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.

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“Eff” The Police

When I told my mother that my friends and I were going to go sit in a graveyard and read classic literature, she said “Over my dead body.”

I laughed. She didn’t.

But after assuring her that it was a harmless activity (and that Dante was best read by candlelight next to a tombstone), she gave me her blessing. The questionable legality of the activity seemed unimportant, at the time.

There just so happened to be the perfect graveyard setting just about a mile or so away from one of my high school friend’s house, out in the backwoods of our tiny town. It was his idea, as he and some college friends from down south had done the same thing during the semester. We sat together, each taking a turn with a dusty volume – Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, others – filling the summer air with the almost unintelligible sounds of Middle English and the flowery prose of literature’s legendary greats. We defied logic and managed to turn the Canterbury Tales into a rap as our laughter bounced off the gravestones.

For the second round, about a week after the first, I drove to my friend’s house straight from work. I hungrily shoved my hand into the jumbo bag of Martin’s popcorn someone had brought for the occasion. There were about twelve of us. One friend carried the heavy books in a drawstring bag, someone else took a bag of candles (for ambiance). I brought the popcorn along with me – after eight hours of folding men’s khakis, I needed that popcorn. We prepared a handful of excuses if we happened to run into any figures of authority – for instance, “We’re a prayer circle” or “It’s a séance.”

If there had been the option for it when we elected senior superlatives, I would have been the hands-down winner of “most easily frightened.” The first time we ventured to the graveyard, arms laden with Shakespeare and Milton, a friend of mine decided it would be funny to hide behind a gravestone and jump out during the prologue of Paradise Lost. So I made sure I walked between two other friends as we trekked down the cornfield-lined road toward the sleepy graveyard. The rural outskirts of my hometown at night are unsettling to walk through, especially when the fog starts to come in. Even the chirping crickets seem to signal doom. It’s the perfect setting for a B+ horror film. And I’d never do anything like this now, because I watch far too many episodes of Forensic Files and other true crime shows.

The church was soon within view. We were almost there. And then someone spotted it. The unmistakable blue, white, and yellow cruiser with ‘YAPD’ stamped on the side. Sitting like a predator right in the church parking lot, just waiting for the whiff of something suspicious.

“Cop!”

My heart was thundering against my ribs as we abruptly turned around and started heading back up the road. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the cruiser crawl away into the night. We were safe.

…Until another cruiser came ambling up the road.

One friend summed it up nicely. “Well, shit.”

The female cop pulled the car up beside us, rolled down her window, and smirked at us. “Where are you kids going?”

“…Up the street.” We pointed.

“And where are you coming from?”

“…Down the street.” We pointed again.

Somehow, that mediocre explanation satisfied the cop and she just told us to be careful, before she drove away down the gravel road. I relaxed, and we hurried up the street, desperately seeking salvation. We were three houses away on my friend’s street when two cruisers rolled up to us. The man in the lead car had a different air about him. The iron-grey mustache on his face indicated importance.

As the burly cop roused himself from the squad car, I sincerely thought we were going to get charged with something. I was going to have a big blemish on my permanent record. But what were the charges going to be? Literary sacrilege? Crimes against fictional characters? Conspiracy to entertain the deceased? I didn’t know – all I could do was clutch the bag of popcorn like a salty, buttered teddy bear. As though, if I were carted off to jail that exact moment, the popcorn would valiantly save me. I mentally prepared an escape plan – settling on ‘throw popcorn at cop and run for the cornfield,’ though I highly doubted my trembling limbs would have listened to that mental command. I inwardly begged, “Please don’t ask about my popcorn. Please don’t ask about my popcorn.”

“Who’s the oldest?” The cop asked. That is the only time in my life I have ever been grateful that I am the youngest out of my immediate group of friends.

Our oldest friend stepped up to bat. The cop asked some routine questions, took down his contact info, and explained to us that so many cops were prowling the normally-dormant streets because there had recently been a string of car and house burglaries in the area, so we should head back home for the night and avoid getting into any trouble. They didn’t search our bags or ask any other questions. He just advised us to go home. And with that sage warning, he got back in his car and headed off down the road, the second car following suit, off to hunt for ne’er-do-wells.

We were at the mailbox of my friend’s house – so, so close to sanctuary – when the last cop car came into view. “Hey, did someone talk to you kids already?” The cop hollered from his car.

“YES!” My friends chimed in perfect unison. I just squeaked. I lose my voice around figures of authority.

The last cop drove away, but one friend couldn’t resist jumping into the middle of the street, his middle fingers pointed toward the stars, shouting “FUCK THE POLICE!!!” as the red brake lights faded in the distance. Some of my friends laughed, clapping him on the back as though he’d done something ground-breaking. I rolled my eyes and wondered where that bravado was when the frighteningly muscular cop was within earshot. It’s easy to have courage when the beast is facing away from you.

We gave up on our quest, moods spoiled, and just sat on the hoods of our cars in and discussed the unexpected events of the evening. The consensus seemed to be that the cops should have minded their own business instead of ruining our fun, and that we weren’t doing anything wrong. I bit my tongue. Because the way I saw it, we were a troupe of college kids carrying a bag full of books, a bag of candles, three flashlights, a bag of popcorn, and giggling like five year olds as we strolled down a dark back road on the outskirts of town at midnight. We might as well have been carrying a big neon sign that said, “LOOK, WE’RE SUSPICIOUS.” But who am I to be a wet blanket?

I couldn’t tell my friends that they were being ridiculous – nor could I just go along with the ‘fuck the police’ sentiment. All I could do was sit cross-legged on the hood of my Subaru, lean against the windshield, and keep my mouth shut, the bag of popcorn sitting forlornly by my front tire.

We should have told them ‘It’s a séance.’

~~~~~

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.

Nightmares

When I was a kid, I occasionally had nightmares – as I’m sure most folks have had at some point in their lives. These typically consisted of scenarios I was actually afraid of, like falling from a great height, encountering a shark in the depths of the ocean, being locked in a small, dark room with no way out, coming face to face with some awful monster, the occasional homicidal clown, etc, etc. Sometimes they featured creatures with salivating fangs and razor-sharp claws, or fantastically horrific scenarios that would never occur in real life. Lately, I haven’t been able to sleep very well due to a series of bad dreams, but these are of a different nature than the ones I had when I was a child. Regardless, these “nightmares” still make me wake up breathless and in a cold sweat.

Most of these not-so-nice dreams have been about things such as:

*Being late to school, then being unable to find a parking space while I’m there.
*Not getting off at the correct bus stop or train stop, then getting lost.
*Forgetting to do my homework and then showing up empty-handed to class.
*Not being able to locate a classroom before the late bell.
*Not being able to find clean pants to wear to work.
*Going to the movies only to find that someone has taken my seat and won’t move.
*Going to the movies and missing the previews or part of the movie because it took too long to get my concessions.
*Waking up late for work because my alarm clock malfunctioned.
*Finding out, prior to leaving for a long trip, that none of my electronics have been charged.
*Finding out that someone ate all my cereal (this is arguable the worst one).

Also, last night, I had a dream that an acquaintance of mine was showing me their extensive, rare Hot Wheel collection and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t leave. So, there’s that.

Ultimately, which is more terrifying? The nightmares that portray something unrealistic, but which gnaw at deeply-rooted fears, or those that are far more feasible? Monsters and demons may spur true terror, but smaller, more grounded situations that could occur in real life also incite true fear, simply because they are those everyday issues that can happen, that are easily believable.

Is this what “bad dreams” in adulthood are like? I don’t know when this switch occurred – when monsters and sharks became alarm clock malfunctions, missing cereal, or dying phone batteries. Maybe when we become adults, it’s the small things that make us sweat the most – even those that are long since part of the past, such as missing homework assignments. Being late to an appointment or work is a worse concern than falling from a great height because of the increased likelihood of one happening over the other.

So, is it possible to determine which is worse? I’m not sure – it probably varies by person. But tonight, if I’m going to have a nightmare, I’d almost rather have the sharks.

~~~~~

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.

The Middle

Recently, the mid-twenties doldrums have been bogging me down. I feel as though I am not where I need to be, but I lack the courage and confidence to get myself there. But those thoughts of “Get it together!” get drowned out by fear of failure and doubt in my abilities, a dark cloud consuming every spot of brightness I try and scrounge up.

But sometimes, the perfect song comes on the radio at the perfect time. This week, it was Jimmy Eat World’s anthem The Middle, which goes:

Hey, don’t write yourself off yet,
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.
Just try your best,
Try everything you can,
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.
It just takes some time,
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride,
Everything, everything will be just fine,
Everything, everything will be all right…

This song came on as I was driving home after a difficult day, and I heard it three more times over the course of the week. And it just… made me feel better each time I heard it. Like being stuck in the middle isn’t the worst fate, or even something to be distraught over, because it doesn’t have to be permanent. There is a way out, a lantern to guide your path, no matter how rough or dark a road seems, and it might just take some time until everything is all right. Cliche or not, I think that message rings true.

I think, sometimes, the universe knows what we need to hear, and we need to take it to heart – especially if we hear the same message four times in one week. Or, maybe the local radio stations lack variety, because they also played “Eye of the Tiger” three times this week…or maybe, the message I was meant to receive this week is dual-layered.

It’s okay to be stuck in the middle, but you must have the eye of the tiger to stand up to the challenge of climbing out, and everything will be all right.

…Or something like that, perhaps.

~~~~~

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.

Allergies

Friday evening, I worked until 7PM and decided to do some grocery shopping on my way home from work, so I wouldn’t have to contend with weekend crowds. I generally loathe grocery shopping, so I ensure I get in and out as soon as possible. The whole “scan it” and bag your own stuff revolution is a marvelous thing.

In total, I had about re-usable five bags full of food and a jug of milk. I wheeled my cart back to the vestibule and weighed my options. I could take the cart out to my car, or I could risk it and carry all my bags with my spindly noodle arms. I think you can discern what choice I made, because I imagine myself to be a moderately self-reliant person who can handle her own groceries. I don’t need a cart. Spoiler alert: I needed a cart.

So, I hooked two bags onto one arm, two onto the other, had the milk jug in one hand and the final bag in my other hand, and my purse over one shoulder. I was somewhat overburdened, but it was manageable. I just had to make the long trek across the parking lot as the setting sun cast an orange-gold glow over the land.

I made it across the crosswalk just fine, and then they struck. The dreaded allergies.

Pennsylvania has had a temperamental spring thus far, as we can’t seem to shake the last remnants of winter. But the last couple of days have been practically balmy compared to some. One might say that spring has sprung. I was fine all day on Friday, but as I was journeying to my car, arms laden with bags of sustenance, my eyes began to water and my nose started to run.

And this wasn’t just a couple of tears and a sniffle or two. It was a full-on assault, both nasal and optical. I also am one of those people who park their car far away from everyone else because I can’t stand the way people drive in parking lots, so my little Nissan was WAY out in the distance. I have never hated my parking habits more than in that moment.

I couldn’t back out, or slow down. My eyes grew so blurry with tears behind my glasses they started coursing down my face. My nose was running so badly I could barely breathe. My arms were weighed down with bags, milk, and my purse, and I don’t exactly give the impression that I am the pinnacle of strength. I am sure, to the strangers who witnessed this event, I looked like I was having a public breakdown on a Friday night in a grocery store parking lot with my weak, struggling arms full of bags. Quite a picture.

When I finally made it to my car, I slammed the milk down on my trunk, dug my keys out of my purse, propped my bags against the side of my car and threw open my driver’s side door and scrambled for my tissues. It took me two minutes to get myself under control, eyes red and stinging and nose stuffy, then I packed up my bags and thankfully remembered to retrieve my milk from the trunk. With a deep breath, I drove off, and made it home without another strike from the dreaded allergies.

But, while this was happening to me, my parents were at a child’s birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. So, I suppose, it could always be worse.

~~~~~

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.