those annoyingly happy people who I normally mock in my blog.

But it’s true.  I’ve been happy.  Last year, I was miserable because life at my old school had gotten absolutely unbearable.  Literally.  I used to cry.  Every day.  Because I didn’t want to go back there.  So blogging was a good escape.

When I found out that I was switching schools last spring, I drew this picture to show how much better I thought my new school would be.

Clearly, I should quit my day job and become an artist. I have an undeniable gift.

You see, my last school was a bad place. I like to describe it as being kind of like The Shining. It takes normal, relatively sane people and turns them into axe-wielding, family-chopping up, entire-books-composed-of-only-“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”-writing lunatics. And I was little Danny Torrance, with everyone out to get me. But it wasn’t like the newer version of the movie when the guy from Wings runs around trying to be menacing with a croquet mallet. Oh no. It was the full-out Jack Nicholson, scary dead twins, and really ugly wife version. So it was easy to be miserable there.

But I got to my new school and realized that my drawing wasn’t exactly accurate. Because I hadn’t known to include the magic fairies and pixie dust and glitter that’s on everything. Seriously. It’s that much better.

And, up until a couple weeks ago, I even had a boyfriend.

But, as we all know, as soon as something in my life starts going well, something else goes spectacularly wrong.

So I spent a few months being irritatingly happy, before getting dumped.

In a text message.

Yeah, you read that right. A text message.

Which is probably the only thing worse than the Sex And The City post-it note breakup.

But I’m a survivor.  I’m not gonna give up. Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride. Nobody gonna slow me down. Oh no. I got to keep on moving.  (Sorry for switching songs there.)  So I spent a day crying, then, less than 48 hours later, went on a date with someone else.

That, my friends, is what my students refer to as “swagger.” And I have it. In abundance. (Which is a word they don’t know… sigh… the life of an English teacher…)

But it took that date with someone else to realize something that I probably should have realized several months ago: I’m an idiot.

Why am I an idiot? (I really, REALLY hope you just asked yourself that…)

Well, I’ll tell you. Because I actually STAYED with this guy long enough for him to dump me. Despite the fact that he was only 25 (which is definitely too young for me—but no, I’m still not telling you how old I am!), lived with his parents, hadn’t finished college, smoked, worked at a tire place, and WORST OF ALL, was a Republican who listened primarily to electronica.

Oh, and he gave me crap about watching True Blood because “vampires are so fake,” yet was COMPLETELY convinced that a zombie apocalypse was imminent.  Seriously.  Like he had a legit survival plan prepared and everything.

And HE dumped ME.

Of course, to be fair, not EVERYTHING about him was bad.  He was a Redskins fan, so he did pass my dad’s criteria for dating me.

I normally wouldn’t blast someone for their personal shortcomings on the internet like this.  Or I’d at least feel bad about it if I did.  And if he’d had the balls to end the relationship in person, or even over the phone, I wouldn’t be writing any of this.  But he didn’t.  And as the old warning goes,  “Woe to ye who dicks over a writer.”  I’m pretty sure Shakespeare said that. 

And I’m not a total snob. I didn’t judge him for having not finished school yet. I mean, my absolute favorite person on the planet, Bruce Springsteen, never finished college either.

Of course, when Bruce was 25, he put out Born to Run (which is indisputably the greatest album of all time) and was the first non-world leader to appear on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week. I think he wins that round.

But let’s look at another example: Me.

When I was 25, I bought my condo, finished the first draft of Beyond the Palace, and won my first national award for the school newspaper that I sponsored. Hmm…

Granted, I’m an overachiever in every field. Except dating apparently.  Otherwise, I would have gotten the hell out long before he had the chance to peace out via text.

Come to think of it, my lack of blogging probably had less to do with me being happy and more to do with me not being able to mention the boyfriend without making ten billion excuses for everything that was wrong about him.

And I have to admit that even though I spent a few days wallowing in the misery of the end of the relationship, I think it was more about the damage that the text message did to my ego than anything else.  Because I’m DEFINITELY in a better place now than I was when we were together.

So now that I’m single and don’t need to justify any poor decisions, I promise to get back to the blogging.

And if it’s not frequent enough to satisfy your demands, I’d like to invite you, at your earliest possible convenience to…

BUY MY BOOKS AND READ THEM ALREADY! Jeez, couldn’t you have taken my hiatus as an opportunity to do that?

Come on, you knew that was coming.

Some things don’t change after all.

Who cares what the Academy picks? Here are MY Oscar choices (Based on absolutely nothing)

So as I’m sure everyone under the sun knows by now, the Oscars were last night.

And I’m probably in the minority as one of the few people in the world who couldn’t care less.

Those of you who used to know me are probably shocked by this sentiment. Some of you may have even been unfortunate enough to have been my friend during spring break my freshman year of college, when I insisted that watching the Oscars was more important than… ummm… the things that college freshmen NORMALLY do on spring break, and wouldn’t let anyone do anything until we’d watched the entire show.

It’s amazing I still had friends after that.

Actually, it’s probably more amazing that they listened to me and stayed in. If that happened now and some celebrity-crazed chick told me I couldn’t go out because I had to watch the Oscars, I’d leave her ass in that crappy hotel room in Panama City and go have a lot more fun.

These days, however, I have no clue what’s going on in the Oscars and to be honest, I have trouble caring. Considering that I used to be completely movie crazy, that seems like an odd position for me to take, but there’s a logical reason for my ignorant ambivalence: I don’t go to the movies anymore.

No, it’s not because they’re too expensive, and no it’s not because I don’t have time. It’s a far sadder reason than that. It’s because all of my friends are married and go to the movies with their spouses. And because I’m apparently the last single person on the planet (and not secure enough to go to the movies alone), I no longer go to the movies except when my married friends take pity on me and invite me along with them.

(Or they invite me to a movie because their spouse has no desire to see the movie in question… which usually only happens with chick flicks, but the creators of chick flicks seem to have caught on and are including lesbian scenes like in Black Swan, ensuring that husbands are the ones dragging their wives to these movies.)

When it first happened, I was sad, because movies always seem so exciting when they’re out in theaters. Now, I’ve come to accept that I’ll never see a movie until it’s available On Demand or on Netflix, and I’m okay with that.

But it means the Oscars tend to suck because I’ve only seen the movies that came out more than six months ago. So while I’m currently petitioning them to move the Oscars to early September, which really makes a lot of sense because everyone knows that the MTV movie awards in June are the REAL indicator for what’s going to win an Oscar, NOT the Golden Globes.

However, until the Oscar people realize that I’m right and move the award ceremony to a more singles-friendly month, I’ve decided that I’m going to ignore the winners that they selected last night and choose the REAL winners, based, of course, on which movies I’ve actually seen.

So let’s get started.

Best Picture: This was an easy one for me. Inception.

Because I literally didn’t see any of the other movies. And because it stars Leonardo DiCaprio. And therefore even if it loses, it wins. But even without seeing any of the other choices, I can say with confidence that it was better than most of the other choices. Why? Because 127 Hours may star James Franco (who I do love), but I’m never going to watch it. Too scary in a realistic way. And the problem with never seeing movies until really late is I already know that he cuts his own arm off. Therefore, it loses my vote sight unseen.

Black Swan definitely isn’t better than Inception because I’m sorry but a lesbian scene does NOT cancel out a movie about ballet. I took ballet when I was little. And while I loved wearing a tutu, I hated ballet.

The Social Network is out because good or not, it’s about Facebook. Do I really need to explain this one? No? Didn’t think so…

I’m still upset that I haven’t seen Toy Story 3 yet, but awesome as it may be, I’m not calling it the best picture. I heard The Fighter and The King’s Speech were good. But I heard that from my parents, who only watch movies based on a high rating on IMDB, and I think that’s a ridiculous reason to see movies. (Compared to my reasoning of I’ll see it if it stars Leonardo DiCaprio or Eric Bana. But I think that logic is sound. My parents’ isn’t.) So I don’t trust their judgment of any movie as actually being their own opinion.

Although Winter’s Bone gets the runner up award from me.  Not because I have any idea what it’s about, but because I loved the Wayne’s World reason for picking it.  Gotta love SNL reunions.

Best Actor: This is a tough one. Because I didn’t see ANY of the movies that the actors were nominated from. So I’m going to go with a tie between Colin Firth (who I adore. Because he was Mr. Darcy. And therefore I will always love him)

and James Franco. Not because I think James Franco is THAT great (and I’m pretty sure he’s not gonna win—how many times does the HOST win Best Actor? I mean, come on!), and I’m NEVER going to see that movie. But I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, mostly so that I can justify never seeing the movie. And he was awesome in Milk. And Date Night.  And Pineapple Express. And everything else.

So he can tie with Colin Firth.

Best Actress. Again, a tricky category, because I saw none of the movies. And I know everyone is pulling for Natalie Portman. But I’m not giving it to her. Partially because I went to preschool with her (yes, she went to Children’s Learning Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. Google it. It’s true), but mostly because I don’t want to believe that you can win an Oscar the same year you starred in a movie with Ashton Kutcher. Sorry Natalie. Bad career move there.

I also can’t pick Michelle Williams. Not because I have any clue what her role was, but because I hated her character on Dawson’s Creek a million years ago and therefore she loses. Which leaves Annette Benning, Nicole Kidman and the chick I’ve never heard of. Actually, I’m not even picking a winner here. I don’t care. Flip a coin if you can’t live with that.

I’m skipping Best Supporting Actor because I don’t care about that either, and moving right on to Best Supporting Actress, which I absolutely DO care about. Helena Bonham Carter all the way. In fact, because I don’t give a crap about Best Actress, I think Helena Bonham Carter should win that too. Because she’s awesome. In everything. There isn’t a single role that she WASN’T awesome in.

Granted, she usually dresses worse than a homeless person.  But it’s okay.  Because she’s awesome.

Okay, so my choices probably aren’t the winners from last night. But I’ll let you know in about six months when I’ve actually gotten to watch the nominated movies if I made any mistakes.

Except for 127 Hours. Seriously. I’m having a panic attack just THINKING about the story that inspired that movie. In fact, I’ll give it the Best Picture award if it means I don’t have to watch it. Ever.

I’m single. But if anyone asks, I DEFINITELY have a boyfriend.

I’m single, and actually pretty happy about that these days. Which is why whenever anyone asks me if I have a boyfriend, I say yes.

You might think this is strange. I’m not a pathological liar, but I’ve realized that telling people that I’m single causes one of a few undesired reactions.

If a girl asks if I’m single and I say yes, I’m met with pitying looks (because apparently I’m the last single girl on the planet), then the girl either tells me she knows the perfect guy for me (even if she just met me and knows NOTHING about me), or else she tells me to hang in there because Mr. Right is just around the corner.

After I’m done throwing up, it’s pretty clear that I don’t want to be friends with this girl.

If a guy asks me if I’m single and I say yes, I’m immediately claimed as his future girlfriend, despite any protests that I may make explaining that I don’t WANT to go out with him. Somewhere along the line guys decided that saying no is the equivalent of playing hard to get, and it starts to feel like I’m getting date raped into going out with them. No means no.

And the problem is that if I say no, guys ask why I won’t go out with them. I hate that. I don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you that you’re not cute or that it’s because you didn’t go to college and drive a pickup truck with NRA and George W. Bush stickers on it. Actually, if it’s the latter, I probably will tell you that. But you won’t understand what I’m saying. Because you’re an idiot. And I don’t mean because you didn’t go to college.

So it’s easier to lie and say that I have a boyfriend. I’ve been doing this for years, but unfortunately, technology has made this harder to do at times.

Now, when I tell someone that I have a boyfriend, that’s suddenly confirmable on Facebook, where I am listed as single. And yes, I could remove that whole relationship status from my page, but what if Bruce Springsteen is looking? I don’t want HIM to think I’m in a relationship! (Bruce, I’m TOTALLY available! Seriously. I like being single, but you’re the exception. Along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Eric from True Blood. If any of you are checking out my page, trust me, I’m single.)

Unfortunately some men seem to have caught on to the fake boyfriend trick and start asking questions about him to see if he’s real. I’ve NEVER understood this. If a girl says she has a boyfriend, CLEARLY she’s not interested. Do you think she’s going to magically become interested if you can prove she lied? Do you really want to go out with her THAT badly if she’s making up a fake boyfriend to avoid going out with you? Seriously, that’s just sad and pathetic.

Although it may be more sad and pathetic that I play along. I’m like a guy with that. Once I’ve told a lie, I’m going to stick to it until the bitter end. (Which is why I will NEVER tell my dad what happened to my car when I was sixteen and it got that big scrape on the side. Someone must have hit me in a parking lot, dad, I swear.) So my fake boyfriend has a whole history.

For example, his name is Mike. He’s an accountant in DC for some firm that I’m always forgetting the name of. We’ve been dating for almost a year and I think it’s starting to get serious, which is good because I REALLY like him.

Of course, I’ve been using the same fake boyfriend for about eight years now, so sometimes it gets a little fishy why we’re not engaged when guys ask about him much later. When that happens, I explain that we broke up for awhile, but worked things out. I wanted us to move in together, but he wasn’t ready for that, so I broke up with him. But then we ran into each other and he told me how much he missed me, and now things are going much better than before.

Once in awhile, this backfires spectacularly. For example, if you lie to a guy you meet at the gym about having a boyfriend (and yes, I’m speaking from personal experience here), then he sees you out at a bar one night, clearly single, flirting with several guys, and giving your number out, he’s going to catch on. I was accused of cheating on Mike one night when that happened. And nothing scares off the guy you’re talking to faster than some other guy telling him that you have a boyfriend and you denying it.

Another time, I told the boyfriend lie, only to become friends with the guy who had originally been going to ask me out. But I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and tell him that Mike wasn’t real, so I had to stage a whole breakup, just so that I could date someone else without my new friend figuring out that I’d lied to him.

So it’s not always worth the hassle, but most of the time, it saves me a lot of annoyance. But whenever I start to tell someone the truth that I’m single, I think of this scene from Ghostbusters and mentally substitute the words “if you have a boyfriend” for “if you’re a god.” Although I’d rather deal with Gozer than a guy who won’t accept that I don’t want to go out with him any day.

Woohoo! No school! Oh wait, I’ll be in synagogue…

Ah Rosh Hashanah. No, I didn’t just sneeze on the keyboard. That’s what today is. Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year. The start of the year 5771. (We, unlike the rest of you, started counting BEFORE Jesus. LONG before.)

It’s kind of an odd holiday. You’re supposed to eat apples with honey, and people use a ram’s horn as an instrument. Literally. It’s called a shofar. And it kinda sounds like an out-of-tune airhorn.

But in a lot of ways, the Jewish New Year is better than New Year’s Eve. It’s cheaper (wow, Jewish stereotype or what?), you don’t feel as crappy the next day, and you’re forgiven for all the bad stuff you did in the past year.

Yup, you get a clean slate every year in Judaism. And you’re SUPPOSED to get drunk on the weekends for Shabbat. Greatest religion ever or what? I had a lot of non-Jewish friends in college who got very religious all of a sudden when I told them about those aspects of being a member of the tribe.

Of course, it’s also one of the two holidays that I wind up in synagogue for. In a good year, I spend more time a Springsteen shows than at shul.

This was not a good year. He’s not touring. We all know what I’ll be praying that 5771 brings today!

For a real publishing contract for my book! Come on, I’m not going to PRAY for Bruce to tour… although, Big Man, I HAVE had a rough couple of years. A new album in 5771 could help. I’m just saying… (And by Big Man, I mean Clarence Clemons. Duh. He WAS one of the three Most Important People in the Universe in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure for a REASON!)

Synagogue is not exactly my favorite place to be. I mean, I’d rather be there than school most days. But my mom does her best to make sure I don’t enjoy it.

By which I mean, I’m not allowed to sit next to my dad because we “cause trouble.”

This rule has been in effect for my entire life, so I’m not sure when she decided that letting us sit together was a problem. And a couple of times we managed to convince her that we’d behave better if we COULD sit together, because then we wouldn’t have to talk over her. And we proved that we were right, but mom never seems to remember that, so she insists on sitting between us and shushing us whenever we talk.

And sometimes we NEED to talk. For example, we HAVE to make Highway 61 Revisited jokes during the Torah portion every year because it’s the part where “God said to Abraham kill me a son.” That’s ACTUALLY the part we’re reading on Rosh Hashanah! How could we NOT start quoting that song?

But my biggest problem is that I’m way too ADD to sit still in synagogue for the full amount of time. It’s been a problem my whole life. I need something to do with my hands, or else I drive everyone around me nuts. (And boys, do NOT insert a dirty pun here! We’re NOT talking about me sitting on the sofa or in a movie theater. It’s SYNAGOGUE. You’re going to hell. Wait. Jews don’t believe in hell. Crap.)

In college, I used to bring knitting to my classes so that I could pay attention. They frown on that in synagogue. When I was little, my mom would bring toys for me. But she says I’m too old for that now. I used to bring myself silly putty and make putty people of the other congregation members around us, then squish them. But mom said I can’t do that anymore either.

So I turn to origami.

They always give us some random papers when we go in, which always end up being fortune tellers and sailboats and paper airplanes during the rabbi’s sermon. It doesn’t mean I’m not listening. In fact, it means that I AM listening! If I wasn’t doing anything, I’d be daydreaming. And I like our synagogue’s rabbi. So I make origami as a sign of respect. And I’m generous, I always give what I make to my parents. Who think I’m an idiot.

Granted, mom might be so hard on me in shul because dad insists that we pay extra to get the seats in the front. He doesn’t seem to get that unlike a Springsteen show, how close you are in synagogue really doesn’t make much of a difference.

So L’Shana Tova to my fellow Jews out there, and to everyone else, just so you know, be nice to us on the next Jewish holiday (Yom Kippur—next Friday night through Saturday night). That’s the one where we can’t eat or drink for 24 hours. And while I don’t drink coffee, so I’m okay without caffeine, I won’t be held responsible if you are killed and eaten by one of my parents, who turn into fire-breathing monsters without their daily 79 million cups of coffee.

But the good news is that after next week, I’ll have a whole year to learn how to make new origami to start the year 5772 out on the right foot.

And mom and dad, in the spirit of the holiday (and so I don’t spend 5771 being punished), I’m sorry for making fun of you. Please don’t kill me with your fire breath on Yom Kippur!

It’s official: I’m going to be a cat lady. And it’s all my grandma’s fault.

When I was seven or eight, my grandmother decided that we should build a dollhouse together. She took me to a hobby shop that specialized in dollhouses (it’s long gone now), and we picked one out. We spent hours and hours designing the outside so that it would look like my house, then spent even longer on the individual rooms.

Then we forgot all about it for the next nearly twenty years and it sat in her basement gathering dust.

A couple years ago, Grandma decided it was time for us to finish the dollhouse. I said I would help, then didn’t, because I had no interest in it whatsoever. So Grandma finished it herself.

It became her project for over a year. She had a friend wire it for electricity, and set up the bedroom that was supposed to be “mine” to match my childhood bedroom, complete with a bedspread made out of a scrap from my old sheets. She put mini Gone With the Wind posters on the wall (my favorite book since age ten), and printed tiny pictures of me and my family for the walls as well.

Finally it was finished. She held an open house party to show it off. (Yes, it actually happened.) Then, with it done, she decided I should take it home with me.

I laughed and told her that no, I didn’t want a dollhouse in my condo.

She couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want it. After all, it had been MY dollhouse that she had worked so hard on.

So I thought about how to explain it to her and eventually came to the real crux of the matter: if I have a dollhouse in my apartment, I will never EVER get married.

I’m happy being single for now. I’m not looking for a specific relationship, and I’m definitely not ready to get married yet, despite the fact that I seem to be the last single person on the planet. But if I’m the single girl who has a seriously decked out dollhouse at my place, I may as well stamp “Cat Lady” on my forehead.

My grandmother thought I was making fun of her with that answer, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was actually completely true. A dollhouse would be a flashing neon sign that something is wrong with me.

There are several things that a guy looks for signs of when he first sees a girl’s house. Number one is stuffed animals/dolls/any other sign that said woman is going to fill his life with fluffy, girly stuff if he sticks around. One stuffed animal from childhood is okay. Six of them? On your bed? You’re going to be single for life.

Every once in awhile my parents go on a cleaning spree at their house (I try to encourage this as often as possible, because I am fully aware that when they someday die, the task of cleaning out their basement is going to fall to me, because my brother is worthless. See yesterday’s blog post for why this scares me so much), and they decide that I should take some of my childhood stuff home with me.

The problem is, I don’t have room for it in a one-bedroom condo. And most of it would need to stay out of sight. For example, I don’t want them to throw out my porcelain doll collection, which my dad brought me from his trips to foreign countries when I was a little girl. If I ever have a daughter, she would probably love those. But if I put those up in my apartment, that will be the end of my dating life. Forever.

In all likelihood, I will NEVER need the Leonardo DiCaprio posters that I had on my wall when I was in high school. I still love you, Leo, don’t get me wrong. And I still think we’ll have beautiful babies together someday. But in the event that I ever DO meet you and you want to hang out at my place, the quickest way to scare you (or any other guy) off would be to have pictures of you all over my walls.

But I don’t want to throw those out (because you were SO hot in Titanic and Romeo and Juliet… even though I kinda feel like a pedophile watching you in Romeo and Juliet now because I’m way older than you were in that. But it’s okay, because you’re still older than me now. Seriously, Leo, call me), so my parents really just need to keep that stuff forever.

Basically, I think it is the responsibility of my parents to hold onto my childhood for me until I’m living in a house big enough to hide it all in my own basement. (If you want to speed that process up mom and dad, keep telling everyone you know to buy my book!) They bought me all of that junk, so is that REALLY too much to ask? It’s one of the responsibilities that comes along with parenthood. When your children are grown and financially independent, you become a storage locker.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to agree with this philosophy, and neither does my grandma. So if you come to my house and there’s a sheet-covered, house-shaped object sitting in the corner of my dining room, please don’t think I’m creepy. It just means I don’t want to hurt my grandmother’s feelings.

Maybe I should just call it quits and get a cat.

But I REALLY hate cats.


My parents’ basement: secret portal to the Bermuda Triangle

There is one place on this earth that I fear above all others.  Yes, even more than the Loehmann’s dressing room.  My parents’ basement.

Despite being easily frightened, I’m not scared that their basement is haunted (although I refused to go down there alone for a while after seeing The Blair Witch Project). I’ve been down there in the pitch dark many times and not been the least bit scared. My darkroom was down there, which never bothered me, and my brother and I used to play hide and seek in the dark in our basement with our friends.

Sounds harmless, right?

Yeah, that’s because you’ve never been down there.

The basement is divided into two halves. The first half, which you have to pass through to get to the back half, is finished. The carpet is a dingy brown, which was awesome because it was perfect for hiding the stains of the parties that my brother and I threw. We had a tv and sofa in that half, as well as a foosball table, a mini-pool table, and an air hockey table. That was where sleepovers were always held, and it was common knowledge that our family had the best basement in the history of mankind. Or at least in the history of basements.

But people only thought this because they never went into the back, unfinished half of the basement. And if they did, they certainly never found their way back out to tell about it.

I’m pretty sure that the back half of my parents’ basement is actually an experiment on my dad’s part to prove the Big Bang Theory. Because there is so much random crap packed so densely into the space, that if one more thing is put back there, it is going to explode and create a new universe.

Yes, this is a real picture of the basement.  Enjoy it now, because when my mom sees that I posted this, she’s going to murder me first, then take it down.  It’s been nice knowing you…

In theory, there’s a washing machine, a dryer, a full-sized refrigerator, a full-sized freezer, a ping pong table, a sink, and a full darkroom down there. I say in theory because no one has actually seen the ping pong table since 1988. It must still be down there, because I never saw anyone take it out of there (which happens to be the same method that Atticus Finch used to explain how he knew that Boo Radley was still alive… but it was sound logic then and it’s sound logic now), but I have little hard evidence that it still exists. It may have been sucked into the black hole that must reside down there. It’s the only way that much stuff could fit into one basement.

As small children, my brother and I weren’t supposed to go into the back half of the basement without supervision because no one EVER knew what we would find (or what creatures living down there would find us), which of course meant that it was our favorite place to explore.

Our mother was an art teacher before becoming a principal, so her corner of the basement contained art supplies galore, mixed in with rusty, uncovered exacto knife blades, jagged shards of glass, and wood splinters big enough to stake a vampire that had either once been part of the backings for canvasses or else part of Noah’s Ark (either way, the stuff down there originated around the same time period). She would also store art projects from students down there, as well as the ones that my brother and I created, so there was a giant paper mache Big Bird, and the life-sized paper mache mummy that my brother and I made one rainy day. In other words, by the time I was using the basement as a darkroom, there was a lot of SERIOUSLY creepy stuff peering at me from the shadows.

Like the coconut head.

Note: this is not the REAL coconut head.  The real one is MUCH scarier.  But it “disappeared” in the mid ’90s.  Which I officially had nothing to do with.  Let’s just say it’s like Pauly in The Godfather–“you won’t see him no more.”

My dad claims that it looked like his mother’s cousin. But all I know is that thing is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And it didn’t help that my dad and brother liked to hide it behind my darkroom supplies so I would suddenly see it in the red glow of the safelight when I was alone down there. Dad also liked to try and scare me by telling me that he didn’t buy it, it just showed up one day and that he didn’t pack it to bring it from our old house, but when we moved in, there it was. Then he put it in my bed one night, like the horse’s head from The Godfather.

I’m convinced that anything that gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle winds up in my parents’ basement, along with the answers to all government secrets. Wanna know what REALLY happened to JFK? I bet the answer is down there somewhere. Amelia Earhart? Yup, that’s where she wound up. The Ark of the Covenant? Indiana Jones didn’t really find it, because it’s probably sitting under the ping pong table, wherever that is. The really old knight from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? He lives under the basement stairs. My parents really should have gotten royalties for all of those movies. I don’t know when George Lucas was at my parents’ house, but I’m positive that’s where he got his inspiration.

In fact, when the Jews were wandering the desert for forty years, I bet they weren’t ACTUALLY in the desert, I’m pretty sure they were wandering in my parents’ basement. You could EASILY spend forty years down there without finding your way out.

Here’s what scares me the most about their basement though: when my parents die, it’s going to fall to me to clean that crap out. Because there’s no way my brother is going to do it. And it’s going to take at least six generations of my descendents to just sift through the top layer alone of stuff down there. So hopefully my dad’s experiment about the Big Bang will work out and destroy the universe before my parents die. Because if they die and leave me that basement to clean out, I’m going to find a way to resurrect them, just so I can kill them myself!

Because my dad firmly subscribes to the Homer Simpson school of thought that it’s okay to raise the dead, as long as the car is okay.

"Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders!" "He was a zombie?"

My biggest fear in life isn’t public speaking or death. It’s not even my house burning down with all of my shoes inside (although that is up there as one of my biggest fears… I hope it never comes down to me saving a loved one or my shoe collection because I’m not sure who would win).

It’s zombies.

Yes. Zombies.

Brain-eating, limb-losing, undead zombies.

 Okay, not JUST zombies, but any type of creature like that. For example, I know the monsters in I Am Legend were technically supposed to be vampires. But they were close enough to zombies to scare me.

But Sara, you’re a smart, rational person. Why are you so scared of zombies?

Well, since you ask, I blame my best friend, Ary, for instilling me with this pointless, irrational fear. We both saw 28 Weeks Later around the same time and eventually discussed our reactions. She was terrified by the movie. I was bored.

Then how did I begin to fear zombies?

Easy. My best friend talked me into it.

I was never afraid of them as a child. In fact, I used to take Homer Simpson’s view of the zombie situation (that it was fine if you raised the dead, as long as the car was okay).

But a couple weeks after seeing 28 Weeks Later, Ary and I were staying at my uncle’s beach house, where the bedrooms are all on the first floor, and Ary told me that she was freaked out by how easily zombies could break in while we were sleeping. I laughed and reminded her that zombies didn’t exist.

Somehow, she didn’t find this comforting. So, being the friend that I am, I plotted out an escape route for us in case the zombies DID attack. We would run upstairs, climb up into the attic, pull the trap door in the ceiling shut after us, and wait the zombie attack out up there.

She was satisfied with that plan (because I Am Legend hadn’t come out yet, so it didn’t occur to us that they could get to us from the ceiling!), and we went to sleep.

No problem.

I forgot all about the imminent zombie attack.

Until I was back at the beach house by myself a couple weeks later. And when you’re alone in a big house that zombies could easily break into, they suddenly seem a whole lot scarier.

My brother likes to remind me that I really don’t have to fear zombies. Because I wouldn’t be running from them for long; they’d kill and eat me pretty quickly. I do wear heels most of the time, and I am, after all, not known for my athletic ability. Thanks for the vote of confidence though, Adam… Love you too.

Adam’s point, however mean, is valid. Therefore I realized that I had to research what I would actually have to do if I wanted to survive a zombie attack. For example, if you’re running with someone else, trip them. The zombies will be delayed long enough by this snack in their path to potentially allow you to escape.

Of course, now that I’ve put this plan out there, I just screwed myself over, because anyone I’m running with will now try to trip me. And I’m a klutz. I’ll go down pretty easily.

I should probably warn you, before you decide that I’m completely insane, that I DO know that zombies do not exist. I don’t believe in ghosts or zombies or vampires or anything like that. (Although if Eric Northman from True Blood is real, PLEASE, call me. Seriously. I love you. I’ll be your vampire bride ANY day.)

But here’s the problem with not believing in any of that stuff: if you believe in it, at least you know how to deal with it if you run into it. If I don’t believe in zombies, WTF am I supposed to do if I actually encounter one? I know I’m supposed to run or pull out the chainsaw at that point, and I think I’d run for awhile, but once I ran out of people to trip, I think I’d just give up and be like, “Okay, you’re supernatural. You win. Peace out. Enjoy my brains.”

So be warned, if you’re running from zombies with me, I’m going to try to trip you.  And I don’t care if we’re friends, if you become a zombie, I’m not going to be your friend anymore.  Good for Shaun, from Shaun of the Dead, for staying friends with his bff even after he turned into a zombie.  But I’m not doing that.  If you’re a zombie, we’re done.

And Ary, if you’re scared of anything else, please don’t tell me.