Monday, September 27, 2010

B for BAD Neighbor

Okay, so after my last two posts, I’m going to completely shift gears today. It’s time to lighten things up around here. I got the idea for this post when my lovely bloggy friend, Shana, wrote a post about bad neighbors. I immediately felt bad for Shana, because I think we’ve all been there at one point or another. Then, I remembered the time that I had been a bad neighbor. A really, really, really, horribly, terribly bad neighbor. And, I decided to swallow my pride and tell you about it, because I’ve reached the point where I’m able to laugh about it. I hope you will too. Go ahead and laugh at my expense. It’s okay. I encourage it.

At the age of 25, I was living alone for the first time ever in my life. I’d gone from living in my mom’s house, to living in an apartment with my then fiancé, Alex, to buying a townhouse with Alex and living a very grown up life for someone in her early twenties. One day, I woke up and realized that I just couldn’t live that life anymore.

Alex and I had dated since I was 17 and he was 19. We had, in essence, grown up together. Or rather, I grew up. And he? Well, he didn’t. Not so much anyway. Not at the same rate as me, I guess. At any point, I didn’t love him anymore. At least not the way that you should love the man you’re planning to marry. I was sick of being his maid and his mommy and getting very little in return for that. It had started to feel more and more like we were roommates—not partners—and he wasn’t even a very good roommate at that.

So I did the most logical, yet hardest, thing I’d ever done: I packed up my things and left. I moved to a suburb about thirty minutes south of were Alex and I had been living. I’m not going to lie, lovely reader. I chose the suburb because a certain someone lived there.

Joe and I had reconnected months before. After having not spoken for years as a result of Joe crossing boundaries that never should’ve been crossed when you consider that I was the fiancé of his best friend, Joe emailed me and we started talking, which lead to us spending time together, which lead to me realizing how truly unhappy I was with my current situation. It should’ve been a bad sign to Alex that I was even talking to Joe at all, but he didn’t seem to care. And that’s what pushed me over the edge.

There had always been chemistry—a deep connection—between Joe and me. I know now, thanks to age, maturity, and hindsight, that it was just lust. But back then, it seemed like love. He encouraged me to move to the wonderful suburb he lived in. So, I did, and we started dating.

I found the greatest two-bedroom townhouse style apartment, which had a one car garage and its own entry (thus the “townhouse style”). I enjoyed my new found freedom and peace and quiet and took great pride in living on my own. Because Joe worked a second shift job, he’d often come over late on weeknights so that we could spend a little time together before I went to bed. Life seemed so great, and I was happier than I’d been in a long, long time.

One day, about six months after I’d moved into my apartment, I got home to find an envelope on my door. It was quite obvious that there was a very important message inside, because the envelope was fastened securely to the door with two large strips of silver duct tape. The envelope was addressed to Neighbor in Apartment 112, so it was definitely for me. I’ve included an artist's rendering below. (Note: I am the artist, and I’m not what you'd call very artistic, which I'm sure you'll notice.)

See? Whoever left this message really wanted me to get it. So, needless to say, I was eager to read it. Once inside my apartment, I tore open the envelope to find a one page handwritten letter:

Dear neighbor-

I wanted to make you aware of an issue that you might not be aware of, since I know you just moved in a few months ago. The walls and floors in these buildings are very thin, which means we can often hear much of what our neighbors do. (Editor’s Note: Seriously?! Someone’s gonna write a note to bitch about my TV being a little loud, or worse, me walking too loudly?) Many times this isn’t an issue, because we all tend to keep similar hours, but your boyfriend sometimes seems to visit kind of late at night. (Oh, Oh. Getting a little worried here.) I’m pretty sure he visited last night, which is what prompted me to finally write this letter. (Starting to wish this was just a complaint about how loud my TV is, but realizing it probably isn't.)

Last night, my young son woke me up at around 1 a.m. asking what was wrong with the lady in the other apartment. (My heart is in my throat.) He was quite upset because he thought that the lady was being hurt, because she kept screaming, “Oh, God! Oh, God!” I had to explain to him that the lady was fine and that she was probably just really excited about something. This isn’t the first time this has happened. (OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! I have to move. NOW! Right this instant!)

What you do in your apartment is your own business, but I wanted to let you know that other people can hear you. I hope that we’re able to resolve this issue without getting the apartment management involved.

Thank you,
Concerned (and tired) Neighbor

By the time I finished reading the note, I was shaking and my face was a brilliant shade of red. For a few milliseconds, I was proud. But then, I was mortified. I knew (as I’m sure you do too) exactly what noises the neighbor was talking about. You see, many times when Joe came over late in the evening, we spent time in my bedroom doing what many normal twenty-somethings who are oh so in love do. And though I’d participated in such “adult activities” with my former fiancé, it had never been as much fun or as good. Joe liked to know how well he was “performing” and how much I was “enjoying myself,” so I, of course, obliged.

I could not believe this was happening to me. I felt like a teenager who'd just been caught by her parents. (Which, incidentally, never happend to me.) Once I realized that moving wasn’t an option, because running from my shame wasn’t worth the amount of money it would take to break the lease and pay a damage deposit and first month’s rent elsewhere, I began to wrack my brain over which neighbor left the note. I needed to know who I now had to avoid at all costs. I was so horrified that I contemplated never leaving my apartment ever again.

I didn’t take long for me to figure out that “Concerned (and tired) Neighbor” was the neighbor who lived in the apartment below mine, a single mom with a son who was probably around five years old. I only had one other neighbor, who was barely ever home and to my knowledge had no children. Also, since his apartment was to the right of my living room, which was on the opposite end of the apartment than my bedroom, it wasn’t too likely that he would’ve heard any goings on in the bedroom.

When my mortification subsided a bit, thanks to an instant messaging conversation with Joe in which we had determined that the neighbor was probably just jealous that I was “getting some” and she wasn’t, I was a little angry. While I appreciated my neighbor’s tact (Could you imagine her going to the apartment management to resolve this instead of first trying to deal with it directly first?! Mortification times a billion.), and the fact that she had written a note instead of trying to discuss the issue face-to-face, I was pissed that she had closed the note with what I perceived to be a bit of a threat.

Also, since this issue quite obviously disrupted her life, why had she waited six months to tell me about it?! What kind of sick person listens in on other’s “adult activities” like that?! I knew that she didn’t have her son on a regular basis, indicating that he perhaps was visiting his other parent quite a bit of the time, so I was sure that Little Miss Pervert only grew tired of the noise when it happened to occur on a night that her son was home. Would I have received a note had her son never heard? I doubted it. (What can I say? I was a stupid, embarrassed, paranoid twenty five year old.)

I resolved to avoid Concerned Neighbor at all costs, which would be a little tricky to do since we basically shared a driveway. However, I decided I could use the thin walls and floors to my advantage. Every time I got ready to go somewhere, before I actually left my apartment, I paused in front of the door; looking out the peephole and listening for signs that neighbor might also be leaving her apartment. This technique worked well for quite a while; until the day that I was unloading groceries from the trunk of my car and she pulled her car into her driveway right next to me. I quickly decided to pretend I didn’t notice her, hoping that she’d quickly exit her car and walk to her apartment.

But, as I turned to walk to my apartment, I noticed her standing not even three feet away from me. Oh no. Please don’t say anything. Please, please, please, please, please. I’d fixed the problem. Joe’s late night visits were limited to once per week, and I worked diligently to keep myself quiet on those visits. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d become the quietest neighbor in the world...I crept around my apartment as though the floor was filled with landmines and I barely ever turned the TV on, let alone turn the volume up.

I gave a quick smile and began walking to my apartment, willing her not to talk to me and not to follow me. Maybe, just maybe, she didn’t know that I was “Neighbor in Apartment 112.”

I heard a voice behind me, “Do you need any help?” I wanted to disappear.

I turned halfway towards her, careful not to meet her gaze, “Ummmm…no thanks. I’ve got it!” I smiled as I felt my face turning red; the embarrassment I’d felt weeks ago came flooding back.

“Are you sure? Looks like you’ve got your hands full. Let me at least get that garage door for you.” She reached her hand inside my garage stall and hit the button for the automatic door.

“No. Really. I’ve got it. Thanks for taking care of the garage door though!” followed by a huge smile. The garage door finished its descent, bringing the blaringly obvious 112 into full view. If she hadn’t known before who I was, she certainly knew now. I wished for a giant hole to open in the ground and swallow me up.

We began walking. As we got closer to the steps where she’d go down to go to her apartment and I’d go up to go to mine, I began sweating. Was she going to say anything? Should I say something? Just then, I dropped my keys. WHY does something like that always happen at the most inopportune times?

I turned to pick them up, but neighbor was quicker. “Sorry,” I said as she grabbed my keys off the sidewalk. As she handed them back to me, I looked her in the eyes, smiled warmly, and said, “Thank you so much.” I hoped she knew that the keys weren’t the only thing I was apologizing or thanking her for. I was so incredibly grateful that she was such a good neighbor.

I think she got the point, because from then on, we were always cordial. And, not only was I never confronted by management with any neighbor complaints, but in the year and half that I lived there after that, I never received another note.
Creative Commons License

Thursday, September 23, 2010

T for Trials and Tribulations

Edited to add: I've gotten a couple emails saying people are having troubles commenting on this post today. I don't know if it's a Disqus or a Blogger problem, but it makes me sad, because I love to read what you have to say. If you click on the actual post title, and then scroll to the bottom, you should see comments available. If not, please feel free to email me. You can do that by clicking on "Send me a Note" under my picture at the top right of the page.

Mama's Losin' It

I’m participating in Mama Kat’s writing workshop today, and as I alluded to yesterday, this post will be anything but lighthearted. Also, it could get long; really long. The prompt I chose is:

Tell us about a day you were sure you wouldn’t get through.

This one is, unfortunately, far too easy for me. And while it will be hard to write, because it involves recalling memories that I'm not particularly fond of, I imagine that it will also be cathartic. The answer isn’t what you might think (especially if you're one of my six faithful readers). Of course after receiving the news that my youngest sister had been murdered, I was sure at least once per day in the following days, weeks, and months that I wasn’t going to make it through that particular day. I still wonder at how I made it through it all. I still marvel at the strength I never knew I’d had but that appeared right when I needed it most.

December to January, 2007, was a whirlwind of funeral planning, speaking with investigators, speaking with media, trying to figure out when I’d go back to work, clinging to my husband and family, attempting to celebrate Christmas if only for the kids, and adjusting to a life that would certainly never be the same again; and yet, it was also a blur. Everything happened so quickly but so slowly at the same time. It was like being in a perpetual nightmare, and if I could just wake up, I was sure everything was going to be okay.

I relished the approximately two minutes I had every morning when I was in that stage right between sleeping and awake; temporarily unaware of what had happened, what was yet to happen, and how life had changed forever. Then, I’d open my eyes and get out of bed, working hard to suppress the overwhelming nausea, the tightness in my chest, and the tears. I’d usually lose the battle, at least on the tears front, and many times would return to bed in the hopes that sleep would numb the pain.

Though there were times I was sure I absolutely would not—could not—get through the day. I did. I made it through. And, as we’d started to heal, and move forward with our lives, and things settled down and got quiet, I started to feel more relaxed and comfortable; there were even bouts of happiness here and there. Then, the murderer’s trial started…


The trial of Zachary Matthews started in the middle of October, 2008, and lasted about five days. Though I don't imagine that I'll ever forget it, especially since I took notes to keep myself busy and to document the proceedings from my point of view, there was one day in particular that I’ll certainly never forget. Not only did I not know how I’d make it through the rest of the day, but I was once again shattered, which I didn’t think was possible after all that had already happened. I found myself struggling once again to gather the strength to face something—someone—I didn’t think I’d ever have reason to question or the ability to lose my faith in…

We were about halfway through the first day of the trial, which had already proven to be far more difficult and emotionally exhausting than I’d imagined. The prosecution team went first. We’d heard witness testimony from some of my sister’s friends and many other people. There was the previously unknown to us woman whose life was forever changed when she returned from a meeting the evening of December 19 to find a burning car in her driveway. I cannot imagine how often the horror of removing my sister’s body from the car replays itself over, and over, and over again in her mind; tormenting her with the fact that none of her nursing skills could help the dead young woman who now lay in her driveway.

There were detectives and police officers who talked about crime scenes, canvassing neighborhoods, and collecting evidence. There was the medical examiner who talked about his findings during the autopsy and confirmed the cause of death. There was emotional testimony from my sister’s friends about the secrets they knew and regretted not telling until it was too late: Zachary had hit and punched and pushed and kicked Kristine, he had threatened her life, and she feared him. Many of Kristine’s family members, me included, didn’t know these secrets, but oh how we wished we did. The prosecution was working to establish a history of domestic violence in an attempt to prove that Zachary, my sister’s ex-boyfriend and the father of her child, was guilty of this murder.

My mother had been absent from the courtroom all morning. She wasn’t allowed to sit with my family to bear witness to the testimony and evidence we’d seen. Instead, she was barred from the courtroom until after she’d fulfilled her duties as a witness for the prosecution, lest seeing any other testimony or evidence should taint her own.

I was glad that mom wasn’t faced with the choice of whether to leave the courtroom or to see and hear graphic testimony regarding crime scene and autopsy photos. The rest of us thought we were strong enough, but it proved too difficult for some who ended up leaving the room halfway through the presentation of evidence. My mother probably would’ve been like me; she would’ve forced herself to stay. I was somehow able to separate my sister from the body in the pictures. My sister was a vibrant, living, breathing, laughing, smiling, human being; she wasn’t a body. My sister as I knew her had been gone long before the body she left behind was discovered and preserved for perpetuity in gruesome crime scene and autopsy photos.

As my mother was called to the stand, I looked forward to temporary relief from the shocking surprises and horrific evidence that had perforated the day, and I prepared myself to project strength. All of us wanted to be strong for my mother, because we couldn’t imagine doing what she was about to do. I was proud of her for having the strength to go on the stand to tell her story and the courage to face the monster who’d done this horrific thing that changed our lives forever.

My family has always been relatively close. We all talked to each other all of the time, so we were all always up to date on what was going on with who, who was doing what, and how everyone’s lives were going. If one of my family members so much as sneezed funny, I was sure to hear about it within a day of it happening. As such, I had no reason to suspect that my mother’s testimony would include any shocking revelations, because I was certain that I knew everything there was to know. I knew what she would talk about. At least, I thought I did…


She was going on the stand to tell the jury, the lawyers, and the judge about the time that Zachary had tried to strangle her when she had tried to break up an argument between him and Kris. She would talk about the restraining order she had against him as a result of the incident. She was going to tell the court about how we’d all accepted him into our family and provided him and Kris with unwavering love and support, and that despite that, he turned on her. She would talk about the violent temper Zachary had exhibited on more than one occasion before actually following through with real violence when he attempted to strangle her, and how that temper and that incident had caused concern for all of us over whether he was using violence against my sister or my nephew. She would confirm that none of us suspected that my sister’s life was in danger in any way, because my sister stood firm that Zachary was not abusing her or their child.

My mother talked about how, months before her death, Kristine had moved back home with Li’l D. Kris had gotten tired of Zachary’s unwillingness to grow up and take care of his family, and they had broken up. Kristine was in the process of moving on. My mother encouraged Kris to facilitate visitation between Li’l D and his father, and usually that happened by way of them meeting up in a public place like the mall. It was only in the few weeks before Kristine’s death that she had started bringing Li’l D to his father’s apartment so that father and son could spend the day and/or evening alone together. Kris enjoyed these little breaks, because it allowed her time to go out with friends, and she had also met and started dating someone. She had never gone alone when she dropped Li’l D off at his father’s apartment; until that fateful day when we lost her forever.

Then, the prosecutor asked my mother to recall a particular date. And as I sat and listened, I was stunned and shaken by a story I’d never heard before. My mother described the day, a few weeks prior to the murder, when she had woken up early and was surprised to see Kristine awake already. Kris appeared to be shaken, and my mother asked her what was wrong.  Kris said that she’d been asleep in bed when she thought she’d heard something. She rolled over and scanned the room in the dark, but didn’t see anything. Convinced that she was hearing things, she tried to fall back asleep. But, she couldn't. Something didn't feel right.

Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she realized that someone was standing in the corner of her room. She was paralyzed with fear. After lying still for a few minutes, she slowly got up to turn on the bedroom light. That’s when she saw that the person standing in the corner of her room was Zachary. He had somehow broken into my mother’s house and had stood there for who knows how long watching my sister sleep. When Kris asked what he was doing there, he said he was just watching her. He was making sure that she and Li’l D were okay. He cared about them, and he’d just wanted to see her. Kris told him to leave, and he did.

As my mother’s story progressed, I was overcome with emotion. It was as though all of the air had left the room. I started to sweat, my stomach was cramping as it tied itself in knots, my ears were ringing, and I could feel tears pushing at the backs of my eyes. I looked at MusicMan, who upon seeing the shock on my face, grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze. He looked at me as if to say, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do, and I’m sorry.” I refused to cry. I willed my eyes to contain the tears that were threatening to burst forth at any moment.

I thought about running from the room, but I feared if I started running, I’d never stop. I didn’t know if I could get far enough away from my mother, that courtroom, this life that just couldn’t possibly be mine, or from the excruciating pain.

As the implications of what my mother said really hit me, the tears began to flow and I began to shake uncontrollably. She knew. She knew her daughter was in danger. She could’ve stopped it. She had a restraining order against Zachary, and he had broken into her home. One call to the police could’ve had him in jail for quite a while. Maybe even for enough time for Kris to completely move on and sever all ties and for him to calm down and get over her. Perhaps my sister would still be alive today. None of us would have to be here, in this courtroom, trying to maintain our delicately cobbled together hearts and emotions as the old, not fully healed wounds were torn open all over again as we relived those awful, horrific days.

My mother had failed to do the number one thing a parent should do: protect her child. Not only did she fail to protect her child, but having the knowledge she did—that the violence was escalating—she encouraged her daughter to enter the lion’s den under the premise that Zachary deserved to see his son. In my mind, which I’ll admit was in emotional overload, my mother helped murder my sister. She was partially responsible for the death that shattered my heart into tiny pieces and threw me into such a delicate emotional state that I could go from being fine one minute to crying in the car on the way to work the next.

I could barely breathe as I sat frozen, wanting to hear no more but unable to leave. I couldn’t even look at my mother. We’d had our moments, especially in my teen years, where we’d argued and she’d said cruel, cruel things to me; things that no mother should ever say to her daughter. But, I’d forgiven. Because that’s what you do, right? You only have one mom, and deep-down, I knew she loved me. At least I thought she did. I mean; didn’t she have to? She was my mother after all. I loved her. Despite her venomous words, some of which made my heart physically hurt, I loved her. Besides, moms are human and can make mistakes. But this?!? This was more than just a mistake. How could she have just sat back and let my sister walk out the door to her death that day?! HOW?! WHY?!


Court rested for lunch shortly after my mother’s testimony. As soon as the good and honorable jurors (that’s what the judge called them, and they truly, truly were) filed out of the room, those of us in the gallery standing as a sign of respect for them, I fled. MusicMan followed me while the rest of my family waited for my mother.

Safely ensconced in the elevators, I spoke for the first time. It was a hoarse whisper, “SHE KNEW!” MusicMan hugged me. I repeated it over, and over, and over again in my head and occasionally out loud; willing it to be untrue. The closer we got to the outside of the courthouse, the louder I got. Until we were outside, and I was screaming and crying hysterically, my legs threatening to buckle under the gravity of what I’d heard and the overwhelming emotions it had stirred.

“SHE COULD’VE SAVED HER! AND SHE DIDN’T!! SHE DIDN’T DO A SINGLE THING TO PROTECT HER OWN DAUGHTER! MY MOM KILLED MY SISTER! SHE KILLED HER!” MusicMan held me as I sobbed. I knew I couldn’t go on. After everything that had happened—learning of Kris' death, the funeral, the partial healing, and now reliving it all over again—I just couldn’t do it anymore. The trial was just too much. I didn’t have the strength to continue.

How was I supposed to deal with all of this? How?! How was I ever supposed to face my mother again?! How could I look at her and not accuse her of killing my sister? How could I look at her and not ask why she failed to protect her daughter? How could I avoid asking, “WHY didn’t you do everything in your power to SAVE KRISTINE’S LIFE?!”


I eventually calmed down, with the help of MusicMan and Cousinfriend. My rational mind finally took over a little more, and I realized that there was nothing that could be done now. I could hate my mother and I could scream my accusations at her, my words cutting deep into her core and hurting her heart like her words years earlier had hurt mine, but what would that accomplish? My sister was still dead; gone forever. Unfortunately, nothing was going to change that. It was a fact that all of us who knew and loved her had to face as we learned to live in a world without her.

And, I thought about the guilt I carried and how it ate me up…I didn’t spend enough time with Kris. I didn’t appreciate her while she was here. I should’ve answered the phone those times that I chose to ignore her calls. I should’ve asked more questions, and I should've forced her to answer honestly. I could’ve talked to her more, and maybe then she would’ve told me her secrets. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve…the guilt will consume you, if you let it. And, you can’t let it. I had gradually begun to learn that I had to let it go, because I couldn’t change what had happened in the past, and my sanity depended on letting go of the guilt and realizing that hindsight is 20/20. The same is true for my mother…

For the rest of her life, my mother will have to live with the fact that she maybe could’ve prevented my sister’s death. With the knowledge she had about the violence increasing, she could’ve cautioned Kris against ever spending time alone with Zachary. She could’ve opened her home to visitation, or at the very least allowed Zachary to come to her house to pick up Li’l D. Again: could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. The facts are what they are. Kris went there alone, and her life ended that day.

My mother has to deal with her own demons. She has to decide if she truly believes the excuses she gives to those who ask how she didn't know what was going on or why she didn't try to stop it. (The main one being, "She was 19; legally an adult. My hands were tied!") Someday she might have to deal with the grandson she's raised asking her those questions. That's her cross to bear. And, that's punishment enough.

We will never truly know if any of us could’ve done anything to change what happened on December 19, 2007. We will never know why Kristine didn't tell us she was afraid or why, despite that fear, she went to Zachary's apartment alone that day. We will never know why Zachary did what he did. We will never know the answers to all of the questions that swirl around in our minds. And we—all of us who knew and loved her—have to live with that. Because we have to go on living; there is no other option. It’s what Kris would want, and we have to make sure that her son has the life she would’ve wanted him to have, or better.

I survived that day and the rest of the trial. As hard as it was, I faithfully sat through each day’s proceedings, taking it all in and hoping that justice would prevail. And it did. The jury found Zachary Matthews guilty of first degree murder, and because of the severity of his crime, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. And that day? The sun was bright as my sister smiled down on us when we left the courthouse. And I knew that I was going to be okay, because I am a better person for having had her as a sister, even if it was for only nineteen years, and I'm stronger than I ever thought possible.

(And thank you so much, lovely reader, if you made it all the way through this post.)

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

S for Sad (or SAD)

I’m beginning to wonder if a choice I made back in April was the right one. That’s the nature of choices though, isn’t it? Some of you might remember that I decided to go off my antidepressants back then. I’d been on them for a few years and felt as though enough time and healing had passed for me to take a stab at life on my own without the help of chemicals. My doctor developed a good plan for me to gradually taper off, and everything worked out well. I didn’t experience any withdrawal symptoms, increased depression, or really any side effects at all.

Now, though, I’m beginning to wonder if I wasn’t a little too quick to make the decision I did. As the weather changes and we move further into fall, I find my mood changing as well. And not for the good. As the days get shorter and darker, so does my patience and mood. I’ve been feeling down a little more regularly lately, and I find that I either want to sleep way too much or I have trouble sleeping. Today, I feel downright sad and weepy. That’s not cool when I’m stuck at work. And it’s frustrating, because I really have no reason to be sad. Well, let me rephrase that…

There is no immediate cause for my sadness. Nothing in particular has happened recently to upset me. I’ve long suspected that I have SAD, and the way I’m feeling lately confirms this self-diagnosis. Of course, this will always be a bad time of year for me. October brings the bittersweet anniversary of the trial and sentencing of Zachary, the man who ended my sister’s life, and December brings an anniversary I’d rather never have to acknowledge. Yes, it’s safe to say that this will always, always be a bad time of year. And, of course, it just happens to coincide with the season that brings colder, darker weather. It’s just not a good combination.

I try not to focus on it or think about it, but the hole created where my sister used to be is just as much a part of me as she was when she was here. I want so badly not to forget her, and I fear that I am. That I do. Or maybe I just try to force myself too hard to try to remember her, and that compounds the feelings that I’m a bad sister for forgetting. I wish there was a way to remember her but to forget the pain. I know that’s not possible. And while the pain isn’t as ever-present and hard as it used to be, because it’s true what “they” say about time healing, it’s still there. It will always be there. And at this time of year, it seems to push harder and becomes a more forceful presence. That sucks. Really HARD!

I suppose it doesn’t help that I spent last night writing a post for tomorrow that stirred up a lot of not so good memories, but it was cathartic for me, and I look forward to sharing it with you tomorrow. Then, I sometimes wonder if this being a bad time of year isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy. Am I choosing to focus on the pain, thus making this a bad time of year? Is this something I can control?

I don’t know. I don’t think so though. If I were my mother, the answer would be a resounding, “YES!” Because my mother lives for attention and seems to crave pity. I, however, do not.

It also doesn't help that, because Psychology class runs for three and a half hours every single Saturday, I don't have as much downtime as I'm used to. So, I'm not resting and recharging as much as I'm used to. I’m not entirely sure how I want to deal with this seasonal depression thing right now. I think I’m going to just try to be gentle with myself for a bit. No undue pressure to be the best I can be for everyone else, but instead focus on taking care of me the best I can for me. And, of course, I’ll let MusicMan help out with taking care of me too.

I think that maybe I need to release this by just having a good long cry. What do you do, lovely reader, when you're feeling down?
Creative Commons License

Monday, September 20, 2010

H for Home

Hello, lovely reader! Sorry it’s been so long. I’ve been catching up on sleep and trying to get myself back into the daily grind after our short trip to Lake Tahoe. You’ll recall that I was scheduled to leave last Sunday (a little over a week ago) to head to Lake Tahoe for a software conference. There were no direct flights from Minnesota to Reno, which is the closest airport to Tahoe, so I had a connecting flight in Phoenix.

Like a good little flyer, I had arrived at the Minneapolis airport an hour and a half before my first flight was scheduled to leave on Sunday. When I checked my bag, I was told the flight to Denver was running on time, and I headed to my gate. I wasn’t going to Denver, of course, but I figured the agent had just misspoke.

The line to get through security screening was surprisingly short, which I was thankful for, because I was desperate for caffeine, and the coffee stand was just beyond the security checkpoint. Tempting me. Calling me. Mocking me: “You’d best done everything right, honey! The faster you get through security, the closer you are to me!” Going through security was rather uneventful. Except for the fact that I had forgotten to remove my laptop from the laptop bag before sending it through the scanner. Oops!! I felt really bad about the extra process they had to go through to deal with that, but the TSA guy was very nice, friendly, and understanding, which really kinda made my morning.

After all of the reading I’d done on how to prepare for airport security (and yet still somehow managed to forget the laptop thing; I know), I was worried that my underwire bra would set off alarms but thankfully it didn’t. When I got to my gate, people were grumbling that the flight to Denver had just been delayed half an hour. What a bummer for those poor travelers, I thought to myself as I took a seat to wait patiently.

When it was announced about half an hour later that the Denver flight was now scheduled to arrive an hour late, and that people on flight number 123 (not the real number) were to move to a different gate, I wondered why the Phoenix and Denver flights had the same number. I asked one of the helpful gate agents and was told that I was going to Phoenix by way of Denver. They were the same flight. News to me!!!

I was not at all pleased to hear that I’d be taking off and landing not twice, but three times, that day. And, of course, I was worried about missing my connection in Phoenix. I double-checked the time for my connecting flight and realized that, basically, an hour had just been shaved off my airport wait time. I’d still have over an hour to make my connection. Okay. Good. Still not happy about the whole Denver surprise, but what can ya do?!

The plane eventually arrived, a little earlier than expected, and we were off to Denver. I had forgotten how much I hate flying. With my sinus issues, the air pressure changes during takeoff and landing are super duper unpleasant. I felt like a zombie. I wanted to sleep so badly on the plane, at the very least to quit experiencing the unpleasantness of how my head was feeling, but I just couldn’t fall asleep. As a result, I didn’t get much of my assigned Psychology reading done on the plane. I wasn’t too worried about it though; I figured I’d have time to catch up while sitting in the Phoenix airport.

So, we landed in Denver and the four of us remaining on the plane were told we could switch seats and use the restroom before they started boarding new passengers for our trip to Phoenix. That’s right, lovely reader, we didn’t even get off the plane. I do have to give props to Southwest though. At first, I hated the whole no assigned seating, board in the order you check in madness, but it actually works out quite well. People get on the plane and into seats quickly. The flight to Phoenix was rather uneventful. Finally off of the plane, I had to walk clear to the other end of the airport for my connecting flight. Loverly. I could use the exercise though, after having been cooped up on a plane for what seemed like days but was really only about three hours.

I did a little reading and had a snack in the airport while waiting for my flight to Reno, which left and arrived on time. MusicMan was waiting for me in baggage claim (he’d arrived hours before I did), as was my bag (yay!!!), and we made our way to the rental car counter. After spending about twenty minutes trying to get the damn GPS in the rental car to work, we were off to Tahoe. It was an amazing and beautiful drive. We arrived at our hotel at about nine o’clock. We checked in, dropped our bags off in the room, and navigated through the hotel’s casino to find somewhere to have a late dinner. We fell into bed exhausted after having spent nearly the whole day on airplanes and in airports.

My first session of the conference wasn’t scheduled to start until late Monday afternoon. We were up early Monday morning, thanks to being used to being on Minnesota time; we were operating two hours ahead of Lake Tahoe time. Our hotel was literally right on the border of Nevada and California. If you walked out of the back door of the hotel, and crossed a little street, you were officially in California. We drove about twenty minutes into California to go to breakfast at a little café MusicMan had heard about. Again, the rental car GPS didn’t want to cooperate.

We were attempting to go to a diner called Ernie’s. The GPS, however, decided to send us to Bert’s. Apparently the GPS didn’t realize that we weren’t on Sesame Street, and as such, Bert and Ernie’s were not, in fact, the same place. After parking our car and looking around a bit, we were able to determine that Ernie’s was across the street from Bert’s, and we made our way there and had a fantastic breakfast. On the way back to the hotel, we parked at a beach and did some walking around. This is when we were finally able to take in the beauty of Lake Tahoe, and it was incredibly amazing.

Words cannot describe the exhilaration and beauty in being surrounded by mountains while standing in front of the clearest, most beautiful lake we’d ever seen. And that’s saying a lot, because we’re from Minnesota. The land of 10,000 (and then some) lakes; yet we’ve never seen one that can compare to Lake Tahoe. The scenery was like nothing we’d ever experienced before, and it was breathtaking. Once MusicMan is able to upload the hundreds of photos he took, I’ll select some of my favorites to post in a blog.

Overall, the trip and the conference were fantastic. By the time Wednesday rolled around, we were ready to go home to our dogs even though we weren’t ready to get back on a plane or to deal with airports. Our flights on the way home, once again connecting through Phoenix, were relatively uneventful. Well, except for the fact that Cologne Guy sat behind me on the flight from Phoenix to home. You know what I’m talking about, lovely reader, I’m sure of it. This guy smelled as though he had showered in a few bottles of his favorite scent. I am sensitive to colognes and perfumes as is, so this was beyond unpleasant for me.

Within an hour of being on the plane, I was feeling nauseous. It got to the point where this guy’s putrid cologne wasn’t only all I could smell, it was also all I could taste too. It was disgusting; completely beyond unpleasant. I was getting a seriously bad headache and feared that I might actually vomit. I spent most of the flight home with my t-shirt pulled up over half of my face to try to block out the caustic cloud of nasty that surrounded me.

Every time a flight attendant looked at me, I was worried that they were thinking that my behavior was cause for concern. That maybe I was some sort of spy with a nefarious plan for taking over the plane, and that I was hiding in my t-shirt to talk into the wire I was wearing. Thankfully that didn’t seem to be the case. Or maybe it was, but they were doing anything they possibly could to keep their distance in desperate attempts to avoid the caustic cloud of nasty that Cologne Guy created in our section of the plane.

Needless to say, I was incredibly thankful when we finally landed in Minnesota, and early at that. Our flight wasn’t expected to land until 11:25 pm, but we were in the car with our bags by 11:20, which was super nice considering that we both had to be up early to go to work on Thursday.

MusicMan’s BFF, Geoff, did an amazing job house sitting and taking care of our babies. We (and by that I mean MusicMan) worked our (his) butt(s) off to clean the house up for Geoff’s arrival and stay. We didn’t think we could come home to the house being any cleaner than we’d left it, but we did. Geoff decided to vacuum, wipe down counters, empty and reload the dishwasher, and clean up the bathrooms for us. There was literally no sign that he had stayed at all!

Thoughtful guy that he is he even washed the bed sheets he’d slept on and remade the bed for us! He left a note indicating that he didn’t think we’d want to deal with that after getting home so late. I was amazed. He truly went above and beyond! He could’ve not changed the sheets at all, or he could’ve thrown his “dirty” sheets in the dirty laundry basket and put clean sheets from the linen closet on the bed. But, no; he washed the sheets he’d used and put them back on the bed. What a guy!! I’m busy trying to come up with excuses for why we need a house sitter at least every other week now. He was that good.

Getting back into the daily grind was much harder than I thought it would be after only being gone a few days. I was a complete zombie at work on Thursday—simply going through the motions to make it through the day. Lack of sleep certainly played a part, but in addition to that, my head felt heavy all day and I was sure I felt a migraine brewing. I silently cursed Cologne Guy, though I knew it wasn’t completely his fault. The pressure changes from flying, and coming home to cold, windy, rainy weather after experiencing gorgeous weather for half the week, wreaked havoc on my entirely too delicate head.

I called out of work on Friday, because my head hurt so bad that I couldn’t manage to maintain my balance. After a day of rest and Vicodin, I was about 60% back to normal. I spent the evening catching up on Psychology homework. I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of the regular, normal, everyday routine again, which is really good.

I have some great ideas for blog posts brewing, and as time allows, I will type them up and get them out. I’ve amazed myself by managing to get caught up with all of my schoolwork. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it, and I’m proud of myself for it. I’m hoping this will give me more time for blogging, because I miss writing and I miss you, lovely reader. I have a midterm coming up, a week from today in fact, for the first half of algebra class. I’m ready for it. I’ve already reviewed all of my notes and taken the practice midterm, so now it’s just a waiting game. Despite not thinking I was going to be able to get caught up enough, I'm ahead of the game!

I’m working hard to get caught up on your blogs too, lovely reader. I hope you are doing well and look forward to hearing from you more as I start to post more! And yes, you should feel free to shout, “I TOLD YOU SO!” Because it turns out all of my traveling fears were unfounded. However, I maintain that I was at least prepared for worst case scenarios; I just thankfully didn’t have to deal with anything I’d try to prepare myself for!
Creative Commons License

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

S for Stresserella

I am a total Stresserella, lovely reader!! (Not to be confused with her prettier, more even keeled sister, Cinderella.) As you might remember, I’m leaving this Sunday to go to Lake Tahoe for a software conference that work is sending me to. I wish I were more excited, especially since MusicMan is joining me on the trip, but I’m just not. Because I’m overwhelmingly stressed!! I have a lot to do before we go: homework, cleaning the house, doing laundry, packing, etc. And, with a new class starting the day before we leave, I’m really starting to worry about getting behind on class work.

I was hoping to be at least a chapter ahead in algebra class by now, because then I’d have no worries about missing one whole week of class next week. However, I’m only about half a chapter ahead at the moment, so I have some serious catching up to do. With Psychology class starting Saturday, more homework is sure to be added to the mix. I’m starting to feel like I won’t have any free time while we’re in Tahoe, because any time that I’m not at the conference, I’ll need to be working on homework. That translates to this trip being anything but fun, which translates to me being a sad, sad girl.

I was thinking that, if I could get far enough ahead in math, I could create a cushion so that homework wouldn’t get overwhelming once Psychology started. I’m probably stressing more than I need to over this, because I’ve heard that the bulk of Psychology homework is staying on top of reading, but stressing seems to be what I do best. Since I’ve heard that Psychology class mainly consists of lectures, reading, and quizzes, I should be fine as long as I can manage to stay on top of the required reading each week. I’m confident that I’ll figure out a way to get further ahead in algebra; even if that means working on homework through lunch breaks at work, which isn’t ideal, but is an option I can exercise.

I should be able to do some reading and catching up on the plane and in the airport while I wait for my flights, because I have a connection in Phoenix both on the way out and on the way back. Unfortunately, all of my math homework and the textbook are online, so I can’t really do much on the plane. Technically, I’m not behind, so I shouldn’t really worry too much. I’m just not where I thought I would be is all. I hate when things don't work out exactly as I've planned.

Speaking of connecting flights, I’m super worried about that. It’s been years since I’ve flown anywhere, and I’ve never flown anything but direct flights, so I have quite a few concerns. Like: what if they don’t transfer my luggage from plane to plane? It seems that there’s a high likelihood that someone somewhere could mess this up, which could mean my luggage would stay in Phoenix while I go on to Reno. I will pack an outfit in my carry on just in case, but that’s only one outfit; I cannot wear the same outfit for three days! Not to mention that I’d have to go out and buy necessities like: makeup, contact solution, deodorant, lotion, etc.

Also, what if the planes aren’t running on time, causing me to miss my connection?! I have two and a half hours in Phoenix on the way out, so I should be okay there. You don’t often hear of flights running over two hours late. I think…I hope. On the way back, however, there’s only 45 minutes of wait time in Phoenix. The odds of missing that connection seem quite a bit higher, which is so not good. As it stands, if everything works perfectly and I make the connection, I’m set to land back in Minnesota at about 11:30 pm. That’s late; especially considering that I have to work the next day! Can you imagine what will happen if I miss the connection?! That would suck so hard!

I know that I really need to learn not to stress over the things I can’t control. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about either of these situations, so there’s really no use worrying about them. Unless the time comes. And then? I will lose my shit freak the hell out and maybe cry. Let's just hope that all of the pilots, baggage people, and all other airline/airport workers bring their "A game" and that everything runs smoothly.

MusicMan’s best friend, Geoff, is coming to stay at the house to take care of the dogs, which means the house has to be cleaned. MusicMan is going to take care of that this week, but I feel awful that I can’t pitch in and help. My housekeeping skills have been seriously lacking since I started school, and I feel just awful about it. MusicMan doesn’t seem to mind too much, but I don’t like feeling as though he does the bulk of the work while I do nothing. Well, not completely nothing—I do the laundry weekly and wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters daily—but I don’t do as much as MusicMan does to keep our house clean.

I’m super glad and relieved that Geoff was available to take care of the dogs for us. Sending them to doggy daycare would’ve been wicked expensive, and there are not many people we trust with our dogs. I know that sounds crazy and ridiculous, but they’re our kids. I’ll just leave it at that, because I learned long ago that if people don’t understand this, there’s no use in trying to explain it. Let’s just leave it at: we’re those people.

Our parents aren’t necessarily those people (at least not to the degree we are), so they were immediately out of the running. Also, none of them would be able to stay at our house with the dogs, which was ideally what we wanted. While Lucy isn’t very high maintenance, our rescued dog, Dexter, is. Dexter does much better, and would be most comfortable, in the environment that he’s used to. We wanted Lucy and Dexter to be with someone who will take care of them the same way as we would (or as close as possible, at least).

When we started thinking of who to call, we could only think of two people that (1) we trusted enough, (2) would possibly be available to do it without being too put out, and (3) don’t mind that the dogs sleep in the bed: Geoffy and CousinFriend. Since Geoffy is a single guy with no other obligations, we called him first. Thankfully he was available. I have two pages of notes and instructions ready for him.

I know that probably sounds ridiculous, but in my defense, half a page of notes is miscellaneous stuff like: make sure to jiggle the toilet handle if the toilet runs, how to clean up any “accidents” Dexter might have, and instructions for logging on to the internet, using the TV and remotes, etc. Also, we feed our dogs a raw diet, so feeding them isn’t just as easy as pouring kibble into a bowl. (Though we do feed pre-made raw food, so it’s not too time consuming either. It’s just that the food needs to be thawed overnight, portioned out, and cut up, and a clean bowl needs to be used for each meal.) This is the first time we’ll be away from the dogs for so long, and also the first time we’re leaving them in someone else’s care, so hopefully it goes well.

To summarize, I’m a total Stresserella and have a lot of things to get done in the next few days! Please keep your fingers crossed for me, lovely reader.

Have you ever flown with connecting flights? How’d it go? (And, if it didn’t go well, just pretend I didn’t ask.)
Creative Commons License

Thursday, September 2, 2010

M for Memories and Mud Volleyball

As you know, MusicMan and I celebrated our anniversary last week. We had originally planned to celebrate the weekend before our Monday anniversary date, but ended up spending time with family instead. Every year we go back to my hometown, where my mom and stepdad still live (but not together; they divorced years ago), to enjoy the town’s Heritage Days festivities with the rest of my family. I should clarify that when I say I’m going back to my hometown, I don’t mean that we’re travelling extensively in any way; it’s about a twenty minute drive from our house to my mom’s place.

It’s become a tradition for our family to gather together to enjoy the town’s annual celebration, which usually falls the week before our anniversary but was pushed up a week this year for some reason. I used to march in the parade each year as part of the high school marching band. Even today, hearing and seeing the marching band in the parade envelops me in a nostalgia that gives me goose bumps and stirs my emotions. It’s overwhelming to think of how far we’ve come, were we’ve been, and what’s happened along the way, isn't it?

My youngest sister used to looooooove Heritage Days. I’ll never forget the phone call I received a couple of months before she died:

Her: Sheeellll? (She was the only one, besides nephews and niece, who could get away with calling me "Shell" or "Shelly.") *said in her mischievous “I’ve got something up my sleeve.” tone of voice*

Me: Hey, kiddo! What’s up?

Her: You know what you need to do this summer?

Me: Ummmm...tons of things?! We are planning a wedding after all! *laughing*

Her: *laughing* Well, yeah, but… You need to play mud volleyball on my team this year.

Me: *Thinking my sister must not know me at all, or at the very least, has temporarily forgotten that I do not play anywhere in, near, or around mud. I’m the one who hates getting dirty; the one who wouldn’t even play in the sandbox as a kid, because the sand was dirty and made my skin crawl.* Are you INSANE?! Not only do I have absolutely NO interest in playing mud volleyball, but that’s a week before the wedding!!

Her: Oh come on! I need people to play on my team!

Me: No way! I don’t need to end up hobbling down the aisle on a twisted or broken ankle and/or having photos taken with a huge black eye on my wedding day! And, if you hurt yourself playing, you just remember that I will force you to crawl down the aisle if you have to, and you will be in pictures regardless of whether or not you have a black eye! *said in a totally playful way...I was absolutely not a bridezilla--people will vouch for that!* MusicMan and I will come and watch from the sidelines if we have time that weekend. If you can’t get enough people to form a team, join Cheryl’s (sister’s dad/my stepdad’s girlfriend) team!

Her: Oooookaaayyyyyy. *using her saddest, most depressed “you’ve ruined my life” voice in one last attempt to get me to acquiesce.*

A couple months later, she was gone forever, and I found myself willing to do anything in the world—even play mud volleyball every single day for the rest of eternity—to get her back. Unfortunately, as we all know, that’s not the way things work. We cannot bargain for the dead; there is no way to extend their time here on this Earth. Not even for a day. Not even for an hour, just to have a few moments to tell them all the things we need them to know about how much we loved them, how much we’ll miss them, or how much we wish they weren’t leaving us. As it stands, I hope that someday I can muster up the courage to join Cheryl’s team to play in honor of my youngest sister.

Mud volleyball is one of the highlights of the Heritage Days festivities. You might be wondering what mud volleyball is. Well, lovely reader, it’s exactly what it sounds like: playing volleyball in pits of mud. There are train tracks that run through the town, and along those tracks are three pits, about a foot and a half to two feet deep, that get filled with water to make the mud pits.

Citizens of the town form teams of however many players it takes to play volleyball (you can see how much I know about the sport) and signup to play for the fun of it. There might be prizes too, but I'm not really sure; clearly I have never played. Some teams are quite competitive, returning every year in attempts to either hold on to, or win, the coveted title of mud volleyball champions. You can tell who the “pros” are, because they’ve learned things from their years of playing. Things that new teams haven’t quite seemed to pick up on, like: one must duct tape his shoes and socks to his legs in order to not lose them to the mud pits, and falling in the mud or getting one’s hands muddy can make the game much harder to play, because hitting a ball with very slippery arms and hands doesn’t send the ball in the direction you hope it will.

After enjoying the parade, my mom, Li’l D, MusicMan, me, my middle sister, her kids’ dad (and whatever the hell else he is to her), and her kids, Princess and Soccer Boy, headed over to the carnival. The kids enjoyed riding the rides and playing carnival games, and then we all enjoyed carnival food such as hot dogs, deep fried cheese curds, mini donuts, caramel apples, roasted corn on the cob, and beef brisket sandwiches. After that, we headed over to the mud volleyball pits to watch Cheryl’s team play.

This year, MusicMan brought his camera along to capture the festivities, and I’m sharing some of my favorite photos with you, lovely reader.

This is one of my favorites of Li'l D riding the swing ride.

Princess on the Merry-Go-Round.

Li'l D wearing a frisbee he'd gotten at the parade. (My mom insists that, despite the impression given, that is not in fact a halo, because Li'l D is most definitely not a little angel. What four-year-old boy really is?)

Soccer Boy at the parade.

Princess on the swing ride.

Soccer Boy walking in one of the mud pits between games.

Cheryl waiting for the game to start; she was surprisingly clean after having plaid a few games already that day.

My stepdad's girlfriend, Cheryl, serving the ball.

This guy, from the opposing team, really got into it...rolling in the mud right away to get it over with. Some teams celebrate victories by diving into the mud and rolling around in it too. Good thing there are fire hose "showers" rigged up for players to rinse off.

This guy fell going for a ball.

I was shocked that my sister actually let Soccer Boy play the roll of "ball boy," which is the very important job of keeping the volleyball clean if only so that it can be seen by the players.

What do you think, lovely reader? Have you ever heard of mud volleyball? Would you play?
Creative Commons License
Related Posts with Thumbnails