Monthly Archives: January 2017

If Banana Republic Models Could Speak

I found another edition of my 2012 snark-fest. This time it is a trifold mailer for Banana Republic which I find entirely implausible.

I think we’re supposed to get the idea that she’s at some sort of swanky house party in LA. But no one showed up. I presume this is why she looks so grouchy. But while a realistic scenario would have her wearing sweatpants in the kitchen packaging up the dips before they go bad, this glamorous pariah decides to stay in her party duds and sulk. By the pool. Which she had cleaned for the occasion.


With no other guests to lift her spirits through playful banter and, let’s be honest, lots of colorful and entertaining lies, she apparently loses her mind, and like the Anthropologie models before her, gets fully clothed into the water.


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Behind the Photo: Salute

My mom recently sorted out all the remnants of the days when you had to print the whole role of film to get the one picture worth keeping. Over the years the best photos were picked over for frames, albums, and other display pieces.

These are the left-overs. But not the throw-away left overs. The ones that tell the story of the real family behind the Christmas card photos.

My mom insists the following pictures are of me waving. She says that she somehow captured my distinctive wave at the same moment three times in a little over a year. Please note that I am using this “wave” at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and some museum with dinosaurs. Pretty choice optics for a 3-4 year old.

My mom was giving me the benefit of the doubt, but the evidence points in a different direction. I’m trying to brand a salute for when I take over the world. Pretty sure of it.

Maybe I’ll try to bring it back. Please greet me with this hand gesture from now on.

Here I am taking my oath of office:


And laughing maniacally as I plow over my opponents in a novelty mining cart:


And acculturate my first subjects. A dinosaur and Annika.




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If Anthropologie Models Could Speak

A while back I stumbled upon an Anthropologie catalogue from spring 2012. I wondered why I had kept it. Spring 2012 was a really crappy time. Why on earth did I make it worse by hanging onto volumes of unattainable boho chic styling in semi-exotic locales?

Then I opened it up, flipping through the pages I remembered…oh yeah. I vented my misery by satirizing ridiculous catalogues with Lewis.

As much money as I have spent at Anthropologie, I roll my eyes at every dollar. Their catalogues are ridiculous. They feature hangry-looking women wearing clothing grossly ill-suited to their surrounds… or the activities of daily life. The defining criteria of the editorial look is “improbable.”




It’s also guilty of the most commonly mocked modeling cliches. Like angry-faced models, who, I’ll give it to you, are mostly likely on a joyless diet and have woken up at 4 a.m. for this photo shoot, but still are wearing gorgeous clothes. Why would you be grumpy about wearing these lovely clothes?



If you really think about what these poor, frail women are being asked to do, it’s kind of cruel. Aside from dragging their $300 hemlines through marshy brine, they are also holding their bodies in ways specifically illustrated on my chiropractor’s “don’t stand like this” poster.



I’ve watched enough America’s Next Top Model to know that they are as uncomfortable as they look.


Regardless of their obvious misery, I do like to pretend that the model is having a fun time playing pretend.


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Behind the Photo: Chicken Pox

My mom recently sorted out all the remnants of the days when you had to print the whole role of film to get the one picture worth keeping. Over the years the best photos were picked over for frames, albums, and other display pieces.

These are the left-overs. But not the throw-away left overs. The ones that tell the story of the real family behind the Christmas card photos.

I grew up with nine cousins, and when I say “grew up with” I mean we grew up like siblings. Eight of us were in high school at the same time, meaning that eight of us were under five-years-old at the same time. We all lived in the same city, and we did everything together.

So it made sense that in 1986 when Dusty got a bugle for Christmas and later came down with the chicken pox, our parents got together and literally had us pass the bugle around to ensure that we all got the disease at the ideal age.

I don’t know how I really felt about the chicken pox, but judging by this photo I was pretty satisfied.


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Behind the Photo: Cheerleader

My mom recently sorted out all the remnants of the days when you had to print the whole role of film to get the one picture worth keeping. Over the years the best photos were picked over for frames, albums, and other display pieces.

These are the left-overs. But not the throw-away left overs. The ones that tell the story of the real family behind the Christmas card photos.

Ask any sports photographer and they will tell you: people make horrendous faces when they are physically exerting themselves.

Nonetheless, when I made the varsity cheerleading squad at the end of my freshmen year of high school, I immediately began to picture myself looking like this:


However, a cheerleading uniform does not a Gabrielle Union make. In cheerleading, the head bobbling and flirty uniforms belie the level of difficulty. You are doing things that are far more demanding than a layup, a pass, or running in a circle…and yet you have to do the whole thing with your hair in place and a big ol’ goofy grin (or a fierce, open-mouth, club face).

Or you are me, and your face tells the world exactly how hard you are working.

The moment I found out I had made the squad is captured on film, and it gives an accurate forecast of things to come:


This showed up some time later. I have thrown it away at least three times:


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Behind the Photo: Snow

My mom recently sorted out all the remnants of the days when you had to print the whole role of film to get the one picture worth keeping. Over the years the best photos were picked over for frames, albums, and other display pieces.

These are the left-overs. But not the throw-away left overs. The ones that tell the story of the real family behind the Christmas card photos.

The first time I saw snow was in 1986 in San Antonio. It lightly dusted the front lawn and was gone by noon.

The first time I saw SNOW! was in 1990 in Steamboat Springs, CO.

We had driven through the night to get to our friends’ ski lodge. I went to sleep in the desert, and woke up to mounds of fluffy, puffy, soft angel snow all around.

When we stopped at a gas station where substantial snow drifts were mere feet from the car, my mom let me get out to see. Envisioning a cloud like experience of tossing marshmallow flavored snow all around me – no doubt inspired by cartoons, which do not have feelings- I threw myself face first into a snow drift. Like a cartoon.

I was wearing a sweatsuit and Keds.

This would be my first major reckoning of fantasy and reality.

It. stung. so. bad.

In this picture I am pausing my massive fit long enough to smile for the photo.


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Behind the Photo: Pajama Pants

My mom recently sorted out all the remnants of the days when you had to print the whole role of film to get the one picture worth keeping. Over the years the best photos were picked over for frames, albums, and other display pieces.

These are the left-overs. But not the throw-away left overs. The ones that tell the story of the real family behind the Christmas card photos.

This photo is from the summer after my freshmen year in college. My family took a road trip across the West Texas desert. Like most of our road trips, preparation was minimal and packing space was at a premium. My mom’s rule whether on vacation or moving into an RV for nine months: you get one bag.

It being the dead of summer in the West Texas desert, I did not pack jeans. Why would I? Besides, I had gained 10 pounds and none of my jeans were comfortable for sitting in the car for long stretches.

I was freshly home from college, and probably being an ass. So I don’t blame my family for limiting interaction with me to just essential information exchanges. Apparently “We’re going horseback riding” was one of the conversations that didn’t make the cut.

When we showed up for a horseback ride through the hills of Terlingua, the wrangler took one look at my 3″ inseam and just shook his head. The rest of my family, who all somehow knew to pack jeans that they would wear exactly once on the trip, stared at me with that “don’t ruin this for us” look.

So I put on the only long pants in my duffle bag, a pair of orange psychedelic flower pajama pants.



Epilogue: Loose Bits

These are the entries that didn’t seem to fit any other categories, but contain little nuggets of insanity.

April 26, 1995- Well, the stitches are good for one thing: Glory. Everybody loves a nice gory bunch of stitches.

It’s true. Fifth graders love major injuries. Of course, I was not one of the cool kids who broke her arm falling off a skateboard or got stitches from, I don’t know, machete juggling. No, my moment in the Munchausen spotlight came from keloid tumor removal where I had pierced my ears the year before. 

November 10, 1995

Orff Ensemble [the NON-mandatory choir I sang in] went to Dallas today. It was cool. I’ll give you the play by play.

4:30am Loaded bus, listened to music

4:50: Started going

5:00 : fell asleep

6:00: Woke up

7:00 : DONUTS!

8:00: music, Austin

9:00: used nasty bus bathroom

10:00: read, DFW Hyatt

11:00: practiced

11:30: performed

12:00: finished

12:30: ate lunch in basement. Hoagie, chips, coke.


You know you’ve reached a particular plane of spirituality when you devote a page of your scrapbook to God, and pose by scripture graffiti in your Samuel L. Jackson hat.

1:00: saw exhibits

2:00: left

3:00: fell asleep 3rd time

4:00: wake up

5:00: read

5:30: MCDONALDS! 9 chicken nuggets, soda, fries

6:00: left

8:00: sang. Become VERY sick of Love Shack

9:30: Home (Seele)

10:00: real home

Nick fell off the bus toilet. Our performance was pretty good. Got sugar drunk. Had to use the men’s restroom at the Hyatt.

 Judging from the account, DONUTS! at 7am were the highlight of the day. Rivaled only by MCDONALDS! 

I am still twitchy about the song “Love Shack.” Pre-teens will listen to songs like “Love Shack,” (and then later “Barbie Girl,” and “Stacy’s Mom”) until your ears bleed. It was preparing me for being mother to a toddler who is infatuated with Cats: The Musical. 

I also remember listening to “Gangster’s Paradise” on that trip and feeling particularly badass. I think this was when I learned that “roadtrip” is synonymous with “everything you aren’t allowed to do with your parents” including fattening foods, and apparently mainstream light rap.

My final somewhat random things are prompts from my American Girl journals. In 2nd and 3rd grade I used American Girl journals that were filled with helpful prompts for organizing memories. Actually, they were there for exactly the purpose they are now serving. To illicit ridiculous statements for my future self to enjoy.


From my 1992 American Girl Journal

More than anything I want to be able to tell Theodore I love him.

That dream is important to me because I love Theodore. And I am too shy to tell him.

This is how I plan to make it come true  by paying atenchen [sic] to him and smiling at him.

Nothing can stop me except if he gets a girlfriend or the end of second grade.

I was a mute with a deadline threatening my quest for true love. I don’t mention it here, but I also have a fish tail and lovely red hair. They based a movie on me.

Looking back, I have changed in this way I am not so shy.

I have not changed in my sweet personality and good taste. 

Still going strong on that one.

From my 1993 American Girl Journal

On the best day I can imagine, I would be kissed by Theodore in hot pink spandex shorts and a swing top. And he would take me to extra cheese pizza in winter at His Hill we would dance to a Hole [sic] New World and Kirsten and Amber [my dolls] would come to life. 

I’m assuming I’m the one wearing pink spandex in this fantasy. Also, a girl knows that boys come and go, but dolls who come to life will endure.

I think that now (this is/this is not) the best time to be an American girl because our new president (Bill Clinton) is very over charging taxes.

Ah, yes, my Fox News days…

More than anything I want to be an artist and a model

That dream is important to me because it is my ambition and how I intend to make a living

This is how I plan to make it come true take art lessons for an artist and for modeling just hope my natural good looks shine through. 

Nothing can stop me except hand disease, pimples, warts, broken hands, and bad hair

I think I’ll succeed because I’m pretty (not meaning to brag) I’m a fairly good artist and I’ll do everything I can to. 

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Part Nine: I Was Right All Along

By now it should come as no surprise to anyone that I often felt like the only thinking person in a room full of Philistines.

January 23, 1994 – Today I went to Anne’s. Kristy was there. I haven’t seen Kristy in three months. But she is way less sophisticated than Anne and I.

I’d love to know what the criteria for sophistication was in 4th grade. I pretty much lived on the trampoline and ate S’mores PopTarts, so poor Kristy must have really been primitive.

March 21, 1995 – Well I’m on a role. Everything went my way almost. In math I was chosen as the best test taker in my home room. In music I was the only one who knew what an overture was, and the only one who answered correctly to the question “what is the The Barber of Seville?” Mr. Tipton called me his star. We’re getting swings on the play ground. But as usual it ended in tragedy. Fred the mouse is dead. The washing machine got him. He’s flat now.


This is an entire scrapbook page devoted to my SAT scores in the Duke Talent Search. I feel it speaks for itself.

I have no memory of this macabre incident. We had a hamster named Fred, but I’m pretty sure he died as a result of a science fair project entitled “Do Hamsters Prefer Hamster Food or Candy?” I also have a vague recollection of a little leather mouse I used to carry around in my pocket, probably in an attempt to be a quirky literary heroine. That would explain how he ended up in the washing machine.

Also, I knew about the Barber of Seville because the theme at summer camp had been “opera.” I was on team Pavarotti. Our cheer was “La donna e mobile.” The other team, the Domingos, sang “Figaro” as theirs. It’s from the Barber of Seville, you Philistines.

April 11, 1995 – Today we found out the nominees for Student of the Year Award. I’m one! Or should I say I was. I didn’t make the finals.

As much as I wish I could win, now nobody can call me a goodie-goodie. I personally don’t want the “Goodie-goodie of the Year Award” and it’s not like I need a $50 savings bond. I’m not penniless! Can you tell I’m incredibly jealous? [These little flickers of self-awareness are signs that a sane person was trying to break through.]

If it wasn’t for Alissa I’d have that thing tackled. She brought that stupid story thing to school! [“That story” is a piece of quasi-erotic fiction I wrote with two friends, one of whom later brought it to school, where it ended up on the principal’s desk. The entire saga is detailed in an earlier entry, including the rehearsed speech I planned to give my mom delivering the bad news. Sadly the story itself has not survived.]

Any how. When I’m up there at M.I.T., first in the class and they say Dr. Bekah A. Stolhandske PhD, MD, MRD, ND.D, IQ level 206 came their way, I will personally remind them and tell the world they were ignorant enough not to give ME the SOTY award.


Sassy pose, side-tie, rolled sleeves, snarky door hanger, and room rules tacked to the door. I’m 11 and I know everything.

Thus far, Seele Elementary School has not bragged to the press about its illustrious alumna. Nor do I have any of those degrees. “MRD” and “ND.D” might not even refer to real things.  I don’t think I was referring to a Masters in Rural Development or Naturopathic Medicine degree. My IQ was not, and is not, 206.

That does not stop me from knowing ev-er-y-thing.

July 21, 1995 – I have lots of opinions. Listen:

On Millennialism and the dates when Jesus is coming back. We don’t know WHEN he’s coming. There’s nothing we can do about it, and we’ll know what to do when he gets here.

On Love: There are three kinds of love. Agape (everyone), Filéo (romance) [I continue to misspell and misunderstand phileo love thoughout my journals], and Family love. There you can like someone and love them OR you can love but not like. When you like someone you want to be around them (Filéo or friends or family) but you can love someone but not want to be around them (Agape, sometimes). You can love and like, love but not like, and neither love nor like someone (even though you shouldn’t). But no one can like but not love someone else.

It may surprise you that I did end up with a masters degree in media studies, seeing that in 5th grade I clearly do not have any filter for media bias:

May 1, 1995 – I have learned by my own opinion that the Great American heroes aren’t so great. This is from popular television! See, it isn’t always the stupid educational stuff! I learn diddlysquat from that. Nobody can ever teach me more than I can learn by myself. My grandma would hate to hear me say it but, General Custer was awful. Sitting Bull was worse. The Texans were WRONG. The American Rebels were betrayers. And let it be known that the Confederates were cruel. That’s why I wanna go to M.I.T. OR maybe I should just go to PARIS! I’m not liberated, I’m not a suffragist, I’m just a kid who know that difference between heroes and cruel, sissified, @#$%&s.

Let’s just start with the end, in which I confuse liberated with liberal, and suffragist with feminist.

Liberals and feminists were the warlocks and witches of my childhood. Mysterious, powerful forces for evil. By insisting that I am neither “liberated” nor a “suffragist” I’m not claiming to be an indentured servant who opposes universal voting rights. Actually I’m just in full-tilt denial about becoming a liberal feminist. These fits of freethinking occur intermittently in my journals.

I would be 23 years old before expressing my non-liberal-feminist views to someone who repeated them back to me and said, “That’s liberal feminism.”

However, in this particular case I am siding with, it appears, the British Crown and Santa Anna’s Mexican government, so clearly my fears of being too liberal are unfounded. But there’s some pacifism and Unionist sympathy in there too. Basically, I’m railing against the glorification of American/Southern heroes, which my whole life had been conflated with Christianity.

I have been railing about it ever since.

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Part Eight: I’m a Grown-Ass Woman

(Warning: This post contains semi-explicit language, and one horribly awkward sentence that would be graphic if it were anatomically correct. Read at your own risk. Seriously. You’ve been warned. That means you, male family members.)

Over the timeline of my journals I hit all the horrific milestones of “the most wonderful time of my life,” as I called it with a groan and a sneer.

Of course…some milestones involved shopping.

September 22, 1993- I GOT A BRA! I can’t believe it me! Bekah Annell Stolhandske have an honest to goodness BRA! I’m overwhelmed.

Not as overwhelmed as you will be, kiddo. That body of yours is just gettin’ warmed up. And don’t you just love my haphazard use of exclamation marks?

Other milestones were not met with such grammatical exuberance. Or anatomical accuracy.

Aug 17, 1994 – Guess what. I got my first vaginal hair. I’ve been dreading it for some time now.

I’m sorry if that one is awkward. I almost cut it…but it’s just SO FUNNY to me. Pretend you don’t know me, and laugh freely at the horror of what a vaginal hair would be, if such a thing existed.


This is a page from my scrapbook, which I suppose I thought would be the terminus of my maturity.

I don’t go into much more detail on the changes in my physical body, however, I do chronicle the maturing of my cultural taste and general wisdom.

January 24, 1994 – You know my favorite song used to be “A Whole New World” now it is “I will Always Love you.” One year really matures a person.

Jan 9, 1995 – Today is my parents’ anniversary. They’ve been married 13 whole years. Marriage is a strange amazing thing if you really think about it. Of course no one really does.

No one but you, 11-year-old Bekah. No one but you.

People should think about marriage. Maybe write books or pay thousands of dollars in counseling bills. Perhaps a retreat?

One of the aches and pains of growing up is the onset of grown-up concerns. Some time in 1994 I was put on my first diet. I consider this to be the moment I became a woman.

At the risk of being too earnest for this blog post: A diet at age 10 incited an internal war that is still raging in my head. On the one hand, my particular fantasies required a beautiful protagonist, and I was inclined to cast myself. On the other hand…

June 30, 1994 – I am 20 lbs overweight. But this is the LAST day I will weigh that much, I SOLEMNLY VOW and with God as my witness, so help me Lord.

I don’t know how much I weighed, or how I stumbled upon an ideal weight at age ten. But I did. And I can safely say that I weigh more now than I did when I was ten, even if I was 20 pounds overweight. Solemn vow broken. 

My husband has had more than one limb blown off by the landmines left over from the Vietnam conflict that is my body image. Being “unathletic,” bookish, messy…it’s all tied up in there with being chubby. One big clusterfuck. Just like ‘Nam. 

My penchant for hyperbole (which I clearly have not lost) really worked against me during this time.

Sept 5, 1994 – I’m one big mess up. I forget things, I’m unathletic. I mess everything up, I’m ugly, people are always mad at me. I cost too much. I’m just a nobody.

Please try to suppress your urge to comfort me here. Remember this was 22 years ago.  I’m fine now. Just like ‘Nam.

Nov 8, 1994- If there is one trial in my life it’s forgetfulness. I FORGET EVERYTHING.

While it is not the one trial in my life, I do still forget everything, and it does still drive me crazy. In college the AAA locksmith could drive straight to my regular parking spot without directions. I now have a more finely tuned system to keep me from losing all the things and forgetting all the appointments, but if I try to switch purses, the whole thing goes straight to hell. 


Age 13: All grown up and off to see the great big world. Beanie Baby koala in tow.

Another of the great trials of growing up was singing in the children’s choir at church. Around 4th or 5th grade I started hanging out with some older kids at church. They did not have to sing in the choir. I did. It was a mandatory choir. 

I agonized over the mandatory children’s choir. Were it not for a headache on March 12, 1995, you would all get to enjoy one of my great existential rants.

March 12, 1995 -My head is giving me pain. Too much pain to think, therefor too much pain to write. So I’m shortening my original plan for a long diary entry. Enjoy life. Enjoy childhood they all say. Childhood tries my patience. Especially today. We had to sing in front of the church.

And ultimately, once the bras were bought, the the choirs left behind, the Disney musical soundtracks forsaken, and the diets rebooted…I was just like every other 11-year-old, jaded and nostalgic, with my best years behind me.

July 15, 1995 – I haven’t had much of a chance to pour out my heart. Life is zooming by before my eyes and I can’t take time to stop and smell the roses. I hardly have any childhood left. But there is no way to undo my past mistakes and relive my life. I feel like if I enjoy something it falls apart as if on cue.  I stopped really looking forward with all my heart to stuff. If I am negative the results are positive. I don’t know how or why, but God does so I just feel how I feel and God takes care of my burdens. I also think I’m allergic to cheese.

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