Tuesday, April 29, 2008

scary stuff

my entire family is from wichita, kansas. my parents were born and raised there and my sister and i were born there as well. we lived in wichita until i was 3, but even at such a young age, i knew of 'btk.' he was a serial killer who terrorized wichita long before i was born. no one knew who 'btk' was, but everyone knew about him. i'll let you google 'btk' and find out the gruesome details for yourself. suffice it to say, i've been terrified of him since the day i was born.

fast forward to december 1990. my family and i had just returned home from spending christmas with our family in wichita. my dad's best friend and his family drove along with us and stayed for new year's. they lived in florida at the time and decided to have a layover at our house. our families are very close. we always called jeff our other dad. my dad and jeff have been best friends since childhood and growing up, we always had the best time with him and his family. ringing in 1991 was no different. we had a ball together.

a few weeks after jeff and his family returned to florida, my dad received a phone call. it was jeff saying that his mother had been murdered. jeff always suspected his mother's boyfriend, but the boyfriend was never convicted and the real killer was never found.

i can't remember the year (maybe 2004?), but i remember when 'btk' surfaced again. he had been quiet for so long that most thought he was dead. i heard the news that he had resurfaced on 'america's most wanted.' i immediately called my mom and sister and of course they had heard the news as well. i remember having awful nightmares that btk was trying to my little family of 3. there was one night in particular when the dream seemed so real to me. i woke up terrified, grabbed little mama out of her crib, and brought her in bed to sleep with me and super jas. i needed to know that we were all together and that everyone was fine. these nightmares went on for some time and then i received a phone call from my mom one evening.

"are you sitting down?" she asked.
"i am now."
"we just heard that the police think btk killed jeff's mom."

my heart pounded. it felt like the blood was drained from me and i went cold. i couldn't move. i couldn't talk. all i kept thinking was how this monster of a man...someone who i had been terrified for my entire life...he killed the mother of a man so close to me. btk had hit so close to home.

btk was captured in 2005. and now he's rotting away somewhere, although i don't even care to know where. and even though btk hit so close to home, i'm glad it's over and i can shut that chapter in my life after 27 years.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I Wonder What The Scariest Thing Was

*Today begins my last week as Monday's hostess. When you join us next week, super jane will be your hostess! We're giving g love a reprieve from being Monday's hostess since she just had her little boy last Friday...aren't we kind and generous?

The scariest thing that has ever happened to me is a tough topic. I am sure it will be for all of the Wonder Women. I could talk about my night terrors as a child, I could talk about the time that my cousin and I thought a man was outside a tool shed waiting to get us when we walked outside, or I could talk about a car accident I was in. However, none of those things come even close to being the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.

The scariest thing that has ever happened to me personally occurred so long ago that it nearly feels like a lifetime ago. It started with my right arm going numb for longer and longer periods of time. I saw every doctor and specialist in the free world and no one seemed to be able to figure out what was wrong with me. The numbness did not happen all of the time and it was never coupled with any sort of pain, but to have your entire arm go numb for hours at a time was a little freaky. It was also scary when I would have brutal test about brutal test to no avail. I once saw a fantastic neurologist who tested me for muscle and nerve degeneration by hooking me up to a machine that sent electrical impulses up and down my arm. For someone who hates even being shocked by my car in the winter, that hour of tests was like being tortured for war secrets. Every time she would hit that switch, my mouth would twitch and so would whatever part of my arm she was testing. I hated it. And the test? Showed nothing. That same doctor sent me to have ten vials of blood drawn and after the third nurse came over to inquire as to why I was having so much blood drawn, I fainted. It was horribly embarrassing and nauseating. After several months of testing, I really began to feel like a truly sick person. Eventually, I was sent to a thoracic surgeon who did one simple x-ray, brought me into an exam room and told me what the problem was. It was so easy, he said. Your carotid artery is wrapped around your right cervical rib. We'll just take that one rib out! I was elated that someone had finally figured out what was wrong with me, but I was also struck mute by the idea that he wanted to slice me open and cut out one of my ribs! I had never heard of that before. Turns out, it happens all the time. Who knew? Now, almost ten years later, I am fully recovered. The only things that remain from the surgery is a wicked scar under my arm and the memories of the brutal recovery.

The scariest thing that happened to someone I know is when my husband got inexplicably ill last year. It all started with him turning yellow. Yes, yellow. Then, he got tired all the time. Then, he started not feeling so great. His appetite disappeared. Finally, he could not keep anything down. He was so ill that I finally took him to the emergency room on a Monday morning in April. The numerous specialists that he had seen in the weeks leading up to our landing in the ER all gathered and started running test after test. No one could figure out what was making him so sick. He suffered in the hospital for nearly three weeks. He was on so much medication and was so miserable that he became a different person. Nearly every specialist in the hospital came to see him during that time in the hospital. His kidneys and liver failed and nothing could seem to reverse their failure. It was beyond scary. I think it would have been much less scary if it had been me in that hospital bed. I felt helpless. The only way I felt like I had any control was when I was begging (and maybe yelling) at a nurse for his sleeping meds, when I was bringing him things he needed or wanted, and when I could have intelligent conversations with the various specialists that visited him. The hours upon hours of no visits, no answers and suffering on his part nearly killed me. It was a brutal time in our very new marriage. It taught me that even through the scariest things that Superman and I could lean on each other and could survive almost anything.

Both of these frightening experiences have taught me lessons that I carry with me every day. While it was misery going through these health scares, I truly would go through them again to know what I know today. It is terrifying to face the fact that you are mortal or that you might lose the person who means the most to you, but it truly does make you appreciate every day that you have even more.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Wonder What He'll Be When He Grows Up?

G Love and Darlin' welcomed the master of the house to the world this morning at 8:10A EST: 8# 3 oz., 21¼”! Congratulations, cigars, blue bunting, and love all around!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Things You Can't Tell Just by Looking at Her

+ My first role in a play was in a kindergarten production of Little Red Riding Hood. After the play, my teacher hosted a party for all of us—it was the end of the school year—and the picture on the cake was of LRRH … [ahem] of me. I decided to pitch my first diva fit then and there (at age six): they were CUTTING my yellow icing HAIR!!!!!

+ My makeup lasts me a really long time. No, I mean a reeeeeeeeally long time. I am still working on the eyeshadow colors that I bought at the Clinique counter in July. Of 2001. For my wedding. I used the same tube of mascara from February to December of 2007, and I wear mascara almost every day. I honestly can’t remember buying most of the lipsticks I own.

+ When I commuted from my internship to my home the year after I graduated from college, I’d have to be on the interstate fairly late at night, and I suffer from pretty severe car narcolepsy. It’s not as bad when I’m driving, but still bad enough that for most of the one-hour trip, I’d have to have the radio up pretty loudly and the window open a little bit. I like to sing along to the radio (I am often shushed by stageXing in stores and restaurants b/c I’m singing half under my breath and don’t even realize it) but always felt self-conscious about other drivers seeing me sing while tootling down the road, so I’d often hold my parents’ emergency-only cell phone to my ear and sing that way—so if someone looked at me, they’d think I was just having an animated conversation.

+ I was 30 years old before I had my first “pre-cavity decay.” I will tell you that I've never had a cavity, b/c my dentist didn't officially call it one, so there! HA! Take that, tooth decay! You shall never defeat me!

+ My palms get sweaty watching someone else climb a tall ladder (don’t even think about asking me to climb it) or just by thinking about other stair/step/catwalk-related heights. I’m not afraid of elevators inside buildings or roller coasters, but if there’s a way for me to actually see how far I or someone else (even a stranger) is off the ground, I go to pieces.

+ I am a total freak about my work pens. They are .07mm Pilot G2s, and I have one in red, one in blue, one in black, and one in purple. I order refills in bulk (not really, but I wish I could) and my coworker and I talk about these pens at least once a day. She is partial to green, maroon, and black. I refuse to loan my pens to students, faculty, or other staff. If I have temporarily lost my mind and left one of my pens out on my desk and someone needs it and just takes it, I will stop whatever I’m doing and give that idiot the hairy eyeball until I get my pen back. I’ve followed someone down the hall b/c she took my pen and I needed it back; whenever I can’t find one of my pens or my coworker can’t find one of hers, we always march into each other’s offices to ask, “Did you steal my pen?” We are only half joking.

+ I named my favorite teddy bear (I still have him, in my cedar chest) Driller, after my dad’s favorite power tool.

+ I started this post over twenty-four hours ago and have now totally lost my rhythm and so will end it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

i wonder if you know....

...that i was named after my dad. who happens to be named 'carl.' when i tell people i was named after my dad, the next question i get is, "oh, what's his name?" "carl," i reply. and then i get really weird looks from the inquirer. i was indeed named after my dad. if my memory serves me correctly, the story goes as follows: my parents wanted to name one of their children after my dad. my sister was born first, so they named her 'staci.' if i had been a boy, i would've been named 'carl, III.' but, since i popped out a girl, my parents named me my dad's nickname. i just realized that those of you who don't know me in real life have no idea what my name is. suffice it to say that it's a unique name and one that i always got teased for. but that's okay. i love it now because people remember me and they always say, "wow! what a great name. it fits you very well!"

...that i played 3rd base during my younger years and was a fabulous ball player. i had the best throwing arm in the county and was recruited to play on the all-star team. i never played for my high school though because the season conflicted with our spring musical. the coach offered to work around my rehearsal schedule, but i had too much fun with my theatre friends and turned her down. by this time, i was also having lots of issues with my arm. i suffered from tendonitis and was encouraged by my doctor to hang up my mitt. i wore a brace for a while, but even still now i'll have periods of discomfort if i type for a long time. i also blame the tendonitis for my terrible penmanship.

...that my oldest daughter, leah, was born as a result of the 9-11 attacks. the world around us was falling apart and with such horrible people in this world, super jas and i decided to do a little good. our beautiful baby girl proved that there are still good things to cherish. she symbolized love and hope and growth for us in a time when our world was forever changed by evil.

...i once placed 2nd in a pig wrestling contest in high school. pig wrestling was always a HUGE event at our local fair. one year, three friends and i decided to try our hand at it. we duct taped our shoes to our feet and wore matching t-shirts. i remember grabbing hold of the pigs back leg and having it drag me through the mud pit. i cut my knee on something at the bottom of the pit. a rock? glass? i'm not sure, but it hurt like hell. i thought it needed stitches, but my parents must've thought otherwise because i let it heal of it's own. i now bear an impressive scar that has a small pebble in it. the best part though was after the wrestling match when the fire department was there to hose off all of the competitors. it is a memory i will never forget!

...i cut off a portion of my left big toe in the lawnmower. thankfully, i had on tennis shoes. if i hadn't, i know for a fact i would only have 9 toes to call my own. embarrassingly enough, it was during the summer of 1998 when i was home from college. the lawnmower got caught on the curb and the blade made this terrible sound as it scraped against the concrete. i lifted up the side of the lawnmower that had fallen off the curb and kicked it with my left foot to get it going again. that's when my foot slipped and went right into the blade underneath. it ripped my shoe to shreds and cut through my big toe. thankfully, the doctors were able to sew my toe back together. i do have a cone-shaped toe though. it's kind of cool.

...i'm an open book. ask questions, folks, and you shall receive answers!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

You May Be Surprised to Know . . .

o . . . that I worked in a bakery for six months after grad school . . . but I’m actually not a very good baker. Most of my "from scratch" baked goods come out a little dry, a little hard. I tell myself I need more practice, but in truth I just don’t have the touch. It’s ok. I do not suffer from Duncan Hines boxed brownie shame.
o . . . that the reason I went to grad school was because of a boyfriend. A bad boyfriend. He was from England, and after our third disastrous year of dating (in America) he was readying to return to England. He demanded that I make arrangements to join him there, to prove I was serious about him. I was serious about ESCAPING him, and counting the hours until he flew off home and left me so I could break up with him through the safety of the telephone – but I needed him off my back about what was happening next. So I applied to a graduate school that I’d attended for a month-long program as an undergraduate, simply to show him – hey look, I applied, I’ll go here and you can move down to be with me, now leave me be. I had no intention of going. And then – I got in. And I got a scholarship. And it looked really cool. So he flew home to England, I broke up with him over the phone immediately and never spoke to him again. Four months later I flew over to England to start my program, and I lived there for a year, and although I spent the first several weeks looking over my shoulder, well, as it turns out a country with 50 million people was large enough that we never ran into one another.
o . . . that I save all of our National Geographic magazines. I can’t bear to throw away those beautiful pictures. I keep them in a stack on the lower shelf of a couch end table. So my husband sneaks them out little by little into the recycle bin, in small enough batches that I don’t usually notice. Except, the odd time when I DO notice and sneak them back in. It’s the little compromises that make a marriage work.
o . . . that I had a totally secret blog that I kept during the first 10 weeks of my pregnancy, when we weren’t telling anyone about it yet, and I just re-read it the other day and boy is it all – Puke this, and Vomit that, and ya’ll should be glad that it remains secret. Which it will. Because it was just for me.
o . . . that I used to collect frogs when I was in middle school. We had this teacher, a Life Science teacher, a really dynamic guy who we all really enjoyed a lot. He had a sort of froggy face, and a tendency to hop up onto desks around the room and sit, eyeballing us like a frog would a pack of flies. His name was Mr. Oxley, and one day an artist friend of mine drew a picture of a frog in a tie and gave it the Latin name Oxlius amphibius Les (her last name was Lestyan, and whoever discovers the species gets to put part of their name in the Latin name, and anyway boy were we geeks, huh?) That began an avalanche of froggy note-passing, which turned into buying one another little stuffed frogs and frog junk as a joke during holidays, which turned into everyone in my life purchasing frogs for my collection until I was absolutely overrun with the things. This frog fiasco lasted through three cross-country moves to totally new groups of friends who found out about it and kept it up. In college, I put the kibosh on the frog-buying, and over time I have given away, broken, and otherwise disposed of a large number of my collection. But if you come to my house, you will notice that each potted plant has at least one little frog figurine in it. I have frog salt and pepper shakers on the top of the oven. A frog windchime tinkles on our back porch, and I have no less than THREE frog waterfall garden accessories that my husband has currently banished to the shed, until I can convince him that a frog waterfall is no less tacky and thereby kitschy and cool than, say, the garden gnome we have reclining in our backyard, or the brown faux-wooden angel tooting a trumpet on our front porch (both gifts, both ridiculous, both set out to serve the purpose of keeping us from taking our decorating scheme too seriously.) Please, people who know me IRL – do not use this as an opportunity to revive the frog-buying. I’m all good with frogs. Me and frogs – we’re set.
o . . . that as I type this, my elbow is resting on a tiny Gund stuffed animal to keep it from aching. And that animal. Is. A frog.
o . . . and wow, just looking around I see that I have about seven frog items in my office, too. Whoa dude. I didn’t realize how pervasive they still were.
o . . . that I have TWO Lord of the Rings calendars in my office as well. And also a pyramid shaped snow globe thing from the Luxor hotel, with a sphinx in it and gold flakes for the snow. And the two postcards from the two professional acting jobs I had where I was the picture on the postcard. And I’m very disappointed that nobody ever asks me about them anymore.
o . . . that this I Wonder is about long enough, don’t you think?

Monday, April 21, 2008

You Would Be Surprised To Know

I think that most people would be surprised to find out that I am absolutely petrified of scary movies, haunted houses and the dark. A slumber party in junior high sealed the deal on scary movies (Child's Play, anyone?) and haunted houses are a natural sibling to the scary movie fear. I also greatly dislike Halloween and any other opportunity for people to try and scare me. Hate that. My biggest fear of all, though, is the dark. The big, bad, scary dark.

I refuse to walk into dark rooms, I refuse to fall asleep in the dark by myself, and I will not walk outside unless there is a light illuminating my path. This probably sounds irrational to some of you, but my fear of the dark is very real to me. If I am home alone at night, you can bet that a light is on in every room. If I have to go to sleep when no one else is home, the television is on and I set the sleep timer for hours from when I will fall asleep.

I suppose my fear of the dark stems from several factors. The first factor is the night terrors I experienced as a child. The recurring dream I had for years was set underwater and on the bottom of the ocean. It was dimly lit and a huge octopus used to come out of a very dark garage-like area (I have no idea how my child mind thought this up and/or where it comes from -- all I know is that it scared the bejesus out of me). So, for me, the dark has always meant that something not nice might be lurking nearby.

Pitch-black darkness also means that I cannot see what is around me. I cannot see any potential dangers and I cannot see if someone is coming to get me. I do not like the unknown. At all.

I believe that I may need a therapist. Or a good night light. Whichever.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Wonder What I Will Do This Weekend...

Some mighty big stuff has been going down in my office this past few weeks and this week was the commencement of the proverbial stuff hitting the fan. It has been fun! Not so much. I have pretty much just been living each day to survive and to get to the weekend. Today is a gorgeous day outside with sunshine and temperatures that are forecasted to reach about 80. I should be outside right. this. second. However.

I am currently sitting at my desk attempting to look busy while waiting for a dreaded 3:00p meeting. That meeting is what every employee has been dreading all week and we all believe it will be bringing much bad news. Not good. So, what will I be doing with the weekend that I have been surviving every miserable day for?

Friday: Drinking copious amounts of alcohol. I found a recipe for a drink called a SweetTart and it sounds divine. I plan to consume at least a few of these little lovies before my husband gets home from work. Then, dinner at our favorite Mexican place because we both need that right now. In fact, we deserve it after the week we have had! I will probably fall into a blissful sleep soon after dinner due to my extreme fullness from chips and salsa and SweetTart/Margarita consumption. I cannot wait.

Saturday: It is supposed to be quite the gorgeous day here, so Superman and I plan to take a little bike ride. There is an extensive trail system near our house and we have never been on it. So, we will go for a fun ride and explore.

Sunday: Rock of Love Reunion show, people! Need I say more??

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I wonder where it all went wrong?

I was a goddess in sixth grade. It was glorious: full of cheerleader-captaining and going with boys during gift-giving holidays and leading my group of friends in ganging up on other friends and Safety-Patrolling and playing Barbies with my sister.

As sixth grade was the final grade in my primary years, I was at the top of the heap, not the bottom of the middle-school barrel. Yes, I had glasses, but I was still co-captain of the Cowboys Cheerleaders (Blue and white, dy-no-mite!). I may have been the smartest (or second-smartest) kid in my class of 30, but I was still blonde and thin and funny. I may have been one of those girls who ranked her best friends and talked about some of them on the phone with some of my other best friends, but I got the most "Will you go with me?" notes, and more than one Jason and a Kevin gave me presents at one holiday or another. I had a highly developed sense of fashion (which seems extremely tragic now but was cutting-edge at the time) and clear skin.

Sixth grade was, not to rub it in to either Wicked M or G Love, awesome.

Pretty much all of elementary school was awesome for me. I loved my teachers for the most part and they all loved me, liked my friends (although I don't know any of them anymore except Kat, whom I have to know 'cause she's related to me), got in trouble just enough to feel like a bad-ass about once a year, got along with my parents, and didn't really worry about anything, even when I was a tween.

One unpleasant memory I have is of taking a field trip to the nearby junior-high for a pre-orientation of sorts where we had the chance to be talked at by the teachers of subjects in which we were interested (for me, Newspaper and French). Everything was rushed and serious and seemed like just a litany of really hard homework assignments. I remember feeling small and shy and dumb and younger than I usually felt. These thoughts of inadequacy should have foreshadowed my move to a new town/time zone/educational grouping--we moved just after sixth grade ended and I wound up entering middle school in the middle.

Please don't ever ask me about seventh or eighth grade [shudder]. That wonder would be much longer and less rosy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

i wonder why i can't remember?

this may very well be the worst blog entry ever because i really can't remember the 6th grade. thankfully, i never experienced that tween angst. i was part of the 'in-crowd,' but the in-crowd wasn't a group of bullying girls. we were all top students and were honestly and sincerely kind to the others in our class. we did bicker here and there, but nothing has been seared into my memory. my school life was great; my home life was great; things were just fine and dandy in good old santa claus, indiana. my college roommates would joke that i grew up in a 'clever' household....you know, the beave, wally, june, ward & co. i really did have an incredible childhood both in and out of school and for that, i am very thankful.

sixth grade, though, was the year we learned how to divide fractions. mr. roos (pronounced 'rose') was my teacher and i vividly remember him doing this crazy jig on top of his desk chanting, "change the sign, invert the divisor!" this memory served me well during my GMAT exam.

recess during the sixth grade just wasn't cool. we had moved to the older kids playground (kindergarten - third grade was on one playground...fourth grade - sixth on the other), but we were so over recess. we loved it when the weather was bad because that meant we could get board games out to play instead of congregating and talking about whatever was occupying our 12 year old minds in the hot sun or freezing wind.

i sang in a very small girls chorus that year. there were 7 of us who got to meet during the recess after lunch (the longest recess of the day) twice a week. boy, were we hot stuff because we got to miss recess! i can't remember what the group was named, but i remember singing with other girls at some big state event. i have no idea what it was for, but one song we sang was "kookaburra sits in the old gum tree." anyway...

okay, i must end it there. i'm bored just reading through this, so i'm sure you all are sleeping by now. the sixth grade was a good year as was every other year in my school days. i have no complaints and only hope that my girls are able to look back on their school years with as much fondness.

Absentee Ballot

I interrupt this week's programming to inform our readers (but especially KAT who guilted me into it and yes, you can gloat a bit) that I have requested an absentee ballot and will be voting in the primary election this year. So there. Go Bama! Go Bama! Go, go, Go Bama!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Wonder What I was Like in Sixth Grade?

Dear G Love

You were blessed with beauty, brains, and a loving heart.

With Love,

Mrs. T

I forget what the competitions were for, but in any case I recall that I won something in the sixth grade, and that my prize was an extra large box of brand new Crayons with the above note attached.

I was eleven years old in my sixth grade year. I was awkward – weren’t we all? I was desperately excited about getting my (gasp!) first period, wearing my (gasp!) first training bra, but could no sooner have spoken the words menstruation or breast than I could have driven a dogsled in the Iditarod. Outwardly I stuck firmly to my conviction that boys were icky, squicky, and gross, but inwardly I LOVED Brian Parrish with all of my heart and soul and if he would only touch my hand one day then I could happily curl up and die right then on the spot, having fulfilled my destiny. In those days I had uncombed hair, mismatched hand-me-down clothes, and buck teeth, shortly thereafter straightened with the godsend of braces. Unlike the UNBELIEVABLY LUCKY (oh I was so jealous) Wicked M and my fellow students, I was not permitted to wear hair spray or makeup at all (and this rule continued until I left home for college 3 days shy of 18.) Looking back, I have no doubt that Wicked M and each of my (infinitely more glamorous) fellow pupils felt just as awkward and unattractive as I did, even with their (incredibly fashion-forward) blue eyeshadow and sky-high bangs, but at the time I was sure they all felt as beautiful and adult as they looked, and that they were all laughing at me. Of course, eyeshadow does not a confident woman make of a desperately sad pre-teen. All you have to do is read Wicked M’s post to know that.

That really is what describes my whole pre-teen experience, beginning with sixth grade – desperate sadness. I was sad for years, and so terrified that everyone else knew a secret that I didn’t know. A secret about how to act, how to dress, how to speak, how to be, and that all of them could tell that I had never been clued in. I lived in hope, and fear, and in nightly pillow tears, and if I could go back and convince my sixth grade self of any Life Truth, it would be this – that, oh my sweet, naïve girl, every kid in your class feels the same way. This is called Middle School, darling, and it is called Figuring Out the World Outside Your Parents’ Home, and it is called Learning to be an Adult, and it is called Welcome to the Rest of Your Life. Now, of course, I know that nobody knows what the hell they’re doing, and they never did, and they never will do - some people are just better at pretending than others, and some people are better at not caring.

Sixth grade wasn’t one long school year of misery, of course. There were the games at recess: four square, and handball, and tetherball, and kickball, and once in a while a school-wide mass game of capture the flag. There was the library, which smelled like old books, and had a wonderful selection, and hosted yearly sales where we could buy very cool pencils and erasers and bookmark ribbons and even brand new Scholastic brand books. There was the one day when it actually snowed (in San Diego, California!), and all of the teachers let us out of our classrooms so we could go walk the track and watch it fall (and immediately disappear.) There was the end of year pool party that my teacher had every year, and the thrill of saving enough babysitting money to get a new Nintendo system. There was hopping the backyard fence on the weekend and walking across the field to the pool, and coming home hours later to a lunch of grilled cheese and iced tea, and then a cool shower. Sixth grade was the year my fourth and final sibling was born, so of course there was all the fun of being Mama’s Little Helper.

And sixth grade was the year that I got the note from my teacher that I held onto, for 17 years and counting. Boys teased me about my unibrow, but Mrs. T told me I had beauty, and she wouldn’t lie, right? I didn’t make many friends when I moved to a new state and new school the following year, but Mrs. T wrote that I have a loving heart, and that must mean that I would make friends eventually, right? As the slings and arrows of adolescence came hurling at me through my teenaged years, I held onto that note like a life buoy, and told myself that if Mrs. T had written it, in blue ink, in her perfect penmanship, then it must be true.

I guess, then, what I was like in sixth grade was a gangly, awkward, buck-toothed, insecure and largely unhappy little person – who was full of the potential to become a person of beauty, brains, and a loving heart. Trust that a grown woman with the compassion and patience to be a sixth grade teacher could see and share that potential with me. And I’m thankful that a developing little woman with no confidence, brains, or savvy could hold onto that note until she had the courage to believe it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Wonder What I Was Like In Sixth Grade...

One word for you: DORK. That pretty much sums it up. There is no other word that better describes me as a sixth grader. I was gawky, awkward, wore glasses, and liked school. I was doomed to never be part of the popular crowd before that game even started. My sixth grade school picture tells the whole story. In this picture, I sport shoulder-length, permed hair that is moussed. I have medium-sized bangs as I never could manage to make my bangs as sky-high as the trend required. I have on big gold earrings, coke-bottle glasses, and blue eyeshadow. Sixth grade was the first year I was allowed to wear any make-up and eye shadow was the only thing I was allowed to wear. My mother had to be with me with I applied it and it was done with a very light hand (nevertheless, you can see BLUE on my eyelids very distinctly as BLUE is insanely bright and wrong, wrong, wrong!). My outfit consists of a black mock turtleneck and a cream colored zip-up sweatshirt thing. I cannot for sure identify this top as a specific brand, but I am guessing it is either B.U.M. Equipment or something Guess brand. Clearly, I was a victim of the 1980's. Wow.

I am smiling in this picture, unaware of just how painful the next few years will be. As an awkward kid who had few friends, I was just entering the transitional years of junior high school. Sixth grade was the first year that all of our town's elementary schools came together and within a month, all of the cliques that would prevail for the next seven years would be created. The girls with the best bangs and the cutest Liz Claiborne purses would be the most popular and the boys who could play basketball best and ace the President's Challenge in gym class would reign supreme. Everyone wore Eastland shoes and rolled the cuffs of their jeans.

Entering sixth grade was like being thrown to the wolves in a way. I came out of fifth grade with good grades and expectations that sixth grade would be similar in a lot of ways. Having to change classes, have a locker, and deal with these new social pressures was not something I was expecting. It did not help at all that I was shy, smart, and a teacher's pet. I did not know any other way to be, so by the time I realized that I was doing everything wrong, I was already too behind the popularity curve to fix it. So, I stayed the way I was. I tried hard, played sports, and wore the right clothes, but I just never really fit in.

Obviously, I began sixth grade very naive. As an example, sixth grade was the year I found out about Santa Claus. A teacher of mine asked us to write an essay about how we found out the truth about Santa Claus and I was so confused as to what she was talking about. When I realized what she meant, I burst out in tears. I had to lie and say it was about something else entirely and then my Mom spent an entire evening trying to make things better. I am still mad at that teacher for assuming we were all "wise" to the truth. But? Hi, I was naive.

Sixth grade was a big year of change for me. I may never have been cool or figured out how to Aqua Net my bangs into submission well enough for the popular crowd to approve, but I think that was the year that I truly started to grow up.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Wonder What I'm Going to Do?

I don’t know who I’ll vote for.

I don’t know who to vote for.

An issue of Newsweek (March 17, I believe, if you want to go to the library) got me thinking. If I don’t support Hillary, am I a traitor to my sex? Me, a woman who’s never knowingly faced sexism in her education, in her relationships, in her various jobs … could I be a hypocrite if I vote against my gender?

I remember being a preteen who, when asked about her ambitions, would often declare her intention to be the first female President. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t do it—nor did it ever cross my mind that it was a supremely unlikely, overly lofty goal. (Let’s not discuss the fact that I never intended to actually go into politics. I just wanted to be the first something and also be rich, in charge, and famous.) Coming of age in the world of Margaret Thatcher and Sally Ride and Title IX, I got the opportunity to take feminism and the ERA totally for granted.

And now, here we are, being asked to make history.

And I’m almost paralyzed by the responsibility.

I can’t stop thinking that just as much weight will be placed on where I don’t cast my vote as where I do. What does it say if I choose Barack? Does it say I all but agree with the people I’ve heard dissing Hillary for being fake/harsh/cold? What if she has to be all those things to accomplish what she has? If she’s genuine/soft/warm, would she come across as too “girly” to get things done? I know people who really do believe a woman doesn’t belong in the White House. I’m not one, but I’m just not sure yet that I believe this woman does.

But I still can’t stand the unfairness of some of the criticism launched at Hillary. From her pantsuits to her forgiveness (it would seem by the fact that they’re still married) of Bill’s dalliances, Hillary is being attacked as a candidate in a very watercooler-gossip way.

So should I support her because she’s a female and so am I? Do I pitch my tent in her camp to say “Yep, you’re right,” to Tina Fey? To say of course a woman can do this job and do it very, very well?

Is it even possible to just leave gender out of it altogether and not worry about whether or not I’m supporting or subjugating girl power?

I was lucky enough to breathe the same air as both candidates this past weekend. Barack was a rock concert from days before the rally to even now—people ask one another, “Did you go to Barack?” the way one asks, “Did you go to the Rolling Stones?” And goodness me, he was inspiring and exciting and captivating and passionate and articulate. Hillary was a town-hall meeting, just as it was promoted. She detailed policy and then took questions and was thoughtful and precise and calm and good-humored. And goodness me, does she have soft hands. (Yes, that’s my way of saying I shook her hand and exchanged smiles and “thank you for coming”s.)

But Hillary herself pointed out that she’s a woman: she made a joke about how much longer it takes her to get ready every day and shouldn’t she get points for that because John and Barack don’t have to get up as early as she does and she’s just as capable as they are at the end of the day.

So where does that leave me? My mind is all swirled up by wisps of thoughts about identity voting and gender politics and similarities and differences and dynasties and years of service and, oh, if you go read that March issue of Newsweek you’ll understand why I broke out in a cold sweat over it and got up and started writing this wonder in the middle of the night weeks ago and have been adding to it ever since.

I’ve only got seven weeks to decide … any thoughts?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Wonder if I Can Choose

I live in Western Montana, for goodness sake. Going to the dry cleaner’s on the weekend is a gorgeous trip, and those of you who’ve been here know I’m not even exaggerating.

So … hmm … best vacation ever …

I could be a cliché of a girly-girl and say that my honeymoon was my favorite vacation. That trip would make me nerdy on many levels, one of which is the location itself. The Boy and I went to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario for a week and saw at least one play a day the entire time we were there, except for the mini-mini-break we took toward the end to go to a cliché of a honeymoon destination: Niagara Falls (yes, the Canadian side is more beautiful than the American side, and yes, we did the Maid of the Mist tour as made indelible by Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty). We stayed at a B&B in Stratford and it was blissful even though our luggage was lost until the second day. We stayed at a high-rise hotel in Niagara Falls and it was deluxe, son, deluxe. We picnicked on the riverbank and fed the swans and saw mostly fantastic theatre and had wine on our enclosed porch every night and began the tradition we are just now, almost seven years later, trying to break of never cooking a single meal for ourselves. It was everything a honeymoon should be—just us alone in a newlywed cocoon and yet us out exploring and thriving in our favorite world.

I could be a swooning romantic/academic and say my two trips to Stratford-upon-Avon with HC’s “Shakespeare in England” class. I can’t even write about them, really. They’ll always just remain hallowed and perfect times of my life as a young theatre artist, friend, student, inamorata. If I ever had to go Groundhog’s Day on myself, I would be hard-pressed not to choose one of those days.

I could be a party girl and say that my senior celebration trip was my favorite vacation. My best friend of almost 20 years now (holy percent sign!) and her mom took me along to New Orleans to visit a friend and hang out in the Big Easy the summer we graduated from high school. We stayed in an apartment in the Garden District (I remember seeing both Anne Rice’s and Aaron Neville’s homes and was oh-so-impressed with their wrought-iron gates) and I got my first inklings of feeling like a grownup. We went to Bourbon Street and had our first legal drinks: Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. Whoo, child! J. and I spent many minutes in bed that night commenting on our inability to feel our teeth, which was both hilarious and disconcerting. Big George, the most gracious, funny, and wise man I think I’ve ever met, took us to the places the tourists never see—we got to visit the real N’Awlins and eat like kings and queens and made grand plans to come back every single year forever and ever for Mardi Gras. We rode the trolley and shopped at the very place where Julia Roberts almost got shot in The Pelican Brief and went to Café du Monde (I still regret that I didn’t drink coffee yet then) and generally lived it up and had a ball. Ah, what trouble J. and I could get into now if we went back!

I could be a kid again and talk about how anytime we were going to my Grandma L.’s or my Auntie E. and Uncle B.’s, I would get so excited about the trip that I would go to bed as told and then sneak back up to put my clothes on under my pajamas so I’d be READY to hit the road! Then I’d go back to bed and whisper across the hall to Kat about all the donuts and ginger snaps and fun and games that were about to be ours. We’d always start the trip in the back of the station wagon with a gallon ice-cream bucket full of chocolate-chip cookies and box of crayons between us and we’d color and read and play the license-plate-states game; we’d end the trip with our pillows and stuffed animals and crumbs and melted crayons between the seat and the seat-back needing to go straight to bed (with a donut or ginger snap on the way, of course).

You can’t make me choose! Because now I realize I’ve left out Vegas and Prague and any trip to Glacier NP and Washington, DC, and Orlando and Indianapolis and Chattanooga (sounds silly, but it was our first “road trip date” and the Tennessee Aquarium is AWESOME so stop laughing) and any trip to a wedding and, well, see?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

i wonder which trip was my favorite?

let me just start off by saying that it is virtually impossible to top g-love's entry. i wish i had that kind of memory. that kind of ability to take in the littlest details of each moment and capture them my mind's eye. oh, how i wish. unfortunately, i lack that ability; as such, this entry will not be nearly as fabulous as my fellow blogger and for that i apologize.

perhaps one of my favorite trips was taken one summer during college. my mom has a passion for missions work and i honestly believe she could apply for dual-citizenship from mexico as it feels like she is always heading there. during her 2nd trip, i believe, my dad and i accompanied her. there was a large group of us going - maybe 18 or so - and our goal was to fix up an old run-down campground in a small town called pitorreal. we were completely secluded and in a land all our own. we were surrounded by mountains and huts with dirt floors and the most compassionate people i've ever met.

it was an adventure getting there. we traveled by train during one leg of our trip. i will never forget standing on the platform of the final train car and gazing at the landscape. i could see for miles and miles and thought about how wonderful it would be to jump off the train. huts dotted the scenery and i thought how fabulous it must be to live in one of them. to be completely away from the stress and hustle and bustle that invades our lives in the states.

what i enjoyed most about this trip was spending every second with my parents. it was just the three of us and it was incredible being able to share that experience with them. we still talk about one particular incident that occurred on that trip. it happened when we were shopping in a town that neighbored pitorreal. my folks and i decided to split away from the group to enjoy a little alone time. the roads were dusty and we soon found ourselves in a more run-down area of town. an old mexican cowboy with a face that looked like a shriveled prune walked up to us. he looked my dad right in the eye and said something to him in spanish. we had no clue what the guy was saying, so my dad did what any of us would. he smiled, chuckled, and nodded his head. the old mexican cowboy smiled back at my dad, revealing the fact that he was missing most of his teeth. he turned to me, grabbed my shoulders with both of his hands, and kissed me right. on. the. lips.

i nearly died. i think i've blocked my actions, because i can't for the life of me remember how i reacted. i only remember the old mexican cowboy smiling at me and walking away. my parents erupted with laughter as i stood there. i was too stunned and grossed out to move. i wiped my mouth with the back of my arm and shuddered. and then i'm pretty sure i yelled at my dad for allowing that old mexican cowboy to kiss me *on the lips* and at both of my parents for the subsequent laughter. i found absolutely NOTHING humorous about what had just occurred.

i can look back now and laugh, but i was pretty weirded out at the time. but when i start to remember his mouth and his missing teeth and the fact that he probably had NEVER used a toothbrush (much less seen one), i get the heeby-jeebies.

alas, it was an incredible trip filled with incredible memories made with my folks. i am very thankful for being able to spend time with them in such a beautiful part of this world. it was most definitely the best trip i've ever taken.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Wonder If I'll Ever Go Back There Again?

The island is made entirely of sand.

You can only get there by means of one of the barges that run from the eastern Australia coast – unless you want to charter a small biplane that will touch down directly onto the beach during low tide. Hervey Bay, the closest mainland town, is largely devoted to guided tours, 4WD rentals, camping equipment purchase, and other things that have to do with getting to and sleeping on the island.

We joined a tour through our hostel, one that didn’t have a guide. The tour price included the car, the maps, the camping equipment, and all the information, but it let us determine our own schedule, which was what we preferred. We ended up in a group with two 30-something Aussie girls (friends traveling together), a trio of Japanese teens who played on their cell phones and slept most of the trip, and a young English couple who worked as accountants in Sydney but had traveled up the coast as part of a month-long break. We sat down the night before our trip and made up a grocery list, and then toasted the beginning of our 4 days together with several pitchers of 4X, drunk out of plastic cups on the picnic tables at the front patio of the hostel.

Next day we arose at the crack of dawn to get the logistics worked out, grocery shopping complete, 4WD rented, and everything packed. Two people could sit in the front cab of the 4WD, and the other seven would have to squeeze in the back with all the gear and food, perched on utilitarian steel benches that ran the length of the car. It was a tight and uncomfortable ride, but it was what it was, and by some stroke of luck we ended up with an extremely adaptable, happy, and well-mannered group, and we all got along swimmingly regardless of our less-than-luxurious surroundings.

We rolled up onto the ferry barge and a few minutes later we rolled off again onto the sandy shore of Fraser Island. No roads or paths on the island were paved or even graveled, so only 4WD vehicles were allowed – this made for extremely bumpy, slippery, and slow progress. Because the seats in the 4WD were steel, and you leaned back onto the metal body of the car, we all entered the island with tender, soft behinds, and would exit days later with black and blue bodies, all our delicate parts pounded, shaken, and shimmied into submission.

To do this trip justice, I would have to look again through my Australia scrapbook and my pictures, which I (presciently, might I say) labeled thoroughly the moment I got home, and which would really help me recall more of the details of my Fraser days. Alas, I do not have access to that at the moment, so I have to give it to you in bits and pieces. The basic structure of the day went like this: Step 1 – after a pre-dawn breakfast, get together and examine the map to see what was within “range,” remembering during our planning that our top speed was about 20mph so it took forever to get anywhere, and taking note of the tides (which limited our ability to drive on the beach highway, the fastest way to travel the island’s length). Step 2 – decide what was most important to see, pick stopping points, and choose the camping site for the night. Step 3 – get in the car and drive, baby! Stop where we pleased, take turns at the wheel, and resist the urge to cradle the wildly bobbing heads of the sleeping Japanese teens who, despite our bumpy drives, could not seem to stay awake. Step 4 – at the end of the day, set up primitive camp during dusk, make dinner over the fire, drink lots of beer, and get rowdy and happy before becoming drunkenly dumbfounded by the sight of the sky absolutely full of stars, then stumble to tents and sleep. Step 5 – repeat.

We saw Lake McKenzie, which was a startling sheet of blue-green water in the middle of a sandy forest . . . the Knifeblade Sand Blow, an enormous dune (remarkable on an island full of huge dunes, which tells you how impressive it was) . . . Lake Wabby, a tiny but incredibly deep lake fast disappearing under encroaching sands . . . the Maheno Shipwreck, a rotting carcass of a ship that had run aground on the island many years before, and stood in the open air during low tide . . . the Champagne Pools, rock formations that had formed natural spa-sized impressions that people would climb into, enjoying the water warmed by the sun . . . the Colored Sands, which towered above us in delicate, intricately patterned cliffs and peaks . . . Eli Creek, a freshwater creek that ran down to the ocean with a strong enough current that we all could get in and float down . . . and dozens of other amazing sights. Looking back on this with my naturalist eyes, I do see that this was a high impact trip, and I’m curious to research how well the resources are managed. I remember that there were some off limits areas, which one would hope are rotated so each part of the island gets a break from humans for a bit. I also know we had to get permits, and the amounts of visitors were limited. I hope the Australian Department of Natural Resources is doing their part to ensure the sustainability of this delicate island. Now that I’m an old fogey I’d probably check on that before I visited it again, but back in those days I was somewhat careless, somewhat selfish (as 21 year olds tend to be), and I just did what everybody else did. And what’s done is done, and I’m glad I’ve got it in my memories, and I hope I didn’t ruin anything.

We only got seriously stuck in the sand once, and I remember wandering through some scrubby oaks on the beach, picking up and throwing back shells, kicking sand around, and waiting idly while the guys tried to dig out the vehicle. I remember watching people sliding down a humongous dune, leaving their tracks and trails behind them. I remember lying on the beach, my head pillowed on a pile of sand, the rest of the crowd several meters behind me enjoying the campfire. They were close, but I felt pleasantly alone, and I stared at a sky so full of stars that my mind could barely behold them, and I knew that I was in a strange and far off country, and my home was miles away, and it was thrilling.

When we rolled back off the barge at the end of our trip, we washed out and returned all our gear, and scrubbed ourselves for hours in the hostel showers, and exchanged our contact information and promised to keep in touch, which none of us did. The Aussie girls went back home to Brisbane. The English stayed on in Hervey Bay for a while, and the Japanese . . . didn’t speak English, so I’m not sure where they went. My traveling companion and I rolled on up the coast, heading for Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, but vowing we would one day return to Fraser Island and experience it all again. And now, a little older, a little less footloose, I see my life rolling out in front of me and I don't know if another trip to Fraser is in the cards - there are so many other places to see in this world, and life is long and not long enough. But . . . you never know, do you?

Monday, April 7, 2008

I Wonder What My Favorite Trip Ever Was...

In honor of super jane and MSO Rin's recent Spring Break trips, I thought we would venture into the world of travel for an entry...

I have traveled to nearly every state in the United States and I was lucky enough to visit St. Lucia for my honeymoon. I love the majestic Grand Canyon, the cool breeze in San Francisco, the sweltering heat of Texas in August, the insanity of the Las Vegas strip and the crisp winters of Kentucky in December. I love Key West's afternoon showers, New York's frenetic pace, and Nebraska's endless fields. I love meeting people from different parts of our country and finding out what makes each place unique. St. Lucia was just Heaven on Earth for many reasons. The biggest reason was that it was an entire week away from any responsibilities and the stress of planning our wedding was over. We could just sit in the pool, drink tropical drinks, and relax. It was a beautiful place with fantastic weather, gorgeous beaches, and the Piton Mountains were stunning. Every place I have visited has left me with a little bit of joy and at least one memory that is burned in my mind, but there has never been a place that I have loved visiting more than Paris. Ah, Paris.

I was lucky enough to visit Paris in November of 2007. My husband was traveling there for work and we used his AMEX points to book my flight. My flight over left a lot to be desired, but once I caught a glimpse of flower carts bursting at the seams with vibrant blooms, of bakeries tempting me with their fresh baked baguettes, and of the Eiffel Tower looming in the distance, I knew I would never be the same. It is a hard thing to describe, really, but visiting Paris changed me. Browsing in shop windows, using the little bit of baby French I know, and photographing Paris in all of its glory made me truly appreciate my life.

The years of 2006 and 2007 were quite stressful for me and my family and visiting Paris at the tail end of that tumultuous time really did teach me to be thankful for everything that I have. Touching the gravestones of people like Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf made me understand how fragile life is and how lucky I am to have so many wonderful people still with me in this crazy world. Skipping to the Eiffel Tower with my husband made me feel so small and yet as if no one had ever been to this place ever before. Standing next to the Venus de Milo and and whispering in the halls of the Louvre made me as awestruck as I have ever been. Running under a street to reach the Arc de Triomphe made me feel like a child again.

Paris is a city that is rich in history, rich in culture, and rich in lessons. I am so lucky and thankful that I was able to visit this city. That I was able to wander its streets and let it whisper to me. That I listened.