Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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Were

I don’t think I will ever forget the day I ran the third leg of the 4×1 relay at a track meet in Harrisburg. I remember noticing that the anchor was a little too far ahead for me to hand her the baton. I was so sure we were going to miss the handoff – we were going to step out of bounds, she was going to have to stop, our coach was going to be pissed because this was the week before the next big invitational. At the last available second, I did a move that the cast of the Matrix would probably be proud of. The anchor grabbed the baton and took off for the finish line. My foot got caught in the track and I hit the ground, and as I lay there on the turf, the line judge asking “Are you okay?” I knew that no, I was not okay, because knees are not supposed to protrude out the side of your leg.

I mean, at least we won the race. That was my only consolation as the doctor at the emergency room snapped my knee back into place – in the waiting room. A woman waiting for her turn exclaimed, barely audible over my screams, “Oh my god they broke her leg!”

I remember having to put on the blue bonnet, and the surgical gown, and the bright lights of the operating room fading as I drifted out of consciousness, and then waking up to the blurry face of my extremely handsome doctor looking over me. The morphine in me decided to tell him “I love you” and thankfully he just laughed and said “That’s what they all say.” He explained that they found a few bone chips during the operation, as well as a mysterious ligament in my leg – apparently, the existence of this ligament was debated, and I had provided them with more proof. Yet they refused to name it after me, which, to this day, I consider a grave injustice.

The first night, when the nerve block wore off, it felt as though someone had repeatedly plunged fiery-knives into my leg. A week later I returned to school and developed a burning hatred for ramps, which are surprisingly difficult to traverse with crutches. And a month later, when physical therapy began, I learned just how hard it is to teach yourself to walk properly again when your brain refuses to tell your knee to bend. It was a long journey, and though I languished through so much of it, I had a lot of help from friends and family.

Eight months after that, I learned that former glory is not always able to be recaptured – just because you used to win gold medals, and have trophies decorating the shelves in your room, doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to do that. Coming in dead last in the 200m trials, a race I used to dominate, during track tryouts the next season proved that my ability had shattered with my knee. Now, I can’t forget the flashing ambulance lights, and the x-rays, and all the physical therapy, and how one leg of my pants will always be ill-fitting, and the unintentionally biting words of my former coach as I packed up and left after the first day of tryouts, “You were a real good sport.”

And the worst part about it is that word.

Were.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Yawp!

Back in college, in order to complete my English major I had to take what is known as a Major Authors course – a class focused on the works of one or two major authors. Admittedly, I first had my eye on a Poe and Hawthorne course, but the timing for that class didn’t work for my schedule, so I found myself in a Walt Whitman course with a professor who had a profoundly positive influence on my academic career. In short, that class was the highlight of my college experience.

If you’re not familiar with Walt Whitman’s poetry, well… you should be. I now have a well-loved copy of Leaves of Grass in my possession and it’s one of my favorites. Anyway, after that class I also took a creative writing course with the same professor, and my time learning about ol’ Uncle Walt directly inspired one of my final poems for that class, which is below:

 

Yawp!

Walt Whitman could stand on rooftops
and he could sound his barbaric ‘Yawp!’ to the world.

I have stood on rooftops, but the most I have ever managed,
is a decidedly anticlimactic ‘squeak.’

Walt Whitman marveled at the splendor of a noiseless, patient spider
while I crushed their silken threads with a boot.

Walt Whitman made a promise to California,
but I have never seen those distant, golden shores.

Walt Whitman could hear America singing,
but it’s a tune I’ve never been able to carry.

Walt Whitman sang the song of the open road, a call to all the world,
I have stared down empty highways, fearful of where they lead.

I am no Walt Whitman.
But someday, I should like to lay in leaves of grass
beneath a splendid, silent sun
and the song of myself will take shape
and I will come out from behind this mask
set sail upon that sea of time
and while I am roaming in thought,
I will find that all is truth.

The world should take good notice
of men like Walt Whitman.
And the world should hope to see
many poets to come
who heard his song of the universal,
and learned well his lessons
and they shall sound a carol of words
to the kosmos.

 

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Me

This weekend, after attempting to take in a matinee of Hereditary only to have the projector fail so we had to settle for readmission tickets, my mom and I went shopping for some extra supplies for a bridal shower I’m throwing next weekend.

And, at a home decor/housewares store near the local Regal Cinemas, I found an item that made me stop dead in my tracks, turn to my mother, and say, “Holy shit, that’s me.”

So here I am, in a picture:

img_20180616_154036_8611138580990.jpg

There are multiple ways to interpret this quirky piece of Halloween decor.

Trying to project a sparkly optimism and remain calm while internally remaining at least partially dead inside. Trying to restore a glittery view of the world through calmness, introspection, and meditation. Trying to prove that you are placid and happy against expectations, but not totally convincing everyone.

Regardless, there’s a little bit of me in all of the above interpretations. I felt a kinship with this skeleton. A little bit of horror slathered in glitter – scary, but trying to be chill.

And then, after I posted a picture of this skeleton on my facebook, a friend asked where I had found it… and then she went out and bought him that same night. And there’s a lesson learned there, too.

Even when you’re a little dead inside, someone will still want to buy you. Or something like that, anyway.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Meant to Be

Last Wednesday night, shortly after 10PM, I was forced to take a detour on my way home from work due to the endless amount of construction that swarms my pocket of PA this time of year. So, I turned off of my usual route and embarked upon the back way home. I made a turn onto a dark street, and soon spotted a fuzzy lump in the middle of the road.

At first, I assumed it was roadkill. It’s unfortunate, but it happens – bunnies, squirrels, gophers, other woodland creatures attempt to make their way across the street when they meet their untimely demise beneath a tire. But, as I was maneuvering to pass over the lump without striking it, a furry little head popped up and I caught the gleam of golden eyes in my headlights.

It was a kitten, and it was alive.

Horrified, I had to turn off onto a different road and circle around in order to get back to the spot. I frantically called my mom (don’t talk on the phone and drive, folks…I’m a bad human, but I was at a stoplight and put her on speaker) and told her what I’d seen and that I was going to check it out further. Luckily, in the five minutes it took me to get back onto that stretch of road, no one else had hit the poor creature – though no one else had stopped, either. I’d hoped it would crawl away or get off the road in that time, but it was still there, curled up in the middle of the lane.

I put my blinkers on, carefully stepped out of my car, and approached the kitten. It made no sound, and it’s eyes were closed, but it was half-upright and didn’t appear to have any grave, visible wounds. So, careful as I could manage, I scooped the kitten up and carried it back to my car, and it sat on my lap the entire ride home. Halfway home, it started purring – which made me hopeful that it wasn’t grievously injured.

When I got home, my mom came out and wrapped Kitty in a towel – after determining the gender as female – and I ventured back out to grab kitten chow and a disposable litter box from the grocery store. We called the emergency vet, who informed us that they would just put Kitty down if we brought her in (especially if she was injured, but mainly because of her stray status) though the only apparent injury was an abrasion on her lip. So we resolved to keep her in a crate overnight (our adult cat was less than pleased by this) in my room and revisit the issue in the morning.

Morning came, and though Kitty was still groggy, she chowed down on kitten food and perked up quite a lot. I let her explore a bit around my room, sniffing and inspecting everything, and she eventually snuggled up on my lap to take a nap. She was so thin – when I ran my hand along her spine, I could feel each individual vertebrae, and her hip bones were protruding. After some phone calls and research, we resolved to go to the SPCA just to ask for some advice on what step to take next.

The dire nature of Kitty’s situation was revealed when we arrived, and the SPCA workers informed us that, because Kitty was so frail and possibly sick, they would likely euthanize her as well. Besides, their shelter was full because it’s kitten season, and they had no room for her. Because we couldn’t surrender Kitty without giving her a fighting chance, we kept her with us. A call to our regular vet to schedule an appointment for the next day and a stop at a local pet store yielded better results, as the manager gave us some helpful advice, a sample of wet food for free, and an abundance of well wishes.

The next day’s visit to our vet proved that Kitty was healthy, but thin – which made me doubly glad we hadn’t surrendered her anywhere that euthanizing was an option. They speculated that she had possibly been tossed from a car, due to the brush burn on her lip – which made my blood boil. The vet didn’t even charge us, because he and his wife asserted that we were doing the right thing by trying to save the poor kitten’s life. So my mom gave her a bath and I continued to let her explore my room, and her spirits seemed high. She even began to meow, though she’d been mostly silent since I’d found her, and her purring was nonstop.

After a handful of social media posts reaching out to family and friends proved fruitless, and local no-kill shelters informed us that they were already full, I began to really believe we wouldn’t find anyone to adopt Kitty, and, by default, she’d stay with us. I’ve wanted a cat to call my own for ages, and it seemed like the universe was telling me that it was time – a kitten had practically fallen into my lap. I was the one to spot the glint of her eyes in the headlights of my car, the one to scoop her up out of the road before a car could hit her, the one to buy her kitty chow and a litter box, the one to let her crawl around my room and explore and let her curl up and fall asleep on my chest, so she wouldn’t feel alone.

My friends and coworkers were convinced it was good karma in action, and I was meant to be the one to find Kitty. Though I had attempted not to grow attached to her, it was an impossible effort. She was just so adorable, and I even picked out a name for her in my head – Ripley, after one of my favorite badass female film heroes. Even my dad started growing attached to her.

Then, on Saturday, my mom called me at work, and informed me that she had pinned down a new home for Kitty – with a woman who works at a local vet’s office, and who is used to handling young kittens. And the wind was promptly sucked out of my sails. I didn’t want to let her go. I wanted her to be my cat, and I felt like she already was, even though she’d only been with me for a couple of days. She would even rub her face against mine, purring like a motorboat, and give me little kitty kisses before curling up to take a nap on my lap or chest.

And though I so, so badly wanted to tell my mom to call it off – to tell her that I was going to keep and care for Kitty on my own – I relented. Though I did make her drive Kitty to my job, so I could give her a cuddle and a kiss goodbye, and ensure that her last memory of me wouldn’t be when I’d put her back into her crate that morning.

I just couldn’t do it. I still live at home, and I’m trying to move out – potentially to a different state. I’m trying to get my second book published, and pay off student loans and my car. Not to mention that it would be very difficult to get a consistent training schedule in place for Kitty with my work schedule, and getting our adult cat, Reese, used to being around a rambunctious kitten would be a gargantuan challenge, considering Reese hates other cats and basically spent the entirety of the three days Kitty was with us hiding under my parents bed and hissing at us. My parents were okay with my keeping the kitten so long as I took full responsibility for her, and I would have done so – but since I haven’t been able to move out yet, I’d still be inflicting a curious new life (and her little claws) on their home, and their new furniture. The timing was bad – and though I know I could have eventually managed, and Kitty wouldn’t be a kitten forever, I just couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone involved, including Kitty.

img_20180609_150858_2561305050343.jpgIt’s been almost a week now, and initially, I was pretty bummed out – like, “have a nice cry in the shower” kind of bummed. But I know that I did the right thing, in the end. Everything that had happened in those three whirlwind days seemed to indicate that my finding Kitty was meant to be, and I do think that’s true – but in a different way. I think I was only meant to be the in-between, Kitty’s pit stop on the road to her forever home. And I am so thankful that I was able to help her, even a small amount. And in a way, Kitty helped me realize that in order to obtain the life I want, there are steps I need to take, and her sudden appearance in my life has inspired me to start taking action instead of letting fear and doubt rule me.

Too many people adopt pets without knowing the work involved – they see a cute kitten’s face or hear a puppy’s whine and think “Aw, I want one!” instead of considering that it’s an actual life you are committing to care for. That’s how shelters fill to the brim with poor creatures who don’t deserve to be mistreated, and how pets who deserve nothing but love are left to the wilderness to fend for themselves because irresponsible owners didn’t realize the level of care involved, and that’s cruelty to the highest degree. What happened to Kitty before our paths crossed is an unknown – perhaps she was dropped from a car, abandoned by her mother, or climbed up into a car and fell down mid-drive. Whatever it was, there’s a good chance it was cruel. But in the time she was with my family and me, and thanks to all of the outside help we received – advice from friends, kindness from pet store managers, and generosity from our vet – I realized that despite acts of cruelty and hate, kindness and love can still prevail.

And someday, when the time is right, I’ll have a cat to call my own.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Quizzical

Anyone who has a Facebook account is probably familiar with those “quizzes” that clog timelines and cause users to waste time wondering if some assemblage of random questions can determine which state you are meant to live in, what era you were born in or belong in, or which celebrity you are destined to walk down the aisle with. And I’ll admit, I’ve taken one or two of them, out of pure curiosity, or simply to pass the time. It’s not like they mean, anything right?

Although, I did take one a little while ago… just for fun. To see which Game of Thrones dude I was most compatible with. I was sure I’d get stuck with a loser like Edmure, or a monster like Gregor, but then…

screenshot_2017-08-19-22-52-322071559275.pngBAM. Somehow, I got my favorite character. He’s my favorite for a reason, after all – and part of that reason is that he’s a fine specimen of a man. And thus, I began to wonder… maybe these quizzes do have some credibility to them? I mean… I’m not too crazy about living in the House of Black and White, because that wall of faces creeps me out a little, but Braavos is stunning!

But the questions on this quiz did genuinely seem to be totally random, with nonsensical questions apparently unrelated to the result – and I was sure it would only feature the major characters, like Jon, Robb, Jaime, Bran, etc, but I managed to get a minor/secondary character who is also my fave. What are the odds? Maybe these quizzes do mean something? Maybe there’s a method to their randomness?

screenshot_2018-05-05-19-31-281889245122.pngI took another one recently, just for kicks, about favorite movie genres. And I thought I’d have the quiz stumped, because my palette for film-watching is very broad. How can this paltry, insignificant Facebook quiz know my favorite film genre when I’m not even 100% sure what it is?

Well… I’m not sure how… but it can.

Not only was it able to peg my love for drama films, but it picked my favorite film of 2017 and another film that I loved. HOW COULD THEY TELL? I mean, these quizzes ask silly questions, like showing a picture of four different pieces of cake and asking you to select just one, or asking what your favorite way to spend a rainy afternoon is. How can it determine anything of substance from such seemingly inconsequential questions?

Results like these make me ponder if maybe – just maybe – these quizzes do mean something. Maybe the universe is channeling it’s energy through these Facebook quizzes…telling us who we are as people. Who we are MEANT to be. What path we are meant to follow.

And then, I took a “Which Avenger are you quiz?” and…

screenshot_2018-05-06-17-13-28530251116.png

Yeah… outgoing? Charismatic? Humorous? POSITIVE? Please… I am nothing like Thor. I mean, in my dreams, maybe. I haven’t got an ounce of Pirate/Angel in me! I’m closer to Loki than Thor, by far.

Now I know these quizzes are full of shit.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Run, Birdy, Run!

There are thousands of mysteries – riddles with no easily discernible answers – that have plagued humanity for centuries. The origin of Stonehenge. The true identity of Jack the Ripper. How many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie-roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

But one of these conundrums has been on my mind for a while, and that is the eternal question of: Why do birds run?

Seriously. I find this absolutely mind-boggling. I wish I could communicate with birds, if only to ask them why they sprint across the street or through grass on their stick-thin, spindly little legs. First of all, they look absurd when they’re doing it. Second of all, THEY HAVE WINGS.

There are exceptions, of course. Ostriches. Emus. Sandpipers. Any bird that’s flightless. This question is predominantly aimed toward smaller strains and common species, birds that can be easily found in your backyard. Birds that terrorize cars with their poo – though that’s not really something they can help, since they lack muscularly functional sphincters.

Countless times, I have been driving down the road only to see a tiny bird, be it a robin or a finch or a sparrow, darting across the street instead of flying. Just this morning, I had to slow down to let a bird cross the road in my neighborhood, and it scuttled along the entire way… then, once across, it took flight and vanished into a copse of trees. A pigeon and a dove have (at separate times) smacked into my windshield, scaring the living daylights out of me and possibly suffering great injury, which could have been avoided if they used their wings and FLEW OUT OF THE WAY.

And to this, I have only one question: WHYYYY????? My mind is boggled. BOGGLED.

I don’t mean to shame birds for this, of course. I think birds are great, even if I don’t understand why they put themselves at risk by scurrying along pavement rather than lifting off with their wings.

I mean, maybe this phenomenon is because they have brains the size of peanuts, so their first instinct isn’t to fly. Or maybe they admire other animals, and want to emulate them, so they use their tiny legs instead of wings. Maybe they want to look for worms along the way, and that’s an activity that is easier to do  from the ground as opposed to the air. Maybe they’re training for a marathon. Maybe we will never have an answer to this enduring mystery. And maybe there is a lesson to be learned here, too.

Don’t let fear ground you. Why run, when you can fly?

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.