Introducing…

It’s been several months since Algernon headed off to his next adventure. I still miss him. He’ll always hold a small, dirty white space in my heart.

And yet, even though his absence still stings, I think I might be finally ready to start bringing a new mousy friend on adventures with me. Because you all are the best, I had a large selection of rodent buddies from which to choose.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

I ended up drawn to a mouse that I had originally given Quinn because he wanted his own little guy like Algernon. After he saw all of the friends you guys sent, he gave me the gift of the mouse I had given to him months before.

He is a mouse born for adventure.

A close up of a small stuffed mouse in my jeans pocket. He looks just like Algernon, who was all white, except this guy has a white chest and stomach and a brown/black brindle rest of his body.

I started carrying him around with me a while back.

There’s more to adopting a new mascot, however, than just popping him in your bag and dragging him places he doesn’t want to go. You also have to name the little dude. I spent a long time trying to find the moniker that suited him best. I tried to find mouse names from literature, but none of them suited him that well. I ruminated on his name for a really long time, but there was one name that stuck with me. I decided to let him tell you what it is.

The mouse holding a quill pen and sitting on a piece of paper on which is written, "I'm Chester!"

He’s Chester!

Naming task taken care of, we headed out to see what we could see. Unfortunately, most of what we saw on Chester’s first trip out was traffic.

Chester sitting on a dashboard of a car "looking" at multiple lanes of stropped traffic.

DC can be frustrating.

He did better on a later trip to the pet store where I was buying a lot of lab blocks (aka, food) to feed my gerbils. Chester got reacquainted with some old friends.

Chester in front of a tank of small mice. There is a sign taped to the tank that reads, "All sorts of fancy mice $3.49 each"

Fancy mice. All sorts of them.

I’ve been enjoying having Chester around, but he’s a little bit of an attention hog and he will go to any means necessary to get it.

Chester holding a large, soft mallet in front of a giant gong.

Bang a gong, Chester.

I will say this for him: He’s a very brave mouse.

Chester's back is to the camera and he is standing directly in front of Starfire the cat, who is looking directly above the camera.

He’s a daredevil, that Chester.

I blame a lot of his bravado and wild behavior on all the caffeine he drinks.

Chester holding the handle of a very small ceramic mug of brown liquid.

Sometimes he overdoes it.

Chester with a paw through the handles of two ceramic mugs, now empty.

And sometimes he REALLY overdoes it.

Chester with his face up to the opening of a large Starbucks cup.

And sometimes that mouse straight up embarrasses himself.

Regardless of his addictive behavior and his guzzling of hot chocolate out of coffee cups, I feel very thankful for Quinn’s selfless generosity.

Quinn sitting in a chair with Starfire the cat cradled in his arm and Chester sitting on top of her.

Thanks, pal.

No matter what, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Photo of me with Chester kissing my cheek. I hope we have a lot of adventures together.

*****

In other news, Jack’s special hockey team, the Montgomery Cheetahs, is still soliciting donations for their big fundraiser coming up in May. Thank you so much to Jodi and the Paulsons for their donations. You can make your own donation online.

Algernon’s Army: New Recruits

You guys. You guys. I have no words for you all. You are SOUL FILLING. My mail is such a happy part of my day nowadays. Would you like some examples as to why I love my mail so much? It’s because my mailbox overfloweth with love. And rodents. And other small furry things that are almost rodents.

photos of a stuffed squirrel, otter and round hamster

From my friends Katie, Sherry, and Michal. Thank you. So much.

That first little guy there? She’s a squirrel who came from my 7-year-old friend Katie, who made sure she was all decked out enough to join the rodent brigade. Even better than the squirrel was the note that came with her:

note in child's handwriting on orange paper: "From Katie to Jean. I am sorry that your mouse is gone. So I give you this present to make you happy."

“From Katie to Jean. I am sorry that your mouse is gone. So I give you this present to make you happy.” (And, yes, she did use a sad-girl emoticon instead of a period to end that middle sentence there.)

Is that not the nicest ever? I love that kid.

That otter in the middle comes from my old college chum. She sent this amazing note with it telling the story of the debate amongst strangers that took place in the store as to what animal exactly this was and whether it was, in fact, a rodent. Answers: otter and no.

Nonetheless, otters are one of my favorite animals and he is small and brown and fits in perfectly as a conscientious objector to Algernon’s Army.

Then there is Speedy at the end, who is really not very speedy because he is chubby and round and can’t actually move very fast. He’s like the rodent version of me. He is hilarious. Jack almost passed out laughing when he saw him.

Then there was the very wonderful card from my mother-in-law wherein she posited that Algernon had fallen in love and was off on new adventures elsewhere. Oh, and she wrote that inside a greeting card that had this on the front:

Cartoon drawing of Noah's Ark (with two Algernons pasted on it). There are two dinosaurs sitting on a nearby island saying, "Oh, crap! Was that TODAY?"

I think she is subtly referencing Algernon’s resiliency here.

Do you want to know what else came in the mail today? A photo book about Algernon from my beautiful friend Bec. The book includes the very first post about Algernon that I ever wrote and then photo highlights of his adventures from the past two years.

Cover of a book showing a photo of a small white mouse peeking out of a swimming pool and the word "Algernon."

It is amazing.

Algernon’s Army is so large that I had to dedicate a shelf to it. Because I don’t have a single unused shelf in my house, I had to buy and install a shelf just for my new little friends.

White shelf with all my stuffed rodents and my Algernon book on it.

I think you’ll agree that it was worth the effort.

The shelf is appropriately situated over one of the gerbil tanks.

Algernon's Army shelf over a gerbil tank.

I like how Jetpack and Jefferie are standing at attention here.

I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to look over my left shoulder and see my shelf-o-love-and-rodents. You guys are amazing.

I think that is probably all of my Algernon-related news. Thank you all for continuing to be so awesome. I love you guys.

Algernon’s Army

You guys have no idea what is going on around here.

I cannot even tell you how much love you have sent me. All of you…in so many ways. Every comment, every email, every tweet, every message, every photo…

But there is also this:

give Algernons

Meet Algernon’s Army: Minnie the Island Mouse, Baggins, Reginald, Demetrius, and Algernon Too.

Every single person who sent me a mouse (thank you so much, Kim, Mir, Thien-Kim, Ann (aka my sister), and the sender of the last guy who came without a note—updated to add: it was Joeymom! Thank you!) told me, “I know Algernon can’t be replaced, but maybe this guy can help.”

Seriously. How awesome? And this doesn’t even include all the others of you who emailed me to tell me that you wanted to send me a mouse—and those offers mean just as much as an in-the-flesh mouse.

I could never have gone out and bought a new Algernon, but getting them from you guys? It feels good. It feels right. And, holy hell, it made my kids so ridiculously happy that I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for you. The munchkins are reluctant to refer to one of these critters as anything other than Algernon, so Algernon Too might have to be the mouse who heads out on adventures first. Trust me though, the rest of them are going to hang out in a place of honor on my desk, because they are not made of stuffing. They are made of love.

Look how cute they are! (And so clean! Damn, Algernon was grubbier than I thought he was.)

Oh, and there is another little guy who will be coming later. Sunday got me a mouse too, but he is currently being needed to cheer up her son Sam, who had a tough doctor visit today.

Algernon and (Sunday's) Sam

Sunday’s kiddo, getting support. Algernon and his army are good that way. Shared with permission.

I cannot even tell you how much I loved seeing this photo on Facebook this morning. ALGERNON HELPS PEOPLE, YOU GUYS. Or rather, Scout, as this mouse is named, because this mouse? Well this mouse is literary, y’all.

Oh, and just in case things were getting too uniform for you all, Quinn’s occupational therapist worked with Quinn in a session to make a new mousy friend for us, getting his opinion on choices of eyes (NO BUTTONS! NO BUTTONS!) and enlisting his sewing expertise.

Black, white & red giraffe-print homemade mouse

I love him so much. I will be calling him Giraffey. For obvious reasons.

But, you guys, it’s not even my new mousy friends that cheered me up. There was the story one of you told me about losing your own stuffed mouse and finding her under your mom’s porch ten years later. There are, as I think I mentioned, those of you who shared awesome stories of losing your own things, some of which I probably shouldn’t detail here. (You know who you are.) There is the friend who sent a gift card for caffeine, which was much appreciated. There is my sister-in-law, who was going to give me a winter hat for Christmas, but told me she’ll be moving up that gift hat to replace the one lost and to keep my head warm. There were all of your nice words—and trust me when I say that every one of those words mattered.

There is also the knowledge that Algernon will live on in memory, say whenever one wonderful person goes to her London grocery store past Algernon Road:

Algernon Road - London

Algernon had international influence, see.

None of this, however, can replace Algernon, which you all know, no matter how you responded to his loss. Many of you suggested that Algernon might have a wonderful second life with a new friend.

Some of you worked very hard (and successfully) to make me laugh, like one of my very best friends, whom I’ve known since college, who suggested that maybe Algernon’s new life would be a faster one, posed at scenes of his crimes with his new friend, the thief.

Maybe, she suggested, Algernon broke bad.

In fact, she claims that he’s already been involved in some jewelry store heists.

Algernon wearing gaudy jewelry

He gots some bling, baby. Whereabouts unknown.

You guys, I don’t think Algernon is coming back. He’s got a new adventure ahead of him. This whole episode has really sucked, but I learned something really important. I learned that I have a tremendous number of people who really, really care about me. I learned that love comes in many forms and that I got to experience many of them this past week.

I learned that my car thief may have my stuff, but his life is probably not very awesome. I would choose all of you over my stuff any day of the week. That thief brought a black cloud with him, but you all made up a silver lining so thick that it’s hard to even see the storm anymore. Thank you for that.

And thank you for my new mice. You made my kids so happy by sending them, which means so much to me. You made me so happy by sending them. I can’t wait to see what adventures my new mouse friends have.

Thank you for Algernon’s Army. Thank YOU for BEING Algernon’s army.

The Other Shoe

If you found a yellow purse and are here because you found a stack of Stimeyland business cards and luggage tags in it, please email me!

Guess what happens if you write a post about clouds lifting and the sun shining?

The world fucks you up.

That’s what happened to me today. I was happily running at 9:30 this morning, proud of myself for squeezing in my run on a busy day, first thing in the morning, and under a sky that was threatening rain. “I am awesome!” is what I thought about myself as I rounded my last turn and returned to where I had stashed my car.

Then the world dropped the metaphorical other shoe on me.

My van with a smashed window.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

And, yeah. My purse had (emphasis on the past tense there) been in the car.

I, much like my window, was shattered. I never leave my bag in the car when I run. Never. I usually just take my driver’s license and debit card and put it in the waistpack I wear when I run. For some reason today, I took the purse and left it unattended. It was under a blanket, but I guess that didn’t fool anyone.

My wallet was of course in the bag along with my checkbook. My brand new mittens that I’d only worn once were in the bag. My favorite winter hat that I bought in 1994 was in the bag. A toy that belonged to Quinn’s best friend was in the bag, waiting for me to return it to him. My grocery list was in the bag. I’ll never be able to recreate that. As for valuables? Well, there was probably about $40 and some credit cards that I canceled before they were used.

And, you guys. I almost can’t say it because I want to cry every time I think about it.

Algernon was in the bag.

I am brokenhearted. Most of my stuff can be replaced, but Algernon can’t be. I know he was just a stupid little stuffed mouse, but he was so much more than that to me. He was my shield, my ice breaker, my humor, my friend. I feel ridiculous every time I start to cry when I think about him, but I truly loved him.

Not only that, but this is the last photo I have of him.

I’m trying to joke about him, but I will really miss him. Both Jack and Sam cried when I told them Algernon was gone. He was like a tiny, fuzzy, filthy, inanimate member of our family.

I stood by my sad, broken car and called Alex, because he’s my person and he knows what to do in these situations. He offered to call about all my credit cards and I was just about to hang up so I could go about filing a police report (all from my smart phone—we live in a miraculous time), when my phone rang again.

It was Quinn’s school. He’d just thrown up and I had to come get him.

Because of fucking course.

Quinn was actually a really wonderful addition to my day. He saw how sad I was and gave me all kinds of nice hugs. Plus, because he was feeling completely fine by the time I picked him up, he was willing to go back to the scene of the crime and walk around to look for my bag in the hopes that the thief had taken my wallet and ditched the bag.

Quinn kept remarking, “No offense, but I don’t think we’re going to find it. No offense.”

He was right. We didn’t find it, but we did get to play crime scene investigator.

Quinn studying a pile of auto glass on the ground.

He concluded that there was glass on the ground. And some trash.

There are, of course, a couple of upsides to this violation. For example, I am the proud new owner of a big ol’ window breaking rock that is still in my car. I don’t have to worry about how to fill all my free time over the next few days because now I have all kinds of errands to run. Related: I don’t have to worry about how to spend all my free money because I’ll be using it to fix my window, pay for a new license, and replacing all the crap in my bag.

Also, Jack has an ample supply of auto safety glass to explore and crumble up.

Jack holding a piece of auto glass.

He is really, really into it. I might gather up the pieces that are all over the floor of my car and use them as bribes to get him to do his homework: “Do a math problem, get a piece of glass to crumble!”

That’s about it for the positives. There is an extremely long list of negatives. Dealing with this is going to take forever and is going to cost so much money, and all the guy who robbed me got was a couple of twenties and a stuffed mouse. But why would he care? Not his problem, I guess. People are the fucking worst.

Thank you to all of you who sent nice Facebook messages, comments, and texts after you heard about my day. Super thanks to Alex for being so amazing at dealing with all the financial bullshit today. Wish me luck at the window place, the DMV, and the bank tomorrow. It’s going to be a super fun day.

Also, wish Algernon luck. I hope he doesn’t end up in a landfill and that rather someone who will love him finds him. Happy travels, Algernon. I hope you find some good adventures.

Reach the Beach and Why I Hate Past Stimey

About a year ago, Past Stimey’s friend asked her if she wanted to run a 200-mile, 12-person relay race in New Hampshire in September of 2013. Past Stimey thought that sounded like a blast and after all, Past Stimey didn’t really have to worry about actually racing in said relay race (Reach the Beach) because that was Future Stimey’s problem.

Past Stimey can go fuck herself. This comes straight from Present Stimey, who has to run this motherfucking race THIS COMING FRIDAY AND SATURDAY.

Here is how the race works: It is 200(ish) miles. There are a bunch of us on our team. There are 36 legs of varying lengths and intensities. Each of us runs 3 or 4 legs. I will, over the course of 30-something hours, run three legs of almost 7 miles each.

I am freaking out.

I am in an all-day, every-day, full-body panic.

I mean, I’m going for one last run Wednesday, before I fly up to New Hampshire on Thursday, so there is still time for me to sprain an ankle or get hit by a car or something.

As George Costanza said, wishing his fiancée would get in a plane crash before he had to marry her: “It’s something. It’s hope.”

At least I have a buddy.

He's wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.

He’s wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.

You guys. I for reals want to cry or throw up every time I think about it. I know neither of those things are all that much out of character, but it’s still kind of a bummer.

Here’s the thing: I can run the miles. I know I can do that. As far as putting one foot in front of the other, that will happen.

However, there are a number of other things that Past Stimey didn’t consider when she so flippantly agreed to take part in this race. I could list all of these things, but it mostly just comes down to my issues with socializing, with needing downtime, with worrying about letting my teammates down because I am so goddamn slooooow, about being autistic in a little van with a slew of other people and a plethora of what are sure to be interesting smells, about body image issues in a field of fit runners, about (my) control issues, about not knowing what to expect, about…

Well. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I would probably be less stressed if I were supposed to run a marathon this weekend (something I am nowhere near ready to do), because at least if I were doing that, I wouldn’t have eleven other people counting on me. I am not, how you say—a team player. In fact, I have spent most of my life avoiding team situations. I’m really mad that Past Stimey forgot that about us.

Here’s something else though: I know this is going to be good. It is going to be so fucking good. My teammates are good people. My team doesn’t care when we finish, we just care that we finish. I have been mentally preparing myself to put my head down and push through the lack of down time and my social issues, knowing that I can come home and decompress.

I know that this race and the people I do it with are going to be one of my favorite memories. I know that I will come home on Sunday wanting to race again next year. I know all of these things, but that doesn’t stop my anticipatory anxiety.

I have to walk through this anxiety to get to the good part.

Near Future Stimey is going to be really happy. Near Future Stimey is going to have an adventure and a ton of fun this weekend. Near Future Stimey is going to have a million stories.

Present Stimey, however, is going to panic. That’s just the way it is. I know it is going to be great. I really do. Still, if I make it to the start line without puking, it will be a minor miracle.

Humor me, tell me I’m going to be awesome, share a great running song, and make me laugh with a suggestion for a race hashtag? Wish me luck, okay?

photo-2Keep track of my teammates and me on Facebook and Twitter.

Algernon in Chicago, Part II, aka Algercago

Remember how Algernon and I were in Chicago for the BlogHer conference? I have some important thinks about the conference and the people I met and hung with there and the things I learned and I might be able to manage to blog about it, or I might forget to, but what I do know is that I can show you the Algernon photos I spent the past four days taking.

At some point, in a fit of epiphany, I told a friend of mine that I liked having Algernon because I am able to take photos in the Expo Hall without looking like a total tool. I was under the impression that I just came across as a partial tool. Then I came home and looked at the many, many photos of Algernon that I took in various hilarious tableaux and realized that, in fact, I am a SUPER tool.

In the spirit of my tooldom, I will now share those photos with you.

Our journey started Wednesday. Algernon was pretty excited to fly.

1

It’s too bad that the plane was entirely full, so he didn’t get his own seat and instead had to be a lap rodent.

You remember that Southwest lost my suitcase, but at least Algernon’s luggage came through.

1a

Or Mir had a tiny suitcase that I literally snatched out of her hands and then spent ten minutes trying to get Algernon to hold it.

I texted this next photo to Alex and he texted back to say, “But you don’t like blueberries.”

4

And I said, “But Algernon does.”

Also, if Algernon has held something in his filthy little paw, you might not want to put it in your mouth afterward.

Fortunately, I was at a shindig where someone walked by with some sort of blue light sanitizing wand and I immediately handed Algernon to him.

7

I’m absolutely sure he’s perfectly clean now. Go ahead, lick him; it’s fine now.

There were Cracker Jacks for snacks at Healthminder Day on Thursday and I was completely delighted because I love me some Cracker Jacks. I decided to take some photos of Algernon with the prize.

5

This one came off as more Carlos Danger-ish than I intended.

As long as Algernon was getting all down with his bad self, I let him cavort in an Expo bed with not one, but two friends.

8

Then I put the sheep in a dirty pose on the bed, but someone moved them. It is possible that I have too much fun at the Expo.

There was a surprising amount of alcohol being given away at the Expo on Friday. Algernon started drinking early in the day.

91

Cheers!

One of the exhibitors gave me this flower clip. It looked better on Algernon.

92

With this look, he could get ALL the sheep.

If you’ve hung out here in Stimeyland before, you know that Algernon enjoys taking photographs with famous people.

93

Enter Queen Latifah.

Sheryl Sandberg spoke on Saturday morning, and when we arrived at breakfast, there were papers on the tables on which we were supposed to write what we would do if we were not afraid.

94

Then, when Sheryl Sandberg actually turned out to be extremely inspiring, I felt like an asshole for posting this. I plan on blaming my friend Marty, who is the person who was funny enough to come up with the cat rescue suggestion.

Lady M and my rodent guru friend, Fourth Breakfast, happened to be in a session that Algernon and I were attending. Fourth Breakfast has a bond with Algernon that goes all the way back to last year when she did this very same thing with him. I love both of these women.

95a

I don’t know why *I* look like I’m ready to barf in this photo though.

When you spend every moment looking for interesting places to take photographs of your stuffed mouse, everything is an opportunity.

96

I’ll be starting a whole new feature called “Where’s Algernon?”

Volume One will be “Where’s Algernon: Outer Space.”

97

I asked the photographer if I looked weird in the picture and he was noncommittal in his answer.

So, remember a few months ago when all of you wanted me to run a baby gerbil cam? I think I might have found the answer in Dropcam.

97a

Honestly though, I would buy almost anything that advertised by featuring a live kitten cam.

One of my favorite booths was the Snickers booth. See, that’s my favorite candy bar. They were getting word out about their new bite-size Snickers. They had samples. Those samples were DELIGHTFUL.

97b

I actually did eat this after I took it off of Algernon’s paw. He was sanitized after all.

After tiny things, we went straight to ENORMOUS things. I don’t know if you all knew this, but Optimus Prime was at BlogHer. I made an ASS of myself when he showed up. There was a lot of jumping up and down. Algernon, on my finger there, was more stately.

97c

I texted a photo of this to Alex and evidently Sam was all, “Optimus Prime is WAY bigger than that.”

The best part is that some booths had PROPS that were appropriate for Algernon and me.

97d

Algernon looks good with a mustache, yes?

There is an annual fashion show at BlogHer nowadays. Algernon made sure he got a turn on the catwalk.

97e

Work it. Wooooork it.

The conference ended on Saturday, but I stuck around to have brunch with some of my favorite people on Sunday. Before that though, Algernon and I walked around and took some photos.

We don’t understand a lot of the art in the world.

98

But we’ll still pose with it.

We also know that if there is a fountain, you have to take a photo in front of it.

99

Say, “Cheeeeese!” (This is funny because mice like cheese.)

Then Algernon threw a coin in the fountain and made a wish that all of our luggage would make it home with us on our airplane.

991

It worked!

All good things must come to an end though. Algernon and I hopped in a cab to start our journey home, where we plan to sit on the couch and nap for the entire next week. BlogHer is extremely exhausting.

992

Algernon is often reckless with his seat belt. He finds them uncomfortable.

All in all, the two of us had an eggcellent time in Chicago.

eggcellent

Thank you to Kim, who indulged me in my weird need for a stuffed egg.

We got home right after my kids had gone to bed, so we made sure to wake them up so I could huuuuuuug them and also so I could take a photo of Algernon in his favorite tableau of all.

team stimey

Don’t think that I left Jack out of this photo. That’s him in the middle, in the red body sock. Do you see why I missed them?

Now Algernon heads off to the bottom of my purse, where he will live until the next time we go somewhere with good photo ops.

In Case You Were Wondering Where I’ve Been

I’m at BlogHer. (Hi, Melisa. BlogHer. BlogHer. BLOGHER.)

I have had some incredibly soul satisfying laughter with the right people. I have felt inspired to work harder on my writing goals. I have felt off kilter and not able to get in my groove. But there are some people here, and you probably know who you are, who are feeding me exactly what I need.

Everything has been happening on my Facebook page because I’ve had no time to write, so if you haven’t been there, I’ll bring it here for you. Mostly it’s Algernon being an attention hog, but there is also a sad little story about how the airline lost my luggage and then called me in the middle of the night to tell me they were bringing it to me in the morning and then how I French kissed the front desk guy when he wheeled it out to me.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.20.07 AMAnd then we went to Healthminder Day.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.20.01 AMAnd then we admired the decor.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.58 AMAnd then we enjoyed the Cracker Jacks that they had for snacks.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.55 AMAnd then we went to a lot of sessions and keynotes.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.51 AMAnd then we went to Voices of the Year.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.19.45 AMAnd then we drank and laughed and drank and laughed some more and some of us may have shouted some Janis Joplin songs loudly.

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.20.19 AMAnd…scene. I wonder what adventures he will have today?