Tag Archives: Growing up

A Sixth-Grader’s Nightmare: Christmas Edition

6 Dec

709fd2be62450971e334b29ee4c7f54aMortified. Horrified. Petrified.

I used to flip through teen magazines to the back section, a place where girls would write in to share their most distressing personal tales of embarrassing mishaps. “It was mortifying!!!” said every girl ever.

How awful! That would never happen to me, I thought. And as I chuckled over their misfortunes, in the back of my mind, I prayed that similar events would never happen to me.


It was my sixth-grade year. Instead of a traditional Christmas chorus concert, the entire grade put on the play The Runaway Snowman. Four kids would lead the production while the rest of the grade chimed in as the choir. I was one of those lucky few selected to fill one of the acting/singing parts.

This is it, I thought. People will recognize me, my talent, what I can bring to the table. As a sixth grader, I was consumed with the ideas of popularity, fitting in and standing out (go figure). And without athletic talent, this was an arena that I could perhaps shine in somehow.

So after many practices, our class was ready to present the show to our parents. It was a Friday afternoon and I spent the entire school day beaming. I was a star, I was brimming with absolute joy and excitement. My fellow cast mates and I were let out of class early to prepare for the production. A band director’s office was our costume slash prop room, and we had carefully laid out our clothes and makeup ahead of time.

After the lead character, the snowman, had put on his ensemble and headed out the door, I prepared to put on a dark blue jumper dress and a pair of my mother’s high heels. Not only was I playing the part of an adult woman, I would look the part. Absolutely stunning. There was a boy in the choir that I had been crushing on hard core. I kept thinking with the blush, lipstick and outfit (forget the thick glasses, buck teeth and braces), it would be hard to not take notice of me on stage.

And standing with just my Pocahontas underwear on (I was changing from my sports bra to a training bra), it happened. The door opened. And not one, or two, but four of my fellow male classmates happened to be standing right there. Wide mouthed.

I didn’t know what to do. How did they get in? Why were they here? What did they see?

I started to scream, “Get out! Get out!” I suddenly crossed my arms against my bare chest, realizing what they had just seen.

And the guys started screaming and running from the door, almost as horrified as I was.

I leaped under the teacher’s desk, crouched, breathing heavily. Was this a dream? It had to be. No way would something this horrible happen – it was too humiliating.

The frightened boys had come into the classroom to get the props for the stage, and I had forgotten to lock the door for privacy.

Something that people have nightmares about just happened to me. A 12-year-old girl just gave some of the cutest boys in school quite a show.

I couldn’t go back out there, even with just 15 minutes until the production would start. It took quite a bit of coaxing from the director to get me to show my face, and the confidence I had displayed earlier (after displaying my assets) was completely out the window.

For months, I couldn’t live it down with students teasing me about the incident. The boys were also unable to make eye contact with me or utter more than two words at a time in my presence.

Honestly, I hadn’t remembered the incident until a few days ago. Repression has most likely hidden many of my middle school slip-ups – especially terrible ones like this one.

After the event, it was difficult to visit that embarrassing moments page in the magazines. Part of the fun was knowing those events couldn’t happen to you. But I now knew for a fact that they could.

And although it was the worst thing that had happened to me at that time of my life, a few years later, I would understand that I could fill a couple pages with horrible moments similar to this one.


I Heart MST3K

21 Oct


I bought a stockpile of “classic” Halloween movies a week ago. Unfortunately, I accidentally shipped them to my parents’ house in Iowa.

So I guess I won’t be seeing them until after the fact. Last year, I was too broke to consider purchasing “The Addams Family” movies, “Hocus Pocus”, “Beetlejuice”, or my sister’s favorite television show “The Munsters”. I couldn’t fathom spending a few bucks on a pre-owned copy of the ’80s magic that is “Teen Witch”, without thinking about my empty bank account.

So what’s a girl to do without these masterpiece videos? Netflix, of course. For a thrill, we’ve gone through Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”, delved into “Paranormal Activity” for a sleepless night, and “Blair Witch Project”-ed myself.

But what about the humorous, the lighthearted that my trick-or-treating self enjoyed so much in earlier days? I looked no further than what is absolutely near-and-dear to my heart: MST3K. For those of you non-nerds that haven’t immersed yourself in a 24-hour extravaganza of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you are missing out.

Introduced by my dad, we never could get enough of this Minneapolis-based show when it first appeared on Comedy Central. The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t devoted just to turkey, no, it was also about “Gamera”, “Zombie Nightmare” and other D-rate movies. Listening to robots and humans make fun of the horrors of cinema made us have such gut-wrenching belly laughs, there was nothing like it. We had quite a few of them dubbed on VHS tapes, and after school or on Saturday afternoons, my two siblings and I would spend hours rewinding the parts we found the funniest. It got to the point where we would find old movies on television and try our hand at sarcasm – sending us in a fit of hysterics over our own humor.

The best were the shorts – 15-minute films that were obviously shown to the youth of the ’60s in P.E. class. My personal favorite was a half-hour black and white promotional flick from Iowa State University. In an effort to recruit the female persuasion to their home ec studies program, the college created one of the most sexist and hilarious films of all time. Add in the snark of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, and you have got just the best thing around.

My fiancee has been subjected to my family’s humor time and time again, and he has been forced to watch a couple of our all-time favorite episodes. Instead of watching a traditional holiday movie last Christmas Eve, we chose “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” – it just seemed fitting.

We were able to find a few of the episodes on Netflix a couple nights ago. We chose “The Final Sacrifice” on Saturday evening. On Sunday, neither one of us could stop repeating some of the more memorable lines from the show. So imagine my surprise, when Nate and I sat down to watch an hour of TV and he suggested, “Um, could we watch another one of those?” I didn’t even suggest the beloved series, he did it all on his own. How ’bout that?

I knew I picked the right guy.

A few right turns and a couple lucky breaks

9 Jul
I had no such excuse.

I had no such excuse.

When the word “vehicle” comes up in vocabulary, a queasy feeling starts at the pit of my stomach.

And when anyone talks of their fondness for automobiles or their bikes – I kind of laugh. Not in jest – but the fact that there was no heartwarming tale that connected me and modes of transportation.

I blame it on my ability to psych myself out of anything quite easily – which is a talent of mine. And my insane lack of coordination.

It started with a bike. While my brother easily mastered the art of riding his bicycle – it was less successful for his younger sibling.

The only modes of transportation that brought me any delight were my Big Wheel and the Farmall toy tractor that my dad let me use. So close to the ground – how comforting.

But nothing stays the same for long. My parents bought me this green and yellow bike with a pretty little bag in front. Luckily it had training wheels and beads in the spokes. So while I was hesitant with the idea, it grew on me and I was suddenly on my way down the block on my vehicle.

What is this? A magenta and purple bike meant for older kids. Oh no, Mom and Dad, this will not happen. Not only did they want me to get closer to the sky but there was no training wheels on this bike. I was no sucker. After one quick fall on the ground, I was done. My brother rode off to middle school with his 10-speed. But I walked. It was safer. Before the beginning of fifth grade, I managed to muster the confidence and learn on my own one summer day. But it was only out of survival in the dog-eat-dog world that they call middle school.

That led to rollerblades. Thank goodness for knee/elbow/hand pads and helmets for I never mastered the use of breaks.

And finally, at the tender age of 14, came the dreaded test for a learner’s permit. Everyone else would take the study book to their classes – beaming that they would soon take the test, to soon get behind the wheel. I just cringed at the sight of it. Although I took the test and passed it (after a couple tries), I didn’t even attempt to drive a car until a couple weeks before driver’s ed. My poor dad tried to coax me. He really did. But I would freak out at the sight of the driver’s seat and had no interest in ending up in the hospital. The bike and the rollerblades always had near misses, this would surely be my demise.

I could see the panic in his eyes that I would soon turn 16 and be a nemesis to those on the road. So we road over and over on the gravel of the cemetery. The empty parking lots of stores.

And finally the summer of driver’s ed arrived. While I aced any written exams and projects – I utterly failed at driving – the main part. For a couple weeks, I was forced to perfect my right turns. And in doing so, I forced my teacher to use his handy passenger side brake.

A trip to Fort Dodge, Ia. proved fruitful when I stopped at a red light. Instead of just pushing on the gas at green, I turned the wipers on and honked the horn a couple times. Don’t ask me why.

And the last test was a doozy. After getting my wisdom teeth out, I was to give my most superb performance. And I did give one. Instead of stopping at the curve of the middle school parking lot, I parked half the car on the sidewalk. Needless to say, I didn’t quite pass the course.

I have had my license for quite a while now. And after a lot of practice, through bad weather and big city driving, I can’t say that I’m a horrible driver anymore – or that I’m hopeless with other sorts of vehicles. But I won’t be giving lessons anytime in the near future.


13 Jun


I’m not proud of some of the observations I had made in previous years in a weekly column that I wrote in a rural Iowa paper. I mean, some of my “Musings” columns I will stand by, others – eh, not so much. I was kind of a know-it-all who thought they had experienced the world and had much knowledge to bestow on the general population. I deeply regret those for sure. Sometimes I wish I had just written them in my personal journal, a place where I can be comfortably self-absorbed.

Why do I wish to delete those from my files? Some were just not well written, thought about for a few minutes and penned to the page. Others were either pompous or very immature. I’m not some guru who has years of insight built up from distant travels and crazy conversations with others of varying intellect. No, I was just a Midwest girl in her twenties, who had traveled a bit, and who went to college. That’s all. I had failed relationships, money and health problems, and perhaps I had a bit of perspective on that – but that’s it. Nothing more.

I remember feeling some regret while in the middle of writing a couple of those columns – yet, I submitted them anyway. The 500-plus word diatribes basically explained that I got a kick out of writing why I was right and you are wrong, and here’s why. Yuck.

A couple years ago, I started reading various biographies of some of my favorite artists and authors, which turned out to be more or less self-help books based on what they learned. I ate those books up, re-reading each page over and over. While many of the ideas overlapped, one in particular seemed to reoccur: Move away. The authors had different ideas of what “moving away” seemed to mean: Living in a different city or state for a length of time, travel abroad, go off to a university. It really varied, but the meaning was always the same: Get a new perspective. A new vantage point. I always agreed with the sentiment, and thought that someday, someday it would happen – just I didn’t know when. I had moved out East for a few months in 2009, but that didn’t really change any of my thoughts on living. It just helped advance my know-it-all status.

When I finally moved out East for good, it took me quite awhile to accept that this was my home, this is where I would grow for the time being. I just yearned to be back in Iowa, for what I had always known. I’m finally at a place where I realize that I needed this. I needed to get away, not just for artistry, but for that new perspective those authors had talked about. I’m starting to really understand my core value system, what I actually need and want to give to others, and (as corny as this sounds) myself. No other voices to contribute to the noise. And while I have appreciated loved one’s perspectives, and instilling certain values from when I was young, it was time to really start listening to myself.

It’s been a long road to the start of this maturity, but a necessary one. If I were ever able to write a biography for myself (doubtful), I think I’d probably echo the sentiment. Moving away has changed me, for the better. It’s humbling, gratifying, and has allowed me to actually “grow” my own perspective. My own viewpoints. And I will forever be grateful for that.

This was a good idea

7 May


It’s approaching the nine-month date since I moved to the East Coast. I didn’t think the time would fly like it did, but it did. And although the lack of space sometimes is enough to make me want to lose my mind, I’m glad I did this. Oh, and not just for the abundance of street food or graffiti, no, the location wasn’t super important. (Okay, who am I kidding? NYC was kind of an important factor to the equation.)

From many of my favorite authors, they have said this about their trials and tribulations: Move away from home. At least once in your life.

Of course, this isn’t ideal for everybody. For me, though, it was pretty necessary. Not for writing, but for me. I’m a person who could dish out big advice to anyone and everyone through my columns. I’m someone who could say something but do the complete opposite the next day. Don’t gossip, but I do it all the time. Don’t hold grudges, but I will hold a giant one. It seemed like a never-ending recurring cycle.

I was making decisions and then would take them back. Half-heartedly never knowing what I wanted, whom I wanted, or who I was. Should I go back to school? Should I be in this career? And the what ifs. Maybe I was meant to be in a relationship with this person. Or perhaps I was meant to do this with my life. With no direction and no certainty for such a long time, it was time for a change.

There was a time in my adult life when I needed the cocoon of my parent’s home. I needed to feel protected and that I would be okay. But it’s damn hard to get out of that warm spot. So when this decision about moving to NYC loomed above my head, I had to stop listening to all the bull my head kept bouncing back and fourth. I couldn’t question it; it had to be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The whole process happened quickly. We bought plane tickets and on a weekend signed our apartment lease. Then it was getting the moving truck, paring down our belongings and packing the rest away. It seemed so hectic in the moment, but looking back, it all came together pretty fast.

I had to get out of my comfort zone at the same pace. Living with someone in a new place, trying to figure out transportation, just finding the direction to the grocery store – my focus was no longer on these fleeting thoughts that had always filled my head. There wasn’t any time. Instead, concrete questions had: Should I apply for this job? Is this item in my budget if I want to fly home for the holidays? And it seemed that the less attention I paid to the ‘what-ifs’ and half-hearted notions, the better off I was.

Moving away has made me grow up and be a little more centered. The decision forced me to grow up. No, I definitely am far from perfect and make mistakes on an everyday occurrence. But I’m definitely trying more. In doing so, I don’t give myself much time for the nonsense of life – the gossip, grudges, or petty judgements. And, I’m definitely not trying to dish out the advice like I used to … because seriously, if I’m not taking it, who else should have to?

When Did I Get Old?

29 Apr


“I’m so tired.”

It wasn’t even 11 p.m., and I was ready to hit the hay. Here we were in the East Village, the night life had just begun to perk up and the city was alive. Neon electric, it was this sight that had attracted me to this place to begin with. Any bar, dance club, or restaurant was open for the taking and here we were. A club experience with a beauty salon façade with ‘80s music blaring from the speakers? Done. Want a cave-like experience full of goths? Here you go.

But I didn’t want it. Sure, some of the delis looked appealing – a cup of coffee and a mozzarella and pastrami sandwich sounded wonderful. If my cell phone’s time was right, it was tea time. Followed by my loaned library book and finished with sweet slumber under my down blanket.

When my 21st birthday finally hit in September (a few years back or more), I was ready. I was in a university town with a vibrant night life. I wanted to stay up past closing time, attend after-hours parties, and get the full “college experience.” Sundays were not meant solely for studying, but also as a coping period for excessive hangovers. That’s just what that day of rest was for – resting. On my black futon with a bowl of soup and a Subway sandwich. Monday came along and I was brand new.

“Anyone even like this music?”

When did music and noise become synonymous? The White Stripes that had been playing overhead had been replaced by a thumping and high-pitched electric piano. A melody of four notes played over and over to obviously a giant smashing footprints into cement. Beauty to my ears. While I sat, trying to bob my head to a bass line that stayed inconsistent, everyone else danced liked madmen. So, they had figured it out. I had no interest in doing so, and I stayed perched on my chair covering up with my North Face coat/blanket.

In college, I used to hang out with a group of friends who ironically danced. It was crazy fun. We’d go to so many clubs and make any time a hysterical farce. People would come try to grind with our group, while we continued our grooving ways. Costumes were involved.

“Um, I’m not your baby.”

While waiting in line for lengthy amounts of time for the bathroom (a bathroom that looked like it could have been constructed for Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”), a guy decided it was a perfect opportunity to rub the small of my back while calling me baby and sweet talking me. One, who was he kidding? Two, was I the last one on his list? I was pretty crabby, my makeup was melting, and I looked like I could care less by his persuasive tone. “Move along,” I thought, as he left by my “puh-leeze” eye rolling. My hand never strayed far from my pocket full of mace. I continued on to the dirty bathroom with toilet paper suspended in the air by a piece of black string.

Back in my day (yeah, I’ll use that), I did care. A lot. And maybe I still like to get hit on every once and awhile, but I prefer the daylight. And a sober scene for that. I used to feel like it was such a compliment for a guy (any guy) to bestow that on me. Especially at a bar. “They chose me!” I thought as they continued their advances on the next girl.

“It hurts…remind me why I did that?”

The next day. While my college schedule allowed for such setbacks, my “now” does not. My days off are meant for going on a run, reading books, discovering new places and experiencing new things. Not for wasting it. Not for being laid up in bed wondering why I am no longer 21.

Don’t get me wrong. I can stay out past 11 some nights, and I enjoy throwing back a couple glasses of martinis on a night out with friends. But I think those bar-crawling days might be behind me. For good reason. I get sad and sentimental over the nights I stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, and arrived back home exhausted with stilettos in hand. But my purse was always empty of money, my head was constantly throbbing, and I felt like I had nothing to lose.

So am I getting old or growing up? Sometimes it’s hard to grasp that they might mean the same thing.

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