#tbt: Tales of a Third-Grade Laura

Only the coolest 8-year-olds had Walkmans. And spoiled toddlers, apparently.

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I don’t know how I thought I was going to pay for one for her on her sixth birthday (two months away at this point). That was obviously a lie to make me look good in front of Mrs. Kleinhans.

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So fresh and so clean…ish

So cleaning month is going pretty well. So well, in fact, that it will have to continue into the next month because I still haven’t tackled that guest bedroom closet yet.

But for good reason – I had company here for Derby and also May is always the most insane month of all months (everyone schedules everything for the same days and times and not a weekend is free in May. Ever.)

Anyways, this is not about what I haven’t cleaned, but what I HAVE.

You already saw the closet and clothes overhaul-type thing.

I also had two nightstands I had to clean out…one of which I haven’t even looked in since I moved in (A year ago, today, in fact, woot!).

It proved to be a treasure trove of sorts. I found lots of pictures, perfect for #tbt possibilities, and essentials like my garter from prom 13 years ago, entirely too many unused legal pads (#writerprobs), a small London phone booth decoration, TiVo remote for a system I no longer have, and hospital information for post-appendectomy life.

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Post-appendectomy life is very gassy. Other than that, relatively normal. It’s time to part with the paperwork.

That was a couple weeks ago. And I cleaned out a box’s worth of crap. Most of the stuff in those pictures was tossed, including that folder, from a Feature Writing class in college where I had a professor who once made me decorate her Christmas tree and claimed she could feel earthquakes before they happened. In Kentucky.

Anyway.

Speaking of crazy. Did I mention the month of May is?

So just because I haven’t been home doesn’t mean I haven’t been cleaning.

I’m on a delete spree, guys.

I have entirely too many emails I don’t need in my email inbox taking up space. I have people’s phone numbers I talked two twice and/or not for years now. I have texts from two years ago, thanks iPhone. I have annoying Twitter accounts I follow.

CLEANED THAT SHIT UP.

Still a bit in the process with that one, in fact. Like today, when, in honor of one year of home ownership, my AC stopped working and I didn’t feel like moving cause I was a puddle of sweat, I deleted doubles of photos on my phone, apps I haven’t used since downloading, files I don’t need off my computer (which is still saying it’s about out of storage space).

See, you can still be productive when you’re having a “lazy” weekend! There is hope!

Not to mention I feel guilty on days I don’t do anything at all, even if they are really few and far between.

But this cleaning (and realizing today that I’ve been in here a year) has led me to my next month of this project, that I’ll start soon…and I’ll give you a hint about what that is. It involves my condo.

I’m sure this has been suuuuper exciting for y’all to read about, but I promise, it’s made me happy and my house more comfortable and better looking. So there’s that.

Any of you done any major cleaning sprees lately? Spring cleaning and whatnot? Find anything good?

Dear Lucy

Dear Lucy,

I miss my roommate. I’m not talking the ones who lived upstairs and yelled at me sometimes for feeding you too many marshmallows.

I miss the roommate that slept at the foot of my bed for over a year and when you weren’t perched there, you were in the doorway of my bedroom, partially because I think you were a little claustrophobic and partially so you could protect me.

When I moved back in with Mom and Dad last January to save up some money for a place of my own, I anticipated it only being a couple months. I anticipated it feeling like an extended visit, but soon enough I wasn’t a “visitor,” I was back home.

I don’t remember when exactly it started, but it was pretty immediate, I think. You were glad to have me there, glad to have me back. You started waiting at the top of the basement stairs every night as I went down to my makeshift apartment, not moving until I said it was OK for you to come down.

I’m wondering if it’s because we didn’t get that time together when you were little. When you were a puppy, and really, until last January, I was the sister that visited a lot, but I always had to leave. Only now I wasn’t leaving, I was there all the time. I think you were making sure we had time together and our own memories together because you know it wouldn’t be forever.

I knew it wouldn’t be forever either, of course, I planned to move out at some point, on my own again, but you know what I mean. I thought we had more time than we did.

Before I lived with you again, I already knew you were a good dog – an old girl who still believed with all her heart that she was a puppy. Even if you got a little wobbly on the stairs those last few months and your breathing sounded a little different, you still crammed all your toys in your mouth to carry them from one place to the other. You still could take out a rawhide bone in 2 hours or less and threw your rope toy around whether someone was holding the other end or not.

You are the only dog I have ever let eat food that was sticking out of my mouth – when I’d stick one of those huge marshmallows in my mouth, stoop to your eye level and you’d slowly and gently grab the other end and take it. That was our best trick, you and me.

When it became apparent sleeping upstairs for you was going to just be for naps only, I made you a little bed, remember? That old blanket folded up all nice for you at the foot of the bed? You laid on it to humor me until I fell asleep, I think, but I saw you later, laying on my shoe or the balled up T-shirt or sweatshirt I’d left on the floor.

Sometimes you snored, but I couldn’t get mad, because I did too. I knew it meant you were comfortable and sleeping well, having great dreams about chasing squirrels and getting ice cream from Dairy Queen – two of your favorite things ever.

Sometimes you’d be upstairs when I woke up – you’d gone up to visit Mom and Dad before they went to work. If you came back downstairs, or were just too tired to go up at all, you waited for me. It was a silent communication between you and I. You’d rest until I was done with my shower and dressed and ready. And when I headed for the stairs with my bag, there you were, ready to follow me up.

Remember that time I tried to make you run with me? Sorry about that. You weren’t havin’ it, I know. I tried to make you keep going but you pulled us toward home and I had to relent. You were a 63-year-old with about 30 pounds of hair, it was a little crazy for me to ask you to run in Kentucky in the summer. I agree.

I loved that I could take you on a walk without a leash. That even if you got too far ahead you’d stop and look back and wait for me to catch up. Payback for the running, maybe?

Remember when you spent a couple nights at my apartment during the ice storm? You were probably the happiest one there, since there were four adults and you crammed into a one-bedroom apartment. And you behaved so well! (Dad will disagree because of that whole taking your time outside when it was freezing thing).

You’d love my new place. I’d have had you come visit or stay with me when Mom and Dad were out. There’s still plenty of room at the end of my bed, and a nice sunny spot by the doors to the deck, because I don’t have curtains yet.

I’m glad we got that year, you and I. I miss your company, and even your dog breath in my face sometimes when I would sleep close to the edge and you’d come over and sit, usually trying to get me to pet you.

I still look at your spot in the living room when I go back to Mom and Dads, hoping none of it was real and your bed is still there in front of the fireplace.

The day we said goodbye to you hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I thought I might run out of tears. I just went numb for a while.

I take comfort in the fact that you are keeping Grandma company – I don’t think God would separate Dog Heaven from People Heaven, because that’s cruel.

She loved you, you know? Remember how she opened your stocking at Christmas for you every year?

I think about you all the time, little one, and miss you terribly.

Thank you for the year we had. I wouldn’t change a thing.

And I hope hope hope hope hope that you’re getting so many marshmallows where you are now.

I love you.

Laura

Saying goodbye, a little late

In March, some very bad things happened. My grandma, who suffered from Alzheimer’s for years, took a quick turn for the worst and, after missing my grandfather for the past two and a half years, she was finally able to go and find him.

The very hour we came home from her funeral, we got word of another impending loss – our dog Lucy, who was 10 years old and had seemed fine until the week Grandma died – was sick and wasn’t going to get any better. So, tears not yet dry on our cheeks from Grandma’s service, we went to the vet to say goodbye to our sweet Lucy girl.

I’ve written posts about both of them in my head countless times, but couldn’t bring myself to put them down on paper or on the screen for the longest time. But now I have.

I plan to share some words about them both on this blog soon, because the one thing that makes me feel better about being without loved ones is to remember them, to write about them, to think of a time when things were better and be happy and smile and not just think about how they’re gone from my every day life. Because for as long as I have the memories, they’re not.

Pets are like family, and anyone who says different is lying. That day and so many days following it, when we said goodbye to my grandmother and also to the pet we’d had for so many years, were a fog.

I don’t know that we’re even – I’m even – completely out of it yet. There have been too many reminders.

I think I’ve been afraid to write about any of it – afraid I won’t do justice. Afraid it will hurt too much to bring everything back up. But at the same time I need it. I need the release of letting my feelings out through my fingertips.

And soon I will share them with you. Soon.

For memories

A few weeks ago — in the midst of an ongoing group text between the group of bridesmaids and bride from my bff’s recent nuptials that makes me smile and giggle at least 4 times a day — one of my bfs, Sammi, mentioned she’d stumbled upon a gold mine.

What was that gold mine? Oh, you know, just our youth in song form. She’d found the NSYNC Pandora station, which, if you haven’t listened to, I highly recommend.

I knew we’d hear the obvious boy bands — tune in later this week to read the first installment of what I’ll call “Really? Boy Band Music deconstructed” because these lyrics are downright ridic.

What I didn’t expect was to hear some new stuff sprinkled in, plus some Glee, plus some MJ and every once in a while, some Grease soundtrack for good measure.

One song that’s played at least three times each day I have the station on is Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody.”

Here’s the video, to refresh – or introduce – some of you:

Backstreet Boys were my first concert, but not my first love.. I had those NKOTB trading cards and was a big fan of them as a little lady. But Nick Carter…yeah, I loved that boy.

I remember the first time I saw the music video I shared above. I’m 99.9-percent sure it’s the first music video I ever saw, at least the first one in its entirety.

I was in my late middle school years and remember that I watched the video with my little sisters, and parents, on VH1 in our condo at Myrtle Beach. I think we saw that video a few times that week, and though I hadn’t seen it in years, before I heard it again the other day, I could have told you what happens chronologically for pretty much the whole video.

It’s a random memory, but it seems so fresh – a testament to how ridiculously fast time goes because it doesn’t seem all that long ago even though it was 14 years or more.

I think about things like that a lot – memories of simpler times, when work and bills and other responsibilities weren’t already hovering over me.

And when my friends and I get together – those friends that have been dubbed CKR – it’s hard for new people to get a word in edgewise, because we’re catching up but also reliving and remembering all that history we have.

I do all I can to hold onto those random memories – whether it be that silly little BSB video I watched at the beach or that first CKR when Rebecca drank TAB Energy for some reason and someone called us high-schoolers – because they’re comforting, they make me happy, they make me feel like everything’s OK and it’s going to be OK.

What’s my point?

What if it’s not always like that? Not everyone can hold onto their memories.

We’re a little more than a month out from the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and I feel guilty for slacking so much this year in my fund-raising and awareness efforts after how awesome we did last year.

It’s an important cause for me. A percentage of my paycheck goes to the Alzheimer’s Association each month, but I don’t think that’s enough. I want to do more. Because for me, it’s personal.

Tomorrow, July 31, she turns 90.

NINETY. She doesn’t think she looks 90, and neither do I. And with her feisty attitude and sense of humor that’s still alive inside her, she doesn’t act it, either.

My grandma’s had Alzheimer’s disease for several years now. And it’s hard to know which memories she still has and which are lost forever. It’s hard to think about the fact that she doesn’t remember her 89th birthday, her last one with my grandpa, when my aunt and uncle came to visit, we got her a chocolate cake and after standing to show us one of her presents, she fell back in her chair, not from any problems with her health, but because she was laughing so hard. It was a good day.

And while tomorrow’s her actual birthday – the same day as Harry Potter, which she couldn’t care less about but I think is cool – we’re celebrating her with (almost) the entire family later this month when everyone’s here for the wedding.

It’s going to be great, and she’ll be happy because so many people she loves will be there and, well, there will be cake and the little lady has a sweet tooth.

And she might not remember it all happened the next day, but for that day itself, in the midst of all of it, she’ll have fun, and she’ll be happy. And I’m grateful that we can give her that.

Alzheimer’s is an unfair disease. All diseases are, but like I said, this one’s personal. This one takes your memories – a big part of you.

I want her to remember. I want her to be happy. I want time to stop, just for a little while at least.

She’s not the only person in the world with this disease, by far. So many others have loved ones they’ve lost to it, or loved ones that are struggling with it. So many others have seen this disease take memories, and it’s not picky about the ones it takes.

My team and I, we’re walking for her, but we’re walking for them, too. For the people we don’t know, who we’ll never know and who will never know us. But we want the same things for them as we want for my grandma – for there to be a cure for this disease, for there to be a way to prevent it, for there to be a way to make it not so bad and unfair and gut-wrenching like it sometimes can be.

We’re walking for memories.

Please consider donating: For memories.

And if money’s not your thing or you can’t help in that way, then come take a walk with us, Saturday Sept. 8. We’ll be down by the Waterfront. In purple shirts. We’ll be hard to miss.

Most important stuff

The closest I’ve ever had to a house fire, thankfully, was that time The Roommate burnt popcorn so badly the living room smelled like it for almost a week. And hopefully it’s something I never have to deal with. But one of the questions that provides an answer that tells you a lot about a person is “What would you grab if your house was on fire?”

There’s been a blog – and soon, a book – made out of that question, and it simultaneously serves to feed our nosiness and maybe make people think about what’s the most important stuff they have in their possession.

It’s called “The Burning House” and people send in submissions – photos – of neatly arranged items that they’d grab if they had to make a quick exit from their home, something that hopefully they’d never really have to experience.

There are a lot of electronics, photos and pets, of course. And while I’m not sure yet if I’ll submit it to the site, here’s my pile.

I gave myself only about a minute to think about it. In case you can’t see everything- it includes the following:
• Sixteen Candles DVD
• Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison record from my grandpa
• Laptop
• Camera
• Peanut, my stuffed elephant that I’ve had forever and has been with me on just about every trip I’ve ever been on…
• Pictures of me and my grandpa when I was little, he’s playing his harmonica in all of them
• Boston and Louisville hats
• The Wire Complete Series
• My four favorite books: “Water for Elephants,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and “The Help.”
• Little decorated box Alistair made me in England with British pounds in it
• Door sign thing that says “Shhh Laura is sleeping” that’s been on the door in my room (except for my rooms in college) since before I can remember.

What’s in your pile?

The first birthday

As you know, on this blog in 2012, we’ve started honoring some of my family members (when I’m a professional blogger I’ll branch out to friends as well) on their birthdays with a photo and a list I make about them. In March, there are two birthdays that are tough. They are the birthdays of my grandfathers, both of whom have passed away – one in 2008 and one just this past September. I miss them both, all the time.

This is the first birthday of my grandpa deWitt’s since he passed away. He would have been 95. It’s hard for so many reasons (just as it is on my other grandpa’s birthday and other holidays and events when we are especially reminded our loved ones are gone). One thing I always told my grandpa d. was that we’d have a 100th birthday party for him. We’d already started thinking about the cake.

There have been so many things I’ve wanted to tell him since he’s been gone, things to share with him, and when I think of how I’m not able to do that now, it kills me.

So for his birthday, I made a little list about him. Happy birthday, Grandpa

Grandpa d.

– He’d definitely want to see (and probably use) my new camera. The man had like, every camera ever made and he was always taking pictures.

– I miss his voice, but luckily early last year saved it in a book I’m keeping for my family and my kids one day. It’s of him and my grandma, reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” in one of those recordable books from Hallmark. We listened to it this Christmas and it made me happy to hear him again.

– I miss making him laugh.

– It’s March Madness, and this is the first year we won’t have his bracket filled out, taped up next to the rest of ours at Mom and Dad’s. He’s always been good at picking his teams.

– I miss hearing him tease grandma.

– I miss hearing stories of his life that were sometimes even news to my mom.

– He’d be so proud of Chuckie and so excited for him for getting into M.I.T.

– I like being told I look like him sometimes. It’s usually when I’m squinting? but I like that I can have that.

The fif one

So at this point you’ve heard about almost everything. Except day fieeeeeeve and the trip home. Aren’t you excited?

After cramming a ridiculous amount of sightseeing, culture, shopping, walking, tubing and food into the first four days, on the day before we left, we took it easy. Kind of.

We dropped Alistair off at his day camp and headed for the O2, which, if you’ve never heard of it, is a ginormous arena with a bunch of restaurants and everything in the world inside of it. Almost.

It’s where we went to see the Titanic exhibit, which I was pretty excited about because I’d wanted to see it when it stopped in Louisville, but missed out. Plus, ya know, I did see the movie four times.

Why? One word: Leo.

The exhibit – a traveling one – tells stories of several of the passengers as well as puts on display everything they’ve brought up from the wreckage at the bottom of the ocean. It’s amazing how much some of that stuff is still intact. There was a shelf of plates where the shelf had disintegrated but the plates were still there, perfectly lined up where they landed.

When you start to go through the exhibit you’re given a boarding pass. It has the name of a passenger on it and some information about them and at the end you find out if you lived or not. Lovely.

I was a first-class lady (naturally) who was coming home from visiting family in Paris. And apparently, I had been warned by a fortune teller not long before I got on the boat to “stay away from water.” WOOPS.

Ashley was a second-class lady who was a model and a mistress. Scandalous!

The others we were with – Matthew’s friend Penny, her son Ethan (who I taught to say hamburger like an American) and Penny’s dad Wolfgang (honest-to-God, and he is Scottish) – were various passengers with similar stories. I think Ethan was a second-classer too.

Matthew, however, was a bigshot. He was Ismay, the owner of the White Star Line, the company who owned the ship. If you saw the movie, he’s the skeeze who jumps in a boat with a bunch of women and children like a chicken and one of the crew members sees him but lets him go.

About halfway through the exhibit is part of an iceberg, supposedly. Or, a big chunk of ice that they’ve cooled to the temperature it was that night.

It was so cold it burned, if that makes any sense. I kept my hand on it for approximately five seconds. Had I really been on the ship and ended up in the water, my weak-threshold-for-pain ass would have died quickly.

We get to the end and wouldn’t you know it, we all died. Except Matthew. Sad.

We consoled ourselves – well I did anyway – by trying to teach Ethan how to say words like we do, but not before he showed us his “American rap skills.” I don’t remember all of what he said, but it was something like, “And where my bitchez at?”

He’s 13. Go America.

Keeping with the theme of the day, we took our own boat ride after a quick lunch. We took the boat down the Thames – pronounced Temms, like PIMM’S. WHAT?? – to a tube stop closer to home.

From there it was time to figure out a way to re-pack all of our stuff, plus souvenirs, without going over the 50-pound weight limit allowed before you have to pay extra. That was fun.

That night, we found out, we were headed to a dinner party in Chelsea, with Roma and her family and Matthew, Alistair and Allyson of course. The dinner was at their friend Sally’s, who is the first person all week to give us the European kiss-on-each-cheek thing.

The food was delicious, and there was wine and champagne a-plenty. Also part of the dinner party? A discussion on how Ashley and I were the No. 1 guests who’ve stayed with Matthew and Allyson.

Yep. We’re awesome like that.

You see, Allyson had made a list of the things we needed to do as soon as we got there. We’d accomplished everything on it, and then some – for example, hang out with an old Scottish man.

I’ve told her to frame it. And hold everyone that visits after us to the high standard that we’ve set. It’ll be hard to match…much less to beat.

Dinner was delicious, of course, and that’s the night we had the Gu cake that I would possibly marry if it wouldn’t be weird. It was that good.

Oh and before we left, we made sure we took some pictures – well, Sally’s son Seb took some – and then we got some of our family.

This is Sally.

Seb and Emma (Roma’s daughter)

Straight-up gangstas

Roma’s son, Alex

Family!

And we couldn’t resist a last-minute run up the stairs to get a quick picture of Sally’s bedroom. Why? Because, according to her, at some point, Charles Dickens had had sex in the house where we’d just had dinner. In what’s now her bedroom. Yay history!

I didn’t want to go to bed that night because it meant it was over. And we in no way wanted it to be over, therefore we decided we’re going back. ASAP.

day 13 – a song that is a guilty pleasure

You might expect me to say Backstreet Boys, or NSYNC or NKOTB or Glee or something for this particular day of the challenge, but you’d be wrong. Because I am not embarrassed about the love I have for any of those aforementioned groups.

Yes, I still listen to ‘No Strings Attached’ sometimes when I’m driving, or I sing “I Want It That Way” or “Hangin’ Tough” when I’m cleaning or organizing or doing something else OCD-related – usually cleaning or organizing.

And I can’t really think of a song I’m embarrassed to have people find out I listen to and enjoy. But this one comes close.

Last summer when my editor at the time was on maternity leave, my good friend Burt Champagne (not his real name but OMG what if it was), who also worked for our company, came in to help me put out the paper.

In addition to some Tuesday nights filled with Glee and Walgreens wines after successfully completing the paper before it got dark out, there were also office dance parties, usually to The Biebs.

I by no means have Bieber Fever, the last time someone took my temperature it was like, 97.2, which I think means I’m a zombie. However, I do enjoy a song with a good beat, which this song has. And it’s fun to dance to.

So yeah, I guess the closest I have to a guilty pleasure – I’m proud of my music choices, dammit – is “Eenie Meenie” by Justin Bieber and Sean Kingston.

And even though he’s out of the country, I am sure that BC will do the same thing I did – if he’s reading – when I played the song. DANCE PARTY!

day 06 – a song that reminds you of somewhere

I like where I live, and with the exception of college and the couple years after I graduated, I’ve always lived here, in Louisville.

If I had to live anywhere else? There’s a very good chance it’d be Mandeville, Jamaica.

So when I got to the sixth day of this 30 Day Song Challenge, I knew the perfect song to choose.

Day 6 – Song that reminds you of somewhere.

I’ve been to Jamaica twice. And the scenery, the people and the feeling I get when I’m there are like nothing I’ve ever found anywhere else. When I’m there, I’m happy. I mean, I’m happy here, of course, but things are different there. It’s hard to explain.

I have so many good memories from my trips to Jamaica.

And that’s what this song reminds me of.

A little backstory? This last time we went – in 2009 – we spent a lot of time on a bus, going to various tourist spots, church activities and to our respective homes each night. We listened to the same CD pretty much every time and by the end of the week – much to the dismay of a couple of the chaperones (not Sara or me, we loved it) the American contingent of the passenger group had learned all the words to a song our Jamaican friends already knew well.

Those trips bring us together. We share experiences and those bus rides were just part of them.

And it never fails to make me smile when I think of all of us, our church group and our Jamaican family, singing this song every single day, sometimes to each other, sometimes as we looked out the window and took it all in and wished a week was a lot longer.

Jah Cure, “Call on Me.” A song that will forever remind me of an amazing country and the equally amazing people I met there.

P.S. Missed the first five days? No worries. Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5.