Category Archives: Growing up

“The roof. The roof. The roof is on fire.”

I hear this song and suddenly I’m cruising down the street I grew up on in my electric blue ’93 Chevy Beretta with a carload of my fellow high school cheerleaders, windows down because the air conditioning was broken (or, actually, never really worked), letting the easy breeze that comes from hitting 40 MPH between stop signs relieve us from the soupy mid-July air of Southern Ohio.  We’d spent the weeks since school let out practicing non-stop in preparation for the cheerleading competition at the county fair, and now that the fair was over we were relishing our free time.  However, we soon realized that there wasn’t much for a bunch of 16-year-olds to do with so much free time and so little cash; at 78¢/gallon, a tank of gas split four-ways would give us hours of fun doing what all the other teens did on hot summer afternoons:  cruising.

Those afternoons cruising in a wide, distorted loop around the eight or ten blocks of town, represented some of the only typical teenage behavior I can remember.  Aside from the fact that we were all cheerleaders, I didn’t have much in common with my cruising pals.  I’d never really dated–in fact, never been kissed–while they were completely boy-crazy, hopping from one “relationship” to another.  At parties I preferred to get a nice sugar buzz from too much Pepsi so that I could remember all the sloppy, embarrassing antics my more inebriated friends might pull, though always playing the good sober baby sitter who stops them from doing anything truly regrettable.  I attended a fairly strict church, helped with Sunday School, and participated in the church’s bible quiz team on Sunday mornings while my friends slept in and slept off their Saturday night indiscretions.  They were still my friends–great friends–and we got on with only a tiny bit of teasing for my Sandra Dee persona.

That summer we couldn’t get enough of The Bloodhound Gang–probably because none of us had CD players in our cars, so we were at the mercy of the repetitive playlist of the one radio station we could get in that wasn’t exclusively country music or gospel.  The music of that summer always conjures up warm, happy memories, but this past winter on an unforgivably cold February morning, the droning repetition of The roof. The roof. The roof is on fire. had a cold, numbing effect as one of my old cheerleading friends and I sat in my living room watching her house across the street burn.

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Filed under Change, Friends, Growing up, Loss, Who am I?

Confession: I’ve never had a New Year’s Kiss

10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…Happy New Year!

I’m one of those saps at the party who actually yells “Happy New Year!” as the clock strikes midnight, while everyone else’s lips are otherwise occupied in a New Year’s kiss with the one they love.  Or I’m not at a party at all, opting to clear the collision course for the braver drivers on New Year’s Eve by staying home and watching old movies, baking cookie, cleaning house, or crocheting.  Or blogging.  Ok, when I say it out loud like that it sounds a little sad.  But really, I’m not sure what the fuss is all about. Continue reading

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Filed under Confessions, Dating, Growing up, Men, Who am I?

A thousand points of light

Who is your personal hero?
Write a personal essay about
your hero's accomplishments and
what makes that person a hero.

How many times did I write essays about my personal hero as I moved from big, clumsy letters scratched from an oversized pencil to smooth careful curves flowing from a ballpoint pen to awkwardly fumbling fingers on a computer keyboard?  When I was a child my heroes were important adults in my life; they were people who had accomplished great feats, faced great fears, and overcome great obstacles.  These were people whom I aspired to be like.  Some might have called them role models, but to me they were much more.  They were heroes.  They are heroes, still–those still with me, those far away, and those gone but not forgotten.

My heroes were not generic, faceless do-gooders, nor were they impersonal figures in a book or on a television screen.  They were real, tangible humans who made up my day-to-day experience.  They had faces, names, quirks, flaws, shortcomings, blood, tears, voices, laughter.  However familiar and close to me, they were at the same time years and years away because they were adults and I was a child.  Their actions and their hero status were out of my reach, if only by a few years (or a few inches).

Now I am an adult, and, as such, a member of that vast pool of potential heroes.  I’m casually aware of this when interacting with children and young adults, but became acutely aware of it yesterday listening to the President speak at the memorial for the soldiers tragically taken in the Fort Hood shooting last week.

“We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.”
–President Barack Obama
November 10, 2009

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Filed under Family, Friends, Growing up

“And just when you think it can’t suck any worse…”

“…it does.”

I hate whining, at least outward whining.  I have very little patience for whining from others–I like to think I provide a unique blend of tough love and optimism to snap my friends and acquaintances out of a pity party before it can grate at my last nerve.  When I’m on my own, however, I frequently catch myself indulging in an extra heavy pour of whine.  I like to think I’m just as tough on myself when I realize what I’m doing, but my response is usually 90% tough love, 10% optimism, and the optimism is often half-hearted.  Luckily, this whining is typically inward whining–pity echoing inside my head and maybe finding outward manifestation in comfy sweats and unwashed hair pulled into a messy ponytail.  Lately I fear my whining has been spilling outward to my web presence–particularly over on Twitter–so to those of you who keep up with me online…I apologize!

If this past week has taught me anything, it’s that whining really *is* a waste of time, because things could always be worse.  I used to cheer myself up when I was feeling for the bottom of the barrel with the old addage, “Things can only get better from here.”  After an unbearably stressful end to the summer which culminated in my decision to take a leave of absence from my graduate program and move cross-country, purging myself of most of my possessions in less than a month in preparation for this move, the self-pity had begun to come over me in daily waves, predictable as the tides.  I was just starting to snap myself out of it in order to get done all the things one has to do when one decides to uproot and move three thousand miles in less than a week, using that “things can only get better” line when…

Shit. Happened.

You know how you’ll be driving down the road and see some huge [box, tire tread, hunk of metal…etc.] in the middle of the lane and think, “Wow, glad I saw that and was able to swerve to avoid hitting it.”  Continue reading


Filed under Change, Growing up, Loss

“Everything falls apart …”

“… then I get to try to put it back together.”

Last Thursday I filed a request for a one-year leave of absence from my graduate program.  There was no one big factor that led to this, but there were a million little ones, the pieces of which will likely emerge as I continue blogging, offering up little pieces of how I got to where I am.  But where I am, for the next several months, is someplace old and yet suddenly new and unfamiliar.

For a whole host of reasons, it makes sense for me to leave the Bay Area during my leave and return to my roots in Southern Ohio.  This will involve whittling my life down to what will fit in my little sports sedan as I drive off into the sunset–or the sunrise, I suppose, since I’m heading East.  It’s at once incredibly sad and indescribably exhilarating–not to mention completely overwhelming–to think about this feat before me. Continue reading


Filed under Change, Growing up, Travel, Who am I?