Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Being from the south, I've grown accustomed to the sweeter things in life. Sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and of course sweet tea. Down south, even in a city as urbanized as Tampa, they serve their tea so sugary sweet you need something salty on hand just to avoid going into sugar shock. I'd drink the stuff until I was sick.

Then, Sharon Richter, my nutritionist told me how many calories I was ingesting in beverages alone. It was like being told Santa played Satan in the off-season. Or that the Easter Bunny’s favorite hobbies included boiling his own kind. Or that the Tooth Fairy may have left you dollars under your pillow, but she also farted on it for good measure. (No wonder I was always getting pink eye.) In short.. I was devastated.

Then I discovered this amazing thing called Splenda. I had used the stuff on occasion before, but never really took a liking to it. They say if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. A zero calorie sweetener? That did the same job as sugar without the fat ass? Rigghhht. What was the catch? I’ll come down with some incurable cancer, or maybe a thyroid disorder? But, everyone I knew was praising its greatness, so, why not?

Before long I was putting Splenda on everything I ate. I mean things that don’t even warrant Splenda… like… vegetables. I figured if a little was good, a lot was even better. It became an ongoing joke between my old roommate and I about just how much I would go through a day. He’d spill some while baking… then wipe it into a nice little line and asked me if I wanted to “hit it.” That is when I realized, I had a real problem.

My name is Jenn, and I’m a Splendaholic.


This city is so cold, cut and dry with zero compassion it seems. Its not that the people here take delight in others misfortunes, they simply just don’t care either way. So for an outsider, this town can come across as very cynical.

Me? I’m a brutally honest girl, but even that doesn’t stop me from sugar coating things every now and then. Some people up here seem to appreciate it, while others loathe its usage entirely. Now I'm all about being real with people, but being a pessimistic hard truth a$$hole…is just not what I had in mind.

Up here, there is a girl in my circle of friends we’ve all come to affectionately refer to as.. Eeyore. Despite having lost a ton of weight recently, and getting a new hair cut, she was still one of the least confident and albeit most miserable people I know. She’d go on dates with men, and report back to us the next day….

Us: How’d your date go?
Eeyore: It was fineeeeeeeeeeeee.

Us: Well, what did you do?
Eeyore: Went to dinner. Had some wine. Prolly
never see him again. (Oops, I lost my tail. Thanks for noticing meeeeeee…….)

Ok, so I made up the last part. But, you get the picture. It was just a slew of man-hating and socially destructive patterns we had come to expect from her. The problem was… Eeyore didn’t hate men. The person she was really unhappy with was herself.

People who shoot down hope, the cynics, the people unhappy with their own existence yet… doing NOTHING proactive about their situation, well… I just don't need them. I prefer to think of myself as one of life’s cheerleaders, only without the outfit or any dance skills. After all, sometimes we could all use someone to reassure us that everything will be ok. Do you think Obama got elected by telling people how $hitty the next four years of life in America would be? Of course not. He got elected because he promised “change.” He calmed our fears. He told us that while things may seem bad, they would inevitably get better. And what else could he really do?.. He kind of inherited this mess. While kids used to dream of being the President of the United States, now we have ten year olds who are like… “No, that’s ok. I’d rather be a florist instead.” How were we supposed to know that an eight year ruling by an oil tycoon would send this country into such a downward spiral? I mean, he could hardly run the Texas Rangers, he knew jack shit about the internet and we expected him to be the leader of the greater part of the free world? I don’t THINK sooooo. Maybe Robin Williams was right: “Some men achieve greatness. Others get it as a graduation present.” Though you can't blame one man, you can certainly blame the administration.

So in a world overrun by negativity and bad things happening to good people, what are we supposed to do?...

Have faith. Have hope. Be positive. You have to have hope. Just remember, that no matter how bad things are, they could always be worse. My parents have always said that I was never “just a little kid.” I was a little adult. I wanted to belong in their conversations, their world. Well, the real world as I came to discover… really sucked. So my mom taught me how to play the “Glad Game.”

“You have to tell me 3 positive things, or things that make you happy, before you can launch into whatever nasty barrage you were about to pummel me with,” she said.

And sure enough. It started to work. It became a part of me and my mother’s rituals. Sometimes the lists came rather easily, other times .. not so much, but we always seemed to manage and it made the day so much easier.

So when things got a little more than I could handle recently, I decided to bring back the “Glad Game.” It not only made my days easier, but it improved my interactions with others as well. The business people who liked to play the close-minded devil’s advocate all the time. The girls with their man-hating sessions. (Guess what? You’re just as crazy as men are. Why do we kid ourselves?) And the coworker that just can’t seem to be anything but a Debbie Downer. They now had to either list of three GOOD things about the day, about life, whatever or you just don't pick up their call. It’s not about being a Pollyanna or being delusional. It’s about having a good relationship with yourself and being able to cope when life throws you some massive curve balls.

After coming to grips with my addiction to Splenda, I’ve really toned down my usage of the stuff. After all, there is still a lot that we don’t really understand about it yet, and the critics and nutritionists are still pretty skeptical. I guess like most things in life, artificial sweeteners are best used in moderation and with managed expectations.. Whether you’re sugar coating your oatmeal, your ice tea, or just a bad day, it’s always best to use it sparingly, because who knows when the day will come you may need that little something extra. So when the cynics, Debbie Downers, Hard asses, and curveballs come your way, just smile, nod, and take them with a spoonful of Splenda. At least then you can still fit in your favorite pair of jeans.

And that’s proof that a little sugar really does help the medicine go down.

In a most delightful way.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Kids, ever since I moved to NYC I've made no bones about how the city could change a person. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.. but like Alice down the rabbit hole, you always emerged from the other end a whole new you. As I reflected over the past year of my life, I reminisced about the roller coaster ride it had been. I won't lie. It kind of resembled an E ticket ride at Disney world. However, through all that turmoil and excitement, I had never really grown to love the one place I was supposed to call home.. my apartment.

Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful space, with a view they'd show in most movies. And while people would tease that I lived in New Jersey, I would always counter them with a glance at my unobstructed view of the NYC skyline. And that they, those stuck up Manhattanites, no matter how great their view was.. Still had to look at NJ. I think it’s safe to say the joke’s on them.

A funny thing happened though when I started to pack away all my pots and pans. I almost felt a little.. sad. Sure my ‘Super’ was anything BUT super, not to mention a real bitch on wheels. In fact, at one time I’m pretty sure I threatened to pay my rent to her in one dollar bills just to watch her count them all. Or all the times it looked like a bomb went off in my kitchen because my cheftastic roomie decided to ‘kick it up a notch.’ Or the fact that my door guys were usually so blitzed they barely knew who was coming or going. But it was still the only home I remotely knew.

Piled knee deep in work projects, moving day arrived rather quickly. I watched as three men with an assist from my best friend and my father loaded my life onto a truck and sent it to its new destination: a mere mile away. But far more practical, and convenient in location than my previous apartment. And in this economy, who can really blame me? Besides, when I look at my upcoming schedule I'll be on the road more than I'll be in New York. It looks like it’s the gypsy life for me. Much to my father’s dismay, Vegas, my cat is still a refugee at my parents’ house where she pretty much rules the roost over the three Dobermans and countless other critters. And has the undivided attention of both my sister and grandmother who have to take turns watching her eat. What can I say?? She’s used to being an only child.

I thought when I left Florida I had rid myself of things like stifling heat, nasty humidity, hurricanes, and tropical storms, but true to form, Mother Nature kept me on my toes that weekend. The truck had barely parked in front of my new place when the rain arrived, introducing Tropical Storm Danny. Lord, I thought, please don't let this be a sign of the things to come.

My new roommates were all at work, so I was free to unload my stuff without disrupting them. I unlocked the door and was greeted by Rex, a dog the size of a bedroom slipper with bladder control issues. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a huge animal lover, but having been raised with big dogs, I'm definitely a bit biased. Besides, once dogs get small and start fitting in purses, they are more fashion accessories than anything else. Rex and his excitability would take some getting used to. But until then, I put him away in Alicia’s room so he wouldn't get stepped on by the movers, or worse.. loose on the streets in Hoboken.

I watched as the first of the boxes came in. Things were actually moving along quite smoothly until we got to the box spring. While my older building had had the convenience of an elevator system, the new place was a good old walk-up. On any given day the extra set of stairs would be a nice edition to my workout, but on moving day these stairs were a real bitch. After finagling with the stairs as much as they could, my father and the movers made their decision. It would have to come over the balcony.

One problem: my room didn’t have a balcony. That left us no choice but to go through Rapunzel’s room. I call her this mainly for her princess-like mannerisms, Pollyanna mindset, and the excessive amount of hair this woman has. Real or fake, she’s pretty much the envy of most women around her for it. She is the Jenn Sterger antithesis.. in short.. the girly-girl. The kind you would swear still owns a collection of dolls, the variety of which “guy’s girls” like me would love to do nothing more than microwave just to see how tolerant plastic was of low volume radiation. The mere fact she has a balcony only makes this analogy even more accurate.

My dad walked down the hallway and opened the door to the princess’ sleeping chambers when he was greeted by a less than pleasant site.

There, sprawled out in the middle of the bed was a man face down in the sheets. Oh yeah..

And he was also butt naked.

My father quickly shut the door.

"Holy shit," he said. "Someone's in there. And he's definitely not wearing anything."

My dad knocked on the door several times, and called out to the man, but there was no answer.

"I think he's dead," said my dad.

I shook my head and opened the door. Sure enough, there lay the Naked Man in all his glory. Where most people would call his nudity a flagrant foul, I’m going to use this as more of a time out to explain WHY there is a naked man in my apartment. You see, Naked Man and Rapunzel have been dating for several years now. I’d seen him over at the place many times; he just usually wasn’t modeling the Emperor’s new clothing line. But since he was in the off season his schedule was much more relaxed and his wardrobe apparently just followed suit. I walked into the room and threw a blanket over his Seth Roganesque hairy bare ass to save my stomach contents from seeking their nearest exit. Then, I tapped his foot.

"Um, Naked Man? Yeah…… hi. Were trying to move my things in today and were going to need to use Rapunzel’s balcony since some things won't fit up the stairs. Really sorry to wake you, but I was kinda under the impression everyone was at work."

I finished my diatribe and threw Naked Man his drawers. A few moments later, he emerged from the cave and went about his walk of shame to his own apartment down the street. I had just survived my first encounter with the Naked Man.

I wasn’t the only roommate moving in that weekend apparently. Enter Craig. We’ll call him that.. because well, that is where Alicia and Rapunzel found him: On Craig’s List. Finding roommates online is almost as intimidating as online dating. Wait… actually.. it's worse. After all, you have to share a living space with these people. The guy that used to live in Craig’s room we affectionately referred to as Borat, only because none of us could really understand how to pronounce his name. He traveled a lot though, so he more used the space for storage than anything else. Never mind the fact Alicia had gotten nosey one time while he was out and found ice picks, duct tape and rope in his room. We decided he was either a guy with an affinity for rock climbing, or perhaps was a serial killer in training. He turned out to be the former, but also ended up moving out to live with his girlfriend. Craig was his last minute stand in. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the whole situation. But as long as he isn’t a complete slob or an ax murderer I think I will be ok with it eventually.

The rest of the furniture made it in rather quickly and easily. Then the real fun began.. Unpacking.

Sara and I unloaded all my bedding and linens, and then began the arduous task of finding homes for all of my clothes. We started piling away my shirts and underwear into drawers. But something wasn't quite right. For some weird reason, my drawers kept slipping out. Just then a bottle of shampoo fell off my dresser and began to roll across the floor, rapidly gaining speed before it stopped at the opposite wall. I picked up the shampoo bottle and walked it back over to the dresser. Why on earth had the bottle rolled clear across the room?

Just then, it dawned on me.

"FML." I said.

"What?"asked Sara as she approached me. "What's wrong?"

"Sara. Look."

I put the bottle back down on the floor and watched as it once again rolled across the floor and slammed into the wall.

You know that moment, when your picture perfect dream of your new place, new car, new girlfriend… when you discover their secret, giant flaw that forever would haunt your image of them??.. Well, this was that moment. If I had been born with one leg vastly shorter than the other, or perhaps had a budding career in skateboarding or any other extreme sport for that matter, my discovery would have been beyond exciting and awesome. But I was none of these things. So instead, I heard the sound of glass shattering as I came to the ugly realization…that I was living in a crooked apartment.

“Jenn, it’s not the end of the world.. it will just take some getting used to. Well, that and a few wedges and blocks of wood from Home Depot. So 9 blocks of wood and 4 door stops later my room was brought to a happy equilibrium.

The next few days were spent cleaning, painting and sprucing up the place. And if I must say so myself, just the addition of a little bit of color and elbow grease has taken the place from a 3 … to at least an 8. It certainly is no high rise renovation, but it definitely has character. Now it’s cleaner than it’s been probably since Bush Sr was in office, and W was still destroying a baseball franchise. It’s got more layers of paint on it than the girls on “Rock of Love,” but it’s still a work in progress. Just like life. You can analyze all the cracks, and nicks, and dents… or you can accept them as just a part of the process. A home and life are simply what you make them. And with a little hard work, effort, and love… well.. the results can be priceless.

And that kids… is how I met my roommates.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Couch

It’s no secret that athletes are some of the most superstitious people you’ll ever meet. They’re the guys that won’t shave their beards in a run for the Stanley Cup. They’re the guys who step over the first base line when they take the field. And of course the guys who won’t wash a jock strap or some other vital uniform part just to not jinx a winning streak. They are not only willing to compromise their own personal hygiene, but also the olfactory senses of those around them, just to perform these repetitive acts that any doctor with the proper training would say border on the diagnosis of some form of OCD.

But to say these behaviors and fears are unfounded might be a tad naive. Just ask the Boston Red Sox. After selling off Babe Ruth for a Broadway Musical, they and their fans endured 85 seasons before winning their next pennant. And what about the Cubbies?.. Haven’t their fans suffered enough? They have a sign in the outfield of Wrigley that says how many games since their last championship, and sadly enough just watch the numbers tick away every season. And then.. there’s poor poor Cleveland: the city that simply can’t catch a break in any sport it seems and where the phrase “taking the Browns to the Super Bowl” is more fitted for bathroom jokes than sports headlines.

So it’s no surprise that athletes’ superstitions have rubbed off on their fan bases. After all, when you eat, sleep, and breathe a certain team you can’t help but revel in their wins and mourn their losses. My father is no exception.

When I transferred to Florida State in 2004, my parents sent me up to Tallahassee with a washed up old living room set. It wasn’t in awful condition, but it certainly wasn’t fresh from the showroom floor of a Havertys. It was one of those beat up old couches that had seen the wear and tear of having teenage daughters with obnoxious parties, weaning a pair of Dobermans through the “puppy stage” and a clan of cats who were seemingly always marking their territory. After countless shampooing and sewing sessions later, the cushions had definitely seen better days. The ottoman, though easily moved on wheels, sagged in the middle because it was one of the dogs’ favorite sleeping spots even though her ass would barely fit on it. And the pillows?... Well, they were a rag-tag set of whatever was left, and a few editions after a run to Pier 1.

Even with all her beatings and markings, this couch still possessed powers much more far reaching than any of us could have ever predicted. That is.. until Sept 5, 2005. While some of you may recognize that as the date I was discovered on national television, my father will forever remember it … as something else.

The day the Miami Hurricanes fell to the Florida State Seminoles.

For years, this was always a day that was circled on my parents calendar, as they were both die hard ‘Canes fans. My sister and I were products of the Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, and Larry Coker eras. I’m pretty sure we even had cute little Miami outfits our parents would dress us in to attend games. With all this Green and Orange pumping through my family tree, one would assume I was the black sheep of the family by attending Florida State. But after I showed Mom and Dad the potential cost to attend the “U” versus the Free Ride I had been offered by the ‘Noles… my Dad decided to let that slide. No word yet on whether or not I will be left out of his will though. Once I was on campus, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with the ‘Noles. And boy, did I fall hard. My wardrobe began to consist of whatever the newest tee was at the bookstore, and those obnoxious gym shorts with ‘Noles embroidered across the ass. And like that, the transformation was complete.

Fast forward to September 5, 2005… that fateful Monday night. Though it was hardly an offensive display of talent, the game proved to be like any other match up between these two teams - a bitter fight to the end. Only this time, for the first time in five years the outcome was different. After a dynasty of Wide Rights, a Wide Left, and a Bowl Game for good measure, the ‘Noles finally defeated the mighty Hurricanes. Some ‘Noles fans would say it was simply our time. But not me… I knew the real reason behind our victory: the green couch. For years my dad had insisted, that as long as his ass was on our green couch, the ‘Canes could not lose. He even found this to be true while on the road. If the ‘Canes were in a crunch, he would tear apart the entire ‘A’ Terminal of Hartsfield International Airport looking for a green chair, which he usually found in Delta’s crown room. Should said chair be occupied, even by a mammoth of a human being, my dad would throw down for that piece of furniture. And what about attending games in person??.. Well, I’m pretty sure he even had a green stadium cushion he brought along. While all this may seem a little crazy and over the top, you could trace everything back to… the green couch. Maybe… just maybe he was on to something.

The next year’s match up was a repeat of 2005, only this time in the Orange Bowl… a stadium I so fondly remembered from my childhood that had clearly seen better days by the time I was in my early twenties. The teams 2007 meeting resulted in a Miami win at the arm of a kid named Kirby Freeman. Yeah, the same Kirby Freeman that would complete 1 of 14 passes, for 86 yards, and 3 interceptions against NC State the following week. So how did Miami pull off the upset at Doak??... Simple. The Couch was back in Tampa, as I had brought it home to my parents while I was on the road working for Sports Illustrated and Sprint.

The following year, my parents added an extension to our house so my grandmother could come live with us.. and with her.. came all her stuff. Including a nicer, never-been-pissed-or-chewed-on furniture set. But her couch was flowery, and what you would expect your grandmother to own.. and blue of all things. Come to think of it.. maybe that’s why the Gators were on their National Title streak two out of the last three years. Remind me to move that damn thing the next time I go home. And as for the ‘Noles/’Canes outcome, well… with the Green couch shoved deep into the corner of a climate controlled storage center… well, the ‘Canes were simply no match for the Seminole Nation.

Fast forward to this past Saturday. My buddies and I were all settled into a little booth at our favorite sports pub taking in week one of college football, when my phone’s text message alert went off. I still can’t decide whether teaching my mother to text was either the smartest or dumbest thing I’ve done, but she’s actually gotten quite good at it as a means of secondary communication. Though I’m sure there may have been a few punctuation or spelling errors, the text read something like this.



I couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe there was something to all this hocus pocus. I guess I would find out soon enough.

As it turns out, finding movers on short notice over a holiday weekend proved to be a much more difficult task than previously thought. So the couch would remain there, in the cold corner of the storage room for one more match up. When Monday night rolled around, I texted my mother: IF THE CANES GO DOWN TONIGHT, MY FATHER WILL HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT HIMSELF. AND HIS ASS FOR NOT BEING ON THAT GREEN COUCH.

Four quarters, a turkey burger, and two beers later… I knew the answer. As I crawled into bed at my Hoboken apartment in dismay, my father was singing a different tune down in Tampa. He walked into the bedroom where he awakened my mother and three sleeping Dobermans in their bed.

“Well,” he said, “I didn’t need my couch.”

And like that.. the curse was over.

Maybe all this karma crap really is just a bunch of hocus pocus. Or maybe it’s just our way of explaining why certain things in life happen the way they do. It doesn’t explain how bad things still happen to good people and how others reap what they sew, but it goes to show you that maybe life is just in the hands of fate. In reality, were really all just being tested. Our wills to succeed, prosper, survive. But some aspects of life and their outcomes we simply can’t explain. So we use Karma as our virtual scapegoat. Sure, she can be a real bitch, but she can also bring you a little luck too. And like the saying goes, sometimes I would rather be lucky than good. So maybe it doesn’t take a green couch, or an unwashed jock strap, or a crazy prophet with a goat (Google it)… maybe all it really takes is hard work, faith, and luck. After all, couldn’t we all just use a little more of that???

The green couch still resides in a climate controlled storage space off of Bearss Road in Lutz. If any 'Nole fans happen to own a large truck, and are attending next year’s match up.. I might be able to get you the access code to the unit. I’m not saying I believe in all this junk.. I’m just saying.. I have a score to settle. :)

(To Be Continued… 2010)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Admin Update: 1-900-BALL-TLK -- Hot Sports Chat with Jenn Sterger

Yes, Jenn's alive and well. She's just busy rebooting. :) She'll be back blogging soon though.

This video from 12 Angry Mascots ought to tide y'all over for a little while longer: