I’ll take my chances with the rain

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I can’t believe I forgot my umbrella. Rookie mistake. Damn Florida and its daily cloudbursts.

As the trickle turned into a downpour, I frantically searched for shelter. I ducked into the first storefront that I saw with an “open” sign. A bell jingled above me as I closed the door, shutting out the rain. I assessed the damage. I was pretty soaked, my clothes dripping on the scuffed, wooden floor. My hair was a matted mess.

Damn Florida.

As my eyes adjusted to the store’s dim lighting, I realized that I was surrounded by clutter. Very old and dusty clutter. I was assaulted by the smell of dirt and mildew. I had somehow wound up in a place that time forgot. I was in an antique shop.

“It won’t last long.” I turned toward the voice to see a tiny, fragile woman. She was ancient, as old as many of the items strewn about the shop. “The rain, I mean. It won’t last long. It does this every afternoon.”

“Right. Every afternoon.” I knew that because I was a local, I was not a tourist. Yet, there I was soaked without an umbrella.

“Take a look around, dear, while you’re waiting. We have many treasures here.” She shuffled back around behind the counter and went back to her duties.

The floor creaked as I moved toward the nearest stack of clutter. Furniture, mirrors, knick knacks, portraits, records. It was a motley collection of junk. I noticed a hand-carved music box perched precariously on a shelf. I reached out for it and felt a cold burst of air that sent a chill through my body. My arm covered in goosebumps and my hair stood on end. I was hit with a feeling of extreme sadness, it crashed through me like a wave. I froze, unable to think or move. The energy pulsated through me – despair, fear, loneliness, depression. It was so strong that it caused me physical pain. I drew my hand back and tried to make my legs move. Get away, get away, get away.

I turned back toward the door and then I felt it. The sadness faded and was replaced by adrenaline. My chest felt tight and my stomach churned. I felt sick. I could feel a presence and it was full of anger, hatred. Evil. Vile. I could feel it around me, moving. Every thread in my body was screaming to leave. Leave now.

I lunged for the door and threw myself back outside, slamming the door behind me. Relief washed over me as I smelled the fresh air. Still shaken, I pushed away from the storefront and walked on, eager to put distance between me and whatever was in that shop. I did not look back, too scared of what I might see.

I’ll take my chances with the rain.

Daily Post: Sudden Downpour

Author’s note: I had a similar experience with an antique shop many years ago (minus the rainstorm). There was an evil presence there, I’m sure of it. I have never felt anything like it. As a result, I find antique shops creepy and I generally avoid them.

 

Image by South Granville (flickr) – license

Fab at 40

Daily Post: Age-Old Questions: “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?

 

Actual conversation that occurred about 3 weeks ago between me and two female coworkers, both age 30…

Coworker #1: I’m not sure how old Erica is. I think she’s in her late 30s by now.

Coworker #2: That sounds about right.

Me: Erica and I are very close in age. I think she’s 39.

Both of them look at me in stunned silence.

Coworker #1 and #2 (simultaneously): WHAT?!

Coworker #1: How old are you?!

Me: Um, I turned 40 this year.

Coworker #1: No way!

Coworker #2: You do not look that old! I thought you were my age. 31 or 32 at the most.

Coworker #1: I thought you were 30!

Coworker #2: You look great!

Coworker #1: You look amazing!

I was flattered, sure. I like when people tell me that I look younger than my age. Especially when those people are vibrant, younger women. Though, I was not thrilled about the part where they acted like 40 was “so old.”

I turned 40 this year. I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy. I have had a hard time coming to terms with my fleeting youth. Now, I don’t really feel like 40 is old. However, in our society, women of my age are considered by many to be past their prime and less desirable than 20-somethings. Society often makes women of my age feel less attractive. I know I shouldn’t buy into that nonsense but…

Forty has been like a gateway age where I have started to realize that I am not quite as young as I feel.  Sure, there’s the gray hairs (just a few), eye wrinkles and sagging skin. But its more than that. I’m at a place in my life where I have different concerns and priorities than my friends and coworkers in their early 20s. Life experience will do that.  Despite that, I do still feel young. Or, at least, I don’t feel old. Maybe I just feel more mature.

And my coworkers are right. I do look great! I am rocking 40.

I try to keep the right perspective on aging. Aging is better than the alternative. I’ve lost loved ones who died way too young. Life truly is a gift.

Blessed

Daily Post: On Bees and Efs

Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? Do you believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most? Tell us a story about your BFF (or lack thereof).

 

I opened the door to find my new roommate on the doorstep.  We had spoken on the phone but had never met until that exact moment. She stood there with her luggage and a car full of boxes, her parents standing behind her. They had driven to South Carolina all the way from upstate New York. I had moved from Missouri, so we immediately bonded over being outsiders in the south. We lived together for two years, while we completed a graduate program  at USC. We had a lot in common and became fast friends. We went through a lot together – the stress of school, homesickness, dating and breakups. We were in each others’ weddings. Over the years, we have supported each other through pregnancy, pregnancy loss, birth and parenting. We have shared crazy in-law stories. We have had great adventures traveling together. I was the first person she called when she found out our former boss and mentor had terminal cancer. We cried together. She was the first person I called when I lost my job three years ago. She is one of my favorite people on the planet.

I met him on a blind date. He showed up on my doorstep several hours late after a misunderstanding on a canoe trip earlier that day (keys were left in the wrong vehicle, its a long story). I had been through a stressful breakup several months before and I was cautious with him. I immediately felt a comfort with him that I had never felt before. He taught me to trust again. He sealed the broken pieces back together.  Falling in love with him was easy. We blissfully entered into marriage with wide eyes and innocence. We have been through a lot in our years together. Life has a way of beating down and weathering even the strongest of relationships. The stress of jobs, moving, children, money and responsibility takes its toll. Despite that, he has been my partner, standing by my side with unwavering devotion. We work together to navigate the stresses of life and the obstacles. We share every part of ourselves. We don’t just live together, we have built a life together. While I call him my husband, he is more than that. He is also my friend.

We didn’t always get along when I was growing up. She was strict and at times, overbearing. I was a very independent child and I resented her authority and boundaries. I spent my adolescence wishing for the day when I could leave and be on my own. As an adult, I can look back and realize that my mother was overworked and stressed. She did the best she could to provide for me and keep me on the right path. Now that I am a parent myself, I know how hard that is. I now realize that she is a smart woman, full of life experience. I didn’t appreciate that when I was younger. I also realize now that she is, and has always been, my biggest supporter. Her love is truly unconditional. Again, as a parent, I can now understand that. I spent my early adulthood living a long distance from my parents. I moved back to my hometown nine years ago. In those nine years, I have seen my mother almost every day. This has allowed us to really get to know each other, in a real way – as adults and equals. While I love her because she is my mother, I also like her as a person. In recent years, she has become one of my closest friends.

I have been blessed to have these people in my life. They each embody true friendship. I can’t really classify one as “best.” I don’t think you can really label that kind of love. All I know is that I am truly thankful to have them in my life.

Musical Marker: Song of the Summer

Daily Post: Musical Marker – We all have songs that remind us of specific periods and events in our lives. Twenty years from now, which song will remind you of the summer of 2014?

 

“Sing” by Ed Sheeran

Why? Because it makes me dance and he is an adorable, awkward little British ginger and I’d love to carry him around in my pocket. The song is just light and breezy, like summer.

And if you want to see him as a drunk puppet, watch the video.

 

Introvert

Daily Post: Middle Seat

It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?

 

One word: Earbuds. The universal “do not disturb” sign.

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I am an introvert. With a capital I. And bold font.

Its not that I dislike people. I actually really like people and often crave interaction. The problem is that I don’t know how to go about such interactions. I’m not antisocial. I am socially awkward. I am sensitive and care too much about what others think of me. I am hyperaware of myself. Social interactions are quite exhausting.

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I am actually a very friendly person, even if I don’t appear so. I will rarely initiate conversation with a stranger but if they approach me, I am open and accepting.

So I create a bubble around myself and withdraw. Earbuds are choice. Or a book. Or I lose myself in my phone (smartphones are a wonderful crutch for introverts, I don’t know how I lived without one).

No, I’m not being antisocial. I’m just introverting.

 

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl

In response to Daily Post

 

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Happy birthday, baby girl.

Yesterday was my younger daughter’s sixth birthday.

Six is an awesome age. She just finished kindergarten. She is a beginning reader and she is learning how this skill can give her more power and independence. She is a social child and a natural leader, awarded with many responsibilities in her classroom.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

The world is still a magical place to her. She is obsessed with Hello Kitty. The iconic cartoon is on her clothes, toys and bedroom walls. She is in love with her numerous baby dolls. She takes them everywhere. She dresses them, feeds them, talks to them and disciplines them. She makes up stories about them. To her, they are very real.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

She is a free-spirit. She loves life. She loves to sing and dance. She plays in the rain. She never skips dessert. She approaches everything with enthusiasm and exuberance. She has unlimited energy. She is technicolor and volume on full-blast.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

As every parent knows, we learn as much from our children as they learn from us. She has taught me to stop and live in the moment. To enjoy the little things. To see things once again through the eyes of a child. To appreciate life’s beautiful things. She’s also taught me that I have to be creative in parenting. Strong-willed children can be a blessing and a curse in a way. They keep you on your toes. They push buttons like a pro. I am still learning how to keep her on the right course without clipping her sails.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

I love you more than you will ever know. I can’t wait to experience six with you.

 

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Image from freedigitalphotos.net

 

Islands

In response to the Daily Post: Nosey Delights

 

The smell of the coffee shop invites me in and welcomes me like a warm hug. I’m not really here for the coffee, though. I’m here because this shop is busy and I need to be around people. I need to feel normal. I need to feel like I’m in the land of the living, in body and in spirit.

Latte, frappuccino, espresso, iced espresso, macchiato

The menu might as well be written in Greek. Maybe this was a bad idea.

Forget the coffee. I focus instead on my surroundings. The man in front of me is tall and dressed in a suit, carrying a briefcase. There’s a woman behind me in a beautiful sundress. She has on strappy sandals that I like. The woman behind her is dressed in workout gear, earbuds in place and scrolling through a playlist on her phone. Several tables are occupied by single individuals pecking away on laptops, papers scattered around them. Many different people but all the same in that they are focused on their own little world. Islands. Social but at the same time, not.

I turn my attention back to the menu. I don’t see him coming. A man passes by me, very closely. He almost bumps my shoulder. That isn’t what gets my attention. The smell of his cologne enters my space. It climbs inside my nose and goes straight to my brain. It sends waves through my body and paralyzes me where I stand.

Calvin Klein Eternity for men. I would know it anywhere. The smell of him.

A montage of memories flashes through my mind, the coffee shop temporarily forgotten. Sitting behind him in high school English class. Hanging out in his college apartment, cuddling on the couch. Walking hand in hand. The way he would tuck my hair behind my ear when he was staring into my eyes. In his car, his one hand on the wheel and the other holding mine. Our wedding, so handsome in his tuxedo. Laying in bed, my head on his chest. His arms wrapped around me, enveloping me in his warmth. His lips on mine. The reaction of my body to his touch. The night he left with his guitar for band practice, kissing me on his way out the door. The last night I saw him alive.

I take a deep breath. The sights and sounds of the coffee shop come back into focus. The stranger with the unfortunate choice of cologne has deposited his trash in the receptacle and walked out the door. Moved on. He will go about his day and never know that he has left me a shaky, emotional mess in the coffee line.

I look down at the floor and try to hide behind my long, mahogany hair. I surreptitiously wipe away a few stray tears.

Maybe we’re not islands after all.

 

Save Me, Daryl Dixon

I wait in the darkness. I can hear her in the next room. She doesn’t know I’m here. Not yet. But she will. Oh, she will. For now, I am patient and still. So very still so that there are no suspicious noises to alert her to my presence. No, it will be a surprise. She’ll never see it coming.

 

I am in heaven. I am in the middle of a Walking Dead marathon, thoroughly enjoying my favorite zombie slayers. I am propped up in the bed, surrounded by fluffy pillows and popcorn. My phone buzzes constantly as I am texting several friends, discussing plots and trying to predict what will happen to our beloved survivors. I am already thinking about the discussions I will have at work tomorrow with my band of fellow Deadheads. I am completely and totally in my element.

A commercial. Time for a bathroom break. I heave myself off the bed and pad barefoot down the dark hall. I reach in the doorway to flip on the bathroom light. A cold hand grabs my wrist. I hear a raspy growl in front of me. Confusion and panic flood my body as my heart thuds against my chest wall. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I scream and flail my free hand until I hit the light, illuminating the bathroom.

My husband. My jackass husband.

I look at him wide-eyed, disbelieving. He is doubled over in laughter. I put my hand on my chest, willing my muscles to relax, willing my lungs to fill with air. He laughs and laughs.

He throws his hands up in the air, waving them in a damsel-in-distress fashion, and teases in his best mocking tone, “Help, help! Save me, Daryl Dixon!” He can barely manage it, he is laughing so hard.

“You… Jerk.” I am still trying to get my heart rate back to normal. As my fear fades, I am moving on to anger.

“Oh, come on. That was funny.”

“You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“You should have seen your face! Pure gold.” Still laughing.

I narrowed my eyes. Revenge will be sweet.

“Honey?” My breathing is almost back to normal. My heart is still racing.

“Yeah?”

“Run.”

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Writing 101: Day 12 – Dark Clouds on the Horizon: Write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. Twist: Include foreshadowing.