Monthly Archives: March 2012

Art Appreciation

Last night, I fell asleep on my couch again. If you would ask my friend Kathy, she would tell you that my overstuffed, fluffy leather sofa is very welcoming. It’s really not a stretch of imagination or surprising that many a night has seen me curled up with my pillow and my red and brown polka dotted throw, sleeping peacefully kept company by the soft noise of the television set.

The last few weeks have been rough, I won’t lie. I’ve been frustrated, stressed out, and emotionally out-of-control. I’ve become stuck in a loop of questioning why the universe is as it is, why am I the way I am, and longing for a day that I can actually sit back and breathe knowing that everything is just as it should be. A day where I wouldn’t sit in self-loathing or doubt, or afraid that any minute my world will come crashing down again.

When I woke up this morning, I looked around my very disorganized apartment, and as staged as this may sound, it was almost as if fate were sending me a message. I looked at the television and Eat, Pray, Love began to play. I’m not even kidding. I was shocked by the irony of it all, and as I got up to make a pot of my ever-so-famous Butterscotch Toffee coffee, I looked up at my mantle where a poster by Norman Wyatt, Jr. sits, it is a poster of the one word that I have found that its meaning and reason for existence has completely eluded me.

 It was like the poster was almost mocking me, because when I bought the poster and frame at my local Michael’s craft store, I thought it would go well with my overstuffed brown sofa, the cherry-wood antique coffee table that my ex left behind and the rest of my things.

The word and the meaning of it has always been a focal point for me in my life, where it was either the lack of it, the withholding of it, the torture of it, the beauty of it or the ethereal mystery of it. I had always thought that it was a word that conveyed pure emotion paired with passion, different shades of intensity or just all around joy.

But then, as my coffee began to brew, I heard pieces of the movie and its little wisdoms. “The physics of the quest”, “you don’t need a man, you need a champion”, Liz’s overwhelming dissatisfaction that she had no lust for her own life.

As I half-watched and half-listened to the movie, the poster on my mantle haunted me and I pondered the age old question, “What is love?” I went further into it and asked, “What is love to different people? What does it mean?”

I looked up at the mantle and visually deconstructed the poster.

To some people, love is a flowing sometimes imperfect emotion. It brings them serenity as they ebb and flow through the emotion, accepting all of the little imperfections that are contained in the things they love. The hues and shades, light and shadows are all apart of their process, gently wrapping them up and allowing them to find peace.

But then come those who view love as a very black and white emotion. You either love something or you don’t. Love for them becomes clear cut lines, whether it fills their heart completely when they have it, or when it’s lacking, a horrid void. Still, it’s an emotion with tons of little imperfections, but they know when it’s there and when it’s not. Sometimes, it torments us by reminding us that it’s just a pure unspoiled emotion and we long for the purest form of it, whether it is from a child or even from our pets that share a love that has no bounds and cannot be contained.

Then there is the rockier sub-set who find that love exists amongst a sea of chaos. It’s the imperfections that make loving something or someone among the chaos that brings them order and purpose in their life. Thriving on the turmoil, they find a way to sketch out the edges and define love amongst all the noise of life.

Then finally, the ones who find love a dark emotion, that they don’t believe it’s there because it almost hides. Or it might just be that it’s buried so far beneath the surface that it has to be dug up like an archaeological artifact, running their fingers along the edges to find its shape and have tangible evidence that it is there.

But have you ever noticed when it comes together, it’s not just one thing, it’s a culmination of all four parts of the whole, the mind, the body, the spirit and hope, all wrapped up together. It becomes a tangible thing that you know when you feel it, you know when it’s gone, and when you love something with all of your heart it becomes this mish-mash of all sorts of things. Have you ever noticed how accepting of imperfection love really is but at the same time adores to mystify us with it’s varying shades of emotion? Sometimes it is selfish, other times it is selfless. All the while it stands away and apart from everything while at the same time likes to feel like it is the center of the universe.

It’s a complicated emotion, as it is a complicated word. But sometimes, you just have to marvel at the simplicity of it.

I know that it has little pieces that go along with it, like devotion or faithfulness. It has a twisted, tangled, almost undecipherable nature. But, when we have it, we don’t care whether or not it’s made itself  into an origami, we’re just grateful that it is there.

When we lose it, we like to blame it almost as if it were a liar or a cheat. We become angry at it, we doubt it, most of all, we despise it for all the things that have been done in the name of it.

But there it sits, taunting us, begging us to take one more chance on it, knowing that its narcotic nature is nothing short of a dime-bag fix that we’ll come close to selling our souls to get just one more taste of it.

What if, just what if we place too much importance on it? After all, we have to love ourselves first to understand how to love someone else, but what if it’s just the simple action of taking our mug of coffee, sitting on the balcony and realizing that the universe is an awfully big place and that by just loving ourselves, with all of it’s imperfection and varying shades of color, we find that one moment of profound peace?

And there it sits on my mantle, begging me to figure it all out, pleading to my problem-solving nature to dissect it and understand it. Some days I’d like nothing more than to throw the dang thing off the balcony for all the trouble that one little word symbolizing a gargantuan emotion has brought me. Other days I’m grateful for it remembering that it is the one truth in the universe that is worth sharing with every human being on the planet.

All I’ve really found is that we all deserve love no matter how imperfect we are.

So, question to all of you, what do those four very complicated letters mean to you?

Being Mame.

Today’s post is dedicated to my nephew.

For those of you who don’t know, my favorite film of all time is the 1958 classic, Auntie Mame starring the incomparable Rosalind Russell.  Oh here, I have to share before we go a moment further.  Here, just a taste…the theatrical trailer:

What I need to tell you is that behind the scenes, besides the funny posts I’m writing here, I’m also writing behind the scenes, and today I minted a red-hot chapter called “Preparedness.”

It was after today’s chapter that I realized something peculiar.  What most people don’t know that way back in 1987, my nephew’s due date was August 1st.  I looked at my sister when she was about six months pregnant, patted her belly and said to my darling boy, “Ok baby, be born on my birthday!”  As we all know, my birthday is September 25th, and being that I guess my darling boy heard me, he held out one month and 15 days, much to the chagrin of my sister, being born on September the 15th, just ten days shy of my 16th birthday.  He was my gift that year, one that has given me nothing but joy over the last 24 years.

As Auntie Mame says it so perfectly, “It was love at first sight.”

As she so aptly told Mr. Dwight Babcock from the Knickerbocker Bank:

“Your plans! Your plans! Did it ever occur to you that this boy might be hungry for something that you’ve never heard of? When Patrick walked into my life, a frightened little boy hanging onto Nora’s hand, it was was love at first sight. For nine years I’ve tried to open some windows in his life and all you want to do is shut him up in some, some safe deposit box. Well I won’t let you do that to my little one. No, he’s not little anymore. And he’s not mine. But he’s not yours either and I doubt very much that Patrick will allow you to settle him down in some dry-veined, restricted community, make him an Aryan from Darien, and marry him of to some girl with braces on her brain!”

And that is EXACTLY what I did for the entirety of his childhood.  I was the “foreign” element, sometimes unwanted, but nonetheless ever-present.  I stressed to him before he did anything else was to get out and see what the world had to offer, telling him, “live, Live, LIVE!  Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”  Ironically, he became a chef.  That’s my Sweet Boy.

The peculiar part is that the first time I saw Auntie Mame it was while Nan was in the delivery room giving birth to my sweet boy, so I guess it’s only fitting that tonight, like a thunderbolt, I figured out the parallels between that movie and my life, and they are extraordinary.

Case in point #1, the Staircase Entrance.

While my sweet boy was 10, I was 26 and knee-deep in the social scene.  From sitting in the exclusive balcony at the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel with my friend Gene T. the fellas from Motley Crue, to soaking up the Spago scene, descending a staircase much like Mame’s and dealing with the “Chickanite”, Alex, Anthony, Carlos and the whole Boys Club.

Trust me, in those days, an olive took up way too much space in that little glass.

Case in point #2, Uncle Bo.

For years I promised my nephew that I would find him a suitable uncle, and try as I might, I found my camera-obsessed, mountain-climbing ex with his very “Mrs. Burnside” like mother.  Trust me, I looked at my giant wooden spoon giving ex-mother-in-law the exact same way Mame looked at Mrs. Burnside.  Here’s the funny part.  How Bo exits the picture.  Mame and Bo are up on the Matterhorn and he climbs up a little higher to get a snapshot, what do we hear, “Yoh-de-lay-he-hooo, Yoh-de-lay-he-hoo, Yah-de-lay-heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…” as he falls off the mountain.

Sure enough, my ex sure did jump off of a cliff when he decided to take off with the BHFB.  So, bye Bo!

Case in point #3, Gloria Upson

My nephew has always had an affinity for women…so much so that at 4-years-old he wanted to know why boys stood up and girls sat down, so he looked at a little girl and said “Show.”  Much to everyone’s dismay, she “showed.”  (“Show” will be covered later.  It’s a hysterical story.  One of my favorites.  Sorry boy, it’s funny, it’s gotta get told.) Yes, a real ladies man in the making…which brings us to, Gloria Upson.

Now of course the young woman I’m going to reference will go without a name, she’s not a player here.  But I will have to say the one remarkable feature she did have is that she had a mouth like a horse.  Every time I looked at her, I’m ashamed to say it, but I neighed. “Hm-hm-hm-hm-hm”.  Forgive me.  LOL!

I took one look at that young woman, took my nephew to the side and said a very stern “No.”  Not for my sweet boy, not in this life or the next. A girl with a mouth like a horse, what was that boy thinking!

Happily my Sweet Boy found his equivalent to Pegeen Ryan, a real little fireball that keeps him on his toes.  Well done Pegeen.  Now that’s what I call a girl for my Sweet Boy.

Case in point #4, Brian O’Bannion

Since I’ve started the book process, I’ve had a ne’er-do-well try to stick his burly, beer-drinking self in the middle of my writing, criticizing more points than he could get his hands on and absolutely contributing nothing.  Where he might have left with the Deusenberg, today we can gratefully say that Brian O’Bannion has hit the bricks and I am in full-swing of my literary phase, to which I can only say, “Look, look, everyone, I’m in print, just like Edna Ferber.”

Gratefully, I won’t have to donate a home to refugee children to get everything in my life straightened out.

I have yet to find my Agnes Gooch, Nora and Ito.  I have the distinct feeling they’ll come with time.

But all the players are here, from Acacius Page and his lotus juice to Auntie Vera from Pittsburgh.

Thank goodness.  Wacky, wild or otherwise, it’s good to be a little Mame.

How I became a smoker…

Set the way back clock for 1990. I was working at EPCOT Center at Disneyworld during a VERY hectic Fourth of July weekend at a pavilion called “Journey into Imagination” sponsored by Kodak. Decked out in the pavilion’s uniform of double-knit royal purple polyester with a yellow shirt, I went to work out on the floor for the ride “Journey into Imagination with Figment,” facing the 200,000 plus visitors that I would see that day alone, not to mention the half-million more my co-workers and myself would interact with during that seven day time span.

Tour guides, when they bring their tours into the park, are told that their groups can only contain 25 people and if they run into another tour group, they have to wait at least five to ten minutes before taking their tour into the pavilion, ensuring that no two tour groups would lump together. Well, on that day, three very foreign tour guides got together and sandwiched not only two, but THREE tours together, which meant 75 non-English speakers (that in most cases we found didn’t wear deodorant, in which most ride operators at Epcot term tours like that “a moving stink”) pushing and shoving their way to the front of the line, forgetting all about common courtesy.

With that many people bearing down on you, you know you have to get the ride loaded fast because there are hundreds of people in line in the blazing Florida heat just waiting to get into the air-conditioning. The cars that service the ride are set-up as trains. Each train contains four cars, each car seats seven, three in front seat, four in the back seat. So, as the person at a position called “Load 1”, I was the first point of contact to get people onto the trains, asking them “how many in your party.” Well, when it comes to those large non-English speaking tours filled with rambunctious guests, you learn hand signals, namely holding up three fingers or four to denote how many passengers in each car. With the tour of 75, bodies quickly rushed into the cars, they didn’t even bother to follow any type of orderly conduct and well, every ops person at Epcot knows, when you get a tour like that, get them loaded as quickly and as safely as possible.

Well a nice man from Omaha, along with his wife and daughter, got caught up in the middle of that throng of “moving stink” and out-of-control humanity. Well, as you may have guessed, my co-worker, the person at a position called “Load 2” didn’t even think, he roughly grabbed that nice man’s 8-year-old little girl and tried to rudely *shove* her and her parents into a car in the middle of this moving catastrophe and utter chaos. That nice man almost put that Load 2 person in a headlock (and I don’t blame him). That nice man looked at me and hollered “HOLD IT!” When I saw what happened, I jumped into action, my 18-year-old heart just racing and horrified by the situation playing out in front of me. I intervened. I slowed down the train, looked at the man and said, “Sir, I’m so sorry, could you please bring your family and stand right over here.” As he was walking with his wife and daughter, he politely proceeded to viciously chew me out, and I mean he chewed me up, spit me out then put me back into his mouth to chew me up again. I’ve never heard such hatred spew from another human being in my whole life and I had to take it full-force, apologizing the whole way. I placed the family in a safe area where they couldn’t be disturbed, then finished loading the tour of 75.

The space between trains is known as a “bubble”. Lucky for us, a big bubble (about 30 seconds long) came just as we finished loading the tour of 75 which gave everyone the chance to calm down. As the next train came around the corner, I slowed the ride again, looked at that nice man and said, “Sir, right this way please.” I put him and his family in the front seat of the train, didn’t put anyone in the back seat behind them, gently closed the safety doors on the car, wished them a pleasant ride, then skipped a car, then began loading again. Just as I had finished placing the man and his family in the car, I was bumped in rotation to break. As I walked back to the break room, I was still shaking from what happened. When I walked into the break room, I could see that my lead, Randy, was at his desk smoking a Marlboro Red (which to this day I can’t smoke Reds). I snatched that bad boy out of his hand, took a drag, let it out, and the world was a better place. I’ve been a smoker ever since.

The ironic part of it all? By the time my break was over and I bumped back into rotation at the unload area, from around the bend came that same man and his family. As he stepped off the ride, he took me to the side and apologized. He looked at me and said, “Our trip thus far has been horrible and we have been pushed, shoved and absolutely run over. How you handled what happened to us was absolutely wonderful and we really appreciate that you gave us our own space to enjoy the ride. My wife, daughter and I are truly grateful you were there for us, you made our trip well worth it.”

More from the Animal Kingdom. Snakes.

The rotation for Shark Reef is different from Disney. Every day we got a little sheet of paper in our inbox that told us where we’d be, what exhibits we’d be explaining and what our dive times were if we had one. No two days were ever the same as I’d do school groups in the morning, hang out at touch pool for an hour, and so forth for the eight hours of my day. The one thing that I enjoyed about it most is that it was always different, never the same day twice.

Well, one evening working late, I walked up to take my position at the Green Tree Python exhibit. (Which was right next to Stan-the-exhibitionist-turtle exhibit). Here’s the deal, the Green Tree Python, once it curls up, rarely moves. It does that because it’s relying on camouflage to allow little birds and insects to come near, the minute they do, they spring, grab the food and curl back up to eat it.

What you don’t know is that the exhibit with the snakes in it didn’t have any glass in front of it, which meant a naturalist like myself had to be stationed there, making sure the snake didn’t decide to go on walkabout. It’s ok, I know what you’re thinking and a lot of the naturalists said it too, “Oh, that’s brilliant, an open-air snake exhibit.”  It was a Darwin Award waiting to happen and we didn’t have to wait long.

Usually, the snakes just sat there in the tree. People walked up, we pointed them out, people went ooh and ahh, then they went on their merry way. Most of the time when people looked at the snakes, since it was an open-air exhibit, they didn’t believe they were real.  The snakes didn’t move, they have no eyelids so they don’t blink, they just sit there, literally a bump on a log, or tree branch in this case. Most of the time it was a dull hour of snake-sitting.

But that night, I walked up to the exhibit to find my friend Daryl and our supervisor Eric standing in front of the exhibit, one with the snake stick in his hand, the other with a set of feeding tongs. We kept the tools nearby just in case one of the snakes decided it was going to come down out of the tree. We had explicit instructions, if a snake came down, put it back into the tree. If there were big issues, call an aquarist.

So there’s Daryl and Eric and they’re standing in front of the exhibit looking like they’re struggling a bit. I walk up and as was proceedure, began to count the snakes in the tree…one, ok, there’s two, three, four, five…ok, where’s six? Six was down in the water taking a dip. Daryl held out the hooked snake stick, scooping the animal up, placing the snake back up on the branch with Eric taking the bottom half of the snake in the crook of the feeding tongs helping to put it back into the tree. The minute Daryl and Eric thought they had it all taken care of, the snake would come back down and start swimming around again. Come to find out, they had been struggling for a solid hour trying to get that blasted snake put back into the tree.

I stood in befuddled amusement, watching Daryl and Eric struggle as the snake went up, the snake came down. The snake went up, the snake came down.  The snake went up, the snake went down, and minutes went by as they’re trying their hardest to get that dang snake back up into the tree, all the while every time they get the snake back in the tree, we all holler, “Stay!” At that point, my ex-husband walks up. Back then, he was our supervisor. He stands back and watches as the snake gets put up in the tree one more time and the snake going, “Nuh, uh” and politely going back into the water. My ex walks up, doesn’t say a word, holds his hands out for both Daryl’s and Eric’s tools, then steps up on the side of the exhibit, uses the snake stick and the tongs, picks up the snake, and puts it back into the tree. With just a stern glance from my ex, the snake stayed.

Eric, Daryl and myself all exchanged bewildered glances. Daryl looked at my ex and said,”How in hell did you do that?” My ex just replies, “I’ve got the touch…” I should have known right then and there that he was communicating with his own kind.  To this day we have no clue how he got that snake to stay in the tree.

But, what we didn’t know is that later that night, a whole new story would unfold.

Every night when the aquarium closed, the last naturalist at that position would count the snakes one more time, making sure they were all there, then pull down the garage-like rolling door to lock down the snakes for the night, then an aquarist would come down and lock it. The next day, as the aquarists began opening the exhibits, what they found put them in a panic, the Green Tree Python exhibit was missing a certain individual.

That day when I walked in, I found a memo in my inbox that read, “To All Naturalists: There is a Green Tree Python missing from A14.  Currently there are only five in the exhibit.  If you spot the animal, immediately call an aquarist.  Do not relay that there is a snake missing to guests.”

Ok, if that doesn’t tell you they were panicking going, “Oh shit, we’re missing a snake, if you spot it, holler at us, just don’t tell anyone it’s missing,” I don’t know what will. I will tell you that on that day walking up to that exhibit, I looked closely at every leaf, branch and cubby hole that the blasted snake could be hiding in. As I passed under one of the bamboo awnings near the exhibit, I warily looked up every single time looking for that snake, thinking “Please, please, don’t land on me.”

The aquarium went on high alert and a full search went on for that snake.  Every aquarist, naturalist, supervisor and ticket agent searched for Six. Every time a naturalist stood in front of that exhibit, it was, “One, two, three, four, five, oh shit they haven’t found Six yet.”  This went on for weeks, pointing and counting going “One… two… three… four… five… nope.”

After a while, a few of the naturalists started to speculate.  Some thought it found a way out through the back wall, others thought it was hiding in the jungle area of the facility, others thought it was just hanging out and laughing at everyone.  I personally thought it was out next to I-15 trying to hitch a ride to California.  Wherever it was, we all agreed, the camouflage was working.

A few months later, they found Six.  You’ll never believe where he was… Remember the rolling garage door that got pulled down every night over the exhibit?  Six found his way into the case that surrounded the door to make it look pretty.  He was wrapped around the inside.  He only came out because he was hungry.

You know that old expression, “If it was a snake it would have bit me?”  Well, there ya go.  It was in the exhibit the whole time.

I’ve got more stories in my arsenal from my days at the ‘Reef’, but like an old friend says, “That’s a story for another day.”

Life in the Animal Kingdom

Today, it’s time again to look at more animals. Thus far we’ve seen my childhood cat Whiskers, my best canine pal in the world Lucky, and a few other beasts including, yes, that’s right, the fish story last March that had a shark attached to the top of my head. So one more time we’re going to look back at a couple of funny incidents of me working with animals.

Let’s take this all the way back to me moving to Florida in my senior year in high school. 1989. After working at a waterpark the summer before, my skin was golden brown and I was ready to have another job so I could have pocket money while I went to school.

I looked around at all sorts of places for work, but it was obvious, if you lived in Orlando like I did, you probably worked for The Mouse at Walt Disney World.

Well, since I was 17 when I applied at Disney, all they could offer me was a food service job. I had been to the parks with my parents a few summers before that, and I remembered seeing those poor souls out in the heat behind their little ice cream carts. The only thought that occurred to me when the lady interviewing me said that it was food service or wait until I was 18 which was about three months later, was “I’ll wait.”

Five days after my 18th birthday, sure enough, the phone rang. “Hi Sheri. This is Stephanie from Disney Casting. Happy Birthday. We were wondering if you were still interested in a job…” I squealed. I said, “Of course!” to which I got a set of instructions to show up for training which is called “Disney University.”

Well after going through Disney training where you learn things like proper posture, looking approachable, the dress code, and the ability to name all Seven Dwarves quickly (two d’s, two s’s and three emotions), you are able to approach people and say, “Hi, is there something you need help finding?” and “Here, let me take that picture for you so you can be in it too…” and “Yes, I can name the Seven Dwarves…Dopey, Doc, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful.” See, now you can do it too.

I got put into Ride Ops which is Disney shorthand for “Ride Operations.” You know the folks I’m talking about, in themed costumes they’re the ones who say “Watch your step” and “Keep your arms and hands inside the vehicle at all times” and so forth.

The first pavilion I was assigned to work at was The Living Seas. Now it’s called “The Seas with Nemo and Friends.” Personally, I liked it better back in the day, but hey, things change. Back then, our costumes consisted of burnt orange, blue and white. Yes, imagine me in a pair of burnt orange pants, white shirt that buttoned up in a quasi-military style with burnt orange epaulettes and a blue United Technologies Logo on the sleeve with a burnt orange jacket and black dress shoes underneath. That’s how I spent many a day. Humiliating? Possibly, but when there are 20 other people dressed the same way, it’s not so bad.  When the University of Miami played in the Orange Bowl versus Nebraska, we felt right at home as every elderly Florida alumni was wearing those exact same colored pants and white shirt walking around.  It was worse when a group of alumni from the University of Virginia had their meeting at Disneyworld, it was a field of that same hideous burnt orange, white and blue and between the Orange Bowl and those guys, it all happened at the same time.  One man looked at me while I was out front at greeter and asked, “You a big fan of Virginia?”  I had to resist the urge to facepalm really hard.   As a reference, the website Hidden Mickeys.org reminded me of a couple of things:

  • The Cast Members who must work outside in 90+ degree heat at Epcot say that Epcot stands for Employee Polyester Costume Of Torture.
  • Every Paycheck Comes On Thursday
  • Every Person Comes Out Tired

When I saw the “Every Paycheck Comes On Thursday,” I laughed my head off because I remember saying that!  Oh, there are other little things about working at Disney that are just funny as all get out, but that’s for a whole other day.

Quick side trip. When you work at Epcot, the pavilions take on a whole new level of shorthand:

  • The Living Seas = Seas
  • The Land = Land
  • Journey Into Imagination = Imag (or some wrote “Image”)
  • World of Motion and Horizons = MoHo (Don’t reverse it.)
  • Wonders of Life = Wonders
  • Universe of Energy = NRG
  • Finally, Spaceship Earth = SSE

The Communicores and all the rest had their own which I never saw.

What I didn’t know when I got my job is that Corey, the guy who did my training at Disney U, would also become my supervisor at Seas. I also didn’t know at the time that he was somehow related to my Junior year American history teacher in New Braunfels, Coach Baker, so he immediately adopted me and instead of being assigned at Land, I went to Seas.

The Living Seas, back in the day, was your typical Epcot attraction containing a film, a ride and then a huge aquarium to look at. I became fast friends with many of the aquarists and divers, something that would pay off later when I went to work at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.

Inside the Seas aquarium, besides all of the great staff and countless fish, was a pair of adolescent male dolphins, Toby and Bob. From the stories that had been relayed to me, there had been a mature female with them as well, but she had either passed on or moved to a different facility, so those two young dolphins were all on their own.

What no one really knows, outside of biology circles and those who watch the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet until their eyes bleed, is that there is always a mature female dolphin that rules the pod. If the young males get out of line or if a shark tries to come steal a baby for a snack, the mature females break out and open a serious can of whooping on anything that disrupts the natural flow of life in a pod of dolphins. Yep, the females rule the roost.

Well, without a mature female with them, Toby and Bob were quite the pair. One story I heard in particular had Toby and Bob go to town on one of the aquarists who was diving in the exhibit. Those two male dolphins, not knowing their own strength, turned the guy into a rag doll, breaking bones in the process. So after that, no one went into the exhibit while Toby and Bob were on the loose.

Which brings me to Toby, Bob, Me and the little girl walking around with her mother.

Part of the rotation at Seas back in the day had an operator like myself go down to do one of two rotations, load or unload. Load consisted of Greeter where you would tell people where to park their strollers, that no, Walt wasn’t in cryogenic freeze in the top of the castle at Magic Kingdom; yes, I could name the Seven Dwarves; yes, you can take pictures inside; and the wait was X number of minutes long. Then we went to Hydrolators (a fake-out elevator ride) then, Load 1 (watch your step!), and Load 2 (console control).

The other part of the rotation, where our story takes place, is in Unload. Unload did just that, Unload 1 was the unload position where you had to make sure everyone got off the ride safely, then SeaBase (Unload 2) which was the indoor greeter position where I did a lot of, “Yes, the fish are real; yes, the divers are real; Illuminations starts at 11 p.m. and so on, then to the Theaters where I learned how to public speak in front of large groups, and then Preshow (photocells) where we would visit with guests and do some greeting.

Well, one holiday weekend, they expanded the Unload rotation to include going up into what’s called “The Module” which is the upstairs viewing of the exhibit down a fairly short hallway into the center of the exhibit. Lo and behold, who is in the tank? Toby and Bob.

Now I won’t lie, Toby and Bob were a huge draw, everyone loved to see them doodling around the tank. After all, how many times in their lifetime will a person who lives in say, Des Moines, Iowa, come within the width of a piece of plexiglass to a dolphin? My guess is that it’s rare as all get out. Hey it’s a treat, I get it.

Well, inside the module that day, along with a countless other number of guests was a little girl and her mother. The little girl was no more than 8-years-old, if that. Well, people immediately went to the windows and ooh’d and ahh’d as Toby and Bob started zooming around the inside of the exhibit.

But let’s not forget one crucial piece of information here… these are adolescent male dolphins.

Look at any adolescent young man you know. Go ahead! What are you seeing? A walking hormone. It reminds me of Bill Cosby in his comedy film Himself when he talks about his son Ennis and him walking out of school with his fly down. Bill felt a little better when he saw that all the other boys had their flies down too…

Male adolescent dolphins are no different. They’re walking hormones too. It seems as if there isn’t a mature female around, or any other female for that matter, those young mammals will “do their business” on just about anything or anyone.

Lo and behold, on that day in the module, Toby decided to run around the tank with his fly down. It’s ok, you can say it…go ahead…”Oh lordy…” Yeah, you know what is coming…

As I was turned around speaking with other guests and looking out at the fish, I hear the little girl say:

“Mommy, what’s that hanging out of the dolphin?”

My jaw dropped and my eyes got big as pie plates when I heard that. I spun around, looked out into the tank and well, saw Toby “hanging out” in all of his glory. His “glory” was impossible to miss and went well beyond the word “profane.” At first, my mind locked up and I immediately thought, “Oh, that’s just not natural…” and realizing exactly what I was seeing, I immediately spun around and grabbed the house phone and dialed the aquarist’s office. When an aquarist picked up, I cupped my hand around my mouth and the receiver and whispered, “You gotta call the dolphins in, Toby’s got his whatevers hanging out.” The phone immediately went dead and as I looked up at the surface of the water, I saw aquarists come running out and start slapping the top of the water near Toby and Bob’s holding pen. Yeah, they got put up for the night.

“Mommy, what’s that hanging out of the dolphin?” still resounds in my ears 20 years later. As my friend Frank recalls in my telling of the tale, “It’s an eel!”

Yes, but that’s just one instance. There’s more.

Fast forward 15 years, where I was a part of the opening crew at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. In the middle of the jungle area of the facility, between the crocodiles and the first tunnel are a few exhibits. Back in the day (2000), an exhibit called A5 by the staff held one of the two green sea turtles who live there, Stan and Ollie. Well, Ollie was too big to live in A5, but Stan was just the right size because he was still too small to live in the huge main exhibit with the big sharks.

Well, there I am, standing in the middle of the jungle area of the facility right next to A5 answering questions about the Green Sea Turtle (chelonia mydas). I explain the cool things like the fact they have 10 fingers and 10 toes, but it’s all hidden inside their flippers, how long they can hold their breath underwater, where they live and so on…

Like Toby all those years ago, Stan decided that he wanted to press the bottom of his shell against the glass. Out of the underside of his tail, I see him poo a little and a very strange growth come with it. As Stan rubbed the bottom of his shell against the glass, swaying his body from side to side, in a “Woohoo! Look at me!  Nyah-nah-nah-na-na” kind of way, that little growth wiggled with him.

I immediately grabbed my radio from my belt and said, “Sheri to aquarist,” a response came “Sheri, this is Cathy, go ahead.” I responded, “Cathy, I think there’s a problem with the turtle in A5, he’s got something strange hanging out of his tail.” There was a pause, and Cathy replied, “Sheri, that’s his hemi-peen.” I stopped dead in my tracks thinking, “Oh, this can’t be happening to me twice in one lifetime.” Sure enough, I keyed my radio and said, “Is “-is” on the back of that?” I could hear her holding back laughter as she responded, “Yep.”  The guest next to me burst out into laughter, my hand went over my face as I replied, “Well can you come call him or something, he’s flashing the guests.”

Not once, but twice. How do things like this always happen to me? At least it wasn’t an 8-year-old little girl going, “Mommy, what’s that hanging out of the turtle?”

Yeah, and people wonder why I don’t have pets.

Embracing your inner Atlas

There are days where I just sit here, just shaking my head, wondering what the hell is wrong with the world I’m living in.

This week is a normal occurrence everywhere I’ve ever been, when a big project comes along, you know that there are only one or two people who actually give a damn about the project (one of them is usually you), which effectively hoists the rest of the group onto your shoulders and forces you carry them because of a load of different reasons.  Laziness, Invisible Man syndrome, or they’ve just plain run out of “give a shit” come to mind right off the bat.

I’ve been through situations like this before.  It was bad enough once, horrible at twice, but at the third time, in the immortal words of my father, “I’ve got a case of the ass about it.”  Daddy also says, “Some people got the worms, there is always something eating them.” I can officially say that I’m there, I’m at my zenith, I’m all wormed up because I’m just eat up with frustration about feeling like Atlas.

It occurred to me on the way home from school today that all of us, at one point or another, unwittingly do our best impersonation of Atlas.  You know Atlas, right?  He’s the fella who holds up the sky, carries the world on his shoulders…there are lots of variations on Atlas’ tale, but at the end of the day it all has the same ending, he’s holding up some pretty heavy shit.

Case in point, an illustration of our pal Atlas:

Don’t you just hate it when you feel like this is you?

I know you’re with me on this.  There are days when it feels like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. It doesn’t matter if you’re stressed over bills, if the roof is going to stay over your head another month, if you’ve got so many things to do that there’s not enough of you to go around, if you’re up to your eyeballs in work and some doodah puts one more thing in your inbox!  It doesn’t matter, at one point or another, we’re all Atlas.

Now, for those of you who don’t ‘get’ the whole Atlas paradigm saying,”I’ve never carried anything around like that…” shame on you.  That means that you’re one of the ones that left others to carry the load for you.  To boot, you probably know damn good and well when you’ve done it to other people.  Last time I checked, none of us have a free ticket to shove our load on someone else.  We’ve all got our own loads to carry and it’s not even close to right to just take off and expect someone else to shoulder the load for you.

But now we’re at the point where we’ve suited up in our best Greek regalia and have unwittingly taken the weight of the world onto our shoulders.  Oh, you can say it.  Just the thought of carrying that, like you’ve done so many times before, makes you sit there and almost weep going, “Oh no, not again.”  Oh yes, one more time for the cheap seats, you’re carrying the world on your shoulders.

It’s very similar to a pothole, as soon as you feel the weight hit your shoulders, you get ticked that it’s there.  You did your part, you worked your hardest!  Why the hell are you having to carry this crap?  Well, situations vary, but I will tell you from experience that it’s from one of three things:

  1. What you’re carrying is a direct result of someone getting lazy.
  2. Someone decided to shove their head up their butt, screw something up and you’re the only one on the planet that can fix it properly.
  3. You feel so dismayed and undervalued, knowing perfectly well you can fix the problems you’re presented with, but those around you have delighted in giving you the load then chaining you down, tying your hands securely behind your back making you unable to even begin to try to approach it from the right angle because no one is listening as you’re screaming the solution to the problem at the top of your lungs.  Put simply, they don’t believe in you and don’t want you, but you’re strong enough to carry the load so they slap you with it.
Ok, the third one is mine, you can have the other two for you.  
Being Atlas isn’t easy.  Look at poor fella in the picture!  We all know that carrying other people, who I like to term as “backpacks”, is the world’s worst feeling.  Case in point, I watched a fellow Atlas, carrying a load bigger than mine in our little project, work at the computer until I was ready to swear that she was going to cry tears of blood.  That sweet darling young woman got everything dumped in her lap, then the minute the backpacks decided to participate, she was unceremoniously shoved to the side.  Now that’s not the first time I’ve seen that happen in my 40 years on the planet, and every time I see something like that happen, I get ticked.  That poor darling girl working so hard with no help other than myself and another fellow Atlas on either side of her working late into the night, assisted only by one supervisor who has become quite the Atlas themselves.
Have you ever noticed when you’re weighed down, your legs are straining for that next step, you’re gasping for air and praying someone can help, you ask for help and someone either says “no” or “I don’t know”?  I tell ya, when you’re carrying that heavy of a load and some doodah gives you an ‘I don’t know’, the urge to cry out “Then what the hell am I talking to you for?  Get hell out of the way!” comes to mind almost immediately.  I don’t care who you are, when you’re carrying the load and there’s some twit in the way, you’re going to want to mow them down in the most painful way possible.  It’s like that great Ortho Fire Ant Killer ad Luke Sullivan has in Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
(every time you see the words “Fire Ant” substitute the word “Backpack”)

Fire ants are not lovable.  People do not want fire-ant plush toys.  They aren’t cuddly.  They don’t do little tricks.  They just bite you and leave red, stinging welts that make you want to cry.  That’s why they have to die.  And they have to die right now.  You don’t want them to have a long, lingering illness.  You want death.  A quick, excruciating, see-you-hell kind of death.  You don’t want to lug a bag of chemicals and a garden hose around the yard.  It takes too long.  No, my friend, what you want is Ant-Stop Orthene Fire Ant Killer from Ortho.  You put two teaspoons of Ant-Stop around the mound and you’re done.  You don’t even water it in.  The scout ants bring it back into the mound.  And this is the really good part.  Everybody dies.  Even the queen.  It’s that fast.  And that’s GOOD.  Because killing fire ants shouldn’t be a full-time job.  Even if it IS pretty fun.  Ant-Stop Orthene Fire-Ant Killer from Ortho.  Kick fire-ant butt.

Makes you look at what you’re doing right now and make sure you’ve not shoved something of yours onto someone else, doesn’t it?
At the end of the day though, with all of the crap I’m carrying right now outside of school, I’ve decided to embrace my inner Atlas.  I’ve come to realize that whether I like it or not, whether I tell people ‘no’ or not, I’m still going to carry the load because I’ve got the fortitude to do it.  Besides, life likes to make us carry things whether we like it or not, I just don’t appreciate the extra added load.  I know you’re with me when I say that while others wuss out, we’re the strong ones, and that takes us right back to the inner fortitude we’ve striven so hard to gain throughout our lifetime sophomoric experiences.  
This is the moment that you go, “I’ve seen worse” or “Bring it on”, knowing full well that at the end, it’s fortitude and heart that wins the day. It just sucks to do leg press reps with the weight of the world on your shoulders because that sucker is heavy, the only good part is that it builds good emotional muscle. Then you mutter to yourself, “Come on, you can do it!  One more!” even though you know you shouldn’t be lifting it in the first place.
But knowing that you’re tough stuff and you can handle it, even though it’s heavy, still doesn’t replace that feeling of injustice that wells up inside of you after trying to explain that it’s not right that you keep being expected to be Atlas.  Yes, yes, I know, but you have a few options:
  1. Immediately drop what your carrying directly on your nearest backpack (i.e. make them do it).
  2. Make sure that when your time to carry things is up, drop it from a tall distance onto the nearest lazy person’s foot (and take joy in hearing the pain-filled cry upon impact). 
  3. Finish carrying the load, then put it down and walk away, effectively saying, “There.  I got through it.  Now to hell with it.”
Either way, you’ve got some options, but in the mean time, you’ve had some laughs along the way.  I think it sucks when people decide to take off and leave others to do things.  I think it’s wrong and I can’t think of a single excuse that would cover intentionally leaving someone holding the bag.  Let’s face it, we’ve all done it one time or another, I’m probably guilty of it too, but at least now we’re more aware of it.
So today, embrace your inner Atlas, then make your devious plans to politely drop the heavens and Earth on the nearest backpack’s foot.  It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and your back will thank you for putting down the load.

Have a happy week everyone!

Snow

Disclaimer: This post is looooong. Fans of Bill Bryson and his “Walk in the Woods” will be thrilled to know that this one has some eye-wiping hilarity in it. Buckle your seat belts and make sure your tray tables and seat backs are in the upright and locked position…

Make sure you have time for all of it. If you don’t, make sure to bookmark it and take it in small chunks. It is so totally worth it.  I’ve intentionally placed breaks in it so that you can find your way back to where you left off quickly and easily.

I just got off the phone with Smith, and like any good editor, he reminded me that I need to make sure my anger has humor behind it. I think it’s the hardest thing in the world to be volcanically angry one minute and directly follow it with a quip, but Smith’s right, I’ve done it plenty of times…

So, we’ll revisit the bullies another day and I’m going to take my cynical butt, put it in Doc Brown’s Delorian and go back to 1985. Robert Zemeckis could have possibly been right when he said, through Doc Brown, that a specific year could be a strange cross-dimensional hub.

1.21 gigawatts and 88 miles an hour later…it’s Saturday, January 12, 1985. The first time in 100 years that New Braunfels had seen snow, and it was a record, 13.2 inches in just 24 hours and by the time it was all said and done, a whopping total of 16 inches of snow was on the ground.

If you remember from my post The Ghost of Fraulein Schweiger, that’s Schwamkrug’s Steakhouse, this photo was taken not but a mile and a half from our house on that day.

At that point I’m betting that every cowboy within 50 miles messed their pants when they saw all that snow, followed directly by them breaking out their knobby-tired trucks, tying water-ski tethers to the hitch and promptly dragging family and friends on water skis over the freshly fallen snow. On that day you could truthfully say that New Braunfels became a black diamond ski slope for rednecks. Sometimes I wonder why there aren’t Darwin Awards attached to that winter because I saw things that still boggle my mind. How there aren’t twisted remains in the canyon next to Walnut Avenue, I’ll never know as the hill itself isn’t very steep, but the drop off next to it that plunges 100 feet down is something that will give anyone in their right mind pause, but as Jeff Foxworthy would say, “You might be a redneck if…”

I’ll never forget waking up that morning and pulling up my window blinds to see the ground covered in a blanket of freshly fallen snow. Winters in Texas to that point consisted of a little bit of rain and freezing your butt off, no where near what you would find in a place like Montreal with its 40 below zero. To us, snow was a novelty, a rare moment of chilly splendor. As children, building a snowman was a treat and we knew literally nothing about what it meant to shovel the car out or even what grey much less yellow snow was.  All I knew was that there was a possibility that school could get called off and that there was a winter wonderland just waiting to be explored.

I padded my way through the living room and into the kitchen to find my father and his one addiction in the world, his steaming hot cup of coffee, and finding out that he had wisely decided to take that Saturday off. Mother however, ended up working late the night before and got snowed in at work in San Antonio, so she wouldn’t be back until the roads were clear and she could safely come home.

So who do I find is in the house along with my father? My sister, her boyfriend (my future ex-brother-in-law), my sister’s best friend Syndie and our cat, Whiskers. So, effectively you could say that I was with my peeps. I was used to being around Syndie, and I bet you had a friend like her back in the 1980’s too; looking just like Pat Benatar, striped top, headband, heavy make-up and all. Syndie was fixture at our house, when she wasn’t at hers, she was at ours. Many a time I remember going out around town with Nan in the driver’s seat, Syndie in the passenger seat and me taking my place in the backseat and being told to hush while they talked. But my sister’s boyfriend was somewhat of an enigma, being from Missouri (which might as well been the moon for all I knew back then) he was used to snow, the rest of us, not so much. So, we start taking our cues from him.

Daddy, for all of his wonderful qualities, back then was a work-a-holic. I was lucky to see him 10 minutes during the week outside of the weekends where I would be charged with delivering water to him while he was outside mowing the lawn. No one back then had a better yard than Ol’ Sam…it was the greenest, thickest yard on the block…but under an inch and a half of snow, his day was due to be spent in his green La-Z-Boy recliner or asleep in his bedroom, quietly nestled in the back of the house, down the long hall from the living room.

Whiskers, our black and white tuxedo cat, didn’t know what the heck was going on outside and didn’t have any want or need to go outside and find out. He was a codgery old man and when he wasn’t tormenting me or my father, he curled himself up as close to Nan as possible.

Hold it…if you need to take a break, this is a good time because we have a temporary gear shift. I’ll even give you a marker for it…

Dad and the Cat…

We have to stop for a moment and talk about Dad and the cat because it’s a story in itself. Have you ever met someone who looks at animals and goes, “No no no, no pets, I don’t want no stinkin’ cat?” Yes, that’s right, I got the ‘no pet’ gene from my father…but when a neighbor introduced my sister to a ball of long haired fuzz with the brightest set of white whiskers you’ve ever seen on a face black as pitch, it was only a matter of time that my sister’s begging would convince my father that we just had to have a cat. That cat and Nan looked each other in the eyes and it was love at first sight. To be honest, Whiskers was Nan’s cat and oh did that cat hate me. He would hunker down behind corners and when I wasn’t looking or expecting it, he would pounce on me, wrapping himself around my ankles and clawing me to shreds. For years I had a scar on my left elbow from where he sunk his claws in, then pulled them sideways branding me with a W-shaped scar. I’m convinced to this day that that silly cat did it on purpose.

When Whiskers and Nan were together, everything was great. But, when it came to me or Daddy, that cat was going to do something that would be story-worthy. You see, Dad was against the whole idea of us getting a cat from the very beginning, and you know what happens when you have a situation like that, the cat goes directly to the person who wants them the least. Many a Saturday morning I would get up and find Whiskers snuggled in bed between my parents. The cat literally slept on his belly with his head to the side and his tail straight down the middle between his legs. This was no cat, he was people.

But what Daddy never wanted us to see is when he went and bought kidney especially for the cat.  (As Dad would say, “It makes their coats shiny you know…”) He would stand for an hour or more at the kitchen sink with a cutting board cutting the kidney into tiny bite-sized pieces for the cat, and with a small saucer at his feet he would put small handfuls of kidney down so the cat could “snack” while he was cutting up the rest. No no, that man hated that cat, didn’t he?  (Don’t even get twisted, Mom got in on the act too when she would be boiling the pounds of gulf shrimp Dad would bring home…when she would split and de-vein the shrimp, there was a saucer on the floor for Whiskers.  That cat ate like a king.)

For all the niceties that Daddy visited on the cat, there were days where Whiskers would catch a foot in the rear while Daddy was getting dressed for work.  After hearing a loud “WHOA!” from Daddy tripping over the cat, he’d catch a swift kick and Whiskers would hit the hallway wall and go streaking out of sight. And thus began the war of Dad and the Cat. May we have the bell for the first round please?

Ding Ding…

For years my father had told my mother how much he wanted a truck, so much so that my mother’s beloved classical music became a plea for the truck…to the tune of Strauss’ “Blue Danube” came the lyrics…

“I love my truck (that I don’t have)”
“I love my truck (that I don’t have)”
“I love my truck (that I don’t have)”
“Oh Oh Oh please, oh oh please! I would really love a truck!”

Finally Daddy got his truck, a beautiful blue and silver full-sized (long wheelbase that I had to learn how to drive in) GMC Sierra. Well, since Mom’s Town Car got primary seating in the garage next to Nan’s Mazda 626, Dad’s truck had to sit in the driveway overnight, parked directly behind Mom’s car.

It was Whiskers who shot the first return volley in the war of Dad and the Cat. Whiskers would be the first out of the house in the morning, being let out when either Mom or Dad would get up to make coffee. Well, Whiskers would look around, do his business, then would promptly get up on the hood of Daddy’s truck and “mark” the windshield.

(And right around now, I think I just heard ten men go, “That would be one dead cat…”)

Now what you don’t know, which is going to take us even further off course from that snowy January morning, is that Whiskers LOVED to mark his territory. If there was anything new around, his tail would go straight up in the air and I swear I could hear a truck’s reverse beeper going, “Beep, beep, beep” and he’d back his butt right up and “mark”, oh heck let’s just say it like it is…peed…on whatever he thought was his. Oh, our house and everyone in it got marked in one way or another. It mystifies me to this day how that cat thought that the whole neighborhood was his. Trees, the backyard deck, the exterior walls of the house…many a time I saw his tail go straight up into the air, then he’d put himself in reverse and politely mark things. He was a boy, I get it.

But he didn’t stop with just our house…

Whiskers marked everything; the neighbor’s house, their vehicles, our neighbor’s Dachshund named Happy (who was none too happy about getting marked), and I even watched in bemused horror as he lifted his tail and put it into reverse to mark my pal Sarah as she was outside twirling. The summer before, my sister, mother and I were out on the back deck. I see Whiskers come out of the back door, look around and turn the corner to head to the front of the house where my ex-brother-in-law was mowing the lawn. About five minutes later, I hear a holler, the lawn mower gets shut off and I see Whiskers come screaming around the corner, looking like no more than a black blur…hot on his tail, running as fast as his legs would carry him, came my ex-brother-in-law. Nan looks up and hollers at him, “What’s going on?” As he ran past, all my ex-brother-in-law could reply was, “Heeeeee Peeeeeed Onnnnnnn Meeeeeee,” leaving the three women on the deck laughing so hard tears were streaming from our eyes.

That damn cat peed on everything, but no sin was worse than touching Daddy’s truck.

Every morning before I’d head off to school, I would watch as Daddy would go out to start his truck to let it warm up before he began his daily commute to San Antonio. And every morning, Daddy would come back in, just a-swearin’ because the cat had peed on his windshield.  Well, you know at one point Daddy was going to come back with a volley of his own.  Whiskers always got let out the back door first thing in the morning, after all it was the closest door to the coffee pot.  Well, Dad let Whiskers out the back then promptly went out the front door.  And there, on the front landing of the house, right next to Norman The Doorman, Daddy hung out and waited for his moment.

Sure enough, he sees Whiskers come around the side of the house next to the garage.  He sees the cat look around, right then left, cautiously making his move.  As the cat jumped up onto the hood of the truck, put it in reverse and marked it, Dad sprung from his position next to the rosebush and summarily cleaned the windshield with the cat.  Much less to say, Whiskers took a huge defeat in the Battle of the Windshield, taking off like a shot and never coming near my father’s prized truck again.

Here’s another break point…if you need one.

After the Battle of the Windshield, Dad and Whiskers called a truce and this takes us back to that snowy January morning.

After we ate breakfast and got squared away, Daddy, wrapped up in a set of sweats and his maroon bathrobe fell asleep watching the news in his La-Z-Boy with the cat draped over one of his legs.  With Daddy sleeping, all of us young people decided it was time to dress warmly and take a look around outside.

As I said, my ex-brother-in-law was somewhat of an enigma in our very Southern home.  What struck us all as peculiar was that he walked like a duck, feet pointed outwards instead of straight ahead (and I can’t say much, I’ve been bow-legged since birth to the point of having to wear special shoes to straighten my legs for my first few years of life).

What I’ve not told you thus far is that our house was on top of a hill.  A very steep hill at that.  Since it was covered in snow, we decide that it would be a great adventure to try to walk down it and back up again.  (Oh yes, we were real geniuses back then…) We get about a quarter of the way down and decide “Well maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”  We got a really good look at the snow-covered city, something we would most likely never see again, and start back up to the house.  Watching my ex-brother-in-law, I thought that I had finally figured out why he walked like a duck, it was better traction in snow…

As we walk back up the street, from at least 20 yards away, we see Whiskers bound out of the house and land in the snow, promptly freaking out, flicking his paws as if to go “What. The. Hell. Is. This?” and run back into the house as Daddy slowly walked up the front walkway of the house, easy to spot in his maroon robe, carrying a STEAMING hot cup of coffee.

Three years ago, I wrote a post called “Potholes.”  Sure enough, Daddy is the man who is the originator of the visual that goes along with landing in a pothole.  As we watched him come up the sidewalk from the house to our mailbox, we could see the steam rising from the cup.  We were all wearing tennis shoes to keep from slipping on the icy sidewalks and roads.  Daddy was wearing leather-soled slippers.  As the cat made a mad dash to get back into the house, he decided to take the path that would lead him inevitably to brush by Dad’s feet.  The world slowed down into slow motion.  We see the cat take off running, the next thing we see is Daddy’s feet go out from under him, the coffee in the cup decides to take flight, Dad goes up with it, then back down, landing with a thud and the coffee coming to rest all over him.  Dad’s customary cry of “Ohhhhh!” comes to us on the air as four young people try to run on slippery ground to get to him as fast as we can.  As we run up, Dad lets loose a few choice words and we help him to his feet, and lucky for us, the coffee cup didn’t break, and it’s sitting in my parents cupboard right now…

So, a very soggy Daddy goes back to his room to get showered and changed after his fall, then deciding to leave the house to run an errand, leaving the four of us to figure out how to make a fire in the fireplace.

Here’s another spot for a break…hurry back, we’re almost to the finish…

Speaking of Darwin Awards…the Fireplace…

The one guy I’ve not covered in detail yet is my sister’s first husband. After knowing the man for over 20 years, I sit in awe every day because the man is just a walking Darwin Award. That he’s not dead yet amazes me all the time…he’s not what I term as “overly graceful.” But I’m grateful he hasn’t stepped up to accept his award yet, because without him, I wouldn’t have my wonderful nephew.

So, we have four young people in front of a fireplace. A 22-year-old, a 19-year-old, a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old. No, this isn’t a recipe for disaster, is it? We all go out to the woodpile next to the house and find that the wood is soaking wet from the snow, even four and five logs down into the pile. Even so, my ex-brother-in-law says, “It’ll light.” Mmmhmm, sure it will. So they take the wet logs and stack them in the fireplace.

Well, over the course of the next 15 minutes with me looking on and making a suggestion here and there, Nan, Syndie and my ex-brother-in-law would try everything to get the fire lit. Newspaper, a candle underneath, oh they tried just about everything. But then someone ingeniously points out that Daddy kept all of the fuel for the lawnmower and the edger down in the backyard shed. What no one, outside of Nan and myself knew was that each piece of machinery had its’ own fuel can. Straight gasoline for the mower, a combination of gas and oil for the edger. Which one do you think he went down to the shed and grabbed?

I just heard you groan. If you did, you’ve got it right, he picked up the gas can for the edger.

Coming inside from the shed, he grabbed a small Dixie cup from the dispenser on the side of the refrigerator and poured in just a quarter of an inch of fuel. Then promptly left the gas can on the hearth. At seeing this, even at 13, my whole body said, “Oh hell no.  If they’re blowing up the house, I’m not going to be in it when it goes.”  I promptly took myself to my room, bundled up, looked at them and said, “I’ll be at Sarah’s,” and walked out the front door.

To this day, all Nan says is that she saw me look at my ex-brother-in-law, look at the gas can, get up and disappear.  Next thing she sees is me emerging from the hallway all bundled up and heading for the front door.

Well, I didn’t even get across the street, I only got to the top of the sidewalk.  Morbid fascination got me and I turned around.  But I wasn’t about to go back into the house.  Expecting to hear a loud explosion, I put my ear to the door and I hear a loud, “whump, whump, whump” sound.

When my ex-brother-in-law threw the gasoline/oil mixture into the fireplace, what he didn’t know is that there was a live ember in the back of the fireplace.  When the gas hit the ember, all of the gas came shooting back out of the fireplace onto the carpet and onto my sister.

I open the front door and see a flaming cup towel flying through the air beating on the fire on the ground.  I run through the formal dining room and into the living room to see the carpet in front of the fireplace on fire.  Worse yet, I see the front of my sister’s jeans on fire and say, “Nan!  Your jeans!” to which she quickly slapped them out with the cup towel.  Nan looks at me and yells “Get some water!”  So I head into the kitchen and grab a measuring pitcher and start to fill it with water.  Nan comes flying into the kitchen, shoves me out of the way and grabs a huge green Tupperware salad bowl and fills that with water, taking it into the living room and dumping it on the floor.  The fire was out.  The larger problem was that there were burnt patches of carpet in varying sizes in what seemed like a four foot long by three foot wide area.

But that wasn’t the only thing that was burnt.  When I walked in to see the flaming cup towel, what no one knows until now was that the thigh areas on my sister’s jeans were on fire and she lost an inch of hair to it being singed off.  (Now I ask you, what is my first rule of thumb about Nan?  “Hurt her and risk my wrath.”  Even though she wasn’t physically hurt, that boy was on my sh*t list after I saw that.  He must have been some kind of moron to hurt my Nana and I have never really forgiven him for it.)

Along with Nan’s hair missing an inch, the sheer heat from the blast melted the front of the television set.  You remember those old 1980’s console televisions right?  Well, above the screen was a singe mark that measured at least three inches long by about an inch wide.  The kicker is that the television was a good six feet from the hearth…does that tell you anything about the size of the blast?

After the fire was out and everyone took a breather, we all looked down at the carpet.  Now what you don’t know is that in our house, Mom is the boss.  Nope, not Dad, he gave that honor to Mom, she was the supreme ruler.  My mother is an outstanding woman.  She’s beautiful, funny, and incredibly intelligent.  It is only now that I look at my mother with supreme admiration.  She’s all that and a plate of cookies, but I had to grow up to figure that out.  OMG, my mom is the bomb.   She is the anchor of our family and it’s a job I don’t envy her for.  She was the disciplinarian, maid and all around ruler of the roost.

When Dad walked in to see the aftermath, the only words that escaped his lips were, “What the shit!”  If you know my father, you know that was all he had to say to know he was very not pleased. If my father swears, it’s katy-bar-the-door. But that was it, just three words, that’s all that came from Daddy.  Then he stood and stared for a moment at the floor.  After a moment more, he looked at my sister and my ex-brother-in-law and said, “I’m not going to do a thing.  I’m going let you wait until your mother comes home.”  After he said that, you could have heard a pin drop in that house because oh lordy, that was the ONE phrase you didn’t want to hear from him.  I will promise you that 99 times out of 100, if I got into trouble, the one man I would volunteer and want to be disciplined by is my father. What came from Mom was nothing that you wanted, not in this life or the next. We all learned early on that Hara-kiri would be preferable to facing Mom when you screwed up.  Daddy might as well have shot my ex-brother-in-law in the face, it would have been far more humane than to let that boy sit there and wait for his demise at the hands of my mother.

After Daddy said that, he gave everyone a moment to write out their last will and testament, especially my ex-brother-in-law.  My thoughts on it were that I was grateful he was going to be dead.  I’d get my sister back.  Another thought was, “Oh my god, I’m so glad that I didn’t do it because he’s going to DIE!”  I could point happily at the usurper of my sister and say, “He did it!”  Better yet, *looks around and whispers* I was just grateful that I wasn’t going to get into trouble for it.  Daddy had cleared me from any wrongdoing.  It was like being handed a gold-plated “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.

When we all finally settled back down and went back to our business, my sister and ex-brother-in-law disappeared.  Coming back to the kitchen (carefully stepping around the charred remains of the carpet) I saw Syndie in the living room and said, “Syndie, I’m 13 and even I know not to do something like that.”  What I didn’t know is that my ex-brother-in-law was sitting on the floor on the other side of my sister’s bed where I couldn’t see him.  He heard me tell Syndie that.

The afternoon wore on and I spent my time with my Atari 2600 and my computer while we waited for the inevitable 5 p.m. phone call from my mother. But not before my father sent my ex-brother-in-law and I on an errand in which he paid me back for that comment I made to Syndie by scaring the crap out of me on purpose by skidding and quasi losing control of his Z28 Camero on the way.  (He was a pretty big jerk.)

One last break… then we’re going to finish it up…


The Grim Reaper


At 5 o’clock sharp, the phone rang.  Everyone in the house huddled around the kitchen table jumped, startled from their seats.  Daddy walked over and answered the phone.  “Hello Angel. [pause]  Have the roads cleared up?  [pause] Ok. [pause]  Good. [pause]  Ok, then we’ll see you around six. [pause]  Be safe. [pause]  I love you.  Bye.”

As he hung up the phone, he turned to Nan and my ex-brother-in-law and said, “Well, you’ve got an hour to wrap up your affairs.  She’ll be here at six.”  I watched as sweat began to bead on my ex-brother-in-law’s brow.  My excitement was building.  I couldn’t wait to watch him be eaten.  Damage my sister…he he, die sucker!

As if on cue, at six o’clock sharp, we could hear the garage door opener kick on from where we sat in the kitchen. The entire room slouched a little further down in their seats. A feeling of doom came over the room as they moved from the kitchen table to my ex-brother-in-law sitting on the kitchen stool in the small corner pantry.  Nan stood next to him as Syndie sat up on the counter.  They looked ready to face the firing squad.

When Mom walked into the laundry room that linked the garage to the kitchen, and as she took off her shoes, she called cheerfully, “Hi everyone!  I’m home!”  I waved “hi” to her and thought to myself, “I didn’t do it!” and I cheerfully greeted my mother.  The three, basically sitting on top of each other in the pantry to protect my ex-brother-in-law, looked at my mom and greeted her with a simple “hi.”

My mom immediately became suspicious. As she walked into the living room, she passed the spots on the floor, and said “Oops, someone spilled something.”  But as her pantyhose started to snag on the burnt carpet, she suddenly exclaimed, “That’s not wet, that’s burnt!”  Everyone in the kitchen suddenly cringed. She paused.  After surveying the damage, she quietly went into her room to change out of her business attire and into her standard sweatsuit that she always cooked dinner in after a hard day’s work.

She walked into the kitchen and said, “Would someone like to tell me what happened?”  My ex-brother-in-law stepped up and said, “We had an accident.”  She looked at him and said, “Come with me.”  Mom and my ex-brother-in-law passed through the sun room and took a meeting on the back deck.  All we saw was my mother speaking slowly, then my ex-brother-in-law trying quickly to explain, then we saw mother slowly speak again, then again my ex-brother-in-law quickly responding.  After about ten minutes of it, they came back in, as they did, I pondered to myself, “He’s not dead?!  What happened here!  He’s supposed to die a very painful death!  Oh no!  I’m stuck with him!  No!  Awww man…”

Some 15 years later, I revisited that day with my Mom.  I asked her, “What did you think when you saw that and why didn’t you kill him?” She looked at me and said, “My first concern is that you all were safe.  That you all didn’t get killed was a miracle. I could have cared less about the house, what upset me is that he put all of you into mortal danger. Seeing that you guys were ok and only a patch of carpet was burnt, that I could live with.  Then I thought to myself, ‘Woohoo! I’m getting new carpet.'”

Yep, Daddy bought her an entirely new living room full of beautiful sand colored carpet, they even had the kitchen re-done while they were at it.  We never were allowed to wear shoes when we walked on it and my ex-brother-in-law never got near that fireplace again.

But isn’t it amazing what comes from 16 inches of snow on the ground?

So, as we hop back into the Delorian to bring us back to 2012, I’ll leave you with the song of the day from the 1985 film Back to the Future, Huey Lewis and the News’, “Back In Time.”

Generation Sophomore

Going to school at a large university isn’t easy. Going to school when you’re old enough to be the mother of most of the students you go to class with every day, and they find room in their hearts to adopt you, it’s a totally different thing.

My pals at school are a blast. Many a time I’ve sat in amazement just listening to them, hearing what they have to say, encouraging them and doing my best to be a shoulder when they need one. At least once a day I remember to give to my fellow students what I think everyone needs, to hear that someone believes in them, that they deserve every good thing and I don’t care if they’re blue, green or aquamarine, I’ll always love them just the same.

Last semester alone, I fed quite the few students, especially the ones from my Advertising Strategy class.  One of my fellow Acid Trippers (remember, our group was named “Bernbach’s Acid Trip” in homage to the Great Bill), well, she looked at me and said, “Sheri I love coming over here, the food is terrific.  It’s like being at my Mom’s but not…”  That made me laugh because she summed it up.  I’m their Mom, but not… I prefer “Honorary Auntie”, but “Mom but not” will work for me.

My close friends at school have my phone number and I have let them know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am what is known as a “safety-call”.  They know that if they get into a situation where they don’t feel safe, they can call me and I’ll go get them or do what is necessary to ensure their safety.  They know I am a safe place should they need one.  If they find themselves in a bind and need a ride, or if they’ve drank too much and need me to come pick them up, they know they can call me or show up at the house, but they need to give me at least 15 minutes warning if they’re going to show up.  The only thing they know I won’t do for them is bail them out of jail.  I’ve told the lot of them, “You can crash at my house, you can watch my TV, you can eat the food in my fridge, if you need me to come get you, I gladly will, but if you get your butt thrown in the slammer, call your REAL Mom because I’m not bailing you out.”

I go to school with students who I refer to as “My young people” just like I do my niece and nephew.  I’d scoop them all up and wrap them in a blanket of love if I could, doing my best to protect them from the big bad world. When I call them that, it is my way of giving them respect along with exercising my Mama Bear complex.  If someone hurt one of my young people, oh, I’d be upset and growling loudly at the perpetrators just to make my young people feel better. Long ago, my nephew and I had a conversation about being babied and the impression we get when those who are supposed to be wise would treat us like we were nothing more than a 4-year-old in the way. So, we made a deal. When he turned 16, I told him, “I’m never going to treat you like you’re four.  You’re an intelligent adult and I’m always going to speak to you that way and that will never change.  You are my darling, and I value your outlook because you’re smart and maybe I can learn something from you. Whatever you tell me I’m going to take seriously and if I can help, I’ll try to pass on something useful so that you can benefit from the lessons I’ve learned the hard way.”    
I view my young people at school as a true fountain of youth that reminds me to stay young at heart. They are so smart and fun, and they accept me for who I am, arrested development and all.  Every day in class they make me feel right at home, allowing my 20-something inner spirit to fit right in.  To be honest, every time I say I’m 40, most of them reply, “NO WAY!”  Yes, way.  
More than once, my fellow 40-something student Dan, and even Ace, has repeatedly told me, “You’re a teacher. When you talk there is always a lesson to be learned from what you say.”
Well, along the way I guess I’ve been minting Sophomores. 
Last fall, I had the privilege of meeting a young woman in my Electronic Media class. A petite 21-year-old fashionista (who sometimes shops on the Internet during class on her laptop…ahem, like I can’t see what’s in front of me…) that always looks pressed and perfectly groomed. Under her pristine form resides the heart of a lion.  But as I protect the names of the innocent as much as I can, I’m going to give her the moniker of “Lliona”.  The day I met Lliona, she was smiling up at a gangly young man who I came to find out was her boyfriend.  We quickly learned his name was “Lake”, and by what would transpire over the course of the next year I realized that the young man had a very fitting name.
As I mentioned earlier, Lliona has a fighter’s spirit.  She had walked into class one day a few weeks into the fall semester and she was noticeably shaken and rather upset, so when fate would have it that we would run into each other one day after class over at Einstein’s across the street from school, Lliona told me the tale of Lake.  
Lake, like so many young people these days, has substance abuse issues.  Lucky for all of us, Lliona doesn’t do those kind of things (and she better not…), she’s tougher than that.  When she met Lake, she made it her mission to straighten him out, from a haircut to new clothes, strong female presence and discipline, she was determined to make his life better.  You could tell Lliona was in love with Lake, but as much as I hate to say it, young love does like to be tumultuous.
Like a scene out of Romeo and Juliet, there were problems for both young people from both of their families.  Lake’s family has a history of addiction, along with an older sister that likes to make him into her enabler.  Many a day Lliona would come to class and express absolute dismay over the tragic events that would transpire, and as she told me about them, my heart became heavy for her and I began to worry about the situation.
After she told me about the misadventures of Lake and his addiction, I told her about my issues with substance abuse, the last 11 years of sobriety and the pitfalls of addiction and how it affects not only the addicted, but those who love them, who are forced to watch first-hand the addict’s decline into dire circumstances.  Many a time I looked at Lliona with a heavy heart, trying my best to hold back my tidal wave of experience on the subject and give her advice on how to deal with an addict.  Without showing my growing concern, I would check on with Lliona and ask her how she was doing.  She’d talk.  I’d listen.  The sad part is that I was watching her get so torn up over the situation, the family pressures from both sides, atrocious events and overwhelming drama descending on her, I could see her heart wearing thin.  At that point I looked at her and said, “Sweetie, some people just can’t be saved.  As much as we love them and want the best for them, if they can’t see that they’re hurting you, much less themselves, you can’t do anything about it. If he won’t listen and isn’t aware of how his actions are affecting you, you’ve got a choice to make, you’re either going to go down with him, or you’re going to rise above it and decide you’ve had enough.  I wouldn’t tell you this if I didn’t think you were great and you know I love you to pieces, but sweet girl, you deserve much better.  Don’t drown in the Lake.  Love yourself enough to know when you put YOU first.  I know you love him, but remember, you have to love yourself first, only then will someone love you the way you want to be loved.”
Eventually, Lliona had enough.  She told Lake to jump off the nearest cliff, to which I told her “Good for you!”   When spring came and she and I ended up in our First Amendment class together, I got to hear more about the Lake.  She reminded me of that line Richard Jenkins said in Eat, Pray, Love, “If you want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.”  And that’s just what I told her.  “You can’t drown in the moat.  It’s there to swim because the drawbridge hasn’t been lowered yet – the castle is still there all the same.  Out there in the universe somewhere is a guy built just for you, who is going to love you come hell or high water and isn’t going to have all the baggage that is the depths of the Lake you pulled yourself out of!  You are not an emotional baggage bellhop!  Sometimes we have to be alone for a while, it’s only normal, but don’t dare settle for someone who makes your life hell, trust me on that.  I’ve settled for someone like that and look where it got me, back in school while the doodah I married lives in his girlfriend’s basement in Kentucky.  You can do better than the Lake.  I know you can.  You’re young and gorgeous and you deserve to be treated right.  He may not show up until six weeks or six years from now, but you’ve got to make sure you’re ready for him when he shows up, not drowning yourself in Loser Lake!”

Well, her birthday came along last month and she was upset that it was going to be her 21st birthday and she didn’t have a guy to spend it with.  She mentioned Lake.  I immediately became filled with dread; come to find out she had reconciled with Lake – who had sworn himself to sobriety, subsequently giving her all of his drug paraphernalia, asking her to throw it away… and… you guessed it, he was back a few hours later, basically dumpster diving.  It was clear, he couldn’t stay sober and she wisely told him to fly a kite again.  But, there she was, alone on the most important day of a twenty-something’s life.  The magic number, 21…and finally able to go out and have a well-deserved drink.

Knowing that her date for the evening had hopped the next kite-flight to the great beyond (Mama Bear says: hopefully never to return), Lliona was feeling the loss.  She felt alone and panic-stricken.  I hugged her tight and wished her Happy Birthday, then recounted my two years of birthdays without an ounce of feral man-beast in sight.  Yes, the hot guys may have hung out at Lowe’s, just a mere half-block from my apartment, but for 38 and 39, all I had for my birthday was family.  I reminded her that her birthday was about HER, not who took her out, not the guy who had made her life messy and chaotic for the last gosh-knows-how-long and how she was worth far more than a scum-covered Lake.   I looked her in the eyes and said, “Sweet girl.  You are beautiful and smart.  Look at you!  You’re stylish and you always look perfect!  Why are you wasting time on that doodah who most certainly doesn’t deserve you!  Sometimes we have to take time for ourselves.  Go out, spoil yourself!  Go get a mani/pedi, go get a massage, and for heavens sake, give yourself love!  You don’t need that doodah Lake to make you happy.  You make you happy.  You deserve it!  If you have no one else, well then, darn it, take yourself out!  Do you know how many times I put myself together and took myself to Spago alone!  Plenty.  I don’t need some guy to take me out, I can do just fine on my own.  And you know what, I’ve had a blast every single time.  So your fun doesn’t depend on anyone but you.  Don’t stand there depressed!  The world is all yours for the taking, so what are you waiting for!?!  If the day becomes completely dire and there is no hope in sight, then call me,  I’ll take you out –  we’ll get gussied up and I’ll take you to Spago.”

After my pep talk, we went to class and I didn’t see her again until the following week.  Lucky for us, Lliona had a great birthday without having to swim in a scum-laden Lake.

A few weeks later, Lliona walked in beaming from ear to ear.  She had met someone new.  A 32-year-old car salesman from Georgia.  Ok anyone would be an improvement over Lake, so I was happy for her.  It was just what she needed, a nice, stable fellow with a good job.  I figured he’d take her out, she’d get to see more than just Lake’s drug-infested world and she’d be having new experiences, hopefully ones filled with fancy-schmantzy and more than a few glasses of champagne.  I was praying that he wasn’t what we all fear on a used car lot…driving away with a lemon.

Well, don’t you know it, Lliona walked in on Monday to class, and I asked how things were going with the car guy and well, she said that her phone rang and it was that new fella’s number.  She answers it, expecting to hear his handsome Southern tones, instead, she gets a 19-year-old girl asking her if he had told Lliona that he had a girlfriend.  I nearly flipped out.  My mind immediately thought, “Oh hell, sweet Lliona has her own Bassett Hound Faced Bitch to deal with.  Oh how history likes to repeat itself.”  I braced myself to hear her lament…no sooner did she get rid of the scummy Lake, two seconds later only to find herself in a rotten peach orchard.

As she told me the story of the young woman who called her, I notice Lliona had a smile on her face, one borne of confidence and “I can do better.”  As a matter of fact when I asked her how she felt about it all, she said just that, “I can do better.”  I sighed with relief, overjoyed to hear her say it.  Come to find out the car salesman wasn’t 32, he was 34, and Lliona ended up staying on the phone with his girlfirend for I believe it was 37 minutes in an effort to get her calmed down.  As Lliona tells it, the girl cried to her asking, “What do I do!?!?  I don’t want him to leave me!”  I think it was right about then that Lliona heard me in her head saying, “Puhlease…throw him back, and go get yourself another…”  Then after all that and Lliona finally hanging up the phone, the car salesman’s girlfriend called her back not but 20 minutes later to ask if Lliona would talk to her some more.

The following day, Lliona had to get her oil changed at the same dealership where the Lemon Lothario grows his orchard.  He walked up to her and said, “Lliona, I’m so sorry!  Damn it, I meant to tell you…”

Lliona didn’t skip a beat and I figure she sure as heck had swam in the Lake long enough to know better.  She looked at the Lemon Lothario and said, “Please don’t swear, it’s lent.”

Today, lo and behold, as we were getting up to leave class this afternoon, Lliona’s phone rang, it was the Lemon Lothario’s girlfriend calling…  Lliona looked at me and just rolled her eyes.

Then she said, “I deserve better than him.”

That’s my girl.

Summer Camp

It’s March and I’m betting a whole lot of parents out there are starting to eye summer camps for their kids, and in that vein, since my editor is on me to tell my stories, I’ll thrill you with one from way back when…

And please, don’t go the American Pie route and quote the line…it so wasn’t like that.

Mom and Dad knew that I needed to get out and since I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, they decided that a day camp would be good for me, so they packed me off, right up the road to T bar M Tennis Ranch where a day camp was being held.

T bar M is nestled just outside of the town I grew up in, right smack dab in the middle of the Texas Hill Country.  On the drive up highway 46, away from New Braunfels, you can open up the windows and smell the humidity-soaked air filled with fresh cedar.  The further you go up highway 46, the more dense the trees get until you finally get to the ranch entrance on the left.

I remember stepping out of my mother’s gray Lincoln Town Car and seeing the main building for the first time.  It wasn’t anything unique, but I could see the other kids milling around and I automatically became apprehensive.  My Mom took me into the building and I was introduced to a camp counselor that took charge of me.  Waving “bye” to Mom, I was taken on a tour of the facility, which at that time consisted of just a gymnasium, a quasi-soccer field, a pair of cabins, an open-air barn-like structure, a set of tennis courts and a cafeteria.  It wasn’t very big, but for the next week, I did arts and crafts, prayed a lot (it was a Christian summer camp), and got to swing a tennis racket (which I was horrible at, but had fun).

Since my first summer at T bar M was such a success, Mom and Dad figured that it would be cool to send me off not just for day camp, but for a complete one-week (seven-day, six-night) stay the following year.  Now what I didn’t know, until far later on, is that they would drop me off at camp, go home, pack their bags and hop onto a plane to Vegas for a week.  I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty brilliant.  Put your kid in camp and head to Vegas.  While I was studying the Beatitudes in the Book of Matthew, they would be in Sin City.   Think about it this way, they had a sitter and I’d be in a different locale away from my day-to-day life.  It was a Win-Win for everyone involved because I will tell you without hesitation or doubt that the highlight of my life during that time was to pack my bags for a week and go to camp where bullying wasn’t an option.  It was a seven-day pass that I relished every single year from when I was 10 to finally 15.

The first day of camp was always a blast.  I’d get checked in and assigned to a cabin (which was done by age).  In the beginning, the cabins were named after a German word for a “Fruit of the Spirit”.  The eldest boys were in “Styrke” or “Strength”, and so on.  I can’t remember the names of the cabins I stayed in to save my own life right now, but I will tell you that they had zero air-conditioning and bunk beds lined the walls for 32 kids per cabin (which were divided into two’s, duplex style with the counselors in the rooms between).

What’s neat about those summers is that I will never forget the “contraband” searches that went on in our footlockers the first day.  Oh, don’t even get twisted, they confiscated gum, candy, snacks, soda pop and even the king sized bags of Skittles and Jolly Ranchers that Mom had sneaked into my stuff when I wasn’t looking as a surprise.  That’s right, “contraband” was also known as unhealthy food.

Back in the day, going to T bar M was like going to a health farm.  If you wanted something to drink it was a choice between juice, milk or water, there was no such thing as soda pop until the big cookout that happened on the second to last night of camp.  Every morning we would get up, get dressed and head to the mess hall where you could find cereal, eggs, bacon and fruit to start the day off right.  Here’s the thing though, you had to clean your plate and whatever you took, you had to eat, so it became clear from the beginning that if you poured milk onto your cereal, you had to drink every last drop of it.  I remember counselors coming over to the table and asking kids, “Ok, you finished the cereal, but what about the milk?  That’s right, down it!”  If we hadn’t eaten everything on our plates we got the “there are starving children in…” until we cleaned our plates.  Since we knew we had to finish everything, campers did, to the point where we would remind each other to finish our plates or drink our milk before the counselors could bust us for it.

Then, after the meals, one cabin always got assigned to clean-up duty.  That’s right, I remember busing and wiping down tables, and when you do that, it reminds you to eat very neatly, and as I recall, since we had to clean it up, we all became really neat, really fast.

The days were very simple, we got up in the morning, had breakfast, went to Batters Box (the twice-daily bible study).  After that we went to our activities, ate lunch, had a moment for something known as F.O.B. (which meant Flat on Back or Flop on Bunk) our rest time, then back to more activities, then back to Batters Box, then on to dinner and the nightly sing-along in the open air barn.

Every year I got a choice of which activities set I wanted to take part in; the first two years, day camp and my first full week, I played tennis.  Dad was a tennis player back in the day, so I tried my hand at it.  After two years of that, I threw in the towel, tennis wasn’t my game, but they had a program called “Adventure” and it wasn’t on a tennis court, it was ropes courses, the rappelling tower, archery, hiking, canoeing, if it was an outdoor activity, we did it.

Well, I’ll never forget my first time on the rappelling tower.  To my little 12-year-old stature, the 50-foot-tall rappelling tower was not only high but terrifying.  Walking up the stairs inside of it, then finally to the ladder that reached the top, I could tell the tower was well built, it was open-air with round metal beams painted silver with grey landings and enough shoe prints to know that there were a lot of kids who had safely gone up and down it, so I felt relatively safe.

Finally getting to the top, I could see over everything (and to this day I still love a great view), but the problem was, now that I was up there, I had to come down, and by volunteering to climb the tower, that meant that you were volunteering to come down not by the stairs but by rope.

Before I climbed the tower, we were given a full schooling on the harnesses and equipment that are involved with rappelling.  There’s lots of carabiners, figure eights, lots of knots and special lingo that communicates your intentions while hanging on for dear life and praying you don’t fall.  There is “On Belay” which is what the person about to descend asks their safety person (the person holding the rope at the top) if they are ready.  If they’re ready, they’ll say, “Belay On.”  After that, when you get ready to go, you tell your belayer, “Climbing” and they’ll reply, “Climb On.”  Yeah, yeah, I know, get going, right?  But you have to know these things if you’re going to go down a 50-foot wall.  So, after getting schooled, we put on our harnesses and began to climb the tower.

So, there I am in my harness on at the top of the tower.  I remember getting up there and seeing a very handsome blonde man (the counselors came from different college chapters of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes), and with his Texas A&M t-shirt on (my Dad’s Alma Mater) I felt better. I had an Aggie looking after me. Now if that phrase alone doesn’t make you laugh, you’re not from Texas. Aggie jokes are almost the exact same as any other slight-type joke you’ve ever heard. (Example:”Did you hear about the Aggie that drove his pickup into the lake? His dog drowned while he tried to get the tailgate down.”) So yeah, I had Aggie looking after me.

Standing up there and admiring the view, the idea of going down the side of that tower was something that quickly became a very “what the heck was I thinking” kind of moment. Now, I will tell you that the first thing anyone tells you when you’re that high up doing something like rappelling is “don’t look down.”  And what’s the first thing we do?  Oh yeah, I politely held onto one of the safety bars at the top and looked down.  It’s ok, you can facepalm!  I do it all the time! Anyhow, I take one look over the side and realize that this is just NOT for me. Panic, apprehension? Oh yeah, there was a lot of that, but I am such a sucker for blondes…even at 12! The blonde counselor sees me panic and tear up and says, “It’s ok, you don’t have to! Just stand up here for a minute and calm down. You can watch the other campers do it. It’s really not that bad.”

So, wiping at my eyes, I stand up there for a few minutes and watch some of the other campers go down the wall and after some coaxing and some talking, the blonde counselor gets me tied into the ropes and gets me ready to go down the wall.

What they don’t tell you, when you are that age, is that the hardest part is taking first step.  Now for the last three years we’ve been doing nothing but talking about how the first step is the hardest to take.  I know this from experience because it was my 12-year-old butt hanging precariously off of a 50-foot rappelling tower.  When you swing yourself over the safety bar and you’re standing on the top-most rounded beam of the tower, your body is at the exact same angle as the wall, straight up and down.  What you have to do is extend your legs and let the rope out so that your butt goes down but your legs stay straight and you become basically perpendicular to the wall, allowing you to “walk” down it.   The hardest part is letting go and allowing the rope to start to move, taking your butt with it.

Hanging out there like that, the counselor looked at me and said, “You’re doing good girl, it’s going to be okay…”  and he kept saying things like “Great job girl…” at one point after about five times of being referred to as “Girl” I politely looked at him and said, “By the way, my name is Sheri, you can call me that.”  There I am with my butt hanging out over a 50-foot tall rappelling tower struggling to get down and I take the time to introduce myself.  I ask you, in what world does this happen?  The counselor broke into a full-on laugh saying, “You’re quick!  Wow, right on Sheri, it’s nice to meet you. You’re doing great, I’m proud of you, now just extend your legs and start walking down.”

I will have to say that going down that wall wasn’t easy.  Let’s add onto the fact that my shirt rode up just enough to leave a patch of skin at my waist, where the rope was resting, for me to get a nice, fat rope burn.  But, I leaned back, extended my legs and step by step got down the wall.

After I got down to the bottom and I got unhooked from all of those ropes, I looked back up at the distance I had come, with my fellow campers cheering for me the whole way…and thinking to myself, “Wow.  I actually did it.”  But that didn’t stop me walking away from everyone to bend down and kiss the ground.

But it was all about that first step.  The old saying “That first step is a doozey” doesn’t lie, but it’s that first step that makes all the difference in the world, it’s the difference between giving up and walking away or saying you had the courage to do what didn’t think you could.

That afternoon we covered more of the Beatitudes in the Batters Box.  Ironically the verse we covered was Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” I couldn’t help but think that my meek butt on that rappelling tower sure did earn my feet hitting (and inheriting) the earth.

Over a course of five years, I spent my summers at T bar M, and for me, they’re some of the happiest memories of childhood.  It’s kind of funny that I can now look at my parents and say, “By the way, while you were in Vegas, I did this…”  Those summers weren’t all perfect and storybook but I will tell you that the counselors saw a very emotionally beat-up little girl and did their best to make my time there as peaceful and loving as possible.

After seven days of that, my heart broke every time I had to go home.  Counselors would come in on our final day and give back our unopened “contraband” for us to share while we were packing our footlockers, and I would wish with all my heart that I could stay there forever.  But, all good things come to an end and as I’d walk up the cedar mulch-filled walkways out to the parking lot, I’d always look back and think to myself, “I’ll be back next year.”  What I didn’t know is that I would never go back again, but the memories would stay with me for a lifetime.

If you have a young person who needs to get away from it all, I highly suggest shipping them off to T bar M for a week this summer.  Yeah, they’ve got soda pop now and there are a lot more cabins with English names that are air-conditioned, but it’s still worth it because the memories they’ll take away from it are worth their weight in gold.

Bullies

Yesterday I came to an agreement with Smith, yep he’s volunteered (more like took his own life in his hands) to be my editor.  Like any good editor, we talked about how my voice is unique and where my strengths are as a writer.  He says that I’ve got “the gift”, so I’ve got to write.  He also says I should believe in myself more, and I agree with him, but the truth is, I really don’t know how, so I’ll just play it as run and figure it out along the way.

However Smith, in his great writer’s wisdom and Hephaestus-like wordsmithing skills, let me know that my strength is in my storytelling; how I can spin a yarn with how I phrase things.  But, here’s the kicker, I don’t have nearly enough content to go through to widdle down into a volume of good things, so back to my keyboard I go.  Smith also said one other thing that set me on edge: that I need to write about the tougher subjects, namely all of the pain and hurt I’ve been through.  Here’s the problem with that – I don’t like wallowing in my past, I’m over it, I’m above it, I am not the guest of honor at my own personal pity party; but I can hear Smith in my head saying “You have to write about all of that stuff to give your humor context and give us a reason to cheer for you at the end.”

That’s the hard part, isn’t it?  It’s reliving all of those horrible moments, the ones that will make you shake, cry and give the overwhelming urge to scream out, “WHY?”  But it’s the hard moments, the painful words and the situations of the past that make you just want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over your head and wish with all your heart you were someone else.  Those painful things are why I have PTSD, why I struggle every day with arrested development and when the truth finally is told, why I am who I am and why I have my “unique voice” that my editor thinks is bestseller-worthy.

So today I sit at my keyboard knowing what I have to write about and wanting to turn around and run in the other direction.  The nausea is overwhelming, but the whole reason for sitting down and doing anything like this is to make sure that someone else, who has been through the same things, knows that they’re not all alone in the darkness, that the pain that they are feeling isn’t just restricted solely to them and that someone else on this sometimes detestable rock understands where they are coming from.  Smith and I agreed on one thing, the point of all of this is to remind everyone that no matter how beat down we are, we can all rise from the ashes with an incredible amount of nutritional value.

Doc Cat once told me that I’m far too lenient on the people who have hurt me, so today, oh yeah, those folks are going to get what’s coming to them because personally, if I don’t get to forget what they’ve done because I have to live through it day after day because of the PTSD and anxiety they so kindly gifted me with, they’re most certainly don’t get to be forgiven.  On top of that, for all of the folks that are cheering for me, we’re going to jerk pants down around ankles and I’m going to give you the honor of letting you break out your two by fours and go to town on them. Call it stress relief, or by all means call it justice, we’re going to get up on our horse and run those suckers into the ground and put a hurt on the lot of them.

That’s right folks, bullies are the topic of the day.

My first experience of getting bullied goes way back.  Jeez, trying to remember the first time I was bullied is a feat in itself because I honestly don’t remember a day from childhood where I wasn’t.  To be honest, I guess I was a target from the get go…pretty, smart, sharp as a tack…what bully doesn’t hone in on things like that?

But let’s dissect bullies for a moment:  What is a bully?

The Mirram-Webster dictionary defines a bully as: a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.

I’m going to differ with Mr. Mirram on one point, bullies don’t just target those who are weaker, they target people who they feel inferior to.  Come on, admit it, how many attractive bullies have you ever seen?  How many mental giants do you know that bully people?  That’s right, not many.  Oh yes, Stephen Hawking is really going to get out of his wheelchair and really put the hurt on you.  I truly believe that bullies are born from individuals who have massive and I mean MASSIVE inferiority complexes.  It’s not my fault someone feels stupid, that’s their burden to carry, not mine. When someone who doubts their intelligence perceives someone is smarter than they are and they feel threatened, they lash out, doing anything and everything to beat the smarter person down.  There are tons of reasons why bullies do what they do.  Jealousy has got to be one of the biggest motivators.  Tell me, how many ugly girls get together and beat on a pretty girl when the pretty girl is in the minority?   Mmmhmmm, don’t tell me nothing I don’t know because I was the pretty girl getting the crap kicked out of her by a bunch of jealous cows.

But, as Smith would tell me, “Tell the story”, so here we go.

I grew up in a little dirt-speck of a town, not anything as beautiful or cosmopolitan as say a city like Montreal or Las Vegas.  Yep, I grew up just 22 miles north of San Antonio, a beautiful town called New Braunfels, which is nestled deep in the Texas Hill Country.  Back in the day, the population was only about 22,000 people, so up against a city like Las Vegas with its millions of inhabitants, you can say it’s a whole other world.  The city itself is beautiful, rolling hills, the scent of Mountain Laurel wafting on the breeze, Bluebonnets lining the roadside and folks kind enough to give a wave when you passed them on the street.  But, even if the town is beautiful, in the 70’s and 80’s, some of the kids I grew up with weren’t beautiful, not by any stretch of the imagination.  And I’m not talking about physical beauty for the most part, I’m talking about “immortal souls” here.  Texas may produce Miss America seven times out of ten, but what’s underneath that is a whole other story.  At this point I can only say that there is a special place in hell reserved for some of the kids I grew up with.

From the moment I was born, my sister has showered me with gifts, for the most part the gifts she has given me over the last 40 years have been worth more than money could ever buy.  The biggest gift she gave me is the gift of literacy. Because she’s four years older, from the very beginning she made it her mission to share with me everything she had.  She taught me how to read, and she taught me how to write, giving me her books to learn from so we learned at the same pace.  I remember laying on my parent’s bed with the flu when I was very little, no more than three years old, and her coming in with her writing books, giving me the dotted lines to trace, which resulted in me writing script and cursive by the time I was four and was able to crack open an encyclopedia and read from it and understand what the words meant.  Nan really did forge the way for me to be so smart, what she learned, I learned at the exact same time.  Without her, I would have developed much later.

I have to say, Nan was very fortunate to grow up in New Braunfels, she fit right in and everyone loved her.  She was beautiful, popular and very well dressed.  My sister back then was the sun, moon and stars to me (still is) and I was very fortunate, she took me everywhere with her.  Where you wanted one, you got two because I was Nan’s ever-constant shadow and little mascot.  To be honest, I grew up with her.  Her friends were my friends, they looked after me and I got to go do “big kid” things before all of the others.  Nan really did put me way ahead of the game.

Nan could have never guessed that all of her good intentions, love and care would put me at odds with the rest of the kids my own age who didn’t have sisters who were teaching them from the start.  I have to say, all of the smarts I have are purely due to my sister making sure I was learning from birth.  I remember sitting long hours at the kitchen table listening to Nan studying and doing her homework with my Mom. I learned by osmosis, they talked about it, I heard it then learned from it.  That was the reason I was using the word “abundant” when I was 8-years-old;  I heard it, I asked what it meant, got slugged by Nan for asking Dad what it meant (in which you know that my Dad is much like the dad in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, ask him the definition to a word and you get a 30-minute dissertation), and finally ended up with a dictionary in my lap and finding out what it meant.  But, no one ever bothers to tell you that if you hear it at home, you’re not supposed to repeat it at school.  While other kids were bringing curse words to school from home, I was bringing a much larger vocabulary, I started using the big words I heard at home in casual conversation at school.  While the other kids were swearing their heads off, I was saying their swearing had become “abundant”.  It was quite enough.  (In my head I was thinking, “You’re smarter than that, use better words!)    You know what is coming…you have to.

When you go to primary and secondary schools and junior high with children who have parents who are blue collar, farm-hands, ranchers and so on, and those kids hang out with the not-so-educated ranch hands instead of being parented by highly intelligent folks, their vocabularies aren’t going to be filled early on with words that make future word-smiths. It stays about eighth grade reading level (which I am convinced it has remained for the entirety of their lives) and that’s the best you can hope for; before that, they’re mono-syllabic, and if you get into more complex words, well, their minds just, for lack of a better term, lock up.  Since they couldn’t comprehend it, it automatically became a threat.  Yeah, I’m serious, that’s how their small minds worked.  Honestly, I have a lot of trouble with people who don’t stop to ask “What does that mean?”  Human curiosity and the ability to ask questions to expand knowledge is one of the greatest gifts we are ever given and I have never in my life ever been afraid to stop and ask for clarification about what I don’t understand.

No no, I didn’t get, “Hey Sheri, what does that mean?”  Instead, I got made fun of and bullied because my advanced vocabulary unintentionally made them feel stupid.  I got looked at like I was from the moon, the kids stopped talking to me and treated me like I was dirt under their shoes. I was exiled early on because when I spoke, words they didn’t understand came pouring from my mouth.  I might as well have been speaking Greek for the pushes, shoves, whispers, rumors, screamed insults, innuendo, pointed fingers, snubs and humliation I received.

The phrase “audience appropriate” hadn’t been introduced to me yet, I didn’t know that I had to actually (and I hate, hate, hate that I have to say it like this…) talk down to them so they could understand me.  If someone had told me, “Hey, remember, they don’t know the words you do, so speak their language,” I might have fared better, but at 8-years-old, what do you do when your education is actually four years ahead?  There is nothing you can do except be at the mercy of ignorant fops, and oh did I pay for being smart.  The teachers understood me just fine, but at that point you could honestly say I was doomed.

The next ten years would be no different.  Think about that for a minute.  Ten YEARS.  Imagine what you were doing on this exact day in 2002, now imagine being bullied the ENTIRE time, from that exact moment ten years ago to today.  Don’t limit it to just one place either.  Imagine walking into more of it when you got home from being bullied all day from where ever you were.  Imagine that it did not stop from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to sleep.  Brings you to your knees, doesn’t it?   Personally, it brings tears to my eyes and makes me want to throw up.   But you’re just getting a taste of it.  Imagine having to live it like I did, every single day, no protector, no guardian.  It’s you taking it full force, every single day, blow upon blow, hateful word upon hateful word.   Try just for a moment to imagine standing up against that.  You can’t.   I got hammered into the ground to the point where I would watch the kids down on the playground through the window of a third-floor secluded classroom, high and far away from everyone else just so I could eat my brown-bag lunch every day in a moment of fleeting peace.  Going to the school cafeteria would be an exercise in futility, getting food and insults thrown my way.  It felt like I couldn’t even breathe without getting ridiculed in one form or another.

After about five years of it, my parents finally started seeing what was going on.  They went to the school, they talked to the teachers, they went to the other parents and it only got worse.  The more the kids got disciplined for bullying me, the worse it got.

In a situation like that, no one is to blame.  Who are you going to crucify?  Me for listening, learning and having, according to the bullies, the audacity to learn beyond my years?  Was I so horrible for being that advanced?  Did that make me a bad person, detestable to the human eye for just wanting one moment of acceptance?  Was I so bad that no one wanted me around just because I was pretty and smart?  Did I deserve all of the name-calling, the rumor mill that churned out endless lies and the persecution and hell that was walking down a school hallway just to get to class?

I do have to give a few kids a break here, I did have some friends, but they were in passing and only held up long enough until the peer pressure got too much for them.

But then that was just getting through to junior high and into high school.

I’ll give you a break for a moment so you can go get sick or whatever you need to do.  Enraged is how you should feel around now, if you were me.  That I was trapped in a world where there wasn’t much to hold onto, it’s not surprising that I took solace in my room at home with my computer and my video games.

A few of the kids who bullied me will stand up right around now and try to excuse their actions by saying I brought what happened onto myself, because something inside of me snapped, I was ready to sell my soul for one moment of their acceptance.  That would be true.  No one bothered to tell me back then that I didn’t need their acceptance, that the only thing I really needed to do was go to class, get good grades and just get through it so I can be where I am now.  But, that would have been of absolutely no use when I was sitting in the middle of it with no end in sight.

There were other things outside of school that just added to the cycle.  Being told you are worthless every day on the way to school doesn’t help, that being pretty on the outside just meant that I was ugly on the inside… I was being programmed to fail, programmed to sit and take the endless waves of abuse piled upon me, so much so that my personal growth, coping mechanisms and human survival instincts would be worn down to non-existence.  (And people wonder why I don’t believe in myself.  Put bluntly, no one else ever did during those long hard years, so why should I?)

High school was no better, it started off with some twit thinking that sexism was ok when he decided to put “Perky” on the band member recognition flier taped to my locker.  All band members got one, but mine just had to have a sexist remark because he thought it was ok to further humiliate me.  As you can guess, he was referring to my breasts.  Why some teacher didn’t beat the snot out of him for that, I’ll never know, but as you can guess, my freshman-year breasts were a hot topic to all of the band section leaders and thereby the entire student body of over a thousand students, resulting in a nickname they called me openly without any adult intervention.  To the guy who did that, you owe me a huge apology, you not only fueled the bullies and further the belief that made them think all the crap they did was acceptable, you made things a hundred times worse.  This is where I grab you painfully by the ear and say, “That’s not okay.”

There are other stories about me getting bullied that I’m not ready to write about yet.  Sorry Smith, I’m done for today.  We’ll have to cover the Anti-Christ himself another day, the one kid who did the most damage and his compliment of cohorts that made every day worse than the one before.  I just don’t have the heart to get to him yet because going through that humiliation once was enough, going through it again will take having someone hold my hand while we tackle it along with a mountain of Kleenex.  I’m short of breath and reaching for my anxiety meds just thinking about it.  Oh, and don’t even get twisted, I’m pissed.  He’ll get his day, oh boy is he going to get it.  But we’ll tackle him in our own good time.  He’ll get his day because I want the whole world to look at him and for the rest of his life I want his name to be synonymous with the not-so-kind phrases he alone has helped me hear every day for the last 27 years.  Oh, that SOB is going to get his pants jerked down around his ankles, then I’m going to let all of my good friends, supporters and my legions of Sophomores loose on him.  Yep, I don’t think he ever figured that eventually my friends and readers, who would do anything to protect me, would literally cover the entire planet.  Hell, even my editor wants to take a baseball bat to him.  To him we only have one thing to say: Sucker, you messed with the wrong girl.

I really have a lot of unexpressed anger about what happened to me.  I would love to be able to let all of the bullies who made my life such hell for so long have a taste of what it is like to go through what they put me through.  I would love nothing more for them to lose as many nights sleep as I did over it.   I would love for them to experience someone hammering them into the ground over a nickname;  I would love to see them even try to live with the anxiety I do and fully understanding that their ignorant and unforgivable actions damaged someone for the rest of their life.  I sure as to hell hope they’re proud of themselves.  I only wish I could give them the gift of living with my PTSD for a single day so they understand how their actions will be with me for the rest of my life.  See, that’s the thing about arrested development, you can’t let things go even if you try every day for the rest of your life…they stay with you FOREVER and as much as you’d like to put them behind you, you can’t.  On a typical day for me I can still physically hear the taunts and the insults.

At the end of the day, I can only look at the people that bullied me with disgust, disdain and pity and say, “Way to go dude.  Grats for being such a f-up.”  Oh look at the big bad bully, oh they’re so threatening with their ignorance…forgive me for being rude, but you’ll have to forgive me for laughing at you and your pathetic excuse for claiming superiority.  Geez, I just feel so bad that I actually care about someone else’s feelings and that I’m not only in the top 10% of brilliant individuals but make sure I lift up everyone around me and think of myself last, always giving more than I take.  I know, that just makes me worth calling me all of those names!  It’s so hard to look in the mirror and see all of your shortcomings, isn’t it?  Forgive my cynicism…I’m over the fact that I had a group of malicious a-holes make my life a living hell for so long.

Now we’re at the point where I get to say it is time to dispense some poetic justice.  They were right to fear and be jealous of me because now I’m pissed and I’m coming for them full force, blazing intellect and school of hard knocks education right alongside me.  No no, I’m not that beat down kid anymore.  I’m Phi Kappa Phi, I’m Dean’s List Honors and I’m invited to Kappa Tau Alpha, the Journalism Honors society.  And you know what that means?  I’m a writer, but I’m not just that.  I’m a bad-ass that is now in a position and has the weaponry to truly bring the pain.  No no, they’ve not seen pain until I take my vengeance out on them on a global scale.   I’m beautiful, I’m brilliant and I’m the hottest thing on two feet with a literary property just waiting to cut loose. They were right to be afraid because now I’m able, along with my legion of supporters, to beat the ever lovin’ shit out of them for very justified reasons.  There is something to be said for being smart.  Had those bullies been smart enough to leave well enough alone, we wouldn’t be having this conversation…but they weren’t very smart, were they?  The proof is in the pudding and the one thing I’ve learned is that every dog has its day… and this one, well she’s got long, sharp teeth and a very voracious appetite just waiting to chow down. *giggle*

I’ve always been a nerd and I love being one.  I love being able to handle lines of code on a computer screen and produce a technological miracle.  I love being able to solve problems quickly and I most certainly love the fact that I’m smarter than the average bear.  There’s nothing wrong with being thrilled that I can solve problems quickly and efficiently for the people I love around me!  That’s sharing good, wholesome nutritional value and playing to my strengths, not fodder for some IQ-challenged moron who thinks that they have to put me down just because they decided to put themselves in a situation that made them regret not studying harder.

I may be a wise fool and I might be a lot of other things, but you know what, I have a voice.  I have the gift of story telling.  I am the voice of the bullied, and I will see justice done for every single one of us who have been put under a boot heel because some insignificant moron with a pitiful education and no common sense didn’t make their words kind, gentle and tasteful… oh, to hell with kind, gentle and tasteful…the bullies had their day to have their say, now it’s ours.

Put on your bibs bullies…it’s time for you to step up to the table because the Sophomores of the world are about to make you eat every single last taunt, insult and injustice you ever visited on us. You should have thought twice before a single unkind, crass or bitter word escaped your lips, because now you’re going to eat them.  As I said, there is a special place in hell reserved just for you…

As Andy Garcia said in the film Ocean’s Eleven, Run and hide, asshole. Run and hide. […] Because I want my people to find you, and when they do, rest assured we are not going to hand you over to the police. So my advice to you again is this: run and hide. That is all that I ask.” 

For all the bullies out there, this one goes to out to you…because we’re coming.  Pink Floyd’s “Run.”