Friday, January 17, 2003

I’m not one of those fanatic religious people, but I do pray every day. I also pray with my daughter at night before she goes to bed, asking God to bless our family, to help us be good people, to keep us safe, and to take special care of friends and family who are sick.

I also believe in guardian angels. And while many believe that it takes faith to believe in guardian angels, I know their existence is true because I’ve met mine.

When I was 16, I was in that high-drama time of life when every bad thing that happens is life-shattering, and every decision that’s made will affect the future. I thought my life was so bad, that my family didn’t care, that my entire existence relied on the approval of my best friend.

That summer, we were vacationing with my best friend’s family at a lake in Germany. I am a military brat, so my family was stationed in Germany as well, and this was a trip about three hours from home.

My friend and I had been best friends for three years, and had never had a fight. So you can see that it was about time for some of the issues to come to a boil. On the second night there, we were sitting in the hotel lobby, chatting and doing our nails – choosing to sit in the lobby so we wouldn’t wake her parents. As we talked, we started talking about things that had bothered us during the past few days and things started escalating. Pretty soon, we were shouting at each other about things totally unrelated to the trip. She got really upset and ran from the lobby back to her parents’ room.

I was left alone in the lobby, wondering what to do. I couldn’t very well go back to her parents’ room while she was mad at me. I felt like an outsider with no place to go. In my distraught state, I thought that if I just walked into the lake and ended it all, that everything would be better. That no one would miss me if I was gone.

So I walked out of the hotel and stopped at the edge of the road that separated the hotel from the lake. It was about midnight, and I was barefoot, my toenails still drying from the nail polish.

As I waited for the few cars to pass on the road (ironic isn’t it that I didn’t want to get hit by a car before I killed myself in the lake?), this man rode up on a bicycle.

There were a couple of strange details about this man that I must describe. First, he was riding his bike in the middle of the night on a dark road. Second, he looked like he had stepped out of a Charles Dickens’ novel – with a long trench coat, worn from wear, a newspaper-boy style hat and boots. But the strangest detail of all is that he spoke perfect English. Remember I said that we were vacationing in Germany. Most people would assume you were German until you said, “Sprecken sie English?”

But this man didn’t try to speak German. He spoke in English and said, “What are you going out here so late at night?” I just kept my head down and mumbled something to the effect of “Nothing.” Then he asked, “Where are your shoes?” I pointed back to the hotel. Then he said, “Well, you might want to go back, because someone might miss you if you were gone.” And he rode away.

What he said astounded me. As I said before, I had just been thinking that if I was gone, no one would miss me. And he said the very words to state the opposite. Rather shaken up by the experience, I went back to the hotel and found my friend waiting on the steps, crying. “I was so afraid that something had happened to you! I’m glad you’re all right,” she exclaimed.

We never talked about the man that I’d seen and just went to bed. But as I’ve recounted this story several times as an adult, I have to believe that he was my guardian angel, sent to protect me.

Hopefully I’ll never have a time in my life where I’ll have to see him again, but it’s always good to know he’s there.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

100 Things About Me

1. I have brown hair and green eyes.
2. I have a daughter who was born in May of 2002 and a son who was born in November of 2004.
3. They are everything to me.
4. I am still carrying excess weight from my pregnancy.
5. I am a writer.
6. I was married in September of 2000.
7. I was born in Beaufort, SC in April of 1969.
8. I was a military brat.
9. I’ve gone to 11 schools (3 of them colleges).
10. I have lived in 9 states and two countries.
11. I have been to 28 states and 8 countries.
12. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
13. I graduated when I was 26; I worked my way through most of my schooling.
14. I got a scholarship to Vanderbilt; I only attended for one year.
15. I was the associate editor of the college paper.
16. I made Dean’s List my last few years of school.
17. I changed my major three times – from psychology, to nursing to mass communications.
18. I was extremely shy as a child; I broke out of my shell in 9th grade.
19. I am left-handed.
20. I used to have flat feet and had to wear special shoes.
21. I can sew.
22. I can make people laugh.
23. I have one sister; she is 14 months younger than me.
24. My parents have been married for almost 37 years.
25. I was married before, and divorced before our 2-year anniversary.
26. I like to sing karaoke.
27. I tried out to be a cheerleader in high school, but didn’t make it because I can’t do a cartwheel.
28. I played on the volleyball, basketball and track teams in junior high, but I’m not very good in sports.
29. I have 2 nieces and and 2 nephews.
30. My sister-in-law is one of my best friends.
31. My sister-in-law has the same birthday as me (April 3) but we are three years apart; I’m older.
32. My cooking specialties are lasagna, enchiladas, tortilla soup and meatloaf.
33. I have very strong fingernails.
34. I used to drive a VW Jetta. Now I drive a Honda Pilot.
35. I prefer stick shifts.
36. I got my driver’s license when I was 18. It was a NY license.
37. My first car was a ’76 pinto with a sunroof.
38. I am addicted to reality shows.
39. I used to smoke cigarettes a lot; I slowed down when I got married and quit when I got pregnant.
40. Beer is my favorite alcoholic beverage.
41. I used to drink way too much.
42. A psychic told me I would have three kids.
43. I taught myself to play piano and to read piano sheet music.
44. I used to play the French horn and violin in elementary school.
45. I took guitar lessons in elementary school, but only remember 3 chords.
46. I took French for 3 years, but only remember select words.
47. I am afraid of waves in the ocean.
48. I don’t like to swim in cold water.
49. I am very strong, especially in my legs.
50. I have only broken one bone in my life and it was one of my vertebrae in my back.
51. I sprained my ankles three times when I was a child.
52. I have gotten stitches three times, once across the palm of my left hand, once underneath my lip and twice for my C-sections.
53. I was the 5th grade spelling champion.
54. I helped write and produce a play for our 6th grade class, including costumes, background sets, and script.
55. I’m afraid of squirrels and dolls.
56. I love to read; Stephen King is my favorite author.
57. I belong to a book club.
58. I can’t wait for the next Harry Potter book.
59. I am pretty mechanically inclined; more so than my husband.
60. I lost my virginity when I was 17.
61. The five celebrities that I would be allowed to be with if I had the chance are: Edward Norton, Johnny Depp, Gavin Rossdale, Rob Thomas, and Benjamin Bratt.
62. The top women celebrities whose looks (face, bodies, style) I admire are: Sheryl Crow, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Sandra Bullock.
63. I used to be known as the kissing bandit.
64. I am double-jointed.
65. I like to dance.
66. I hold too much tension in my shoulders.
67. I am not high-drama.
68. I love fast food; French fries are my favorite.
69. I recently discovered a love for chocolate.
70. I would rather have salty foods than sweet foods.
71. I hate to be late.
72. I worry that people are mad at me or that they don’t like me.
73. I don’t like to sit in the front of the room; I’d rather be in the back.
74. People with lots of money intimidate me.
75. We didn’t have a lot of money when I grew up.
76. I’ve never worn braces.
77. I had my wisdom teeth pulled when I was 25.
78. I think my eyes are my best feature.
79. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 7.
80. My favorite colors are purple and gray.
81. I wear something black or brown every day.
82. I am pretty organized.
83. I have had some bad jobs, including selling meat over the phone, selling pens made by the handicapped over the phone, and selling encyclopedias door to door.
84. I was fired from a job at a video store for stealing money; I didn’t do it.
85. I don’t have any tattoos.
86. My hair gets frizzy when it’s humid.
87. I look better when I’m tan.
88. I like to touch things – soft fabrics, animals (including dogs, cats, snakes and iguanas), and anything textured.
89. I don’t wear dainty shoes; my feet are too wide.
90. I have fat knees; it’s genetic.
91. I have big hands for a girl, especially considering how short I am.
92. I love classical music.
93. I would like to learn to play the cello.
94. I look just like my dad; I have his mother’s hands.
95. I cry easily.
96. I think a lot about high school and college friends that I’ve lost touch with.
97. I wish I could paint or draw.
98. I would like to write a children’s book.
99. I constantly write lists – grocery lists, to do lists, questions for the pediatrician lists, things I’d like for the house, etc.
100. This list was the hardest. But I definitely learned a lot about myself.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Yesterday I talked about fear. Today I’ll talk about the feeling of worthlessness knowing that nobody wants you. I know I’m being dramatic, because I have the two most important people in the world who want me – my daughter and my husband. And yes, my family wants me, but aren’t they supposed to? And yes, I do have friends. So why am I feeling sorry for myself?

I don’t have a job.

Right now, I have this temporary contract job that basically consists of duties that I did 4 years ago in my former job. Not that I’m above all this, because I do need the money. It’s just that I haven’t been challenged mentally in about 3 months.

It all started when I lost my job as a director of corporate communications. I liked the job. I managed people in marketing (which had both good and bad points), I wrote and edited communications materials, I managed the public relations efforts … I basically felt like I made a small difference in the company.

But I got let go 3 months ago. Management said they wanted to move the job back to the corporate office (I have moved from the corporate office 3 years prior to be with my now husband, then fiancé. During that time, I had several different bosses, and the latest one decided he wanted all marketing functions at corporate).

I understood the rationale, but it still made me feel like everything I had done during the six years with the company were for nothing. But I also felt a little excited about the prospect of finding a new job, maybe in a different field (one that required a little more writing and less management), that would be new and exciting and challenging.

I must admit that I felt a little confident that I’d find a job easily. I thought with all of my skills and experience, not to mention my sparkling personality, that I’d land a job like that. When I was offered this temporary assignment (which ironically is with a division of the very same company that let me go), I even said, “What if I find a job during this time, what then?”

Well, it’s almost time for this project to be done, and guess what? No job. I’ve been actively looking everyday and submitting resumes for interesting jobs – copywriting, editing, corporate communications, public relations – and nothing. I had one call back for a public relations job, but was never called in for an interview. I still wonder why. I thought about calling the HR person back, but I didn’t want to seem pathetic.

It’s definitely a blow to the ego to think that my experience and accomplishments can be so easily overlooked that I’m not even considered for the very same types of position that I recently left. I even had one recruiting company, when I asked about the status of a job opening say, “My best judgment would be that they are not looking to proceed with you, since the job is still active.” Oohh!

Anyway, those around me tell me to be patient, that I’ll find something soon, but I have definitely learned a lesson in humility. I know everything happens for a reason, that maybe these jobs so far just aren’t for me, that I’ll find the job that really makes me happy.

I hope so.

Monday, January 13, 2003

I’m afraid of squirrels.

I know to most people, squirrels are cute, furry, harmless creatures that feast on nuts and jump from tree to tree. I know better. I know that they’re evil, and sit on the right-hand side of the devil.

I guess I should explain why I have this fear – hatred, animosity – toward squirrels. I wasn’t always this way. When I was a child, I thought they were pretty cute little animals, and had no problem watching the Chip and Dale cartoons. Oh, wait, those were chipmunks … anyway, I digress.

My fear of squirrels began when I was about 19 years old. I was going to see my cousin, who had been away in the Navy and was visiting his parents. He and I were pretty close, riding skateboards and building forts when we were younger, talking about relationships and current events as we got older. I hadn’t seen him in about a year, and was looking forward to hanging out.

My aunt and uncle live in a small place outside of town, surrounded by trees and lots of countryside. It comes as no surprise that small woodland creatures find their way to the house. My aunt has nursed a blue jay back to health and has a variety of animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens and even an occasional pig. But I wasn’t prepared for her newest additional.

“Do you want to see my mom’s new pet?” my cousin as asked when I got the house. “It’s a squirrel. Let me show you in the back.” He walked back to his sister’s old room and opened the door. “See there by the window?”

I looked, and sure enough, a squirrel was sitting on the window sill. My cousin had left his hand on the doorknob when he stepped back to let me peek in. All of a sudden, the squirrel bolted from the window, jumped across the room and bit my cousin on the hand.

“It bit me!!!” he screamed, rubbing the blood off his hand. “I’m out of here!” I followed him to the kitchen where he washed the blood off his hands. I realized that we’d left the door to the bedroom open and since my cousin had already been injured, I figured I should be the one to go back and close it.

I walked quietly down the hall and when I got the room I didn’t see the squirrel anyway. Feeling eyes boring into my head, I looked up slowly and saw the squirrel perched on top of the door, its devil eyes locked into mine. I screamed and ran back to the kitchen.

My cousin and I decided the best solution was to hang out somewhere away from the house, and went to go take a shower. “Wait, you can’t leave me alone with the squirrel loose in the house,” I said.

“How about if I put some food for it out in the kitchen and that way, he’ll stay in there,” my cousin said, rather unconvincingly. I agreed, but I told him to hurry with his shower. I headed to the living room to watch TV. Thinking back, I’m not sure what food he put out, but I guess it was something squirrels like.

A few minutes later, I heard the crunching sounds of the squirrel eating its food. I felt a little reassured knowing where it was. But then the crunching stopped. I used every ounce of hearing I could muster to try to figure out where it was. I didn’t have to wonder long. I saw out of the corner of my eye, some movement near the doorway between the dining room and living room. I looked, and sure enough, the squirrel was making its way into the living room.

I sat very still, thinking that the squirrel might think I was part of the furniture and leave. From the corner of my eye, I could see it jump onto the couch, which was across from the chair where I was sitting. The only thing separating us was a narrow coffee table. I saw it step onto the far end of the coffee table, and then made the grave mistake of making eye contact. Staring into the blackness, I knew I had to get up and leave.

As I stood up from the chair, the squirrel LEAPED from the coffee table onto my back! I screamed and threw off the cardigan I was wearing (someone was definitely looking out for me when I made my wardrobe decisions that morning), and ran out of the house.

My cousin came running, hair dripping, but, thankfully, fully clothed. ‘What’s going on?!” From the front doorway, I pointed at the moving mound on the floor. “It attacked me!” I yelled. He scooped the squirrel, sweater and all, and took it back to the bedroom, closed the door and brought back my sweater, holding it between thumb and forefinger. “Let’s get out of here.”

We had a great time that afternoon, and we even laughed about the whole thing a few hours later. When we got back to his house, we saw my aunt in the kitchen, the squirrel sitting primly on her shoulder. “Did you see my new pet?” she asked. “Yeah,” I said, not bearing to look at the squirrel. And I told her the story about what happened that day. She said the squirrel was probably just trying to sit on my shoulder. Maybe that's true, but I looked into its eyes and saw evil.

Since then, I’ve never looked at a squirrel the same way. I give them wide berth when I see them. And I know deep down, they’re the signs that the devil exists!