Category Archives: Freestyle Fridays


I keep writing posts and leaving them in my “drafts” folder.

What does that mean?

Never mind. Don’t answer that.

In summary, I suppose, and in lieu of actually publishing them all:

This past month I

  1. Reached a sort of surreal milestone marking the day I have been married for more days of my life than I have not been married.
  2. Quit my job. But you know all about that.
  3. Agreed to work elsewhere for $650 a month. Before withholdings.  (What?! Did I also reach the milestone at which one does really, really, really stupid things?) It had really good hours. It’s the only item I have in my defense.
  4. Quit that job–after about two weeks of training and preparation and a grand total of about one hour actually on the job and an accumulation of $0 in wages. That’s a post in and of itself. That I probably will never post. Let’s just say that I feel like I have narrowly escaped the very jaws of Hell.
  5. Ran five miles. All at one go. Me. Yes, it took me an hour and six minutes. But I did it. And survived.
  6. Was outgrown by yet another child. Not to mention that I also became the mother of a 6′ tall 15 year old. (Clarification: I was always his mother; he was never this tall.)
  7. Speaking of really tall children, in consequence of #2, reached another, even more surreal milestone at which my 5’11” 16 year old makes more money than I do. And has a significantly healthier bank account.
  8. Pondered long over the question of whether or not to call certain of my children out on behaviors that are in no way against any of our rules, but which they clearly do not want me to know about. I don’t want to bring it up, because I don’t want them to lie to me. And I’m pretty sure they will. Because they  already have… without… technically… lying.
  9. Got my emergency teaching certificate for Warden School District.
  10. Realized that no matter what job I do or do not have, what classes I am or am not taking, I will never reach that nebulous point in the future when “everything will settle down”. Because that’s not who I am. Apparently. There is not enough space in twenty lifetimes to do everything I think I ought/want/need to do.
  11. Began the most insane class ever designed to sink a student. Ever. Unbelievable. This man is either brilliant or insane. Or both. And clearly OCD. EVERY assignment (of which there are many every week) must include a cover sheet. And not just any cover sheet. His wife slipped us a sample one the other night and recommended we use a ruler and some detective skills and figure out how to design one that looks exactly  like it.
  12. Read my first Louis L’Amour novel ever. Because someone gave my boys every book ever written. It was actually… pretty good.
  13. Quit checking my email. I used to keep on top of my inbox–it was the primary way I communicated with parents and the DEL and the USDA, etc. An email didn’t come in but what I deleted or dealt with it within an hour or so. Now days go by and emails pile up and I dread opening my inbox.
  14. Sold a lot of things on Craiglist and ebay. Ergo, I still have internet access to write this. Would you believe that somebody was willing to buy the movie “Condorman” for $20? I don’t even know where that movie came from, but we had it. Maybe I should have watched it first. It must be stellar.
  15. Have archived this post no less than 6 times thinking I would get back to wrapping it up in a quasi-meaningful way and publishing it.
  16. Am going to hit publish… right… now…

Unsolved Mysteries

Watched Freaky Friday last night with my kids. The one that is as old as me.

Yes, they had color television the year I was born, dear ones.

Do you ever thank God it is physically impossible to relive your past? True, there could be a bit of fun had, sitting in junior high, interacting with teachers who I now know were just poor, confused, fresh out of college schmucks themselves, playacting at being grown up.

But ugh. To really relive it?

For four months now, I have been reading my journal entries from each day twenty years previous to the one I’m now living, and let me tell you it’s a trip. Beyond a trip. I was one unorthodox teen.

Maybe they’re all like that, and I’m the only one who took time to write it down, but I don’t think so. I don’t see my children agonizing over the intricate issues of life and death that consumed my every waking moment.

Seriously, what fifteen year old that you know owns dozens of journals, filled with years of  unsolved philosophical questions?

(And why haven’t I solved them yet?)

The Indian In Our Cupboard

More wisdom from fifteen-year-old me:

April 4, 1991

If you ever feel like you have a tiny house, get out an ice cream pail, a scrub brush, and a cloth, and start scrubbin’. It makes the floor stretch on endlessly. I think I put my kneecaps out of place today. No. I probably didn’t. But my hands smell bad.

We lived in these government-subsidized duplex buildings that year–well, quite a few years, actually. Eight I think, in the same one. Which is about eight times longer than I’d lived anywhere else. They had some kind of vinyl flooring throughout every room and up and down the stairs, and while my mother wasn’t too picky about clutter, she was a stickler about clean. She used to say that you could tell if someone was a good housekeeper by looking in the corners, not the middle of the room.

We did a lot of  deep cleaning.

The neighbors, I think when we first moved there, were an interesting family. In addition to a bunch of other  kids, they had three little triplets cuter than anything–one of whom we drove to the hospital while desperately performing the Heimlich manuever on. Why do I remember it being me holding that kid upside down on my lap wacking her between the shoulder blades? Surely it would have been the mother holding the kid? Maybe I was babysitting.

Anyway, their father was something like seven feet tall.  Or seemed like it to me. He was one big Indian. Which, to me,  was much scarier than one, big white guy. (Can I say that in a public forum? Will the NAACP come after me now? Can we relate how we really felt anymore, or do we have to pretend like we didn’t have some seriously ingrained prejudices when we were kids?)

The duplexes were made of stucco, and had big horizontal timbers between the upper and lower windows for decoration. One night my sister and I woke up in the middle of the night to see this dark face, with two enormous white eyes staring in our window. The father had had a little too much to drink (sniff? inhale?And yes, it was from this association that I came to know what pot smells like ) and had decided to climb around the outside of the building looking in windows. Eeeek.

The only other time I remember seeing someone’s face at that window was the night I was putting my brothers to bed and fell asleep reading them a story; I didn’t hear my parents pounding on the front door, and so they had to break into their own home. I think my brother woke up before I did, and unlocked the window for them.

Speaking of that family and banging on doors: I think this is the woman we hid in a secret closet we’d cut into the area under our staircase. There was all this empty space there, with just a coat closet under the tallest part of it, and my mother didn’t have a pantry, so she cut a hole in the sheet rock, behind the coats, put in a folding door, and even though we had the exact same floor plan as every other unit in the complex, you’d never know we’d gained a good twenty or so square feet of usable storage space. Anyway. I think her husband must have had too much to drink on at least one other occasion, because I remember her hiding in there and this guy pounding on the door. Shiver. I just remembered her name, too, because I could hear him shouting it.

Do you remember this Nena? Tell me I”m not making this stuff up…

On The Marriage Prospects of Whales and Lions

In light of my recent post on teens and truth telling, I think this journal entry from twenty years ago is quite fitting:

Why is it that adults think you are lying–or at least hiding something–if you do not tell them what they have already determined to be the truth? They are like artists who sit down to paint your portrait, only they never look up until they are finished, and then they are so shocked that their subject has not changed to mirror the picture they have drawn. Something must be wrong with the model, no?

They say, “You have to trust me!” but if what we say is not what they have already figured out, they think we are lying. If they think it’s pink and we say green, they can’t understand why we don’t trust them. When I say the world is round and all along they have figured out that it was flat, it upsets their entire world view.

It’s like trying to marry a whale or a lion. It doesn’t work. Not because one of us hates the other, our paths just never, never cross, never can.

For so long I thought  that adults were some semi-Godlike wonder who know and can do all. Suddenly I realize that this is me, the same person who will be here in 60, 70, 80 years. No miracle is going to pop up and I’ll be changed into an all-wise being.   I suppose I was kind of waiting for that moment, for my life to start, but then I realized that it’s me who has to start.

I think there are some adults out there still waiting for that moment.

My life, my future is sitting here, set squarely on my shoulders and it’s mine. I’ve had the materials since the day I was born and it’s all been up to me. I’ve got the tools, the supplies, and yet somehow I’ve spent my life watching for the delivery truck and a set of blueprints when really, I have my own set. So why was I waiting for someone to come out of some nebulous place and arrange it all for me?

The past is like a pile of stones. Each one a moment full of joy or sorrow. It occurs to me that I can pick and choose which ones I build the foundation of my future with.  I don’t have to pick up every shattered stone and try to piece them back together, understand and fix them all, or add them to my present or future load.

My mistakes, and those of my family don’t have to be part of the future.

Ahhh, to be fifteen and omniscient again…

Flashback Friday in Photos

In honor of flashback Friday, this week we turn to the photographic record–which (thanks to fire that consumed two different childhood homes) is pretty sparse.  I apologize in advance for the image quality. They are copies of copies of, etc.  But I did find irrefutable proof I existed in miniature (and bald) form:

Frequently in blue:

Also proof that my bad hair days started at a young age:

As did wardrobe malfunctions:

And that I really was, for a time, an alien:

And did I ever mention that I wore REALLY big glasses (not to mention ’90’s hair in all it’s glory):

It took me until 10th grade to realize that I could safely navigate my way to the photographer’s chair without my spectacles, and thereby avoid the entire issue. Apparently I also discovered lipstick:

That’s pretty much it, until I got married. A few snapshots here and there (cameras weren’t a common possession then, like they are now) none of which I have the umph to go find at the moment.

I’ve been told twice now in two weeks that my daughter and I look like twins. I think it’s just that we have similar bone structure, and long hair. Some day I’ll have to post a m/d picture and let you be the judge. PSPheonix did a few days ago, and it brought tears to my eyes, they were so beautiful. As for now, enough procrastinating the real labors of the day…

On Carpet Snorting and Building the Character of Teens

Got on my treadmill last night at 7:30 pm. Got off  three times in the next twenty minutes. Got back on. Wanted to throw myself headlong on my bed and never get up. Or maybe get in my van, drive-thru some poisonous fast-food joint and negate the entire last six months of effort.

Because I didn’t feel any stronger last night than I did six months ago. I committed to ten more minutes. And then two more. And finally a good, angry song came on and I jammed my thumb into that up-arrow and I ran a mile and a half/hour faster than I’ve ever set that thing. Ran hard because I was angry at a body that could possibly betray me like that.

I committed to one more tenth of a mile and then another and finally I hit my usual goal and then I kept running. Because I’m not giving in, not after this long, after this many months and hundreds of miles. My elbows were dripping when I finally stopped, and I paid for my arrogance during cool down–my usual three sets of twenty push-ups became one set of nine, one set of three–followed by a lengthy session face-first on the floor with bits of shag carpeting fluttering up my nose as I tried to catch my breath–and then three more. That was it–that was all I had. I didn’t feel tired, so much as I just… couldn’t… do it.

May I point out that these were modified push-ups? My knees planted firmly on the ground?

The first set of sit-ups were five shy, and then ten shy, and the first one of the final set would have been easier to do than convincing an entire room full of toddlers that silence is a blessed thing. I got about two inches off the floor, then curled up in a fetal position on my left side. I eventually made it over onto my stomach at about 11:30 and lay there, pecking out a facebook status with my pinkie finger about listening to morose and sentimental tunes when I should have been in the shower.

Getting out of bed at 3:55 this morning wasn’t much of a picnic, let me assure you.

But I’ll be back on the belt tomorrow after class. I’m blaming the arm weakness on all my dejunking and kitchen cleaning activities–you know that gunk on the top of your kitchen cabinets? Yeah, I cleaned that yesterday. Went through almost an entire bottle of 409, doing it. The top of the fridge awaits. I think I’ll leave the inside and the underneath of it to one of my teenagers. It’ll be a  good, character building experience for them…

Easy Street… Spa and Beauty Parlor?

Since most of what I wrote twenty years ago this week is morbidly unprintable or insanely boring (unless you’d like to study adolescent perception of the events surrounding the war in the middle east and the purpose of life) let us, instead, honor instead, a true free spirit. At lunch today he was very methodically coating every square inch of his skin with noodle sauce, and then rubbing his hands in his hair. By the time he was done he put all the ’80’s era rockers to shame:

Lunch, Jane, and a Reliable Shredder

When I so blithely made up my mind, a few weeks ago, to post daily, I had not yet started my winter semester.


Having made that piteous excuse for negligence, let me tell you the truth:

I have been undecided about publishing this week’s Flashback at all. Twenty years ago, my sorry adolescent self was having a few of those life-altering experiences that come out of the pen horribly raw and yet somehow terribly true.

It’s a series of entries you hope nobody ever reads, and at the same time you recognize that those specific experiences have shaped you profoundly. You recognize that they cannot be wiped from the record even should you shred the hard copy.

January 15-21, 1991

First, let us skip over the entry in which I vividly describe the birthday party where I laughed a mixture of chocolate pudding, orange soda, and tomatoes out my nose.

I don’t count that as a life altering experience.

Also, the deep, psychological profiles of my parents.

There was the entry made the day I watched my seminary teacher’s eye surgery. I was riveted. The idea that doctors could cut open such a small organ, vacuum out what was rightfully there, put in a spring, fill it back up with artificial goo, and then stitch it shut with a needle the size of an eyelash. While he was conscious, no less! Amazing. I announced that I was going to get my PhD in medicine… and maybe also run an orphanage in Europe somewhere for kids that needed both medical attention and a home. I pictured an extremely large, dysfunctional family apparently.

I also thought about going into theater. Really. (I know, I wouldn’t believe it either if it weren’t there in my own hand writing.)

There is the entry in which I was completely surprised by a group of my friends who noticed that I rarely brought a lunch to school and offered to take turns bringing me one. I was touched, but shamed, too. In some primal part of my being a smolder of resentment started against this group of girls who had only been trying to help. “I don’t want any special treatment or to be an exception”, I wrote. “Can’t they let me be a normal grade nine student trying to pass school and life in general? Leave my background, my home there, I want to be me, not a charity case.”

I was happy to sit there and socialize at lunch time whether or not I had food to eat; I was capable of compartmentalizing my hungry home life from my social life. I certainly wasn’t going to bring in a bowl of boiled wheat or beans for lunch, so if there wasn’t portable food, I didn’t worry about it. Nor did I, however, think about how it felt for those girls to be sitting there eating with someone who wasn’t. Looking back, I realize how awkward that must have been for them.

I think this was the point at which I began to seek more and more excuses to be busy at lunchtime. I remember when my responsibility with the Yearbook committee was over, and there wasn’t any extra work to do in any classes I could think up, I used to read a book in a bathroom stall there just off the main gym; it was the oldest, nastiest bathroom, and therefore the least frequented by anyone I knew.

Jane Eyre and the like got me through a lot of lunch hours.

Then… there is the entry.  The one in which I appologize profusely and at length not only for feeling my own feelings, but for expressing them. I was cursed then, and still am now, with the ability to see the inherent goodness in even the most despicable type people. People anyone else would have written off, walked away from and damned straight to dark fiery places outside the known universe. I could see why they did the things they did, pitied them for everything that might have ever made them the way they were, and felt horribly guilty for not sincerely liking them.

A few days earlier I had opened up to an adult I should have been able to trust and shared with them some of the deeper musings of my soul. And thought I’d had a breakthrough conversation–they listened to me! They understood what I said! They cared!

Only, they didn’t. Turns out they listened so constructively in order to prompt more information from me to support their theories of my mental instability–which they then discussed with any number of other people in my life–which, of course, came back to me as an unrecognizable mish-mash.  The betrayal of confidence and the character smearing wasn’t the worst part; in some deep, horrified place, I asked, am I really as evil as she makes me out to be?

Yup, that’s all I’m going to say about that one. The original might be headed for the shredder…

On Ball Point Pens, the Gulf War, and Food Shortages

Donated some of every bodily fluid to the lab yesterday, re: irresistible urge to flay myself alive. Turns out that every male in my paternal line going back to Adam maybe didn’t die of alcohol-related liver failure after all.

Wouldn’t it that be ironic, if the teetotaling Mormon in the family developed the same problem?

No hard and fast answers until after more testing next week, but at any rate, it’s good to know the itch isn’t all in my head.

Enough about my internal organs already. Let’s talk about a certain fourteen year old, living in Canada, twenty years ago, shall we?

Jan 8-14, 1991

Nearly every entry during this section starts with a rant about the availability of functional ballpoint pens in my household. Some things never change. My handwriting? Not included. This week marks the beginning of an experiment with extremely small ALL CAPS WRITING.

Possibly trying to conserve ink, as I was also fairly concerned about the family resources. My father had been out of work since before Christmas, our car quit for good, and I was ravenously hungry as only a fourteen year old can be.

Nearly every entry also pontificates on various issues related to the pending Gulf War, which was the first conflict Canada had actively participated in during my lifetime, or my mother’s for that matter. There must have been talk about a draft, because I worried over the young men my sister’s age who would be affected. Every entry counted down the days to January 15th:“January 13th, 1991 Sunday. Two more days to war. Tension is building…” followed by much political commentary and speculation about the actions of the UN and “that creep, Saddam Hussein.”

Mostly I expressed the opinion that everyone over the age of 30 who had anything to do with the war should be locked into a giant arena together and left to fight it out for themselves.  I didn’t see why, in the event of global chemical warfare, the likes of  Mikhail Gorbachev, Brian Mulroney and George Bush should be whisked off to safe, airtight havens while the rest of us were left to inhale the fumes of their erring ways. I frequently mulled over the question, “What are we saving them for?” I even had opinions on the monopolies of oil companies in Saudia Arabia and freedom of speech in Russia.

Long story short: I cared way more about politics twenty years ago than I do now.

On January tenth I thanked my lucky stars for an unexpected arrival of food–or more specifically my grandmother for sending a load of carrots and applesauce, Uncle Shane for some venison, and our bishop for several bags of wheat. We ate wheat in every dish: it replaced the beans in chili, the rice under sweet and sour, and the hamburger in spaghetti sauce. We ate it boiled, ground, and sprouted. Ugh. I do not, under any circumstances (including teenage starvation) recommend wheat sprouts, however I seem to have been ridiculously happy over having any food at all. I did, after a disclaimer about knowing I shouldn’t complain in the face of so many blessings, fantasize briefly about having margarine, dairy products, eggs or fresh fruits and vegetables in the house.

I recounted several miracles of the Christmas most recently past, in which we found quality gifts and clothing at the thrift stores, and the fact that my mother made doll blankets for the Salvation Army in turn “for many brand new, never-been-opened toys for the kids, including a $60 hockey game Clarence [my youngest brother] went bonkers over.”

Oh, and that all-caps mini writing didn’t improve my penmanship much: I think I fell asleep writing every entry. I was making a dress for youth conference, trying to make a February 1st deadline on the yearbook committee, and studying for one test or another, and never getting in bed before midnight. Egad, I think I get more sleep as an adult than I did then.

I ended up attending the youth conference without the new dress completed, but had enough fun to ramble on for several pages about it in shorthand, although when it came to relating what we had for dinner I made an exception and used full and complete sentences. How else to dignify the experience of “real butter,  amazing rolls, amazing gravy and carrot cake for dessert!”


Flashback Friday

Snow day. No school.

Ergo, chaos. (Yes, Pam, I chose that word special for you.)

If I could somehow bottle the energy and the noise in this room, I could probably market it as some kind of psychological warfare. How is it possible for them to actually enjoy making that kind of noise? Wouldn’t your throat start to, I don’t know, bleed after screaming with that much joy after a while?  I know my ears are…

I was forced to do the only thing proven to capture the attention of toddlers: what could possibly compete with all out auditory and large scale chaos? That’s right, Kimber got out the mixer and started making bread dough. Which morphed into sweet roll dough and then cinnamon rolls. I had rapt attention from five toddlers for almost three hours this morning. (And the infants had free reign of the floors, with nobody to shriek when they touched the block towers, etc.) Nothing competes with making your own mess like watching an adult make a big mess.

But anyway… on to our daily topic: Freestyle Fridays.

Yeah, so essentially, Fridays are whatever I want them to be. Although, as I was reading through some of my old journals, I wanted to try transcribing some of them here. So I went back twenty years to January of 1991, when I was fourteen years old. Egad, I know. Is there a worse mental age to expose to the public view?

I’ll spare you a voluminous word for word transcription–it would take you twenty more years to read it–and give you an edited version of the week’s entries.

Jan 1-Jan 7, 1991

(This journal is a padded three ring affair (I think I made it at a Beehives activity night) covered with pale green fabric and edged with–I kid you not–pink lace. Give me a break; our leaders were fresh out of the ’80’s. The looseleaf pages are falling out and unfortunately I wrote some of it with a pencil, so it’s fading fast.)

Ah, yes, in this journal I documented my first New Year’s dance. I had sewn my own dress for this thing. It’s one of, if not the, only thing I have kept from my teenage years. It’s pale pink (shut up, Pam) with pearl buttons and a sweetheart neckline. The upper sleeves are enormous–like bigger than a loaf of bread–and the pleats I put in the skirt were so deep that I used six meters of fabric in the skirt alone. It was possible to wear an enormous crinoline underneath, in order to achieve the illusion of my upper body emerging from half of a large pink sphere. I wrote that the crinoline was almost nicer than the skirt, and it was a shame to cover it up, but I felt prettier, just knowing it was under there somewhere. If all these kids leave here on time, I might get a chance to dig it out and take a picture. I’m sure it’s not at all wrinkled…

Seems like yesterday I sewed the entire bodice and skirt wrong sides together (as in the seams were exposed) and had to pick it all out and start again. In my fourteen year old vernacular, it was “neat” and I “survived” the making of it.

I also survived the dance–mostly because I was having a good hair day–and “I managed to even throw three stupid streamers.” I came home in the same funk I’d apparently been living in since Christmas, or before, and wrote this: “I try really hard and I just feel like I’m trying to drag myself out of a black hole, GOD, something’s wrong and it’s not just depression no more if this is possible, it’s something worse.” (Written in the same paragraph in which I crowed over my beautiful hair, yes.)

During this time, I reorganized–and diagrammed–my bedroom to try to claim sole proprietorship of some small space. I was sharing with you, Nena. Apparently you were a brat.

I was also introduced to the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes, and received a bizarre package from my biological father and his wife. Garfield pajamas, out of the blue. I wrote, “I guess its the thought that counts, hey?”

I spent pages on pages contemplating everything from the wisdom of my Grandfather and Jesus Christ to the occurrence of thoughts that popped into my head upon first awakening. And yes, I wrote those all down. In excruciating detail.

At one point I waxed eloquent on how much I loved reading;  I calculated how long it would take me to pack all my belongings and move out (I decided everything would fit in one or two boxes); I entered a poetry contest and ranted against my older brother for mocking me when he found out; and griped about the problem of finances–in which griping, for the record, I used the word “gay” flagrantly, and in no way politically correct.  And I quote:

“It was pretty gay. We stood out in the freezin cold gas station counting pennies and dimes and nickles to see if we could put any gas in. We pumped exactly $2.74 into our stupid car. Wow. At more than 63 cents a litre plus GST, that sure does a lot. We almost got home; ran into a solid snow drift and took out the license plate. There are drifts 8 &10 feet high in some driveways! We don’t have a driveway to worry about; just an alley.”

I do find it interesting that we measured fabric in meters, gas in litres (yes, spelled that way), and snow in feet. Huh. I griped about the GST (a new Canadian sales tax) and the cost of Ginger ale, which was the closest thing I remember to medicine in my childhood; if you were sick, you drank Ginger ale, and in 1991 it was $4.19 a bottle. I assume that means a two liter bottle.

I also let the reader in on bizarre revelations about the shaving of legs and new scars from a car accident I’d been in the previous year.

I find this little tidbit shocking–I tried to paraphrase it, but I really can’t, because I, well, can’t believe I wrote them: “I just love ballet. I want to be able to dance like that. I sincerely believe I can. If only we had enough money for lessons, but in Reality, I musn’t hide my fear behind that excuse. I am scared I am not fit, flexible enough. That I’m too old to start now. Every time I get psyched up that I’m gonna really do something, I try to get flexible and ‘in shape’ and it just seems to get worse. Am I sick or just lazy? I dunno.”

Seriously? Man, I wish I could take that spindly little fourteen year old kid and shake her; show her the thirty four year old who gets on the treadmill and wants to die for the first 37 minutes all so she can feel that last 23 or so of pure exhilaration. Too old, yeah… that was probably my biggest obstacle to ballet fame. (Ballet? Really? Where in the world did I come up with ballet as a life ambition?)

On the first Sunday of the year I wrote really early in the morning; my father had woken me to make breakfast for my four year old brother. It was fast Sunday, which in Mormon parlance means that people over the age of twelve do not eat or drink for twenty four hours and donate the monetary equivalent of those meals to the poor. Underaged siblings, on the other hand, had to be fed. I didn’t complain about this task and I probably felt quite virtuous about that, too. Although… I hated porridge in all its varieties and since that’s all we ever had for breakfast, I probably wasn’t all that tempted by its aroma. Maybe that’s why they had me cook breakfast. Don’t remember. I did however proceed to write EIGHT pages of serious philosophical thinking. No wonder I was a weird kid–what fourteen year old writes eight pages about moral and ethical concerns?