The Elementary Years

The kids are on a four day weekend, while I am still recovering from my near death experience. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” It’s been a pretty quiet three days, something this Vodka Calling household needed.

Tonight, while everyone else was occupied, I found myself scrolling through Facebook. Quickly, I got bored. I mean there’s only so many pictures of food I can see at a time. I needed to be somewhat productive and decided to begin the online application to find a job in the school district my kids go to.

Maybe it was the NyQuil, maybe it was the vodka, most likely a combination of both, but I had the bright idea to look up my old elementary school on Facebook. I am pretty good at finding people on social media, and, well, before I knew it I was in the “Tussing Elementary Alumni Facebook Group.”

From kindergarten through the fourth grade I attended Tussing Elementary school in Colonial Heights, Virginia. I hated that school, and yet here I am in their alumni group.

These fools were trying to plan some sort of reunion, because who does not want to revisit their elementary years?! I am reading the posts, with all these not-so-good memories coming back at me and still, I do not leave the damn group.

One post, in particular, stuck out.

“Attention Tussing Alumni, I am trying to find the following people. If they are on your friends’ list, please add them to the group.”

Quickly, I glance through the list of about 50 names. Not going to lie. For a fleeting second, I thought to myself “How cool would it be if my name was actually on the list?!”

Yeah, my name was not on the list. Why would it be? No one liked me. I seriously had no friends. You could go to any one of these people who attended school the same year I did. Hell, you can even go to my fellow classmates and say “I wonder whatever happened to Jennifer Orotlano?” And they would be like “WHO???!!!!”

Mark my words.

However, what I did find was a bit more…nostalgic.

I found a picture of my kindergarten teacher from the 1978-1979 school year. Now, I was not in this particular class, give it another year or so, and Miss Curtis would be my very first teacher.

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That’s her, on the left!

From that point, it was pretty easy for me to find her Facebook page.

Miss Curtis is no longer Miss Curtis. She is now a happily married retired school teacher.

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Miss Curtis was THE teacher to have. Everyone wanted her, with good reason. I had her, and she certainly lived up to her reputation. Back in the day, the kindergarten teachers would come to your house and do a visit, before the start of school. When Miss Curtis came to my house, in a moment of excitement, I fell down the stairs landing at her feet just as my mother opened the door. We are off to a great start!

Well, now I was on a roll! Who else could I find? Pretty much, anyone, the question is, who else do I want to find?

Miss Reidmiller.

Miss Reidmiller was my art teacher during the years at Tussing Elementary. She was drop dead gorgeous! Now, remember this was the beginning of the 80’s, where big feathered hair and blue eyeshadow were a must-have.

Every year for Halloween, Miss Reidmiller would transform her classroom into a haunted house, with the fifth graders participating in said haunted house. Think witches, goblins, that sort of thing. I have no idea how she did it, but it was amazing. The “Haunted House” (classroom) was open to the public and always had long lines. I of course, never made it through without crying.

I remember one time in art class, we were making kites. The entire class had painted our own individual kites on a Friday, we let them dry in the classroom over the weekend, then on Monday, in art class, we would take them out to see if they could fly. On this Monday morning, Miss Reidmiller was going through the two full-size tables that had our kites laid out. She would call each of us by name, we would then pick up our kite, take it back to our seat and just wait.

Well, because I have the luck of a shoe, I somehow forgot to put my name on my kite. When Miss Reidmiller got to my kite, the only one left on the damn table, she held it up “This one does not have a name on it? Anyone know who it belongs to?”

I was oblivious to my idiot classmates. All they had to do was look around and see little Jenny sitting all by herself without a kite, and boom, process of elimination, but no, that did not happen. What happened was, when no one claimed the kite, Miss Reidmiller held the kite up for all to see.

“Anyone, this one has to have an owner.”

All the kids started laughing, pushing their chairs away from the table

“That’s the ugliest kite there is, it’s not mine!”

Bastards. I wanted to die. So there I was, making the walk of shame up to Miss Reidmiller to claim my kite. She took the kite, placed it in my arms

“It’s a beautiful kite sweetie.”

I was too shy, too embarrassed to look her in the eye. I just took my kite and made the quiet walk back to my table, and ignored the snickers along the way. The way those kids made me feel that day, I will never forget. I mean look at me, here I am thirty plus years later still talking about it, but I will also never forget how Miss Reidmiller made me feel a bit better. Because in my eyes, if this beautiful Farrah Fawcett look-alike teacher thought my kite was beautiful, then that had to mean something.

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Miss Reidmiller, gorgeous as ever!

I started thinking about all my other teachers in elementary school. Miss Jordan was my first-grade teacher. Her attire consisted of mini skirts and heels. The boys loved her, as did their dads, me not so much. Perhaps it has something to do with me peeing in my pants and refusing to admit it….on multiple occasions.

“Jenny, did you have an accident?”
“Nope, no accident, I spilled water.”

“But the “water” is under your desk, and it’s yellow, and there is no cup.”
“It was someone else’s cup!”

Yeah, Miss Jordan and I butted heads a lot!

For second grade I had Mrs. Morris, and when I had to repeat the second grade, I then had Miss Nugent.

Mrs. Morris was a wonderful seasoned teacher who was most likely close to retiring when she had me, so she is, you know, probably dead by now. She always wore the best perfume and was so very patient with me. A class act.

Miss Nugent, she was on to me. She probably got dealt the short end of the straw when it came time for me to repeat the second grade. I do not know what it was, even in the second grade I knew the kids did not like me, and because of that, I just did not want to try. What was the point?

In 3rd grade, I had Mrs. Barfield, who to this day I swear was a lesbian. She always wore pinstripe pants and cute little bow ties, and, well, I do not know, this is how the mind of a 3rd grader works!

One time in class we were taking a spelling test. Another “Jenny” (back then everyone was a Jennifer or a Jenny) was sitting in front me. This Jenny was popular, she had friends and her mother was also a teacher in the building. I was screwed before I even began. Well, good ole popular Jenny was cheating on her spelling test! She had the words written on her arm. Are you kidding me?!?! I spent a week going over the spelling words and here this bitch is writing them on her arm. Well, 3rd grade me was not having it! As soon as Mrs. Barfield called us up to turn in our spelling test in, I told her right then and there in front of everyone “Mrs. Barfield, Jenny has the spelling words written on her arm.”

Complete silence. Mrs. Barfield quietly told me she would talk to Jenny one on one while directing the rest of the kids back to their seat.

You see, my mouth has always gotten me into trouble because, in the end, everyone got mad at me for “telling on” Jenny.

In fourth grade, I had Mrs. Passapoulo. She was pretty nice. She was also 8 months pregnant so I only had her for a week before she left on maternity leave. Anyone want to take a guess on who her replacement was? Jenny’s mother! Not even kidding. It gets better. Jenny was also in my class. So I had Jenny, and I had her mother as a teacher. There was seriously no hope for me. Her mother never liked me because I ratted her precious princess out, and Jenny never liked me because no one else did, so why should she?

In 5th grade, I had Mrs. McDermont briefly. We were about to move, I was going to a new school and I could not be any happier. Mrs. McDermont was a little grey-haired lady who had been teaching for years. She knew it all, no one could get one over on her, except me.

As she was collecting science homework, science homework that I never did, I told her “Mrs. McDermont, I am so sorry but I spilled koolaide on my homework and did not have time to redo it.” Mrs. McDermont looked at me, gave me a hug “Well, I am sorry to hear that dear. It happens. How about you do it tonight?”

Well shit. Now I felt bad. I just lied to this woman who actually believed me. Nervously I raised my hand. “Mrs. McDermont, I am sorry, I lied. I did not spill koolaide on my homework, I just did not do it.” Mrs. McDermont gave me a look. A look at the time I assumed was complete understanding. However going back in time, I realize it was a look of “I know you did not do your homework, I just needed you to admit to it.”

Shortly after that, we moved to a new school. Thank you, Jesus! I know there was a period of time where my parents felt guilty for taking me out of a school I knew a school that I was familiar with. I know my parents felt guilty for moving my sister and me into a new house. Little did my parents know, this was exactly what I needed. I needed a new start, because where I was, well it just was not working for me. It never did.

Lakeview Elementary. I came to Lakeview in the latter half of fourth grade and would remain there for most of my sixth grade. It was a whole new world. However, in the beginning, it was rough.

I was in the restroom one day, a bunch of fellow classmates were also in the restroom making fun of me because I was fat. Being one to never hold my emotions in, I ran out of the restroom crying. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Mayes, happened to see me come out of the restroom in tears. She took me in her arms, asked me what was wrong, and I told her with tears in my eyes “They called me fat.”

As soon as the class was situated back in the classroom, Mrs. Mayes laid into them. She made sure the class, her class understood that under no circumstance would there be any name calling. Then, Mrs. Mayes started crying as she was telling the class about her days in school when she was made fun of. Never again, from that point on, never again did anyone make fun of me.

In 5th grade, I met my new friend. Stephanie just moved to Colonial Heights from Georgia. Stephanie was tall, skinny and beautiful. I already knew there was no point in me trying to be her friend. I figured all the popular kids would congregate to her. Except, somehow we did become friends. We would sit together at lunch and eventually get to the point where would spend the night at each others house. Stephanie’s mom was a hair stylist and would always cut my hair, trying to teach me the art of “feathering.” Stephanie and I would stay up late, making up a dance routine to Hearts “Never” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” while eating junk food and talking about boys.

I had my first crush in 5th grade. Buck Seward. He was a nice boy who somehow was able to look past what all the others were not. We would talk in class and sit next to each other at lunch. When it came time for me to move again, Buck walked me out to my bus for the last time and promised to keep in touch, as long as I would not get fat. I mean I kinda get it. At least at the time, I did.

So, as I am reliving my elementary school days on Facebook, Buck and Stephanie were the first ones I tried to look up. I was never able to find Buck. It’s not like he would remember me, but I did find Stephanie.

Stephanie is absolutely stunning. Going off of her facebook page she is happily married with a little boy.

I am sitting at my computer, looking at her page, coughing, sneezing, in shorts and a stained t-shirt scarfing M&M’s down my throat as fast as I could. I am looking at her pictures, I am reading about her life, are you kidding me?!?! This girl looks better now some thirty years later then she did back in her heyday.

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I told you she was stunning!

At this point, all I could think was “Good thing my Facebook settings are pretty locked down!”

Sometimes I wonder, assuming my fellow classmates actually remember my name, what would they think of me today? Would they feel bad for the way they treated me? Would they even remember? Would it matter? Did I ever matter?

I spent tonight filling out the first portion of the online job application to become a Para in my own children’s school district. It was both intimidating and stressful. When it got to the part of “Former Employer” I was ready to throw in the towel. I have not been a “paid employee” since 2004. No one is going to want a washed up “Housewife.”

Then, once again I was transformed back to my elementary years.

Miss Curtis, she would come talk to me on the playground when I had no one else to play with.

Miss Jordan, as tough as she was, she made me see that life was not going to be easy, and the sooner I learn that, the better.

Mrs.Morris and Miss Nugent, my second-grade teachers, Mrs. Barfield, Mrs. Passapoula, and who could forget Mrs. Mayes, unbeknownst to them, they all in their own way, taught me lessons that would bring me to this point in time. This point right here where I am putting it all on an online job application. My previous teachers taught me so much more than your typical spelling and math lessons. That taught me both what I should and should not strive to be.

So, here I am, stalling with the application, yet in a full circle moment. I need this. This moment right here, the teachers of my past, and my teachers, my mentors in the present, collectively, they will all bring me to my future.

And hopefully, just hopefully I learned something along the way.

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Doing what I do best, relating to 3rd graders.

One teacher took a chance on me.
One teacher saw in me what I did not see in myself.
And it is because of this teacher, and all those that came before him, it is because of them that I am here, getting ready to apply for a job in the district.

And now it is time I take a chance on myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Don’t Fear the Reaper”

“All our times have come
Here but now they’re gone
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain, we can be like they are

Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper
We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper
Baby, I’m your man”

 

This past Friday, I had the “pleasure” of accompanying Sofia and her fellow 5th graders on a field trip to Discovery Park in Seattle, Washington. According to Google, Discovery Park is 534-acre park operated by Seattle Parks and Rec. It also happens to be the largest park in Seattle. According to me, I have a different opinion.

Now, between you and me, I did not want to go on this field trip. I was sick, Sofia was recovering from being sick, and walking around for hours on end, down by the water in Seattle on a freezing cold day just did not sound appealing to me. However, it was very important to Sofia that I go, so I did what we all do as parents from time to time and sucked it up.

The day began with about seventy-five 5th graders, three teachers and a handful of parent volunteers boarding two school buses to make the forty-five-minute drive to Seattle. On the first bus, you had Sofia’s class, one teacher, four parent volunteers and half of the kids from another 5th-grade class. Everyone else was on the second bus. Five minutes in once we hit the highway, we are stopped in traffic. Complete bumper to bumper traffic. I had mixed emotions about this. A part of me thought “Hmmm, if we are stuck in traffic long enough, then just maybe we will run out of time and not have time for the field trip.”

(Important to note, the buses were on a very tight schedule. We had to be back at the school by 1:00 so they could pick up the high school kids.)

Then another part of me was like……actually there was no other part of me. I wanted to be stuck in traffic. Even on the damn bus, I was cold, I could not imagine what it would be like walking around in it.

One side of the highway was completely shut down. The police were having the cars turn around and come on to our side of the highway. Perhaps my wish would come true?

It would not be until later that evening that I found out the traffic was due to the threat of a possible shooter at one of our local colleges.

Somehow, we made it through the traffic.

A short while later, we were in the heart of downtown Seattle, a short while after that, we made it to our destination.

The buses unload, the kids are excited. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I knew I was in for the longest three hours of my life. Bone-chilling cold, and wind. I had five shirts on, a scarf, a pretty heavy jacket, and some jeans. I seriously do not know what else I could have done to make sure I was warm.

“Okay kids, this is your last chance to go to the bathroom. If you do not go now, you will have to wait until we come back. This is the only bathroom at the park, so for those of you that need to go, follow me, everyone else line up and wait.”

Sofia and I, along with my group of kids listened intently to Sofia’s teacher explain the bathroom situation, and when I say “bathroom” think more along the lines of an outhouse.

“Sofia, do you need to go to the restroom?”
“No mom, and even if I did, I would not use that one.”

Smart kid.

My group of kids, who I now like to call “The Smart Ones” all took our place where the teacher directed us to wait. Did I mention to you guys how cold it was? Let me paint you a picture. One of the parent volunteers, who happened to be a tall, pretty in shape guy, who was also bundled up in warm clothes said: “We need to get moving, get the body heat going, it’s too cold out here to be standing around doing nothing.”

So see, it was not just me.

Finally, all those who just HAD to use the outhouse returned, and off we went. Directly in front of us was a pretty big hill. Like so steep and twisty you could not even see where it ends. For the love of God please let there be some secret trail that I cannot see from this angle. For the love of God please do not let this be our starting point.

“Okay everyone, I hope you have your walking shoes ready, here we go!”

Well shit.

Here we go, up the damn “hill” although I believe “mountain” is the correct description.

Seriously, this damn “hill” was at least a 15-minute hike. Let me paint you another picture. Sofia’s teacher is a young (ish) man, early 30’s, who previously coached gymnastics. Dude is in shape. Our two other 5th grade teachers are cute young twenty-somethings, who again, are pretty in shape. You see my dilemma.

One teacher, let’s call her “Miss S” took the front, Sofia’s teacher took the middle, and the last teacher, “Miss N” took the rear. What I should have done is hang back with Miss N. She knew what she was doing and she did it at her own pace. However, I was stuck in the middle with Sofia’s teacher, who again is a former gymnastics coach and, well, this “hike” to him was probably the equivalent of walking the streets of Seattle on a lazy Sunday morning.

Finally, we turn off the big hill (mountain) and begin our descent on to another trail, with you guessed it, another big hill.

Are you freakin kidding me?!?!

At this point, the groups were even more disbursed. Miss S’s group was way ahead. The middle group, we were barely making it, kids and parents, it was rough. I mean Sofia’s teacher was breezy, and everyone else probably hoped he would take a jump off of the “mountain.” The last group, they were pretty far behind. Again, this is the group I should have been in.

You guys, it was bad. So so bad. The ground seemed to level off, Sofia and her friends ran ahead to the teacher. I just could not hang and told her I would catch up. I am coughing and wheezing. I am freezing one second, then sweating the next. At one point, as I am hiking up the “hill” I take my jacket off, I take my scarf off, I take one of my shirts off because I am dripping with sweat. About five minutes later, everything comes back on because I was cold again. I just could not win. I am not even kidding when I say all I wanted to do was pass out in the cold, wet, pine needle infused dirt. I felt I was having an asthma attack and I had no idea what to do. I was in the middle of GOD KNOWS WHERE. I felt I needed oxygen, but how in the hell could I get oxygen in the realms of what I consider to be hell? I had a plan. I would text Sofia’s teacher “Do whatever it is you need to do to keep Sofia away from me, but I am about to pass out.”

I would then text Joe. “Seriously, dying in the middle of nowhere, I need oxygen, call the school.”

I am not even kidding, these were my thoughts and it made me sad, and mad.

I just wanted to pass out and sleep. It took everything I had to continue and that is no exaggeration.

What kept me going, I did not want Sofia to be a Kate.

Kate, a character from the ever popular t.v show “This is Us.” Kate has always blamed herself for her dad’s death. I knew if something happened to me here on this god awful “field trip” I knew Sofia would spend the rest of her life blaming herself. I could not allow that to happen. I will meet my death one day, but I cannot go out like this, I cannot go out like Jack Pearson did. I could not allow Sofia to be a Kate.

Sofia is long gone, but I am not worried. She is with her group and there are only so many places she could go. All of the parents, even the tall in shape guy, we were all struggling. All of us parents dispersed somewhere on this “hill” praying to the Gods above to just take us now. My legs were burning, my chest was heavy, I was done. This was the most ridiculous field trip I had ever been on, and say what you want to say about me, call me out of shape, call me a fool, I feel these parents (myself included) should have been better warned about what exactly this trip entailed.

The further we walked the more intense it gets. I could see Sofia way up ahead of me, and no one in back. Directly in front of me was this little boy who was not supposed to even be in my group. He turns around, looks at me. “It must suck to be old.” I am still wheezing I cannot even address the little bastard who is struggling just as much as I am thank-you-very-much. He turns to me again, with an evil smirk. “Good thing I am still young.”

Like seriously? Wheezing as I may I am now looking for a tree branch to trip his sorry little ass.

I grabbed a water bottle from my backpack, took a quick two minutes to guzzle it down, trying hard as I may to get some sort of breath support back into me and I continue on.

I am not sure how much time passed, but finally, I made it to the clearing. By “clearing I mean the edge of a cliff where there was sand and a beautiful view of the ocean. A view that I could not appreciate because I felt like I was dying. It’s cold, it’s windy. The wind is so bad you cannot even tell if it is indeed the ocean you are looking at or some sort of rocky terrain.

“Okay kids, lunch time! Find a seat!”

The bastard was not even out of breath.

Also, “find a seat?” There is like no place to sit except on the wet sand.

I gave my group of kids some candy Sofia and I specifically bought for them. They were so polite, so thankful, but none of them could enjoy the damn candy. Odds are they were in the middle of hypothermia.

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back to the bus. THANK YOU JESUS!!!!

One would think the hike back would not be as bad since a majority of it was downhill. One would also be wrong.

You guys, I had a parent, a parent who speaks no English but most likely used Google to translate. This parent came up to me, out of breath, in broken English and asked “Did you know, this would be bad? Long walk? You know?”

Of course I did not know! Had I known I signed up for Hell on earth I would have said “Screw this” and Sofia and I would have had a girls day.

Eventually, we all get back to the outhouse. The kids take one more restroom break. I look over my shoulder and notice another parent. Attractive guy, dressed in fatigues, pretty buff. (It’s only now I realize there was lots of eye-candy on this trip from hell) He pours a bottle of water over himself and tells his son “Time to go, I ain’t doing this anymore.” It took everything I had to not ask him if I could hitch a ride with him.

“Fifth graders, we are doing a group picture!”

Are you kidding me? Just put me on the damn bus already. No one wants to do a picture.

Slowly, we all make our way back to the bus. The three fifth grade teachers are right behind me. I overhear them making plans to get together after school, have a drink, unwind, and before I knew it they break out in a “Bone Thugs N Harmony” song, with dance moves.

Just get it over with already. Kill me now instead of allowing me to die a slow torturous death.

Take me back to the comforts of my normal classroom I volunteer in. Where the kids are happy to see me and I have chocolate at my disposal. Where I can sit and watch the little third graders find the “magic piece of trash on the floor” and I do not have to do anything except listen. Just take me back to my normal and save your “Bone Thugs N Harmony” routine for the club….and enjoy it now, because in twenty years from now when your own children go on a field trip from hell, you give me a call and tell me “Jennifer, you were right, I have no idea what I was thinking. And it will be at this point that you forgive me for breaking out into my own rendition of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” while exclaiming “I told you so.”

“Come on baby, don’t fear the reaper
Baby take my hand, don’t fear the reaper
We’ll be able to fly, don’t fear the reaper
Baby, I’m your man”

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Valentines Day 2018

Joe and I have never been ones to celebrate Valentines Day. Eleven years ago on Valentines Day, we were getting ready for Sofia to make her grand entrance into this world via a scheduled c-section on February 15th. Our Valentines Day was spent with me packing for my hospital stay, finalizing the time Joe’s parents would come and watch the kids, that sort of thing.

When I had Gracie, it was an emergency c-section. It played out much like you see in the movies. I was being rushed to the OR in hopes that they could get the baby out in time. For Sofia’s planned c-section, I actually had to make the walk to the OR by myself. I did not even have a wheelchair. One of the first things I remember is it was so cold in the OR. I was freezing, shivering. I clearly remember thinking “there is no way I can have a baby, it is too damn cold in here!”

After I was prepped and hooked up to every machine imaginable, Joe was allowed to come in. I asked him “Is it cold in here or is it just me?” I do not remember his response, other than him looking at me like I was crazy, but I do remember the nurses telling me they have to keep it cold because the lights the Doctor needs to perform the c-section are pretty hot. Who knew?

So, there I am laying on the operating table with the divider set in place so I could not see the Doctor cut into me. I have Joe to the right of me, and my anesthesiologist, let’s call him Bob, to the left of me, making sure my vitals are where they need to be. The doctor tells me “You may feel some pressure, maybe a little bit of pulling.” I think to myself, “Yeah yeah, I know the drill, this is not my first rodeo.” At this point, I am just waiting to hear the baby cry. I never heard Gracie cry when she was born, because, well, she was sick. I had read enough books to know that if I hear the baby cry then that is a good sign. I am waiting and waiting. I just need to hear the baby cry, that’s it. Joe keeps looking over the divider, good ol Bob keeps asking me “How ya doing, are you feeling okay?”

Everything was going fine until I noticed that something was burning. I look at Joe “Do you smell that?” Joe pretends he does not hear me. I look at my new annoying friend, Bob,  and ask the same question. “Do you smell that? It smells like something is burning?” Bob gives Joe a quick glance and replies with “It’s something in our electric system, the vents.”

And, in pure Jen form, I freak out. “WHAT?” “Is it safe to be in here?” “Are we at risk for a fire?” “I am in the middle of a c-section, what will happen if there is a fire?” Perhaps I have seen one too many episodes of “Greys Anatomy” or perhaps I just have issues.

Again, Bob looks at Joe, I quickly turn to look at Joe, just to make sure I do not miss any secret signals they may be given to the other. Joe kinda shrugs his shoulders which means “Okay Mr. Anesthrdiologist, ball is your park now!”

I may be wrong, but I may have seen good ol Bob roll his eyes. “Jennifer, may I call you Jennifer? Everything is fine.”

I am not convinced.

“Then what is that smell?! Why does it smell like a fire? I am telling you people something is burning!”

Bob looks at Joe, Joe is looking over the divider. Looks like Bob is on his own with this one.

Bob takes a look at whatever machine it is that displays my vitals. He puts his hand on my left shoulder.

“Jennifer, it’s just the Doctor closing the incision that brought your new baby girl into this world.”

Ummm. Is Bob on crack?!

“No, that’s not right. Why would an incision smell like that? Don’t they just use a scalpel?”

Our friend Bob was pretty much done. Once again looks were exchanged between Bob and Joe, a look that told me “Dude, take control of your wife, I need help here!”

Joe give Bob a nod, Bob is back looking at my vitals, and Joe takes over.

“Jen, everything is fine, they are just closing up the incision, the baby is out, everything is fine.”

Again, in pure Jen form, it kinda took me a second to comprehend what these fools were trying to tell me.

“WHY ISNT THE BABY CRYING?”

Calmly, Joes tells me everything is fine they are just cleaning her up.

I am somewhat able to relax, and order Joe to go be with the baby. I had seen way too many Lifetime movies about kids getting switched at birth, so his ONLY JOB was to stay with Sofia.

Back to Bob. Again, he is making sure my vitals are in check. Apparently, my very small outbursts made one of the machines beep.

I cannot see anything. The divider is in my way, Joe is off with the nurse cleaning up Sofia, and once again, for the last time I look at Bob.

“So wait a minute, you mean that smell I was smelling was me?!?!?!”

I hear some muffled words from the Doctor.

“We are just about finished here.”

Bob looks at me, most likely thanking God that he is just about finished with me.

“I have to tell you, Jennifer, you are very intuned with your body.”

I need a drink, and since I am not breastfeeding I start my countdown on when exactly it is I can have a drink.

“Sooooo, you are telling me that the smell was me?!?!?!?! I need answers!!!”

Bob is now breaking out in a sweat.

“The medical term is cauterization. It is used to help close up the wound from the incision.”

*Long pause*

*Still pausing*

*Almost finished*

“WELL, THAT’S JUST GROSS!!”

Bob looks like he needs a drink himself.

“Yes, typically we do not tell our patients that, but…”

“Are there any side effects?”

Bob is trying to clear up his station while motioning to the nurse to take me to recovery.

“Only temporary nerve damage. It won’t last for long.”

Fast forward ELEVEN FREAKING YEARS.

Guess who still can’t feel the lower part of her stomach?

THIS GIRL!!

Whatever.

The important part of this story is Sofia.

Tomorrow she will be eleven years old. I have absolutely no idea where the time goes. Sofia is one of the sweetest little girls you will ever meet. Unless you piss her off, then she will want to punch you in the face…..because, after all, the apple does not fall from the tree.

sofia 11

 

 

 

 

Serene.

One year ago I met Serene. The school district I belong to was launching a new pilot program to promote family engagement within our school district. Serene, myself along with about thirty other strong, powerful women were chosen to take part in this pilot program.

It was the second training session early one Saturday morning. I pull into the school parking lot at record speed, because naturally, I was running late. Before I knew it,  a cute little SUV pulled up beside me with tires screeching. I breathed a sigh of relief. Clearly, I was not the only one who was running late.

Enter Serene.

In a hurry, we both exited our respective cars, grabbing our belongings, and coffee, trying to pull ourselves together while hoping no one would notice exactly how late we were. Immediately, I took a liking to Serene.

“How ya doing, I’m Serene, are you here for the parent facilitator class?”

With my arms full of notebooks, and my very large purse, I quickly took in the strikingly beautiful woman beside me.

“I am. I mean I am late so I am probably not off to a very good start, but yes I am here…barely.”

Serene and I fall into a nice sprinting rhythm as we make the walk from our cars, across the parking lot to the school. By the time we entered the school we already knew how many kids we each had, how long we had been married and what school our kids go to.

Serene and I are climbing the three flights of stairs to the school library, hoping we can just sneak in unnoticed. Serene asked me “Now, tell me, how did it go last week? I was unable to make it to the first class. How was it?”

Trying not to showcase how clumsy I really am by rushing up three flights of stairs, I look at Serene. “Oh! I have to tell you, it was so much better than what I was expecting. I enjoyed it.”

Serene readjusts her very large purse.

“I see. Now tell me, why do you say that? What were you expecting?”

“Oh I don’t know, honestly, I was not sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be a long day of boring lectures, but it was good. I took notes if you want to take a look.”

We made it up to the library all in one piece and took our seats at a table next to each other. Because of the small and apparently noticeable fact that we were both late, we were then paired up as partners for the day.

It was a good training class. Each one of us had a very detailed book that would serve as our training material. It would also serve as a guide for parents who we would eventually be facilitating. The class was a five-week program, and each week a new topic would be discussed. Everything from the best means of connecting with the teachers, to dealing with racism in school. Pretty intense.

About halfway through our training session, one of the “big wigs” from the district came up to speak to all of the new parent facilitators. You know how it goes, the “big wig” gave us all a pretty bad ass motivational pep talk, she assured us she had faith in us. Her closing words, she looks into the crowd of thirty plus newly nervous parent facilitators and says “This program has been in the work for years. There was a lot of loopholes we had to go through, we had a lot of waiting time to see if we would even get approved for the grant. I would like to give a special thank-you to Serene, who wrote the book that all of you will be using as your guide to facilitate your respective classes.”

I about choked on my orange juice. I look over at Serene, who is trying with all her might to not make eye contact with me. In what I think is a whisper but really is not, I say to her “Umm, hello! You wrote the book?!?!?! In the five hours we just spent together you did not think that maybe that was something you would have brought up?!”

Serene is sitting there, poker face on. This beautiful well put together woman who is dressed to the nines, hands placed perfectly in her lap, trying to keep her poker face intact. “Girl, they were not supposed to mention that. Turn around, shhhh, don’t say anything.”

I look at her. I reposition my chair, I look at her again.

“Fine! Who knew there was a local celebrity in our mix?!”

Serene was on the verge of breaking her poker face.

“Girl, I will beat your butt, now turn around.”

“Fine, but not before I get you to autograph my book. Something along the lines of “To my new BFF Jennifer, you are an amazing….”

“You better stop!”

….

Fast forward one year.
January 2018

Serene and I are back at it. This is the second year the program has been in effect. I am lucky enough to have Serene as my coach. This woman is amazing. The first thing she will tell you, the first thing  she will tell anyone is “I am a woman of faith.” And, it shows. She is such a strong confident woman, who always knows just how to say the right thing.

On Tuesday, as we are getting ready for our class, prepping the room, going over our notes, I looked at her and asked. “How do you know everything you know? Did you go through training, or are you just naturally this wise?”

Serene explained to me that she always likes to listen. She says there is something to be learned from everyone you come in contact with, and it all starts with listening.

….

Today, at the school, we had a meeting. It was Serene, myself, and our site coordinator, Rachel. Now, between you and I, I did not want to be at this meeting. I had two sick kids at home, I was exhausted. I had other school obligations I had to deal with, but this was a paid meeting so I had to “Cowboy Up” put my game face on and be in the moment. Right?

Both Serene and Rachel (important to note, I have a wonderful relationship with Rachel as well) are going to be out of town on Tuesday when we have our next class. What that means you may ask. Well, it means that it will just be myself running the class. Typically, it is Serene and I running the meetings. I feel we do a good job of playing off of each other. I was a bit concerned how Tuesday would play out, and by “concerned” I mean a shit show waiting to happen.

Serene looks at me. “Jennifer, you got this. I know you can do it. Here’s the thing. You stand behind the curtain because that is your comfort zone. It is time for you to stand in front of the curtain, pull that curtain back and announce to the world “I am here, I am here in front of the curtain, I am the main event.”

I told you she was good.

Rachel looks at me, she looks at Serene.

“Serene, I have to tell you, Jennifer is so good with writing. She has a gift. I read her post, I read her blog, she takes me to another place. That is her gift.”

The meeting just got interesting, right?!

Serene gets excited, she sits up in her chair, she looks at Rachel, she looks at me.

“Let’s talk about that Jennifer. So tell me, what are you doing. You are a good writer, so what are we doing to make this happen?”

I already know Serene is going to lay into me in a “mindblown” kind of way.”

“I mean, well, I have a blog.”

I can see Serene get excited. She has something to say.

“Ya know, I was just talking to another young lady about this. A blog is good. It is an outlet, but my question for you, why give away something for free? Here is your assignment, when I see you in two weeks, I want more from you. I want a title, and I want subplots. I want you to write. Just write. Do not worry about getting published, editing, all that jazz, you write something powerful. This is just an example, you write about being the parent of an autistic child, then your subplots would be, how does it affect your marriage? How do you navigate the school system? How does an autistic child affect your other children? You have your topic, you have your subplots, and you write, because this is the gift that God gave you, you make it count. All you worry about is writing and we will check in in two weeks.”

Serene pulls out her phone, goes to her Google calendar and types in “Holding Jennifer accountable, check in.”

Again I say, Serene is a bad ass.

The three of us, Serene, Rachel and myself continue our talk. Rachel brings up how important it is to have like-minded woman standing in your corner, always backing you up. Serene made a reference to the church.

My defense was down.

“I struggle with that. I know my family wants to see me back in church, but it is hard.”

Serene is nodding her head, Rachele is talking about a devotional club she belongs to.

Again, you can see the excitement on Serene’s face.

“Do not even get me started on devotional. Jennifer, that is 365 days worth of writing material right there. You could write daily devotions about dealing with autism, talk about being a wife, a mother. A devotional series is one of the easiest to get into. Let me tell you something. The church is a building. It can be a good building, but the people behind it, well there is your church. A real church is the people who God brings into your life. Like us right now. Three women coming together, this can also be your church, the support, the belief that we are all here to serve God. Jennifer, one year ago, God knew what he was doing. It was his plan for us to meet.

Serene turns to Rachel, “Let me tell you how we met. It was the second week of training and Jennifer and I both pull into the school late…….”

435946c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vodka Calling Goes Stir-Crazy!

I have been cooped up in this apartment for five days. Sofia is recovering from a concussion, which means she needs to be monitored. “Brain Rest” is the name of the game. A name that I did not choose by the way. How does one rest their brain you may ask? I will tell you.

No t.v
No gaming
No bright lights
No running
No loud noises

Do you guys know how hard it is to keep a 10-year-old on “Brain Rest?” Imagine trying to put your cat on “Brain Rest.” One in the same.

Of course, I have left the apartment to take Gracie to school, run to the grocery store, and follow up Dr appointments, but those do not count. Something always comes up. Last night I had a meeting at school. Hell has apparently frozen over, and I am a “Parent Facilitator.” Like seriously, I cannot even facilitate my own life, but yeah, I got this! Sure enough, I get the call from Joe “Sofia woke up, she is crying because her head hurts. What do I do” It took me ten minutes on text to explain to him what he should do. That’s about nine minutes too long.

Jen~ “Give her 10 ml of Motrin”
Joe~ “What is ml?”
Jen~ “milliliter”
Joe~ “I do not know what that means”
Jen~ “It’s right there on the medicine cup!”
Joe~ “What is the medicine cup? I can’t use a spoon?”

Speaking of Joe. Perhaps it is because I have cabin fever, perhaps it is the vodka. I have noticed over these last five days, there are two sides to Joe. Now don’t get me wrong. Any long-time readers of this blog, you guys know I have about ten different sides to me. Some (most) of them not so pretty. (Insert link to my one post where I was threatened to be sued.) Thankfully, Joe has only seen one side of my “crazy.” (And we will keep it that way! Stewart, I am talking to you.)

On one hand, you have the amazing dad, the amazing husband, who will always do what needs to be done. He will sit up with Sofia and rub her head as she is dealing with excruciating headaches in the middle of the ER while I fight with the intake nurse on “What the hell is taking so long, my daughter is in pain?!”

At the end of his twelve-hour shift, Joe has no problem picking up cat food, waiting in a long line trying to avoid his boss, yet working off the clock if need be, all because I could not remember to pick up cat food.

Now, his “other” side is…how shall I say this? Annoying. Yes, that’s a good word. I mean I think he was seriously arguing with one of our cats about forty-five minutes ago. Apparently, the cat accidentally peed on something he should not have peed on, and I guess that “something” was Joe’s sleeping blanket. However, arguing with the cat? Really? I mean was he expecting a two-way conversation?

Joe~ “You bastard, the litter box is right fucking there!”
Cat~ “And?”
Joe~ “Asshole, now I have to do laundry!”
Cat~ “And?”

(Love you, Babe!)

I have no idea how this conversation ended. I stepped outside because I had an emergency, and by emergency I mean I had to help Christin pick out an outfit.

Oh, I am not even close to finishing. I pick Gracie up from school.

Gracie~ “What does it mean when your throat hurts?”
Me~ “Oh for the love of God, does your throat hurt?!”
Gracie~ “Yes.”
Me~ “Well, it probably means you are catching a cold.”

Gracie and I come home. Naturally, she has a fever. I break out the Motrin and the medicine cup (not a spoon). Give her a dose, plenty of liquids and send her to bed. Joe comes home.

Joe~ “Gracie looks bad, I think she is getting sick.”
Me~ “YOU THINK?”

You guys, I am losing it over here.

Joe is hardcore when the kids are sick. He is very adamant that the kids do not go to school if they even have a sniffle. When we were in the waiting room of the ER with Sofia, “Goodmorning America” did a news story on all the flu deaths this year, well, Joe just upped his hardcore-ness.

The other night, everyone was sleeping. Everyone except me. In the last five days, I probably had a total of eight hours of sleep. All of a sudden Joe’s phone notifications went off. Just like any good wife, I grabbed his phone to check out what was going on. Nothing exciting. Just email notifications. So I am sitting there, playing with his phone and thought I would have some fun. I changed my name in his phone from “Jen” to “Hot Wife” pretty confident he would not notice.

The following morning at 9:00am I get a text from him.

Joe~ “Hot Wife huh? I like it, and it’s true.”

I was laying on the sofa watching old episodes of “Friends” eating M&M’s for breakfast. I never even showered that night because….kids.

Crap. Now I need to get up, jump in the shower and try to play off that I am indeed a “Hot Wife.

I will let you know when I accomplish that.

If there is a plus side to me being cooped up in the apartment for five days straight, I believe I lost a few pounds. My “fat jeans” which were previously tight on me, are now a bit loose. However, it could very well be from me not washing them in, oh, I don’t know, five days?!

Also, if I am indeed losing weight, it is in my ass.  I do not want to lose weight in my ass! I want to lose weight everywhere else, but please for the love of God,  let me keep the boobs and ass. One of my biggest fears (unrational as it may be) is having a pancake ass. So now, I have to up my “squat game.” (Because I do not have enough to do.) Also, I cannot talk about my ass because my father reads this blog. (Shout out to Dad!)

On Monday, I lost a friend of mine. She passed away from what we think is the flu. (Another example of why Joe is so hardcore about the kids and school.) However, because I have too much damn time on my hands, I find myself questioning the events of her passing. In a brief moment of weakness, I actually contemplated calling the police today to see if they were going to investigate. I know, I know, don’t worry, it was just a very brief moment of weakness. I am telling you, I am losing it.

I was talking to my sister on the phone. Because my phone is possessed, the only place I can talk to her without losing connection is out on the balcony. We get off the phone, I slip my phone in my jacket pocket. I come inside and go to the restroom. I have no idea how this happened, but, as I was taking the phone out of my pocket to use the restroom I somehow video called my sister as I was in the process of, you know, using the restroom. Kill me now! Plus side, it was my sister and not any of the teachers at my daughter’s school.

My apartment has never been cleaner, I have binge-watched “Friends” and “Parenthood.” Most likely CSI is next because you know (refer to the previous paragraph.) I just have no idea what to do with the kids. I love having the flexibility of staying at home. I am grateful for the fact that I can be here for them, but it’s not always easy. I put so much into making sure my children are okay, as I should, but I am sorta kinda losing myself in the process.

Almost finished.

Tonight, I found myself on Petfinder. Not for me mind you, for my family…..in Texas…..who I feel desperately needs a dog. I found one too. Bella, an adorable special needs puppy who was born during Hurricane Harvey. And, because I am me, I am already attached to Bella. So, if my parents do not adopt her (Dad, I am talking to you!) I will be crushed. So, can we please make this happen. #DoItForBella

What has become of me?!?!?!

Cabin fever.

We will chalk it up to cabin fever.

Or….

Vodka.

pizap.com15174687722251

 

 

City by the bay (Part 4)

City by the Bay (Part 1)

City by the Bay (Part 2)

City by the Bay (Part 3)

 

Sarah: 2018

“Get your ass in,” Allie ordered from inside the car.

I hopped in the SUV while noticing soccer balls and a myriad of kids’ stuff in the back.

“Don’t mind the mess. The kids think the car is their personal trash can.”

My car looked about the same, and I didn’t have anyone to blame.

“So, where are we going first?” I asked, handing Allie a fresh cup of coffee.

“To the apartment.”

The apartment. The place where I found my freedom. So many memories in that apartment.

Originally, Allie had lived here with her two cats until the night that changed everything.

This apartment had saved my life in some sense. Allie was a catalyst to everything. Without her, I might be…well, I didn’t want to think about that.

Fifteen minutes later we pulled up to the large grey apartment complex.

“Here we are,” Allie said.

Side by side we made our way to Apt A-6.

“We should knock and see if they will let us look around…you know for old times sake,” Allie said, going towards the door.

“God, no Allie we can’t!” I said, grabbing her arm.

“Why not, Sar? It’s worth a shot.”

Just then a woman came out of the adjacent apartment.

“Can I help you with something?” she asked, looking at us suspiciously.

“Oh hi, we used to live here about 15 years ago and came back just to see the place,” I said, holding out my hand. “I’m Sarah and this is my friend, Allie.”

Sarah and Allie? I remember you guys! It’s me…Chantelle.”

“Channie?! I didn’t recognize you with the blond hair!” Allie exclaimed, hugging Chantelle.

“Wait, are you and Danielle still together?” I asked.

“God, Sar, can you fucking wait to do your interrogations?” Allie

“Hell no!” Chantelle said, that bitch cheated, and I kicked her ass the curb.

“I always thought she was trouble,” Allie said, looking from me to Chantelle.

“Girl, you have no idea. Well, you guys want to come in? I have vodkaaaaa.”

Just like these old, broken down apartments, some things never change.

I followed Allie and Chantelle in, shutting the door behind me.

An hour later, Allie had way too much to drink as she staggered towards her car.

“No, you are not okay to drive, Allie. Give me the damn keys.”

“You’re right,” she said, throwing them my direction.

“Where to now?” I asked as Allie fumbled with her seatbelt.

“Are you sure you’re up to it?”

“Yeah, the kids are with my mom for the night. “The Husband” is away on business. So, I have nothing but time. So, drive bitch.”

I put the car in drive, hopping on the freeway.

“Oh my God! I love this song! Remember this sooooong?” Allie screeched turning the volume up.

I heard you’re doing okay
But I want you to know
I’m addic- I’m addicted to you
I can’t pretend I don’t care
When you don’t think about me
Do you think I deserve this?
I tried to make you happy
But you left anyway

How could I have forgotten this song? It hit the airwaves when everything was going down with him. Eric.

I’m trying to forget that
I’m addicted to you
But I want it and I need it
I’m addicted to you
Now it’s over, can’t forget what you said
And I never, want to do this again
Heart breaker, heart breaker, heart breaker

The hospital. Broken stuff in the apartment. DeAndre, Johnny, and Allie. It was all a blur.

Since the day I met you
And after all, we’ve been through
I’m still a dick, I’m addicted to you
I think you know that it’s true
I’d run a thousand miles to get you
Do you think I deserve this
I tried to make you happy
I did all that I could
Just to keep you
But you left anyway

He just wouldn’t stop. No matter what I did, it still wasn’t enough. I fucking tried.

I’m trying to forget that
I’m addicted to you
But I want it and I need it
I’m addicted to you
Now it’s over, can’t forget what you said
And I never, want to do this again
Heart breaker, heart breaker

How long will I be waiting?
Until the end of time
I don’t know why I’m still waiting
I can’t make you mine

After all was said and done, I just wanted to forget him. Pretending to forget was easy, seeing him beg, plead, and cry wanting me to take him back after that night, was so very hard.

I’m trying to forget that
I’m addicted to you
But I want it and I need it
I’m addicted to you

I’m trying to forget that
I’m addicted to you
But I want it and I need it
I’m addicted to you
Now it’s over, can’t forget what you said
And I never, want to do this again
Heartbreaker

I’m addicted to you, heartbreaker


“What are we doing here?” Allie asked with a half of a burger hanging out of her mouth.

She insisted we stop at Jack-in-the-Box, where she drunkenly ordered 2 #1’s and a chocolate shake.

“Sar, why are we at a park in the middle of the night?”

“First of all, it’s not the middle of the night. 2nd of all it’s not technically a park. It’s a Japanese Garden.”

“And why are we here?” She asked, slurping her shake.

Ignoring her question and the mayo on her cheek, I opened the door and started walking. It was dark, but the warm breeze was consoling. Crossing over the small walkway that bridged over the koi fish pond, I found myself walking a path, the path straight into my past.

“I’ve got something for you,” he said, pulling a small box from his pocket.

I leaned against the oak tree as he came closer to me.

“I know it’s not much.”

I looked down at my finger.

 This would change everything. I just couldn’t let him find out.

 

“Sarah! Sarah!” Allie was screaming in the distance.

I stood up, bracing myself against the oak tree, trying to find the path.

“I’m over here!” I yelled back, trying to see through the black of the night.

“Sarah, your phone!”

“I don’t have my phone, I left in the car.”

“No, I have your phone. He called Sar.”

“What are you talking about Al? Your drunk. Let’s go back to the c–.”

“Sarah, Stop! He called! He left you a message! Listen!!” she yelled as she threw the phone at my face.

“How do you know he called?”

“Sar, you had the number saved in the phone as D.S. I’m not an idiot. I might be a little tipsy, but I know who D.S. is.”

“Shit. What do I do?”

“Duh, you listen to the fucking message.”

I took the phone from her hand.

You have one missed message.

“Hi Sarah, I got your message. I really want to connect with you before you leave town. Please call as soon as you get this. We have so much to catch up on.”

He sounded the same. How can so much time pass but still person’s voice can make you feel like you are 21 again?

There was only one thing to do.

“Allie, we need to go. I need a drink.”

“I have the perfect place,” Sarah said, jumping into the passenger seat.

This night would be full of more than one surprise.

 

Allie: 2003

Of course, I was running late. Thirty minutes late to be exact. I knew Johnny would give me hell. I also knew I did not give a shit. My cats, my beloved babies, (because God knows I am not going to have the human kind,) Daniel and Johhny, a tribute to one of my all-time favorite movies, “Karate Kid” well, they were not doing too good. Just like the movie, my Daniel and Johnny did not get along. Something happened that involved a roll of toilet paper. Daniel was throwing up, while I swear to effing God Johnny was sitting in the corner laughing. Bastards. So, I was late and I make no apologies.

I decided to sneak in the back door. Hoping that I could play off that I had been at the bar all along.

“Oh, look who decided to join us.”

Well, there goes that plan.

I looked at Johnny who had his hands full of papers.

“It was not my fault!”

“Which one this time?” He said as he motioned for me to grab the coffee pot.

“Both. The toilet paper.” I grabbed the pot and two mugs and followed Johhny.

“Really Al, again with the toilet paper? Grab two more.”

“Is Sarah here?”

“I told you, you should have gotten a dog.”

I followed Johnny out to the bar area. We weren’t open yet, still had plenty of prep work to do.

“Hey Allie, you remember DeAndre, DeAndre, you remember my friend Allie?”

There at the bar sat Allie. DeAndre, who I mistakenly referred to as “Black Guy” a few days ago was standing next to Allie, as Jonny motioned for me to pass out the mugs for the coffee.

“Oh, it’s you. What’s happening here? Clearly, I was left out of the loop.” I said as I gave Johnny a sly glare.

“If you ever check your machine instead of worrying about your cats eating toilet paper, then you would know. He is here for the job.”

“The bouncer opening?”

“Allie, you had such a great idea. You were right, DeAndre would be the perfect addition, and so now here we all are, and I think we can put aside any hard feelings and maybe just see where this goes.”

Leave it to Sarah to put her Marry Poppins spin on it.

“Yeah, Bro, everything looks good, we are pretty laid back here, just fill this out and you can start tonight, does 9 work for you?”

Jesus, even Johnny was on board?

“Are they inside or outside?” DeAndre was addressing me as I was taking a sip of the room temperature coffee.

“Umm, what?” I asked in confusion. Was he talking to me? Is there an inside joke that I do not know about?

“Your cats, inside or outside?”

I set my coffee down, as I looked at Johnny, then at Sarah for some sort of clue to what was happening.

“You see, when you were late Boss Man here explained that you probably have some sort of issues with your cats. Being that I have a one myself, I think I can help you out.”

“DeAndre, I think Allie has the cat situation under control, it’s so nice of you to offer to help, isn’t it Allie?”

“I need a beer.” Exclaimed Johnny, as he knew I was going to lay into him when we were alone.

“Inside of course. Why would anyone let their cats outside, and more importantly what is it to you?”

“Dry food or wet?”

Is this guy serious now? The fact that Johnny and Sarah exchanged nervous glances did not escape me.

“Dry food.”

“Yeah, see, that’s your problem. Inside cats need a mix of wet and dry. Maybe even a little catnip as well. And you know, put the toilet paper roll where they cannot get to it.”

“Ah, what a novel idea. Put the toilet paper out of reach. I wish I thought of that sooner. I live in a piece of shit apartment. There is barely enough room for the damn toilet. No place for the toilet paper and why am I even talking about this?”

I grabbed Johnny’s beer as Sarah started cleaning up.

“Allie, start prepping, Sar and D, you have two hours to kill, be back here by 9.”

“What do you mean a mix of dry and wet?” I mean really, what do I have to lose at this point?

“When you have cats strictly on a dry food diet, they get thirsty. Wet food has water.”

Johnny and Sarah made a quick exit.

“Yeah…..”

“So what probably happened is your cats were thirsty, tried to get something to drink from the toilet and got distracted by the toilet paper. If you leave them a can of wet food, that takes care of their water intake and they would never make it to the bathroom, alibi toilet paper.”

I had to think about this for a moment.

“I mean no offense or anything, I am sure you leave water out for them…” Oh great, there was more.

“But if they are anything like mine, they use the water dish more as a play toy, and never get their daily water intake because they flip the dish over. Wet food fixes that.”

‘Johnny, pour me a double!” Where the hell did Johnny disappear to?

“Yeah, not bad advice from a black guy, huh?”

“Now!”

“Just trying to help. So, if we are done here, I will be back later tonight.”

“Thank you, DeAndre!”

“Sounds good Bro!”

Now they make an appearance?!

DeAndre shook Johnny’s hand as he made his way to the front door. Sarah was grabbing her purse. I can only assume she was going home to change.

“Wait!”

The words escaped my mouth.

DeAndre turned around as a nervous Sarah and Johnny stood there in silence.

“You said you have a cat?”

“I do. A pure white Manx. Her name is Bella. Imagine that, a black guy with a white cat.”

Yep, we are still on this I see.

“Bella? Bella means “beautiful” in Italian.”

DeAndre reached the front door, slowly he turned around, gave me a wink. “I know, that is why I named her Bella.”

Three hours later we were packed. Jeremy was busting out orders left and right, Johnny was working the bar like a pro. DeAndre took his place at the front door, checking ID’s while making sure no one got out of control, and I, well I was doing everything else. Where the hell was Sarah??

“Al, call Sarah again. We need her!”

“No shit John, I tried her three times already. I need my rum and cokes.”

The next thirty minutes was a chaotic mess. We were one girl down. The bar was packed. Very unusual for a Wednesday night.

Roger McGuinn was playing on the sound system. “King of the Hill”

L.A.’s asleep – you roll up your window
The night air is cold – the freeway is clear
In a green Gucci bag – are you prized possessions
The jewels of your mind – to hold back the fear”

As I was delivering a platter of tenders I notice Sarah walks in.

“Okay enjoy, let me know if you need a refill.”

DeAndre had his hand on Sarah’s arm.

And when Monday comes round – there’s a high lonesome sound
And she follows you down for the kill
And a while blinding light – makes it all seem so right
And you feel like the king of the hill”

Sarah and DeAndre were having some sort of exchange.

“Johnny, she’s here.”

“Get her apron, I am slammed.”

The driveway is long – your princess is lovely
Your servants all wait – for your knock on the door
How many years – will you crawl through this castle
So satisfied – and still wanting more”

DeAndre opened the front door while Sarah made eye contact with me. I made my way towards Sarah.

“Where were you?”

“And when Monday comes round – there’s a high lonesome sound
And she follows you down for the kill
And a while blinding light – makes it all seem so right
And you feel like the king of the hill”

“Sorry, Al, I’ll get to work.”

“What the fuck happened to your face?”

I looked at Sarah. I looked at DeAndre who at this point came in and shut the front door. I turned to look at Johnny who was behind the bar giving me a look.

“The guests have arrived – with all the right faces
But you miss the ball – in that room down the hall
It’s sunrise again – the driveway is empty
The crystal is cracked – there’s blood on the wall”

“Oh it’s nothing, I fell, you guys are busy!”

I slammed my try down on an innocent bystander table, making my way to DeAndre.

“What the hell is going on?”

DeAndre was looking past me. He eyes were focussed on Sarah.

“She has a black eye. Claims she ran into a wall.”

“And when Monday comes round – there’s a high lonesome sound
And she follows you down for the kill
And a while blinding light – makes it all seem so right
And you feel like the king of the hill”

“Yeah, ran into a wall my ass. Who dropped her off?”

“Not sure, give me time, I will find out. After all, that’s what you pay me for.”

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Seventeen

Things have been a little bit crazy over here in my Vodka Calling household. Late Thursday night-early Friday morning Sofia wakes up in excruciating pain and a very high fever. Immediately I have flashbacks from last February when Gracie had her first seizure in the early morning hours.

While Joe and I were trying to take care of Sofia, taking her temperature, asking her questions, “What’s wrong?” “Where does it hurt?” “Tell me everything that happened!” It is then that my little Minnie-Me decided to tell us that she hit her head on the playground at school….. and did not tell anyone.

Immediately Joe and I somehow worked together in a moment of weakness. I wake up the boys, Joe get’s Sofia her shoes, I call my sister because that is just what I do. “Vinnie, we have to take Sofia to the ER, something is wrong, watch Gracie!” Everyone fell into their specific job duty and off Joe, Sofia, and I went to St Francis hospital, which is literally three minutes up the road.

Long story short, Sofia has a concussion. I have no idea why she did not feel the need to tell anyone at the school. I mean if you consider the fact that I myself am at the school every-single-day, I am completely lost on why she did not say a word. Not a word to her teacher, not a word to “a safe adult” not a word to anyone, including me. However, knowing Sofia the way I do, I will put money on the fact that she was afraid she would get in trouble.

Almost 36 hours later, Sofia still has some pretty bad pain, so off we go first thing in the morning to the Doctor.

Today was Vinnie’s birthday. Seventeen years old. I have no idea where the time goes.

January 28th, 2001.

I was alone in the hospital when I had him. I had two friends from work who came shortly after I had him, but for the birth, it was just me, my good ole Doctor, the same Doctor who four years later would literally save Gracie’s life, and my labor and delivery nurse.

It’s funny how memories work. I could have sworn my beloved NY GIANTS were in a playoff game against the Vikings the day I had him.  Maybe it was the drugs, but I was way off. Apparently, my beloved NY GIANTS were in the freakin Superbowl against the Ravens.

Superbowl

I remember thinking “How cool would it be to have my baby born on the day the GIANTS win!”

Well, that did not happen. 34-7 Ravens.

Vinnie had a rough start in life due to some pretty bad choices on my part. I missed about four months of his life because his psycho sperm donor kidnapped him. I swear to God if I could dance on the Bastards grave, I would.

Vinnie was a pretty good baby. When he was finally returned to me, he was skin and bones, dehydrated. We fixed that real quick. Before I knew it I had a little chubby toddler with a head full of curly hair walking around getting into whatever mischief he could.

In elementary school, he was always the class clown. I cannot tell you how many times I got calls from his teachers. I was now on a first name basis with the principal.

When middle school came around, he was all about football. Vinnie is one of those people who does not have a favorite team, he just loves the game and the logistics behind it. He came name you any player, their stats and when they were picked up.

Out of all of my five children (One in heaven, most likely counting her blessings that she dodged this bullet), Vinnie is so much like me. Both Vinnie and I have to have the last word and we will fight tooth and nail to have it. The difference is, Vinnie knows how to apologize. He knows when to say “Mom, Dad, I was wrong and I am sorry.” Me, I am still working on that one.

Vinnie has an incredible love for animals. Half of our cats came from Vinnie rescuing them all, and between you and I, I would not have it any other way. Over the years we have lost too many cats, and you know something, Vinnie was there all the way. While Joe and I were a complete mess, it was Vinnie who was down on the floor, wrapping his arms around our cats, wanting to make sure when they left this life, they did not leave it alone.

I love this kid.

I volunteer in a 3rd-grade classroom. In this class, there is one very challenging little boy. He made the comment to me the other day “I love my mom, I would die for her if I had to.” The teacher, not missing a beat, said to this little boy “Have you ever told your mom that?” The little boy looks a bit embarrassed, puts his head down and tells the teacher “No, I have not told her that.” The teacher then tells the little boy “Well, I know your mom would never want you to die for her, but I am sure she would love to hear that.” There was something about that conversation exchange that struck a chord with me. I sat there, listened while making sure I did not cry. Apparently, I am a crier now, these 3rd graders know how to bring out all the feels in me. In a different time, that challenging little boy could have been Vinnie.

We all know I have made a lot of mistakes in this whole parenting thing. Yet, somehow, my kids, all of them, they have each taught me a thing or two over the years.

My hope is seventeen years from now, when Vinnie is thirty-four years old, hopefully working with our at-risk youth kids, he will come across this blog and realize, just like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, he had the power all along.

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