(I am currently importing all the pictures into this page from my old website – thanks for being patient!) My life has never been that exciting, but I have never written it down… So in 1997, I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t think that anyone would actually take the time to read it, but I’ve actually been asked to update it on occasion. My story from birth – 1997 was written in 1997. Everything else was written within a few years of when it happened. I don’t go back and edit, so you will see what had an impact on me at the time. I just keep adding. Think of it as the most epic diary entry ever!
I was born on July 14th, 1976 in Columbia, Maryland (that is halfway between Washington D.C. & Baltimore). The hospital that I was born in was right across the street. My dad still lives in that townhouse. They named me Stephanie Lynn – and I am thankful I was a girl because I heard rumors that I would have been named Thaddeus Luke had I been a boy… My brother, Chris, was 6-years-old when I was born.
I don’t really have many memories of when I was young. I know that my mom found out she had breast cancer a year or two after I was born. I have heard later in my life, my dad mentioning how he knew the route to her hospital in Baltimore by heart, and how he would walk me in my stroller down the halls. I remember her brown curly wig instead of her long blonde hair. I have been told I look just like her as I’ve grown older. She was a wonderful artist. She had attended the University of Iowa, studying art and special education. I remember doing finger paintings and such in preschool to be given to my mom in the hospital.
Right before my 5th birthday, my mother passed away. She was buried in Iowa. I wish I could remember more, but I have no memories of her at all – just some photos and a tape of her voice from when I was 2.
After that, my dad raised me on his own. I had my hair in two long pony-tails every single day because that was all he knew how to do. Everyone would know they my grandparents were in town because I would suddenly come in to school with braids. He would try his best to sew the elastics on my ballet shoes but they would always end up with dots of his blood inside. I remember the first day of kindergarten I was wearing this pretty dress my mom had made, and as I was walking in my dad had to run up behind me and pull my dress down cause my undies were showing.
I was very shy and quiet throughout school. People I had been to school with from day one would tell me they had never heard me speak. I would just smile and say nothing if no answer was required. In first grade I met my first best friend, Michelle. Her mom remarried after a year and she moved to Canada. We wrote back and forth from second grade until the very last letter she sent me saying how excited she was to be going into 6th grade and that she was moving to a new house. My next letter came back to me – she had never given me her new address. I’ve never found her again.
In 5th grade I met my best friend Danielle. She was from England and was only in America for the year. We wrote for a few years before we too lost touch. In middle school I because close friends with Carey, a girl who lived down the street from me. She moved a year later to New Mexico. We each wore half of a heart necklace saying “best” & “friends”. My aunt lives in New Mexico, so when I was 13 I when out to Albuquerque for the first time. I spent a week with my aunt and uncle then a few weeks with Carey. We had so much fun (though I got really sick from an eye infection and had to go in to the emergency room that Carey’s mom worked at). We drove to the Grand Canyon and stayed in a cabin there. The whole memory was wonderful… all the nice people we met. I remember in our half of the cabin – I was sitting in the open window writing a letter as the sun streamed in, while Carey tried to lure a chipmunk through the door with Cheetos.
School was school. At the end of 6th grade I had realized that I could draw well when I tried. I went to Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Maryland. I spent most of my time in the band room. I played oboe in the wind ensemble and orchestra, and percussion in the marching band. I didn’t like to spend much time in art because the people there were really stuck up. I had even tried to join the “art club” they started but they said, “Sorry, our meeting time is during our art class.” I was happy to take art three days a week in the senior’s studio class where you did projects on your own. I pretty much knew that the only thing I would want to do in the future would be in art, but I didn’t know what. I figured I would try art education in college.
When I was sixteen I got together with my first boyfriend, Aaron. I had asked him to be my date for the homecoming dance. We were in band together and had spent a lot of time together in middle school. He was one year ahead of me. It was Halloween and he was walking to school with me. He said he had both tricks and treats for me. He gave me a bag of trick candies like fish gum and stuff, then pulled out a rose and a note asking me to be his girlfriend. I said yes.
He and I didn’t really do much – just spent time at the mall or with our friends. I guess we were both pretty quiet – him a little more so than me. We didn’t really have much of a physical relationship… Maybe that was a clue that the relationship wasn’t forever? I was just young and not really interested in that kind of thing. He just told me that if I ever wanted to start having sex, let him know. I never did. He was really smart and went on to get a double degree in astronomy and physics. He graduated a year before me and went on the University of Maryland at College Park. In November of that year, I applied to Maryland for early acceptance, because I was scared to go anywhere else. I was accepted (though they turned me down for the honors program because I’m not that smart).
My best friend in high school was Carrie. She played flute in band. We lived at the mall and I was over at her house practically more than I was home. I promised to be in her wedding one day, and in 1998 I was. My other best friend was Sheridan. She moved away our senior year to Florida. I got to visit her once there, and we saw each other twice after she moved to Northern Maryland in college. I believe she has gotten married too. I’d love to get in touch with her again.
I graduated from high school with a G.P.A. Of 3.42. I decided to live on-campus in the dorms. I chose the smoke and alcohol free floor of the all-girls dorm. Since it was all girls, it was clean. It also had the newest furniture and I was on the first floor. Plus, during my junior year, they finally fixed the air conditioning – something no other dorm had. My freshman year I roomed with a girl named Susan. She was a journalism major. She liked to go out with her friends and party on weekends. I sat in my room mostly. Or in Aaron’s. Life was thrilling. (Note the sarcasm) I had my first computer – a Macintosh Powerbook 540c (it was color!). Susan had the 540 black & white. We would sit on our matching bean bags with our matching laptops playing games as people walking through the hall laughed at us clones.
I started out as an art education major. You aren’t let into the education college until after your sophomore year when you took some tests and applied. There were a lot of classes that I didn’t want to take like speech, so I decided I would think about it until my sophomore year, then decide what to do. By that time Aaron and I had been going out nearly 5 years. He had mentioned marriage, but I was unsure of our relationship. It made me sad a lot. He was not very affectionate, and towards the end he even got rude. I remember times when he would be in his room with me for dinner… He would pull his chair up to the t.v. And sit there watching all night. I would try sitting on the floor beside him staring up at him, inches away, but he would still not look at me. Eventually I would ask him to walk me back to my room. On our fourth anniversary he got mad at me for wearing fishnets and a short black dress as a Halloween costume to classes all day and while having dinner in my room he just walked out without a word. I was so devastated by that. But after crying for a while, I decided I was going to enjoy my Halloween no matter what and I got some floor-mates together and we went trick-or-treating in my dorm (me as a little kid in the pajamas I had crawled into earlier).
During my freshman year, in one of my first art classes, I met a guy named Russ. He had long hair, was in a band, and had a kick-ass sense of humor. He rarely showed up to class, but when he did he would rollerblade in 5 minutes late. It always brightened my day. I would skip my art history lecture so that I could walk across campus with him. I sent him a postcard from Florida that Christmas with my email address on it. We didn’t talk for a while after that – we were both at the ends of our long-term relationships.
I decided around then that I did not want to continue on to art education, so I switched to art studio. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself (which was a little scary) but I was happier taking more art classes. I tried not to stress over the future and just focused on getting the most out of my classes.
Then, Russ emailed me out of the blue and we became close friends fast. He had just broken up with his girlfriend of 3 years, and he became my confidant throughout my breakup. Aaron was starting to say bad things about me in front of both his and my friends. In front of his friends, he would say things like, “If you were 7 feet tall and could play basketball, then you would be more important to me than t.v.” I know he probably wasn’t serious, but he sounded it. Both his and my friends offered to kick him for me. Verbal abuse was just the last thing I needed from an already stale relationship.
Breaking up with him was very hard. He had been my only real friend since I went to college. I started spending long hours on the phone with Russ. Our friendship gave me the strength to finally end things with Aaron. Too many times he said he realized he was wrong and would change. My dad was happy about the breakup. He had wondered why I stayed with him for so long. I guess I fear big changes.
One night in February of my sophomore year, Russ was in the dorm room that I shared with Andrea (a cheerleader and art major). He said he loved me, and I realized I loved him too. We started spending all our time together. I still didn’t have any other friends. I met the members of the band he was in. I spent a lot of nights at his house and we would go out for dinner or breakfast a lot with his mom. She liked to go to a little restaurant in their Chesapeake Bay town and play Keno.
I created my first web site in 1997, Stephanie’s Thoughtful Spot, about Winnie-the-Pooh. I was instantly hooked on web design. I had started taking a lot of printmaking and graphic design classes. I would show my websites to the teachers and say that that was what I wanted to do for a living. They were all weary of computers and told me not to rule out print work since I was so strong in it. I got A’s in all my art classes. I started chatting on IRC a lot around then, especially my junior year when I got a room to myself with an ethernet connection.
Sophomore to junior years were great. Russ and I had such good times together. Two wonderful years. But I was sad a lot since I didn’t have friends. I tried to explain that I needed to go out with friends more, but it was always a problem for us since I made friends with boys more often than girls (perhaps because I grew up with only guys?) I started to get close to a local IRC friend, Russ A. And I met several other people in his IRC channel (one of them being Dan, a.k.a. Worlock). They started visiting and hanging out with me. It made things awkward between Russ and I. I started to feel like I wasn’t comfortable in my relationship with him, and that it wouldn’t be fair for me to stay since I was starting to become for distant. I began talking to him about it and he asked for more time, which I gave him.
I had started going to a club in D.C. Called Tracks with him, and by then I was living for Thursdays when I would go and dance and dance and forget everything else. Eventually, Russ stopped going with me. Perhaps that was because I looked forward to seeing my friends there so much. Russ A. and Dan were always there and I got to be close with them and a few other people. Their friendships meant so much to me. It was the first time in a long time that I had had people that just wanted to hang out with me. I was happy about that but torn apart about my relationship with Russ. It was one of those break ups where you still love the person so very much, but you realize that that is the best it will ever be – that it isn’t forever. I think part of me wished I could freeze things just like that, but things were starting to feel more and more out of place. I knew I had to break up with him since I just didn’t feel the same way for him anymore. But I did still love him in that way that will never go away and it was so hard to see him hurting.
The breakup was messy. Russ would get so mad and call me and just yell… Something that I actually can’t remember now – I must have blocked it out. All I could do was cry and apologize and wonder what was wrong with me. I saw him about 6 months later at a front 242/project pitchfork concert in D.C. I was walking up to get my ticket and nearly had a heart attack when I saw him standing there. I guess my reaction was half fear and half joy. I was very glad to see him, though I wouldn’t have handled talking to him very well back then, but I was ashamed of how he felt towards me. We never spoke that day. I was sad that he had started smoking. He seemed so different. I later heard from my friend Ivan that he hopes that I am doing well and that he even considered calling me. It made me feel a little better to know he isn’t wishing me dead. I’d even be happy if he were to call one day. But I guess he was right to think it would probably be awkward.
By the spring of 1998, Dan had become my very best friend and I was spending a lot of time with him. I ending up staying “together” with Russ a lot longer than should have, so Dan and I started to be accused of seeing each other behind Russ’ back. We were starting to fall in love which only made the accusations worse. We were alienated from a number of people who felt hurt by us. We were banned from our usual IRC channel and forced to start our own. I think all that alienation only made our bond stronger. After a while there was no separating us. We don’t have an “anniversary date”. Things happened so gradually and unusually. But, I would go through those months of hell again if I had to. I wish that there could be no bad feelings between everyone in my life at that time, but that is not realistic. It would be nice to know how my two ex’s are doing in their lives. But, I am just grateful for the friends who have decided I am worth it.
My senior year of college was a year of art classes, night clubs, and many hours on the metro. Dan had been starting to dj some, but there were conflicts due to feelings that were still hurt and he had to stop for a while. We kept going and after a while they needed him to start dj’ing again. He lived in Virginia, so we would metro back and forth between there, College Park, and the two clubs we would go to. I didn’t have a car, though I did have a license that I had gotten when I was 19 and living in New Mexico with my aunt for the summer. So we took the metro. A lot. But public transportation is my friend. I hate to drive. Dan didn’t even have a license so we didn’t have any other choice.
I had become addicted to taking pictures with my dad’s digital camera late at night when I’d visit him back in Columbia on Friday nights (thanks for doing my laundry, Dad!) I couldn’t afford a fancy camera at the time, so I bought a refurbished color quickcam online. I knew of a few webcams online (there weren’t heaps of them back then) and thought that that was something I’d love to do for my friends. I found some Mac webcam software and had it set up the night before my webcam arrived at my dorm. My webcam site started the next day – March 9, 1998. I didn’t post the link to it anywhere except my existing pages. This was mostly because the images were taken on-the-fly and any major traffic would have overwhelmed my computer.
We dreaded me graduating college in May 1998, because I would be going back to Columbia, Maryland to live with my dad till I got a job. I decided to rest during the summer – since I would probably be the last one I had off. I got a car and despite the fact that I have no sense of direction, managed to drive to and from Virginia every week. I only got lost 4 or 5 times and ended up in places like Baltimore. I found out that Danny’s brother was going to be moving out of the apartment they shared at the beginning of October ’98. Dan needed a roommate and I needed an apartment. It just made sense for me to move there. So I set to work sending out applications, and got a job within a month. My dad wasn’t too pleased at the thought of my moving in with someone, but he trusted my judgment as an adult. The first week of October, I moved to Virginia and started my new job as a graphic designer of web sites a dot.com. It was good job with wonderful co-workers. I enjoyed the variety of projects I got to work on.
Dan had been bar tending at a restaurant near by, but he got sick of the people and got a job in technical support. We registered our first domain, half-asleep.com. I began to publicize my site and eventually decided it was popular enough that it needed it’s own domain name, Stvlive.com. At that point we were still being hosted through the company I worked for (for free). I had a number of difficulties with that (lots of downtime), but it was free so I couldn’t complain much.
Life went on… My brother got married at the end of October 1998, so my family grew to include some wonderful people. I got my very own kitten, Simba, to be friends with (ha!) Dan’s cat Stimpy. I had grown to love Dan’s family as well. His brother is great – I love him. Dan and I were able to visit his mom in New Hampshire a few times. Both her and Dan’s grandparents are so nice to me. One of that hardest things we had to deal with was when Dan’s mother is was diagnosed with brain cancer. I can’t even begin to explain how hard it was for me to see the one person I love the most in this world have to go through the same pain I had felt. Dan went out to California for a couple weeks in June of 1999 to spend time with his mother who was being cared for at his grandparent’s house. It was such a difficult time for everyone and I felt so helpless and alone back at home with the cats. Shortly after he returned home we were called back for the funeral. I was able to go with him that time, though the emergency air fair to California was hard on our pocketbooks.
Life seemed to speed up during the end of 1999. In August we started looking for apartments so we could get out of the ghetto neighborhood we were in and find a place where we could get DSL instead of cable (for server-hosting purposes). We found a great place 2 miles away. I finally found an engagement ring that I liked and it was all sized and ready for Dan to pick up on September 17th – the day we moved into the new place. Dan officially asked me to marry him in front of a few of our friends as I was sitting on a bare mattress in our new empty bedroom cutting a rug to fit our bathroom floor. How romantic, hehe.
In October of 1999, Danny switched to a much better tech job with lots of room for raises and training. We got a third little kitty, Sabrina, right around Halloween. Our animal kingdom grew to include 3 cats, 4 ferrets, 2 geckos, Danny’s fish, and my bunny. We got our business dsl account and started running the domains off of our own servers like we had always wanted. It is so much nicer to be able to control them completely. We were just dreading the day we would move into a house and have to change DNS and everything. I had to start charging membership fees for the higher bandwidth areas of my site. We were paying a lot for the business DSL and it was the only realistic way to continue the webcam site.
Towards the end of 1999, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It is so upsetting to know someone you love that much will slowly deteriorate – especially when they could probably find a cure if they only had enough research money. I don’t know what I would do without my daddy. He is still doing well, though. In 2002, he had s surgery called DBS to help with his tremors, that he asked me to document through photos. He’s had a growing list of little ailments over the years that I wish would just go away. I want him to feel the best he can for as long as possible.
Life continued on… Danny started to suggest that we look for a townhouse together. I was scared of the money part of buying a home, but the idea of a townhouse of our own was alluring. Everything in the city we lived in was very expensive because it was near Washington, D.C. We found that if we looked about 15 miles further from the city, we could find brand new custom town homes for the price of 20-30 year old ones near the city. Danny found a great builder online and right after my 24th birthday we went to look at the model.
We fell in love with the town homes as soon as we saw them! There was one lot left at before they were to go up in price. It was scheduled to be finished in November. Danny cried on the way home. I think we were both overwhelmed at how far we had come since we first got together. He wished his mother was still alive to see. In a matter of weeks we had the deposit down on the house and were busy picking our custom features and hunting for mortgages. Mortgage-hunting was not fun, but we got one through Dan’s bank.
The months flew by between August and November. We drove out to the house site every weekend to take pictures of the progress. We packed up everything in the apartment and moved into the house in mid-November. Suddenly the kittimonsters had three floors to spread out in. We got new hutches for the bunnies and a huge new cage for the ferrets. We spent our first Christmas in our new house, with a little Christmas tree and a gathering of our friends.
Since we finally had a house with a little back yard, we could finally get the puppy that Dan had always wanted. We started visiting the websites for local animal rescues and fell in love with a litter of half-chow, half-shepherd puppies. When we went to one of the adoption day, China stole our hearts. They approved us on the spot after an interview and she has been with us since that night.
At the beginning of 2001 we starting itching to go on our honeymoon. But, we needed to get married first! So I ordered a poofy white prom dress online, and we arranged to have a marriage celebrant come out to our house. Danny’s grandparents and my aunt flew in to join our local friends and family at our simple ceremony on March 17th, 2001. We exchanged vows, rings, and single red roses. The ceremony was broadcast live online to our long-distance family and friends.
We left for the honeymoon a couple days later. It was in an all-inclusive resort in Cancan, Mexico. The weather was beautiful there. We could just walk into the restaurants and eat without paying anything extra. Our room had a jacuzzi and a balcony overlooking the ocean. It was a wonderful trip.
In May of 2001, I felt the dot-com crash first-hand… I was laid off. It was an awful time. I had never been laid off before and took it really hard. I started doing freelance web design, and thanks to the help of my Dad, we managed to stay afloat.
In July of 2001, our newest family member arrived – India, the shar pei/rotti mix! She was the cutest little wrinkle-faced pup on earth! China loved her new baby sister. When India had to have tubes put into her ears to drain fluid that was building up, China would lick her face clean all day long.
Thanks to the puppy deciding my French braid was a chew toy, in October of 2001 I braided extensions into my hair. Because I was quoted nearly $300 (and that was after a discount!), I did it myself. While, I didn’t use the best quality hair, I loved my new style. It was usual and suited my creative personality, but was neater than dreadlocks, so it suited my freelance work in various office situations. Plus, I didn’t have to brush my hair everyday – something I hated!
After a brief period where Dan was affected by the dot-com crash as well, he got a new job (health insurance, yay!) and I continued to do contract and temp web design. In September of 2002, I found my beloved black cat, Sabrina collapsed on the kitchen floor. Within 10 minutes, I was rushing into the vet with her in my arms. They did everything they could to save her, but she passed away just as they were doing a chest x-ray. I’ll never know what happened – the webcams just show her napping in various places on the kitchen counters before ending up on the floor. Since her lungs were filled with fluid, my best guess is she fell trying to jump onto the top of the fridge and hit the island. Her death devastated me, and for weeks afterwards I would cry in the middle of the night.
Of course, it wasn’t long before a new kitten entered our lives. Ivan, a.k.a. Monkey, found us when we were wandering among the cages at a cat rescue fair. He fit in well with our “family” and had a special fondness for India.
Christmas came and went low-key. My freelance work was slowing down, so we couldn’t afford much. When 2003 arrived, I signed on with a creative temp agency which helped me get more temp jobs in web design. Everyone loved my work, but no one could afford to hire me full-time. There were just too many hurting companies and out-of-work web designers. Dan ended up switching jobs in March, and after a couple trips to Texas for training, ended up on the graveyard shift. I ended up switching my sleep schedule to match his in between jobs. It was interesting living a reverse schedule as the rest of the world around me. I actually gained a lot of confidence in my driving and navigational skills thanks to the complete lack of traffic when I’d go grocery shopping at 3 am on a week night.
As the year progressed, it became clear that I was going to have to go back to working full-time. I managed to go on a number of interviews for promising positions, but time after time I failed to get the job. I believe things happen for a reason, but at the time it was so stressful to keep getting turned down for graphic design jobs when I knew I would do so well. In September, I decided I would branch out and look for a job outside my field – there just wasn’t enough graphic jobs to go around so soon after the dot-com crash. I went on an interview for a dog daycare as a “playroom attendant”. I got the job and started working there at the beginning of October.
Life seemed to speed forward once I was back in a full-time job. Dan and I seem to only see each other in passing, as I worked while he slept. But, I chose the early shift on purpose – I could get home at 2:30 pm and slip into bed with him for a nap until he got up in the evening. Those naps were the only think making it possible for me to get up for work at 5 am. I am not a morning person. If I worked the evening shift, I would have seen him even less. It was hard on me, though. A week would go by without us seeing each other awake.
In early March, I became and aunt! My brother welcomed his first child, Cassandra (Cassie) Elora. I took over the design and maintenance of the website at work, and eventually was working a few days a week back in the office solely on design projects. By the beginning of 2005, I was working full-time as the graphic and web designer for the company and was upgraded to a desk from a card table. Life was much easier. Dan switched to a job near to mine, and our schedules finally were in sync. We started car pooling and enjoyed having more time together. I loved being able to do web and graphic design full-time, and I still got to help out with the dogs and visit all my favorites.
In May of 2005 we went on a second honeymoon in Cancun to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. The doggy daycare started a parent company to sell franchises and I was moved over to be one of the first 2 official employees. I was finally back on a salary! By then, I had realized that everything happened the way it was supposed to, and I was so happy with my job. Graphic design with dogs! It doesn’t get better!
Back in 2004, we had started having problems with our rotti-mix, India. She was starting to growl for no reason and start fights with her “sister”, China. It wasn’t too bad a first, and we hoped it was just an “adolescent” phase. In 2005, it continued to get worse. India would space out and be growling at noting at all. She would start terrible fights with China that led to us getting bit when trying to pry them apart. The fights only happened when we were around. If we weren’t home, no amount of blockades or locked doors could keep India away from China. They never fought during those times, luckily. India was really starting to scare us with her split personalities. I was soon afraid to walk her because she’d try to attack other dogs on leash. We talked to the vet, and on his recommendation, hired an expensive dog behaviorist. The behaviorist was not optimistic about her behavior – it was too irrational and dangerous. We tried upping her training and rules, but the fights continued to get worse.
In 2006, after a series of fights that sent me to the emergency room, we made the painful decision to give her up. It was one of the most painful things we’d ever done, but India was going to kill China. We made a number of difficult phone calls and found the one place that would be willing to give her a fair chance. Most rescues and shelters told us they would kill her on admittance because she looked like a pit bull. Leaving my baby girl at the rescue was like leaving a piece of my heart, but we were down to no other options. Our house seemed empty without her, but slowly we began to heal from all the stress and fear we had been living with.
Towards the end of 2006, I had some medical problems that took a big emotional toll on me. My body recovered quicker than my emotions. In November, we took the gigantic step of buying a new house! It was the first single-family house I had ever lived in. We fell in love with it the moment we saw it – a beautiful porch, big backyard and a neighborhood with white picket fences. Because we had so many animals that had made a mess of our town house (cats especially), we couldn’t put our house on the market until we had moved out and redone it. We got the sellers of our new house to agree to let us rent for 6 months while we redid the carpet, hardwood floors and paint in the townhouse. It sold just in the nick of time!
By 2007, we were ready to welcome a new puppy into our lives. I had been wanting a golden retriever. Because China had been involved in so many fights, she no longer trusted other dogs. I knew I had to use my training in evaluating dogs at work when picking out China’s new baby brother. That is how Benjamin came into our lives. He was energetic and playful, but super sweet and respectful of other dogs. It took a little while for China to warm up to him, but now she loves him. While she’ll probably never enjoy playing or cuddling with other dogs ever again, she genuinely likes his company and misses him when he goes to doggy daycare with me.
And so, that brings us to today. Dan and I are both super busy with our jobs. Dan has switched once again and is enjoying his current company. I am kept busy at work with over 20 franchises sold. Benny the golden comes to work with me several days a week to give his big sister a break from his puppy craziness. I am happy. I am loved. I am in love, and my love is my best friend. What more could I want?
Stephanie Lynn Segall
January 10th, 1999 – April 9th, 2001 – November 20th, 2007