The signs are everywhere

When I woke up today, I found two posts on my long distance, online, pretend boyfriend’s Facebook page. The first was a link to the Pearl Jam song, Better Man. I decided to read through the rest of his page before I made any comments.

The next post was a story about a man who got arrested for chasing a bear. It included this bit of wisdom: Getting drunk and chasing bears through the woods with a dull hatchet is “strongly not advised.”

At first, the advice about the bear seemed unnecessary. If you’re drunk enough and foolish enough to chase a bear with a hatchet, you’re not going to listen to anybody anyway. But then I realized, this was more than it appeared to be. This wasn’t just a story about a drunk and a bear. This was a sign. This was The Powers that Be warning me, “don’t comment about the Pearl Jam song!”.

Attack of the…

Walked into the dark living room to check the door. As I reached for the doorknob I felt something crawl from my sleeve and down my arm… something big. Being the reasonable adult I am, I screamed and failed about as I beat the hell out of my left arm. Finally I managed to turn on the light and verified that I had killed it. That’ll be the last time I have any trouble from THAT dryer sheet.

Monkey see, monkey do

My grandparents had a big mimosa tree in their yard that was perfect for climbing if you were a girl about 9 years old. One summer day I wanted to climb the mimosa tree, but my aunt said I shouldn’t because her son was there, and he was too young to climb a tree. Then to clarify her point she added, “monkey see, monkey do”. This was the first time I had heard that phrase, so I begged an explanation. She told me that whatever I did my cousin would want to do. I didn’t get to climb the tree that day, but that was okay because I had a lot to think about.

If I had looked at it from another perspective I would have realized that monkey see, monkey do was a familiar dynamic in my life. But I was used to being the little monkey, always wanting to do what my big sister did. [It occurs to me that my sister needs a pseudonym. I can’t go on calling her “my big sister” forever. So, what the Hell… let’s call her Marcia] I was forever apeing Marcia, and she’d call me a copycat, I’d say no I’m not, and it went on and on and on. The concept wasn’t new to me at all, but it looked new. I was the big monkey? Amazing. I immediately began to think about how I would test my new found power.

I was an insomniac from my earliest memory, so I was always the last one to wake up. The day after the day I didn’t get to climb the mimosa tree, I woke up (last, as usual) at my aunt’s house. I went in to the kitchen for breakfast. Everyone else was finished, except for my cousin. He was still sitting at the table with a bowl full of cereal, and across from him was a place set for me, with my empty cereal bowl. Without saying a word I picked up my empty bowl and flipped it over onto my head. My aunt walked into the kitchen just in time to see her precious baby boy pick up his bowl full of cereal, and make good on her prophecy.


I go for long walks with my dog every chance I get, and I track our distance with an app on my phone. My old phone had a female robot voice that would update me with our progress. From time to time she would say something helpful like, “one…mile…in…seventeen…minutes…four…seconds…lap…pace…seventeen…minutes…four…seconds”. I liked this friendly robot lady.

My new phone has the most seductive female voice I’ve ever heard. After every mile she coos “one mile in seventeen minutes four seconds. Lap pace…” in a way that would make a phone sex operator blush. I still find it helpful to have that information, but on a nice day when there are lots of people out walking you might find me loitering on the path, just shy of the one mile mark.

The Wake-up Fairy wars

I had a nemisis in kindergarten. That probably says something terrible about me, but there it is… I had a nemisis. I can’t remember her name now, or anything else about her. I can’t remember why we hated each other, but we were in constant competition for the entire year.

There wasn’t much to compete for in church kindergarten but each day we would have nap time, and the kid who could be the quietest during nap time would be named “The Wake-up Fairy”. It may seem like a dubious honor, but being Wake-up Fairy came with privledges. First, the Wake-up Fairy got to wake up before all of the other children. Then he or she would be given the wake-up wand (which looked remarkably like a yardstick). It was his or her job to tiptoe around the room tapping the little children on the shoulder one by one to wake them up. You got to pick who woke up first, so the Wake-up Fairy had a little bit of power.

Every day my nemisis and I would compete fiercly for the title of Wake-up Fairy. I’m sure it would be a tough contest for most 5 year-olds, but the nemisis and I took it to a level that was untouchable by anyone else in the class. It was the hardest thing I did all day. It was impossible to relax but the slightest movement would be a forfeit, so I would spend nap time lying on my mat with every muscle tensed, stiff as a board, and absolutely motionless. It was rare that I lost. She was weak…maybe she was actually trying to nap.  Whatever the cause, she couldn’t hold a candle to me. I believe I still hold the world record for Wake-up Fairy titles.

So each day. I would tip-toe around the class room, wake-up wand in hand, and I’d wake my classmates one by one, starting with the ones I liked best that day. As I performed by Wake-up Fairy duties, I would keep one eye on the teacher, and as soon as I was able to verify that she was thoroughly distracted, I would wander over to my nemesis and, with a tight grip on my wand, I’d whack her on the head!

Age is just a number…

Enjoying some harmless flirting with a security guard at work, when he hits me with this… he’s “25…almost 26”. He might as well have said “25 going on 26”. Half my age! Of course I had a mild panic attack,  which he attempted to cure by telling me age is just a number. Yes, sweetie… fractions are numbers, too.

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That weird braid

Christal, my high school best friend, had alopecia areata for most of her life. Occasionally she would lose all of her hair, and when that happened she had to wear a wig. Usually she only lost some of her hair, though. At any given time she would have a bald spot or two, and unless she absolutely had to wear a wig, she would just change her hairstyle to cover up the bald patches.

During our senior year she developed a bald spot right on the crown of her head. There was no part, no comb-over. that would cover that spot. A high ponytail was out of the question because most of her hair wasn’t long enough to reach. After much experimentation, finally she decided that the only thing she could do was to pull a small section of her hair, around the bald spot, into a ponytail. She didn’t like the way it looked, so she braided it. It looked rediculous, but it was better than the male pattern baldness look she was sporting without the braid.

After years of living with alopecia areata and disbetes Christal was much tougher than the average high school student. Most of us would have died of embarrassment if we had to go to school with a hairstyle we hated, but for Christal is was just another day. She walked into school and never thought a thing about it.

And that would have been the end of the story, but something odd happened. A few days after Christal started wearing her weird braid I was walking down the hall and I spotted her walking ahead of me. I shouted her name, but she didn’t hear me, I hurried to catch up, and when I got there, it was someone else! And then later that day I saw another one! When I finally saw Christal at lunch I told her about the imposters I had seen wearing her hairstyle, but it wasn’t news to her… she had also seen several of them that day. Within a week you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing several girls wearing that hairstyle. It lingered at our school long after Christal’s hair grew in and she stopped wearing her braid.

What did you call me?

A few years go Grumpy spent some time in the hospital due to acute renal failure. He was unconscious for several days, and when he finally woke up he was… confused. Ultimately it was a few months before his mind was “normal” again, but in the first few days he was what you might call childlike. He said whatever popped into his head, at any time. He insulted all of the nurses with his blunt, uncensored comments. If it were possible to die of embarrassment, I wouldn’t have lasted half a day.

On about the third day, it was decided that he needed to start eating solid food. They brought him breakfast, but he refused to eat. They brought him lunch, and still he refused to eat. They tried to talk him into trying, but it didn’t take long for their priority to change from getting him to eat, to getting out of his room, so, no lunch.

At dinner time there was a new nurse on duty who hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Grumpy. I liked her immediately. She had a wonderful, cheerful attitude. Nothing he said bothered her, and when he insulted her she insulted him right back. Before long, she was insulting him first. She obviously had a special understanding that the other nurses didn’t have. And she had a beautiful Celtic accent, which of course, all Americans love.

When Grumpy’s dinner arrived our favorite nurse was there. As usual, he refused to eat. She did her best to persuade him, but he was stubborn. She continued the attack, telling him over and over, “You need noor-r-r-rishment. You can’t heal without noor-r-r-rishment”. Finally he snapped, bellowing at her, “I don’t need noooooor-r-r-r-rishment! Get away from me, you Irish witch!”.

This was far from the first insult that he had hurled at her, but this time was different. As soon as the words escaped his lip her eyes widened and she took a step back, almost gasping. She squared her shoulders, and shouted, “I’m a Scottish witch!!!”.

Oh fork!

Every summer, since my great-great-grandfather died, my father’s family has had a family reunion. Dozens of people come from around the country, sometimes from other countries, for a potluck lunch and a chance to see one another. Many of the people you meet there are strangers, a few are people you know, and some are folks that you only see once each summer.

The format is familiar: each family brings food sufficient for themselves, then all the food goes on a long table for potluck. Each family also brings their plates, utensils, napkins, drinks, and whatever else they might need. My grandmother always packed her giant picnic basket, with food sufficient for her family plus a large bear, and all of the necessary tools.

One year, after the reunion, my grandmother unpacked her picnic basket and among her Tupperware, wicker plate holders and the old, scratched stainless flatware, she found a fork that didn’t belong. She couldn’t stand the thought of someone worrying about that fork, so she immediately called everyone she knew to ask if they were missing one. No one claimed it. At last she admitted that she had no choice but to take it back to the reunion next year to reunite it with it’s owner. She didn’t want to forget, so she kept that old fork on her dresser, front and center, where she would see it every day.

When the family gathered for Christmas at my grandparents house, someone spotted the fork on the dresser and Grandma was forced to tell the story. Tipsy with eggnog and punch, everyone, including my grandmother, had a good laugh at her expense. The best joke of all was when this very proper, grey-haired little lady swore that she hadn’t stolen that sad, old fork. She took quite a bit of teasing about it that day and for the next 6 months, while the fork remained in its place of honor on her dresser.

The next summer, as planned, Grandma packed up her giant picnic basket, carefully placing the stray fork among the Tupperware, and wicker plate holders and such. They got there early, as they usually did, and as each new family arrived Grandma would ask them if they had lost a fork last year. Of course, like Christmas, it became the popular joke of the day. People were laughing, and asking one another if they had lost a fork last year. Finally, late in the day, one of the relatives looked at the fork again and said, “you know, I think this is one of my old forks”. She tossed it into her picnic basket, and the year-long quest was over, the mystery solved.

Grandma had packed her giant picnic basket for the trip home, this time without any stray utensils, and was preparing to leave. As she went around the room and said her goodbyes, my father picked up a fork from a nearby table, and quietly slipped it into her basket.