Night Visions

A few months ago I had a hard time sleeping. Sleep would just not come to me. I don’t know what was different. Nothing it seemed. It was making me anxious and annoyed and frankly, pretty damn tired in the mornings. I hated it. I didn’t know what to do to try and make it better.

One night when I couldn’t sleep and was tossing and turning and turning and tossing some more, something compelled me to pick up my phone, head into my Notes App and just write. I wrote some pretty interesting things. They are interesting to me anyway. I shared some. In looking back at the notes there was a period from October, 2017, and ending in April, 2018, where I wrote. I have not felt compelled since then to write poems. I don’t know why. In fact there was a big span from the last one on January 24th, until the April one. I don’t know why that is either. Timing is interesting and strange all at the same time. There was also a section in my Notes App where had hand-written notes and drew faces with my finger. Those were around the same time as the poems. I cannot draw. Just putting that out there, but the faces I tried to draw were super interesting to me. The expressions, or non-expressions on the faces, were just strange.

A curious thing happened though. Once I could write no more, the sleeplessness went away. The anxiety went away. The annoyance went away. The tiredness went away. Whatever made me write those notes, also took away the anxiousness and the sleeplessness. I’m not sure what it was, but I am glad I listened. I am glad I wrote. I am glad I cleared the negative energy.

My whole outlook changed. My demeanor changed. I changed. 

While re-reading these poems, they seem really dark. I promise I’m fine. Nothing to worry about. I do find the last one from April 8th pretty interesting. I know I have talked about intuition and “bad feelings” previously, and I think that poem on that day, was a sign. It was a sign about Mike. I was anxious and having that bad feeling that just hangs on for a while and then I usually find out a few days later that something bad happened. And something bad did happen a few days after that. Mike died. 

Anyway, here are the poems that I wrote and the pictures I drew. Don’t judge too harshly.

October 28, 2017

The dead of night

Shadows dance in the light

I feel lonely and sad

Feelings I hate and fight

My face is dark

The stars and sky are bright

Why is it so hard to feel alright


December 26, 2018

I don’t know what to think or do

The guilt is hard

The guilt is true

How I wish things could have been different

For you, and you, and you


January 2, 2018

My mind needs to quiet down

So many thoughts running around

So many words

So many sounds

I hear the pound

The anxiety is loud

It creeps and creeps

So I can’t sleep


January 8, 2018

I feel anxious

I don’t know why

My gut is trying to tell me



Not a lie

I’m trying to listen

I can’t figure it out

Maybe tomorrow

It will simplify


January 9, 2018

I just got a shiver of despair

A feeling of overwhelming sadness

My eyes filled with tears

My jaw got that tightness



What does it mean

Undisclosed fears

Buried in my soul

The tears ran down my face

Releasing the control


January 10, 2018

This morning my mind feels clear

The fogginess is gone

Images are sharp

Images are near

I like how this feels

It is satisfying and good

I hope it stays glassy and light

And won’t get dark and murky

I want it to be right


January 18, 2018

Anxiety leave me alone

I don’t like you

Get of here

Go home

You always come at night

When I’m too tired to fight

I try

I try to throw you out

But you stick around

You give me grief

You’re sneaky and sly

A good thought thief


January 24, 2018


You’re back I see

What to you want this time

Why can’t you leave me be

I thought you left

I thought you were gone

I relaxed

And now you’re strong


April 8, 2018

Sleep eludes me

Stress envelopes me

Why here

Why now

I thought I had you beat

I thought you took retreat


(two days later Mike died)





The slow walk home…

We lived in the Euclid house. The elementary school was Lincoln. It was on Prospect Street. The school was about five blocks from home, almost all uphill. Up Central, up to the fountain on Broadway, and the weird connection of streets to the fountain, up to Oak, up to Euclid, up to home. That was my route. Every day. To school and back home.

That five blocks felt like a million. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. Why didn’t I just do it at school? Why didn’t I? My hands were full of stuff. I don’t know what stuff, but stuff. We didn’t have backpacks then, so whatever we brought home from school, we had to carry. As in our hands and arms, or in a brown paper grocery bag. More than likely it was books. I loved to read.

It was chilly out. I was wearing a hat. One of those odd, fuzzy ones that had long strings and pom poms on the ends of the strings. What the hell? Who would have made something like that, and why would I have worn it? That is totally not me. Not my style. Not my style even then. It must have been a hand-me-down. Had to be.

I think it was second grade. My favorite teacher, Mrs. Eklund’s class.

Maybe I was talking and messing around and had to hurry to get home. But why didn’t I just do it at school? Why didn’t I?

I left the school and was on my way home. Up the hill from Klein’s house. I crossed over to the other side, the top of the hill before taking a right up to the fountain, Broadway. I couldn’t stand it. It was getting painful. It was hard to even walk. I was struggling. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cry.

I stood there. I stood there for what felt like forever. In reality, it was maybe about 30 seconds, to a minute at most. There were kids still around. What could I do? There was no place to go. There was nothing I could do.

I stood there. I stood there and widened my feet. Everything hurt. I just couldn’t do it anymore, but still I tried not to. Time was up. My body was not cooperating. It was done. There was nothing else I could do to stop it. So, it happened. I wet my pants. I couldn’t hold it any longer. I couldn’t. I watched the pee run down the sidewalk. I was embarrassed. I felt like an idiot. I felt ashamed. I felt better. I felt way better. The pain was gone. Why didn’t I go at school? Why didn’t I?

I wondered if I was going to get in trouble. I couldn’t help it though. It was an accident. There was nothing I could do. Except there was. I could have been more responsible and gone before I started the five block trek home. But I didn’t.

The walk home seemed like forever with wet pants and embarrassment. As much embarrassment as a second grader can have. The memory is strong. The embarrassment is deep.

Listening for the significance

I’m sitting here alone. The noise is the wind and a cardboard box unfolding ever so slowly. I’m not playing any music. I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m alone listening. I have so many things to do, yet I sit here in my silence. The silence of doing nothing. The silence of sounds.

Outside, the wind is howling. I wonder how bad the roads are going to be on the ten mile drive home. I wonder. I dismiss it. I keep listening.

The sound of the mechanical pencil on the paper is an interesting sound. I like it. It reminds me of ice skaters when the blades make that similar kind of noise. It’s hard to describe. It’s beautiful.

Listening. The quieter it gets, the louder I hear things in my head. The thoughts. The ideas. The words. The pictures. I see and hear.

I keep listening. The furnace has kicked in and drowned out the silence. I want it to stop. It didn’t drown out the noise of the wind. It is still howling. I continue to listen.

Winter. The roads are icy and slippery. I dread the drive. It takes so much longer. I just want to be home. We still have to go to parent teacher conferences. The last parent teacher conference we will ever go to. She a senior. We are done.

The cardboard box is still making noise and the wind is still howling. I always wonder. I wonder about the significance of things and what they mean. When I slow down and listen, I begin to hear. I begin to feel. I find the significance.


The Sooper Dooper Chronicles, chapter one

Her name was Jessie Hall. She was one of the “night managers.” One of the Saturday and Sunday managers too. She was an older lady with gray hair and glasses. She had eye problems. A lot. She also had other health ailments and she was always worried about her weight. Her health didn’t stop her though. It didn’t stop her from teaching us things. Life things. How to be a decent human things. She loved us kids. She loved her work kids.

We lived in the Prospect house. It was up the alley from the store I worked at all through high school. Sooper Dooper. They had a jingle. It’s catchy. Sooper Dooper Market, have a Sooper Dooper day. It’s stuck in my head now. Probably not yours, unless you had heard it on the radio when you were younger.

Sooper Dooper was a crappy old building with lots of character. The characters were rats. In the basement. Creepy. It’s the building that is right next door to the Zesto. Notice how I didn’t say Zestos. There is no S on the end. It’s Zesto. If you grew up in Pierre, you know this.

Jessie was a good night boss. She scared the crap out of us and didn’t let us get away with anything. At the same time, she showed us respect. I love when adults can do that with high school kids who probably have no idea what they want to do in life. Jessie listened to us. She let us talk. She let us be. Jessie was the type of person who could spot a bullshitter a mile away. She didn’t take crap from anyone. If you showed her you were a good worker and were honest and trustworthy, you were on her list. Her life list. She would do anything for you. She was not lazy. She was an extremely hard worker and expected others to be the same.

There was an office at the store, back near the butcher area. She usually stayed back there unless we needed something. There was an intercom, so we could be lazy asses and not have to walk all the way back there if we needed money for our tills, or if we needed her to come up front and approve a check or something.

I met a lot of friends there and worked with a lot of amazing people. One friend, Chet, is one of my all time favorite people. We were super close and we got a long really well. Still do. Another friend was Angela. She and I, and I’m sure Chet too, usually had to work the dreaded 3-10 shift on Sunday. That was the worst shift ever. If you were the lucky checker that night, you got the 3-9 shift. Still rotten, but getting to leave at 9 was like heaven. Sundays were the least busy times at the store. Boring as boring can get. You know what happens when people get bored? When kids get bored? They start to do goofy things. One Sunday, Angela and I were checking and we bored beyond belief. We found some basket/pot things and wore them on our heads like hats. We told everyone we were pot heads. We thought we were super clever. I’m sure nobody else did. Hey, it passed the time.

Another time we were all working together. Another Sunday, I’m sure. Jessie was managing. We were having fun. Maybe a little too much fun. We were laughing and must have been pretty loud. Pretty soon, we could hear her coming up to the front. She yelled at us and told us to get to work. She told Chet to go face shelves. If you’ve ever worked at a store, that is the most boring, mundane job EVER in the history of stores. It absolutely sucks. After she got done chewing us out, she started walking back to the office. Chet followed behind. No big deal. Except as Chet followed behind he decided to walk like a monkey. He was swinging his arms and his legs were low to the ground, following behind her. I was dying laughing. I couldn’t stop, until Jessie turned around. She turned around and caught Chet making fun of her. Holy crap! I can still see her face. There might have even been steam coming out of her ears. And then she said it. The thing she said to us every time she got mad at us. The dreaded phrase. The dreaded Jessie phrase. Nobody wanted to hear this phrase from Jessie. She looked Chet right in the eye and said, “God’s gonna punish you.” Whenever she said this, we never knew whether we should laugh or cry. It was disturbing. Sometimes you could tell she was kidding. This time she was not kidding. I’m pretty sure Chet was on her other list. You know the “other” list. The shit list. I’m sure it wasn’t for very long though. Like I said she loved her work kids and we loved her. I miss Jessie. Rest In Peace.

Jessie Wooledge Hall was born June 6, 1917, at Gann Valley,South Dakota, to Lucy Yakey Wooledge and Robert Leroy Wooledge, who farmed in the area. Jessie attended grade school and high school at Gann Valley.
On November 8, 1933, Jessie married Jens Melvin Hall of Gann Valley. They farmed until the impact of the Depression made it impossible for them to continue. In the fall of 1941, the family moved to Pierre where Melvin took employment with Wegner Auto. During this time, Jessie worked for a number of local businesses that included J.C. Penney, Roth Dry Cleaners, Sooper Dooper, Anderson Clothing, as well as state government.

In 1992, Jessie relocated to Sheridan, Wyoming, to reside with her youngest daughter. While there, she took care of elderly in their
homes. Due to ill health she returned to Pierre in 1996 and resided
for a time at Midtown Apartments. In February 1998, she entered
the Beverly Nursing Center due to complications of diabetes.

Jessie was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church of Pierre where she served on the vestry. Her love for her children and grandchildren was expressed in many ways. She was an avid reader, great cook and counselor to her family. St. Mary’s Hospital honored her for her generosity in donating blood for which she was genuinely proud. Her generous spirit and assistance to others less fortunate were many.

Jessie, 83 of Pierre, died Wednesday, October 4, 2000,Mary house Sub-Acute Center, Pierre, SD.

Jessie is survived by five daughters, Margaret Schlichenmayer and husband Eugene of Pierre, Jeanne Lincoln and husband Ron of Aliso Viejo, California, Jeannette Pfeiffer and husband Vern of Pierre, Muriel Jarman and husband Earnest of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Mary Lehnert of Sheridan, Wyoming; and one son David Hall and wife Patricia of Casper, Wyoming. Also surviving are 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren and special friend, Cindy Reed.

Preceding her in death were her husband in 1966, mother and father, three infant children, a brother, Winfield Forrest (Bill) Wooledge and a son-in-law, James Lehnert.

Memorials may be directed to Trinity Episcopal Church in
memory of her and her love of the Lord.

Ken and Egghead

When we lived in the Euclid house, about half a block away in the now empty lot of Sara’s Dance Studio, there was a small store called The Cottage. That’s where my sister, Wendy, stuck her tongue to the street pole one winter. That’s where I got caught stealing. That’s where we got caught lying.

We used to collect empty pop bottles. At that time you had to pay a deposit for the bottles when you bought pop. We would take them in and get money for them. I can’t even remember how much it was per bottle. Maybe a nickel. Maybe not. I can’t remember. You would just add the ones you had to the pile out back and then tell Ken or Egghead how many you had.

Ken and Egghead ran the store. I don’t know if they owned it. How would a kid know this? Exactly. Ken and Egghead seemed old. I don’t think they were, but as a kid everyone over 25 seems old. Ken had dark hair and glasses and wore plaid shirts. Egghead was taller. He was bald and had an oval shaped face. He had glasses too. He wore solid colored shirts and one of those white store aprons. Egghead was not his real name. That’s what we called him. No disrespect at all. He just looked like his name should be Egghead. So it was, to us. Ken was nicer, although I’m sure they both hated it every time we came in. They watched us like hawks. I wonder why? Remember the Been Caught Stealing story?

One day we thought we would go to the store and get some money for pop bottles. We needed some money for candy. Our life was candy.

We, and when I say we, it was the sister who was my partner in crime. The sister named Sherry. Remember the cigarette story? Remember the burning bed story? Yeah, that sister.

We went to the store and went inside. The store was old, but cool. It was dark and shadow-y. It was musty smelling and the floor was made of hardwood and it creaked when you walked. I wonder if Egghead was a butcher? Those white aprons were the kind that butchers usually wore. Weird. Anyway, I don’t remember if they sold meat there. We were always focused on the candy and the comic books. I was never into comic books, but they had a great selection of comic books. They also had a great selection of candy. I paid attention to that. Twizzlers and sixlets were my jam.

We told Ken and Egghead that we wanted money for the pop bottles we had collected. We told them how many we had and that we wanted money for them to buy candy. Nothing different than any other time we turned in pop bottles. Except this time, one of them walked back to check. What??? They never did that before. Uh oh. They were on to us. This was not going to go well.

It just so happened that all the pop bottles had been picked up by the bottling company and there were none, zilch, zero pop bottles out back on the landing. We were doomed. We didn’t know what to do. What the heck were we supposed to say now? Ummmm, oh. Sorry?

They chewed us up one side and down the other. They both seemed super tall. I consulted with Sherry, because I couldn’t remember what exactly happened next. She thinks they made us call our mom and tell her what happened. That makes complete sense, because why would they just let us go? We both can’t remember what happened when we got home. I’m sure we walked that half block home as slowly as we possibly could. But, hey, we’re still here to tell the story!

We didn’t try that prank on Ken and Egghead again and I’m sure they watched us even closer after that incident. Crime doesn’t pay people!

Top Blog Posts of 2017

I wrote a lot in 2017. Maybe not a lot for some people, but for me, it was a lot. I really stayed on top of getting a blog post out every week. I had a lot of good feedback from people about my writing. I so appreciate that. For real. I love to write and have been making sure to write something every day.

With this post I am up to 67 blog posts for the year. I went through all the stats from my site and wanted to share with you the top blog posts of 2017. I am listing the top 5 from the readers and also my favorite top 5 of 2017. I thank you so much for supporting my writing and taking the time to read my posts. It really means a lot to me.

I am going to list the top 5 blog posts and the links and then I am going to list my top 5 favorite posts for the year. Keep in mind that a few of the top 5 are my favorites, but I want to give you a chance to check out others.

I hope you continue to follow me into 2018. If you want to make sure to be notified when I publish a post you can go to my website and there is a place on the right side where you can subscribe to my blog posts.

And…here we go.

Top 5 – from you, the readers:

1. Mr Ellwanger – Hands down, the most popular post of 2017! Mr. Ellwanger was my gymnastics coach. Sometimes people don’t know the impact they have on others.

2. Ryan and Sam Got Married – Ryan is our nephew and this is the day of their wedding.

3. When God Closes A Door – this is about a friend who died of cancer. Such a sad time.

4. A Love Story – My and John’s beginning.

5. I Saw A Lot of Life Today – a visit to the cemetery.

My Top 5:

1. His Name Was Gary – this is about my Dad.

2.  My First Best Friend – this is about my friend, Mary.

3.  Life is Fragile – about the kids at my dad’s funeral –

4.  Ran Into An Old Friend – running into a friend I hadn’t seen in forever.

5.  Are You Afraid To Live – about facing your fears.

Thanks so much for reading. You have no idea how much I appreciate it, and you!

you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered

This week I was trying to think of something to write about. Most times, things are just right there. This week was a little bit different for some reason. My thoughts have not been clear. They have been super jumbled together and fuzzy. I have been having a problem with the clearness of my thoughts. The clarity of my thoughts. Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s just so much stuff going on. Maybe it’s just the way I am this week.

I decided I wanted to tell you about an issue that I feel is very important. It’s important to me, not only because I have a stake in it, but also because these people I am going to write about deserve better. They deserve to be taken care of in a way that is better than what is available now. They deserve it.

Today I am writing about Veterans. At the beginning of November, I ran a Facebook group challenge. It was 22 days. I started November 1, and ended November 22. It didn’t really end though, for me anyway. It is an ongoing cause for me. It’s an important cause for me.

The challenge was about bringing awareness to Veteran suicide. Specifically Mission 22. Did you know that yesterday over 20 Veterans were lost to suicide? According to the website “that makes the war at home more dangerous than all of our combat missions around the world. Let’s end the stigma surrounding Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Let’s end the silence. Lets save our veterans.”

Our soldiers leave as kids and come back with the innocence lost. They come back different. They come back broken. Maybe not physically, but for sure mentally. There is no way they cannot be affected by what they see overseas.

Four of my family members were affected. They were kids then. My son, Spencer, was affected. My nephew, Dustin, was affected. My nephew, Dusty, was affected. My nephew, Cole, was affected. Two Marines, infantry and a sniper and Two Army Rangers. Thank God they all came back physically in tact. I know they were affected mentally. The thing is we don’t see. We don’t know. We weren’t there. Things changed for them. Things didn’t stay the same. Things were different when they came back. Things will never be the same for them. They lost friends. They saw things no kid should ever see. But, you know what. These four boys were the most patriotic kids. They served their country proud. They did their time. They wrote the blank check. They gave to their country. They sacrificed for their country. Red, White and Blue. I thank them for that.

Taken from the Mission22 website:

“Mission 22 currently has two treatment programs that focus on traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress. The goal is not to medicate and mask the problem our Veterans are facing but to heal them. The creation of these Mission 22 healing projects will allow us to support even more Veterans through ground breaking treatments.


Hundreds of Veterans are helped with this Treatment Protocol! Mission 22 has partnered with Fayetteville Hyperbarics LLC to create an intensive 5-8 week program to treat Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress. 

More than 350 Veterans have reclaimed their lives by pursuing a treatment protocol which includes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). The most effective results are experienced through enlightened clinics offering unique, collaborative regimens. 
In Louisiana, Dr. Paul Harch treats Veterans with TBI and PTSD using HBOT. In Colorado, The Miracle Workers of South Boulder Road do the same while adding counseling and a physical training element. The cost for this program is $6,450 for one veteran. This covers the entire 5-8 week intensive program. Mission 22 covers this cost 100% and there are no charges to veterans seeking treatment. 

Full Spectrum Health and Mission 22 have developed a personalized, whole person approach to healing veterans. PTS is not in your head and it’s not just a brain disorder. It involves physical, mental and emotional interactions. Endobiogeny focuses on the whole person as the point of treatment, not just symptoms. This means we treat the person at the level of body, emotions and mind. We allow the patient to tell their story. This is a profound process that brings a level of healing before the doctor has spoken a single word.  Finally, we have a powerful method of analyzing blood work to uncover hidden imbalances at body, emotional and mental levels. Because of the power of our testing system, called the Biology of Functions, the entire visit and treatment can be performed remotely. All appointments can be via video conference with the doctor and labs are done where the veteran lives. The patient can take their treatments from home while they continue to live with their family and engage in their daily responsibilities. Mission 22 has huge success and life changing results with veterans that have completed this program. Please click here to learn more about this program. This program costs on average $1,800 for the first six months with most veterans remaining in the program for one to one and a half years. Mission 22 covers this cost 100% and there are no charges to veterans seeking treatment.” 
During the Facebook 22 Challenge, we sent $690 to Mission 22 to help the fight. To help bring awareness to Veteran Suicide. To help our Veterans who are struggling. You can also donate on the Mission22 website. No Veteran should be left to die. No Veteran should feel suicide is their only choice. They deserve better. They deserve to receive help. They deserve it.

This holiday season, if you know of any Veterans who will be alone on Christmas, reach out to them. Invite them to dinner. Spend some time with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Be there for them. They were there for us. They gave for us. Red, White and Blue.

Christmas Tree – 2017

Every year around this time we get the Christmas tree. Every year around this time we wonder why it is so big. Every year around this time we struggle getting it into the house. Today was no different. Today is Sunday, December 3, 2017. This is kind of early for our tree. It seems like we procrastinate and are lucky if we get one a week and a half before Christmas. Apparently, we are on the ball this year. In years past, we have had ridiculously tall trees. I guess 12 feet sounded short to John.

The tree had been hanging around outside for the past few days. You know, just chilling and dropping branches. John went and picked it out himself. He was excited, as it was a 12 foot tree. Shorter than last year. It’s funny how at the tree shopping place they all look so short. Until you get it in the house.

John said he cut at least a foot off the top and about a foot off the bottom too. I can’t imagine what it would have looked like if he hadn’t. The tree is beautiful, and heavy, and wide. Did I mention it is heavy?

I heard the doorbell ring and the dogs of course went crazy, barking and running to the door. I opened it and it was John. He told me he needed me to help with the tree. Oh fun, I thought. That’s not really what I thought, but I’ll leave it at that. The tree was at the bottom of the steps already in the stand. Our steps consist of 4 or 5 steps, a landing and 3 or 4 more steps. We don’t use the front door a lot, so I don’t know exactly how many steps are in each section. I was looking at the tree from the top of the steps. It looked big, and heavy.

John picked it up to move it and it tipped over and he just about fell trying not to fall. Of course I laughed. He started swearing. He got the tree back up and told me I would have to help him carry it in. The tree is big, and heavy.

He was complaining how he couldn’t really step up the steps with the tree because of his legs. In the past he had injured both legs and ankles. Not to mention the fact he is getting old. His words, not mine. So, I was summoned to help. He was going to hold the bottom and I was to hold the top part and we would bring it in. I grabbed my end and we started lifting it and I started to trip backwards up the steps because it’s hard to walk up the steps backwards whilst holding onto something, as the something you are holding onto gets lower the higher you go. We were almost to the top and then John realized we can’t take the tree in top first because it won’t fit in the door that way. If we did it that way, we would have stripped the branches and had a Charlie Brown tree. Joy.

So we have to turn it around and start over. Now I am at the bottom of the steps and John is on the landing. We picked it up and started hauling. It is really heavy and awkward. The further we got in the door, the more the tree is coming down on my head. At least it is fresh and the needles don’t feel like real needles, like they do at the end of Christmas. We survived the steps. The tree is in the house. We get it standing up and we are laughing so hard because my hair is completely flattened on my head by the tree and I can’t even see because my hair is completely covering my eyes.

But guess what? We still need to get it on the plastic bag that it will go into at the end of Christmas. That means we get to lift it again and place it on the bag, in the center of the bag. John showed me where he wanted it to be. He said he would lift it and I could tell him where to put it. Yeah, you probably know what I’m thinking. Haha.

Here we go again. John lifted the tree up and started moving it back towards the plastic bag to the landing spot where he wanted it. I told him to keep going. Again, keep going. Then it was, okay, stop. He set it down and now I was trapped behind the tree against the wall. I had to squat down and crawl out underneath the tree. I am sure it was quite a sight watching us bringing in the tree and placing it. Of course, Tayler was nowhere to be found to help us. Typical teenager, when you need help, they disappear.

Every year around this time, we get the Christmas tree. Every year the tree is too big. Every year we say we are getting a smaller tree next year. Today was no different. Every year we laugh at each other when we are getting the tree in the house. I am so grateful that after almost 20 years of marriage, we can still laugh with each other and have fun.

Now, just like every year before, we will try to remember what color lights we put on the tree last year. We change the lights every year and we struggle to remember the color, every year.

The tree is beautiful, and heavy.

How do we sleep when our beds are burning

Why is fire so fascinating? It’s mesmerizing. I love it. Whenever we sit out at the fire pit, I find myself staring into it and getting lost in the colors. The dancing and jumping of the flames is fascinating. The colors are rich and vibrant. It is pretty and tantalizingly dangerous at the same time. Tempting and enticing, seductive even. I love the sound it makes when the wood cracks and the sparks release.

As far back as I can remember I have loved fire…

It was the Euclid house. My sister, Sherry, and me, alone in the bedroom we shared. One bed, one dresser and a closet. It was small. It seemed big at the time. It wasn’t. We locked the door with a butter knife. The kinds of door frames back then were the type where you could lock the door by sticking a butter knife in between the frame and the wall. I think that’s how it went. Anyway, it locked the door and nobody could get in. We stole matches from our parents. We were intrigued with starting things on fire. Little things.

It seemed like our bed took up most of the room. We shared it. It was either a full size or a queen. I’m not sure. There was a window on the south wall of the bedroom and it was pretty close to the bed. There was enough room for us both to crouch down beside the bed.

We had our stash, the matches and the fire starter—toothpicks. Apparently, toothpicks worked well to start a fire. We tested some toothpicks. They burned fast. As we were burning the toothpicks, we happened to notice there was a hole in the mattress with spider-webby fuzz and foam sticking out. Naturally, that was intriguing.

Sherry wanted to start that fuzz on fire. I didn’t. Sherry said we could blow it out. I didn’t think so. Because I was the older sister, 13 months worth, I was obviously more responsible. I kept telling her we shouldn’t do it. She kept telling me we could blow it out. Well if by blowing it out, she meant blowing it up, well then yeah, she blew it out alright. NOT. Obviously, it made it worse.

The fire started in the mattress. It got out of control. We didn’t know what to do. We were jumping on the bed freaking out. The fire was getting bigger. The flames were coming out of the bed, big time. We didn’t know what to do, so we hid in the closet. Yeah, that little closet that was on the other side of the bed. Like that was going to make a difference.

As a parent, you should never take naps when you have kids named Peggie and Sherry in the house. Especially 6 and 5 year old Peggie and Sherry. They will always get into mischief. We were much older than our tender years though, in case you are appalled by this story.

Mom must have smelled the smoke. Either that or we freaked out enough and were scared enough that we yelled for her. We were stubborn, so I am pretty sure she smelled the smoke.

I’m not exactly sure how she broke into the bedroom. Remember, the butter knife in the door. I guess it wasn’t mom proof. We were still in the closet. She came rushing in and then right back out. She got the bowl. The white bowl. The white Tupperware bowl. She filled it with water and came running back in. Back and forth with bowls of water. Water in the white Tupperware bowl. It seemed like it lasted forever. I bet she was tired. I bet her adrenaline went crazy. I bet she was mad. I bet she wanted to kill us.

Well, now what? We knew we were in BIG trouble. We were super scared, as you can imagine. We didn’t know what was going to happen next, but we knew it wasn’t going to be good. Once the fire was out, we were out. We were done. We were anticipating the punishment. I’m pretty sure she ripped the doors off the closet trying to get to us. I’m also pretty sure that I pushed Sherry in front of me, because obviously, she started the fire in the first place.

Sherry got the first ass beating. On Mom’s lap, pants pulled down, about 10 or 15 hard whacks and then she was thrown to the floor. Ouch. It was my turn next. Same scenario. Pants pulled down like they were made of paper, like there was nothing to them. I’m sure we covered up our butts with our hands. No go. That didn’t matter. She still found a way to get her whacks in. And then, just like Sherry, I was thrown to the floor. I’m pretty sure she threw us back in the closet. The same closet where we tried to hide. The comfort of the closet, which was not comforting at all after that.

It was over. Except not really. The bed was burned beyond saving. It was ruined. It was the kind of bed that had a box spring that was actually springs, not too comfy at all. We had the privilege of sleeping on those springs for over a week before we got a new bed.

Our fire days were over, or were they…

Her name was Nancy and she had really red hair

When I started gymnastics I was in 6th grade. Actually, the summer after 6th grade. I learned about it from a friend in my grade. She had been in it for quite some time and I was immediately curious about it. I had really never heard of it before.

I signed up. I was hooked immediately. I LOVED it. I was a strong kid and this fueled by passion for being strong. I practiced all the time. Day in and day out. I was always practicing splits and cartwheels and handstands. I practiced handstands so much that I made myself so tired that I fell and broke my collar bone. That was super intense pain. It never set right and to this day I have some problems with that side of my body, mostly trying to keep square and not twist during movements such as kettlebell swings and even pull-ups.

By the time school gymnastics started in the fall, it was time to get the brace off. It was the day practice started. I was so excited. It was finally time to dig back in. It was finally time to get strong again. It was finally time to work hard again.

We had some really cool upperclassmen who were there to help guide us underlings to gymnastics success. One of them was Nancy Teske. Her name now is Nancy Boe. She was so nice. She was so helpful to us peons. Gymnastics wasn’t huge back then and a lot of us youngsters were on varsity. It was a lot of pressure for us. It was a lot of hard work, but the older girls were there every step of the way for us and wholeheartedly supported us.

We worked together during summer gymnastics too. We actually got to be in the “new” gym instead of the old grungy one. I actually miss that old grungy gym. There were stall bars in it and the peg board. I would love to have those two items in my home gym.

When I worked during summer gymnastics, Nancy was the boss. I remember Cathy Cowan and Nancy Stoeser too. They were so fun. I totally remember wanting to be like all of them. They were so cool and so together and just so enjoyed life. I could tell. They had fun. They seemed so grownup.

The thing I remember most about it was the music. There was a separate little room with a record player. You had to physically go put on an album that you wanted to hear. The one we chose over and over was Cat Stevens. The songs included Wild World, Peace Train, Oh Very Young and Morning Has Broken. I’m listening right now on Spotify and it takes me right back to that gym.

I think when we are young and we have good role models to look up to we should tell them the influence they had on us. Nancy and I both had sons who were the same age. They graduated together. I think we were at the parent/senior party and I gave her a letter and CD. I can’t really remember exactly what I wrote in that letter, but I know I told her that she was a huge influence on me. She influenced me to make good decisions in life. She influenced me to stay on the straight and narrow. She was cool like that. She was the type of person that you wanted to please. You wanted to make her proud. I looked up to her and I wanted her to know that. The CD I gave her was Cat Stevens.

I think it’s pretty cool and ironic that she became a teacher. The most underrated profession. The influence of teachers is immeasurable. I bet she was an amazing one! I hope she is enjoying her retirement.

I think so much in life we are afraid to tell people what they mean to us. I think it’s okay and I am doing it now as much as I can.


Oh baby baby it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh baby baby it’s a wild world