Archive | January, 2013


29 Jan


When is getting sick comical? To the person affected, I am guessing most likely never. For those certain few that get to witness the atrocity, well, it’s not always a black and white situation.

Today, I headed back to New York City. Getting up at 3:30 a.m. wasn’t fun, but it was do-able. I forgot twice to pick up cash at the ATM while my dad drove me to the Des Moines International Airport. Good thing I remembered it at my layover in Chicago for my taxi ride to Newark Penn Station. Anyhoo, after enduring a long security line, I was ready to get on my flight.

It has been stormy the last couple days in the Midwest, so I figured that a turbulent flight was in store. I was correct. At first, I was okay with the whole situation, as I was able to watch the rolling clouds produce a lightning show below. It wasn’t until halfway through the flight when I heard the dreaded sounds of someone getting sick. That was when the flight started to become a bit bumpier than before, and the violent sick sounds started to become much more vocalized. When I saw that the man producing the sounds was sitting in the same row across the plane, I quickly swiveled my body to the airplane window in panic. I am a person with a sensitive stomach and a much more sensitive mind.

Whenever I see someone else get sick, I immediately follow suit. I put my hand over my mouth and tried to think of anything else. Teddy bears. Rainbows. Beaches. The egg sandwich I just ate, oh no! As hard as I tried, I could not think of anything else but getting sick. The thought kept creeping back in my head as the noise continued from behind my turned body.

While the plane tossed and turned as it began its descent, all I wanted was for this nightmare to stop. One of my biggest fears is getting sick in front of a bunch of strangers.

When I was in my early teens, I almost always passed out at church; and in a Catholic mass, it isn’t hard to do. Stand up, sit down, kneel, and repeat. In between the calisthenics, the sand would pile up in my head. My ears started to ring and I would begin to feel very tired. As the black dots appeared in front of my eyes, I would sway. Many times, I was able to run to the back of the church and out the door.

But not that Christmas Eve when I was in the middle school choir smack dab behind the alter. I was standing in the back singing alto when the sensations started to hit me, but I was unable to descend the risers in time. As I crawled underneath the back bar to the floor, I just laid down on the floor while crowds of people came up for communion. So there was the choir singing “Silent Night” with an easy visual of me lying on the ground behind them. Other people knew that I wasn’t in danger after my choir teacher came to check on me, yet, there I lay. It had to look rather amusing to those sitting in the pews.

As I stand in line for coffee at my layover stop, I feel bad for the man who became so sick on my flight. Yet, the only visual I can see is me dry heaving in the next aisle, desperately pressing my face to the plane window – hoping for some escape.


A column by a friend

28 Jan

I am waiting to write more until tomorrow at Midway Airport in Chicago. I will be flying back to NYC tomorrow and have a lot to do in preparation for going back. After being in Iowa for over a month, it will definitely feel weird to be back in my apartment, and using the subway and walking as my primary modes of transportation.


Today, I wanted to share a column by a fellow columnist at the daily paper I used to work at. Arvid Huisman is the development director for The Salvation Army in Des Moines, Iowa. He writes a weekly column called Country Roads, recounting his childhood memories of growing up in Central Iowa, funny stories about his family, and some very creative writing pieces. When I was able set up the opinion page of the Monday paper, I was always happy to open up the attached word document from Arvid with his latest column. The topics were always relatable and full of emotional content. He wrote a piece in the past year about his father dying – it was one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I had ever encountered.

We would write to each other back and forth over our writing topics, and it was wonderful to hear from such a kind voice. I have counted him among my mentors and will continue to look forward to his columns for years to come.

Last week, his wife passed away suddenly from complications from breast cancer. Arvid was willing to share with the public what he has been going through with his Monday column. Absolutely honest and heart-wrenching.

Here is a link to “More of what I have learned.”

My prayers are with Arvid and his family.

Want to go back to there

23 Jan
I don't exactly know what we were doing here. Most likely about to cruise the loop with horrible music in tow.

I don’t exactly know what we were doing here. Most likely about to cruise the loop with horrible music in tow.

I am in the middle of writing a manuscript of sorts for young adults. My dream has always been to write within that genre, as I seem to have never left it. The middle and high school eras are deeply ingrained in my psyche, and one song or joke will bring me back. While I’m in the throes of such a task, I use Spotify to trigger my teenage emotional content. It works. Between songs danced awkwardly at homecoming to the angsty songs of Taylor Swift, all I want to do is break my curfew and steal a Bartles & James to share with my girlfriends at the park. I was such a daring teen.

But I especially like to relive the moments spent with my girl cousins. I come from a rather large family and there are around seven girls within the same age group. We’d partake in sleepovers, birthday parties, and arguments – most likely over who had the better Barbie clothing collection. Many of us even participated in a human flag that we performed at various parade routes in Iowa during a year’s time. What I really took away from my experiences living in a close extended family was the comfort. I always looked forward to events and times with my cousins and aunts. Sleepovers were never awkward, while slumber parties with friends sometimes caused unneeded anxiety.

While in high school, a beloved pastime was ‘cruising the loop’ around town. Late at night, teenagers would blare their music from the opened windows of their dingy cars for four blocks, and when the distance was completed, repeat. What my sister Emily, cousins Jennifer and Elizabeth, and I liked to do was make a mockery of the tradition. We bought awful (and I mean awful) CDs to complete the task. Our favorites were polka and the worst of 80’s hairbands. Sometimes we even broke out our Jock Jams CDs. We’d pump the bass out of my grey ’91 Corsica and rock out. People sitting outside downtown would give us dirty looks as we ‘gangsterly’ bobbed our heads to the music. When the polka rocked out, we just stared blankly back – like, what else would we do?

Now, it’s easy to get in the habit of being an adult and acting, oh I don’t know, all adult-ish. It sucks. Perhaps this trip back to the land of nostalgia is good not only for my writing but for myself. To learn that acting silly and not taking life so seriously is pretty okay.

I want to go back to there – Tina Fey

Breaking the bank

21 Jan


This is my last week of my extended holiday in Iowa. To New York City I go, and I am a bit apprehensive about going back. This fear is mostly based on the fact that I am pretty poor at the moment and am a big spender – even when I really can’t be one.     <P>
I am pretty used to having a full-time job with benefits, and right now I am sustaining on my dwindling savings, freelancing, and babysitting. Yet, with this money shock to the system, I have found it pretty hard to change my spending habits. Oh, I have definitely cut back. My car was a huge money pit – with the payments, registration, insurance, maintenance, and gas eating up a huge chunk of change. For some reason, my common sense prevailed and I knew I had to give it up.     <P>
While my main expenses are of the normal variety – I am known to mall shop during a bout of stress or feeling homesick. The thought of “I don’t need this” is often superseded by “Ooohh, a sale!” Sephora and Macy’s are not my friends. Right now, my closet is stocked full of cute little dresses and my bathroom cupboard is loaded with Stilla and Origin products. Things I definitely do not need. One day, right before I left, I happened to enter one of those Lush Cosmetic Shops. A perky salesperson happily led me to organic face masks and grainy shampoos – I readily handed over my Chase Visa. Speed forward to a couple weeks later, when I receive my credit card bill and I wondered how I could possibly spend $75 on sandy, clay-like beauty products.     <P>
Not only that, but I like to go to the movies. A lot. Sitting at home and watching the TV is great and all, but sometimes getting out and seeing a show on the big screen is better. Yet, with ticket prices ranging from $10 to 15, it really can’t factor into my strict budget.    <P>
Lastly, going out. I have been known to keep an open tab at the local pub, and before you know it, I have switched from the $2 drink special to a $12 martini. An open tab is not my only problem, for eating out is the norm there. With so many options, most friends want to meet up at a swanky new restaurant before hitting up a show. Not talking about movies here, but actual live theater. Don’t even ask me how much one of those puppies cost. (I think I will save actual costs of NYC for another blog post.)    <P>
So while I hastily apply for more jobs, my biggest fear is that I won’t be able to keep the Midwest lifestyle that I have become accustomed to again. Here, it is totally normal to go out and eat perhaps once a week. Even then, most people go to a place like Applebee’s. If you go shopping out of town, it is not an everyday occurrence. Instead, it happens maybe twice a month, if you are lucky.    <P>
Being in a place that allows for spending money on any number of things at any time of day or night is not a good thing for my wallet. So I am coming up with a mindful spending plan for myself. This includes leaving my credit card in my desk drawer, as well as digging out my checkbook ledger and regularly reconciling it. I am hoping that I can learn to treat myself every once and awhile, rather than every other day like I had before. This isn’t going to be fun, but I hope (I hope) that this will keep my worries a bit more at bay while I am back in the big city.          <P>

Happy Friday y’all

18 Jan

Ever been to a coffee shop or martini bar that is trying to sell very bad, amateur-ish art for unbelievably high prices?  Well, I am very partial to Portlandia and for some reason just ran across this sketch from last season.Because everyone wants abstract art of disenchanted cats painted with bright colors on their kitchen wall. Well, at least I do.

Favorite sketch from Portlandia.

Facebook overload

17 Jan


After a dry spell of activities or out of pure boredom, you may likely find me perusing the pages of Facebook. After my personal page is fixed up to my liking, I will probably be looking at the status-littered wall. What is that friend doing today? How about aunt so-and-so? The problem with this is I get addicted easily to the system. If I am not careful, I could spend 30 minutes to an hour catching up on the lives of my Facebook peers. It wouldn’t be a problem if these were all super close friends that would tell me what is going on with their lives regardless. But when many of these people are past friends from high school or college that I said goodbye to years ago, it’s like a class reunion every day. Not only can it get creepy, it gets worse when you link on to friends’ friends’ pages. Just because you can. An acquaintance of a friend could have excellent pictures from their trip around the world, and here I am taking a glimpse at their online life. It’s absolutely ridiculous and I am quite guilty of it. (When anyone admits to being a Facebook stalker, I always pretend that I am barely on the social media site. I lie.)

Facebook came out when I was in college, and that was when it was slowly making it to well-known universities across the country. When it finally hit the University of Northern Iowa, my dorm went gangbusters over the phenomenon. I refused to sign up and threw my “I’m too good for it” attitude into the ring (who are we kidding?). When I finally went with the crowd on this one, I was hooked … fast. I remember adding people from UNI that I had ran across on campus briefly but had never said a word to. One was this cute guy who was on the cross-country team. I remember encountering him when he came into the President’s Office, where I worked. Anyways, he added me, and I was curious. So I studied his page, his likes, his interests, and so on. One night, months later, I was at the O.P. bar with some girlfriends. He approached me and said that he had noticed me from across the room and wanted to know my name and if he could buy me a drink. After I told him my name, he was about to tell me his. Well, I had already had a few drinks and was feeling quite confident. So instead, I told him his name and what his interests were and what I had memorized from his page. After it dawned on him that I was a super creepy person, he said, “You’re weird” and left. I can say that we were no longer Facebook friends soon after the incident.

Over the years I have added and deleted so many people. Many because I don’t know them and others because they were being annoying. Yet, the addiction has continued. I have had a good friend delete her Facebook for the same problems I have had, and she hasn’t regretted doing so. Sometimes I think of doing the same or at least dwindling my friend count to just my family members, but something always keeps me from doing so.

Facebook has been a great hinderance as well as a fascination for me. When Hurricane Sandy came through my area, my mom was able to keep the rest of my family updated on my safety. I have been able to post pictures of my ongoings in NYC, and keep up with others of importance in my life. And all those cat videos – can’t stop watching. Yet, that creepy portion still exists, and while I could easily do something about it – I choose not to.

So, Facebook, what I must say to you in Brokeback Mountain-style is this: I can’t quit you.

Blinders off

14 Jan


About a year ago, I set foot on my own in New York City for the very first time. I had been there before with friends, but it felt more like stumbling through the dark than actually experiencing the city that never sleeps. With friends, I was a handheld child as we ventured the subway and to various stops around town. I had no concept of directions, streets – anything, really. So last January was an experience. I had come for a writing conference, and I was shaky and nervous ever since landing on the tarmac at LaGuardia. How do you hail for a cab? How much do you pay the driver? Can you just go in one subway station and go wherever you want? I was like a big ole doe with blinders on.

With a brand new smart phone, I tried to maneuver my way around with it’s GPS to the World Trade Center. Somehow I ended up in Hell’s Kitchen and still believed it was the actual location while sending out a prayer to those lost.

I ended up taking gypsy cabs (just because I felt sorry for them), then feared for my life during the drive. Not only did they charge exorbitant prices, but I overtipped – just because I was delivered to my location alive. While I promised myself that I wouldn’t look like a dumb tourist – that is exactly what happened. The doorman at the hotel I stayed at had to tell me more than once that my purse was unzipped. While trying to figure out where I was at in the city, each time I said “I’m from out of town.” Sometimes, I would even include that I was from Iowa – complete with a confused, wide-eyed expression. I might as well have worn a Hawaiian floral T-shirt and fanny pack.

Before I moved to the East Coast, one knowledgeable person warned me, saying “Carrie, you are an easy target.” But how? I had been to NYC a couple times, I was practically a New Yorker already. Boy, was I wrong. The first couple weeks were tough, but I had a travel partner who didn’t have problems with directions. The first time I took the subway alone, I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t want to sit in close quarters with people that I didn’t know, kept looking at my purse to make sure it wasn’t gaping open, and anxiously darted my head back to the train’s map, just to make sure I hadn’t missed my stop.

What has changed since being there for almost five months? Well, I still get lost pretty easily, but I have taken the blinders off. Some of the stories that I can tell people about my first travels in the big city, while funny, are actually pretty scary. Looking back, I shake my head and think, wow, I have come a long way.

As a woman, I have to make sure that I am approaching any situation eyes wide open. Even in the Midwest, I was a little too gullible and trustworthy to begin with. My phone is always charged, directions are always looked at beforehand, and my bags are always zipped and located in front of my body. If strangers talk to me on the subway or at a bus stop, I can be polite but I don’t have to engage in conversation each time. Sometimes though, you have to be downright rude. Don’t want to get in a cab with somebody? Just say no or ignore them and walk away. Don’t want to talk with someone who is trying to converse with you on the train? At the next stop, move to a different car. I may have my headphones on, but most likely there is no music playing. And my mace is pretty powerful, none of those cute pink lipstick-shaped pepper sprays for me.

NYC is supposedly one of safest large cities in the nation. Yet that doesn’t mean that a cop will always be there to assist you in a bad situation. While I grew up in farming country, trusting most everybody – that is not how it works everywhere.

I used to think that the city was just cold and impolite. There is truth in that statement, yet it is also called surviving. Although I haven’t completely assimilated to the area yet, the experience of living in this place is different than a week’s worth of vacation here. I can’t say I’m a “New Yorker” either, as there is still so much to learn.

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