Sunday, October 23, 2011

Birthdays and General Gushing

I was am completely overwhelmed with the response to my last post. Between the comments and shares on Facebook and the seven comments (which does not sound like a lot but when my average comment count is less than one--it's enormous) on the blog itself, not to mention the friends who texted or stopped me when we passed one another on the street on Thursday. You guys--it was touching. It really was. I've always kind of had a fear of death but only because afterwards, there's no you anymore. We spend our whole lives being aware only of a world in which we exist--to imagine that could exist without ourselves is mindblowing when you think of it.
But I think I learned that you're never really gone. My dad will never be gone as long as I'm here and my family is here. As long as there are still people who want to know about him. As long as there are people who have stories about him. As long as I have friends who are not afraid to ask questions and as long as I have the boldness to bring him up. I know that one day after I've died, I'll still be here, too. Because people love me. And if I wondered about that before, I couldn't possibly wonder any longer after this weekend. If you have love, you have infinity.

My birthday was on Friday. I had to work but it was my favorite shift and I also got to eat lunch with Justin. Who could be mad at that? It was a fun day. I told pretty much everyone that it was my birthday. Because I am a child in need of praise. I am 28. Most everyone said that's when they started getting afraid of their birthdays because 30 was so close. Personally, I can't wait to turn 30. I have friends who are in their thirties and those people are awesome. Plus, what with all of the delays in maturity that our generation is experiencing, 30 is the new 20 and 40 is the new 30. So maybe I'll freak out in ten years but I can't imagine that's true. I'm seeing lots of 60 year-old women that I totally want to be when I grow up. I don't think I'll ever tire of birthdays. I like getting older. The key, I think, to enjoying your birthday is to like the person that you're turning into.

So, I got home from work on Friday and before I could even change my clothes, Ryan came upstairs with a present for me. Let's just start a running list of things I learned about Ryan. 1. He's excellent at giving gifts.

He gave me a copy of Bossypants. I haven't read it yet! I know, it's just that I know that I'll get underline-happy with that book so I didn't want to check it out from the library knowing that I'll feel sad to give it back. This man knows that I want to be a Libby version of Tina Fey when I grow up. No, I have not given much thought to what that means at all. He also gave me a bottle of delicious perfume and a pair of earrings. But, you guys, not just any pair of earrings. Let me show you: on my Etsy favorites list, I have this pair of earrings listed as something that I want real bad. I mean, they're only $6.50 but at the time I didn't have a lot of money to go spending on sparkly do-dads. So sometimes when I want new things, I go to the internet and add stuff to my wish-list. It's kind of like online shopping, right? This is why I love Pinterest. It's pretty much the same. Only you can shop the whole internet--even for things that are not for sale. Anyhow, he saw that I wanted these and instead of buying them he made them. He made them, you guys! I couldn't get a picture of them when I was wearing them because it was blury or my neck was huge and washed out or something.
Sweet, huh? I was super freakin' impressed that it even occurred to him to make them, let alone ask people for advice and borrow tools and go shopping in the jewelry section of Hobby Lobby. Anyway, I was in love with them. Still am, I want to wear them all the time always. So far, I have worn them every day. 2. He's pretty good at making stuff.

Ryan said that there was another part to my present that he hadn't quite finished yet but he would finish it on Saturday. But I mostly didn't care because--handmade earrings specifically for me by someone who is wonderful, you guys!

It was decided that we would go get Chinese food. Because what's better for your birthday than the same generic delicious pineapple chicken and crab rangoons that you eat on any given Tuesday night? Right? But first he had to stop at Ed and Angie's house to drop something off. He said Ange had something for me, too, so we should stop by. And we did. And when we got out of the car, I didn't even notice that he didn't grab anything to take inside. I should have recognized that as a sign that we weren't leaving anytime soon but I didn't. I was in bliss and wearing these earrings that my boyfriend made with his own hands!

So we walk inside and you know where this is going--SURPRISE!! My friends were in there!! At first I just saw Joshua sitting on the couch and I was like, "neat--Josh is here." But then everyone yelled and after they'd finished, Amos popped up from the sofa and yelled, "Surprise, Bibi!!" Katie and Kristin were there, Adam and Arryn and all their little ones were there, obviously Ed and Angie were there and there was a banner that read:
Can you tell, yet, just how cool my friends are? Angie cut all of those letters out by hand, outlined them in glitter and then strung them up. Not an easy job. She also made me a chocolate mint birthday cake. PS Doug and Staci and Justin and Kasey all showed up a little bit later. They were all having a photo shoot and being generally awesome. Lynnette came, too! As seen in this photograph. Kind of.

So we hung out and listened to Ed's great taste in music and drank beers and sweet-tea flavored boozie things and talked and said, "that's what she said" until it wasn't funny anymore and everyone trickled out slowly. It was fun. It was exactly my favorite kind of thing. Ultra low-key. No one getting ess-faced and breaking dishware. No one making absolute fools of themselves--unless you count the way that Justin danced me around the dining room. A little bit of me was still really craving crab rangoons, though. One day. Everyone complimented my earrings and I kept gushing, "Ryan made them with his fingers! Can you believe it??"

I did kind of forget that birthdays get parties and presents. I got presents. I'm going to show you what I got for my birthday but it's not because I'm being a Braggey Braggerson. I'm saying, look at how well these people know me. Ready? So I got those things from Ryan and I got everything in this video from Sarah Beth and Alyssa. And then I got:
This apron from my mom. She made it out of the same fabric that I used to cover up the stains on the back seat of my first car. I took several other pictures but, this was the only one to make the cut. Sorry, apron, I know there's a lot more to you and so does everyone else. But you don't need to show off completely right off the gate--give 'em something to want to get to know.

Mom also gave me this little bag-thingy. I'm super pumped about it because I've been looking all over tarnation for an adequate make-up bag and keep coming up short. This is doing it for me.
Something else I've been scouring the world (yes, the world, it's called the internet--look into it) for and coming up short is a new purse. I have been looking for a cool cross-body bag in a neutral color with several interior pockets. I'm ultra-picky about my bags. Arryn got me this. It is not a cross-body bag but it does have straps that will go over my arms without getting stuck or riding up too high or making me feel weird. It is made of a recycled coffee sack! Yes, I'm going to put all of my stuff into this and carry it everywhere with me. I adore it.
Well, Doug and Staci know me all too well. There's little I love more than drinking insanely cheap, insanely sweet white wines.
Joshua gave me one of his paintings. This photo cut off a lot but I love everything about her. The colors and the shine and the wood and how she sits on my mantle. I'm developing quite the JM collection up there. I want to call her Alice, maybe.
Ange let me keep the banner. I want to use it for all of the birthday parties that are not for children.

So after we left the party, it was time to hit the hay and lay in bed and count all of the things I'm grateful for and fall asleep before I could think of them all.

Saturday was a lazy, lazy day. I had breakfast with Ryan and then pretty much sat around the house thinking about all that I should be working on but instead I just took a nap. When I woke up, Ryan came upstairs with the rest of my present. The part that I said I didn't care much about because I was already so happy. But let me tell you--I care about this.
Kate Szabone is my favorite jeweler on Etsy. She has gorgeous stuff that is never too shiny and the diamonds are rough and beautiful colors like grey. Grey diamonds, you guys! Anyway, I found a pair of earrings on there that were absolutely breathtaking and at $285.00, a steal! (Not really a steal, that's an enormous price tag for a girl who has trouble justifying a $6.50 purchase.) So I sent the link to Ryan and said, "I want those for my birthday, k? Thanks." I was kidding but as long as I'm kidding, I should be throwing in something I'd actually want just in case it really happened, right? Right. And he said, "Yeah, that is never going to happen." Or something to the effect. And it's true. He did not buy them for me.

He. Replicated. Them.
Do you understand what I'm saying?
It's basically impossible to take a good photograph of jewelry but I want to tell you that these are gorgeous. I might have cried a teensy weensy bit. 3. He hits the right notes.

And after this weekend, I feel absolutely adored.

I love you and everyone and everything else.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not a Sad Story: I Want To Tell You About What Happened Ten Years Ago

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. --Plato

It's 3:52 am. I can't sleep. I couldn't sleep when I laid down, either, but my brain's been so heavy these last several days that I couldn't keep it off of the pillow. I can't stop thinking about what life was like ten years ago. So I wanted to write about it.

Ten years ago I couldn't sleep either. At 3:52 am, I was sitting in my father's hospital room on 7SW at Via Cristi Hospital in Wichita with my mother. We had a sort of apartment in town but tonight she was in the rubber-covered recliner and I was on the rubber-covered chair that would fold out into a "twin bed". In the nine months that we'd been there, this was my second all-nighter spent with him. The time before that was last night when he started to need constant attention. Things went from "Fine, except for, you know, the leukemia part," to "What the hell has happened?" in a matter of days. I did not believe that he could die.

I always felt sort of guilty for not having a terribly traumatic cancer story. Some would argue that heartily but I know that my experience was not as terrible as some have been. You know, he really only spent one day throwing up--and that had nothing to do with radiation and chemo as much as it had to do with the fact that he had an allergic reaction to a painkiller that they gave him to combat the "uncomfortable side effects" of chemotherapy. That was one day out of a nine month battle. Many fight cancer for years--even decades. On his worst days he was weak and would say things to me like, "You know I could die, right? I know it's not going to but I don't want you to be unprepared for that if it does happen." One day as I left the hospital to go back to our apartment, I said, "You know I could die out there, right? There's a meth house directly across the street from our apartment." Fun fact, that did not make him feel more comfortable. Life lesson: don't tell your dad that you live in the middle of crack-alley if there is nothing that he can do about it. But he did stop telling me that he could die. I really, truly, did not believe he could die.

So he had a heart-attack in January of 2001. That was scary enough. I was 17 and the phone rang in the middle of the night and we were all too asleep to hear it. But as I was running downstairs, a woman was leaving a message on our machine. She was the overnight desk-clerk at the Red Roof Inn in Salina. My dad was staying there because his work was out of Salina but he traveled all over Kansas so we all lived in Stafford, still. There was, what? A two hour drive between here and there? On the message, she was very calm and asked that we call her back immediately. After she left the message, she hung up and called back immediately. I answered the phone but she wouldn't talk to me--she wanted my mom who was, by then, running into the dining room. She said that he'd had a heart attack and asked her to call 911 and then call us. She did those things and we got into the car and drove to Salina. Those whole two hours, I was picturing what our life would be like without him. I believed that he would die before we reached him. Alone. In a strange hospital bed.

But we got there and he seemed fine. You know, except for the heart attack, part. After a few days in the hospital, they discovered that he was diabetic. And that was when, I believed, our lives changed. He had a serious but manageable illness. We would get used to seeing things like syringes and little vials of insulin and alcohol pads and we would get used to a low-fat, low-sugar diet. And we would like it.

So armed with our new information about how to care for a person who has just had a heart attack and how to care for a person with diabetes, we went home. Happy and with a new zest for life. People from the church brought us meals that we couldn't serve to him but it was the thought that counted. The thought was so kind. Really, my dad was a beloved man. I think that most people who met him liked him instantly. I can't remember a whole lot of pre-cancer Dad but I remember that he could sing--and people loved that. I remember that he prayed with gusto. By now I can remember, without guilt, that he was also just a person with a good many flaws.

So, he was getting better and we were getting in the routine of finding a new normal and after he'd been home for about four days, he woke up in the night and couldn't move. He could move, the tiniest bit. Enough to get to the car so that Mom could drive him to the hospital in Pratt. They didn't even wake us up or leave a note. Mom called the house in the morning and told us what was going on. She said he was moving slowly and weak to the point of concern. She said that when they got him to the hospital, they tried to draw his blood but it was as thick as molasses. They had some ideas about what it could be but until they did some more tests, they wouldn't know for sure. She didn't tell me what those ideas were but I knew that a few years ago a girl in my school had leukemia and her blood cells multiplied rapidly which made it thick. "Like molasses." I didn't share my theory with my younger brother and sister. I just told them that they took Dad back to the hospital because he was feeling weak and they were running tests.
I don't remember what happened next, how we got into the speeding mini-van with my parents but suddenly we were all driving to Wichita.

In the car I was still wondering what it could be, feeling the sound of my theory in my head. I didn't know much and this was still in the days of dial-up so it's not like it even occurred to me to Google anything at all. My dad pulled out his cell phone (something that was still a treasure to me--amazing that it even existed) and called his best friend, Greg. And that's when I heard him say, "they say it could be leukemia, Brother." And then he cried. And all of us in the car sat in silence and terror and the unknown. That couldn't have really been it, though. That was just a worst-case-scenario. Leukemia only happens to little girls. Not to my strong, robust, forty-four year old father. But it was. Acute-Lymphatic Leukemia. This is not the kind of cancer that develops overtime. It is "acute" which was a word that I found confusing because when you first hear it you think, "the most adorable Lymphatic Leukemia that ever existed." That's when I learned that "acute" means "sharp," "fast," "vicious". All of his friends kept bringing him good news. They'd all say the same thing, "I looked it up on the internet and you've got really good odds!" Someone said, "if I had to choose any cancer in the whole world, I'd choose your cancer, Chuck." I didn't care about odds, though. That wasn't so important to me. I really didn't believe he could die. Also, I hated it when his friends would call him "Chuck". I have and uncle named Chuck--it is taken, please refer to him as "Charlie" as that is his name.

The doctor who would become his wonderful, regular (kinda dreamy) oncologist, checked his bone marrow as soon as we got there. Later I asked a nurse how they check someone's bone marrow. I shouldn't have done that. I thought that was the most heart breaking thing that I could imagine a person going through without pain killers. It's not. It's really not. But I was a kid. I was seventeen. And I didn't know that I'd see him go through radiation and spinal taps and more bone-marrow tests. I didn't know what a person was capable of at that point-- and even still it feels selfish to say it but--what I was capable of at that point.

Our new normal didn't feel like much of a challenge or an adjustment. I think it was because I never thought of it as "normal" I always kind of thought of it as something that we were doing, today, and then we'd go home tomorrow. And the next day we'd either go home or stay. Andrew and Sarah were younger than I was and they spent a lot of time staying with our pastor's family so that they could have some semblance of stability. Even still, I can't help but think of John and Becky as a type of personal, parental unit that exists for me. They were there before, during and after--constantly to the same degree which was in full. They already had five kids and they didn't mind the addition. Becky said, "after you have five, really? What's two more?" Sarah and Andrew were 14 and 12 or somewhere thereabouts. It's not like they weren't largely self-managing, anyway. My older brother had moved to McPherson to go to college. I remember feeling so strange that at the time when our family seemed most connected, most combatant, we were all in different places.

So that left Mom and Dad and me on the front lines. Let me tell you, the front line of cancer is by-and-large kind of boring. Except when it's not. I learned a lot of things. I learned which nurses were nice and which were not. I learned that they had an oven to keep the blankets in and I would sometimes sneak in there at night and take one for myself. I learned that the owner of a very large car dealership in Kansas was on the oncology floor. He didn't have cancer but he was terminal and this was the floor with the best staff. He bought new furniture and painted his room so that it didn't feel so much like a hospital. New, leather couches and rugs and lamps. After he died, they were donated to "the grieving room". I thought the concept of that room was quite sad but kind. I felt terrible any time that I saw someone in there. I wanted to open the door and say, "you know, sometimes I can't quite keep it together, either." And that would have been the most human thing to say. One day someone brought us a basket of cookies. Dad couldn't eat them and I didn't want to eat them in front of him so I decided to take them to the nurses station. But I saw an older woman in the grieving room. So I left a note and put the basket directly in front of the door. A few hours later there was a tag that read, "thank you" hanging on the door knob. I learned later that woman was the wife of the car dealership guy and that he had died. Life lesson: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. --Plato

I can't tell you about what happened when or anything like that. When you live in a hospital, the days all run together. I know that it started in February. It ended in October. And between Andrew and Sarah's birthdays in April, he was in remission. I remember that my friends Ellie and Tori would come to visit me at least once a week. They would take me out to bookstores or for coffee or once or twice to a fancy restaurant that played live jazz (even though we could only afford dessert) so that I could get out of the hospital. We'd sit around and talk about anything other than cancer and I needed all of that so much more than I knew at the time. At first I wondered, "they understand that my dad has freakin' cancer, right??" But then I realized that they knew that I needed to free my brain for just a few hours a week and let it breathe. I was so grateful to them. I pined for them when I was most lonely--mostly when I was driving back to our apartment after a long day at the hospital thinking, "I'm seventeen years old. I shouldn't be in this situation." But this is how life happens.

I remember that he started to smell differently. I remember that he started to age quickly. And by that, I don't mean that his face started to look wrinkly. In fact, I feel like he became a little more childish looking. His eyes got bluer--he'd quit smoking. By "age quickly" I mean that he started to wear hats--obviously because of his hair loss, and he lost weight so quickly that instead of buying belts he would wear suspenders. Suspenders. Suspenders and a panama hat. Suspenders and a panama hat and he suddenly loved cafeteria style restaurants--at 4:30 pm. He aged 30 years overnight. I was not embarrassed by that.
I remember that my dad suddenly had more friends than I was aware of. I mean, I knew he had a lot of friends but I'd never seen them all, essentially, at once. He had one friend who had been diagnosed with MS several years prior. This was a huge relief because he knew someone who had gone through--was still going through--something pretty stinking major and was still alive and happy and full of joy. "Profuse exuberance," was what he called it. My dad wanted to be like that.

He had big plans for after he was cured so when he went into remission after only a few months of fighting--which wasn't really fighting. We were all so confused, still, but satisfied to be finished. It was like when I was younger and I'd play Mortal Kombat with my brother and I would win by simply smashing the controller and seeing what would happen. That's what it felt like.

Remission! I thought that meant "cured". He came out to the waiting room after what was supposed to be a round of chemo and told us that the doctor said he was in remission. Strangers even clapped when they heard him say it. Naively, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders. He would still have to come back for frequent check-ups but he was in the clear! He was cured! Just like everyone said he would be. Just like I knew he would be. I really didn't believe he could die.

After a week or so of jubilation, he went for a follow-up and we ended up back in the hospital. Remission didn't last for long. Not with this bastard of a cancer, anyway. I began to think of Acute-Lymphatic Leukemia as a person and this person was kind of an a-hole. If this person came to a party, he would drink all of the beer and hit on your girlfriend before puking off the railing, onto someone's car. And then he would drive the wrong way down the interstate and not care that there were women and children in mini-vans. He will crash into an animal shelter and then get out and walk and in the morning he will text you, naked, from a stranger's back yard in a dog house, "wutz up!"

He was doing pretty good by the end of the summer. You know, except for the leukemia part. He wanted all of his kids in one place and he wanted to take us to the zoo. The staff at 7SW was not particularly thrilled with this idea but they let him do it anyway. We wheeled him around in a chair (like a wheel-chair at the zoo isn't demoralizing enough, the ones that the zoo provided looked way more like adult-sized strollers) and looked at animals. I got a picture from behind as my older brother stood at a railing talking to my dad in his chair. At the time, everyone said, you got a picture of the back of them--that's dumb. But it's on display in Adam's house right now and it's nice. I'm glad I took it. We don't have a lot of pictures of us with Dad. The one at the beginning of this post is the only one that I've got. Before we left the zoo, an elephant sneezed on my dad. My father, with the immune system of a premature baby--an African elephant sneezed directly into his face. Sometimes I like to think that's what did it.

Anyway, that day at the zoo was really the last nice day of the summer. After that, Autumn set in and I started to wonder if I'd be spending my 18th birthday in a hospital. I hoped not. I hoped that I could be home with my friends but I didn't get my hopes up because after the zoo, he didn't really stay better. I don't remember the order of events. I remember that several weeks prior, they needed to start radiation specifically to keep the cancer from spreading into his spine which would lead to his brain which would lead to his downfall. Despite their best efforts, that was exactly what happened. No one knew that was happening and they kept it at bay until Mid-October. They gave him treatments and x-rays and they kept a keen eye on it but one day something changed. He was my dad one day and the next day he didn't know me.

One evening, Ellie had driven me back to the hospital and came upstairs with me. My mom and my brother and the doctor were standing in the hallway discussing DNR's and "pulling the plug." Ellie seemed to grasp all of this and she hugged me and asked if I wanted her to stay. But I said no because even then, I didn't believe he could die. They said that the cancer had moved into the spine and quickly traveled to his brain. One day we were at the zoo, the next day he looked at me--unaware of who I was. I could only imagine how scared he was when he didn't know anything at all.

When he was awake, his conception of the situation would change from minute to minute--if he was lucky. He couldn't keep a grasp of anything for more than a few seconds really. He'd need to go to the bathroom and by the time he got out of bed, he'd forget why he stood up and he'd sit back down. My mom needed a shower and a little bit of a break during this time, so I was there with him. I read a magazine and when I saw him stand up and sit down a few times I asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom. He looked at me and said, "Nurse, I need to go to the bathroom." I stopped and we stared at one another and I can only imagine that I looked horrified. I was. I took him to the bathroom--reminding him the whole time of what we were doing because he would ask, often. For the rest of the day he called me "nurse" or "miss" or "why are you in my room" and that night, Mom and I both slept in the room and planned his funeral even though neither of us said the words. In a delirium of 1/3 asleep, 1/3 awake and 1/3 delirium, Dad started to mumble/hum/sing "I'll Fly Away."

The next morning, October 20th, I went to take a shower and drove right back. When I came into the room, I didn't look at Dad. I knew he wouldn't know who I was and I couldn't take it much longer. But he said, in such a deliciously childlike manner with the bluest blue eyes, "Hey! You're Libby! You're mine." And he smiled so big and so wide. And I looked back at him and I cried and I said, "I am yours." And those were the last things we said to each other because by the time he blinked, he was gone again and I was happy with that. I was grateful for it.

In his confusion, he started pulling on tubes and wires. By 11:00 am, the nurses had to give him something that would make him sleep. I didn't know that "sleep" meant that he would slip into a coma and I'd never see him again. My Uncle Jerry and Aunt Judy came into the room while Dad slept. They told me about what he was like when he was younger and it made me fall in love with them. Giving me a gift like that. Our whole family must have already been at the hospital but I didn't see them. They were all in the waiting room. It must have been packed. At around 2:00, Andrew and I drove to a halfway point to pick up Sarah. Me and my twelve-year-old brother driving to pick up our sister so that she can see him before he dies. Truly the most surreal moment of my life.

By the time we got to the 7th floor, the entire family was there. Family. Friends. Everyone. The place was packed with people that I knew and I was confused. A few people handed me birthday cards and I remembered that my birthday would be the next day. But mostly people pushed me into my dad's room and said, "you need to see him." I didn't understand. I didn't know he had died. Andrew went in and ran back out. Sarah went in and ran back out. I went in and I don't remember what happened. All I remember was so many hands on me and screaming, "don't follow me!" And I went into the grieving room and I cried longer and harder and more shamelessly than I ever have since. More than anything I was angry. I did not believe that he could die and before anyone explained what had happened, I was pushed in to view his body. I was angry then but I'm not angry now. There's no right way to deal with this situation. Every single person in that place was heartbroken and weirded out and I can't blame them.

After several minutes of alone time, Arryn came in even though I told her to stay out. She held me and she cried with me. She'd been married to Adam for only a few months and her relationship with my parents wasn't exactly magical but she was still heartbroken and she knew what we all needed because she'd been through similar heartache and loss and she was going to give it to me whether I wanted it or not.

By the time we were leaving Wichita and heading back home, it was dark. Arryn and I drove and mostly it was quiet. I asked her to turn on some music and when she powered on the stereo, this song played. And we chose it for his funeral.  A group of people from the church also got together and played a very, very joyous rendition of I'll Fly Away.

The next day was my eighteenth birthday and I was at home surrounded by all of my friends--sort of like I'd hoped for.

I wanted to write this because I know that there are a lot of people who don't know that part of me and they're too afraid to ask--or don't know if it's okay. It's okay. It really, really is. Talking about it is always better than ignoring it. There are also a lot of people who were there for it and I wanted to tell it from my side, and give my gratitude and share my heart. But mostly, it's been a whole decade and I remember, on that day, thinking, "One day it will be ten years from now, will I even remember my dad anymore?" And the truth is that I still think about him a dozen times a day.

But after I write this I'll be happy to have a day packed full of distraction. I'm not the type to take the day off to mourn because in all reality, it's not sad what happened. It's something that happened that was sad at the time. My life is gorgeous and full and full of love in ways that I am not sure they would be if everything hadn't changed so much. Please don't take that to mean that I'm happy that my dad died--there couldn't be anything more inaccurate. I wish he was here. I wish he could see all of his grandkids and I wish that he could see how much his children love each other. I wish he could see that even my mom is happy and I really didn't know if she would be. But I know that a lot of the things that changed in me, happened as a direct result of the world-shift that occurred on that day. I am excited to live the life that I'm living right now.

I love you and I hope you have a wonderful day.
He was 28 in this picture. I'm turning 28, tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Past, Present, Future, I'm Yours

I'm not feeling 110% today, you guys. I'm not going to tell you how it happened because I'm a little embarrassed to find myself in this predicament on a Tuesday morning but let's just say, Monday was a Monday. Today's my day off, though. It's chilly outside and I'm wearing leggings which means, ain't no one going out that front door. So I'm going to tell you some stories. Sound good? To give you a feel for the vibe I'm feeling, today, it's not all bad. I'm streaming Nous Non Plus's new album Freudian Slip on Spotify. Not everyone has Spotify (because they do not know how to make good life decisions) but everyone has YouTube so here is their song J'en Ai Marre. French pop. Who wouldn't love it?

So, anyway, several 1.5 weeks ago, I went to Kansas City for Ani's wedding! Katie and Ryan and I dressed up in our goin' out to meet new people clothes and set out on a daytripventure. Ani got married in a part of town that looked kind of abandoned. In fact, when we looked it up on Google maps I asked Ryan which part of town it was in and he said, "Well, it's just down the street from The Edge of Hell. Do you know where that is?" Camera cuts to a talking head of me:
"Yes, I do know where that is."

And we got in the car and we hit the road towards--but not too close to--The Edge of Hell. But we turned left and everyone going to Hell turned right. Whew. Close one. We did accidentally drive past it on our way home when we got a teensy weensy bit lost and we did get to see some demons. Demons are tall but mostly people-shaped. So that's at least comforting.

Cool part of town to get hitched in, though. The streets were fairly empty and it was mostly just brand-new art galleries dressed up as hundred year old warehouses. Or maybe it's the other way around. Yeah, that's probably it.

So they get all married in this entry way with dusty floors and not a lot of decoration, save the boss chandeliers and girls in blue dresses, and no seating at all. So there are these two who are literally surrounded by their family, everyone just standing there. It was sweet.
So they're all like, "cool, we got married, go inside and let's party!" And there's this bar back there that I, guess, used to be an old speakeasy back in the day. Officially, I have referenced speakeasies twice on my blog. Weird. Anyway, it's not just a cool bar but it's all decked out (punny!) to feel like you're on a ship. Katie and Ryan and I, along with tons of other people sat in this long entry way with port holes and lights that made it feel like the boat was rocking a little bit. Back in the bar area, though, there was this sign. I lifted this photo off of Katie's Facebook but we all know she doesn't mind.

It was a lot of fun to surprise Tamra who had no idea that we would be there. It was also fun to finally meet Ani for the first time IRL. She's known Tamra and Ryan for a long time but we never did meet except on the internets. It was fun and short and fun and there was dancing, cake, and an open bar--at least I think it was, I didn't pay for my beers. It was everything a wedding should be. A little bit of crying and a hell of a lot of laughing. I liked it.
Then we piled in the car and drove home, arriving at 12:30 am Monday morning.

Then it was a whirlwind. I tidied up put sheets on the guest bed and went to sleep. At around 5:00 am, Alyssa and Jeremiah and their daughter, Jocelyn, showed up! They drove here from Colorado as they're experiencing a bit of a family vacation. In the morning, Jeremiah took Jocelyn and drove to Topeka to meet up with some of his friends. Alyssa and I took a girl's only weekend. It was a lot more fun that I expected it to be. We had no plans whatsoever so we drove to Olathe. Driving into town I said, "Where should I go?" She said, "Um... I don't know." So we went to where we always go. Old Navy and Target. Then we got hungry and went to Noodles and Company. I used to work there and I love it and I couldn't decide what to have but we both settled on the mushroom stroganoff con albondigas. It was delicious and everything I ever wanted. Until the very end where in the last bite of her last meatball, Alyssa found a hair. And not just a hair on the plate but it was all up in that meatball. It was all I could do to not make a horrific joke. But I didn't then and I won't now because it's tacky. But, too easy. Anyway, we told a server who looked just like a teensy weensy version of Melissa McCarthy and she brought us a coupon for a free bowl of noodles and two cookies. Hooray! I love Noodles. I don't care how many hairs I find, I'll never stop going. Maybe.

So then we were bored and decided to drive back to the old stompin' grounds. Stompin' grounds? Who came up with that term? We drove to campus. A little bit of us was hoping to run into someone we knew but we didn't and I think we were mostly relieved about that. It was kind of fun to see how everything changed. The Stockton/ Rice lobby got a facelift. I'm talking leather couches kind of facelift. And they have open dorms every night of the week! Now, most people didn't go to itty bitty Christian colleges like I did but Open Dorms was a big damn deal. The girls had their dorms and the boys had their dorms and ne'er the twine shall mix. Except twice a week for a four-hour period--which was strictly monitored. No reclining was permitted and the over-head light had to be on at all times in the presence of a boy. But now, what, they're just letting the fellows run about willy nilly? I mean, from an older, wiser perspective it's for the best because it takes a little bit of the "ooh! boys!" factor out of your college experience because it's just an everyday thing but as a former student I choose to be outraged. Honestly by second semester of sophomore year you dreaded open dorms anyway. It's such a pain in the ass to not be able to shower for a four-hour period twice a week. You wouldn't believe it but it's true. Oh, also laundry is free now. Right? I know. Who even heard of such a thing?

The doors were locked to strangers (that would be us), so we snuck around the outside of the dorms and took pictures by our old rooms. Here's Alyssa next to her old room in Rice. Oh, those were the days. I got a picture, too, but it's on her phone. In fact, pretty much most of the pictures of me are on her phone. So, you get lots of shots of Alyssa.

My first senior year, a new upper class lady's dorm was built. And they named it Spindle. I wanted to see my old room really badly because I had such memories in there when I lived with Cindy and Amy and Mandy and Whatsherface. You need a special card to get into the dorms so I figured we'd go get as close as possible. We hung out in the lobby until a girl was coming in and we just snuck in the door behind her. My room was downstairs and you need a card to get in there, as well, so a little bit of me thought the stairway would be the closest that we would get. But, no, this girl lived in the basement, too. Score! So we snuck down behind her again. Finally I said, "I don't mean to freak you out. I just used to live here. I was in the first class to ever live in this building. In fact, they were still building it when we moved in." So we're walking and passing rooms and I see that she's going to the very end of the hall. I said, "How funny would it be if you lived in my old suite?"
"Ha. Ha. Pretty funny." I think what she meant was, "I would call the police."
And she did! She lived in my old suite. I said, "Can we come in really quick? Is that weird? I want to take a picture in your bathroom." She forced a laugh and said, "sure" and then she walked into a bedroom. I squealed! "You live in my old bedroom!! What are the odds that the first girl that we stalk into Spindle lives in MY OLD BEDROOM!?" And then, "I apologize for stalking you down here. That must be scary for you."
Turns out that Alyssa knew two of the suite mates, too. They went to her old church when she lived in Iowa. Small world. Small, small, private school campus.

So, yeah, I got a picture in their bathroom that I wanted to put on Facebook and show Amy and Cindy and Mandy but not Whatsherface because she was a jerk and I really don't even remember her name. But, alas, it's on Alyssa's phone.

We walked up the hill to Rice and took some more pictures and then sat on the front porch in those white rocking chairs and pondered what to do next and the women we've become since we met right there eight years ago. I have had some resentful feelings about my time at MNU but I know that going there was a choice that I made and I have no doubt that it was exactly the right choice for me at exactly the right time in my life. I was sitting right next to a living, breathing example of that in Alyssa.

The next morning we drove to Westport and bought wine and chocolate at World Market. We bought gasoline for $3.12 in Missouri as opposed to the $3.28 in Kansas. Then we drove to The Plaza and I developed a crush on a mannequin. We also convinced the sales girl at Michael Kohrs that we really were in the market for a $480 knitted bag and we just needed to run it by our husbands really quick. Right. What the fuuuh? That's more than my rent, lady!!

The day came to a close at around lunch time. We ate turkey burgers alfresco and made sure we got in all of the talks that we needed to do. I believe at one point I may have even said, "Alright, did we talk about everything?" And it was decided that, yes, we did talk about everything. And it was good.

So I stopped at Quik Trip and got a Pepsi. I listened to Lazlo and Slimfast on my old, favorite, alternative radio station and listened to it for as long as it would take me. And when I got home, I didn't go directly to my house. I drove to the corner and sat on the bench outside of Sounds Great with Katie and there I met Kellory and Abby and I listened to our friends practice their songs in the space above a store and I remember thinking that revisiting the past was good and necessary. And living and adoring this present is good and necessary, too.

To all of my friends all over the world from years ago to the ones I met most recently:
I love you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Guy Who Hits On Me... Relentlessly

Anyone who works with the general public has one or two not-so-secret admirers. And it's not a great thing.

There are people who come in a lot--those are just regulars. There is one guy who comes in every day and has me clean his glasses because that is a free service that we offer. At first it bugged me a lot. I'm not sure why it would bug me, it is a free service that we offer. But then I just realized that stopping by and visiting and getting his glasses shined up and taken care of has just become a part of his routine. I don't mind being a teensy weensy part of someone's daily routine. Even if I don't know him aside from our respective sides of the counter, he notices when I'm gone. That's nice.
Then you have the regulars who only come in when they need to but they seem to need to come in all of the time. I like those ones, too. Like the little boy who knows me by name and brings in his new toys for me to see, even when he doesn't need me to straighten out his frames. His mom and I are nearly on friend-level and I'm thinking about buying Avon from her. This is living in a small town. This is delightful. This is getting to know your neighbors and truly one of my favorite parts of my job.

And then there is a particular man who will dash in every time that he sees that I am working and pretends like there's something that he needs. That's what I don't so much care for. It's gotten to the point where when I see him in the store, I busy myself in the lab. I will go complete Helen Keller if Travis is working with me, simply to avoid talking with this fellow who still shouts things at me even though I'm fumbling around like an idiot lost in a corner. I'm not really deaf or blind and so I drew a picture of him so that you can have an idea of what I'm dealing with.

Now, I'm not unsettled by him just because he's, you know, kind of unattractive. I'm confident that if Hot FedEx Guy came in and started talking to me the way that this guy does, the dynamic of our relationship would change drastically. There's just not a word for it. I don't want to say, "this guy is, like, totes creepy" because that makes me feel like a jerk. But, uh, you guys, this guy is totes creepy. Okay, there is a word for it.

And he's absolutely polite. At least he's trying to be polite. The way that he talks to me is actually quite offensive but I can tell that he has no idea. He's trying to be a gentleman by calling me "Sweety," "Hon," "Sugar," "Darling," "Muffin". Muffin--you guys. Muff.In. Can you see the eyes I'm giving you?

No one calls me those things except for Justin. And that's pretty much only at work. And I only allow it because I like to think that it confuses people a little bit (it really doesn't). And to keep new girls from having much of a crush on him like I did when I first started. Have I ever told you about the first time that Justin Powers ever spoke to me?*

Every time this guy walks past, he stops in and acts like he needs help picking out lens cleaner--even though I know that he does not need help picking out lens cleaner because two days ago he was in and bought $15 worth of the stuff in an effort to impress me. Also he drives a Chevy Blazer. He spends a lot of his time sleeping or watching television in the dark. I am not projecting--I'm reporting. I do not know what he does for a living, as far as I can tell, he is always just waking up.

Typical conversation:
"Is that all for you? Six bottles of lens cleaner?"
"Yes, Sweety, that's all I need. How are you, honey?"
"I am well. Your total is irrelevant."
"Thank you, Sugar. You're a doll."
"It sure is nice out there, Darlin. What are you doing after work?"
"Would you like a bag for that?"
"Oh, you are just so sweet. Did you know that?"
"I'll get you a bag."

This last time, after he thanked and complimented and referred to me as a myriad of sweets a thousand times over, we had this exact conversation:
"I'll bet your boyfriend doesn't talk to you as nice as I do, huh, Sweety?" Clearly he is doing the 'so, do you have a boyfriend?' thing that he usually does but I deflect because I am in no way interested in sharing anything even remotely personal with this fellow--but I indulged him this time because I was a teensy bit enraged.
"Well, he calls me by name. Because I have one."
"Beautiful name, too, Honey. Hey, what's your last name? Are you on Facebook?"

And then, by the grace of God,  an old lady came in and needed all of my attention which I was more than happy to lavish upon her in gratitude.

Help me to identify what it is about someone who is trying to be nice to me that makes it so unsettling and icky feeling. I like to give people the benefit of their motivation and I do think that he's trying to be polite--so why do I feel the need to shower my soul after he comes in?

*I had been working at our mutual place of employment for several days and noticed him on day one because, let's face it, Justin is a really cute guy. I was new, so I didn't ever have anyone to sit with in the break room and when I was on lunch, one day, he was having lunch with some other people sitting at a table directly across from me. So, he's laughing and carrying on and I'm a little bit smitten with him and texting my friend, Sarah, about how cute and funny Justin is when he stops what he's doing, looks at me from ten feet away and says, "Hey, are you texting about me?" And I'm totally shocked, and I put my phone down and say, "Uh... no?" 
Now, Justin is one of my closest friends and certainly on the list of Favorite People in My World. Also, I don't have a real crush on him anymore even though he has offered to, should the need ever arise suddenly, impregnate me.