Tag Archives: Memories

A Sixth-Grader’s Nightmare: Christmas Edition

6 Dec

709fd2be62450971e334b29ee4c7f54aMortified. Horrified. Petrified.

I used to flip through teen magazines to the back section, a place where girls would write in to share their most distressing personal tales of embarrassing mishaps. “It was mortifying!!!” said every girl ever.

How awful! That would never happen to me, I thought. And as I chuckled over their misfortunes, in the back of my mind, I prayed that similar events would never happen to me.

Wrong.

It was my sixth-grade year. Instead of a traditional Christmas chorus concert, the entire grade put on the play The Runaway Snowman. Four kids would lead the production while the rest of the grade chimed in as the choir. I was one of those lucky few selected to fill one of the acting/singing parts.

This is it, I thought. People will recognize me, my talent, what I can bring to the table. As a sixth grader, I was consumed with the ideas of popularity, fitting in and standing out (go figure). And without athletic talent, this was an arena that I could perhaps shine in somehow.

So after many practices, our class was ready to present the show to our parents. It was a Friday afternoon and I spent the entire school day beaming. I was a star, I was brimming with absolute joy and excitement. My fellow cast mates and I were let out of class early to prepare for the production. A band director’s office was our costume slash prop room, and we had carefully laid out our clothes and makeup ahead of time.

After the lead character, the snowman, had put on his ensemble and headed out the door, I prepared to put on a dark blue jumper dress and a pair of my mother’s high heels. Not only was I playing the part of an adult woman, I would look the part. Absolutely stunning. There was a boy in the choir that I had been crushing on hard core. I kept thinking with the blush, lipstick and outfit (forget the thick glasses, buck teeth and braces), it would be hard to not take notice of me on stage.

And standing with just my Pocahontas underwear on (I was changing from my sports bra to a training bra), it happened. The door opened. And not one, or two, but four of my fellow male classmates happened to be standing right there. Wide mouthed.

I didn’t know what to do. How did they get in? Why were they here? What did they see?

I started to scream, “Get out! Get out!” I suddenly crossed my arms against my bare chest, realizing what they had just seen.

And the guys started screaming and running from the door, almost as horrified as I was.

I leaped under the teacher’s desk, crouched, breathing heavily. Was this a dream? It had to be. No way would something this horrible happen – it was too humiliating.

The frightened boys had come into the classroom to get the props for the stage, and I had forgotten to lock the door for privacy.

Something that people have nightmares about just happened to me. A 12-year-old girl just gave some of the cutest boys in school quite a show.

I couldn’t go back out there, even with just 15 minutes until the production would start. It took quite a bit of coaxing from the director to get me to show my face, and the confidence I had displayed earlier (after displaying my assets) was completely out the window.

For months, I couldn’t live it down with students teasing me about the incident. The boys were also unable to make eye contact with me or utter more than two words at a time in my presence.

Honestly, I hadn’t remembered the incident until a few days ago. Repression has most likely hidden many of my middle school slip-ups – especially terrible ones like this one.

After the event, it was difficult to visit that embarrassing moments page in the magazines. Part of the fun was knowing those events couldn’t happen to you. But I now knew for a fact that they could.

And although it was the worst thing that had happened to me at that time of my life, a few years later, I would understand that I could fill a couple pages with horrible moments similar to this one.

Home For Christmas?

27 Nov
Q and I, Christmas 2012. If you notice, she's choking me by pulling my new necklace, but I'm pretending not to notice. I did, btw.

Q and I, Christmas 2012. If you notice, she’s choking me by pulling my new necklace, but I’m pretending not to notice. I did, btw.

I hate missing out. The last couple weeks have been kind of mopey for me, as I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back to Iowa for the traditional holiday celebrations. As much as I have been acclimating to the area, I haven’t missed a Thanksgiving or Christmas back home before. But flights at this time of year are crazy expensive. Of course, I don’t have much to complain about as I have racked up quite a few frequent flier miles this year with weddings, a bridal shower, and my own nuptials. But the family traditions, that is something I have a hard time with missing. Turkey Day isn’t as big of a deal for me, even though the Black Friday shopping with my mom and sister is something I always looked forward to. It’s Christmas, well Christmas Eve to be exact. We attend Mass, have a big oyster stew dinner, open a few gifts and play games. This has been our tradition since I was a small child, and it hasn’t changed. Sure I could Skype, but that would probably make me more homesick.

I spent days scouring sites for plane ticket costs. My favored non-stop route started at $900, which made me pretty sick to my stomach. It did not fit at all in with my short-term budgeting. But I had used up all my time off at work for the wedding, and I didn’t have many other options. Come another time, my mom said, we can make it Christmas any time of the year. And as much as I wanted to believe her, I grumbled and groaned about how it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t.

New York is amazing at this time of year – with the lights, the shopping, the excitement, it’s hard to find another place that feels as … magical. But it’s not home. All it takes is for me to hear “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” or one of those similar tunes, and I just crumble.

Finally, in all my complaining, my husband offered that I just go home for the holidays. To buy my expensive ticket and get back to Iowa. He wanted me to know that if it meant that much to me, he could stay and spend Christmas alone. It’s odd how a statement like that will change how you feel about the situation. I mean, I love my family and want to be with them, but this guy is my family and I couldn’t imagine spending the holiday without him. And the fact that he made such a generous offer at his expense, well, yeah he’s a pretty good guy. So we decided to stay put unless flights got a little cheaper. I wasn’t blissful, but I knew I could manage to have a really great Christmas with new traditions with him.

And then I found out I had miscalculated how much time off I still had left, which left me with a few days of wiggle room. And then all of a sudden, an airline had a crazy sale, and we realized that we could go back – with some strict budgeting and tighter gift spending. We will be flying back to NYC on Christmas morning, but that is okay with me.

I’m so happy that I will be able to go back to Iowa, but now, I’m more psyched about this whole marriage deal I have. I got lucky and snagged a really great person to be my partner. He’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness for me, and I’m pretty grateful. So while everyone is having their turkey celebrations, we will be heading off on a tiny honeymoon celebration together, which I’m pretty stoked about. So, I must say, the holidays are turning out to be pretty great after all. :)

So Blessed

5 Nov
This photo was taken by my now sister-in-law Nicole.

This photo was taken by my now sister-in-law Nicole.

Wonderful. Absolutely, spectacularly wonderful. On my flight back to New York City, I can’t think of anything I would change about my weekend in Iowa (except for it to have been longer). I saw many of the people that I love all in one place. I spent time in a beautiful place at a gorgeous time of year. And I married the love of my life.

And while a majority of my time was devoted to the wedding, I was able to savor the pace of life back in Webster City. Trick-or-treating with my one-year-old niece, all dressed up in a donkey costume. Having family meals at my childhood home. Cuddling with my anxiety-ridden kitty Suki. Hiking through Briggs Woods and stopping by the local library.

The wedding was beautiful – at a winery near Ames, with decorations to go with the season. The backdrop to the ceremony was perfect with the ever-changing colors of the tree leaves peering through the glass wall of the reception hall as the sun set.

What I take back from this experience is how truly blessed I am. The amount of love and generosity shown to me by everyone we encountered was astounding. Dear family and friends worked tirelessly to make sure that each detail was accounted for. Tiny snags were quickly mended and everything went seamlessly. My wedding party was everything that I could possibly ask for. If I needed anything at any time during the process, each of my attendants were completely willing to perform each and every task. My matron of honor (also sister) made sure that there was nothing I could even think of that needed to happen that hadn’t already took place. And while each one of us live in different areas of the country, we all shared so much laughter and conversations – it was like nothing had changed between my childhood friends. Our families were just … awesome. My parents, dear lord I tear up thinking of what they had done for me. And seeing all of my family and friends – old and new – all in one place … wow. Even though I wish I could stop at each table and have endless conversations with all that attended, just seeing people, some that I haven’t seen in years, was so great.

And last, but definitely not least, my beautiful husband. From the love poem he read at the ceremony to the laughter we shared over cheap take out in our hotel room near the airport last night – I can’t imagine anyone else that I would want to spend my life with. In all the planning, we spent a lot of time apart. But when we put our wedding clothes on – taking pictures and saying our vows, I kept thinking, “Oh yeah, you. I’m here to marry you. And I am so happy at this very moment.”

The last two days have been exhausting, yet I smile at the thought of all that hoopla and excitement that we were able to share with people we deeply care about. Hopefully someday in the near future, we can be closer to quite a few of them and spend more day-to-day time in their presence. But for now, I am just completely happy and so unbelievably blessed.

I Heart MST3K

21 Oct

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I bought a stockpile of “classic” Halloween movies a week ago. Unfortunately, I accidentally shipped them to my parents’ house in Iowa.

So I guess I won’t be seeing them until after the fact. Last year, I was too broke to consider purchasing “The Addams Family” movies, “Hocus Pocus”, “Beetlejuice”, or my sister’s favorite television show “The Munsters”. I couldn’t fathom spending a few bucks on a pre-owned copy of the ’80s magic that is “Teen Witch”, without thinking about my empty bank account.

So what’s a girl to do without these masterpiece videos? Netflix, of course. For a thrill, we’ve gone through Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”, delved into “Paranormal Activity” for a sleepless night, and “Blair Witch Project”-ed myself.

But what about the humorous, the lighthearted that my trick-or-treating self enjoyed so much in earlier days? I looked no further than what is absolutely near-and-dear to my heart: MST3K. For those of you non-nerds that haven’t immersed yourself in a 24-hour extravaganza of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you are missing out.

Introduced by my dad, we never could get enough of this Minneapolis-based show when it first appeared on Comedy Central. The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t devoted just to turkey, no, it was also about “Gamera”, “Zombie Nightmare” and other D-rate movies. Listening to robots and humans make fun of the horrors of cinema made us have such gut-wrenching belly laughs, there was nothing like it. We had quite a few of them dubbed on VHS tapes, and after school or on Saturday afternoons, my two siblings and I would spend hours rewinding the parts we found the funniest. It got to the point where we would find old movies on television and try our hand at sarcasm – sending us in a fit of hysterics over our own humor.

The best were the shorts – 15-minute films that were obviously shown to the youth of the ’60s in P.E. class. My personal favorite was a half-hour black and white promotional flick from Iowa State University. In an effort to recruit the female persuasion to their home ec studies program, the college created one of the most sexist and hilarious films of all time. Add in the snark of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, and you have got just the best thing around.

My fiancee has been subjected to my family’s humor time and time again, and he has been forced to watch a couple of our all-time favorite episodes. Instead of watching a traditional holiday movie last Christmas Eve, we chose “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” – it just seemed fitting.

We were able to find a few of the episodes on Netflix a couple nights ago. We chose “The Final Sacrifice” on Saturday evening. On Sunday, neither one of us could stop repeating some of the more memorable lines from the show. So imagine my surprise, when Nate and I sat down to watch an hour of TV and he suggested, “Um, could we watch another one of those?” I didn’t even suggest the beloved series, he did it all on his own. How ’bout that?

I knew I picked the right guy.

A Playlist For Now

15 Oct

MIX_CD_03-320x213

For the wedding festivities, we decided to make mixed CDs for our party favors. Not only because we are huge music lovers, but burning  discs on our parents’ heavy desktop computers was a big part of our courtship early on.

We both worked at the same Fareway grocery store, and I’d be so excited for my four-hour shift after school because it meant stocking shelves side by side. N and I saw enough of each other in school with jazz and concert band, but this just gave us another excuse to hang out. We weren’t official during this time period and we didn’t need labels in order to justify anything to our friends – just hanging out, sticking labels on cans. He had long hair, wore “skateboarder-inspired” ensembles, including black rubber bracelets and his beloved Converse sneaks. And I thought that was so hot. On the days I worked and he didn’t, I would venture out to my ’91 Corsica at 10:30 p.m. to see a taped piece of paper with a note and drawings. A lot of time that was accompanied by a burned CD with a very carefully picked out playlist. (This was not at all creepy, we both lived three blocks away from the store. IT WAS ROMANTIC, DAMMIT!)

When I ventured off to college while he played out his junior year in high school (I was such a cougar), I always seemed to bring back to school with me a new mixed CD. Each one had a different feel – perhaps it was just really, really good music that he was excited to share. Other times, it was as if there was hidden messages in each of the lyrics just for me (when you are 19, everything is about you.)

So we had a great time picking out 18 different songs from our present, all currently on our Spotify going-to-work playlists for our party favors. Some remind us of the peaks and valleys of our relationship, and others are just super awesome listen-to’s.

One will be our first dance: “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young. And you know what? It’s not really a conventional love song at all – it’s more of a breakup song of longing, if my interpretation is correct. But damn, it’s good. And at times during our relationship when we were broken up, all we did want was what was best for both of us. And that still holds true.

Andrew Bird, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam and Josh Ritter sing of love – break-ups, make-ups, happiness and tragedy – things that I feel are important in creating a solid relationship. Hopefully, the songs in our future playlists are as diverse and as interesting as the ones we want included in our special day.

Understanding 9/11

11 Sep
The Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, N.J.

The Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City, N.J.

Each workday, I enter and leave through the Port Authority Trans-Hudson hub that sits right next to the World Trade Center. The six-minute train ride underneath the river lets me sort out my thoughts before my short jaunt to the building that houses Soap Opera Digest. At 6 p.m., I stroll back home past the New York Stock Exchange, gothic buildings and churches in the Financial District. As soon as I hit Fulton Street, I look straight ahead. There, the Freedom Tower stands prominently, and I have to tilt my head up to see the entire building with its newly placed spire.

As soon as I open the door to my brownstone apartment in Jersey City, I can see the tower standing alone in the distance. I am reminded day after day, time after time, of 9/11.

When it happened, I was a senior at Webster City High School. We had a two-hour in-service that morning and my mom was busy talking to my uncle Dave on the phone about some things that needed fixing in the house. He must have said, “Turn on the news!” because my mom hurriedly flipped on the small TV in my parent’s bedroom. She let out a small shriek and covered her mouth, as we both watched the second plane hit. I knew it was a big deal, I knew that this was horribly wrong but as a 17-year-old, I just felt numb. We went to school and many of our teachers nixed our studies and left the television on so we could continue to watch the coverage. During lunch and cafe, we went back to talking about cross country, boys, our usual conversations. Why? We were kids, that’s why. It’s not easily digestible information that planes were being flown into buildings. That thousands of people had just died a couple hours ago. That there was so much hate.

As my senior year rolled on, I thought more about myself, as teenagers do, and kept up on the news when it fit my schedule. In the years following, I let what happened sink in. Call it maturity or finally allowing myself to unshield my eyes to the atrocities – it happened.

Since moving here, I have talked with native New Yorkers and people who lived here during the attacks. Where they were, people they know that had died – each person had a different story, but talked about it like it happened yesterday. When I first started working in Battery Park, I was very aware of the WTC site. After awhile, I started to get lost in my own thoughts and wouldn’t look up, the sounds of construction turning into background noise.

A couple months ago, I decided to watch 9/11 documentaries, like the ones produced by National Geographic. I watched YouTube videos of the attacks happening during the Today Show, of people getting off the PATH train and finding out about the carnage as they were getting out of the hub. I saw all the surrounding buildings that I walk by every day. I saw people sprinting down the streets that I walk every day. I pictured myself on one of my normal workdays, getting out of the train at the same time it happened. It’s now more real than it has ever been.

I have read the names of people at the memorial aloud; to fully understand that some of these normal people lived in the same neighborhood I do, probably frequented some of the same pubs, and hung out in the parks where I like to read.

Now, I don’t walk back and forth caught up in the music I am listening to or thinking about what I’m about to cook for dinner. I always look up at the Freedom Tower and think about that day and all the people affected. I think about the people trapped in the higher floors and others falling to their death. I see fire trucks daily on their way to some emergency and think about all those firefighters who climbed the stairs with all that heavy gear.

If living here has done one thing, it’s that I realize that life is truly a gift. One not to be wasted or squandered. It could have been any one of these people that I walk to work with, the sea of people heading off to their full-time jobs. Sometimes when something so horrific happens in a far-off place, it’s hard to take a walk in their shoes and understand that those affected are just normal people. Listening to their headphones, planning their grocery list, thinking of the weekend ahead.

If I didn’t let it sink in then, 12 years ago, I have definitely let it sink in now.

I Want My Iowa State Fair

10 Sep

This year marked the second in a row that I missed the Iowa State Fair. A record for this gal. And while I have partaken in the fried butter, fried Twinkies, and well, basically most things fried, what I miss the most from this yearly extravaganza is the people watching. It’s a mecca of awesomeness. So while I mourn the fact that I missed Iowa’s largest pig and the llama limbo (llamas do limbo, I saw it with my own eyes), here is a column that I wrote a couple years back.

Iowa_State_Fair_-_CITR_14

This is the perfect time of year for certain items: 1) Buying mosquito spray in bulk just to keep your current blood supply at its necessary level; 2) Finding that certain Spider Man or Pokemon (or whatever cartoon creature is hot these days) backpack. And lunch box. And folders; and, 3) Meandering your way to the Iowa State Fair.

The third item is just necessary. There is no other event like it … anywhere. Where can you people-watch and see not one, not two, but four women in their muumuus and bedroom slippers outside in public? You can go from building to building – and each year there is something new. Either a new food, a new display or a new, albeit, weird experience.

A few summers ago, I worked as an intern in the Iowa State Fair marketing department. I worked on the daily schedule, press releases and various events at the fair.

For the 10 days of the fair, I worked a vigorous schedule from morning ’til night. Most of the time, I was stuck at a desk writing press releases about all of the contests and shows happening.

So that I would not go crazy – I decided to do something out of the ordinary to make my time there a more memorable experience. I was going to try it all – the food, that is.

The staff received a few food vouchers but not many, so it was also an experience on my wallet. It made me sad watching the debit machine pump out cash as my balance dwindled.

And I wasn’t going to just eat my favorite foods, I was going to eat everything (or try to). This will sound absurd to those who know me as I have a very particular appetite. With the way that I eat, I could almost be considered semi-vegetarian as I don’t prefer to eat a lot of meat.

I started off slow on my journey – going for the familiar. Every morning, I would try a new stand for coffee and something breakfast-oriented. That was easy – I’m not a huge breakfast fan but I’m okay with the bakery variety.

But when it came to lunch, that was where I got creative. Most of the items were portable – on a stick or easy to carry in one hand. From the average corn dog to the pork chop on a stick to fried pickles, anything was fair game.

Around the sixth day of my experiment, I decided to try the food I most dreaded: The grinder. The smell of the stand made me want to gag. But I went for it. And it wasn’t horrible. It didn’t make me throw up. But I probably won’t try it again.

For desserts, again it was the food on the stick variety: fried Twinkies, Snickers, monkey tail (chocolate-covered banana) and ice cream bars.

Weighing probably a good 10 pounds heavier after the fair, I judged what was good for me. It was surprising on what I found the best and the worst. For example, I thought I would enjoy a salad on a stick. Found out it wasn’t really worth the money. But here are a few of my favorite finds:

Coffee and pastries: From the Wooden Shoe food stand outside of the Varied Industries Building on the Grand Concourse. Amazing Dutch letters.

Best homemade lemonade: Surprisingly not at any of the stands. It’s in the indoor stand of Peterman in the Old Pioneer Building. (Try their cheeseburgers.)

Pork chop: The Iowa Pork Producers’ stand.

Fried anything: Anything from the Veggie-Table stand outside Varied Industries Building.

Root beer: Griffin stands.

Best dessert: Cookies in a cup out of the Barksdale stand outside Varied Industries Building.

Corn dog: Campbell’s Concession stands, located everywhere.

Best overall: Hot beef sundae located at the Beef Quarters’. Trust me, totally worth it.

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