<![CDATA[Welcome to All Things Stacey Longo - My Blog]]>Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:51:26 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Confessions of a Former Bunny]]>Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:55:10 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/confessions-of-a-former-bunny9198936(It's another one of those "I'm not going to meet all my deadlines! AAAAIIIIIAAHHH!" weeks. So I'm rerunning this gem from 2012.)

It's true, gentle reader. In my former life, I worked as a bunny.

It's not something I like to brag about. I was young and I needed the money. I was eighteen years old, all blonde and curvy, and if there was ever a time when I was fit to wear a bunny suit, that was it.

Sure, my parents were a little embarrassed. They weren't telling anyone what I was doing for a living. But they also instilled in me a very strong work ethic, and they knew that no matter what I set my mind to do, I would do it to the best of my ability. And that's what I did, during my month as a bunny.

It wasn't easy. Most of my customers just wanted to look, so I never bothered to speak. Sometimes, I had to hop and shake my tail a little bit, and one time I pulled my hamstring and landed in some strange guy's lap. He just gave me a wink and a hug and offered me some candy. I can't tell you how many perverts I met in a day, practically undressing me with their eyes.

It was uncomfortable, I'll admit. The ears and cuffs were itchy. Nobody cared about my dreams of college or being a writer, or being one of those people with a shred of self dignity. All they cared about was my big blue eyes and whether or not I was willing to give them a little lap dance.

It was hot, and humiliating, but I won't lie—the money was sweet. And really, if I could make some lonely boy smile, no matter how degrading it might be, I suppose it was worth it.

My days as a bunny are long gone, but I still look back on that time with a wistful smile. I do miss the other girls who worked there alongside me. And let me tell you, my calves were never in better shape. But it was a job that couldn't last, and I had to move on to bigger and better things.

There's only one picture in existence of me in my bunny suit. It's a blurry shot of my sister and me, goofing off during my down time. It's time I make peace with that less-than-upstanding time in my life, I suppose. So fine. Here you go. Ogle away, you perverts.
]]>
<![CDATA[Collaboration, Part II (IV?)]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 14:28:21 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/collaboration-part-ii-ivLast month, I told you how Rob Smales and I collaborated on a book. He wrote his first blog entry about it here, then I wrote about it here. He just added a second entry this week, here, and now I’m naturally following suit. Because it’s more fun if you get both sides of the story.

So when I last left you, gentle reader, Rob had sent me his first chapter, I’d written the next one, and in doing so, had taken a left at Albuquerque away from the outline he’d so carefully prepared. I hit send and waited for his response.

If you just read his second entry, you’ll know his initial reaction: Hang about. What the hell is this?

Now, before we embarked on this project, Rob and I had already been quite familiar with each other’s writing styles. He tends to elaborate more than I, creating a slow burn that pays off with a final bonfire at the end. I tend to leapfrog past scenes that I don’t think are vital to the story, or, honestly, just less fun to write. We both knew this about each other. But this was the first time something we were both invested in was actually affected by our (now apparently significant) different approaches.

Our approaches to handling things we don’t agree on are also quite different. When Rob’s frustrated, he’ll sputter and shut down for a bit, then eventually try to talk it out. I, on the other hand, will cry.

Long story short: we hit one hiccup in those first few chapters, which came about mostly because we were both trying to learn how to work with someone in a profession largely known for its solitariness. One bout of sputtering and tears. We talked it out, agreed on how we’d handle the point in question, and went back to writing. More importantly, we realized we were capable of taking lefts at Albuquerque without our friendship imploding.

And then, the magic happened.

As I mentioned in my first collaboration blog post, Rob and I have similar senses of humor. We started shooting the chapters back and forth, and each time I’d get a new one from him, I’d find myself giggling in delight. These characters were fun, and funny. Then my challenge would be to figure out how to move the story forward from there—and how to make him laugh, too. I worried less about making a misstep—that’s what revisions are for—and more about if the action and punchlines were hitting their marks. We fell into sync, trying to end each chapter in a spot where the other might think, Where the heck am I supposed to go from here?

About ten chapters into the book, I sent Rob an email. This was awesome. But where the heck am I supposed to go from here? I could just hear him cackling like an evil madman on the other end of the inbox. Once he’d finished his chortle (which went on a little too long, I might add—it was a good twenty minutes before he responded) he came back with some suggestions. I looked them over, plucked a little bit from one proposition, meshed it with another thought he’d noted, and added a little bit of my own idea. Within minutes, my fingers were flying over the keyboard again. And yes, before I hit send, I let loose an evil cackle of my own.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had while writing, and taught me how important it is, if you’re embarking on something like this, to work with someone you know, whose writing you respect, and whom you trust.
But would it work as a book?

To be continued . . .
Picture
Here we are, hard at work (on something completely different). Photo by T. Tremblay
]]>
<![CDATA[Glutened]]>Thu, 07 Sep 2017 13:58:44 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/glutenedPicture
I’m going to try and not write about this kind of thing too much, because I suspect it’s a tad boring for you gluten eaters. But my recent necessary diet change has caused a few issues that’ve really cheesed my potatoes (both cheese and potatoes, incidentally: gluten free).

Let me sum up what’s happened: I had severe intestinal distress all day, every day, for approximately eighteen months. It took a long time for the gastroenterologist to finally say, “You know, these other issues (I’d been diagnosed with colitis and SIBO during this journey) are symptoms of something else, like a food intolerance. Stop eating gluten.” So I did.

For those of you considering giving up all that is wheaty and good in this world, let me say first off, if you don’t have to give up gluten, don’t. It’s no fun going through the withdrawal, and once you’re on the other side of it, you will approach every meal with trepidation, both wishing you could remember what flavor tastes like and feeling terrified you might accidentally “get glutened.”

It’s a thing. And, for lack of a better term, it sucks.

When you eliminate all gluten (and you can’t go half-baked on this: you have to cut all of it out if you want the excruciating belly cramping, intestinal wringing-and-spewing, all-over body aches, hand and foot numbness, weird rashes, and brain fog to go away), make no mistake: you will feel like crap for the first couple of weeks. You will suddenly look upon cake, pasta, bread, oatmeal, pudding, couscous, soy sauce, and licorice with renewed longing, even if you rarely ate or even liked any of those things before the very moment you were told you couldn’t have them. You’ll be achy and cranky and, as some family members commented in less-nice terms, “generally unpleasant company.” Also, you’ll still be running to the bathroom four or five times a day until all that gluten is out of your system.

But by week three, you’ll be feeling much better. You’ll be halfway through your morning and suddenly realize your back and knees aren’t barking in pain. You’ll feel clearheaded and energized and yes, thankful most ground coffee doesn’t contain gluten. You’ll dread the potty less. And you won’t be in there every twenty minutes, either. Hallelujah!

You’ll also be much more aware of food ingredients, to the annoyance of anyone eating near you. But you have to be. Because now that you feel life is worth living again, you’ll do whatever it takes to keep that happy feeling.
There are some places you’ll feel “safe” eating: at home, or at my sister-in-law’s house (seriously, Joy, you are a rock star). But the thing is, lots of times when people get together, there’s a meal involved. Meet up for dinner? Um . . . can I talk you into a nice fasting instead?

And that’s where getting glutened comes in.

I thought the Ninety-Nine Restaurant was a good choice. They’re one of the few places with a “Gluten Sensitive” section on their menu. The first time Jason and I met up with a friend there, I was confident as I ordered a cheeseburger on a gluten-free bun. I saw the disclaimer, but still trusted these guys to do their best.

The meal came. It was good. Then the waiter came over: “How’s that gluten-free bun? Just like the real thing?” He was all smiley and winky and stuff.

And I thought, That was weird.

The next day I woke up and wondered when, exactly, I’d been hit by the rhinoceros driving the Mack truck. Everything hurt, from hair follicles to toenails. I was walking like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein, only slower and without the witty one-liners. And let me tell you, this is not the shape you want to be in when the gluten-induced cramps hit and you need to dash (um, wobble with purpose?) toward the bathroom.

It passed in a few days, but being back in that sore, stabbing-stomach-pains, potty emergency place was miserable. Once I felt spryer again I chalked this mishap up to a crabby waiter (except substitute “crabby” with a euphemism for anus). It was just one guy. Right?

So when a different friend and I were making plans to meet up over dinner about a month later, I agreed to give Ninety-Nine another try. It was a different town, likely a different waiter, and hey, the menu proved they were trying, right?

I ordered balsamic chicken with mashed potatoes right off the gluten-sensitive list. Made a point to say I couldn’t eat gluten—even made a point to point at the section in the menu. Asked why rice wasn’t listed there, because it’s usually safe. In hindsight, maybe I was making too much of a fuss. It’s possible our waitress considered spitting in my gluten-free selection. But I was scared. I didn’t want to be hit by that rhino again.
The meal was yummy. So far, so good.

In order to experience how I felt the next morning, this is what I’d like you to do: get in your car. Drive to Las Vegas, Nevada, and park in the Seven Hills, Henderson section of town. It’s a nice golf community—be sure to admire the beautifully manicured lawns. Find the biggest mansion in the area, climb over the polished marble wall, and land on the other side. March up to the door, ring the doorbell, and when Mike Tyson answers, ask him for the all-over iron fist body massage.

Then call him a wuss. That should about do it.

Here’s my point:
  1. Don’t trust restaurants when they say something will be prepared gluten-free. Sometimes they lie.
  2. Seriously, if you want to get together, can we please catch up over just coffee?

]]>
<![CDATA[Gray Happens]]>Thu, 31 Aug 2017 22:45:11 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/gray-happensMy sister recently asked how bad my gray hair is. You see, in our family—in all fairness, on my mother’s side—the gray starts early. My mother was in her early twenties when she spotted her first; there’s an oft-repeated story at the family dinner table that one of Mom’s aunts started seeing those wiry, colorless hairs on her head as young as nineteen. My sister was twenty-four (coincidentally, right around the time she started working for the state; she’s since left, but the gray stayed).

“I have a couple in my bangs,” I said. “Mostly I just dye my hair if I feel like changing the color.”

“That’s not fair,” Kim replied, and there was a bitter tone in her voice, the kind that makes you think, my sister legitimately wants to kill me.

Let me digress for a moment to examine what sort of crappy genetics my sister and I each inherited from our parents:

Me:
  • Dad’s bad cholesterol
  • Dad’s supersensitive skin which makes it difficult to buy both regular soap and laundry detergent, for fear of breaking out in a painful rash
  • One weird heart issue—of which Dad’s family tree has several
  • Mom’s ability to gain weight simply by walking down the potato chip aisle and breathing deeply
  • Spontaneous spider veins erupting on the ankles despite never having done any sort of strenuous exercise in my life (Mom)
  • Inability to navigate my way out of my own driveway (Dad)

And here’s Kim’s list:
  • Started growing gray early (Mom)

You can imagine I had little sympathy for my gray-haired big sister, who repeated several times that this simply wasn’t fair. As we say in my family, “Move your face closer so I can slap you.”

So no, I don’t dye my hair out of necessity yet. I have, in my life, been platinum blonde (the year I was Marilyn Monroe for Halloween), strawberry blonde (incidentally, not as cute as I’d thought it would be), dark brunette, and ginger-haired (such a terrible look that I ignored the advice of 100% of chemists and dyed it again within two days).

You see, children learn what they live. And my mother has been dyeing her hair all my life. So of course I’ve chemically changed my locks, even though I haven’t really had to yet, much to Kim’s absolute ire. Dyeing your hair is just something women do.

My mother’s family—with the exception of my late great-aunt Demi, who embraced her brilliant silvery-white locks as soon as they sprouted—has not taken this genetic flaw lightly. They’ve all become experts in dyeing, highlighting, and touching up roots to rival any salon stylist. They hold intense debates over cream vs. mousse kits, and can break the oxidization process down to the atomic makeup of the chemical compounds involved. These women do not mess around. One day in my late teens, I came home with a box of semi-permanent dye, hoping to get streaks a la Cyndi Lauper. My mother laughed so hard tears streamed down her face. Semi-permanent? Why waste your hard-earned cash on something that’ll fade in six shampoos?

It was a mistake I’d never make again. (Though oh, how I wished I’d gone with semi-permanent during the Great Orange Pumpkinhead Debacle.)

The women on my father’s side, however, have accepted their lighter locks with grace and dignity when nature did take its course. Auntie Bea, for instance, wore her stunning head of salt-and-pepper curls for years, without once worrying she might look old—and she didn’t. She was (and still is) gorgeous. Hair dye? Pfft. Who needs it? There are bigger things to concern oneself about in the grand scheme of things. And my father? He went white overnight—woke up one morning to find his once golden blond curls markedly paler. Thought to himself, Welp, that’s that, put on his slippers, and went about making coffee. I admire their lack of concern. And I’m proud that in this one genetic gift, I take after the Longos.

But honestly, when my morning comes, I suspect I’ll forego the coffee, pull a hat on, and rush down to CVS for a box of Performing Preference by L’Oreal. Because though I take after my dad’s side when it comes to pigmentation, I am my mother’s daughter.

And to my sister, I say this: one thing. Just let me have this one thing.

Picture
Dyeing at home is fine. I do not, however, recommend home perming.
]]>
<![CDATA[Library Memories]]>Sat, 26 Aug 2017 02:34:57 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/library-memoriesOur weekends were pretty routine growing up. On Saturdays, we’d visit my grandparents one town over, and on the way home, if we behaved, my sister and I were rewarded with a trip to the town library. (If we were really good, and it happened to be March, Mom would also throw in a special trip to McDonald’s for a shamrock shake, but that’s a different story.)
There was something special about the stacks at the Welles Turner Memorial Library. There was a mural on the stone wall near the entrance, clearly painted by children. Who were they? Why hadn’t I been allowed to join in? What had Zach L. been thinking when he painted his impressive rendition of a purple and yellow alien, oh-so-carefully signing it? Leaving the mural behind, one then entered the magical world of the library.
The first floor housed the children’s section, young adult, and nonfiction. Biographies were toward the back; books on extinct species, exotic religions, and Native American tribes were to the right. I rarely stayed in the kids’ section, despite the impressive life-size dollhouse there. I’d quickly scope out the latest Bill Peet titles before wandering into the land of non-fiction, where Benjamin Franklin and California condors awaited.
As I got older, the library became the meeting spot for my crowd, since it was within walking distance of the middle school. My friends and I would buy candy and Wacky Packages at the drugstore next door, then settle in at a table in the back of the Welles Turner stacks, amid Madeline L’Engle worlds and Judy Blume angst. Sometimes my friends would gossip about the day’s events. Mostly I half-listened, my nose buried in the adventures of Scarlett O’Hara or Jo March and her sisters. My friends talked too much. I wanted to read.
In high school, the second floor of the library became my stomping ground. Here was the land of adult general fiction, and what an impressive landscape it was, indeed. The library was too small at that time to have separate rooms for genres, but they tried: I found Douglas Adams hanging out on a spiral rack, daring me to hitchhike across the galaxy. Stephen King was buried amid the general fiction titles, but I unearthed him quickly and entered a world of telekinetic teenagers and rabid dogs. I fell in love with John IrvingLarry McMurtry, and Erma Bombeck. I devoured a book a day, and if my friends were looking to hang out, they could usually find my beat-up Ford Granada in the library parking lot, second spot in, its rusty paint job reflecting the distorted image of Zach L.’s purple alien, now chipped and fading.
As most people do, I moved away. Went to college, came home for holidays, and occasionally met old friends in town, at the library. I moved to an island. Got my library card out there, and tore through the nonfiction section, in one season reading every single biography on their shelves. Eventually, I moved closer to home—one town over from where I’d grown up.
When my first book came out, I knew immediately where the first copy would go. I made a special trip to Welles Turner, admittedly getting lost on the way—so much had changed downtown. I pulled into the library parking lot, now completely remodeled. Zach L.’s alien was long gone. I was sad about that—but excited, too, to be visiting an old friend.
I made my way inside and shyly introduced myself to the librarian, explaining that I’d grown up in town and had written a book. She seemed happy to accept a copy to put on the stacks. I looked around. Everything had changed. “Um, where . . . Doug Adams used to be upstairs, on the rack down the hall to the right of the card catalog,” I fumbled. “Where is he now?”
The librarian smiled kindly, and showed me the way. Mr. Adams was still upstairs, and the scuffed stairway to get to him, at least, was familiar. He and his sci-fi friends had their own room now. Things had changed.
I slid a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy off a chrome shelf and settled into an oversized easy chair. I flipped through the pages, trying to reconcile this shiny new library with the dusty, hazy stacks of my youth. A young woman, maybe half my age, bounced by me on her way to the George R.R. Martin titles.
“Great choice,” she said, eyeing my book.
“I know,” I agreed.
She plucked A Storm of Swords off the shelf and eased into the chair across from me. She didn’t want to talk. She wanted to read. So did I.
It felt good to be home again.
Editor's note: this blog post first ran on www.thestoryside.com. There was absolutely no way I was going to get a new blog post written this week. And upon rereading it, if I did have forty-five minutes to spare, I might've opted to head on down to the library instead.
Picture
Old Gideon Welles himself, one of the guys after whom the library is named. His portrait hung there for years, mostly because his stare pretty much terrified the library patrons into never speaking above a whisper.
]]>
<![CDATA[Collaboration]]>Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:20:17 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/collaborationSo, um, I’ve been working on this thing.

Actually, we’ve been working—you know what? I’m just going to let Rob explain it here: http://robsmales.webs.com/apps/blog/show/44732454-our-collaboration-part-1-two-heads-

All caught up now? See, basically, what happened was Rob and I, who work together anyway as the brilliant editors who helm S & L Editing, got it into our heads that we’d collaborate on a novel. After all, we’re a pretty great team when it comes to editing, and it’s not like we haven’t worked together on stories before . . . sort of. We’ve brainstormed ideas together for our own stuff, and critiqued each other’s work, so that counts, right?

Now any writer worth their salt will tell you that before collaborating with anyone, you should consider the following things:
  1. Compatibility. Are your priorities in alignment? Do your strengths and skills complement each other? Do you communicate well with each other?
  2. Who is going to write what? Will you alternate chapters, or will one of you write one character’s scenes, the other taking over the supporting cast?
  3. Writing style. Do your voices mesh well? Does one of you write every morning from 5–7 a.m. without fail, while the other sleeps in and writes when she can throughout the day? Will this make you want to kill each other?
  4. Legality. If one of you is hit by a chunk of frozen human waste dropped from a passing aircraft, will the other be allowed to carry on the series? Who owns the characters? Is it a 50/50 split?
  5. Post-writing workload: How will editing, revising, querying, synopsis-writing, and general “What do we do now?” tasks be handled?

Here’s what I considered before diving into this project:
  1. I have a tendency to not only take on too much work, but to be a bit persnickety about it. I once wrote a thirty-page essay on why the word “some” and its variants (something, someone) should be avoided at all costs. In my writing and editing career, I’ve only met one other person who not only keeps pace with me in terms of workload, but also finds discussions on not superscripting ordinals fascinating: Rob.
  2. Rob and I have the same sense of humor.

These two things were enough: of course we should collaborate!

We were eager (and yes, nervous) to get started. Rob had ideas—I’m continually jealous of how quickly he can come up with plots and characters, while it takes me three months just to come up with, “There’s a guy. What’s his name? Umm . . . Todd . . . Tom . . . nope, I know a guy named Tom, and he’s got just the ego to think it’s him . . . Sherman, that’s it. Now what does Sherman do?” I like to think my strength is spring-boarding off of an initial idea: give me an open submission call with a theme, and I’m good to go. So after listening to Rob rattle off ideas like a tommy gun unloading, I asked, "Can you put one of those in an outline?"

I like the concept of outlines, you see. I thought it might be helpful if we had one, to keep us on track and guide us if we got stuck. Rob obliged. And here’s where the fun began: while outlines are a sensible, structured way to approach any project, neither one of us really uses them. He wrote it up, I added my notes, and we began. Rob wrote the first chapter and sent it my way. I liked it. He’d made me chuckle. I liked the first main character introduced, and had some direction as to where to go next. I glanced at our outline. And promptly thought, Nah, that’s not gonna happen right now.

Before we’d started this book, a mutual writer friend, upon hearing of our collaboration and having some experience with those types of projects, said, “I hope you two are still friends at the end of the book.”
As I typed away, veering sharply off the outlined path, her words rang in my ears. How upset would Rob be to see where I’d taken the second chapter? Would cramming it full of things I thought might make him laugh help? Would we still be speaking by the end of chapter three?

To be continued . . .
Picture
We're still friends in this photo. Of course, it was taken six months before we started the book . . .
]]>
<![CDATA[Life Lessons from General Hospital (A Soap Opera Rerun)]]>Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:43:40 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/life-lessons-from-general-hospital-a-soap-opera-rerunEditor’s note: Most weeks, I have too much on my plate and struggle to juggle it all. This Friday, I found myself without a shiny new blog post and no time to write one (nor, quite frankly, the desire). So instead I offer this little gem, which originally ran on August 6, 2011.

I have watched General Hospital for most of my life. It started back in 1982, when my sister would watch it while babysitting me after school. Through the years, it’s been like an old friend—sometimes the show makes me laugh; sometimes it makes me cry; mostly, it makes me wonder how to tell this old friend that I’ve grown up and it hasn’t and we don’t really need to be friends any more.

In all fairness, GH has taught me a few things about life. For instance:
  • As long as you dress like a Vogue model and have fabulous hair, you’re ready for anything. Honestly, I’ve seen these women survive train wrecks, hotel fires, murder sprees, and car crashes (sooo many car crashes) with their perfect coifs and Jimmy Choos intact. So now, when I’m preparing for a hiking trip or a kayak ride, I like to run right out and get a hot oil treatment and new heels.
  • Life is easier if you have a cool name. This has been proven time and time again on GH. “Frisco” was a secret agent married to a Mayan princess. “Decker” was a sexy grifter who drove a Harley. “Mikkos” was a fabulously rich super-villain who put North America in deep freeze in the middle of July. The people with normal names, like Benny, Tony, Casey, and Jesse? Dead, dead, space alien, and dead. I fully understand that “Stacey” is not nearly as cool as “Frisco.” It is, however, awfully close to “Casey,” which means I might turn out to be from outer space. Really, I need to dump this show.    
  • Nothing says ‘I love you’ like giving your fiancée a lug nut for an engagement ring/buying your girlfriend a duck/raping a teenager on a dance floor. I wish I was making this crap up. And did that rape lead to a socially responsible, sensitive handling of a victim’s emotional turmoil and eventual victory in court of her attacker? Heck no. That rape scene led to the most popular couple on daytime television (Luke and Laura, we salute you).
  • People won’t think you’re a tramp if you have four children by four different men, even if the guy you’re married to isn’t the father of any of them. See, this was an eye-opener to me. Because that sounds kind of slutty to me. But Elizabeth Webber is considered a saint—a saint!—on this stupid show. (For those of you who watch GH, here is the scorecard: Cameron—father is Zander; Jake—father is Jason; miscarried child—father is Jax; Aidan—father presumed to be Nicolas, Lucky’s brother. Once this broke up Elizabeth and Lucky for good (I wish!) the father turned out to be Lucky.) To me, that sounds like a slut, but this woman walks on water while holding Mother Teresa’s hand as far as the others on the show are concerned.
  • There’s always a new crisis waiting around the corner. Sure, their crises are a little different than mine—psychopaths kidnapping the local mob boss’s children, forged paternity tests, serial killers stalking the local mob boss’s right hand man. My biggest challenges tend to be keeping the house clean, finding time to write, and not eating an entire chocolate mousse cake all by myself even though I really want to. But then again, I’m not married to the local mob boss. I suppose if I was, it would spice up my life a little bit.
So you can see, there are some benefits to watching soap operas. For instance, I get to release a lot of anger calling Elizabeth names every time she comes on the screen. And . . . um . . .

. . . all right. I’ll admit it. It is definitely time for me to break up with General Hospital.

I will. I swear.

Editor’s post-note: I have since broken up with the show, and can no longer stand by the accuracy of this post. For example, I don’t know how many children Elizabeth has these days, or if their fathers are still who the show said they were in 2011. Much like real life, nothing ever stays the same. Except for the bit about the chocolate mousse cake. I still stand by that statement.
]]>
<![CDATA[Going Gluten Free]]>Thu, 03 Aug 2017 17:49:33 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/going-gluten-freeIf you happened to avoid hearing about my digestive woes for the past year and a half, holy cow: How did you do that? But the rest of you know I’ve been having some major gut problems. Around April of 2016, my body decided it was done doing things like, say, digesting food or not causing agonizing pain 100% of the time. My days became a cycle of starving, eating, immediately regretting it, and potty emergencies. Rinse and repeat.
After several doctors’ visits and procedures, it looks like I finally have an answer: SIBO, brought on by gluten intolerance.

My gastroenterologist: Stop eating gluten. It’s causing 100% of your symptoms, plus probably global warming.
Me: Gluten-free? Isn’t that something nutcase granola hippies say to make themselves sound smug and self-righteous?
My GI: Not if that granola isn’t gluten free, they don’t.
 
Turns out I’ve got a crapload of symptoms (that’s what my GI called it: a crapload. Funny lady, my gastroenterologist) all due to gluten intolerance. Not just the abdominal pain and the digestive issues, but numbness in my hands and feet, pain in my joints, and a recurring rash on my back. Also, brain fog and back pain. All things I thought were due to getting older and overly sensitive skin. Turns out it is grain that is the enemy here, not time. (Though time is still fully 100% responsible for my sagging bosom.)
After nuking my body with hardcore antibiotics, I now have to take probiotics and avoid all gluten. Okay, I’m a grownup, right? I can handle this.

First thing to go: bread. I’ve never been a big bread eater, so no problem here. And if I do want bread, Udi’s makes a ridiculously overpriced option that’ll convince anyone they really don’t need bread at $5 a shrunken loaf.

Next up: pasta. (Insert screeching brakes, drumbeats of impending doom, or some other horrific “life as we know it has ended” sound effect.)

I am, for lack of a better term, a pasta girl. I will give up muffins, pie crusts, cereal, pancakes, graham crackers, soy sauce, and even communion wafers without blinking an eye, but asking me to give up pasta is like requesting I give up oxygen for a day. Not going to happen.

Luckily, while I was calling my gastroenterologist every terrible name in the book (and I’m a writer, so those insults got pretty descriptive and yes, perhaps requested she perform acts that are legitimately illegal in 42 states), she was able to dodge my verbal barbs and throw a box of Ronzoni gluten-free pasta at me. Okay, so there are options. (It’s a good thing all those hipsters are forsaking gluten, because their crazy diet fads have forced food manufacturers to come up with the darndest gluten-free selections.) I took my fake pasta and bad words and went home to boil. (Literally. You boil water, put in the pasta, and presto! Eight minutes later, fake noodles.)

The verdict: gluten-free pasta is not real pasta, that’s for sure. But when you throw a temper tantrum and dump the GF stuff and boil up legit noodles and scarf them down and wind up spending the next two days feeling like you were hit by a rhinoceros driving a Mack truck full of Lyme disease, then you know, the gluten-free pasta is really not that bad.

Gluten-free has turned out to be a bit of a lifestyle challenge. I have no doubt I’ll be waxing poetic on the versatility of the potato, and questioning why all Lara bars must be pressed and cut to resemble fecal matter, in blog posts to come. Because I’m afraid it’s official: color me a nutcase gluten-free-granola hippie.
]]>
<![CDATA[An Apology]]>Fri, 28 Jul 2017 12:37:04 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/an-apologyWe all have one in our family: that person who forgets birthdays and anniversaries; sometimes, a card shows up a week late full of apologies, though sometimes a card doesn’t show up at all.

In my family, I am that person.

A couple times now, I’ve asked Jason mid-September why we were going out to dinner that night. Turns out it was our anniversary. I’ve missed my sister and brother-in-law’s anniversary a few times, and I was their maid of honor. I almost forgot my parents’ anniversary once, and wound up driving to their house in the middle of the night to tuck a card in the mailbox so they’d have it the next day.

My worst offense by far, though, is my aunts’ birthdays.

I have three aunts who were all pretty influential on making me the woman I am today. My Aunt Joan is fearless, always trying new hobbies, careers, and places to live, never afraid to fail. My Aunt Bea is brilliant and witty, and taught me to say something when things aren’t right, and to never be afraid of being alone. And my Aunt Joanne has been a rock throughout my life: she’s funny, supportive, one of my biggest cheerleaders, and also taught me it’s okay to sometimes not leave the house if you don’t want to, or to have hot dogs on Christmas if you feel like a darn hot dog.

If you ever stopped by the Books & Boos Bookstore back in the day, chances are, you’ve met Auntie Joanne. She was our go-to person when events or emergencies came up, always willing to step in, man the store, and keep the coffee brewing. She’s always done this: as a kid, I remember Auntie picking me up from school and bringing me home because Mom was working (Auntie’s work schedule was the same as our school schedule, so it worked out perfectly. For me, anyway). She’d babysit when needed, and when I was in college, she sent a card every week with a crisp five-dollar bill in it. She’s pretty amazing. You’d think I’d have enough decency to remember her birthday, wouldn’t you?

My sister gives us all a family calendar each Christmas. It’s full of family pictures, and perhaps in an effort to help her forgetful younger sibling remember to send out a darn card on time for once, she has everyone’s birthday printed on it. Just yesterday, I was writing Plastic City Comic Con on the calendar (see you there Saturday!) and saw I’d missed Auntie Joanne’s birthday. Again.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, that’s what this blog is this week: an apology to my aunt. Sorry, Auntie Joanne. You are marvelous and wonderful and I love you and I’m sorry I missed your birthday. 
 
In an effort to sweeten this apology, I'm including a picture of Wednesday looking adorable. If you could share it with Auntie Bea and Auntie Joan, I’d appreciate it. Because if it’s any comfort, you are not alone: I missed their birthdays, too.
Picture
Please let this cat's cuteness make you forget your niece is a twit.
]]>
<![CDATA[Notes from the Ferry]]>Thu, 20 Jul 2017 18:56:06 GMThttp://staceylongo.com/my-blog/notes-from-the-ferryPictureYup. Hulk mad.
A couple of weeks ago, I took an impromptu trip out to Block Island to see my parents (and, arguably, to get away—the lack of Wi-Fi and terrible cell phone signals out there pretty much force one to stop working and, say, do a crossword). Of course, to get to the island, you have two choices: boat or plane.

I went with boat this trip, mostly because it’s cheaper. (When I was younger, I always flew, white-knuckling it for twelve minutes straight while regretting every Buddy Holly joke I’d ever cracked. But back then, the quickness of the trip won out over frugality.)

I got to the ferry dock early, walked right on the boat, and made myself comfortable. I was feeling smug: I’d gotten a good seat, had bottled iced coffee on hand to satisfy my caffeine addiction, and was ready to fire up the Kindle and read a good book.

Then the people came.

The bridal party was first. Twelve women, all young and cute, wearing T-shirts reading “Bride’s Drinking Team.” Classy. Also, from the way they smelled and slurred, I suspected the imbibing had already started well before they’d found their way to the 8:00 ferry. My best guess is they’d begun the night before, and hadn’t yet made it to bed.

Great.

I tried not to let their drunken screeching bother me, telling myself things like you’ve got to admire their stamina and oh, good. They’re moving toward the front (I was near the back). Then a family of three—a dad, a boy about five, and a girl around eight—settled in across the aisle from me.

Cute, I thought. From the boy’s prattling, it was his first boat trip ever, and he was very excited. “I’m Batman, and Daddy, you can be Robin, and Annamarie is Wonder Woman.”

I’m not usually a fan of children, but this guy was winning my heart with his lisp and innoc--

“And that lady can be the Hulk.”

Wait, what?

I glanced around, then down at my top, one I’d thought was a complimentary shade of emerald. Note to self: this green shirt is not as flattering as I think it is. I gave the little brat a scowl, which apparently delighted him, because he squealed in laughter and shouted, “Hulk mad!”

Okay, I’m an adult. I can ignore twelve drunk bridesmaids and a five-year-old calling me fat. I stared at my Kindle, rereading the same sentence three or seventeen times before finally relaxing and getting into the story.
Twelve seconds before the ferry took off, the seat next to me was suddenly filled by a musician. How do I know she was a musician? Because her gigantic guitar case was crammed between seat and aisle, now effectively blocking my path to the bathroom.

I was sipping on my third iced coffee at that point.

I offered the musician a weak smile. It wasn’t an emergency—yet. I returned to my book, the ferry took off, and we were on our way. How bad could it be?

The ride was rocky. And slow. Normally, this trip takes just over an hour, but one hour in, I still couldn’t see the island’s coastline. My bladder lurched with every heave of the ferry over the waves. I wasn’t going to make it. “Excuse me?” I asked the musician. “Can I get by?” The words potty emergency were on the tip of my tongue, but not needed—she was happy to move the guitar. As a bonus, she jerked it a little too hard, accidentally slamming the knee of the “she can be the Hulk” kid. That’s right: the Hulk actually smiled at his tears.

I hustled to the row of airplane-like bathrooms, and glanced up to find all six of them bore red signs reading “Occupied.” I crossed my legs. Did a little wiggly dance. Waited.

And waited.

The boat was docking now, and I still hadn’t made it into a stall. But there was no way I was going to make it down the plank without wetting my pants (the count was now up to four coffees, people).

Now, I’m not one to do this normally, but action was called for: I knocked on the first door. “Excuse me? We have a potty emergency out here!” I paused. And from all six stalls echoed back the unmistakable sound of bridesmaids projectile vomiting.

Next time, I’m taking the plane.

]]>