The Great Zoltar

While doing some after-dinner shopping while on vacation a couple of weeks ago, my mom, sister, and I wandered into a new-agey mineral shop. I enjoyed perusing the crystals and geodes, but what ultimately drew my attention was the fortuneteller machine by the door. It was a good one, too – just like Zoltar from Big.

I know that suck things are basically nonsense. A flashy machine with a semi-sinister looking puppet inside isn’t going to be able to tell your fortune. But there was a dollar burning a hole in my wallet. I mean, why not give it a go? It worked for Tom Hanks, right?

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My fortune read (if you can’t read the picture, which you probably can’t):

“Something that has been puzzling you will finally be revealed. A lost object may reappear, or a letter may come from afar. Friends share secrets and your loyalty is rewarded. A Capricorn supervisor is very impressed.”

That night, I was standing on the brink of a big change in my life. I strolled along the pier feeling confident and ready for what the future held. I am going through a major shift now, and… it’s a struggle. I knew it would be, but I’m having a harder time than I anticipated. So, I am keeping this fortune tucked in my wallet. It may be a load of hooey based on random numbers and conjecture, but I still have hope in the future.

Friendship Road

Once in a while, a missed turn can create a new adventure.

My best friend and I were once driving home from an excursion (probably from our single local book store) and had to take a detour. Afterward, a miscommunication resulted in us missing not only one, but two turns that would keep us on familiar routes.

We had two options from that point; either find a spot to turn around, or keep going. We decided on the latter, and kept riding along until we noticed the street sign for Friendship Road.

Naturally, we turned – that was a positive sign if we’d ever seen one, though we remained a bit nervous.

Friendship Road meanders a bit, in the same vein as most rural Pennsylvania back roads. Quaint homes, long stretches of gold-green grass, patches of cornfield. Picturesque farmland. This summer day was the one and only time I’ve ever been on that road, so maybe it’s changed since then. A few new houses, less countryside. But something about Friendship Road made us feel hopeful that we were on the right path.

It was a new adventure that day, lost on Friendship Road. We kept driving, and rolling along, laughing at each other’s jokes and trusting that we’d make it home in time for dinner, and that we wouldn’t be lost forever in the maze-like system of South-Central Pennsylvania rural roads. Finally, we noticed familiar ground, and the road spat us out on another back road we knew, which allowed us to make it home. We did John Denver proud that day.

We trusted Friendship Road, and it carried us home. Our initial apprehension over a missed turn resulted in an adventure that I will always remember.

Thumbs

We all have flaws. I am a flawed being, and, though I consider myself relatively good at admitting to and aspiring to mend my flaws, there are some I cannot change because they are a part of me. I am, of course, talking about my thumbs.

I am the unfortunate bearer of what some may call “toe thumbs.” I actually didn’t notice that my thumbs were different until my sister, best friend, and I were putting on fake nails as kids, and none would fit over my thumb nails. And, to make matters worse, my thumbs aren’t even the same size as each other, and one has a scar from an unfortunate incident with a fixture at work.

Here they are, for reference:

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GASP. The horror.

Awful, right? I mean, as far as flaws go, it’s not as disastrous as, say, a debilitating disease. But they aren’t a selling point, either.

Y’all normal-thumbed people take it for granted. Literally every single time I attempt to type “thanks” on my phone I accidentally type “thabks.” EVERY TIME. And it’s all thabks to my stupid thumbs. And you’d think having abnormally shaped thumbs would be a boon for video gaming, but more often than not, it’s a hindrance, unless I need to press two buttons at once. Giving folks a “thumbs up” always looks slightly off. I’d never make it as a hitchhiker. Touch screens are the devil. My hands, in general, are exceptionally clumsy, and I chalk it up to my awkward thumbs.

I was teased for my thumbs as a child, to the point where some fellow kids gave me the ever-so-creative nickname of “Thumbs.” I was also teased for my horrible crooked teeth, which, after several years of ruthless orthodontia, have been completely fixed. Alas, my thumbs will never change, and, after years of hating them, I have accepted that they’re with me for the long haul. Occasionally, someone will ask me about them, but I can usually shrug it off.

I’m not a fan of them (as you can tell) but they are a flaw that has become a part of me. A small, toe-shaped part of me, that still more or less help me in all the ways thumbs are supposed to. I can’t bemoan them forever or waste time wishing that they were different, because they won’t change. I just have to accept them as they are and forge ahead, texting typos and gaming flubs aside.

They are only a hurdle if I let them be a hurdle. You have flaws, too – some you can probably change, and some you cannot. But they will only hinder you if you allow it.

Bizarre School Memories

1.) Bag milk. Until second or third grade, my elementary school served individual milk bags during lunch. Which was fine, unless you stabbed them the wrong way. Then they exploded. We definitely had cartons by third grade, though, because I remember spilling one all over myself. I’ve heard that bagged milk is common in other parts of the world, though.

2.) At my junior high, you could get rid of gym demerits by showering after gym class. Like, if you forgot your uniform or missed a class at some point you could improve your GRADE if you took a shower. I’m sure this was for hygienic purposes, because they didn’t want students to stew in their own filth after working out, but I was blessed by the schedule gods every year and had gym class at or near the end of the day, and thus, never had to shower at the school. Because those showers were gross, and I was not stripping in front of my classmates. Swimming class was bad enough.

3.) BIG pencils. Do they still make young kids use those huge black pencils while learning to write? The ones with no erasers? I absolutely hated using them – especially when we got to the cursive unit – and I irrationally blame them for my poor handwriting to this very day. Speaking of which, do they even teach cursive any more?

4.) Gymnastics in gym class. Not only did we have a gymnastics unit every year until high school, we were forced to do a synchronized gymnastics routine with a partner in eighth grade. Which is cruel, really. Fortunately, I used to be (USED TO BE) pretty good at gymnastics. I just thought it sucked for the kids who weren’t flexible or necessarily skilled at somersaults or handstands. It’s not what I’d call a morale-booster of a sport. Then again, we also played dodge-ball, so…

5.) Square dancing in gym class. I’m not sure how many schools offer dancing of any kind as a unit, but since I live in an area known as Pennsyltucky, square dancin’ and line-dancin’ were a popular choice. I opted for Tai Chi, instead. I still remember the move “Parting the Horse’s Mane.” It’s become my signature party move.

6.) Bowling in gym class. This is the LAST gym class-related one, I swear. But since my high school was down the street from a bowling alley, we could actually take bowling as a unit. HOWEVER, if you sucked at bowling, you wouldn’t get a good grade, since your grade was your score. I took bowling twice, but due to a knee injury, I almost got stuck with a 54 in sophomore year. Fortunately, an excellent essay on duck pin bowling saved me from failure.

7.) Trash lockers. The cafeteria at my high-school was being renovated for like, 2 years. So, for a significant portion of my high school experience, we ate lunch in various classrooms and in the hallways. If you had an empty locker in an area where lots of folks ate lunch, you could end up being the unfortunate owner of a “trash locker.” Lots of students didn’t use their lockers (opting, instead, to carry all of their books in their backpack and thus developing severe spine problems) so folks would toss their trash into empty lockers after lunch. And then, when locker-clean out happened at the end of the year… well… it wasn’t pretty.

 

Roll With It

On Wednesday night, November 14th, I looked at the weather forecast for my tiny pocket of PA for the following day. It said there would be a “dusting” of snow in the morning, but that it would fade to rain/sleet by the afternoon and travel would potentially be dangerous later in the day. I was scheduled to work 5AM-1PM on Thursday, so I assumed I would be fine to make the 20 minute commute home, brew some coffee, and settle down on the couch in comfy clothes to play Spyro Reignited.

Oh, how I was wrong.

Many of my fellow coworkers, scheduled the same shift, were none the wiser about the true elements outside… until a coworker left at noon, then came back to work because all the roads leading to where she lived were closed due to various accidents. I also live in that part of town, so my immediate reaction was “Well, shit.”

Though a few of my coworkers braved the icy-slick roads – many of whom had their short commute turn into a one to two hour ordeal – or had someone come to rescue them, I stayed put. My plans for the remainder of the day were thus ruined. I was starving, tired, and dreaming of caffeine. I had to buy snow boots and gloves because my own were at home. I was at work from 5AM to 5PM, helped a couple of coworkers clean the cold spawn of Satan off their cars. My little Nissan was never going to make it up the hills on my route home, so I hitched a ride with my boss who has 4-wheel drive and has to drive past my neighborhood in order to get to his home, so I wouldn’t be taking him out of the way. The broccoli-cheddar-chicken soup my mom made for dinner was the best meal I had ever eaten.

Many folks had it worse. There were several wrecks. A tractor trailer over-turned on a popular traffic route. As previously mentioned, one of my coworkers had to get hauled up a hill and got hit with a towing bill. One of my bosses had to go stay the night at a nearby hotel. My sister was stuck on the highway for 6 hours – my poor father was on the highway for 9 hours and 44 minutes, on what was meant to be an hour commute. And he still went to work at 6AM this morning, even though he slumped in the door at 11 last night.

When dealing with the fickle temperament of Mother Nature, things don’t always go according to plan. But all you can do – no matter how much you don’t want to – is roll with it. And maybe, once it’s all over, move to Hawaii. If we get another November squall like this one, I think I might just do that.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.