So There’s That

“Wow…you’re lucky you weren’t aborted.”

Let me back up a minute and set the scene.

It was 2011 and I was going under general anesthesia for one of a thousand reasons that I gloss over in my general life. I’m not sure what it is, but playing ‘hurt’ has never really been my thing. Pretending I’m not hurt is MUCH more my speed, so for this test/surgery/scan/whatever it was that required me to be put to sleep for a bit, I was being a proud, stubborn girl. A girl that said, ‘No, Mom & Dad. Don’t come to Pittsburgh for this. It’s not a big deal. I’ll be fine.”

So, I got up, got on the bus (because I wouldn’t be allowed to drive post-procedure) and went to the hospital. I quickly realized that I was being a Dumber McDumberson and began to panic. Holy shit. I was about to go under general anesthesia. Alone. CRAP!

There were rocking chairs in the waiting room, similar to the ones at my grandfather’s farm. I sat on one, pretended I was enjoying a summer day in Chest Springs, and rocked…and rocked…and rocked.

I was scared. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. I was alone, and no matter how fast I rocked, I certainly was NOT in Chest Springs, about to have Aunt Linda’s meatballs and an evening listening to Uncle Bernie’s stories around the fire.

And it was all because I had made the choice that I was a 24-year-old-grown-ass-woman and I could do this myself.

As I quickly morphed to a 10-ish-old-little-girl, I wished for nothing more than my parents to be by my side, looking at me with eyes so worried that I laughed so much that I forgot about how scared I was. Instead, though, I went back to the prep room alone, and met my anesthesiologist. Like all first-timers, this doctor’s eyes got wide as she said, “Oh, wow! You’re not in a wheelchair.”

Medical personnel are always saying that because I really should be. I was born with spina bifida, but for some reason, without having done anything to deserve it, I had amazing parents and amazing doctors who figured out how to make sure I could, in fact, walk.

“You’re like Iron Woman!” is exclaimed regularly whenever I have any sort of scans that show just how much my back has been through. My brother and I used to joke that my height was “surgically enhanced,” since one of these “Iron Woman” surgeries ended with me being about three inches taller than when I started.

So, when the anesthesiologist exclaimed, “You’re not in a wheelchair,” I responded with my usual, “Yeah, I lucked out–the surgery I had didn’t exist a few years before I was born.”

What she said next, though, hit me like a ton of bricks.

“You’re lucky you weren’t born a few years later, too. Every doctor would have told your parents to have an abortion.”

Now, when you’re about to go under anesthesia, being told, by the doctor responsible for WAKING YOU UP, you should have never been born isn’t the best thing to hear.

Regardless, though, it’s certainly a big thing to hear. And I heard it, and keep hearing it, every day.

Why was I born in the small window when this surgery existed? Why was I born before a scan would have showed what I had? Why were my parents about as perfect as people as have ever existed so they wouldn’t have cared if I came out poka dotted?

I don’t know. I don’t know, and the guilt in the why kills me every day.

I like causing things. I bought a house because I worked for it. I paid off my student loans because I worked for it. I work and I do and I expect things from myself.

So, it’s always been hard that the reason I am here and the reason I can walk and the reason I can work for all of the things I have is because of nothing I did and nothing I deserved. Why was I the girl who had great parents? Why was I the girl who was born at the right time?

Irish-Catholic guilt is a very real thing and I have a VERY real case of it. I feel guilty Every. Single. Day. Guilty that I got lucky. Guilty that I’m not doing enough. Guilty that all of the work that I’ve done has nothing to do with how great my life is.

So, when my friend Erin asked me why I do things like Kiara’s Spring Fling, that’s what I answered her. It’s incredibly self-serving. I could be in Kiara’s place right now. If we think about it, we really all could. So, this Saturday, I’m going to do something that makes it a little easier for me to accept that God had something else in mind for me and to pay forward those blessings He gave to me.

I hope you join us. It’s going to be a ton of fun, but more importantly, it’s going to help a little girl who had just as much say in her lot in life as I had. She didn’t do or work or anything for what has happened to her, and for some reason, her first few years weren’t as great as mine.

But, together, we can make sure that her next few are.

Thanks, Teach.

When I was in high school, I had countless conversations that went like this:

Teacher: “Laura, you would be such a good teacher.”

Me: *blank stare* blink blink*

I would get so incredibly angry and offended every time someone would tell me that. Why didn’t they think I would make a great CEO? Or politician? Or lawyer? I worked my tail off in school, and they all thought I should aspire to end up back where I had started? The nerve!

Over the years, I began to take that innocent statement as not only a put down to me, but to women everywhere. When my brother was studying engineering, my parents were encouraging me to think about becoming an English teacher.

“Because I’m a girl?!” I would scream, “I can be an engineer, too!”

Feminist rant. Feminist Rant. FEMINIST RANT!

Fast forward to now, and I’m neither an English teacher nor an engineer. What I am, though, is a volunteer in a jail pre-release program.

Every Saturday morning, I go through security and up the elevator to the fourth floor of the Allegheny County Jail and meet with 20 or so women who are working to better themselves so that upon their release they have a fighting chance to stay out of trouble. And, every Saturday morning, I listen as they struggle to read through their daily prayer books.

“’We must exhale the Lord.’…why would we breathe Jesus?” one asked me.

“It’s exalt, not exhale,” I answered.

“I don’t know that word,” she replied.

—————————————————-

“God, grant me the…ssss…sir….sear….what’s this word?”

“Serenity.”

I leave most Saturdays feeling helpless. These women are working so hard, but how will they ever make it if they can’t even read? It’s no wonder they ended up there in the first place. Sure, being illiterate isn’t a crime, but it is something that will hold a person back from a job off of which they can live. No wonder they turned to bad behavior—no one ever taught them to be better.

No one taught them.

It was after one of those Saturday mornings that I realized that all those years ago people weren’t putting me down by saying I would be a good teacher; they were giving me an amazing compliment.

I still don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t want to be because I now truly believe it’s the most important job in the world, and that’s TERRIFYING. Teaching is the foundation for everything—for the CEOs and politicians and lawyers. It’s also the foundation for the drug dealers and junkies and thieves.

And it’s the fantastic teachers who influence which group today’s students will grow up to be.

I’m writing this post from my office with a big bay window with my iPhone in front of me, my Starbucks beside me and my White House-Black Market blouse on my back.  Sure, I made some good choices to end up with such a cushy life, but I had a fantastic foundation thanks to my parents and the wonderful teachers I had along the way.

One of those wonderful teachers was Mrs. Fogle. I was so very fortunate and blessed to have her not only as a teacher, but as a mentor and friend. I miss her, but what breaks my heart is that hundreds of students will miss out on learning from her now that she’s gone.

So, for the second year, we’re giving scholarships in her memory to help students build that foundation. We’ll be raising the money for the scholarships as we celebrate Mrs. Fogle’s memory on Saturday, December 28 at 7:30 pm at the Altoona High School Auditorium. It’s going to be an awesome show, and I’m so grateful to be able to be a part of it. You can find out more about it and get tickets here.

I hope you join us.

And, Mrs. Fogle? Thanks.

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I’m Not a Hugger

“When did we become huggers?”

My cousin Kelly had just endured the receiving line at our annual Christmas Eve gathering and sat down at the end of the bar.

“Oh, Kelly,” scoffed my aunt, as she continued to hug the newcomers.

I, however, was with Kelly. When the heck did we become huggers?

I thought back to my childhood, thinking of when I would have ever hugged a relative who wasn’t my parents. When I visited my Pat, I would yell (he was hard of hearing), “Hi, Pat!” from across the room while I waved. My Uncle Mark called me “Laura Jean the Party Queen,” which to the ultra-serious five-year-old that I was, was the biggest insult of my life and I’m pretty sure my Uncle Jack to this day thinks my given name is Gertrude, so neither of them were getting hugs, either.. Every time my brother and I hug we look like we’re leaders of countries on opposite sides of a major global issue posing for a photo op. My little sister tilts her head down for me to kiss her on the head when I see her…and that’s only if her hair protects us from any actual contact.

It’s not the my family isn’t affectionate, mind you. We very much are. It’s just that we show our affection by preparing large quantities of meat or moving heavy objects for each other.

Now as an adult I’m not any better about hugging. Are you moving more than 100 miles away? No? Did you get married within the past two hours? No? Did a terrible tragedy happen to someone related to you by a second cousinship or closer? No?

Then why the heck are we hugging?!

This little quirk in my personality has not deterred my friend Katie from trying to turn me into an embracer, though. No matter the occasion, the departure is inevitable. I try to make a stealthy get away, and just when I think I’ve made it I hear, “Friendo?” behind me.

I turn to see Katie with big puppy dog eyes and arms extended, ready to envelop me in a hug.

“You didn’t give me a hug!” she says.

“I’m going to see you again in literally 12 hours,” I think.

She’s even tried to employ others.

Jason is both a better hugger and tanner than me. The jerk.

Jason is both a better hugger and tanner than me. The jerk.

We see how well that went.

So, it’s no surprise that today I managed the most awkward hug of all time.

I had a meeting this afternoon with a local event planner to brain storm a fundraiser for next spring. As he and I were talking, his co-worker who I’ve done several events with came by to say hello.

“Hey, pal!” I exclaimed as I remained seated with my hands shoved firmly into my pockets.

“Hi, Laura! I just wanted to stop by to say hello,” he said, as he walked closer to me.

In the seconds it took for him to cross the room, my brain said, “Hey, Gertrude. Stand up.”

My body, however, was all, “It is below 85 degrees outside and there is no way we are coming out of this almost-fetal position we’re in to stand up.”

And my body won.

When we were finally close enough, he reached his 6’5″ frame over to hug me.

I stayed planted in my chair.

He kept coming.

My hands didn’t move.

Closer still.

My body finally began to react…just in time for me, while still seated and with hands still deep inside my pockets, to lean in for the hug…which ended up being me putting my head on his stomach while he kinda patted me on the shoulder.

OHMYGOD!!!! I started to internally freak out and externally change 50 shades or red.

Crap, crap, crappity, crap, CRAP. CRAP!

I nervously laughed and turned to the conversation back to the meeting. He said he had to get to the bank and, obviously, opted to shake my hand.

I don’t know, guys. How am I going to recover from this one?

I guess I’ll just have to move something heavy the next time I see him.

That One Time I was Racially Profiled

Over the past few weeks as the George Zimmerman trial was happening, news and opinions abounded. After the verdict came back, Facebook posts and Tweets and every other public forum were flooded with pro and anti-Stand Your Ground sentiments.

And I watched… and listened…and read.

But I didn’t say anything. I hardly ever do, really, say anything. Sure, I write a thousand words at a time about walking into men’s rooms or hitting on doctors while under heavy medication, but I never really say anything of substance. Anything of importance.

I don’t say anything, because what do I know? How am I someone who should be talking about this?

But, this week, as I was watching and listening and reading, something pushed me to actually have a voice.

Reading, especially, pushed me to it. Maybe it was Quest Love’s essay on sitting out on things that he worked hard for and deserved so that others wouldn’t be uncomfortable. Maybe it was Maya Angelou telling Joshua DuBois that we’re finally moving in the right direction so I felt secure enough to move in that direction, too. Maybe it was the politicians and pastors and celebrities and athletes telling their stories of time and time again getting stopped or being feared or being blamed because of how they looked.

Whatever it was, here it is. The story of that one time I was racially profiled.

I’ve told you before about the back surgeries I’ve had. This story involves one of those. It was a few weeks after my most recent surgery. I was feeling…well, better’s not the right word. I was feeling stir-crazy and sore and bored and tired and over it. So over it, in fact, that I decided to venture out.

I got in my car and headed to the grocery store. I was out of milk, and no matter how bad things get, a girl needs her calcium.

On my way back, I drove towards the library. I had a book to drop off and figured I’d be quick enough that the milk wouldn’t get too warm.

Now, if you’ve never had back surgery, let me tell you something. Parallel parking is the worst. Nothing about twisting around in your chair, stretching stitches and bandages and lord knows what else is fun. It hurts. Badly.

And, as luck would have it, the only parking spot available on my side of the street was one that would require parallel parking.

I quickly looked around to see that on the opposite side of the street, plenty of pull-in, no twist-required parking was available. So, I drove on to turn around and claim a spot.

I was met, though, with one “No U Turn” sign after another. Having barely gotten over my first speeding ticket, I decided not to risk braking a traffic law and instead drove up a hill, looking for a drive way or a side street  in which I could turn around.

I drove and drove and drove, and no such space was to be found, at least not one that would be easy enough for my stiff backed-self to be able to handle.

Finally, I saw a housing complex with a parking lot, and, with much relief, I pulled into it.

At the same time, a police car was pulling out of it. I barely took note, but I did notice that it had pulled to the side of the road and waited while I was turning around. Not giving it much thought, I got myself back on the right track and began to drive back down the hill and to the library.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and noticed the police car following me, matching me turn for turn. I carefully made sure to come to a complete stop at each stop sign I encountered, but got more and more anxious the closer the cruiser got to me.

Suddenly, the car turned it’s lights on, signalling me to pull over. I didn’t have much choice in the matter, though, because another cruiser had sped up the hill, cutting my path off from the front.

Three officers emerged from the cars and circled mine, looking in each window as they approached me.

“License and registration,” said the first officer.

I handed it over to him and asked, “I’m sorry officer, but what did I do wrong?”

“Just be quiet,” he snapped.

I was taken aback. I had only ever been pulled over once before, and even though I was going a good 20 miles over the speed limit, had been treated like I always am–nicely.

The first officer went back to his car to run my license through the system. As he did, the other two officers, who had a dozen or so years on the first, approached my window.

“I’m sorry, officer,” I started again, “But I really don’t know what I did wrong.”

“Well, you’re very white. This is a very black neighborhood. White girls aren’t here unless they’re buying or selling.”

I looked at him with my mouth agape. I’m Laura effing Kelly! I was voted Most Likely to Succeed! I graduated from college in three years, with honors. I was the vice-president of an honors society. I was a friggin’ mathlete! And because I was somewhere this Podunk cop decided was bad, he decided I was a drug dealer?!

Let’s jump back to today. Imagine, instead, that  a black man recovering from back surgery was stopped. His story was the same, but instead of a white girl in a black neighborhood, he was a black man in a white neighborhood. Would he have been cuffed? Taken to the station? Held way past the point when any post-opt patient would be begging for drugs?

I don’t know the answer to that. My story ended with the first officer coming back to my car, asking why I was in the neighborhood and apologizing, while being looked at with disappointment from his senior officers. My story ended with an, “I’m sorry ma’am. Please don’t come back to this neighborhood, though. It’s not safe for nice white girls like you.”

You see, I don’t know. I’m not someone who can talk on prejudice or discrimination or hatred. I’ve been spared that.

I don’t know what it’s like to be judged on how I look. Once is nothing. I can’t be a voice on this.

But I do know what’s right and wrong.

And I can be a voice on that.

The Case of the Pillow

(Author’s Note: I thought I was pretty clever coming up with this title. Then, I remembered that an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show had that same title. Rob channels his inner Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and represents himself while suing a pillow salesman. Hilarity ensues. It’s on Hulu. Watch it.)

pillow

As I mentioned in a past post, May was hilarious. One of the hilarities occurred on a Kelly girls’ vacation. In theory, vacation with the female members of your family conquers up images of Nair commercials—happy gal pals in perfectly matched swimsuits playing in the surf, drinking fruity drinks, and dancing to a catchy version of a 1960s pop song that is magically playing all over the beach without so much of a speaker in sight.

In reality, though, these trips are a little more…strained.

My mom, sister and I packed up the car one May Friday and began the drive to Liberty Harbor, New Jersey, where bright and early Saturday morning, we’d board for a beautiful cruise to Bermuda.

Once we settled into our hotel, we learned that the greatest city in the world, the city that both Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z sang their hearts out about, the city that’s cracking down on sugary drinks, New York City itself, was a mere 6 miles away.

It was only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The night was young. Broadway was calling.

So we of course went to the iHop in the hotel’s parking lot instead.

After our unique and exotic dinner, (it is the INTERNATIONAL House of Pancakes, after all) we headed back to our hotel room to get a little shuteye before our oceanic adventure began.

Now, I moved into my own bedroom in the attic (or as my cousin John liked to call it, storage) when I was 13. For the eight years before, my sister and I managed to share a room in complete and utter harmony.

…or at least we were both able to sleep a recommended 7-9 hours each night without disruption.

But, as the poster my friend whom I lost track of after the seventh grade gave me said, “Time changes everything; I’m glad our friendship isn’t one of them.”

We all settled in for the night, with my sister and I sharing one bed and my mom taking the other because she’s the mom and she said so.

In my adult life, I’ve found that it’s getting harder and harder to turn off my brain and fall asleep, so instead of getting to the root of my worries, I’ve obviously started to fall asleep to mindless TV.  I turned on the TV, set it to shut off in an hour and started to drift to sleep.

I was jerked awake moments later, with the sound of a chainsaw coming from the other bed.

I sat up, and in the dim light from the bathroom that my mom had left on in case she needed to get up in the middle of the night, I saw my beautiful, petite mother, drooling with her mouth agape, sounding like a lumberjack with a head cold.

I slammed my head back onto my pillow, willing myself to fall asleep. As I laid there, I started to feel a wave of heat coming closer and closer to me from under the covers. I turned my head to see my sister starring back at me with crazed eyes and a face getting redder by the minute.

“Either the snoring has to go, or the light has to go. I CAN. NOT. deal with both,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Here, I’ll turn the TV back on and that will drown her out until you fall asleep,” I answered.

I did, and I fell back to sleep quickly, waking the next morning feeling refreshed and ready for vacation.

My traveling companions, however, looked a little worse for the wear.

“Laura!” yelled my mom, “Why did you throw a pillow at me in the middle of the night?”

“What?” I answered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, I was sleeping soundly until a PILLOW hit me in the face!”

“Mom, I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Just then, my sister chimed in, with the same crazed look in her eyes.

“She didn’t throw the pillow,” she said, “I threw the pillow!”

Colleen went on to confess how she had been awake for hours, not being able to sleep from all of the distractions in the room—the TV, the bathroom light, my mom’s snoring.

(This is probably a good time to tell you that Colleen is currently living alone on a 48-acre farm. She likes the quiet.)

“But when I opened my eyes, I didn’t see you awake,” my mom said.

“That’s because after I threw the pillow, I dove behind Laura so that you’d think it was her,” Colleen said.

Needless to say, on the way to the boat we stopped for ear plugs and Breathe Right strips in hopes that everyone would be able to sleep a little more peacefully while sharing a 10’x10’ room for a week.

Also needless to say, never commit a crime with Colleen. She clearly cracks after 30-seconds of interrogation.

Kinderkicks and Kensie

Don't let the cute fool you.

Don’t let the cute fool you.

Early this week, my friends Keri and Chris welcomed their first baby, a beautiful little girl named Kensie Rose.

But this post isn’t about her. I haven’t met her yet (next week, though. SO. EXCITED!) and she hasn’t once tried to turn me into a drug mule, so my stories about her are limited.

This is a post about a memory her lovely name caused to resurface.

You see, Kensie isn’t a name I hear very often. In fact, it’s a name that I haven’t heard in, oh, a dozen or so years. But man, when I heard it, I heard it A LOT.

Maybe it’s because my sister and my age difference is more significant than my brother and me, or maybe it’s because Colleen is just smarter than Adam and me, but Colleen was the only Kelly kid to have a true, honest to goodness imaginary friend. In fact, she had two. A whole posse.

Their names were Kinderkicks and Kensie. My sister would play school, dress up, house and more with Kinderkicks and Kensie for hours on end. It worked out perfectly for me, because when you’re a new 10-year-old (double digits, baby!) there’s nothing you dread more than having your 5-year-old little sister play with you.

Now, I’m not sure what sort of psyco-analysis should be made about this, but Colleen, Kinderkicks and Kensie would get into wicked arguments. Colleen was always yelling at these imaginary people because apparently they were bad news.

One day, Kensie (I’m not sure where Kinderkicks was at the time. Probably on vacation or something) got really out of hand. Colleen was busy playing with her toys upstairs while the rest of the family went about their day downstairs. When one of us finally went upstairs to check on her (which, seeing as she’s the third child, was probably 12 hours or so after we had seen her last) we discovered that the second floor was trashed. Like, morning after a frat party trashed. Every bed was unmade, clothes were scattered about, and every toy that any of us kids owned was EVERYWHERE.

My brother or I, whoever in fact discovered the mess, quickly put their tattling hat on and yelled, “MOM! Colleen made a mess!”

My mom came running upstairs to discover Armageddon in her hallway.

“Colleen! What did you do?!” Mom asked.

“It wasn’t me,” Colleen replied, straight faced, “It was Kensie.”

My brother and I looked at each other with a gleam in our eyes. There was about to be hell to pay, and it was in no way directed towards us.

“I see,” said Mom, “Is Kensie still here to clean up her mess?”

“No,” Colleen answered, “She just went home.”

“Well, then who is going to clean this up?”

“I don’t know, but it shouldn’t be me, because I didn’t make it.”

“Yeah, right,” I muttered under my breath.

My mom shot me a look as she said, “You’re right. Kensie needs to learn the house rules if she wants to be allowed to play here. Let’s all clean up together and decide what you should tell Kensie the next time you see her.”

“WHAT?!” I yelled, “Colleen made this mess! Why do we have to clean up?”

“Laura, Colleen is using her imagination. It’s not going to kill you to clean up and protect her innocence.”

“Um, it might.” I was kind of a brat.

So, we set to work cleaning up after the incredibly messy Kensie. All the while, Colleen kept saying things like, “I told Kensie not to dump all of the Barbies out,” and, “She had to get to her job, which is why she left things a mess.”

Apparently Colleen’s imaginary friend was a successful executive who enjoyed throwing Cabbage Patch Kids everywhere.

After we finished cleaning up, we all went about our business. I didn’t think much more about the whole incident, to tell you the truth. I was 10. I obviously had more important things to worry about, like if my sparkly nail polish clashed with my neon headbands.

I didn’t think about it much more, that is, under ol’ Kensie came back around—this time with a birthday.

“Kensie’s birthday’s this week and I told her we would have a birthday party for her,” Colleen announced one day.

“Oh, really? And how old will Kensie be?” Mom asked.

“5. I’m older,” Colleen said, proudly.

“So your friend who made a mess a few weeks ago and couldn’t clean it up because she had to get to her important job is turning 5? Yeah,” scoffed Adam.

Again, a look from my mother was shot.

“And what does Kensie want for her birthday?” asked Mom.

“Stuff from the Dollar Store,” Colleen said. The Dollar Store and my sister had a very serious relationship from 1998 through 2002. Our Christmas presents from her attest to that.

“Okay,” said Mom, “Then I guess we have a party to plan.”

Later that day, Mom and I were at the mall and stopped in the Dollar Store to get Kensie some birthday presents.

“This is really dumb,” I said, “Kensie isn’t even real.”

“But she’s real to your sister and that means she’s using her imagination and learning.”

I have no idea what kind of quack parenting book my parents had just read, but I figured I’d try to get in on the action.

“Well, my imaginary friend Jane really wants the new Spice Girls CD.”

“Nice try,” Mom replied.

We purchased our gifts, went home and baked a cake, and sat around the dining room table, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and watching Colleen open Kensie’s presents, because apparently somewhere between making the world’s biggest 5-year-old mess and her party, Kensie lost the use of her arms.

After the party, Colleen took Kensie’s treasures up to her room and had a look of triumph on her face.

I let it go, figuring at least we were done with all of the imaginary friend baloney.

That is until Colleen said, “You know, Kinderkick’s birthday is soon…”

I Thought We Were Friends

Over the past three years, I’ve been to more bachelorette parties, bridal showers, weddings, baby showers and 4 p.m. dinners with new parents who fall asleep by 7 than I can count. I can give a wedding toast in my sleep, sing the heck out of a lullaby and coerce a fellow bridesmaid to gift wrap my present for me with the perfect smile.

So, you’ll understand my deep feeling of betrayal by the way my friends have repaid me for basically being Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses since 2010.

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What the heck is this?!?!

I’m sorry, but every diaper commercial since my childhood has led me to believe that new parents are on the same playing field as new born giaffes–the sun is way too bright for them, walking suddenly seems like the hardest thing in the world and All.They.Want.Is.Sleep.

Every time one of my friends announces a bundle of joy is on his or her way, I’m overcome with glee. Not for the blessed event, per say, but for the chance to finally not be so inferior to their adorably-cute skills.

Perhaps I should explain. I’ve decided through my own research done at family reunions and  Fourth of July picnics, that my fine motor skills peaked in development around age 6. I can’t color in the lines, gluing skills have always been elusive and I never got an “A” in art class past the 6th grade.

Therefore, as any practical person would do, I deemed art and anything related to it as dumb. Related subjects/talents/skills include: decorating cookies/cakes/cupcakes, sewing, anything involving hot glue, Pinterest and calculus.

(Calculus, while not directly related to art, must have some art in it, as I am bad at it and therefore, it is dumb.)

Anyway, when themed showers were happening, I was having panic attacks and nervous sweats worrying that someone was going to ask me to curl some ribbon or something. When babies started to be announced, however, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. No longer would my inferiority be so apparent. I was finally going to be on the same plain as my friends, not because anything about me improved, but because exhaustion had caused them to revert back to caveman days when there was no such thing as pastels and neons in cave paintings.

But then this s*^% started.

  thank you 1

Seriously, what is this?!?

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Um, guys? Why are you still perfect? I haven’t seen one of you walk into a party with spit up in your hair and I take that as a personal insult.

announcement 2

“I’ve never known what being tired was until I had a baby,” says my perfect friend as she hands me a slice of my favorite cake that she just happened to whip up in her spare time while sustaining the life of another human being.

Really?! I’m single, don’t have so much as a goldfish to care for and own approximately 100 pairs of socks just in case I don’t feel like doing laundry for, ya know, an entire season. And do you want to see the latest card I gave someone?

Feast your eyes on this:

thank you

So guys, really, give me a break. Maybe have 6 or 7 more kids a piece so that one of you is a little less perfect. It’s getting lonely way down here alone.

A Little Green Ribbon

I realized the other day that I haven’t written one single creative word in over a month. My text messages have turned into one word answers and my Facebook posts have turned into links with no description. I’m all, “Figure out my view point on this heated political debate. Anddddd, go!”

Needless to say, I’ve been busy, man. Good, fun, hilarious kinds of busy, but busy nonetheless. I’m almost through the busyness, and when I am, I’m going to sit down, take a deep breath, figure out how to make French-pressed coffee in my new NPR travel mug, and tell you all about my habit-clad, pillow-throwing, seasick-avoiding, fun-filled May.

But, my fingers and my thoughts can’t wait the week of busy I have left, and that’s probably a good thing. See, the last post that I wrote was strategic. It was set up to give a nice, funny cushion for this post. The thing is, though, while busy is an easy excuse, I just couldn’t write this post until now.

I told you before that I wanted to be truthful and write about the wonderful, just as much as I write about the awkward. Then I followed that up with a story of eating my weight in glaze. No regression here!

It’s hard to give that part of myself to people…especially if I haven’t had a copious amount of wine first. But, my mind has a way of looking out for me, because every other thing I’ve tried to write instead has come out “I like pancakes. Pancakes are delicious.”

So, I’m going to write this so my brain stops already and we can go back to talking about how I’ve been informed I hum when I’m eating something super delicious. It’s better for all of us, really.

————————————————————————————

A few years ago, my little sister and her friends went through the worst imaginable thing when one of their dearest friends, Mary, was lost in a tragic accident. They had all been friends for year, and I had watched them go from elementary school friends who had no control over their hair to beautiful, young adults.

When Mary died, I was sitting in a meeting at my old job. When I got back to my desk, my phone rang and I saw it was an area code from back home. As I reached for the phone, I knew that I was about to hear something awful.

And I was right.

It was a terrible, terrible time for a long time. My sister and her friends were new college kids and were apart from each other when they so badly wanted, and needed, to be close. During that time, I was straddling being back home and sad and being in Pittsburgh and just beyond happy because Tassy was here and was going to be okay. It was weird, being a part of saving a kid who was a stranger but not being able to save my little sister, the one person I’m meant to protect, from the horrific pain she was feeling.

I felt guilty because of that, and that guilt started to eat away at me.

At the same time, I was getting ready to make some moves in my professional life. Well, maybe I was getting ready to get ready. Feelings are funny, though, for me at least. They have a way to multiply upon themselves instead of add up nicely, so my guilt at failing at big sisterhood made my unhappiness that lead to the move making much more amplified.

Like, whoa amplified.

Nights of “why the hell did I work so hard in school to be this unhappy,” took the place of nights of, “Sure, I’d love to meet up for dinner!” My favorite thing to do went from singing bad karaoke to turning off my phone and watching mindless home shopping channels.

I don’t know if I was sad or angry or frustrated or guilty or a giant mixture of all of it, but it was a very blah time.

Dishes piling up in the sink for weeks kind of blah.

Ignoring phone calls from my favorite people kind of blah.

Sweatpants and no makeup on Friday night kind of blah.

I was in bad shape, and each day the exhaustion of the blah took its toll on me.

The winter dragged on, and when spring finally came, a huge work project came with it. I worked my tail off on it, and was looking forward to the praise I would get for it. That sounds terrible. I never wanted to be a person who did things for attention, but God, I needed an “’atta girl,” more than anything then. One pat on the back, one thank you, and I would at least know that someone appreciated me.

The project day came, and it was flawless. I was proud of myself, and waited all afternoon for someone to come and congratulate me, give me a high five, or say, “Hey, you got here really early. Why don’t you knock off early?”

But, at 5 o’clock, I had been there for 10 hours and it was business as usual.

I gathered my stuff, got on the bus, and made my way home as the utter exhaustion of feeling so crappy took over me.

Now, when Mary passed, neon green ribbons were what all of those who loved her wore to show their love for her and their support for each other. Mary died the week of our high school’s Homecoming football game, and the night of the game the stadium was filled with people clad in neon from head to toe. It was a beautiful sight.

On the evening  of that big project, I needed to go somewhere. I don’t remember where. Honestly, it was probably to go get new underwear because it seemed like less of an energy expenditure than laundry. Whatever the reason, I got in my car that evening—

And found a lime green ribbon sitting on my car seat.

Hot, relentless tears immediately started falling down my face. I sat in that car and cried and cried, first, tired and angry tears. Then, as the tears flowed, the fatigue faded and the anger turned to peace. I sat in that car and let go of the blame I was placing on others for my unhappiness, and the guilt I put on myself for feeling that way.  I made a decision to be happy, or at least actively take the steps to get there, and let myself cry out all of the multiplied feelings I had.

And then, I laughed. I laughed a good, hearty, deep laugh and I looked up to Mary and thanked her.

She had given me the “’Atta girl,” I so badly needed.

green ribbon

Double-Oh-71))))))))

My imagination tends to run away with me.

Santa was more than just a feel-good story until I was well into my double-digit years because a plane I saw one Christmas Eve most certainly had a red nose guiding it and a jolly old elf for a pilot. The living room at my family’s farm is still not my favorite place to be alone, and you can bet your sweet self that there’s NO WAY I’m going into the bathroom without ripping the shower curtain open to be sure an ax murderer isn’t waiting to do me in.

And, now.

Now I’m dreaming that I’m an American super-spy.

To start, I would be AMAZING at being an American super-spy…if I didn’t turn into Michael Scott from The Office when I try to keep secrets. Luckily for me, though, my mouth is like a steel trap when I’m dreaming.

After watching the ending credits for the movie Argo, I quickly looked up the book it was based on, The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA. After snatching it up, I kept myself busy while I waited for it to arrive by reading the heck out of Wikipedia and watching the new FX show, The Americans.

And hockey, of course. Pittsburgh Penguins hockey. (Foreshadowing much?)

While in the midst of the reading and career-as-a-CIA-spy research, I was emailing back and forth with the other bridesmaids about my pal Emily’s upcoming nuptials. We talked about where to get our nails done, when flights would be arriving, bachelorette party destinations and, most importantly, food.

Or at least in my subconscious food was most important. So much so, in fact, that I had one horrible, terrible dream that brought all of the pieces together.

——————————————————————————————————-

Dream Laura: Em, how are wedding plans? Need help with anything?
Dream
 Emily: I’m glad you asked. It’s a family tradition of ours that the bridal party is in charge of the decorations for the wedding reception.
DL: Oh, great. What did you have in mind?
DE: Well, that’s a family tradition, too! The decorations are ALWAYS an edible cityscape of the wedding destination.
DL: …what?
DE: Yes, we always have a beautiful downtown skyline made out of cake.
DL: Ah, hell.

Dream me set to work, mixing and baking and doing other things that I’ve only watched others do on the Food Network while eating take-out from the comfort of my couch. Being a dream sequence, though, everything went smoothly and on Emily’s big day, the Pittsburgh cake skyline looked good enough to eat…which was good, since that was the whole point.

As the reception went on, a handsome stranger, which no one seemed to care crashed the wedding, came closer and closer to where I was showing off my sweet, sweet dance moves. Finally, as happens, like, every time I do The Sprinkler, the mysterious guest couldn’t resist any longer and asked me to dance.

“Alright,” my dreamself thought, “This dream is taking an excellent turn.”

But instead of telling me that he was a rich entrepreneur who was looking to share his fortunes with someone just like me or that he was a talent scout from the Travel Channel and my perfect execution of The Robot made him want to sign me immediately for a 10-year contract, he instead twirled me into a side room where Joe Biden was waiting for me.

DL: Ummm…hello, Joe Biden.
JB: Laura. Sorry to break up the party, but your country needs you.
DL: Yeah? I’m assuming you mean as a contestant on America’s Got Talent?

(Obviously it doesn’t matter my stage of consciousness; I just really want someone to appreciate when I do The Shopping Cart.)

JB: Not this time, Laura. We need you to take your place as the world’s best spy and take out a KGB agent who has filtrated the wedding reception.
DL: But I’m not a spy.
JB: Yes, you are. We’ve been training you in your sleep. All I have to do is play Three Blind Mice backwards on my mouth harp and you’ll remember all of your training.
DL: Oh. That makes sense.

Joe Biden took out his mouth harp and began to play. Suddenly, my dreamself transformed. I was stronger. Faster. Smarter.

And very aware that Evgeni Malkin was trying to turn us all into Communists.

I burst out of the room, back into the reception. There, I spotted him, Mr. Geno himself, waiting for me with two hockey sticks a’twirling. As luck would have it, a pair of nunchucks magically appeared in my hands, and a battle between the planets’ top spies began.

We grappled while The Wobble played. We sparred as The Electric Slide blarred. We wrangled as The Hokey Pokey hummed over the loudspeaker.

Then, by the time The Chicken Dance played, I had him cornered with his back against the wall…a wall that was, unfortunately, made of sweet confections.

I did an Oscar award-winning roundhouse kick right into his chest, sending the hockey player-turned-spy in the US Steel Tower cake, causing it to crumble, but saving America.

————————————————————————————————————————

I woke up with a start. Realizing that it had been a dream, I laughed and decided that I had better not read anymore spy novels after dark and definitely needed to cut out my bedtime snack of ice cream, nachos and Diet Dr. Pepper.

I turned to my computer to look at Facebook until sleep settled over me again. I was still chuckling when I stopped dead in my tracks.

There, glowing from the computer screen was a picture that guaranteed a restful sleep was not in my future.

From the Penguins’ Skates & Plates event, a photo of my dreamland nemesis appeared. Geno himself, cleaned up and looking dapper.

In a tuxedo.

Just like Bond.

James Bond.

icehockey

A Baker’s Dozen

Last week, I received a lovely St. Patrick’s Day card from my parents. On the outside was An Irish Blessing, and on the inside was a newspaper clipping that is now hanging proudly on my refrigerator.

mom newspaper

In case you were distracted by the insanely classy leg lamp magnet adhering the clipping to the fridge, that’s a picture of my mom, Monica Richers-Kelly, RD, LDN, counseling a dietary patient. The article beneath highlights the benefits of an active lifestyle, why eating your veggies is  a good idea and why pie shouldn’t be a larger portion of your diet than protein. The full article can be found here.

After I read it, I called my mom up to tell her how great it was. While on the phone as I talked about what a good example she is, a long repressed memory started to bubble to the surface, and I blurted out:

“Mom! I have something to tell you!”

I’m sure all of the worst possibilities flashed through my mom’s head as she anxiously said, “What?!?”

And I told her the worst story a dietitian can ever hear from her own flesh and blood.

Roughly a decade ago, my big brother left for college. After a few months of missing him severely, I discovered that the 43 miles between Altoona and State College were easily driven by my parents. Even better, I realized that if my sister accompanied my parents on a visit and I stayed home, I would have the entire house to myself for at least three luxurious hours.

And I never visited my brother again.

Just kidding. The visits, though, became fewer and farther between once I got my driver’s license. I was 16. I had the keys to my dad’s car. I had the house to myself. Let the trouble begin.

Did I have house parties? Heck, no. I was looking for alone time here.

Did I watch rated R movies that were banned from my house? No, sir. The rules were installed for a reason.

What I did was much, much worse, especially for a dietitian’s daughter. I went to the worst place of all.

There was once a place in Altoona so magical, so glorious, so delicious that it had to be placed in the Wal-Mart parking lot to counterbalance all of the good that come from it. Sometimes I’d go with friends; sometimes I would go alone. It didn’t matter, as long as three little words were alight in the window:

Hot.

Donuts.

Now.

The Krispe Kreme store in Altoona, PA, had much too short of a life, but I did everything in my power to keep it alive as long as possible, including one day when my parents and sister visited my brother at school.

I waited until I saw the taillights of the mini-van turn the corner. Then, I raced to grab my dad’s car keys and dashed to Krispe Kreme…and when I say ‘dashed,’ I mean drove right at the speed limit with my hands at ten and two, Dad. Yep.

Once I got there, I was thrilled to see that the neon glow telling me that the gooey deliciousness was just out of the grease was shining bright, and I quickened my step inside.

“Hello! Would you like a free, hot donut?”

“Is the Pope Catholic?!?”

I took that first bite, and the hot dough and sugary glaze were the perfect combination of, well, dough and sugar. I mean, this isn’t a poem.

As I munched away, the girl behind the counter asked what she could get me. Perhaps I was feeling rich, having just babysat and with a fresh 20 in my pocket. Perhaps I was feeling generous, and thought I’d take some donuts home for my sister. Or, and I’m going with this one, I was already on an instant sugar high and momentarily lost my mind.

“I’ll take a dozen original glazed! And a chocolate milk!”

I car-danced* my way home and happily popped in either a romantic comedy or, ya know, the latest Harry Potter movie available on DVD. I’m well rounded like that.

The donuts and milk sat perched on the end table and I dug in as I watched the movie. As the ending credits rolled and I was happily full, I turned to the box of donuts, ready to put 11 of the dozen back into the kitchen for my family.

Except 11 donuts weren’t in the box.

Six were.

Six?

Six!

In the time it took to see Sirius Black break out of Azkaban, I had absentmindedly eaten SIX Krispe Kreme donuts. Add to that the free donut I had eaten in the store, and I had ingested SEVEN FRIGGIN’ DONUTS in roughly two hours.

The panic began to set in. My parents had just gone to State College to drop something off, not for a long visit. It took an hour to get there. It took an hour to get home. Adding that to the time it would take my mom to assess if my brother was eating enough and passing all of his classes, I had about 20 minutes to hide the evidence of my binge, but where?

I looked at the donuts. There was no way to make it look like there hadn’t been 12 donuts in the box to begin. I looked at the trash can.

“Nope,” I said to myself, “Waste not, want not.”

My time was ticking away and the sweat began to gather on my brow. This was serious. The lecture I would get for:

1.)    Eating in the living room

2.)    Wasting my hard earned money on something frivolous like a dozen donuts

3.)    Eating six donuts in one sitting

4.)    Wasting gas to get said donuts

5.)    Not visiting my dear brother just so I could pig out

…and I’m sure much more was just too much to bare. There was just one thing to do.

I had to EAT the evidence.

I looked in the mirror and gave myself the best pep talk of all time.

“Alright, Kelly. This is your time! This is your Everest! This is what you’ve trained for your whole life, without even knowing it. You’re a natural! You CAN eat six more donuts! You WILL eat six more donuts! You have to eat all six donuts because it’s already 8:30 on a school night and if you have to stay up for a lecture and don’t get eight hours of sleep, nothing about you is going to look even remotely attractive for school tomorrow. I mean, let’s just be honest. Sorry for the tough love.”

With that, I poured a glass of milk, (Skim this time. No empty calories on my watch. Ahem.) and began on my quest. I ate. And I ate. And I ate. One donut after another, getting rid of all evidence of any wrong doing.

Miraculously, or terribly, depending on how you look at it, I finished the remaining six donuts. I fell back in my chair, exhausted and in a much greater deal of pain than I thought something so delicious could ever cause. After a few minutes with my eyes closed, I looked up and saw it starring at me.

The empty box.

“Ah, craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!”

What was I going to do now? What’s worse than my parents finding a half eaten box of donuts? AN ENTIRELY EATEN BOX OF DONUTS!

I quickly pulled on a pair of shoes, grabbed an empty plastic bag and ran with the box out to the garage. There, I tore that box into a thousand pieces, putting any standard office shreader to shame, and stuffed the bag into the bottom of the trash can. I waddled back into the house, filled with shame and clogged arteries.

But free of my parents’ disappointment.

Victory.

*Car dancing is a fine art established my one Stephanie Tomassetti-Miller. I could explain it, but it really wouldn’t do the artist justice.