Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Miracle

'Twas the Eve of the Eve of Christmas and while I lay sleeping the wires in the fuse box in the wall near my feet melted and oozed and burned out their protective covering. Coincidence that my feet felt extra toasty? Yes, as the Christmas miracle has nothing to do with the almost fire and obituary of 2009.

This miracle left a much sweeter memory in the form of the forgotten wedding cake. Actually it was late and misplaced finally to be delivered by Santa's helper.

The cake was a trial run by my sisters (in hopes of making an actual wedding cake soon or becoming the next Landers sisters or first Martha Stewart twins) and I with my fetish for wedding cake asked to join the mess. It was a huge mess and wasn't done in the one day we'd left time for it. So I left Lamar without tasting the masterpiece. The twins finished it and Daniel was appointed to bring a slice to me in Salt Lake.

He forgot the frozen slice and had to backtrack to get it. Then in a redeeming haste thought to refreeze in a guy's collegiate apartment on the first night of his travels where he again forgot my cake.

I believed the cake had been eaten as soon as he left but one of two things happened. Either his friends were repulsed by the many flowers glued to the thick fondant frosting or they possess elfin qualities enabling them to resist the cake and deliver it on Christmas break.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Birds!

A noticeable lull hit in November and I had nothing to tell, self induced or turkey induced the daze is gone and life hurls at me like a giant snowball; or a pigeon at the Salt Lake City Library (winner of the 2006 Best Library award). Back to the pigeons.

I work with someone who finds flying birds terrifying. And birds prancing on the ground? Just a prelude to disaster, something I forgot one blustery December morning. As I encouraged a fast pace to the car my friend's limbs locked in terror.

Once I realized she wasn't by my side I doubled back to be greeted with a cry of despair and death grip around my diaphragm. It did slow the breathing process and served as a not so gentle reminder of her bird fear. It also pushed me over because she tried to bury her head inside my chest cavity. Thankfully my skin wouldn't give, neither did my ribs, but my spine took the brunt force and bent into a yoga move I've yet to name.

To counter this attack I used my best sweet and confident voice to reassure her that pigeons don't attack people. You will be ok I chanted. Until I looked behind her and found a bird hovering over her head. Panicked I rearranged body into another unknown yoga position and tried to pry her off me while shooing the bird. A balancing act on ice.

The more I threw my arm at the pigeon the bigger it grew. Its chest puffed up to the size of a balloon and its talons became finger-like. My friend's straw colored haired head looked like the perfect nest for that pigeon. I'm not even sure they nest, but obviously it was deranged. Pigeons are not supposed to land on people's head. And library pigeons should be the tamest.

Alfred Hitchcock knew something I have only recently discovered.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just Another Manic Monday

Especially if you are commonly mistaken for a celebrity. Mondays for me are are the .5 day of my 1.5 day weekend. Translation—I feel pretty comfortable not showering, fixing my hair or applying makeup and I dress for comfort in bright fashion. And it works, especially when you need to spend an hour with strangers.

I went to a day program to observe someone I work with planning on quietly standing in the corner. I forgot to factor in the Christmas spirit which is more rampant in the youth and special needs demographic. As ten minutes passed one of the staff there skipped up to me.

She seemed about my age and a fun bubbly girl with long dark hair and bright eyes. So when she gushed immediately about my natural beauty I felt awkward and underdressed. Then she kept going, my long dark hair that she noticed the first time I'd visited the program and arrived at the conclusion that I was the most beautiful woman she'd seen. Ah-hem. What do you say to that? Thanks and what time did you want to pick me up for our date? Again I repeat I felt awkward.

The blushed burned a little deeper when moments later one of the clients asked about me. My admirer asked the special needs person if I looked familiar...maybe like Snow White.

"SNOW WHITE?! Is she really Snow White?" the girl exclaimed with complete sincerity.

The staff laughed and nodded her head yes. In seconds she had crossed the room running at top speed and plowed into me.

"I'm so glad to meet you. Are you Snow White?" she asked.

Hmmm. Who am I to disappoint at Christmas. In my most regally sweet voice I answered yes and dramatically dropped my curved hand into hers and shook it like a queen.

A line soon formed and I wished for a ball gown with a red cape.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

O Tannenbaum



As a child I remember nagging my family put up our Christmas tree at the beginning of the season, the day after Thanksgiving. Now I'm lucky if I get to see the tree when I go home a few days before Christmas. But this year after seeing themed trees bursting with ribbon and ornaments at the Festival of trees I knew it was up to me to revive the Christmas spirit in Utah.

I made Skip help me construct a tree from copper wire. Actually I think he ripped the wire from my hands when I failed to correctly twist and pull the wire. Then we strung popcorn and cranberries on more wire to wrap around our tree. Again the decoration was ripped from my hands. Why? Because I failed to find the exact spot to puncture the popcorn. For those of you who have never thread popcorn along wire there is an exact spot on the popcorn where the wire must go. Funny I never found that spot but did force the popcorn into place.

We ended up with a mess of a spirally wiry tree that couldn't hold the popcorn and cranberry necklace. It leaned like a Dr. Seuss hat and provoked the embarrassment and love of a sparse Charlie Brown tree. I guess it was the result of a middle-aged white rapper fond of rhyming and a forlorn girl missing a homemade Christmas.

We bought a live evergreen a few days later. It has white lights and silver glitter ornaments.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Attentive Sister

In the ironic world that is my life I found myself superimposed in a comedy. While sitting on the couch watching the Denver Broncos get trampled by defending super bowl champs Pittsburgh Steelers I embarrassedly cheered for orange and blue. Love the CO.

The embarrassment came not only because my team was losing but because my boyfriend and new roommate mocked them horribly. I couldn't fight back because the Broncos were sucking at the moment, but in support of my brothers I stood firm as a fan. Which led to talk of brothers or maybe just a get-to-know-you game for all involved.

My new roommate Cameron mentioned she had a younger brother serving a mission in the Philippines. Hmmm. My youngest brother Daniel just got back from the Philippines. Which mission I casually threw out? San Pablo she replied and I defiantly shook my head thinking I'd remember if that had been Daniel's mission.

UH. Turns out you only remember such things if you pay attention, like she did to her brother, because when I said that my brother's name was Daniel Hall I thought she was going to shoot out of her seat and bump her head on the ceiling.

"You're last name's Hall? Daniel Hall?! He's one of my brother's favorite missionaries!"

Oh. Right. San Pablo. Mission. Brother. Nope, still wouldn't have known. All this excitement led Daniel to research and find something horrifying, evidence of his neglectful sister—he's been referenced twice on this blog in two years, and neither were for his birthday. That's probably a lie but I can't remember what he told me. Maybe this is his debut.
The signs were there. My 'weekly' emails occurred once a month, if that, and those last few months involved Daniel emailing me in Tagalog so I'd have to email him back for a translation. Damn my curiosity.

Not even the promise of pink pearls could urge me to write to him to remind him to find me some.

So here's to Daniel, lost no more, living just 45 minutes away and loved even if he forgot my wedding cake in Colorado.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

First Snow







However unprepared I am for frozen toes (some years I've been wearing flip-flops) I'm always curiously smitten with the first snow.


It's Mother Nature teasing us. The trees slowly shed their leaves which line the sidewalks and streets in fall-patterned wrapping paper. Flowers burst with a final glimpse of color before the browns, grays and blues of winter settle in. The evening's chill lasts far into the next day's sun. And then you wake up to snow.

The heavy moisture laden flakes joined in a small snowball gently lobbed from the sky. Plastering the leaves. Smashing the flowers so the blooms droop. Soaking the streets and smothering the green grass.

Ohhh Mother Nature, she found a way to make a super-soaker relevant in the 30 degree weather.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Smelling Something Fishy

I'm not sure where to even begin. I guess at the beginning but when that was I don't know. The problem with a lack of a dependable smeller is that I can't remember when it was dependable. Years ago if ever. And then my witch doctor gave me some drops for my stomach which actually cleared up my ever-present allergies. The result? I could smell, I could breathe, I could sleep face down in a goose-down pillow without choking.

When the drops ran out I had two days of good smelling followed by days of glitches. My sniffer fades in and out, mostly out.

A blessing when some pleasant but noisome neighbors moved in downstairs. I only suffered for three days (three long days where every smell plowed me over, my stomach churned and my mouth watered wickedly at each new venue and greeting each new person). My roommates have further complaints.

A couple nights ago the sniffer came back. In a crowded movie theater as I sat down between some friends and a stranger wearing some brand of grandmothery flower power perfume. I lurched a little in my seat, tensed up tilted my head and twisted my face into a complex look of horror, amazement, disgust and fear. Imagine a little kid sucking a lemon, the girl from the Exorcist with a twisting head and a wrinkled pig-like nose. Non-fiction isn't always pretty.

In the midst of my reaction Sharlee leaned over to ask what was wrong. I didn't even have to say anything because she answered herself by noting the strong odor. Then a new friend leaned over to exclaim, LOUDLY:

"Is it that girl's perfume? Does she need to move down one? Is it making you sick? Is it a bad smell? Just tell her to come sit over here."

While the rest of the theater stared us down Sharlee and I giggled in a lower volume.

And then to add injury I moved.

But that's not the oohhh moment of this story. Two days later I'm sitting in a kitchen with some corn boiling on the stove. From another room, a ways off, comes an urgent question, "Is something burning?"

I reassuringly said no because I couldn't smell anything. A look in the pot confirmed my lost sense. I may never wear perfume again or sit by anyone who is because that smell overwhelms me. However, a fire can claim my life as the smell of burning passes undetected.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Girls


Sometimes, just every once in a while, I get sick of the guys. Maybe because I've been forced to befriend many of them since the demise of my girl clique in high school...middle school.

In eighth grade I became one of the most hated girls but persuading all my friends to enter into a blood oath that we would not date middle school boys. I was sick of my friends disappearing to hang out with cute but mindless boys. No fun.

That lasted all of two weeks and then all my friends were paired off again. What's a girl to do? Make friends with all the guys, at least most of them wouldn't leave me for another dude.

The trend stands now that all my college friends have married. But like I said, sometimes I need my girls. Only now they're ages 2-5 and in Cali and CO. and they all answer to "BLONDIE!"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Running Scared

Let me describe my uplifting day. First wrong of the day, looking in the mirror because what looked back should only be seen on Oct. 31st. Somehow, overnight I’d scrubbed my face with coiled wires until it shone in a vibrant red hue. My egg-tooth (the crink in my nose that doubles as a gnarly pimple according to certain members of my family) had multiplied. NO this does not mean I’d developed a nest of zits, rather my nose had actually twists and turns which complimented the pile of shriveled worms lying atop my head. My eyes looked relatively normal but to determine that I had to fight the brushy tangle of eyebrows covering them. In short I appeared to be a broken clay sculpture pieced together with chewing gum.

I’m fairly certain a shower was in order. You can be certain that didn’t happen during the ten minute rush of pulling on jeans and searching for a toothbrush. I only stumbled over one pair of heels. Lucky me it was picture day at work. Even luckier, I managed to escape being in a single picture as we drove around Sugarhouse documenting every fast food joint in a mile radius. We also managed to snag shots of public domains like the library and park. Go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief that I don’t have a visual to share with you of how I looked. And again as you thankfully gaze up at heaven that you were nowhere near that part of town. A few hundred people nervously close their eyes for the night.

This is just to prep you for the real story. My acidic stomach rejected the tuna I tried to feed it (against Dr.’s orders) and I was feeling completely confident, competent and energetic. I decided to race my voyage run with Nike+. Race. As in I planned a short one miler to calibrate my stride and it was cold and people were staring; especially the coaches of a runner who doing ladders on my track. His coaches yelled, “Faster, harder, push, push, PUSH!” and I heard a gunshot.

Seriously it was intimidating because I felt the eyes of the coaches, the runner and the random spectators stopping by. Really none of you had anything better to do than watch a girl run in robotic motions as a marathon champ jaunts by her one, two, three, four times? It’s like reality TV in your backyard.

I finished my goal of a mile and slammed the breaks. My knees will throw it back in my face when I’m 40 I’m sure. Maybe I should’ve checked that finish line. Coach A stood there.

“That was a nice little run,” he commented.

HA HA HA. I wanted to say but I could barely feel my legs and they had weird red patterns blazed on them. Yes, my legs and mouth depend on each other. I only speak if I think I can run fast enough. Instead I smiled and shook my head.

“I’m slow and out of shape, but mostly slow,” I observed as if this were new knowledge.

“You did great, you held your pace,” he started. “Just keep your arms loose. You held them up for the first two laps and as soon as you got tired you dropped them and ran naturally. I mean you looked great, like a lady, but it wastes so much energy.”

OH. And I thought it was the worms in my hair. I didn’t know if I should thank him and ask for more tips or explain that I run like an idiot because I am an idiot with shooting back, shoulder and neck pain, afraid to run with ease. I smiled and nodded and walked a couple laps popping my neck every few feet.

A lady with a twitch.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hot Dog! She's Married.

The first semester after I transferred to the University of Utah I knew no one and generally wandered around campus looking lost. Lost but approachable, especially as the weather warmed (my nose stopped running and my eyelashes thawed), and soon random people in matching obnoxiously colored t-shirts began hugging me. No simple handshakes for these politicians. Hugging worked and I voted for people I didn't know, based on platforms I'd never heard. Translating to me picking as I judged the names for poetic sounds. The one name I remember? Tracie Bryan, in black ink on bright orange posters.

Tracie Bryan and I met months later in California when I'd forgotten about the campaign and desperately needed a roommate. Luckily she needed a roommate too. And so we moved in together. This worked one time only. The following summer while again in California I propositioned another charming girl to be my roommate. Torah Bright. Sound familiar? She's a model for Roxy and represented Australia in the 2006 Winter Olympics—snowboarding, known for her crazy risky tricks.

Tracie, not being an Olympian, began and ended our search for an apartment. A large spacious third-floor pad, furnished, private bed and bath for each and near the funky heart of Sugarhouse. Awesome. Not so awesome was the permanent smell of age.

We lived in an old-folks community. I'm not certain if it was assisted living or just a group of retirement condos. But no amount of open windows, Febreeze, candles or cleaning would neutralize the smell of old people. Coincidence that I didn't make many friends that year?

It also forced us to age abnormally. We cried over hot dogs about not being married, not having children and gray hair. A time warp had occurred. We couldn't share stories about our great-grandchildren. We follow our spouses down the hall with wobbling canes. We didn't really want to but we did feel like a valuable part of life had been withheld. Moral of the story don't live with old people. Except Tracie moved down to Long Beach for her Master's and eventually ended up in her grandma's house. A house she will now share with her newly legalized husband.

Guests ate hot dogs at her reception.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dog Wars

A couple of days ago I argued with the love of my life over dog breeds. Specifically what kind of dog would be perfect as a pet. I said husky; gorgeous, fierce, independent, the perfect dog for me. It would run with me and growl ferociously at the freaks approaching me on my walks. It would also serve as a replacement for Teddy the loveable husky we had briefly before he was hit by a car on Christmas Eve.

Apparently others view black labs as perfection. And apparently besides being man’s best friend, ultimate retriever, loving, intelligent and safe to have in the house they also make pancakes, mow the lawn, scrub the toilets, mop the floors, take out the trash and speak Spanish.

No comparison.

But while some of us argued and dreamt about our future dogs others of us went out a bought one. My brother Travis sent me this picture text later that night.


“Look Bre! It’s a puppy!! Oh man he’s the coolest little dog you’ve ever seen! We just got him today ha ha! He’ll be a hunter.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Red Light Break


Driving home from work I found myself with a front row seat for popping tires, shattering glass and spinning cars. Oddly this is not the first car accident I’ve watched in real time here in Salt Lake, and it’s fun to watch the news knowing what will headline. In fact I was in one myself about 18 months ago.

And I wonder why I’m terrified to drive sometimes. It reminded me of Ireland where I drove quite a bit after my month probation. Yep, had to wait a month before I was given car keys—I wanted to give them back after that first outing.

If my body were the size of an average U.S. car then my pinky would be the Peugeot I drove abroad. I never decided whether I was glad to have the steering wheel on the left while I drove on the left. Awkward. Tiny cars: tiny roads. Tiny winding roads. Roads the size of a city sidewalk, meant for two lanes of traffic. Sometimes you had to pull off to the side and let the oncoming car squeeze by. Sometimes you had to back down the road to find the small shoulder you passed minutes before to avoid a stall with the oncoming car.

I think my shoulder pain originated in Dublin. My keen sense of direction allowed me many extra hours of driving in circles, specifically around St. Stephen’s Green. Looping the park in city centre I’d clench the steering wheel, press my back against the seat, bite my lip, hold my breath and will my foot to respond; gas, brake, gas, brake, brake, BRAKE.

Driving on other roads went similarly except I’d cringe a bit more and close my eyes often. It was surviving; I couldn’t face my certain death. Once I had the great privilege of riding shotgun on a winding road with blind turns and rock walls. Remember we’re driving on the wrong side of the road in a car with the right-side-of-the-road features. Out my window I’m staring at the passing cars, the words of my mother running through my head, “Don’t stick your hand out the window!” It would be chopped off.

I must have been zoning out a little too because I heard a loud thump and saw my own wide blue eyes staring back at me. The passing van, a service van slightly wider than most cars there, had hit our side mirror and knocked it closed. We left it for the remainder of our drive.

That was the only near accident I witnessed in Dublin. I guess it’s the wide streets that present the problem in Salt Lake.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fugitive Behavior

Yep. Fugitive. I clearly remember the police officer on the other end of the line threatening my reentry to the wonderful state of Utah; as in don't come back you are now considered a fugitive.

How I came to be such a thing? Oh a little dust storm on the plains of I-70 between my home state Colorado and the nemesis Utah. A little dust storm that involved another car and a semi crashing into me from behind. Yes and I was to blame, according to the Utah officer. Now you may scratch your head in wonder but there it is: Semi driver who nearly killed us all, probably given kool-aide, but the girl from Colorado, FUGITIVE.

Ok, this may have been the start of a series in which I've warred with traffic laws, usually those posted on white signs involving numbers. But I fully accept my punishment when appropriate. For nearly all of the six speeding tickets I acquired one year I calmly nodded my head when the condemning officer asked if I knew why I'd been pulled over. The one exception was the jerk who said I'd run a red light. I expressed my disapproval in traffic court when he kept bugging me to participate. As if I didn't have anything better to do that Saturday morning.

And so here it is, midnight on a Thursday, I'm pulling into my parking lot amazed that the flyers pinned to my windshield have survived the freeway trip home. Wait. That's not a flyer. The pink envelope suggests a violation of some sort. Wait there are two of them. Two tickets for a plate infraction dated exactly one minute and eight seconds apart. HOW?

The plate infraction is this—my tags looked expired. An officer was nice enough to pull me over six days ago to inform me. I informed him that the car is registered and the powder on doughnuts isn't for smoking.

I didn't tell him that. BUT I did produce my registration, proving my innocence. And now I will once again prepare for court to prove my innocence there.

As a fugitive I was also asked to appear in court. I had witness papers in a sealed envelope and the day off work for the venture to Moab. A few days before the scheduled appearance I received a letter saying the judge had thrown the case out.

The cops may hate me, but the law is on my side. Innocent.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just Call Me Val

Once under tremendous pressure, fatigue, facing starvation and physically intimidated by a guy in my office I let it slip that I'd graduated top of my class of 99. No not a typo for Class of '99, there were only 98 Savages flipping that tassel with me. Impressive. Or at least for said guy and he jokingly called me Val—every time I said or did something completely brainless.

Hi, my name is Val.

In the fourth grade we dedicated an entire year to the United States. Especially the geography, capitals and time zones. Simple. Easy. I mastered it.

Fast forward to my fourth year out of college, see even that was wrong it's my third. Here I am struggling with math, numbers and time zones. In an attempt to nail me down for a phone conversation, an acquaintance exchanged emails with me to set the exact time. This is the brilliance that occurred in my head.

The email simply says: Can you connect Thursday at 2:30 PST?

Yes, I thought. No, I thought. I work until 1 and need time to get home so I can take notes (seriously thought that). So 1 my time (MST) will be 12 her time. OK, I'll say yes. Wait, I have to stay an hour later that day so I won't be done until 2 my time which is 1:30 her time. Hmm I'll have to ask her to push it back a half hour so we can talk as I'm getting off work and I can be done for my shift at 4. (Are you confused yet? You should be. My train of thought made absolutely no sense.)

And she did. The phone meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. PST. I rushed through my goodbyes at work anxiously clutching my phone. Minutes passed. An hour passed. I thought maybe I'd got the time wrong, checked my email and read 3 p.m. PST which convinced me that I'd missed the call.

I sat on my couch slightly depressed and finally got it. It was like Mrs. E had slapped me with time zone comprehension all over again. 3 PST means 4 MST… Idiot. Val. I'd moved the phone call back to the time I'm expected for an intense ABA session.

I swear time zones were easier when I was ten.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

High Aspirations

The incredibly cute shoe you see has haunted me since April. I saw a pinker version in a store window and once inside saw a milder tan model. I think maybe I tried them on. I think maybe they weren't worth seperation of cash and wallet. I think maybe every time I see them I feel a flutter in my heart.

I glamorize them and thereby glamorize my feet with them on. The perfect summertime shoe (and since there are only a few weeks of summer left this infatuation should end). Light, airy, comfortable (did I mention I tried them on and instictively winced where blisters would appear?) and gorgeous.

That is what I know to be true when I see them. Once I've stepped away I reconsider. This is a shoe more suitable for a coastal surfer with messy hair, a ripped t-shirt and damp boardshorts. Someone suffering for their art...entertainment...livelihood? A poor impressionable youth of the male gender. That is who this shoe is for.

Except that this shoe is for me. I've talked myself out of it multiple times, except when I found them at a sidewalk sale. The only reason I don't own this shoe is my size was gone in the acceptable color and pattern. But looking at this shoe online tonight I remembered an aspiring goal made by me and my highschool friend Oliver.

We would somehow give up on life, or at least the first year of college and make our way to California. Once there we'd become Beach Bums. Captilized because we'd romanticized it. Life couldn't suck if the sand was your pillow and the ocean your lullaby. Oliver made it a bit closer than me. His family actually moved to Southern California and he followed them later. I desperately clung to the mountains, afraid of giving up my winters.

The purchase of this shoe could change all that, I'm just $49.95 away from a life of leisure and garbage-bin breakfasts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Water Bombed

A fifteen-hour workday on a Friday conjures images of the GULAG, except in 100 degree desert heat. We weren’t going to take it with our heads hanging between our legs. We needed ammo and found it in the form of water balloons. It took 40 minutes to fill them and 40 seconds to bomb the ants climbing up my pants. Totally worth it. And we have 477 balloons in reserve.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chapter Three

When I was young I dreamt about flying. They always began the same with me running across the field next to our house and as I approached the ditch I'd flap my arms. Of course it was just my arms that lifted me upward, I thought happy thoughts just as Peter Pan taught. I remember waking up and being surprised that my dream self had pulled it off, and a little nervous because that same self was obviously clueless about what was beyond those telephone wires.

These dreams lead to hours of staring out our front window watching the sky as birds flew in and out of view landing on those telephone wires. Eventually I convinced my dream self that some sort of parachute-style device was also needed. My unicorn sheets made the cut and now I could safely leave the ground. I was still nervous to go far but I did explore the neighborhood from the air and always dropped down when I thought my parachute would whisk me away from my mom forever.

Today I sat in the park and saw red, white and yellow crescents floating above the mountain ridge. Paragliders. I watched them until I couldn't, imagining my dream self with the blue and white unicorn sheets among them. A completely freeing thought, an involuntary smile and a crushing blow to the contrast of what I'm working on right now.

I told a friend that I would proof her manuscript. I've actually been in on the process for a while now and have read the rough drafts. I know the story and lived one year of it. I've heard it over dinners sitting across from her intimately at a table for two. I make a guest appearance memoir-style in chapter three. And it still rips my heart to know that her little girl, suffering from RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), won't look at the sky when she's 26 and remember dreams of flying away on unicorn sheets.

But hopefully after the intense therapy she's going through she won't dream about abandonment either.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Seattle Hangover

I want to tell you that things have improved since my last post and I now love August. Turns out you don't always get what you want.

I cursed the month and then fled the state. Not really connected but you never know when a caring friend will turn up with wedding cake to destroy your self-pity. And I knew my brother Philip and his wife Annie would not have any wedding cake so I could safely hate August from their Seattle apartment.

The dismal gray skies were ordered and delivered after a week of record-high temps. Perfect. On that first day Phil invited me to all-you-can-eat sushi. He convinced me to pile my plate high with the unknown. We sat down and with a boyish grin reminiscent of the horror stories he told me in my youth, he explained the Sushi Hangover. An experience I laughed at...until the next morning.

The day of indulgence was amazing. We walked the city recklessly. Blisters? Never. Side-ache? No. Weary, tired, irritable? I felt like an Olympian, or what I'd imagine an Olympian to feel like if they were high on raw fish. We stayed up well into the night—one of us knowing the next day would hurt, one of us beginning to forgive August.

The next morning we sluggishly drove to the water for a kayaking adventure. I didn't feel too horrible. The day after that we trekked up a mountain. Again I felt fine once I was up. The day after that we went trail riding cowboy style. By now the Sushi Hangover had passed and it didn't seem bad.

Wait. I have the world's slowest metabolism. I know this in the shadowy regions of my mind but I like to forget it. It became unforgettable when the Sushi Hangover hit me on Sunday, three days late. Luckily it also lasted about three days, haunting me through Tuesday. You may not believe, few do. I mocked Phil a bit about it myself and paid a price.

Karma or just old-fashioned big brother knows best?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Isn't Over Yet

This long and draining weekend in which I have disturbed many of my relationships has been continually punctuated by one phrase—Summer is over.

I read it in the family letter on Saturday morning. Summer is over, school will begin (most of these family members are teachers). I panicked for two reasons: 1. As an irresponsible adult I like to think that summer will last until the first snow. That means more volleyball playing for me and not as much 8-3 with the kiddies. 2. My summer only started in July and these letters were supposedly written July 10th. Conclusion: my family secretly hates me and wants me to live with a 10-day summer. It explains a lot.

That decided (the part of them wanting me to be miserable) I mentally congratulated myself for procrastinating reading the letter and quickly disregarded it so I could enjoy my summer. Unfortunately two hours later my employer (also a teacher) recalled the ugly truth, summer is over. She will be returning to school in two weeks which means my hours extend. Hmmm. It was hard to disregard this, but I managed telling myself I didn't have to think about until I returned from Seattle.

Wouldn't you know that two hours later I checked my email and in the subject head read Summer is Over. Really. Gone. Ushered away by the new school year.

August sucks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sympathy Pains

My best friend, whom we call Vegas Stacey (she doesn't know this and I will let you believe it is for her scandalous nature instead of geographical location) called me today to tell me about her first bike riding adventure. In the past three weeks both of decided it was vital to our existences to have a mountain bike. And we both bought one on impulse, knowing little to nothing about the sport. Points on her end for having a husband to teach her.

He forgot to mention the effects of riding in Vegas heat with the sun beating you into the asphalt. The way she told it, she rode her bike around the neighborhood a nice easy 20-minute trip with a brutal hill at the end. In my mind I imagined her pushing, pulling and not really pedaling that last half of the hill. I wasn't far off but didn't expect the next tidbit.

Her ride made her physically ill. This amazes me and sends me into a fit of maniacal giggles. Yes, this is why she calls me. To brighten my day with the release of endorphins. I couldn't ask for a better prescription. It's funnier to me because the last we rode a bike together I had the mono. It knocked me out for a summer. And instead of lying low I hiked Timponogous at 3 a.m. with Stacey. It turned out to be one of our less brilliant ideas as I started hallucinating 10 minutes in.

So we compromised with our outdoor adventures. If she wanted to run for miles and miles I would ride a bike beside her. All we needed was a bike. My friend Brian lived in our complex and had a midget bmx-ish bike, minus the bmx and add some years and lack of rotation. I remember gasping for air and wishing for the burning in my thighs to stop, or for my legs to disappear in general.

Even on the bike I couldn't keep up. Stacey got a little frustrated and switched me. Remember that I still have the mono and I am kicking her ass. Riding the bike she can't keep up with my sicky-shuffle. Great bike.

Stacey's telling me that the only reason she didn't actually throw-up is she couldn't open the door fast enough and thought it improper to expel over the flowers. My sides hurt from laughing and I've got a man with curious eyes staring at me. I assure her that she isn't really as out-of-shape as this story leads her to believe. After a moment of silence in which I picture her rolling her eyes at me I confess to hyperventilating on my first ride. You can understand why she calls me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It’s Not Me, It’s You…

Taking the high-road is not always my choice of travel. Especially if it involves a clueless boy dragging me around to restaurants, movies, sporting events or even the random finger-painting adventure. After each such night I’ve closed my door, sighed and rolled my eyes horrified at my own abrasiveness and at their ability to ignore the obvious—a lack of chemistry.

But maybe it’s not their fault maybe it’s possibly to feel a strong one-way connection. With that thought I can forgive the ignorance. I’ve had my share of passing hotties that were soul mates in denial. That was the comforting theory until Saturday.

Playing in a doubles volleyball match I started the morning with a bang. By that I mean shot dead as in the original tournament with its soft sand, pool access, bbq and rocking music was cancelled. A few of the teams withdrew at the last minute leaving the rest of us to shuffle our way down the valley to another tournament without perks. Not even a crummy brown T-shirt because we were late registration. Only the diehards and fools would continue with this day.

Fools we were as we stepped onto the grass court for our first game. We actually had reasonable expectations of passing, serving, setting and hitting the ball over the net. What’s worse is we actually failed those expectations. After the third point an unimaginable truth nailed me in the chest, we had no chemistry. We couldn’t pass to each other, we didn’t know where the other was on the court. We collided, stole balls, and watched others drop. We set too far out, too far off the net and too far to the other side. It was every bad date I’ve endured rolled in one punctuated by our accumulating losses.

Towards the end of the day, after we’d conferred and coached and strategized my partner looked at me and confirmed my horrors. It wasn’t me, and it wasn’t her, it was the lack of US.

“We don’t have chemistry,” she bluntly whispered. “We can’t find a rhythm and we’re dying on the court.”

It hurt a little, and I didn’t want to acknowledge it but I knew she was right because I’d thought the exact thing hours before.

The tournament was a bust but we left resolved to work on our chemistry, to play more and develop rhythm.

Her direct remark confirmed another suspicion, that the lack of chemistry is felt by both parties. Every bad date knows that the butterflies aren’t flying, but some of the hopeful romantics blindly believe that time with beauty will eventually evoke sparks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Life on Two Heels


"Sorry to interrupt your walk!"

Walk?! Walk?!! OK, by that time my small getting-back-into-life trail run had turned into an epic adventure disguised as a leisurely meadow stroll. I'd planned on a mostly downhill jaunt, a reprieve for my lungs complete with fresh mountain air. I'd expected to feel more Sound Of Music as I ran through the meadows and maybe even Twilightish while dodging trees.

It did feel like that for the first mile, and then my not-so-common sense turned on. Something didn't feel right and it was just the pressure growing in my bladder. This was a feeling of you've gone the wrong way. Normally I would've stopped right then and there but I'd been told specifically to stick to the Mid-Mountain trail until I hooked up with Holly's. And so I did.

Another reason I brushed off the oh-so-wrong feeling, apart from the cluttered mind wrestling with life altering decisions, was the phrase 'you remember going all the way down with me.' And I did. I could picture it clearly. There we were in snow gear strapped into a board, he charging the mountain and me trying to dodge suspicious looking mounds. I'd gone that same direction when getting off the lift, and of course it looked different. There were trees and flowers instead of icicles.

At about mile 3 I no longer denied the icky feeling. Besides I could see the resort clearly from my perch and if continued on this path I'd soon be in Park City. Not good. Plus I realized that I'd been remembering the wrong mountain. So I turned around and stumbled back to the lodge and on to the correct path. Once there the run became less about running and more about spotting deer as the bounced in front of me. I don't know if it was the shock of seeing an exhausted looking ruffian in their home or if it was the stench emitting from my body, but they stared me down. I want to tell you that I ran on but I accepted the challenge and stared right back. OK I couldn't really run because the lungs were shutting down, noted by the sharp pain in my chest. Maybe they could sense that and the stare was one of horror and concern. I choose to believe that.

After the deer things were pretty tame. A couple fuzzy bees mistook me for a flower (oblivious to my stench I suppose) and tried to stick me. Or maybe they were gently pulling me along, realizing that dehydration was creeping in. They did usher me right to a stream and although I didn't drink from it the thought played in my mind like a Christmas memory.

I finally reached Holly's Trail with a group of mountain bikers behind me. I stepped off the trail to let them pass. They declined explaining that they had to wait for everyone in the group. I nodded as if that were the most natural thing and took off down the trail. My excitement at finally finding Holly's and the general pull of gravity picked up my pace. I did feel a little vampirish or at least more human now that my legs found something more than the slow crawl. And it lasted for nearly half the mountain at which point I fell to sub-human. The bikers caught up to me and zoomed by on two wheels. I cursed my blistered feet and erratic breathing.

The last of the group passed me, and in true Snow White fashion I stooped to complain to the last of my woodland creature friends, a furry caterpillar.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Emerald Sights

There I stood contemplating between healthy and unhealthy food choices. And by unhealthy I refer to foods that will cause serious intestinal issues later. Somewhere between the realization that I only wanted bread because I can’t eat it and craving for all things dairy I received the text from a mysterious number. Did I say mysterious? I meant ominous; asking me on an all day date at the DMV.

Hard to refuse an offer like that. Even harder to ignore the dread that accompanied it. A dread that was quickly followed by a hot stinging wetness in my eyes. Wouldn’t it be nice if the mistakes from your past never came back to haunt you?

As it is I knew that I would spend a pleasant afternoon bickering with an old friend, refraining from the serious shoe throwing he deserves. Actually the only reason he’s not getting the spiked-heel beating of his life is that I currently like all my shoes and don’t want to risk the stains. Blood doesn’t wash out well.

My struggle to breathe normally increased and the dairy aisle won. I ran to the checkout line with rice pudding in hand, mentally counting the minutes I had before a complete breakdown. The importance of this is to remember that my eyes were already watering. The effect this has is for my eyes to pop in a brilliance of color, an exaggeration of cartoon proportions. You can understand why I wouldn’t want to burst into tears in public, people should be charged to see such a sight.

The cashier looked at me intently. At this moment a casual bystander would never know what emotion threatened to spill over. Clearly he did not and continued to stare at me. At this moment I became incredibly self-conscious and began to close my wallet to flee the uncomfortable place. And then he says, “You have the most intensely green eyes I’ve ever seen.”

Hmmm. Note to self. Eyes change color according to mood. Anger provokes green flecks to surface. I know understand why the Kenyan and I spent an agonizing hour arguing about the color of my eyes. My apologies to him for not knowing that his annoyance had caused my eye color to change.

I blinked a few times at the cashier before slowly nodding a thanks and rushing to the nearest mirror. Confusion Blue eyes stared back at me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Seventh Month

It's nearly one in the morning on the second day of July. I've been done with my assistant teacher job for exactly six days. I've been going out of my mind for five days.

A perk of time demanding responsibilities is that I can blame the long nights and early mornings on other people. They expect me to stay until midnight. They expect me to show up at 6 a.m. What no one expects me to do is disassmeble my room at one in the morning.

Disassemble is wrong for I never put this room together. In the two years I've lived here there remain five boxes unpacked. I litter the floor, chair and bed with clothing. And anything I couldn't throw with the clothes I placed on the floor along the wall. Scared yet?

Tonight for some reason I was. I tore apart what I had moved things from one pile to another, mixing them in some attempt at categorizing and eventually dumping what I could into a large box. And things that I couldn't stand to look at I stuffed in a plastic bag destined for the dumpster.

It wasn't enough and I realized this task needs some time and attention, not a tornado in the form of a mentally unstable 26-year-old girl. I only hope that I won't wake up in a few hours confused, stumbling to the bathroom. Yes, all great ideas impulsively take place in the middle of the night. Why do you ask?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Penis Envy

I might be shot for this, or at least stripped of my lipstick and high heels, but many times I've said out loud and to an audience that I wished I'd been a boy. It's not that I really believe I'm that much of a tomboy. It's that sometimes living in a patriarchal world I feel that they've got more going for them. Sometimes I hate being the weaker sex, and since I'm weak (physically, hold the snickers) for my own sex I really hate being a girl. I'm sure Freud would call this penis envy.

I guess wanting to be a boy I could have searched out gender reassignment instead I pursued jobs working with males. More specifically supervising their toileting which involves plenty of time in the boys bathroom. Unpleasant in smell and failure to aim.

The past two days have made this ritual even more unpleasant. Yesterday was graduation day and many parents wandered the halls before and after the ceremony. Some of them wandered into the boys' bathroom. In the small rectangle room I'm usually but to shoulder with little kids frantically dodging their teachers. Not that day. I managed to be the only staff every time I entered.

But not the only adult. No, some random old man (old meaning someone's father) would saunter in, stand between me and urinal and generate a whizzing sound that could only mean one thing. My body generated something itself, a funky feeling in the pit of my stomach and a sudden heat that burned my cheeks.

It gets better. Today in a weekly work swim we were sent to the boys' locker room. And though we were behind the 'Employees Only' sign I felt slightly uncomfortable. I guess guys just have more confidence, are more at ease with their natural form because behind three locked doors I still scrambled to hurry, hoping that no one would walk in.

It's not envy. In fact it's not even a wish at this point. I'm wearing skirts and high-heels for the rest of the month.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Three-Oh-One

That's 301, which is how many words have managed to make me feel like a fool. Stupid actually. Years of reading, graduating with honors and a college degree left me with a vocabulary deficit. Strange. So why learn these words?

I decided to take the GRE to further prolong my pursuit of growing up. Or to enhance my talents and extend my career goals. Personally I think it's a bit of both. And will possibly come to a crashing halt in two weeks. I've tentatively told myself that I would take this blasted test before July.

But some days I think that my July 4th should be hopeful, not tarnished with the reality that I failed to learn 301 words in a week. And relearn 17 years worth of math. Ok, ok, it will be more like five years of math; the hard years between 8th and 12th grade. I'm hoping for plenty of stats questions, a subject I could never explain but aced like a Mathlete. We didn't have those at my school.

In preparation for the assault to my pride I decided to make flash cards of words to master complete with a pronunciation guide and a use-of-the-word sentence. Now I'm just hoping for a slight recognition, you know knowledge that the word is real and not the fabrication of some modern day aspiring Shakespeare. Seriously I double-checked each word on the list in the dictionary and a few of them were unrecognized derivatives.

Not only that but nowhere on the list was my favorite word, splanchnic, which I have been pronouncing incorrectly since the St. George Fourth of July. Boulder Dash is not the best way to improve your vocabulary.

The casualties of this test so far: two permanent markers, three hundred index cards, ten hours of my life and 1/16 of my belief in a happier world. Was it worth it? I'll let you know when I start school in August.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Star Water


















My family reunited again. We tend to do so at least once a year with all the cousins, as well as special occasions like births, deaths, holidays, weddings, missions, Sunday dinners, Tuesday bingo nights and Saturday morning cartoons. We enjoy spending quality time together, without others. Or at least that’s what my sister-in-law Annie now thinks.

The first time Annie met the family was a couple of Christmases ago. I flew in from Ireland under strict orders to befriend Annie and ease her stay during the holiday. Translation: Bre could you shield her from the teasing. Maybe you could cause some scenes so all eyes are on you. Maybe you could redirect the twins, entertain the boys, dance around with underwear on your head, anything really, just mediate.

I did the best I could but with the jet-lag, a bulging disc in my back and a general state of delusion I was no match for the three day bonding we had due to a blizzard. Not even the makeshift John Deere plows could get her out for a few minutes peace.

We broke her down and somehow Phil convinced Annie to marry him. Had she known erratic weather was part of the deal she may have said no, then again she grew up in Seattle. This past weekend we dragged her to Star Valley for the Hyde reunion. I’m sure she enjoyed the huddling for warmth and the rain dictated cabin restriction (What is it about my family gathering that upsets the heavens?). Basically we sat around eating and mocking each other.

My only hope is that Annie felt a twinge of disappointment when she drank water today. As a child I remember a familiar phrase repeatedly falling from my mother’s lips upon our return from Star Valley. The water in the valley is sweeter tasting. Back then I noticed only one difference; the water in the valley chilled my teeth. I then decided that instead of believing my mother to be crazy she must be speaking in code. What she really meant is she missed her family.

I refilled my water bottle this morning. All day long the water I usually down in gulps has been sipped as I winced at the slightly bitter taste. I suppose it could be the bottle or strained taste buds, but the water in the valley tastes sweeter.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Remembered

Four years ago I worked for a family shadowing their autistic son in a private kindergarten, otherwise known as EHP an integrative school at the Pingree Center for Autism where I now work. Thankfully all those kids have graduated and moved on to higher grades, but occasionally I peek into my old classroom and wish to catch a glimpse of Miss Amy or Phillip or Olivia or Ryann or even my year’s sentence—Josh.

This morning while working in the preschool class that is composed only of children with autism I caught a break in the form of music group. We guided the kids to the library and at once a young girl brightly greeted us announcing, “I’m safe.”

I gave a curious toss of my head before returning my attention to the wild group I was in charge of. The young girl continued to bubble over with how cute a mom was dressed. It was a very literal assessment of the outfit, blunt and terrific.

“You have the cutest dangling earrings. And I just love that sweater, and your striped shirt and your shoes. You’re just the cutest with the cutest outfit. The only thing I don’t think is cute is your jeans, they look a little old [the faded jeans had some strategic rips],” exclaimed the girl.

As the mom looked at me and laughed with embarrassment I had a flash of memory. I knew this girl. She was the little girl in my kindergarten class with Josh. She had autism and having successfully graduated from the Pingree Center program advanced to a typical classroom. I remembered her quiet and withdrawn, wanting space, cringing at physical touch, insistent on doing things her own way. Not quite the young girl randomly striking up a frivolous conversation punctuated with hugs.

If that weren’t surprise enough I saw her with her mom later that day while shopping. Her mother prompted the young girl to say hi asking her if she remembered me.

“I was in Miss Amy’s class,” I offer, “with Josh.”

She looked at me again. A glimmer of recognition flashed across her face and in a knowing voice she said, “Was Josh’s autism this?” and turned a thumbs down sign to me.

“Yes,” I replied.

Josh had instinctively decided to hate me. It was before he knew who I was, his shadow there to push and prompt and guide him in social, academic and behavioral situations. During the first week I’d been instructed to act as a teacher’s aide and help all the children, not Josh specifically. He walked in the door and looked at me with spite. To him I was the age and size of the various tutors forcing him to go against his impulsive behaviors.

And so as his arch-nemesis he threw everything he had my way. In a three hours time period I pulled him from class four or five times. We’d hole up in the principal’s room or an empty four walled prison as he kicked, screamed, pulled his hair, threw objects, rammed his head into the chair, the wall and eventually my chest as I held him in restraint.

As his behaviors escalated so did our program. The façade dropped and I was clearly there to help Josh adjust. Some days it felt like a step in the right direction, and the next day we’d regress five. His mother would watch from a mirrored window. With tears running down her face she expressed her sorrow for putting me in such a position and her horror and his obvious regression.

One day it all became too much and Josh lashed out on me specifically. We’d built a violently vulnerable relationship where he knew I’d protect him no matter what, no matter how hard or far he pushed. And when the computer’s circuit fizzled and popped causing an outage so did Josh’s wiring. He swung hard and wild with complete accuracy, his small fist colliding with my jaw. My head snapped to the right. Just as quickly tears sprang to my eyes and flowed down my cheeks. As I grabbed his arm to take him to his “time-out” a mixture of fear, remorse and uncertainty clouded his face.

Sickened by his loss of understanding we sat in a window seat. We sat until my face no longer stung. We sat until he sobbed, then stopped, then sobbed again. We sat until I found the patience to explain what had happened to the computer and why he couldn’t hit people. We sat until we couldn’t sit anymore.

I knew that our time was limited after that. He no longer progressed as he should and I couldn’t help but feel that I was a significant part of the equation. He’d put me in the role of Mother, a caregiver who takes abuse. Within a month or two his own mother along with his consultant decided to pull him from school, releasing me of my duties.

“Yes, Alyssa,” I replied, “his autism was this.” I mimicked her gesture.

She smiled brightly and said, “My autism is this now.” Flipping her hand she gave me a thumbs up sign.

I smiled in agreement, content with the silent knowledge that Josh's autism is this now too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Counting Down

The first day of June passed with me mentally computing the days, hours and minutes to the end of school. That's 19 days, 133 hours in class, 7,980 minutes as a teacher and seven more early morning bus rides. And that's when I started to think of ways to cut it down.

First it became clear that my family matters more than a job that ends in four weeks. Naturally, I will take an extra day for the family reunion in Star Valley, Wyoming. In my mind we will spend that day off riding horseback through the mountains or rafting the Snake River. In reality we will probably walk under the antler archway and visit with relatives...maybe a short hike to Intermittent Springs. That brings me to 18 days, 126 hours and still too many minutes.

Next I remembered a doctor’s appointment that will offer an early out one Wednesday. If I can somehow rationalize my parent’s being in town and needing time off for that I could evade the entire school day. That would bring me to 17 days, 119 hours and only six more bus rides.

And maybe I need a mental health day. Actually there’s no maybe about it. Sixteen days, 112 hours but I’ll keep my bus rides just so I don’t have to listen to complaints from the drivers about liability issues. There seems to be a lack of concern for my body flying through the windshield at freeway speeds as I walk up and down the bus aisle.

In a moment of desperation I counted our field trip. I’m probably smoking crack thinking of it as a day off, but perhaps a more manageable day will justify my little white lie.

Grand total: I have 15 days , 105 hours, 6,300 minutes and six more early morning bus rides to complete. The worst part is after working this week I will still have 15 days, 105 hours, 6,300 minutes and six more early morning bus rides.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Spider's Nest

I sat in a too small chair watching two small girls vie for social dictator of the small group. I mindlessly picked at my split ends while casually eavesdropping and mentally remembering my own group of friends and the social positions we held. I’m still not sure how I fit in, but even then I picked at my split ends only half listening to what my friends said. Possibly a nod to my warp-speed maturity, more likely the beginning of my diluted form of trichotillomania.

Then something caught my attention. Diva One tossed her hair and in a sassy and matriarchal voice too old for her cherub cheeks asked if the table would like to hear a story her mom had told her, a true story that really did happen. Among the ohhs and ahhs heads bobbed up and down and the circle tightened. I cocked my head in wonder.

The story unfolded like this: There was a young girl and she never brushed her hair. And her mom took her to a hair lady who cuts hair. The haircut lady said that a spider lived in the girl's hair and then it bit her head.

At this point my mind was reeling thinking back to my slumber party days and the urban tale of a zit that was actually a spider's egg. An unfortunate teenage drama when that sucker hatched. But now the story's changed or someone my age has twisted the story to her advantage. Scare tactics work in raising children. Diva One did wear her hair in a glossy updo that day. I chuckled and went about my eavesdropping but switched to listening to the boys playing with trains. Not much more than a chuga-chuga over there.

A short while later I rapidly crossed the parking lot eager to leave the germy miscreants for the sanctity of my car, when an unsuspecting creature in flight tried to soar through my dreadful black locks. Years ago I carefully brushed 100 strokes through three sections of my waist-length hair. Now I give an obligatory sweep a couple times a week. My how the vain have fallen.

A fall that concludes with the bug fighting my tresses and victoriously freeing itself while I maneuvered around cars in the parking lot. Maybe you've seen Tommy Boy. Maybe you remember the bees. Maybe I lived it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Full of Hot Air



















I've decided to chronicle all my past life experiences here on my blog. Most of them will be dating horror stories of the slasher variety and usually it's off with my date's head. No, I wouldn't do that to you, especially because you're only here for the pictures and I'm not about to publish a bloody mess. But I did remember a fun date with my brother Philip. So maybe it is a horror dating story.

Right before Phil moved to Seattle he convinced me to wake up at the crack of darkness to drive to Park City for a hot air balloon ride. We started by the high school, or something near there and floated a few miles towards I-80. In our wicker basket with a few other chipper morning goers, we oohhed and aahhhed. Never has land looked more plotted we exclaimed. It's amazing how incredibly high you get with no parachute we mused. Some fool really wanted to travel around the world like this we scorned.

The pilot pumped more heat into the nylon bowl. We drifted this way and that and down below a white van zigged and zagged like an ant following our wind blown trail. That was our ride back to civility, but we were headed for the nether regions and expecting a bit of a hike. We did not expect the rough landing. The wild land teased us with flat landing pads but threw a small ditch our way as we touched down.

Phil threw his arm around me and told me to hang on as our side of the basket rushed to parallel the ground. I'd braced well enough, or Phil kept me safe but the lady next to me could have used some help. She tumbled head first over the edge. Just as I thought her head would soften the fall the balloon jerked upward and the basket leveled out. The woman fell back into the basket. I bit my lip to keep from laughing and Phil shot me a warning look. I'm not sure if he was warning me to save the laughter until we'd safely landed or if he just hoped that for once I'd be nice.

As we piled out of the basket after a safe completion Phil and I had one more surprise. The balloon company presented us with champagne and a flight completion certificate to Breanna and Philip Hall—the young married couple. I think they expected a kiss, Phil pushed me away loudly refuting our marital status and clarifying our blood relation.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My One Flaw

Kellie wanted a lemon meringue pie. She enlisted me as the baker. It’s a simple pie from my youth that I’ve made hundreds of times but always under the watchful eye of my grandmother. Left on my own things unraveled.

Actually the pie turned out beautifully, just a few days late. I kept putting it off telling Kellie we didn’t have the ingredients and I needed to double check with the Lamar cooks for any tweaks to my memory. When I finally gave the green light I completely forgot the cooling period. I baked the pie late at night. When I pulled it from the oven an hour before bedtime I had to tell Kellie and her guests that my failure to plan would result in a viewing pleasure only. No pie until tomorrow.
I think there were a few looks of dismay and in my defense I shouted, “Yes I know, I can’t plan ahead. It’s my one flaw.” (Lying is my other.)

Blessed with the gift of foresight I might be ending my graduate school instead of hoping to meet the summer enrollment deadline. I might be reminiscing with Phil, Annie and Heather about my long weekends on the coast with them. I might be wearing clean clothes. I might be calling to tell my mother I love her and asking her if she liked her Mother’s Day present…or even just a card.

As it is I’ve yet to make it to Seattle in the two + years Phil’s been living there. Heather’s baby has no idea he’s a crazy Auntie Breezy. I am wearing clean clothes but not necessarily the clothes I wanted to wear, and I make no promises for tomorrow. And my mother’s only present is that her daughter is out of denial of the flaw that holds her back from conquering the world and making a decent dinner.

I should make a to do list, but it’s a holiday and in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

FOR RENT: Panties Included

One week ago I walked into my apartment, checked for any mail that might cause a smile and instead saw the lease with highlighted lines for my signature. My immediate response was to groan and cry in frustration that I DID NOT want to sign that paper.

Call it commitment issues but the thought of being bound to Damsel Drive for another year gave me anxiety. It felt like ants crawling under my skin, my stomach flipped, my eyes widened then narrowed and in my head all my thoughts streamed together in sudden clarity saying Get Out.

A day later I typed up a little ad for Craigslist pimping out my room. It failed. The next day I tried again minus the pimping and just tried to find someone to move in. I got two responses. At this point I realized that I might be living in Salt Lake City for the rest of my life.

I set up an appointment to have a girl come look at my apartment. It’s a bit old and not always appealing so I planned on doing a quick walk through to spruce it up before the showing. And by that I mean I prepared to pick my clothes up. Since I’d only stayed the night there once I believed my room to be relatively clean. The prospective roommate would arrive at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

Unfortunately a last minute doctor’s appointment got scheduled for 4:00 p.m. In my ill state of mind I pushed the prospect back a half hour. Naïve, stupid, ridiculous.

I opened the door an hour late to meet said girl. She hadn’t called me so I assumed someone had been home and walked her through our apartment. I felt awful and flakey but couldn’t change what had happened. Then I walked into my room. The first sight to offend my eyes was a pair of purple panties with hot pink trim lying on the floor.

That one night I’d been home I’d stripped like a pro and thrown my clothes around my room. I let out a long sigh, found a pen and signed the lease.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friendships' Unlimited Nights and Weekends

In kindergarten I let my friends pick me. At that point in life I was faster than most my peers and found extreme pleasure in running away from them, but my mom told me that to make friends I needed to ask a nice looking girl to if she wanted to play. I did and Liz and I became great friends until the third grade when she became boy crazy and I still found extreme pleasure in running away. Fast forward 15 years and I've discovered my new method of choosing friends—wireless provider.

What does this mean? My best friends are part of my IN Calling Network. My acquaintances make their apologies for poor planning. And the hot guy from the party who could have been the father of my children was networkly undesirable. Sorry mom I tried. But in the current financial scare (plus the last six years of my fiscal uncertainty) I'm keeping expenses down. Cell minutes included. And my shining personality fades in one-line txt conversations. It becomes a get-to-know-you blunder, sometimes even a shoot-your-best-friend-in-the-head catastrophe.

There are benefits of Verizon choosing my closest friends for me. I feel guiltless calling Stacey in Vegas multiple times a day and chatting to her while states apart we both wander through aisles at the grocery store dissecting our food cravings. I even sit in a comfortable I-miss-you-silence with some of my favorite conversationalists. The technological way to sit side-by-side while reading alone.

The downers come hard and heavy. Besides passing on Mr. Perfect, whoever he was, I've let a relationship with my sister dwindle to birthday calls. She declined on the family agreement to stay on one network and moved into a different time zone. Double negative. The friendship we once shared, I her part-time nanny and she my life planner, gone; a shimmer of a memory of a better time.

I think I was supposed to stop running away from my friends (sister). I should pick up the phone, she's only ten digits away. Maybe tomorrow after nine, or if I'm not busy this weekend...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Good Vibrations 2: Provo Canyon

I tried to convince Travis that longboarding Lamar would give us instant fame. I even posted video of our adventure, at least the first 20 seconds of me dancing and laughing before r-o-l-l-i-n-g down Woodland Drive. After that failure I completely blocked out longboarding. I'd look at my board and mental erase any memories or feelings connected to it.

So when Trav called me to ride down Provo Canyon I numbly said yes without realizing what I'd said yes to. It may have helped that he called at midnight when I'd been working since 6:30 that morning. There was some confusion on where to meet and how to arrange transport. Mostly because though I could clearly see the route I wanted to take, I couldn't remember the campground sites associated with them. Seriously, why name things?

But we figured it out and took one glorious run from Vivian's Park to Nunn's Park. I say glorious because we didn't fall, I taught Travis to run off the board and we weren't passed by a single jogger (we were going that slow, but there were no joggers to be seen). The second run was a little more interesting. I'd decided that tightening my trucks had been foolish, degrading to my skill level. We attempted to loosen them, which means we looked at it and found out we didn't have the right tools. Regardless, I was prepared to fly down the canyon.



Just as I shouted to Travis that I knew there was a way to go faster a small boy of 11 or 12 zoomed past in a crouched position. I deduced that to go faster we needed to get low. In my mind it worked like magic and I nearly killed myself trying to turn while balancing on a moving object in an awkward position that restricted blood flow to my head. I got light-headed every time I stood up and teetered a bit before regaining vision and sense.

And so it went. Travis and I content to casually glide along the trail, making duck calls and spotting deer and trying out our new “trick.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Kill Trees

When the computer clock reads 11:27 I have one goal--a clean agate page. (For most of you who are A. not working for pennies and B. not newspaper nerds it's enough to know that I do the dirty work for the sports desk.) And at 11:35, after the first run, I'm humiliated at red ink smeared across the proof. Love that chaser deadline which cleans up my page and means only a few lucky souls get to laugh at the genius arranging prep scores the next morning.

Today to honor Earth Day I attempted to lay off the paper, to make my corrections while staring at the computer screen. The problem came when my tired eyes began to itch (I blame weird computer graphics and lighting). The problem increased as I began scrolling and skipping large sections. On paper I go line by line as taught in kindergarten. In the tech world I believe in short-cuts, unfortunately they fail me more often than I'd like.

The solution glared me in my principled eyes—print I must, as many copies as necessary for that perfect page. I felt a pang in my heart for everything arboreal. It lasted a couple minutes and increased in intensity when I thought about the episodes of the day. I’d been using exorbitant amounts of paper towels and tissue all day.

I’d washed my hands after every sneeze. No, not just my sneezes but the 53 sneezes of my students, plus the paper towels used to wash their hands and the double and triple layers of tissue to help them blow their noses and protect my hands. And once, maybe twice, I just watched as a child threw away an used paper towel.

The Reduce, Reuse, Recycle poster of youth flashed through my head. Briefly. I cleared my desk and tossed out the stack of paper I’d used in the past five hours. Happy Earth Day, I killed trees.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Breakdown


Spring Break. The breaking through of buds and blossoms, hormones and crazy schemes. Or it should be and in my not too distant past was. Spring Breaks for the high school me usually meant a trip to Utah to hang with my college attending sisters. And when I switched to the U spring break occurred in Costa Rica.

But spring break as a teacher just means sleeping in a bit and going to school to bleach the toys and organize the room. What I wanted it to mean was four days of snowboarding, until I found out that my resort closed Sunday and my holiday started sixteen hours later. (enter expletive here)

So then I remembered the fun of the volcano, dancing, jungle and beach of Costa '05. I could trade in my sweats for shorts, and my mom had offered me the use of my old room in Lamar. Tempting. However in adult world there is no spring break and I had the obligation of three other jobs to contend with. Poolside in the ghetto it was.

Poolside staring at a pool cover shivering in sweats, sipping hot chocolate and watching large quarter-sized snowflakes land on green blades of grass and crumple delicate pink, purple and yellow flower petals.

The good news: SPF 15 more than adequate for such conditions. The bad news: poolside is code for couch in this scenario.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

gogg-less

Sometimes ideas are genius in their very nature. Generally mine are not and I miss the foreshadowing of the misfortune to come. So this time when my great idea involved working early Saturday morning and meeting Trav for one last afternoon of snowboarding I banished all negative feelings.

The stomach churning was probably from the acidic orange I’d just eaten. The growing 48-hour headache was from being cooped up indoors all week. The tight calf-muscles were effects of dehydration. And a 30-minute late start only meant I’d have to ride with the nose pointed down the mountain instead of the parallel lines I love.

On the mountain Trav and I saw short lift lines and splashed our way through the snow. Even the dense rain clouds and warmish temperature didn’t clue me in. Maybe I thought it had to be a dark and stormy night for calamity to fall. I blamed undesirable conditions for my lack of balance and by the last run I felt a rare thrill.

On that run we had the mountain to ourselves. No small children for me to injure. No fast riders to injure me. And Travis was pulling tricks old school Nintendo style. I watched him crouch down and ride out a flat (when I say crouch picture Nintendo graphics and that’s what he looked like, arms straight out). He helicoptered down while I made mounds of slush to ramp over. And on the death hill he flew leaving me with an echoing call of WAHOO. That deep booming Hall voice could be used for avalanche control. And then it was done, the season over and the end of the winter of Trav and Bre.

And as a mark of rebellion, or maybe I subconsciously wanted to commemorate its greatness, one self-fulfilling prophecy stole my happiness. When Travis gifted me with my white and blue pinstriped goggles I loved them immediately. He immediately cautioned me not to scratch the lens. After months of reminding myself not to two weeks ago I did just that. And as we said goodbye to each other and to the mountain I failed to notice my missing scratched goggles, lying on the pavement near my car.

My paranoia of ruining the perfect gift came true.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Reasonably Responsible

There comes a time in every girl's life when she asks herself, Do I really want to go to work? Yes, but not when work means missing out on fun and fun means a full day of snowboarding followed by a great outdoor concert in Park City, Utah.

Having been out of work for half of my post college career I do value the structure, income and sense of social duty that a job provides. I went a little crazy with weeks and weeks of a free schedule. Actually I think that was only because all my friends were at work and I felt left out, alone in slacker world.

So when the opportunity came to rotate through four jobs during a week, I foolishly accepted and threw my free time (weekends too) off the face of the then snowless mountains. Karma stung me with snow storms immediately. And this was the year I'd dedicated to conquering snowboarding, season pass included. It's been a struggle and I've thrown shoes. But today it hurt the most.

I woke early to hit the mountains with my personal instructor and guide, know that the fatigued and exhausted state of my body would only hold up for a couple hours. Perfect because I had a few things to get done later and a late work shift. Wait. My poor body wanted a full beating. I tumbled down the last run because my muscle control disappeared. Frosted in white I stared at the lift aching for one more run...or for a warm shower and twelve hours of sleep. I got neither but stumbled onto the gondola.

The ache grew when I heard the sound check and saw the stage for the concert. We debated and fought with time. Time won and we turned our backs on fun. I thought about calling in sick. A lie of sorts but I am sick of work. And then the weight of responsibility crushed my spirit. I would go to work and smile while there. But I would listen to my ipod and be anti-social. Karma kicked me for my bad attitude. I didn't need to be at work. In fact they didn't think I was scheduled to work and I spent two-and-a-half hours waiting for the phone to ring. It rang once, and when I answered no one was there.

Next time I will reasonably ask if responsible is really necessary.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Intimate Aisles

While shopping in Europe I watched as women grabbed a shirt or pants and yanked them over (or under) the clothes they were wearing. I remember thinking this was odd, but an incredible time saver. No hassle of finding someone to assist you, waiting in line for a dressing room, or being locked out of said dressing room. Brilliant.

Unfortunately I never quite figured out how Euro sizing worked so I generally wasted my time looking for someone who worked at the store and understood me. Once I got back to the States I cut my shopping time in half. Instead of trying on shirts in the dressing room I simply stripped down to a tank top by a mirror and quickly pulled things on and off for verification of fit.

All this time I’d been thinking I’d revolutionized American women’s way of shopping. (Guys have been doing this for years, or skip the fitting process altogether?) But today I saw that the Wal-Mart shoppers are steps, years even, ahead of me.

In passing I saw a woman in a bright green shirt trying on a nude colored bra. She lifted and placed, lifted and placed, and pulled straight as I processed the image. The contrasting colors must have been on purpose, so she could carefully see where the lines of the garment would fall.

I bit my lip to keep from laughing and tried to redirect my male companion. But mostly I wondered if she ever dreamed about going to school in her underwear.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In the Eyes of the Beholder

In the hallway four women breathed four sighs as they gazed through the glass doors of the elementary school. Prisoned inside three of them remarked on the lovely day, one rolled her eyes in disgust. A warmish day does not automatically translate into beauty.

Looking across the valley I could barely distinguish the Oquirrh Mountains, a few ridges peaked through the haze. Outside at recess my opinion refused to change. My definition of beautiful excludes dust particles, air pollutants, fumes and evaporated salt.

Outside on a beautiful day my eyes don’t itch, my skin isn’t clogged by air irritants and my snot isn’t black. On a beautiful day the warmth of the sun beats on me. Today the warmth of the thick air suffocated me. I felt like I’d wandered into a spider web and the poison from the spider’s bite would crush my lungs.

Those poor fools, I surmised, have never lived in open country. A twist in life once again makes me long for the comfort of home, Lamar. There on the open plains I grew up with clean air (if you don’t count the large percent of methane). The blue skies continued past the horizon, swallowing the sage brush.

Every day offered new shades of sky blue. The blue of winter days lured you unsuspectingly into the bitter cold. A cold that seemed to condense the color and deepen the color while stretching it far above you. The color so rich and a sky so thick you believed that bundled up you could wait outside for the sky to reach its saturation and fall on you.

The blue of spring released the frost bound color scattering it across the sky. Those days the blue looked faded, light, carefree. Or maybe it was waking after a slumber, not quite warm and slightly pale.

Summer heat brought dizzying shades starting with a light blue against a sunrise that burst into a shock of variations. Against a sharp roof you saw a deep penetrating blue that bleed into a lighter ring around the sun—I suppose I should mention I spent some time staring at the sun as a youth. That is why you are reading a blog that uses blue fifty times without a clear description of the hue—And when the storms brewed the sky swelled into royal blues and violets that gave way to a midnight blue contrasted with streaks of white burning light.

In autumn the cobalt blue skies dipped to greet you in the mornings, whisper to you at noon, hug you after school and kiss you good night at dusk.

The High Plains—blessed with four seasons producing 365 beautiful days.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Family Affair

Like every happy family mine has traditions. March brings a family sport to the forefront as we fill out brackets for the NCAA tourney. In a family pool we all try to beat each other, no loyalties, lots of trash talking and year-long bragging rights for the title holder.

Unfortunately basketball is my least favorite sport and my family knows it. Not to say it wasn’t fun playing Horse on our half-court or watching the four-peat state champs that we called the twins or Phil’s handiwork in the War Party (a group of boys sent in run the other team into the ground). Good memories but I refused to play in high school and developed something of contempt for the sport.

That contempt and my lack of sports spectating enthusiasm may be why members of my family seek to dethrone me as bracket champion. I have a habit of choosing well in the brackets, leading at intervals and finishing above at least half the family and one or two of my brothers (who know everything about sports).

This year I’ve been challenged. Smack talk through emails, a change in pool domain, predictions of my demise. They’ve even opened the pool to “anyone else we deem worthy”. Hoping for an outsider to take my crown? Yes, all happy families have their traditions. So I will traditionally fill out my bracket. As every year I know nothing about the teams, haven’t even heard hype over a favorite while working the sports desk at the Tribune.

Completely oblivious but blessed with an ability to test well and interpret stats, plus the random picks by mascot and color approval, I set out to defend my position at the top and frustrate the Hall testosterone.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gym Hazing

A wonderful Christmas story tells of elves making shoes for saintly cobbler. I've always wanted the elves to visit me; mostly I want them to clean my room. What I forget is elves by nature are not kind. Mischievous suits them better. And I believe they visited me after the fairies in the Sugar House gym sent them my way through a curse.

Yes a curse. They threw it my direction when I waved my hand in dismissal to their siren wails of sales. In their eyes I was a sucker and in mine they were sucking away a short amount of time I had to work in a sweat. At the end of the work out the sweat wasn’t enough to wash away my annoyance and I may have snubbed the boys again on my way out. The result was a later regret and a more immediate lateness for my other engagements.

Fast forward to the present. Under similar time constraints I attempted another semi-session at the gym. Running in I my thoughts focused on the quickest way to change.

”OH, she’s back,” a snide voice interrupted.

I looked up and winced. The boys stood behind the counter with arms crossed and smirks on their faces. Friendly greetings must not be discussed in staff meetings.

“Thanks for nothing, what aren’t you going to do today,” another chimed in.

Really boys, get over the rejection.

“It’s always encouraging to come here,” I replied while hastily moving toward the locker room.

The safe haven turned out to be a nightmarish fun house. My gym bag had been tampered with. Never would I have packed spandex, yet no shorts appeared. I pulled on the tight pants and searched fruitlessly for a tank top. With my t-shirt and stretch bottom combination I felt a bit like a 60-year-old woman.

Contemplating the humiliation factor I lost precious minutes talking myself into staying. A few minutes on the bike and goal accomplished, I win. I reached for my shoes. My left foot glided in and something felt wrong. I looked down and noticed that I’d brought my old shoes that effectively suck. Damn. Still I would not leave before I sat on that bike. With defiance I mentally prepared for the bloody heels that would follow.

I put my right shoe on and breathed a sigh of relief. I’d not looked close enough and might need more sleep I thought as I laced up my foot-friendly Asics. I might look a fool but my feet would be safe. I stood with a brief half-smile before I felt the uneven, unbalanced and a distinct difference in shoe. My eyes downcast I saw the ugliness of my old shoe contrasted against the hopeful new shoe. Tricked for the third time I resigned.

I was about to change and leave the gym all together until I looked up and saw a manly woman staring at me. I can’t be sure if it was self pride or pure terror, but I boldly left the locker room and marched to the bikes. After the fifth attempt I found one that worked and with straight shoulders I pushed through the twenty minutes I had left. Maybe the gym fairies won.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Head Cold

One day of feeling icky and stuffed up wears on you. After two weeks of a rawish throat, spinning head, dry eyes my allergies turned into an almost cold. As in I almost stayed home from work but decided to share my germs. I almost wanted to eat healthy foods to help combat but instead ate things that would undoubtedly taste good. Also when I attempted to make oatmeal it exploded in the microwave, the soup clumped up, the mashed potatoes disintegrated and the chocolate cake cookies resembled muffin tops.

I lived happily through the smoker voice that faded out. The runny nose relieved the congestion. And I coughed up enough crud to give my tortured lungs cardio exercise without going to the gym. Then the headache began.

At first I noticed a faint linger in my forehead after a sharp pang cursed through my nostril. Not so bad except it grew and developed into a full-blown dull ache that lasted and lasted, day and night during sleep and work.

By now I’d found the perfect solution—my fist. Moving at a rapid pace towards various points on my head my fist viciously attacked. For a brief moment I worried about permanent indentation. Luckily I’m a girl and will not be bald so a dented skull doesn’t matter.

I guess Eric disagreed. He showed up with a heavy dose of liquid gel caps, nasal spray, tomato soup, French bread, and season one of 30 Rock. I’m not quite sure what the bread was for. Maybe to offset the drugs. And the comedy of 30 Rock lifted my spirits, almost. Every time I laughed I felt the dull pain of a mucous swollen head.