Dream it, Do it?

Have you ever had one of those super vivid dreams that felt like more than just a dream?  Like the universe was trying to tell you something, or warn you, or pull you in a certain direction, or steer your path a certain way?

Back in November, I had this beautiful dream.  It began with me finding myself at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.  I could hear the sea lions squealing, and I could smell the pungent yet charming fish market surrounding me.  It was early evening, and the sun was just beginning to set.  The air was tired, relaxed, and salty, as if dehydrated from a long day on the beach.  Everything was winding down–people were leaving to go home, shops were closing.  I stood there in the middle of it all, breathing and smiling.

Before I knew it, I was swimming.  I was in the San Francisco Bay, pulling my way through the water, and I could see the Golden Gate a couple of miles away.  It was morning, and the water was cold.  But the colors were so beautiful and vivid.  The cardinal red bridge glowed in the sunlight, and the water was a deep peacock blue.  I kept swimming, stroke after stroke, and came up for air when I needed it…

And seconds later, it was dark.  I was on a boat…a ferry on the Bay, to be exact, with a bunch of strangers who, in the dream, seemed to be my friends.  No one I knew was there with me, but we were all laughing, joking around, having a good time.  There was beer.  And then the fireworks began.  Right over the Golden Gate bridge.  Absolutely beautiful.  The cracks and bursts felt so real that I kept twitching with surprise every time a firework exploded.  Until I realized I was not twitching in my cushy seat on the ferry; I was twitching in my Northwood apartment bed, lying down.  I jolted awake, opened my eyes, saw the white ceiling instead of the starry sky, and it took a good two minutes for me to regain my bearings.  It was the kind of ocean-deep sleep you wake up from and feel like you’ve been hit by a submarine.

My clock read 3:34 A.M.  It was one of those dreams that had felt so real that I couldn’t just go right back to sleep, (although I really wished I could to see the next “scene” of San Francisco.)  I lay there pondering where this dream had come from.  I hadn’t watched any movies set in San Francisco lately, or even any re-runs of “Full House,” my all-time favorite childhood sitcom.  Hadn’t met anyone from San Francisco recently, or read about it…or anything like that.

Very strangely, I had this same exact montage-like San Francisco dream two more times throughout the course of that very same week.  I just couldn’t figure out where all of this overwhelming imagery was coming from.  I had been to San Francisco 6 years ago with my family, so I had images in my head.  But why were they coming back to me like this over and over again in the middle of chilly November nights in Ann Arbor, Michigan?  Completely random…

…or so I thought.

Fast forward to April 1st.  I had applied to a total of six classical music summer festivals, (kind of like camps-participants go play in orchestras and meet other national/international students and musicians from all over.  Guest artists give lectures, concerts, and classes- it’s a community of the arts, kind of like a “summer internship” for college-aged classical musicians.)  These festivals are extremely competitive- each one only accepts about 4-5 French horn players, and hundreds of players in their 20s and 30s apply every year.  I was losing hope because I had been either wait listed or denied everywhere.  And the worst part is that I had paid $60-70 just to audition for each of the programs!  $60-70 bucks… all to get an email saying, “No, we don’t want you.  Thanks for your money.”

My teacher recommended that I apply to the San Francisco Brass Institute.  It’s a 2-week chamber music program where musicians get to work with and play concerts alongside the San Francisco Symphony members.  “It’s free to apply,” he told me.  “You might as well make a couple more recordings and see what happens.”

So there I was at midnight on a Wednesday night.  Me and a mountain dew and my French horn in Britton Recital Hall, for three hours, recording and getting good takes and bad takes and okay takes.  I was running on 3 hours of sleep.  I finally got pretty good takes of all of the audition material that still weren’t perfect, but it was 3 A.M. and definitely time for bed.  “Good enough,” I told myself.  My sound had filled the recital hall for three strange hours in the dead of night, the overnight cleaning crew being the only other people in the entire music school building.  It felt like a shot in the dark.

I submitted my recordings online the next morning, right on the deadline.

A couple days later, I got my congratulatory acceptance email from the Institute.  One problem:  the festival cost of tuition was $1000.  And room and board was another $1000.  I had saved up about $800 to put towards a summer festival.  My acceptance letter said that I could write a letter explaining need for scholarship.

I wrote a very articulate letter, basically explaining just how poor I am.  I “expressed my need” for $1200 to attend the festival.

Three days later, I came home from work.  It had been a horrible day in the life of retail.  I wasn’t excited about checking my email and writing out a to-do list for the night…

Until I saw an email from Vicky Greenbaum, the San Francisco Brass Institute program director.  The email notified me that I had been awarded a full scholarship-covering tuition, room, and board–for the 2-week institute.  Wow!  These people actually wanted me, unlike the other six festivals.  How often does a program offer you 800 more dollars that the amount you asked for?

So, after six disappointing emails, hundreds of dollars wasted on six auditions, and an emotional journey of rejection, I had finally received great news.  After about a month of burnout, I was completely re-inspired. I danced around my room for about an hour,  then called my parents, my best friend, and my boyfriend.  “It’s FREE!”  I kept exclaiming.  I found it so ironic that this had been the only festival without a ridiculous application fee, and that the actual festival was going to end up costing me absolutely nothing besides a plane ticket to San Francisco and back.  The best things in life truly are free.  And I couldn’t believe how fast the Institute had reviewed my application and listened to my recordings; the other six had each taken at least 3 or 4 weeks to get back to me and had given me many hard days of anxiety-ridden anticipation.

It wasn’t until later that night that I was lying in bed, fidgeting with excitement and unable to fall asleep, that I remembered those dreams from November.  They had popped into my head briefly when my teacher suggested applying to the institute, but now they were really freaking me out.  Never had I had a dream predicting the future, but now I’m not so sure.

Has anyone else ever had a similar dream?  Something that felt so vivid and instinctive that you thought it meant more than just your subconscious unwinding from a long day?  Or a recurring dream that felt more powerful each time it came back to you?

The mind is a powerful thing…that’s all I’m saying.

 

Fondue or Fate?

My best friend since pre-school, Stephanie, attends school at the University of Boston.  She ran the Boston Marathon both last year and the year before.  She was definitely the first person who popped into my head when I heard the tragic news of the haunting events that occurred at the finish line on Monday.  But after an initial minute of panic, I remembered that Stephanie is in Ireland right now.  Has been for the entire semester, studying abroad.

It is sickening and disheartening to me that even the innocent act of celebrating an active lifestyle can turn into something so deadly and dangerous.  My heart goes out to all who were physically, emotionally, and spiritually injured in the midst of this horrible violence.

But my mind goes in a different direction- in a direction that wonders why and how reasons for every act, every chance, every outcome of fate, are interconnected.  Stephanie was in Ireland during the marathon this year.  What would have happened had she been here?  Would she have been one of the three killed at the finish line?  Would she have been one of the hundreds of severely injured runners who may never run a marathon again?  Was she in Ireland just to study abroad, or was she in Ireland because fate wanted to protect her?

This reminds me of a similar story.  In the early nineties, my boyfriend’s mom, Laura, was traveling in France.  She was pregnant with my boyfriend, Dan.  She was supposed to catch a train at precisely 1:37 in the afternoon in order to arrive at her next destination in time, but she and her friends were temptationally cornered by an authentic Fondue restaurant that begged them to surrender their tickets and enjoy one last French fine dining experience.

Later that day, Laura received news that the exact train she and her friends were supposed to take to Germany had crashed.  Several people were killed in the accident, and many were injured.

Since then, Laura has always said that “Fondue saved [her] life that day.”  But was it the Fondue that saved she and Dan’s lives, or was it fate?

Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to ignore the cliche that “everything happens for a reason.”  Does anyone have similar stories or examples of events where they felt like fate was for or against them?  Close calls where an instinctive decision changed a life, or saved a life…funny feelings that shielded you from dangerous outcomes?

I think that after tragedies like the Boston Marathon, it’s important to try to remember times that fate has worked in our favor.

A Special Occasion

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.

-Carl Jung

My spring break was pretty uneventful.  I stayed in Ann Arbor, caught up on a lot of school work, and went on a couple of short day trips with a few friends of mine.  I also picked up extra shifts at Footprtints, the shoe store on Main Street where I work.

Last Wednesday was another perfectly predictable day in the life of working retail– another day that I could expect a bitch to walk in and demand the unmanagable, another day that I could expect a yuppie businessman to complain about a price and ask for a further discount on top of our already-generous independent company sale price.  Another day that I could expect a mom to bring her kid in with beat-up shoes after school and soccer practice, only to realize, after measuring, that his feet have grown three sizes since that last shopping trip just a couple of moons ago.  Another day of confirming the universal three-tier lesson that one learns over and over again when revolving around the fascinating people-watching planet of retail: 1) People are lazy, 2) People are weird, and 3) People are stupid.

The door opened and let in a brisk gust of Ann Arbor afternoon air.  “With my luck, I wouldn’t be surprised if I couldn’t even find socks that fit,” she was mumbling to her husband in her nasal Midwestern accent. She was my height and had a slight unevenness to her walk.  Her eyes were the type of big and round brown eyes that you would look to for the wise and honest truth, not just some sugarcoated lie. She had miskempt tufts of gray hair falling in her face and bangs that needed trimming.  A face of freckles and fine-line wrinkles, age spots and a couple of small moles.  Her outfit consisted of gray cotton lounge pants and a long black blazer over them with a yellow wrinkled t-shirt underneath.  Her husband sported the quintessential ‘midwestern gentleman’ attire: plaid flannel tucked into jeans with a clean brown belt.  Tall and skinny with with short gray hair and thin-lensed glasses. They held hands on their Monday afternoon date.

“Good afternoon,” I greeted them with a smile.  “Can I help you find anything?”

“Yes,” she sighed.  “I need boots.  Black dressy boots that I can wear with my new leggings that are on their way from J. Jill catalogue, and a dress or a shirt, and this blazer, (she pointed to her long blazer.)  She raised her eyebrows and pointed her pudgy finger at me.  “Now, this is really important:  I can’t walk in any sort of heel.  So I just want somethin’ plain and simple.  I’m really pretty boring.”

I pointed out some brands and racks of shoes that I thought may lead her in the right direction, but she was extremely selective.  She walked around every circular rack, across every display.  The sale tables outside the front of the store.  Walking, eyeing, shaking her head.  She picked up a couple of pairs here and there for closer examination.  “The zipper is too obnoxious on these,” she said about one pair.  “My calves are too fat for those,” she chuckled about another.

She was on a mission.  So many customers come in and know exactly what they want, and when they don’t see it after five minutes, they head casually towards the door as if shrugging their shopping shoulders, thinking, “oh well,” and calling a tired “thank you,” over their shoulder as the door shuts behind them.  This woman was different.  I had been working retail long enough to know that she was the type of customer who would not leave without a bag in her hand.

“What’s the special occasion?”  I asked her.  “The dress, the leggings, the boots…are you going somewhere fancy?”

“There is no special occasion, no fancy place, hon.  Unless you count cancer as the special occasion and heaven as the somewhere fancy.”

I felt the veins in my neck relax and my heart drop.

She lifted up the long blazer, pulled out two tubes and a clear bag, sighed exasperatedly, and looked me directly in the eye.  I was kneeling on the floor, holding a shoe box in my hands, and she was standing a few feet away, from above.  But her eyes felt intimately close, her overgrown bangs framing them with fringe and making them appear bigger, more honest, more wise.  “This bag catches my urine because this kidney, (she jabbed her finger into her side), stopped working.”

I had struck a nerve.  I felt instantly guilty for assuming that there had to be a special occasion to buy dressy black boots, and she was paying me back by waving her clear bag with urine in it in the air.  She sounded angry, frustrated, as if the mission to find these boots was her very last fuse.

“I can’t remember how long it’s been since I felt like I got dressed,” she continued, her voice rising and slightly quivering.  For realReal clothes, nothing hiding half of my sick body to cover up these tubes.  But I do remember that the last time I dressed up, someone told me I looked as good as my thirty-year-old daughter who was standing right next to me.  I want to feel like that again.  That’s why I have to know what I want– because I know I didn’t want cancer, and now all I want is to feel like I don’t have cancer.  She turned around and pace slowly in the opposite direction, but I could hear her tears rolling down out the corner of my ear.

“I’m so sorry,” I looked back patiently and said, feeling like every last pixel of my pupils and facial expression was walking on eggshells.  I was afraid of looking too chipper but afraid of looking too sad.

After a moment had passed, I stood up, (absentmindedly with an empty shoebox in my hands), and turned around to continue scanning the shelves.  We had no option but to find these boots.

They’re on sale.  It hit me as hard and fast as the angry morning sleet: the Merrel boots.  They had a little bit of a heel though.  But it was a glided heel, a gradual slope, and organic curvature of the rubber sole.  Not a “heel.”  Not a chunky artificial height-amplifying-illusion-inducing-invented-by-King-Louis-XIV-to-make-his-calves-look-buffer-and-therefore-his-kingdom-look-more-powerful heel.  I turned to her.  “How about these?”  I asked.  “They have a little bit of height, but I wouldn’t qualify it as a ‘heel’ per-se.”

Her brown eyes settled on the boot I was holding up, and she tilted her head slightly to the side.  “Yeah…” she started.  “Oh, heck.  Why not?”

She sat on the bench and began pulling off the shoes she was wearing.  “My kidney specialist told me I needed lotion on my legs this morning,” she blurted, and pointed to her bare legs after pulling up her gray lounge pants.  “I shaved ‘em yesterday, but it stings if you put lotion on right afterwards, right?”

“Oh yeah, that’s the worst!” I related.

“Well, anyways, I meant to put it on this morning, but I forgot.  And then the doctor at my appointment this morning, she tells me my skin is all ‘ashy’…and all I can think is, ‘Well I shaved ‘em for you, bitch!”

Her husband chuckled.  “Not even for me, huh?”

“Nope, not for you, Harry.  Never anything for you,” she kidded, wiping her moistened face with a tissue.  They shared one of those “years grow love, not fade it” smiles.

She pulled on the first Merrel and zipped it up over over her lounge pants, and I could tell it fit like a glove before even feeling her toes and helping her get the other one on.

“Wow,” she gasped.  I haven’t even stood up, and I know these are the ones.  I just know.  It’s instinctive!”  She hurriedly finger-swept her bangs out of her eyes, pushed herself up off the bench with one hand, and took a few steps.  “Wow,” she muttered.  “Just…wow.”

The smiles that spread across her husband’s face and my own were completely involuntary.  Natural reactions.  Just like her pee couldn’t help but fall into that bag because it has nowhere else to go, our smiles couldn’t help stretching all they way across our faces. Like a hound dog can’t help stretching all the way across a cold tile bathroom floor in the middle of an August afternoon.  The beauty of relief, of things made right.  Raw and unbridled happiness.

“It has a little ‘heel,’ but I kinda like it,” she giggled.  “These are the ones, Harry.  Do you like them?” she turned to him and batted her eyelashes.

“You look beautiful, Sweetie,” he said.  “Even more beautiful than always.”

“Aww, Harry,” she sighed and rolled her eyes, annoyed and affectionate.

“You got Husband Approval!” I said.  “Husband Approval is always very important around here.  Congratlations.”

“Thank you, hon.  I’ll take ‘em.”

She was right across the counter, the sun coming through the front door and illuminating the crevaces of her wrinkles.  Except none of them were wrinkles, and all of them were laugh lines.  Before slipping her credit card out of her wallet, she smiled and sighed.  She leaned in slightly and put her hand on my shoulder.

“I haven’t felt this pretty in months, hon.  I think our paths were meant to cross today, and you were the sweetie who was supposed to help me in this place at this time.  You have no idea how grateful I am for your patience and help.”

“You really deserve to wear these boots and feel beautiful.  I’m so glad we found you something,” I said.

In all of my retail experience, I had never hugged a customer.  And I am never the initiating hugger in any hugging situation.  But this was simply an exception. Sometimes a customer leaves and I second-guess myself.  Did I really give them correct change?  Did I give them their receipt?  Oh God, I hope I didn’t double-charge him since his card didn’t go through the first time.  And I knew that if this woman left without a hug from me, I would have a similar anxiety-ridden question running through my head.  I went around to the other side of the counter with open arms, and all of the sudden it was like my three deceased grandparents were smothering me in a group hug, channeling love to me through this surrogate grandmother that came to save me, even if just for one hour.  “God Bless you,” she said with a wink and a smile as she headed out the door with her beaming husband.

She was gone just like that.  The store was completely empty and quiet, and it was time to put a new CD into the player. The tissue in the few empty shoe boxes on the floor waved slighlty from heated air currents coming from the vents above.  It was like that moment after a child’s birthday party, when all the helium balloons are still attached to the chairs in the living room, but the lights are off and everyone has gone home.  The cake is half-eaten, sitting on the table, a relic of past joy.

What if those were the shoes she wore on her very last day to live?  What if that was the outfit she wore to her very last dinner out on the town with her husband?  On her last day to the park with her grandchildren?  I wondered how long she had, how many steps she could take in those boots, how long she had to enjoy them.  Whether she had gotten to enjoy shopping for them more than she would get to enjoy living in them.

I guess when you only have so much time left, it’s perfectly acceptable to blabber about shaving your legs in an open public store.  It’s perfectly okay to wave a clear bag of urine in the air and have your husband try to save the embarrassment by turning to the salesperson and saying with a nervous laugh, “Yeah, this is the kind of stuff you only have to worry about when you get old.  You won’t be there for a while, don’t worry.”

But I do worry.  Every day.  I worry about things that don’t matter.  Whether I’m making enough money, whether I’ll get everywhere on time, whether I practiced enough for my lesson, whether I’m going to have a good performance in studio class.  I never have to worry about finding a blazer long enough to cover my tubes.  I don’t have to worry about shaving my legs in the winter time, even if I’m wearing shorts to the gym with my boyfriend.  I very often try to worry my moments into place, but they can’t get there without wearing the right shoes.  And they can’t wear the right shoes without trying everything, examining everything, and finally deciding what they want.  What their vision for the entire outfit is, and what they wish to become.  How they choose to spend their steps in getting there, even if they only have a little time to reach the destination.  And how they look sitting next to the many other pairs of shoes sitting in my closet.

Families come into the store together.  Couples come into the store together.  And more often than not, the decision to buy a pair of shoes is almost never the decision of a single person.  It’s a community effort, a congregation of comments from the peanut gallery, a “whadaya think” forum, a long discussion between two people.  A plead from child to parent, or a negotiation from wife to husband.  A decision between two different pairs, or a compromise between two different styles.  A departing and coming back later on the same day with a change of mind in between.

Shoes are much more than fashion statements and feet protectors.  They are deeply rooted keepers of identity, pressure-bearing surges of power pumping along the pavement, determined and adventurous souls, (soles…) of journey from beginning to end.  Confirmed foundation that your foot is equipped to take the next step, to move in the next direction, and to leave the next impression.

Feet are intimate, and so are the various ways that people choose to cover them, or to call attention to them, or to make them more comfortable along the treacherous way of their life journey.  Putting a shoe on a stranger’s foot is perhaps the most intimate thing I do almost every day.  It’s an act of logistics and an act of experiment rolled into a greater act of duty, and, on ‘special occasion,’ an act of love.

 Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.

-Marilyn Monroe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norovirus, Go Away!

Last Saturday began as any normal day:  I woke up feeling well-rested for the first time all week, slipped on my running gear, and enjoyed my heart pumping healthily in rhythm with my feet pounding pavement for the next five miles.  Came home, showered, ate breakfast.  Was on my way to a rehearsal an hour later, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  On the Northwood bus.  I needed to get off.  right.  now.  It was that swallowy feeling that happens…right…before…and you keep swallowing…and it’s getting harder to swallow, heavier, thicker…

I made it to Pierpont, and then lost my breakfast.  Thank God the bathroom is right inside the building.  I would have never made it.  The odors of Panda Express inspired me on my way.

My rehearsal was cancelled because one of the other girls in the rehearsal had been in a car accident that morning…(another story entirely.  She was okay, the car wasn’t…)  I bought three bottles of ginger ale, called in sick to work, and waited an agonizing and cold twenty minutes for the next bus back home.  Barely made it home before I had to visit “EARL!” on the big white telephone again.

I was completely restless.  Just when I thought I may be able to lie down for more than five minutes, my stomach began auditioning for the circus again, right inside me.  Twists, turns, backflips.  I threw up twelve more times that afternoon.

My boyfriend came over a couple hours later to check on me.  “How about some ice cubes?” he asked.  Seemed easy enough.  Nope.  Ice cubes made me throw up.  Sips of water made me throw up.  My stomach was completely tired and empty, and yet I was still throwing up.  Six more hours went by before I was completely dehydrated, dizzy even from the three steps to the bathroom.  I simply could not function like this any longer.  I called my doctor, who said I needed to go to the emergency room.

The hardest part was getting into the car.  My stomach felt like it was splitting in half, and standing up was only encouraging it.  My boyfriend put together an overnight bag for me and assured me that the hardest part of this whole thing would be getting to the car, and that he would take care of the rest.  “You can do it Hoff,” he said over and over, until I finally held his hand and got down the steps and out into the freezing cold with my barf bowl in front of me like a shield.

I threw up in the waiting room, and I threw up on the way to the room.  I was the pathetic girl with crazy eyes, wild unbrushed hair, and a purple bowl, being wheeled around in a wheelchair by her poor boyfriend.

I finally got into a triage room after twenty minutes of waiting, and the nurse was a complete bitch.  She took one look at me, and the first thing she said to me was, “If you have the stomach flu, you don’t come to the ER.  You stay at home, get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and then feel better after a couple days.  You dragged your poor boyfriend here for no reason.”  I tried to explain to her in my feeble voice that this was not just any stomach flu, that this was something much more evil than that, completely wiping out my mind, body, and soul.  She rolled her eyes.  When I kept throwing up, she finally took my blood pressure.  “Oh my God,” she called out to the other nurse in the hall.  “Get her into a room.”

They drew my blood, ran a few tests, pumped me with bags of Saline and doses of Zofran through an IV.  My boyfriend sat by me and held my hand, trying to make fun of an old NCIS re-run on TV and make me laugh.  I could not relax, but I felt sleepy and hyper at the same time.  I laughed uncontrollably in delirium, and then cried hysterically in fear.  Back and forth, I was in a state of pure mania and pain that was too severe to feel anymore.  I was sent home seven hours later in a rather numb state, still able to only drink tiny sips of water.

The night and the two days that followed my trip to the hospital were very long and completely restless.  I had a fever and the chills on top of all of my stomach problems, and  I could not sleep or eat for fifty-five hours straight.  My head pounded.  It was an epic battle.  I lay in my bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling like I was going to die.  My stomach churned threateningly and relentlessly; my muscles weakened quickly.  I had to call my roommate on her phone in the middle of the night, one room away, because I almost passed out.  I had a choice: drink some coke and throw it back up, or pass out.

I officially forgot what “normal” felt like.  Not until Day 3 of Recovery could I move enough to even get out of bed on my own.  And even then, it took five minutes of small step-by-step muscle motions.  You lay in bed long enough, and your muscles completely lose their mobility and strength.  Add severe hunger and sleep deprivation to the mix, and you’ve got some serious recovering ahead of you.

Today is Sunday, eight days after the sudden attack. I am finally just beginning to feel slightly like myself again and ate an entire slice of pizza today!  Quite possibly the best slice of pizza I’ve ever tasted in my life.  That was definitely the sickest I have ever been in my life, and this entire week has felt like a trip to hell and back.  I have been rehabilitating, rejuvenating, and trying to make sense of what happened to me.  After falling that uncontrollably, (and deathly) ill, it’s impossible to go right back to my normal routine without some amount of reflection.  If I had been able to lose 12 pounds in a week one month ago, I would have rejoiced.  But two days ago when I saw that  suddenly-unhealthily-lower number on the scale, it disturbed me and frightened me.

Norovirus is deadly and dangerously contagious, especially throughout college campuses.  So please, take this as a Public Service Announcement to WASH YOUR HANDS!  Before and after preparing food, before and after using the bathroom, before and after doing anything.  Be careful and take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep, eat your greens, take your vitamins, and exercise.  It’s that time of year when all-nighters seem like a good idea, and energy drinks seem like the one and only elixir of life.  But listen to your body, take care of it, and listen to your limits!  You do not want to end up in the emergency room.

 

 

 

Dust Jacket…

 

Emily Hoffner lives in La La Land, where chocolate grows on trees and where Ann Taylor Loft is the center of the universe.  She is critically acclaimed for winning the “Short Fuse Angry Ginger” award back in 1996, when the bully in kindergarten stole her crayons and tried to flush them down the toilet.  Her favorite wine is Yellowtail Chardonnay, but it only tastes good when paired with sweatpants at the end of a god-awful day.  She enjoys engaging in passionate discussions with stubborn inanimate objects.  She has a boyfriend who is wacky enough to love her.  (He has a strict and detailed mouthwash-gargling ritual.)