The first run (is the most unkindest run of all)

The Shoes

Yesterday was my first run. As anyone who knows me might expect, I hated it. But once The Bitch has an idea stuck in her craw, it’s only a matter of time until she starts to piss me off with it. In this case, she opted for sooner, rather than later.

First of all, knowing that past runs have left me with pain in my back and knees, I took some precautions this time around. I went out and bought running shoes at a cost of $48 before tax. For someone who never buys shoes, that’s a fortune. I gasp when I have to pay $20 for my kids’. My own footwear consists of several pairs of frequently re-corked and re-soled Birkenstocks mixed in with a couple of pairs of sneakers that cost under five bucks each.

I also got ugly knee supports. They claim to be great for high impact activities. I must assume running is high impact. They suck. They are ugly black neoprene and Velcro, and they still work better than the breast band I improvised out of an Ace bandage. At least they didn’t fall off.

I determined via the extremely scientific method of driving around and paying vague attention to my odometer that it’s roughly one and a half times around my block to get to a mile. SO I decided that three times around the block was two miles. (I later found out I was wrong. That was only 1.35 miles, and you know what? Why would I want to run two miles anyway. The Bitch can have her two miles when I can get to 1.35 without wanting to vomit in the neighbor’s Crepe Myrtle.)

I took Sam and his tricycle and headed out.

On a normal day, my kids can lap me on their wheeled vehicles. Just last week, I read them the riot act for failure to return to my shouting voice. (The garage door keypad died. I had to grab a remote. They did not wait. They could not understand why I was angry.)

But for whatever reason, Sam was going slowly. I passed him and shouted “Catch up,” about a dozen times. At one point, I looked back, and there he was doing the Dawdle Duckling with his trike, zig-zagging around. “You can’t catch me!” I tried. He pedaled faster. For a minute. But then he went  back to zig-zagging.

By the end of the first quarter mile, the insides of my lungs felt icy and thin, while the rest of my body felt strained and hot. I paced at the crossing near the middle of our first lap, waiting for Sam to catch up and trying not to revel in his semi-panicked “Wait for meee”s.

“I AM waiting,” I called back twice. But then, I stopped saying it. Because he wasn’t listening. And if he couldn’t be bothered to pay attention, then let him be on the wondering end for once.

When he caught up, I started pushing the trike, and suddenly I found my motivator. Well, his motivator. I haven’t got one. I don’t want to run, I’m doing it anyway, and I can’t stand gasping for breath while I jiggle down the road.  He said, “No pushing!”

“Good. Go faster. If I catch up, I push.”Of course, he kept forgetting, zig-zagging again, then getting caught short when I seized his handle (yes, his tricycle has a Mommy-handle) and shoving him straight for a few feet.

And then the breast band popped off. The Ace grip didn’t let go. Rather, the whole affair jiggled so hard that it just dropped under the boobs it was supposed to be stilling. I stopped right there in the middle of the neighborhood to hike up my shirt and jerk the damned bandage back into place. (Hey – I had on a sports bra. As pointless as the bloody thing is for its original purpose, it did protect any neighbors who might have been looking from an eyeful) But that left one breast (the right one, actually) wedged into a position of semi-stillness and the other pinched so the nipple and a surrounding collection of fat stuck through a gap in the bandage. I felt like a badly put-together mummy.

And that was just the first lap.

By the time I got home, and yes, I did walk the last quarter lap, I was gasping instead of breathing, and the triker had finally hit his damned stride. He dashed into the house telling Daddy, “I winned sometimes, and Mommy winned the other times.”

Fuck competition. Who the hell competes? But I know he loved it. Competition is anxiety for me. And it’s an anxiety I can dodge and live without. But Sam? Oh Sam the Man cackled when I was chasing him. He loved it. I was furious. I was choking-mad, because I just wanted the damned run to be over with, and here was this little runt treating it like a competition.

And then he came inside all proud and happy, like we’d just done something worthwhile together because winning was involved.

I wanted to say right there, “I am never doing this again.”

But instead, I vowed, “It will be at least a week before I do this again with him.”

I ran again today, this time in an old too-small bra. (It didn’t work either, even layered with the useless sports bra.) I will be out there again tomorrow. And the day after. Until my upper back gives out or the knee braces prove as useless as I fear. I will keep up the running for as long  as I can, because I did not buy forty eight dollar shoes to fucking walk.

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Madame Syntax wants her say about the title. She wants you to know that the quotation is not, “The first cut is the most unkindest cut of all”. Rather, it is:

For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov’d him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all
— Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 3.2, 181-83.

I’m sure you can all breathe easier for knowing that little tidbit. I did have to Google the act, scene, and line numbers. But that was just because Madame Syntax is a citation freak even for works in the public domain.

8AM

Oct. 31 8PM

Trick or Treat

Nov. 1 8AM

The target

Because every good army has a blue finger-puppet dino vanguard

“Coast is clear. Car pulled out of the driveway.”

Meet our villain

“OK troops, let’s do this.”

This angry bird is not a happy man

“I thought they’d never leave this morning.”

The Wall

“Kids probably ate themselves into a sugar coma last night and couldn’t move.”

Up up up with a birdie

“Less talking, more climbing, troops.”

“To the victor go the spoils.”

This is the moment we wait for each year

“Dig in, baby.”

Oh, yes. I think I'll start here.

 

The carnage, oh the carnage

“Oh God, I can’t believe I ate that much. I can’t move.”

The humanity of it all

“What will they think when they find us here, your majesty?”

Princess Out

“Your majesty?”

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This version of what really happens to your kids’ Halloween candy every year was written in response to this week’s Write on EdgeRed Writing Hood Red Writing Hood prompt, which asked for an under 200 word story describing my version of 8 o’clock in tribute to David Wiesner’s  children’s picture book Tuesday.

A Dog’s Life

Fudge Does Sofas

Fudge is our old man. We think he’s around ten (remember, he was a pound find), and he’s showing his age. His legs want to go in opposite directions when he skids to a stop, his allergic ears spend at least half of every month infected, and he’s also prone to hot spots and skin infections. Not bad when you consider he’s 70 in dog years. Or that he spent around 30 or of those years fighting off obesity.

Most mornings, he gets up around 6. Then he stands at the office door and ticky-tacks his toenails on the hardwood laminate until someone gets annoyed and wakes up to let him out.  Typically, this is Caroline. And it actually probably doesn’t even occur to her to be irritated. She then goes out and scoops him some breakfast and fills up his water. Without being asked. Of course, now that I’ve typed that, I’ve probably jinxed this streak of responsibility, but it’s fantastic. My kids don’t fight over who has to feed the dog. They fight over who gets to feed the dog.

If, for some reason, a different member of the family wakes up first (I’m looking at Sam right now), Fudge waits for Caroline. If Sam fills his bowl, or if I do, or if Scott does, the dog might come by and sniff it, then nibble it throughout the day. But if Caroline
feeds him, he stands in the middle of the kitchen noisily inhaling the meal, wagging his whip of a tail so that it smacks into everyone in a certain radius. In fact, if Caroline isn’t up first,  and if Fudge himself doesn’t get up ahead of the family, Fudge has been known to stay in his bed in the office until he has to pee so badly that he suddenly leaps to his feet and starts moaning at the door.  Which means that when he wakes up first and  one of us besides Caroline ultimately lets him out, we get this hangdog look, like we have abused him by letting him go take a leak.

In his mind, he is her dog.

And that means that school days, days when she leaves at 7:30 and doesn’t get back until 3:30, Scott and I will see almost nothing of the dog. This, even though I work from home and Scott teaches nights and sits at his home office computer during the day.  Fudge will tick-tack into the office, make annoying mouth noises in his sleep until I get vexed and banish him to the living room, get up for drinks of water and to go outdoors a couple of times. But that’s about all.


When Caroline gets home, he suddenly reanimates and becomes obstreperous (well, as much as a dog who never barks * will ever be) following her from room to room, flopping down under the kitchen table where she can feed him from her plate behind my back, and sitting outside the kitchen begging when I catch them in the act. I’m not sure when he made this switch. He used to be pretty much my dog. But the move came well before she started delivering the morning kibble. In fact, it took place at some point during the year-long phase where she jabbed sticks in his face all the time, convinced he might chase one if she just poked him hard enough with it. (Yes, we did prevent her harming him. No, she didn’t stop doing it.)

The rest of his day is then spent either staying as close to Caroline as possible or else running outside because the kids’ loud playing is driving him crazy again. At night, he could sleep in Caroline’s bedroom if he wanted to. It would thrill her to no end. But he prefers his office bed, or else the couch. It’s an old man’s life. It’s a dog’s life. And he seems happy.

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* Fudge chooses not to bark. We have not ever done anything to merit this gift. I don’t know if it was trained into him by his previous family, or if he’s just naturally like that, but I can count on one hand the number of times something had caused Fudge to vocalize.

Take me back to the point

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I thought it might be nice to write a post without a writing prompt. Yeah right. I totally misread the prompt over at Mama Kat’s and wrote eight paragraphs instead of eight lines. I’m linking up anyway.

Recipes

These are recipes from my grandparents.

Mummum wrote out this one in September of 2001, just before Scott and I got married.

Brad’s Favorite Butterscotch Pie 9-2001 [Brad was my grandfather's nickname]

Butterscotch pie front of card1 cup brown sugar
5 tablespoons of flour } mix
Add 1/2 cup of water
When thick add 2 egg yolkes[sic]
2 table spoons [sic] butter
1 teaspoon vanilla few grains salt

Butterscotch pie Back of CardCook allogether [sic] til thick. Pour into baked pie shell.
Cool whip topping
 

 

 

And this one a few years later

Great Grand Mother Bradshaw’s  coated [?] pecan haves [sic]
Coated Pecans Front of card (do you see how she couldn't tell she was starting on the unlined side?)1 egg white
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of pecan halves
Beat egg whie [sic] til it stans[sic] in soft peaks
over

Coated Pecans 2Fold in pecan halves coat each pecan well.
Place on cookie sheet. covered with wax paper. separate do not overlap. Bake 250 oven 1/2 hr. turn off heat til stand in oven ½ hr. peel off freeze well keep air tight can.

 

 

 

And Poppa gave us this one when he realized Scott, a historian, loved his corn pudding

Corn Pudding – KY Historical Soc.
corn puddingPreheat oven
2 cans cream style corn
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons (heaping) all purpose flour
3 eggs (slightly beaten
2 tablespoons sugar  (stir 2 or 3 times during cooking
1 1/2 c milk
1 teaspoon baking powder

Add salt, sugar, baking powder & flour to corn stir well. Add milk & egg mixture to corn pour into 2 qt. casseroles. Cook 1 hr. @ 350 [degrees]

Do you see the differences? How, for our wedding, Mummum chose to give us her true love’s favorite dessert? How her ruined eyesight sent the script scrawling down the page, because even when the paper had lines, she couldn’t see them? (More even than it disabled her, the blindness humiliated her. And she was a child of the Depression who stalwartly rejected many of the tools that would have made living easier.) How the lack of eyesight rendered her always hard-to-decipher handwriting almost completely illegible? (And she was the writer. Everyone knew Sue for her correspondence. She sent us letters upon letters until her last few years, when writing, too, was stolen by the glaucoma.) Do you see how, though her impeccable English grammar shaped my own language, that absence of sight filled her words with mistakes?

And do you see how, even late in life, Poppa’s writing remained steady? (Oh how he cursed it when his surgeon’s hands began to shake with a palsy possibly caused by diabetes or some vagary of old age.) Can you understand why he was the family cook by the time I was old enough to remember? Why, even though Mummum wrote two of these recipes down, it is Poppa with whom I remember baking?

Good.

Then I can tell you this.

My grandfather’s kitchen is sunny. One wall is a mural of peeling flowers, where Mom orchestrated paintings by her high school friends over forty years ago. The kitchen sink judders every time we turn on the hot faucet, because we need to bleed the air from the lines again. And the room smells of spices and bread, of an oven warm in winter.
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remembeRedButtonThis post was composed for the Write on Edge RemembeRed prompt asking for a memory in a recipe. I collect family members’ recipes, in their own handwriting, so that I can remember something concrete about them. My grandparents are gone now, but I have this part of them forever.

A Nightmare for Halloween

I’m walking around Chatfield’s campus, down by the heart shaped pond, where the Canadian honkers congregate every fall. Sam is with me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a snake, but I don’t take alarm. It doesn’t look venomous.

In fact, I think I’ll have a closer look, so I pick it up, and only in that instant, when my hand closes around its middle, do I realize the snake is poisonous, the worst kind. It whips around and sinks its teeth not into me, but into Sam. He screams, and then the snake bites me. Sharp, bruising pain runs up my arm where the fangs sink in. No blood. Rather, my skin turns instantly purple and shrinks away from the wound.

I have to grab it behind the head if I’m going to stop it. But the snake is out of control. It thrashes and bites me, three, four, five more times, then leaps away into the pond. But I have to catch it. I need it to make the antivenin. If I’m going to save Sam, I’ve got to mix the cure. I’m not so worried about me. I’m large enough. Even with six total bites, I can get to a hospital. But Sam is only four, and his time is running out.

So I dive into the pond, and instantly the snake surfaces, seizing me in its suddenly giant jaws before I can grab it. Inside the mouth, I stand up, smack my head on the putrid, dripping roof with a bone-jarring rattle, and push with my whole body until the fangs pry apart. I jump free, but the snake strikes. Its fangs penetrate my back, and it engulfs me. But then I seize it and begin choking, choking, until it shrinks away, dissolves into nothing.

The snake is gone, but I am still poisoned. And it has bitten Sam. I grab him and run towards the sacred heart chapel, where my Mom is waiting. The hill is long, the climb seems unbearable, and Sam’s weight is growing as the venom runs into his blood.

“It’s already bitten Sam!” I scream, when I finally crest the hill.

“The post office!” Mom says. “They know how to make the cure.”

So we race to my car, where she drives and I cling tightly to my child. Even as close as the post office is, we won’t make it. And so I leap into the air, through the roof of the car, and yes, I can fly. And if I can fly, then this is a dream, and I can leave. But Sam is trapped, and I’m floating away, swimming against the air trying to get back to him, but he stays in the car, which will not make it to the post office in time.

I sit up in bed, breathing hard, my body too hot for a room this cold.

When I go to Sam, he has wet the bed, and he tells me, “Mom, I had bad dreams. I don’t like snakes anymore.”

And I look out his window and see the snake, giant once more, staring in at us,  ready to strike, before I finally, finally wake up.

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a flicker of inspiration at Lightning Bug

Thanks to those who find me by following the link on the Lightning Bug flicker of inspiration linkup.

This post was written in response to The Lightning Bug’s Flicker of Inspiration prompt #22, which asked us to share our nightmares. As I said last week, my dreams have always been vivid, and they have an annoying habit of capturing little bits of reality to fool me. I can also typically roll right over and go back to sleep even from the most horrible ones and not fall into nightmares again. Mostly. Happy Halloween.

Caroline rides the wind

The first time Caroline rode her bike, she crashed, and thereafter felt as much terror about it as she did kite flying. Possibly more, because this involved her personal body. Part of the problem is that she’s just too big for conventional training wheels. Even her modest weight (I don’t think the child weighs 70 pounds) bends them up and out of shape when they’re attached to her 22” bike. (At eight, she’s skinny and tall.) Plus, a 22″ bike doesn’t balance well against those tiny training wheels. It’s too tall. They make training wheels for special needs kids, but they’re quite expensive, and the real solution is that she just has to learn how to ride the thing outright.

You can imagine how that went over.

So the bike, which was new last Christmas, has been sitting unused in our garage all year.

Then, suddenly, about a month ago, Caroline wandered into the office at some ungodly hour of the morning, while Scott and I were still trying to make the transition from “dead” to “awake” and said, “Let’s go to the park.”

“It’s too early,” we said in unison.

“Well then can I go out back and ride my bike?”

Bing.

The last time Mommy and Daddy woke up that fast, vomit or urine was involved.

We took her to the park, suited her up against another crash, and started dropping her down grassy hills. Slowly, she caught on, but it seemed like the more proficient she became, the less willing she was to practice. I didn’t want to push her too hard, but I knew better than to let her give up, either. It’s an area where Scott and I struggle to achieve balance in our lives, much as she does on the bike. The kid’s got Asperger’s syndrome, and it screws mightily with her vestibular system. I don’t want to put her in a situation where I’m asking the impossible of her. But. This is a bicycle she picked out, and it’s a goal she identified. She wants this. And she can do it. It’s just hard.

So one day of every weekend for the last month has been devoted to taking Caroline out to crash her bike at the park. But by last week, she was good enough to turn loose on pavement.

“I want to stay on the grass,” she argued.

“Honey, you can’t always ride your bike on the grass. You need to take the next step. Remember when you didn’t even want to ride it on  the grass?”

“But why.”

“Because riding your bike is freedom. It feels just like flying.”

She gave in, but I’m not sure she believed me. Let me show you.

This is Caroline.

OK, technically, she's on a field trip here

This is Caroline’s bike.Can you see the word "nasty" on it? She chose that. Along with the pretty-princess-bell

In a basket. In her room.

And here’s her gear.

This is Caroline, with her gear, getting on her bike.

Chanting all the things Blue chants in Rio, now that the "flight" metaphor has lodged in her brain.

Oh dear. Bike down.That's better.This… No, oopsie, this is Caroline

This is Caroline, on her bike, going down a hill.

Look up! Not down at your wheels!

Oh dear. This is Caroline.

Ohhh. That didn't feel nice. Brakes honey. And look forward.Careful now, kickstart, steer, look upAaand down.Once more, now. This is Caroline on an actual bike path.

This is Caroline’s thumb. Poor Caroline.

Skinned it. Ow.

This is Caroline, on the path that has been vexing her.

See her? Barely visible?

Oh yes. This is Caroline.

This is the bike path on a beautiful autumn day. Can you see Caroline?

Like magic, she's got it now.

Me neither.

Fly, baby.

Rabbit Run

I don’t understand why people run marathons. I have runner friends competing in everything from 5ks up through the real thing. (Bloggers, too.) I always tell them “Great job” when they share successes. I understand that this is a difficult goal they have set for themselves. I recognize that physical achievement is lauded in our society and that some people get an endorphin high from cardiovascular exercise.

But I’m really thinking, “Wait. The original marathon runner delivered his news and dropped dead.” Why do we want to repeat this? Why is doing so a feat of excellence?

I have walked in a couple of 5ks in pursuit of physical fitness. I consider them hot, miserable affairs that leave me dehydrated and sore. Weight loss is the only possible benefit. And I have to do cardio work to get ready for even those. I do not get an endorphin high off of exercise at all. For the most part, exercise actually makes me more angry, and I’m apt to snark Scott’s head off for an hour or more after a supposedly good workout. I force myself to do it, since I do believe I can increase my lifespan by improving my health. But running? Really? I have tried to run a couple of times in recent history, and the results were nausea from my hot feet, along with sore knees from jouncing along on my own weight. I hate running more than walking, because I wind up gasping for air sooner and it makes all my floppy bits jiggle extra flappily.

And all of this is relevant because The Bitch wants us to run a 5k. Not walk it. Run it. Why? My body doesn’t need dancer’s curves. I haven’t got a secret desire to stand on a podium holding up a medal. (And it’s a good thing, because even The Bitch admits we’d be starting near the back of the pack and finishing dead last.) There is no logic at all to this impulse, but she’s been yammering about it for weeks now.

The only purpose I can see to running a 5k is to demonstrate your physical prowess while building yourself up to suffer more. (Or possibly to skitter, in Updikean fashion, away from a problem.) But the bitch wants a piece of the action, and sooner or later, she’s going to get demanding. I hope she lets me wait until the first of next year to start training.

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Red Writing HoodThis post was composed in response to the Write on Edge Red Writing Hood:Athleticism prompt. Please post comments and discouragement below. If you must encourage her, I probably need to know about good shoes, knee braces, and plus sized sports bras (G cup).

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Dare to Share at The Lightning Bug

Thanks to the readers who found me on The Lightning Bug's weekend linkup

If you’re getting here from The Lightning Bug’s Dare to Share weekend, here’s a note. While this is my most-commented-on post to date, I feel like that’s really because I’ve just figured out the art of blog sharing, and this is one of the first ones I’ve written in response to a prompt and shared with the blogging (and blog-hopping) community. Before this, my most commented on post was this one: Dawn. I wasn’t sure which one to link to. And I never feel like I’m following any given set of instructions quite right. So this is my way of linking to both. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.

In Dreams

I’m naked again, and somehow I just now noticed in the middle of the hall. I duck around the corner and run outside, where I try to crawl under a bench. Nobody else seems to notice or mind my total exposure, and it’s ironic that this is the only time I seem to be completely invisible.

I walk into 8th grade Algebra and – bang! – it’s exam day. I haven’t studied, my eyes keep blurring out the questions, and this is the big test. The one that determines whether or not I go to high school. In fact, if I fail this one, they’re going to put me back in 6th grade and make me redo that, 7th, and 8th all three. I’m probably naked again, but I don’t stop to check, because I’m too busy frantically scribbling down answers in fuzzy pencil.

I’m thirty years old teaching college, and a letter comes. We regret to inform you that the program under which you avoided high school has been cancelled, you chickenshit. If you do not suck it up, return to Western Brown, and complete your eleventh and twelfth grade years, your undergraduate and graduate degrees will be nullified.

Just a dream, just a dream, just a dream.

I used to go to bed chanting that, because if I could keep up the patter, it would carry over into my sleep, and I could be certain that whatever was going on was just in my head. But I often lost my rhythm drifting off, and on those nights, everything seemed real. Pinching myself didn’t work, because I experience physical sensations in my dreams, and so I felt the pain. But I had other tests. I would try to remember a string of events that led me to reaching whatever point I had just gotten to. No memory of how I got to be standing nude in the middle of gym class? Then it probably wasn’t really happening.  My mind plays nasty tricks, though, and I could conjure memories of events I’d never experienced to fool myself into believing the horror.

So I would try to fly, and if I achieved liftoff,  then things were OK.  And if that didn’t work, I’d jump in a large body of water (I always seemed to have one handy) and try to breathe without surfacing. Of course, these things always worked when I remembered them, because it is rarely outside of a dream that I actually question reality in more than an abstract way.

When I was very young, my nightmares involved monsters chasing, but those stopped as soon as my accidentally wise father introduced me to horror films. Somehow, knowing about Poltergeist gave my subconscious a dividing line between dream and reality, and after that my nights were almost never filled with imaginary terrors. (Though I did go through a bad period when Freddy Krueger scared the hell out of me. Especially since there was a “Jesse” in the first Nightmare on Elm Street.) But mostly, the horror soothed, and I still I avidly read and watch it for the way it comforts me, limits my sleepless nights.

But it doesn’t stop me from dreaming. Instead, I dream about real things. Or possible realities. The schoolmares, where nakedness substituted for exposure, and my knowledge that everyone was talking about me behind my back (which was better than when they threw rocks) replaced the demon-monsters. And I think I would have traded back for the falsities given half a choice.

Still would. Because the monsters go away when I wake up. But the things that might be real, they linger. It’s actually been over two years since I had those particular nightmares, and it’s the first time since second grade that I’ve been free of them. But they still haunt my waking life, because getting bullied isn’t something that just goes away when you escape it.

My parents were bullied, too. So they were sympathetic to my plight. And Mom was in there advocating for me, ensuring that when I could take something to a teacher, the teacher was open to me. But how the hell do you prove the Jessie-hahas? How do you convince a teacher that the people behind you are whispering your name, then laughing about it, and, even if the teacher believes you, what can that teacher really do? The culprits have but to deny the action.

And even my parents were scared of making it worse for me. Mom feared that removing
me from one school would just leave me in another one to be bullied by different people. (And how would I have gotten to school with no bus?)  I was in 9th grade before I brought her around to supporting the homeschooling bid.  I  escaped for one blessed year. After that, things were better, because I became eligible to attend college. I could get high school and college credit simultaneously without ever darkening the high school’s doorstep.

In fact, by the time I was thirty, I had been collectively out of elementary and high school for far more years than I had ever been in them, and yet those were the experiences that brought me up-sitting awake from a dead sleep until comparatively recently. (And yet some people who know me, know me well, still fail to understand why I say my children will never attend public school. Can private schools have these problems? Oh yes. And I’m terrified for Sam already, with such a rocky start. But I have far more control over my children’s experiences right now than my parents ever had over mine, or than I could hope to have if they were in public school classrooms.)

And it wasn’t anything predictable that made the nightmares stop. Time and maturity brought no perspective. The medications I took typically included nightmares as side effects. (The phrase “Prozac nightmares” has social meaning.) And I have always been a vivid dreamer, even when the thoughts aren’t scary ones.

It was Facebook. I reconnected with an old friend, and everything changed in my sleeping mind. I had three long-term friends in elementary and high school, though only two of them actually went to my school. And those three friends have been my stalwarts. I never lost track of Jenny, Genie, or Rachel, or not really, and I can still sit down with any one of them and pick up a conversation as if we’d never stopped.

But I went through a period in seventh and eighth grade where I actually connected with a wider group of girls. One of them even rode my school bus. (And the bus ride was so much worse than actual school, because it was long and the other kids had nothing
better to do than torment.) However, we had started to drift by the time we got to ninth grade, and by the end of the year, we barely knew each other anymore.

The loss of that protective group affected me more profoundly than I realized at the time, and it was one of these women that I reached out to on Facebook. The one who rode the bus with me. I’ll tell you the truth. I was terrified. It is one of those moments like asking Scott out that I still relive with a reddening face and quaky hands. But where I know why I was afraid of speaking to Scott before I knew he might agree to a date, I cannot put a rational finger on why the memory of sending a friend request and message to Heather-who-rode-my-bus makes my heart constrict. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been much impacted if she had ignored me or my little note.

Perhaps it is precisely because she did not ignore me that I’ve had to stop typing twice now and remind myself to breathe. Heather reached back. Suddenly I found that she missed me, and that was when I realized how badly I had missed her. She welcomed my request so warmly that it healed a wound she had not created. I stopped having schoolmares almost entirely. So I reached out to the one other person who had been part of our group who is also on Facebook, and Carmen was glad to hear from me, too.

Their online friendship doesn’t undo a decade of being bullied for being a smart, outspoken girl who also happened not to be Christian. But it puts that decade more firmly in my past than in my present, and forces me to have nightmares about other things. Things that don’t linger as painfully after I open my eyes in the morning.

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a flicker of inspiration at Lightning Bug

Thanks to those who find me by following the link on the Lightning Bug flicker of inspiration linkup.

This post (which, to be clear, is nonfiction) was composed in response to The Lightning Bug’s flicker of inspiration Halloween linkup (#21). The actual prompt asked us to describe (show) rather than simply naming a horror. I went about it sideways (I always do) and incorporated the next prompt (#22), asking for nightmares.  I don’t say the word “bullied” until the halfway point, so I think I’ve met the original requirement here. And the school nightmares are worse than anything Stephen King can put on paper. Um. Not that I’m trying to challenge him or anything.

Property Theft

I lose my phone a lot. Like twice, sometimes three times a day. So when it went missing this weekend, I didn’t think much about it. But Scott and I tore up the house and car looking for it, and I started to consider it gone for good. I called the zoo, where I’d had it last, to make sure nobody had turned it in. No.

So I called T-mobile to see if I would lose my phone number if I replaced it. The woman explaining that I could keep my phone number, even if I had to have a new SIM card, also mentioned, “You have $7.95 worth of internet usage on it at this time.”. And that’s when I knew.

Right up until that moment, I’d never even considered the possibility. The phone is a couple of years old, its shell is cracked and peeling, and it’s just not a “keeper” device. We didn’t have a data plan on it. And if we didn’t have a data plan and it had eight bucks of internet use, then Baby, it was stolen.  However, the thief probably got sick of figuring out how to configure Facebook and threw it out the car window, which is why only eight bucks of damage occurred.

But at some point, someone took a picture.

And unknowingly posted it to my T-mobile account.

See, that particular phone has this annoying feature. Every time you snap a pic, it asks “Do you want to upload to ‘my album’”? And you click “yes” or “no”. And then, about half the time, whichever one you pick, it asks again “Do you want to upload to my album?” Sooner or later, even an intelligent person is going to screw up and click ‘yes’ when meaning ‘no’.

So, I’m not going to accuse this person ….

See? This person may be a ghost. It's October, I lost the camera at zoo boo, and he is surrounded by a bright white light.

The guy in front.

Note the white light. Maybe a halo.

Him.

Just look at his serious face. How humble the expression. I'm serious people. Ghost or angel.

Of being kind of dumb. After all, it’s a mistake I’ve made
myself.

Nor am I going to accuse him of stealing my phone. After all, he could have just accidentally picked it up after somebody else stole it, then navigated the three screens to the camera and snapped a self portrait.

In fact, I’m going to assume that’s exactly what he did. And from that assumption, I can only reach one logical conclusion. The worst. I think this man may be in trouble. This picture is a message to me. A cry for help. Here is a soul suffering, and only I can save him. But you’ve got to help me out. Since, after all, he and I are only connected through the slender thread of this picture uploaded through my phone, the only way I can possibly find him is by circulating his image on the web.  Please, help me find this man, and maybe, together, he and I can restore my phone to its rightful place. My hand.

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This is an oldie but a goodie. He really did me a favor and forced me into the world of the Smartphone, but still. It was annoying and a huge hassle. I’m linking up with Finding the funny! It’s several months later, and I’d still like to mentor him. Right into a jail cell.

Happy Anniversary Part II (Now That You’ve Met the Bride and Groom)

Yesterday, I introduced you to Scott as I first met him. Today, we’ll get married. Fast huh?

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Scott and I got married twice, though we only filed one certificate.

After we’d been living together about a year, we progressed to formal engagement in September of 2000. My grandmother informed me in no uncertain terms that she hated long engagements. She said, “I’ll die first”. Mind you, we were planning to have the ceremony roughly 13 months later, so I didn’t think it was a particularly long time to wait myself. Especially since we were both in grad school in Lexington, while we wanted to get married in Cincinnati.

By this point, Scott was heavily into his dissertation research and still teaching classes. I was just starting my library science degree, having survived an English MA with only moderate damage to everyone around me. I had a loathsome real world job (it only lasted six months). And Mummum was doggedly determined that a year away was too long.

She was right.

Purely aside from the fact that October 13, 2001 wound up being one month and 2 days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which she couldn’t have known, Mummum had a massive heart attack in December of 2000, and I’m pretty sure she did have a good idea that was coming. I was at work when Mom called with the news. It was my birthday. Mom and Poppa were with Mummum in the hospital, and the prognosis was very bad. I told Scott, “We have to get married now. She can’t be dead before our wedding.”

When I talked to Mom again that night, things were getting worse. The doctors couldn’t get enough oxygen to Mummum’s heart, and Mom had run into some young idiot resident or intern who didn’t seem to realize my grandfather was also still a licensed physician who maintained hospital privileges at his institution. This particular young buck told Mom and Poppa, as if he was explaining something obvious, “Well, she is seventy nine years old.”

Mom can sometimes get to the point of a conversation in just a few short words. She told the doctor, and even repeating it to me later, she snarled it, “She’s my mother.” And that is what should have been obvious.

I said, “Tell Mummum she has to wait for us. She has to get better because we’re  getting married in her hospital room.”

The next day, Scott and I went and got our license, and we bought some rings at Steinmart. On the phone that night, Mom said, “About the same time we told her you were coming, they got the oxygen flowing. She may pull through.” And I thought It worked. It’s working. Because when I told Scott “We have to get married right now,” I was really thinking, Maybe we can do magic. Maybe we can save her.  But I knew we had to follow through to make sure.

Since she was improving, Mummum had to have some kind of procedure on the following day, a Saturday. So it was Sunday, December 17, before we could finally go get married at the hospital. We stood by my grandmother’s bed and exchanged vows and rings with help from a nice Baptist minister who also signed the certificate that we didn’t file. We knew Scott’s family would feel cheated if we actually got married-married in Kentucky almost a year ahead of our planned wedding in Ohio.

We also didn’t file because Mummum lived. If she had gotten worse or died, we would have gotten that certificate finalized. Because it meant that much to both of us. My grandmother had to be there. But the ceremony was enough. Her health turned around, operating became possible, and she came home a couple of days before Christmas. She soldiered on for five more years after that.

We all resumed our lives and went back to planning for October. In this, my mother-in-law was a godsend. My Mom has never enjoyed ceremonies or formal functions, and she felt elopement would be wisest. So Scott and I needed his Mom’s assistance very badly. We were in a totally different city, and neither one of us had the first clue about weddings.

Betty was the ultimate wedding planner. Even though she was a scientist working five days a week herself, she would go scout out four or five options in any one category, then show them to us when we came up north for a weekend. She worried that she was stepping on my Mom’s toes and wasn’t quite sure that Mom was really as anti-wedding as we insisted. Believe me, my mother will never be an ‘event’ person.

Betty had a knack for figuring out things that would appeal to us, too. She wasn’t just giving us ideas she enjoyed. She drove us to potential reception locales until we chose the perfect spot. She found for us (at our request) the little bakery that had done Scott’s sister Judy’s cake. And that baker agreed to do a stack of books with titles written on the spines in icing. (Romance 101, Encyclopedia M-P, and on the top layer, True Love.) For our topper, we supplied a pair of ducks, because those were symbolic to our engagement, when we were surrounded by a whole flock at a lake near our apartment.

Yes, that is icing on my arm. No, I don't remember how it got there.

Betty got in touch with our photographer.  He had retired since doing Scott’s sister Holly’s wedding pictures, but he came out for us and actually gave us the photographs and negatives as a gift. Betty navigated the church reservation. And she even helped me pick out my dress.

That dress has become something of a running joke in the family. Along with my plans never to get married, I was never going to wear a horrible white gown. I didn’t, and still don’t, much like white clothing. It’s bland, and it exposes everything about your body by being so invisible on its own. But Scott wanted a white wedding, and I didn’t fight it. Everyone tried to tell me “you can pick ivory or cream” and didn’t seem to realize I wasn’t buying the distinction. To me, a white dress was a white dress was a white dress. Eggshell, ivory, cream, they all meant the same thing to me: I was going to have to take an interest in my appearance. If I wanted to look like anything but a fool in a wedding gown, I had to lose at least fifty pounds.

Sixty would have been better, but I was a realist. At two hundred pounds, with a thirteen month lead, fifty pounds was probably all I could get off before I had to actually wear the thing. Anyway, since I was wearing the dress for Scott, I wanted him to like it, and I wanted him to come pick it out. Unfortunately, bridal shops still exist in a Twilight Zone,
where you step through the doors and walk back eighty years. Men just don’t go there. I terrorized a couple of them with my husband-to-be before I just went to David’s Bridal, which was at least a little more modern. They still warned the whole building that there was a man in the dressing room, but they at least let him accompany me. I still don’t see the problem. The women are behind closed doors surrounded by a bevy of employees and flighty friends and relatives. My lone male posed no threat to them whatsoever. My God – he’d have been mobbed before he even got close to seeing a bare leg, let alone someone in panties.

By the time we got to David’s we were running late for premarital counseling with our pastor. So I had time to try on exactly one dress. Everybody but me was planning on multiple shopping trips.  We were a little more than a month away from the wedding, and I only had about five more pounds to lose. I was as ready to look decent in white as I ever would be, and I did not intend to dwell on the choice. I checked sizes on the rack and put on the first one that would fit me.

“Do you like it?” I asked Scott. He did.

“Do you like it?” I asked Betty. She did.

I said “Great. It should be perfect in five pounds, here’s a credit card.” And I left my stunned mother-in-law to pay for the purchase.

It was very hard to convince people that I didn’t consider a wedding an excuse to look like a princess. The dress was gorgeous, but then anything would have been. They don’t exactly make wedding dresses to look bad, and I wasn’t going to be entirely comfortable wearing white no matter how nice it looked. I didn’t wear a veil, I picked some high heels out of a catalog, and I paid for my bridesmaids’ gowns, because Good Christ if they were going to be stuffed into random lavender on my account when we were all broke, the least I could do was finance their suffering. (We all had the same abysmal shoes, by the way, which we nicknamed the cardboard high heels. In those I could have done much better.)

Except for the ceremony, the shoes spent almost no time on my actual feet

And I asked Poppa to walk with me down the aisle, because that was a little less like ‘giving the bride away’, and because seriously, if there was a reason I could jump within a date into knowing that I wanted to have kids with a man, then it was because I had been paying more attention to my grandparents than I realized for my whole life.

When the pastor saw that we had four little kids in the wedding, he said, "you DO want a circus, don't you".

Just about the only vendor choices we made entirely on our own were the florist (who I think had done the beautiful bouquets for Scott’s stepbrother’s wedding) , and the DJ. Of those two, the florist was by far the better selection. Swann’s gave us everything we needed and then some, and at reasonable prices. The DJ, not so much.

I didn’t really want a DJ anyway, because I know that the job requires a lot of ego investment. DJs tend to think of themselves as the party masters, who control everything from the room’s tone to its noise level. And I had no use for someone else being in charge of our reception. But everybody acted like you just had to have a DJ, so I hired a guy. Take note world, I’m not just stuck up when it comes to music. I am a downright music snob. I explained this to our DJ and asked him point blank if he had a problem with it. He said he didn’t, and I gave him exact instructions and a two hundred song playlist. We sat down together to go over my list, and I supplied the songs he was lacking, most especially the version of “Rainbow Connection”, as sung by Kermit the Frog, that Scott and I were going to dance to at the reception. (Though “dance” is probably too strong a word for what we planned to do. We intended to engage in some heavy swaying.)

While we waited for the lost members of the wedding party, the photographer got some gorgeous pictures of Scott and I alone together.

After the ceremony, which was peaceful and perfect, the whole wedding party rode to the reception in the limo. But then one bridesmaid and all three groomsmen needed to return immediately to the church to get their cars. The rest of us waited a little while for them to get back, but we eventually had to start eating without them.  It was 2001, and almost none of us owned cell phones. (Dennis probably did, but, as there was nobody he could call, it wasn’t much use.) They were lost, we knew it, and there wasn’t a thing we could do to help out. As I went through our buffet line, I realized that the DJ
was playing some random mood crap that wasn’t on my list. It was lyric-free muzak garbage. Not at all what I was paying the man for. I went over and said, “Um, do you think you could start playing some real music?” He mumbled something and changed discs.

For instance, there was this wall outside the reception hall. We climbed it (shoes and all) and the photographer snapped us.

About that time, the rest of the wedding party arrived, and the DJ got a gleam in his eyes. “Oh no you don’t.” I told him.

“What? I’m just getting ready to announce the bride and groom.”

“For heaven’s sake we’ve already been here an hour and a half. Why would we want that?”

“Haven’t you been looking forward to walking into the room and hearing me say “Presenting Mr. And Mrs. Scott Merriman”?

“My first name isn’t Scott, my last name isn’t Merriman, and no.” Yet another person invested in the bloody princess thing.

But I did borrow his mike for the toasts.

Later, while we were eating, I realized he was still playing trash. I went over and said, “I gave you a playlist and loaned you CDs. Why are we still hearing this crap?”

“I’m saving that for the dancing.”

How long did he think we were planning to dance? That was our reception music.

I said “You are envisioning yourself announcing songs. You are imagining the acceptance of requests. You hear your own voice in your head saying ‘Here’s a little number for all the single ladies’. You’re thinking I have a piece in there so I can dance with my Dad, and you can’t wait for the electric slide, which isn’t on my list. I told you what music we would be playing tonight, and I told you every single title I wanted.”

He argued, “You might as well just have a CD player and a stack of discs!”

“That was what I wanted in the first place. I gave you a list. Play it now, or else leave.”

He left.

Walking past Scott on my way out back to grab the checkbook, I said, “I just fired the DJ.”

Scott said, “Ohhkay” and let it go. He knew perfectly well that it wasn’t a case of what would now be called Bridezilla. I had pretty much turned all the other professionals loose to do their jobs. I fired the DJ because he lied to me when he told me up front that he would play my list, and I am, as I said, a total music snob.

To his credit, the jerk refused payment. All he took was the hundred dollar deposit I’d given him in the first place. Pretty cheap for wedding music. Pretty expensive for muzak.

Anyway, that was the craziest moment of the whole day. My sister, usually a source for quite a lot of drama, showed up before the ceremony, stayed put for exactly one photograph, then left before we could actually get married. Dad played a song in the ceremony. We lied and told the pastor it was esoterically religious in nature, and that could have led to upset, but it didn’t. It also wasn’t a problem that Dad opted out on the reception. My Mom and grandparents were still present, along with all of Scott’s family, and somewhere around fifty good friends. It was perfect.

Oh, and my grandparents? The photographer caught them in this moment. It is their last good picture together, and it takes at least 20 years off their faces, especially my grandmother’s. Mummum was always camera shy, so getting her to look comfortable on film, even before glaucoma practically blinded her, was always difficult.

Here, Poppa clearly didn’t tell her a photograph being taken, and I’m honestly not sure he noticed. So she didn’t look up, and he didn’t look over. You can see Poppa in profile, showing Mummum the cake’s bottom layer. The top of her head and her good side are visible. Her ruined eye is turned away and down, and they are standing together, holding on to each other, the very image of how I want to look with Scott if we both make it to eighty.

Mummum and Poppa. Aren't they beautiful?

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If you found me from StoryDam, hi there! I figured this is one of the better sense-of-Jessie posts you'll find.

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Thanks to the readers who found me on The Lightning Bug's weekend linkup