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30 October 2010

NO TV Challenge - SUCCESS!

I successfully gave up TV for the whole week! It was pretty miserable the first day, but I didn't really notice it by the end of the week. I did watch TV on Thursday when I was home sick, but ti was only for 30 minutes. That alone is pretty impressive since I usually watch non-stop TV when I'm home sick. Friday night after work I turned the TV on at 4:30 and it didn't go off until about 9:30pm. Of course, I slept through most of that; it was just on for noise and company.

A challenge isn't successful unless you learn something in the process. So what did I learn from my challenge?

1.) I watch TV to fill the house with noise. Living alone, it gets pretty quiet in here. I like the quiet, but it is the silence that bothers me. The TV tends to keep me company. The problem with that is, instead of having it on in the background, I end up sitting down in front of it. So this week I ran my Sirius radio pretty much nonstop. I leave it on during the day to keep Bailey company and just left it on when I got home from work. It filled the void just as well as the TV and without the mind-suck factor.

2.) I eat less with less TV. I already know that I'm a boredom eater. If I'm bored, I eat. TV has me sitting on my widening rear for extended periods of time with nothing to do but kill brain cells. Without the TV, I snacked considerably less in the evenings. I ate my dinner at the dining room table (something I NEVER do alone) and only snacked on granola bars, pumpkin seeds, and hot tea in the evenings.

3.) No TV = TONS O'Productivity! Seriously. I got a mountain of grading done. My house stayed clean. My laundry got done. My errands got accomplished. I planned out all my lessons. long story short, I stayed on top of the day-to-day and even got ahead.

4.) I felt like a better, more functional person without the daily Mind Suck. I was able to read for fun without being totally wiped out. (I usually only read for fun right before bed after watching mindless TV for a few hours.) I left my house in the mornings feeling satisfied in knowing that when I returned the house would still be tidy and neat upon my return. I felt less rushed during the day because I normally have to get all of my work done at school because nothing ever gets done when I'm home. I like to delude myself in saying that I can grade and plan while watching TV, but let's be serious. If that were true, I wouldn't have needed to give it up for a week! And watching less crap (i.e. reality TV, mundane comedies, reruns of shows I've seen before ...) just felt better all-in-all.

So where do I go from here? Well, I really liked who I was this past week, and I would like to see more of that self. I think I am going to limit myself to 1 hour of TV a day. I can use this hour early or late, in the morning or the evening, but it's still one hour no matter how I dice it up. That will give me the veg time that I need with my brain turned off, but it will also give me the time I need to be productive and be the human being that I like being. As a child of the TV generation, this is a pretty big move for me.

I could just cut my cable, but that would leave me with no internet and that, my friends, would simply be impossible.

29 October 2010

A Perfect Storm of Ailments

It's been a rough two days. I woke up yesterday in severe pain. My inner ear was killing me! The pain was so bad that it woke me up out of a sound sleep. If you've ever had inner ear pain, you know what I'm talking about. The only thing comparable to inner ear pain is lower back back. (Of course, I'm sure labor pains are pretty bad too, but I would know nothing about that.) I called in to work and then made an appointment at the doctor's as quickly as possible.

The doctor couldn't get me in until 11:30, so I slept a bit more. On and off because the pain was still really intense. When I got to the doctor's office, it didn't take them long to determine the cause of my pain. As it turns out, I have a trifecta of problems going on in my ear.

First, I have a touch of TMJ. TMJ is often misdiagnosed as an ear infection because the problem joint is so closely related to the inner ear. Since I didn't have any inflammation or discharge in my inner ear (from what they could see), they concluded that it was TMJ.

Second, my malformed Eustachian tubes lead to constant congestion (I thought it was normal to always have a stuffy nose!) which is building pressure behind my eardrum. I've known that my left side Eustachian tube was a bit jacked up, but I would really like to avoid the surgery needed to repair it.

Third, due to all of the scarring and damage in my ear from when I was a kid, I have chronically impacted ear wax which only adds to my discomfort. They wanted to flush my ear, but there was no way that was going to happen! The last time I had that done, I almost threw up and passed out.

After all that thrilling news, I left the doctor with quite a few prescriptions in hand: some nasal steroids for my jacked-up Eustachian tubes, some pain killers for my ear pain, and ear drops to help break up the wax. All that coupled with the muscle relaxers and pain killers from my accident a few weeks ago, and I've got quite a little personal pharmacy going on. Thankfully I'm not taking them all at once.

The ear pain dissipated last night but returned with a vengeance this morning around 10am. I powered through work since I've already missed enough time this trimester but took a pain pill as soon as I got home. I've been fading in and out of consciousness since about 4pm, and I'm seriously contemplating just going to bed. But I'm hesitant to until I can take another pain pill before bed. Is that bad?

On the bright side, all this junk has left me with zero appetite. That's gotta be good for my diet, right?

27 October 2010

Two down, many more to go

Today was the first weigh-in for the Ladies Challenge that is happening at school. A group of ladies that I work with have all decided to get fit and healthy. We started last week (quite a few of us are doing Weight Watchers Online) and everyone has lost weight. Big DB lost 4 POUNDS!! Who does that?!? I'm really proud of her. I managed to lose 2 pounds even with a long weekend eating and drinking in NOLA. I have barely exercised, so I really need to kick that up. Murph and I are taking the children (her adorable girl and my Beast) on a walk tonight before dinner. Should be a good time.

It's only two pounds, but it is two pounds in the right direction. If I can lose 2-3 pounds a week, I'll be down 10 in about a month.

Just in time for another visit to NOLA.


26 October 2010

O Frabjous Day!

Today I filled the gas tank in the new Jetta for the first time. I've been running on the same tank of gas since Saturday the 16th. I got over 540 miles out of one tank of gas! Of course, a lot of that was highway driving, but that number still makes me super happy! It cost about $40 to fill it back up, but that is because it is diesel ($3.06 a gallon) and it is a 13 gallon tank. I'll take $40 for 540 miles any day of the week!

25 October 2010

No TV - Hour 10

I've made it through the entire evening without watching the Mind Suck. I was really excited about coming home and watching the last ten minutes of my last Big Love episode. Sadly, I had about 45 seconds left not ten minutes. (Why I didn't finish the whole episode before is beyond me!) After I pouted for a few minutes, I got back up and started my evening's work. I bathed the dog, took care of the post-vacation house, did a few loads of laundry, and even graded a few classes of work. I even ate dinner at the dinner table again. Yeah! Go me!

Tomorrow it should be quite easy to avoid the Mind Suck. I've got to drive to Chapel Thrill to renew some books after work, and that won't get me home until 5 or 6 (depending on traffic). By the time I get some serious grading done, it'll be time for bed. Because, you know, I'm old, and I go to bed early.

Now I'm going to bed and taking a book with me. Happily I don't have a TV in my bedroom, so I get good reading time in before bed at night. I just usually watch hours of mindless TV before I get there. Tonight, not so much. Nice clean brain ready to enjoy my book.

On a side note, I've been pretty good on my diet. My trip to NOLA didn't throw me too far off track, but I didn't lose any either. Weigh-in isn't until Wednesday, so I'm hoping to be down at least a pound by then.

I admit it. I'm an addict.

Seriously. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but admitting that you have a problem is the first step in recovering. So, here it goes..

I am a television addict. I use TV as an escape from reality. I come home from work and, instead of cracking open a beer, I sit on my duff and vegetate in front of the TV. I get a little work accomplished while I vegetate, but it's pretty shameful. A person with as much to do as I have should not be sitting around doing nothing. I've got a dissertation to work on. I've got lessons to plan. I've always got a mountain of papers to grade. I've got a house to clean and keep up with. I've got a body that needs to be exercised. It's ridiculous how lazy I am and how the TV sucks me in.

And it's not like I'm watching any quality programming. I'm not watching documentaries or the news or even good movies. I'm watching crap TV. I'm watching stupid realty TV and old reruns of Law and Order: SVU. I even watch crappy reruns of Angel in the mornings before I got to work. Seriously?! How lame is that? Very, I tell you. So not only am I wasting time, I've killing brain cells by subjecting my already fragile brain to such low-quality programming.

There's no excuse for my laziness, and I'm tired of it. Now that I've admitted that I have a problem, it is time to take steps to working through it. So I've challenged myself to give up TV for this week. No TV in the morning before work, and no TV in the afternoons/evenings. Quitting cold turkey is going to be hard, so I've built in just one condition. I'm allowed to watch episodes of Big Love on DVD. This isn't too much of a condition given that I only get the episodes through Blockbuster Online Rentals (meaning they mail the DVDs to me one disc at a time), and I've only got about 10 minutes of my current disc to go. By the time I mail it back to them and get the new disc, it will be Thursday or Friday.

Hopefully this lack of TV will generate some impressive results in my productivity levels. I'll be sure to post with my progress as the days go by.

16 October 2010

New Cars and Old Churches

Today was the big day!! I drove to DC last night and stayed with my cousin and his family. This morning I left their cute little house and headed to Maryland to purchase my first brand new car! I absolutely LOVE this car. When I left the dealer's lot this morning, my new car had 24 miles on it. Seriously. I've never even been in a car with only 26 miles!! It's excited and empowering to make such a big purchase all on my own. I guess I'm a grown-up now. 

I know that it is a bad thing to love material things, but I LOVE THIS CAR. I found myself loving it more and more as I drove the 300 miles home from the dealer. I love that it has integrated Bluetooth technology, so I always have hands-free phone access. I love that it has a real electrical outlet in which to plug things in ... like my phone charger. I love that it has 6 months of free Sirius Radio (which I will then pay for because I already have a Sirius account). I love that the instrument panel is designed to keep the driver's eyes on the road. All of the information I could ever need ... radio station, phone information, mileage, everything ... is in the center of the instrument panel so I only need to lower my eyes about 3 inches to see it all. I love how sporty and sleek it looks. I REALLY love that I drove over 300 miles today and used less than a half a tank of gas. Seriously?! I knew I was going to get good gas mileage, but I had no idea how good. I'm pretty stoked about it. 
My new black Jetta TDI.

The weather for the drive was absolutely beautiful. It was a clear beautiful fall day, and the leaves were gorgeous. As I was heading down 301, I passed this quaint old church. I said to myself, "I'd love to take pictures of that!" And then I realized that I didn't have a schedule to keep, so I did a quick u-turn and went back to take some pics. It even had one of those old little cemeteries on the property. I took a few dozen pics (because I'm a little crazy with the camera), and they are so fall-esque.

All in all, it's been an absolutely glorious day. I hope this mood and trend continues! I live a truly blessed and fortunate life. And for that I am thankful.

11 October 2010

Sometimes what you pray for isn't exactly what you want

When I entered this whole car-buying experience, I prayed to God that He would lead me to make sound financial decisions and help me to follow my head and not my heart (I can be a bit impulsive sometimes). I honestly tried to follow whatever God's will was (which is something that I really struggle with). I know it may seem silly to ask God about such things, but a new car is a HUGE financial move for me. I needed some guidance and focus in my search. And since all things are possible through God, I knew that it couldn't hurt to bother Him with something so small.

Things were going great. I was doing some serious negotiating with dealers, and I had found an AWESOME deal in Maryland that would save me about $400. And that was before trade-in! I was feeling confident in my financial decisions and was getting excited about the idea of a new Jetta TDI sitting outside my door.

And then God forced my hand. Or so it feels.

Thursday afternoon on my way home from work, I totaled the car. Thankfully no one was hurt, and I am especially thankful that it wasn't my fault. A woman pulled out in front of me and then stopped, STOPPED!!, directly in front of me. I tried my hardest to swerve and break, but it wasn't possible. I T-boned the woman right in her driver side door. It was clear that it was her fault, and she admitted to it when the cop talked to her. Of course, I think she was trying to blame me (her English wasn't so good), but the cop understood it was her fault. Even the EMS and the tow driver could tell from looking at the scene that she was in the wrong. One witness said she was talking on the phone, but it all happened so fast that I couldn't confirm that. The funniest thing is that when the officer was citing her she asked, "Is her insurance going to cover this?" The officer was like, "Um. No. This accident is your fault."

I did go to urgent care on Friday morning because I was horribly sore. I got about a zillion x-rays of my neck and knee, and the doc reported that I was having muscle spasms in my neck. Thankfully my knee was fine (although I have NO IDEA how I hurt it in the accident. I must have slammed it against something). I got a prescription for some muscle relaxers and woke up feeling much better on Saturday. I had some lingering stiffness but nothing too major. Thankfully.

Today the collision center told me that they are totaling the car out. Once I reach an agreement with the insurance company, I'll have 5 days to return my rental car. That means I'll have five days to get my new car.  I was ready to buy before, but I've lost my trade-in. Hopefully the insurance will offer me a fair price for the total, and I can put that down on my new purchase. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

I can't help but see this whole situation as God's way of communicating with me. Clearly it is the right time for me to get into a new (or newer) vehicle. I'm not saying that God wants me to buy a Jetta or anything else, but it seems that all signs are pointing to a different ride. How else can I interpret a totaled car? While I certainly didn't pray for this to happen and in no way wanted it to happen, it is what it is. God knows what He is doing, and sometimes we just need to sit down, buckle up, and do what we are told. We aren't supposed to know the plan; we're just meant to follow it and face our challenges with a brave face and a willing heart.

And the winner is ....

Well, actually, the WINNERS are ....

Kiki Mojo and Gigi the Hop!!

Ladies, please contact me ASAP with your choice of photo. We can exchange contact info and shipping information at that time.

Stay tuned for future contests!

06 October 2010

Sexism is still strong in sales

If you've been paying attention to my tweets and my FB, you'll know that I'm looking to buy a car. A VW Jetta TDI Sedan, to be more precise. I'm excited about buying it because it is a great car and it looks great. However, the problem lies in the fact that I refuse to get "taken" during this process. I know that car dealers are out to make a buck, but I want them to make as little as possible off of me. I know how much I want to pay, and I'm not going to compromise that number. I've always heard that car salesmen treat women poorly, but I'd never experienced it so I really didn't understand. Well, after tonight, I can safely say that I've been indoctrinated into the sexist world of car sales. It wasn't overt sexism but enough to frustrate me.

I had been working with a young guy (who is actually from my dad's hometown!), and I was pleased. I walked in tonight to begin dealing after test-driving last night. They didn't really seem to want to haggle or negotiate which was disappointing because I'd been prepping all day! They came down in price by a few hundred, but I kept telling them that I had seen lower prices elsewhere. The young guy I was working with went to get the financial manager (who I had met yesterday), and the financial manager sat down to set me straight. He didn't say this, but it was clearly his intention. He began talking about his "invoice" price, and I said, "I know how your invoice pricing works."

He looked at me, skeptically and said, "Oh yeah? You do? Well tell me."

I told him that I was well aware of his "invoice" price and how it isn't really an invoice price. It is what the factory lists as an invoice, but dealers get considerable discounts and reductions. He quickly reassured me that the dealership got absolutely no discounts and the number he showed me was indeed the invoice. I told him that, if that was the case, then I'll have to pass. At this point, I can tell he's annoyed.

"Well, when you go to those other dealers and discover that they've lied to you, you'll see us again."

Seriously? That's how you want to sell a car? Bully me into it? I don't think so. I told him thanks and started to follow him out of the office. VW is doing this whole "1960s-tye-died" thing so all of the office doors have psychedelic beaded curtains. As he walked out, he didn't shake me hand, didn't say goodbye, didn't acknowledge me, and then let the beads close directly in front of my nose. WTF?!

Up to that point, I was fully prepared to come back and resume negotiations at another time. After his pouty-boy, temper-tantrum behavior, there is no way in hell I will go back there to buy a vehicle. No. Way.

I know that women are generally treated as idiots by salesmen, but I'm not your average woman. I research. I talk. I shop around. I'm not willing to walk in and be taken advantage of. I don't walk in blind, looking to be taken care of. And I'm willing to walk away. This guy's behavior was ridiculous. Acting like a spoiled child because you can't buffalo some little lady isn't going to help you make the sale. Grow up and be a man. :)

04 October 2010

Still mourning the loss

14 years ago today, two innocent lives were stolen from this earth, and I've never been the same. I was lucky enough to be able to visit their grave site today. I haven't been able to visit their grave in far-too-many years, but it was nice to finally get back there on this solemn day. I've posted this before,  but I think it bears reposting. I've come a long way since that fall day 14 years ago, but the memories and feelings are still surprisingly raw.


It was a Friday. There was to be a football game that night and excitement filled the air. There was also a little concern in the air. Not high level concern as there is when you see a burning building or a car crash. It was low level concern like when you think you’ve left the iron on when you leave home in the morning. Two of the star cheerleaders, Sarah and Jenn, failed to show up to school that day. This wasn’t a big deal except that if they didn’t attend school, they weren’t permitted to cheer in the game. Both girls were fanatic about cheering so it was a little strange that they didn’t show. But, it was a Friday and Sarah’s parents’ were out of town. There were rumors that the girls had taken a little vacation to Atlantic City or some other fun place. Most of us who knew the girls at all knew that those ideas were bogus because the girls would never do such a thing. Even still, there was no major cause for concern. Yet.
However, the concern began the next morning when no one had heard anything from them still. I remember that I was working at the local drug store that Saturday morning. When my mom got out of work, she came by to check on me and to hand me a pile of posters. I looked at them and couldn’t believe what I saw. They were missing persons’ posters. Each poster had a picture of Sarah and Jenn with their descriptions and a reward for information leading to their return. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was unreal that two of my friends were on a poster offering a reward for their safe return. These things didn’t happen in Smalltown, America. These things happened in big cities where children stay out to all hours playing in the street. My throat got tight and my eyes started to well. My mind kept praying that they were indeed in Atlantic City goofing off. 

As soon as my shift was over, I rode around with my mom as she distributed posters to all of the local business. My mother was close friends with the parents of both of the girls and felt that she must do something. She found comfort in spreading the word about their disappearance. We all felt completely helpless. What could we do but hope and pray for their safe return. The fear I felt inside was unlike anything else I had ever felt. The only thing I can relate it to was when my brother was serving in the Marine Corps in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. I remember going home every day after school, sitting in front of the t.v, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t see my brother’s name and face flashed upon the screen.

As word spread about their disappearance, the details of the case came out. As it turned out, Sarah’s home had been invaded. The phone lines had been cut and the shower curtain had been pushed in as though someone had been thrown against it. The cheerleading uniforms were still hung up on their hangers and there was no trace of the girls.

The rest of the details are personal and revealing. To keep things private for those involved, and to maintain my composure, I’m going to skip the rest of the facts. But, I will say that Sarah’s neighbor had broken into her home while she and Jenn were getting ready for school and took them away. He then killed them and hid their bodies. He was a husband and a father of a young boy. He had been their neighbor for years. His bedroom window looked directly into Sarah’s bathroom.

It’s amazing how people change when something bad happens. Before the tragedy, my class was a cliquey, divided group of teenagers. While, because of the size of our school, we all knew every one of our classmates by name, few of us crossed those rigid clique lines to have close interactions with our peers. We weren’t unique in that respect. Every high school has cliques to some degree or another. But, after the news of Sarah and Jenn broke, things changed quickly and completely. As a whole, my class became tight knit and dependent upon each other for support. Two of our classmates were missing and presumed dead (although we all still hoped for the best). We leaned on each other for comfort. Friendships were formed that would prove to survive anything. I’ve always heard that something good always comes from something bad. I never really believed it until I lived it. The tragedy that struck our hometown brought us together. We had a special bond that no one could ever duplicate or take away. We were friends formed from grief. We could simply look at each other and see how our friends were feeling. No words need to be spoken. Things are still that way today. 

The day we heard about their deaths still plays in slow motion in my head. It’s almost like a dream. Rather than seeing through my own eyes, I see myself as I walked around. Nothing seemed real. I was in math class. Mr. Prugh. He knew we couldn’t focus on any real work so he was simply wasting time with review and idle talk. The principal interrupted our classes to make an announcement. He then told us that Sarah and Jenn were confirmed dead and that classes were released for the day. If we had a way home, we could leave but the building would remain open for those who didn’t want to be alone. We weren’t allowed to leave without a responsible adult. I walked out of my classroom and saw one of the saddest scenes of my life. Jenn’s younger brother was overwhelmed with grief and punched a hole in the glass windows that lined the hallways. How did they expect him to react? His big sister had been stolen from his home and murdered. His sadness permeated the hallway. No one knew what to say because none of us knew how he felt. I wandered my way to the front office and waited in the long line to use the phone. Although the school had a strict no cell phones policy, students everywhere were dialing on their wireless phones to contact home. Even the staff members were borrowing the cell phones of students. When I finally had the chance to use the phone, my mother told me that she would be there in a few minutes to pick my up. I walked out of the office and saw my best friend, Justin. We hugged tightly without saying a word. His eyes were so sad. It broke my heart even more. He asked if I was going to be okay and I simply nodded. He then asked if I had somewhere to go and, again, I simply nodded. He continued to stand there as I turned to wander down the hall. The hall was in a state of silent mass confusion. No one knew what to think or where to go. All that we could do is hold each other and sob. People were walking around crying or searching for friends. I eventually found my way outside and my mother was waiting in the van directly outside the door. It was almost like a movie. Things fell together so perfectly. I didn’t have to look around to find her. She was right there. But, looking back, she’s always been right where I need her whenever I need her.

The sun. I remember the sun. The sun was shining bright and the sky was blue. It was warm and not a breeze to be felt. It was such a beautiful day. Normally on days like this we would spend the lunch period out on the lawns, playing Frisbee or hacky sack. Days like this normally brought a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Today was different. My face was frozen and marked by trails left by endless tears. My heart had already begun to grow cold. Aren’t tragic day supposed to be rainy and gray? This day did not fit the mood. The sun was too bright and the sky was too blue. It all had to be a dream. But it wasn’t. My mother and I drove out to Sarah’s house to console the families. As we pulled up to the house, cars lined the streets and people littered their yard and the neighboring yards. It’s a very odd scene when there are fifty or so people gathered outside on a beautiful fall day and no one is wearing a smile. When we crossed the yard, Sarah’s mom, Sandy, met us half way. As she hugged me, I felt so much of her pain and grief. To this day, the memory of that hug makes me tear up. She held me so tight and so long. I felt guilt and grief, joy and relief. I was aware of this odd sense of guilt that my mom still had her daughter while Sandy no longer had hers. The grief that Sandy felt seemed to transfer into my body. By no means could I ever wholly experience or understand the pain that she felt, but for a brief moment, I felt a part of that and I understood her immense sadness. I also felt her joy and relief. Joy that I was safe and no other children had been taken and relief that she finally knew the fate of her beautiful daughter. All I could piece together was “I’m sorry.” What else could I say? In the coming years, I would grow to hate that phrase. It’s often used so artificially and is too often used by people who really don’t care. But, I had no other words. My mind was reeling but it was neither the time nor place for my many confused thoughts. It would be a long time until I could put my feelings into words. But, I truly was sorry for her and her family. I couldn’t compare any amount of grief I had ever experienced to the grief she felt at that moment. I couldn’t tell her that it would be all right because I wasn’t sure if it would be. Honestly, at this point, I thought that things would never be all right. All I could do was stand there, mutter my innocent consolation, and be held by that saddest woman in the world.

I had never before been to such an event. At Sarah’s home, all of her family and friends had gathered to join in their grief and console each other. I saw many faces I recognized and many I had never seen before. Food miraculously appeared on the counters and tables. No one really ate it. It just sat there, looking out of place. There’s always food at sad events. I don’t really understand it. Who ever brought the food was making an attempt to be helpful and to ease just a piece of the pain the families felt. But, who could eat at a time like that? Food was the farthest thing from our minds. But, the food was still there, decorating any surface that wouldn’t move.

Finally, after an eternity, my mother and I left, to drive home in an awkward silence. My mother and I have always talked about everything but, for the first time, we seemed to be at a loss for words. I had so much to say but the words were lost. Anything I wanted to say seemed so trivial compared to the magnitude of the events. My mind was racing with thoughts but, for the first time in my life, I had no words to say them. We held hands as she drove and I silently sobbed all the way home. 
Never before in my life had I felt so lost and hopeless. I had been raised in such a safe and protected home. I was the only kid I knew who had a mom and dad who weren’t divorced. My parents never left us alone overnight without someone to stay with us. I was sheltered and well protected. My safe, secure life had suddenly been ripped apart and exposed to the harsh reality of life. Bad things, very bad things happen to good people in small towns. No one is safe. Anyone can be a victim. 

Looking back, my innocence was lost at that moment. People say that we become desensitized to violence through all of the violence we watch on TV. They are wrong. I was raised watching such shows as COPS and America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. Nothing I had ever seen on TV could have prepared me for what I had just experienced. The events of October 1996 affected me more deeply and profoundly than any other event in my life. My life has never been that same and never will again, all as a result of one crazy man. I felt so much hate inside. I was raised to never hate another human being and now I was experiencing a profoundly scary feeling that I had never known before. Feeling such hate was very scary. I thought that something was seriously wrong with me. It kept me awake at night and settled in the pit of my stomach like lead. How can I hate so much? To this day, I still feel that hate towards him. It still scares me, but not as badly as before. Surprisingly, the feeling hasn’t dulled all that much. When I think of that man’s face, I cringe inside. He is the only person that I have ever wanted to physically hurt. I remember wishing that I could have just a few moments alone with him so I could make him feel just a sliver of the pain that he caused. I would have been no better than him but I still felt that anger and hate. Knowing that I am capable of such strong emotions is very frightening. This experience has opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of emotion; hate and detestation.
Feeling blessed and lost at the same moment is a very overwhelming blend of emotions. I felt blessed that I could live another day while two girls I knew and cared for were robbed of their futures. I thought forward and realized that they would never fall in that true love we all want so badly. They would never see a graduation gown or experience going off to college and living on their own. They would never stress over term papers or buy their first new car. They would never experience motherhood and gaze into the innocent eyes of their newborn child. They would never have grandchildren or see the Northern Lights or cruise through the Bahamas. All of those things would happen to me, but never to them. It scared me that futures could be stolen so quickly and quietly. Feeling lost is a bit harder to describe. I remember sitting curled up on my family’s big blue couch. I don’t remember when this was but it was shortly after we discovered their deaths. All I could do was sob. My mom got home and asked me if I was okay. I couldn’t answer her. I felt so confused and torn up inside. I didn’t seem fair that someone as average and boring as I could continue to live when two shining stars with so much to offer were taken away in the cover of night. These two girls sparkled. They really did. I look back through my scrapbook of that time and in the pictures from the newspaper, their eyes still glitter. Their smiles, while haunting, still make me smile. They were smart, kind, and were going places. Now it seems so silly that I felt that way but it was a very real concern at that time. Sometimes I still feel that if by some chance I could give myself to save just one of them, I would do it in a heartbeat. If I could ease the pain of their families in any way, I wouldn’t hesitate. 

I mentioned before how tragedy tends to bring about good. The first good it brought was the closeness between my classmates. The second good was the bond that developed between my big brother and me. My older brother, Donnie, was twenty seven when the girls were murdered. He was married and lived about a half an hour away. I remember sitting on my bed one afternoon shortly after the news of their murder. I took up the habit of cutting newspaper clippings out of any newspaper or magazine that ran stories about the girls. I realize now that this probably wasn’t the safest thing for my mental health. To this day, I still have the scrapbook that I created from those clippings. My brother came into my room and sat in my chair. He looked at my teary, swollen face and said two simple words: “You okay?” Those two words changed our relationship forever. For the first time that I could remember, my brother seemed concerned about me. I know he always loved me but we never really had much to discuss, being ten years apart. After those two little words, our relationship opened up and began a new chapter. We still fight and argue about the normal sibling problems but I know that beneath it all, we have a connection that no one can break.

The school hosted a memorial service the weekend after the news of Sarah and Jenn’s deaths were official. The weather was gray and rainy and cold. Appropriate for the circumstances of the day. We parked in the soccer field and walked across the wet grass in our nicest shoes and darkest outfits. Sad events like funerals and memorial services never have nice weather. I don’t know if the massive sentiment of sadness affects the weather or if the weather exaggerates our depression. Or maybe it’s an even combination or both.

A school gym is an odd place to hold a memorial service. There was no place more appropriate for this service but it still seemed out of place. Schools are places of laughter and happiness, not mourning and tears. The gym where we had spent so many hours playing extreme badminton and soccer and basketball with our friends had been transformed into an ominous and heartbreaking environment. To see all of your friends and classmates gathered in the high school gym with no smiles is a very unsettling sight. It just shouldn’t be that way. But, a service held anywhere else would have been awkward and strange. Sarah and Jenn had lived in that gym during the cheer seasons. We had all seen both Sarah and Jenn cheer at many basketball games in that gym. They felt at home and at ease there. Sitting in the bleachers, surrounded by tearful classmates, one could almost feel their presence. The service was sad yet not depressing. As with all services, the happy and joyful times were the focus and the tragic events surrounding their deaths were only mentioned as a backdrop. There were huge collages of pictures taken at every stage in their lives. It’s odd how a person can laugh at such an ominous event but seeing their smiling faces in candid shots brought a smile to all of our faces. They loved life so much, it was impossible not to see that love in their eyes. I truly believe that Sarah and Jenn were with us that day. They were sitting there among their tearful classmates who were collapsing under the weight of their grief. They put their arms around us and gave us the strength to carry on. 

If you cry enough, tears seem to wash away the pain. But, when the tears dry, the pain is still there. For a long time, the pain seemed to remain constant. Every morning, I would wake up with tears caked onto my cheeks. Small events would trigger memories and set me off for seemingly no reason. I would see a spectacular sunrise that would set tears streaming down my cheeks. I would see a girl with bouncing blond curls or straight red locks and I would see Jenn’s or Sarah’s face again and the tears would fall. I must have looked like a basket case to those around me. I didn’t know how to deal. I thought that the pain would never end. And it didn’t. But, it did get duller. At first the pain was a sharp shooting bullet through my chest. But, as the months went by, the pain eased into a dull, throbbing ache deep down inside of me. To this day, that ache is still there, hiding behind my heart, deep inside my chest. On bad days, that dull throbbing can flip into that shooting pain. But, luckily, those days are few and far between. I’m afraid of the day when the pain is completely gone. I’m afraid because that means that Sarah and Jenn and Katie and Mr. Cassell and everyone else has been forgotten. I don’t want to forget. Ever. They have shaped who I am and the memories are a part of me. Although it’s painful to think about those days, I still smile at the good times. The throbbing hurts every day and it’s almost comforting to know that they are still there. They are still a part of me. Still a part of my life. They aren’t just a memory that will fade in time.

When all is said and done, a person hopes that they can one day forget all of the pain that they have experienced. But, somehow, the events of your life keep creeping up on us and slapping us in the face. Three days before Christmas in 2002, the local newspaper published an article rehashing all of the tragic events that had stricken our town. The article was spurred by recent events when a pit bull had mauled a young man (who resided in our town) to death. I was amazed at how free and fresh the tears fell. Over six years had passed and the pain was so easily refreshed. As an outspoken English major and one who already dislikes the press, my first reaction to the article was to write an editorial speaking out against the timing of the article and it’s frivolous nature. I felt better after writing down my ideas and feelings but the tears still fell, cleaning my soul of my rage. In an odd way, I don’t want to forget. Ever. My junior year formed me. It defined my strength and courage. Without experiencing those horrible days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, I wouldn’t be me, the girl who loves to write and the woman who wants to touch lives. Losing friends was the most arduous experience of my life but it made me who I am today. And, I am stronger, braver, more loving, and less trusting. I’m not happy they are gone. That’s not possible. But, I am a different person as a result of those events.

500th Blog Post Contest!

To celebrate my 500th blog post (which may not seem like a big deal in the blog-o-sphere, but it's a pretty big deal to me!), I am hosting a contest inspired by Kiki. Kiki always hosts such fun contests on her blog, and I figured I would do the same on this special occasion. It's easy to enter, and I think the prizes are pretty sweet. Of course, I'm a little biased. ;-)

Here's how to enter:

Follow my blog: 1 entry
Comment on my blog:  1 entry
Follow me on Twitter (nwhyluckysgirl):  1 entry
Tweet about the giveaway (with hashtag #mb500): 1 entry
RT my tweets about the giveaway:  1 entry

Every entry gets you an additional chance at winning, so start commenting and tweeting and retweeting!

The prizes -- there will be two! -- will be a photo of your choice in either an 8X10 or 11X14 matting (again, your choice). Examples of my photography can been seen on my portfolio page. I've just added a bunch of fall-inspired pics that you may enjoy as well.

The contest will run from today, October 4th, until noon on October 11th. I will announce and contact the winners on October 12th.


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