Just Let Me Buy You Pinto Beans!

Yesterday, I was at Target getting supplies for my kiddo’s birthday party. I got into the checkout line behind a neatly dressed girl who looked to be in her mid-to-late 20’s, with a baby in a carrier in her cart.

The cashier was also a girl in her 20’s, and she had the till screen turned at an angle where I could see what was going on during the transaction. The cashier was ringing up a handful of coupons for this customer, and I noticed that her final total was $5.36. I idly wondered if she was one of those extreme couponers because she had several things already bagged up in her cart.

As I watched, the girl swiped a card (that I assumed was a gift card because it didn’t have any credit card number imprints) and the till screen gave an error something like “Card Number Not Recognized”. The cashier cleared the error and asked the girl to try it again. She swiped it again with the same result.

As it turned out, it was a WIC card and I believe the girl said it was new, i.e., she hadn’t had it very long. The cashier looked very apologetic and said “Oh, I’m sorry. We don’t take WIC.

The girl didn’t get upset. She just said “Oh, really? Okay.” and started to take a bag out of her cart to return some items. As I watched, she put 4 cans of pinto beans back on the counter.

This was the point where I overcame my social anxiety because I just couldn’t let this young mom take things out of her cart because she couldn’t afford to spend $5.36. I said “No, no! Don’t put anything back! I’ll pay it for you!”

She smiled at me and said “No, it’s fine.” as she stacked these 4 cans of pinto beans back on the counter.

I said “No, really. Please let me pay for it. Don’t put anything back.” and actually started to reach into my purse to get my wallet.

She smiled again and said “No, it’s really okay. Thank you though.”

The cashier looked at me for half a second, judging what to do, but then went ahead and took the beans off the total. That brought the sale total down to $1.34. The customer swiped a different card, packed up her purse and left with her baby. She never got upset. I’m sure she was at least a tiny bit embarrassed but she never showed it. She just politely refused my offer and went on her way.

After she was out of earshot, the cashier looked at me and said “That was really nice of you anyway.”

I gave her a pained, defeated look and said “I tried!”

It honestly broke my heart a bit that this nice-looking, put-together mom with a teeny baby couldn’t afford to spend $5.36 on BEANS. (It sounds so Oliver Twist, I can’t stand it.) Even if she was going to leave Target and immediately head to the grocery store to use her WIC card there to get what she needed, that $3-4 obviously made a big difference in her budget. As I thought about it, I realized the part that really broke my heart was that she wouldn’t let me help when I could afford to do it and would have willingly paid a bill higher than what she couldn’t. I actually considered buying the 4 cans of beans and running out to the parking lot to throw them in her cart but she’d been so polite and “okay” about the entire situation that I felt like it would have been inappropriate somehow. She completely shut me down in the nicest possible way.

We have to be willing to take care of each other, but we also have to be willing to allow people to help us. Rejecting an offer of assistance makes the offerer feel… well, disappointed and rejected. It would have impacted me if she had let me pay for her purchase but it definitely impacted me to a much greater degree, in a completely different way, for my offer to be refused.

::Sad Face::

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The Wisdom of Adventure Time

Anxiety is the worst. It has a dozen or more forms and is personally tailored to the individual experiencing it, so it’s extremely hard to pin down ways to help overcome it. It’s not only distressing and exhausting, but it can keep you from doing the things you really want to do. Sometimes it seems insurmountable. And then there are times where the clouds break and you actually win the battle.

I struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (anxiousness with no readily identifiable cause), mild Social Anxiety Disorder, and Intrusive Thoughts. Luckily, I have a fantastic support system of people who either understand or simply accept that I get overwhelmed, anxious and upset sometimes.

Jay and I recently became a “one-car family” when I sold my Honda Fit to my sister, who needed a reliable car. We both work from home, so having one car has worked well most of the time. However, we still have days where we’ve both needed to be in separate places at the same time and it’s been inconvenient.

Since a lot of our errands are close to home, we don’t necessarily need a second car. Plus, I just got the garage cleaned out and actually have space to work on art in there! I’m not quite willing to give it up just yet. Our solution was to buy a scooter.

I did some research and finally went to talk to the people at Solano Cycles in Orange Park. They are fantastic. There aren’t any pushy salespeople working on commission (which I hate dealing with) and Martin answered every question I had, including some I hadn’t thought of. I wanted to be able to travel on 45-65mph roads without being afraid of traffic, but didn’t want anything huge and heavy. We ended up getting a brand-new 2013 Kymco Movie 150.

Kymco Movie 150

Kymco Movie 150

When Martin showed up to deliver our new scooter, he went over the entire bike again with me, showing me where everything is. He had me start it up, lock it, etc. Then he said “Do you want me to show you how to ride it now?”

We had a little bit of daylight left, so I said “Yes, please!”

“Do you have a helmet?” he asked.

“Yes! Let me go get it!”

As I walked to the car to get my new helmet, I felt a bit of anxiety start to build up and I squashed it back down without thinking too hard about it.

Martin started up the “bike” and rode it down the street and back to get it warmed up a bit. Then he asked me to sit on it while he held the handlebars steady at the front and had me turn the throttle to get a feel for it.

Finally, he said “Okay, I want you to turn the throttle just enough to move forward a few feet, then brake. Do it a few times to get used to starting and stopping smoothly.”

He stepped away and suddenly I saw that we had drawn a small crowd down the street who were watching this little spectacle with interest.

I have a very distinct memory from my early twenties of wanting to learn to surf. My boyfriend at the time had a surfboard and was totally willing to teach me. We went down to the beach, he laid the surfboard on the sand, out of reach of the water, and tried to teach me to lay on the board and bounce up onto my feet before actually taking it into the water. I remember being mortified and embarrassed to have to be clumsy and awkward in front of tons of people on the beach, so much so that I panicked and refused to do it at all. The lesson ended and I didn’t try again until I turned 30.

Sitting on my brand new scooter, on my street, with my neighbors and their kids watching, I was suddenly seized by the same mortification and embarrassment. Not because I’d done anything embarrassing, but because I was about to try doing something I WASN’T GOOD AT IT in front of a crowd. It was a deep fear of being seen to be incompetent. Of everyone recognizing that I didn’t know what I was doing and silently judging and laughing at me. It gripped me so hard that I froze for just a second, terrified. I thought about the surfboard on the beach, about how I’d just flat-out refused to do it, and how much I’d regretted it afterward.

And then I decided I wasn’t going to let it conquer me and keep me from learning.

I pushed through it.

I wasn’t graceful. Not nearly so at first. But I kept starting and stopping, bit by bit down the street, toward my little crowd of spectators, Martin walking with me and offering encouragement and advice. A couple was walking toward me on the sidewalk as I moved haltingly down the street, casually watching me. When they got within earshot, I managed to turn to them, grinned and said “Hey, I gotta learn sometime, right?”

The woman grinned back, laughed and said “That’s right! You gotta start somewhere! You’ll get it!” They both smiled at me and walked on.

That quick exchange did more for my confidence than anything else had. I had forced myself to reach out, to lay bare my insecurity to a perfect stranger, and had received positivity in return instead of the judgement and ridicule I had been afraid of.

I’m pleased to say I ended up “putting” around the neighborhood at a steady 15 mph and can now start and stop fairly smoothly. It’s going to take a little more practice before I feel confident venturing out into traffic, but I don’t think it will take me very long. The scooter is fun to ride and I’m extremely pleased with myself for not giving in to my fear of embarrassment.

In the words of Jake from Adventure Time,


As I mentioned before, the people at Solano Cycles are fantastic. It’s owned by Martin and his mother Elayne. I absolutely recommend them to anyone thinking about purchasing a scooter or ATV. They have 4 locations; Orange Park, Jacksonville Beach, Saint Augustine (which also provides rentals) and Gainesville.

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The Gingerbread Girl – Part II

When I was a kid, I grew up with our family owning and riding horses. I rode Western Barrels when I was about 6 and did well. But after that, I mostly rode English on our Arabian gelding. I was always fascinated with Show Jumping but not enough to beg my mom to find me an instructor. I could already go ride any time I wanted so nothing was really keeping me from it.

We sold the last of our horses (the Arabian) when I was 15. High school had meant I was too busy to go riding nearly as often as I did when I was younger.

Fast forward to 2014. The area I’ve lived in for the last 8 years is chock-full of horse farms. I’d slowly been developing a “fever” to ride again but A) didn’t have a horse of my own and B) have more than a bit of social anxiety and was worried I wouldn’t remember most of what I’d known inherently as a kid. There’s a certain fear in tackling a childhood activity as an adult and WANTING to be good at it. Finally, in October I started taking lessons at a really great horse farm/jumping school here in Jacksonville.

This is Lane, my lesson horsey. He always looks this grumpy.

This is Lane, my lesson horsey. He always looks this grumpy.

How does this tie into The Gingerbread Girl? Well, you see, my riding lessons are on Tuesday afternoons. And my first experience with running with the C25K app was Tuesday morning. Let’s just say I had the MOST FRUSTRATING riding lesson I’ve had yet. Even my trainer gave me the “Oh noes, I’m SO sorry! WHAT is going on with you today??” face.


It wasn’t until I was DYING and gasping for breath at the end of my lesson that I realized…umm, DUH. My muscles are almost certainly STILL FATIGUED FROM RUNNING THAT MORNING. Exercise Noob indeed. I was foggy-headed that evening and utterly wiped out. I had really over-done it.

I talked to our friend Clay, who does competitive cycling, to ask him for advice. He recommended stretching, hydrating and resting until it didn’t hurt to move. Two days later on Thursday, I was still pretty sore but feeling better. I didn’t want to give up running already but I was going to have to do it on any day OTHER than Tuesday. For one thing, I could get hurt if my muscles were too fatigued to allow me to handle the horse. (I actually got off pretty lucky.) I decided to walk Thursday to stretch out my sore muscles and at least do something other than sit still at the computer.

But when I got outside, even though I could still feel my thighs and ankles yelling at me, I decided instead to pull up the C25K app again and see how it went. I could always stop early or skip a 30-second run if I had to. And you know what? I got through THE ENTIRE 30 MINUTES.

The app alerts you when you’ve finished half the set by saying “You’re halfway there. Start running.” And I was really surprised. I was listening to a Discworld book (The Last Continent) and hadn’t been counting sets. I had just planned to keep going until I felt like I should stop. When I got to the last set and the app said “Start your cool down” I was REALLY surprised because I felt like I had at least one more 30-second run in me! This was a noticeable difference just between the first two days of using this app. I wasn’t DYING. I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up. I was sweaty and panting for sure. My breathing had gotten out of control, especially on the last 30-second run. But I still felt okay!

Here’s me, sweaty, sore and super pleased with myself, post-run. I didn’t collapse on the living room floor because I didn’t have to! (I did make sure to stretch really well, though!)

So proud!

So proud!

Note: The Gingerbread Girl title is taken from a Stephen King short story of the same name about a female runner who has to escape a killer on a beach in Florida. It’s a great non-supernatural short read.

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The Gingerbread Girl

This morning, I was inspired by a friend on Facebook to download the “C25K” app, or “Couch to 5K”.

Backstory: I have NEVER been what you would call a “runner”. I get winded in less than 30 seconds at a slow jog. It’s something I’ve always thought would be a good skill to have (zombies, post-war apocalypse scenarios, etc) but any time I tried it, I would just end up killing myself and quitting.

This guy looks like he very much regrets his decisions.

This guy looks like he very much regrets his decisions.

I recently started walking 3 miles in the mornings twice a week with my friend Michelle​ and she talked me into signing up for the Color Me Rad​ 5K coming up in a few weeks (though the current plan is to walk rather than run). So when I saw someone post about an app specifically to train up to running a 5K, I decided to download it and check it out.

I completed my first day about an hour ago. (It took half that time for me to recover.) But I did it and I didn’t cheat! I felt like I wanted to throw up a little at a few points, which is slightly embarrassing, but I made it. The app is cool because it “talks” to you to let you know when to start running and when to start walking again, so you don’t have to keep checking your watch or phone. You can just concentrate on hyperventilating and dying.

I feel you, bro. [Image courtesy of http://thenextgoal.com]

I feel you, bro. [Image courtesy of http://thenextgoal.com]

Being new to exercise, I’ve noticed a very weird phenomenon. That is, the more you exercise and DON’T QUIT, the more you WANT to exercise. I’d always heard people say that but I’d never reached that plateau. I figured it was just something active people say. But I feel like I actually broke through that barrier at some point recently. Even while I was lying on the living room floor earlier, gasping for air, I found myself thinking “I need to make sure I go to yoga this week”. Not “I should go to yoga this week” but “I really WANT to go to yoga this week”!

Also, just for the record, thin DOES NOT EQUAL healthy or fit. I’ve been thin all my life but I haven’t been in “good shape” in about 15 years. Like I said earlier, I get easily winded and have no endurance for physical activity. My metabolism has started slowing down as well (yay 30’s!). Since I’ve started Equestrian Show Jumping (a story for another post) and walking, I’ve gained about 15 pounds of muscle weight that only I can see. But I definitely know it’s there. Jay says I look healthier than I did when we met and I was a skinny 130 pounds at 5’8″ tall. I’m also starting to feel less sore and just physically better all around.

The Color Me Rad 5K is March 29, 2015, which is 4 weeks from now. I won’t make it to the end of the C25K program before then, but I’ll be well on my way. And maybe I’ll drag Michelle along with me.

If a race were ever designed with me in mind, it would be just like Color Me Rad. SO MUCH COLOR!

If a race were ever designed with me in mind, it would be just like Color Me Rad. SO MUCH COLOR!

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Faux Stained Glass Window

I like old windows. I have a few hanging in my house that I’ve repurposed into mirrors using Krylon Looking Glass spray.

Recently, I found some old windows for sale at an antique mall nearby and scooped up two of them. They’re HUGE! And they were just screaming for something amazing to be done with them. Jay and I did some brainstorming and decided it would be interesting to try making it look like stained glass. I found some examples of faux stained glass paint projects online, but a lot of them were either very simple or very small. This project was going to be neither.

First, I had to clean up the windows and make them look decent, which they did NOT when I bought them.

Peeling paint city, man.

Peeling paint city, man.

I sprayed them down with Citri-Strip paint stripper, which took layers of old paint off. Seriously, it was like scraping custard off the wood. Custard you can’t touch with your bare hands.

Use gloves, kids.

Use gloves, kids.

After I wiped all the residue off, I let the wood dry and then painted it. I used a sample size pot of latex paint I found at Lowe’s for $2.


Then I distressed it with a sanding block, since there were a few damaged places in the wood already.



Now for the fun part!

I bought Redi-Lead Strips and a bottle of Black Liquid Leading to seal the joints where the strips came together. I found a stylized version of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night on Google Image Search and kept it up on my laptop for reference while I laid out the “leading” lines for the design.



Completed design

Completed design

Then it was time to start adding color. I used Martha Stewart Liquid Fill Glass Paint because I liked their colors better than the other brands that were available. Since the tree in the foreground is so darkly colored, I decided to do that first and get the hang of how the paint worked.




Because of the consistency of the paint, I figured out I could drop multiple colors into one area and swirl them together to create really amazing looking patterns. (I used bamboo skewers to swirl the paint and they worked really well.)



I tried to stick to the general color scheme of the original painting as much as possible, but also allowed myself to put my own spin on it. It also helped to work with a lamp underneath the glass so I could see bubbles.


Bubbles in the paint were my biggest problem. The black paint in particular was very thin and had TONS of bubbles in it, no matter what I did. I finally settled on filling an area and then going over it with a bamboo skewer to pop all the bubbles I could find before moving on.


Here’s the finished piece.


Backlit by afternoon sunlight.




The area around the stars are one of my favorite parts of the entire piece. The contrast between the rich blue and the yellow just came out looking amazing.



I’m extremely pleased with how it looks. Once it’s dry, the paint really has a “glass” texture to it and has beautiful translucent areas mixed with more opaque areas. I’m already planning the design for the second window.


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Growing Up Is Weird

When I was a kid, my favorite drink was Chek Grape Soda. It was cheap, bright purple, completely loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup and looked like this around the time I was drinking it.

Grape "Flavor"! Mmmmm!

Grape “Flavor”!

One of my favorite things to do after school or during the summer as a kid was to roller-skate. My Papa had a long concrete driveway shaped like a capital “P”. The stick of the “P” was flat and the curve sloped down and then back up, so it was a great place to pick up speed and practice screaming around the curve. I also once convinced my little sister to stand still and let me kick my roller-skated foot over her head, and accidentally hit her square in the mouth with it instead. But I digress.

These could have been my skates. You know you're jealous.

These could have been my skates. You know you’re jealous.

One particular afternoon, I’d walked over to my Papa’s house to go skating and had taken an icy cold can of grape soda with me. Skating is hard work! I set the can down on the concrete, near the house, beside some ornamental grass and proceeded to work up a thirst.

Maybe a half hour later, I screeched to a stop next to my drink, grabbed the can and tipped it up to take a huge gulp.

Did grape soda come out?


Did something else come out?

Oh yes.


Worst surprise EVAR.

Worst surprise EVAR.

They POURED out of the can, riding the flood of purple sugar solution like tiny little Samoans in the Pacific. Except instead of landing on rocks or beach, they landed on my FACE. I don’t think I got ants in my mouth. Carpenter ants are BIG and you would have to really WANT to get one in your mouth in order for it to actually happen. But all I remember was a horde of ants pouring out of the can ONTO MY FACE. I recognized them immediately and knew, on some basic level, that they don’t really bite but I completely lost my biscuits. I spit, I yelled, I wiped my face in a panic and I cried. I remember staring at the can as if it had betrayed me. As if it could have somehow warned me and DIDN’T.

And I didn’t drink grape soda again. I couldn’t do it. Every time I looked at a can of the stuff, I thought “ANTS!” and it made my stomach turn, even though I knew there weren’t ants in every can of grape soda. I mean, Freddy, Chucky or Jason Vorhees hiding under my bed at night? Absolutely a possibility. Potential phantom ants in every can of grape soda? Ehh. That was a stretch even for my heightened neuroses. But I still couldn’t bring myself to drink it. TOTALLY RUINED.

That is, until today. Today I had what might be my first can of grape soda in 25 years. And you know, it’s okay. I feel like I finally conquered a childhood fear. Granted, I’m not going to be buying cases of the stuff. But it wasn’t too bad.


Some “growing up” milestones are just weird.

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Getting Out of My Own Way

Apparently, I’m unable to do it.

Some of you who have read my posts in the past remember that I’m uniquely able to turn any situation into a catastrophe of sorts. Any hope of my “growing out of” this ability is dwindling rapidly.

Tuesday I went to lunch with two co-workers to a chicken wing buffet. This is a regular lunch spot for us because we don’t have to order our food and wait, and also because the wings are REALLY GOOD. Also, chicken wings are one of the comfort foods that don’t make me sick with the gluten-ing for some reason.

OMG so tasty.

OMG so tasty.

This particular day, I had loaded up my plate with wings and french fries, and was just sitting down on our booth’s bench seat when a chicken wing JUMPED off my plate and landed on the seat next to me where I promptly sat on it. Oh, and I was wearing light-colored pants. So I spent the rest of the afternoon at work walking around with dried wing sauce on one side of my butt. I made it through most of the afternoon before someone helpfully pointed out to me, “You know you sat in something, right?”

“Yup. It was a chicken wing.”

That’s really all that needs to be said at that point.

Later that afternoon, I had to run an errand that involved going into the mall. I decided I could handle being “that woman with the huge stain on her butt” because the store I needed to go to wasn’t too far in and I figured I could get in and out without incident.

Bless my heart.

I ran my errand and was trying to text my fiance’ as I was leaving the store. I was walking fairly quickly and didn’t realize that the store occupying the corner I was about to pass had built out a bit using floor-to-ceiling glass walls. So I walked right smack into the glass. And when I say I walked into it, I hit it hard enough that I literally bounced off and the entire wall went WAAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOHWAOHWAOHWAOHWAOHWAOHWAOHWAOH.



Naturally, there were people everywhere, who all somehow managed to look completely occupied in other things while I blushed furiously and refused to make eye contact. I’m sure I startled every customer inside the store because I imagine the reverberation noise was infinitely worse INSIDE the store than outside. So not only was I “that woman with the huge stain on her butt” but I was “that woman with the huge stain on her butt that walked smack into a wall because she was texting on her phone”.

Fast forward to this morning. I was driving to work, in stop-and-go traffic. I had my Starbucks coffee (the brand is important to the story) and Pandora playing in the car. I reached down, picked up my coffee, somehow fumbled it and DROPPED IT INTO MY FLOORBOARD where it began to roll around like a toddler throwing an epic tantrum. The reason it’s important to note that it was Starbucks coffee is because the little drinky hole on the Starbucks cups is small, so only small splooshes of coffee were splattering around as I desperately tried to keep my eyes on the road and grab a cylindrical object full of sloshing liquid.

So much splosh.

So much splosh.

Have you ever tried to catch a bottle of water or soda after dropping it? Have you ever tried to catch one rolling around under your feet while riding a roller coaster? That’s what this was like. I did manage to grab it without spilling coffee ON me so thank heaven for small favors.

Then, today at lunch, I spilled salsa on myself. I’m sitting here typing this with 3 long, dry salsa stains running down the front of my white t-shirt.

Oh! Did I mention that last Friday I splashed gasoline all over my jeans and Chucks while filling up my car because whatever safety mechanism is supposed to keep the gas nozzle from dribbling gas while it’s “off” was broken? That happened too.

I am a walking nightmare. Can someone please just send me a case of Tide pens?

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Best of Spam – Volume 2

Welcome back to the highly anticipated SECOND installment of

Best of Spam!


Best of Spam is where I scour through some of my spam comments and find the real “gems”, if you will, to post for your viewing pleasure!

And now, here are the top three!

Number 3:

Today, I went to the beachfront with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

You might be wondering what makes this spam, since it seems to be a fairly entertaining story. There’s a lot of drama going on here! Was the little girl forever haunted by visions of hermit crabs and unable to eat at Red Lobster from that day forward? What happened to the hermit crab? What were its motivations? Ron Howard could do SO MUCH with this story!

Honestly, it was great except for the 3 spam links that accompanied it. ::sad trombone::

Number 2:

For moms and dads, an unexplained item within a kid’s possession may perhaps be a cue that items just are not proper: belts, bungee cords, dog leashes, or scarves within their sleeping rooms or guide bags. Bedroom doors which might be locked for no apparent purpose. And, all grownups have to be paying out consideration to a sudden fascination youngsters talking about or inquiring inquiries about getting unconscious..

Wait, WHAT? Just…I…WHAT?

Number 1:

For your file, Aliens truly aren’t my “thing” in any respect, therefore I had totally no preconceptions in anyway in regards to the so-called Starchild Skull. whether or not it may well definitely be extraterrestrial or human, real, or maybe a con.…

I’m imagining that this spammer is at a party. In the midst of conversation, he launches into a well-versed lecture on the Ancient Alien theory or some offshoot of archaeology. The trail off at the end is what another person hears as he quietly sidles away.

Join us next time for another thrilling installment of Best of Spam!



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What September 11 Means To Me

This isn’t going to be your average 9/11 article. So if you’re one of the people who doesn’t want to relive that day over again every year, don’t give up on me just yet.

September 11 in the United States is the anniversary of a terrible event in our country’s history. Almost 3,000 people died and countless others were emotionally scarred by what happened that day in New York. However, the anonymous quote “You never know what people are going through” applies every day and sometimes when we get caught up remembering a group event, it’s easy to forget that personal lives go on despite horrible catastrophes.

September 11 is the day my mother died.

She didn’t die in New York. She died at her home in Florida, in 2006.

My mother died on a day that I will NEVER be able to forget or pass over. Every year, the internet, tv, newspapers and just about every other form of media bring out the footage from that tragedy, even more than 10 years later, so that we can all remember the people who were killed that day. In my mind, the words “lives lost” are a huge trigger in relation to that date and the annual recounting of that tragedy plunges me into mentally reliving the most tragic week of my life over again, every year.

My mother had breast cancer. She had watched and cared for her own mother who died of brain cancer when I was 3, and mom was determined that she wouldn’t go through the same misery her own mother did, fighting and eventually succumbing to it. Mom tried several alternative homeopathic remedies in order to “shrink” or get rid of the tumor on her own. She ignored the advice of her oncologist, who suggested surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. She tried black salve, which you can find numerous videos about on Youtube. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.) She went on a strict vegan diet. She tried juicing. Nothing worked. The tumor just continued to grow.

By the time my sister Diana, mom’s oncologist and I finally convinced her to at least have the tumor removed, it was the size of a large tomato. I took her in to the Women’s Center in Gainesville for surgery, and afterward the surgeon took me aside to tell me they’d removed all of it they could find. He then gave me a stern look and said “I really wish she had let us take it out sooner”, to which I replied, “You’re preaching to the choir here.”

A few weeks later, a family friend called Diana to say she’d gone by mom’s house to drop some things off and said “You guys need to get down here FAST.” Diana and I took off work for a week to go stay at the house. Hospice was called in, but for the first few days they weren’t there around the clock. Mostly it was just Diana and me taking care of mom.

She was emaciated. She was gaunt and weighed probably less than 100 pounds. We had to help her to the bathroom. She rarely ate but crunched ice chips if the were offered to her. She didn’t sleep well which meant we didn’t sleep well. Diana and I took shifts at night, sitting up to make sure if mom woke and needed anything, one of us would be awake. But any time she groaned or shifted in her sleep, I would immediately jerk awake, concerned something was horribly wrong. She was in a great deal of pain most of the time. She hallucinated from the morphine, which was sometimes funny and other times very scary. There was a chair in her room that she wouldn’t look directly at because she said someone was sitting in it but she wouldn’t tell us who.

Mom hadn’t accepted the fact that she was dying. If she wasn’t in denial, she was willfully ignoring it. More than once, she used the phrase “When I get through this…” and then would mention something she would do when she wasn’t sick anymore. Diana and I would only look at each other.

I called my friend Heather, who lived 3 hours away, on the second day to wish her happy birthday and tell her what was going on. Heather immediately packed a bag and drove up to stay with us at the house, answer the phone, take food at the door, etc. I bought her a small birthday cake and we sang to her when she arrived. (Heather met my uncle Mark, my mom’s youngest brother, while she was there and they later got married.)

At one point, the Hospice nurse and two of mom’s friends took Diana and I aside and told us that it was possible mom was determinedly holding on because she felt like she had to for our sake. The Hospice nurse advised us to sit with her and tell her that if she needed to go, that it was okay and that we would be okay. So Diana and I sat with her and told her just that, as gently and lovingly as we could. It was difficult to say because it’s a hard thing to say to anyone. Mom’s reaction was to narrow her brows angrily and look at us as though we’d completely betrayed her. She didn’t respond at all.

Eventually, mom was unable to get out of bed anymore and Hospice had nurses in the house around the clock. By that time, more friends of mom’s had come to help and to relieve me and Diana because we were exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Early on the morning of September 11, 2006, when she had a moment to herself with no one to worry over her, when she was completely alone, mom let go and passed away.

I remember walking into her bedroom by myself after she died and looking at her. I was completely drained. It had been the hardest, most emotionally taxing week of my life. She had wasted away so much she didn’t look like a person any more. It was the first time I’d ever seen a dead body in real life. I was afraid but I also needed closure. It helped that it didn’t really look like my mom, even though I knew it was her. Or had been. So I walked over to her body, leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.

Her skin was very cold. I’d always heard the term “deathly cold” but until that moment, I didn’t realize what it meant. It’s very hard to describe and one of the most unpleasant sensations I’ve ever felt. It startled me and my level of fear went through the roof. That act did however give me the closure I needed so badly after taking care of her almost constantly when she was at her worst. Because in that moment, I knew it was over. I didn’t run out of the room, but I walked very quickly.

For me, September 11 isn’t just a day of remembrance for an event that changed our country. It’s a brutal reminder every year of the hardest week of my life. I watched the woman who had taken care of me, tucked me in at night and tried for so many years to make sure my sister and I turned out to be good people, waste away and die in front of my eyes, fighting and denying it the entire way. If it were most other days, I would likely be able to get through it with a bit of sadness. But it’s not and that makes it infinitely harder for me.

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Being an adult is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

I have a hard time mentally with allowing myself to have a “lazy” day or evening. Something in my brain is wired to believe that if I’m not being productive, then I’m being a failure. I’m not taking care of what needs to be done. I’m avoiding things I could and should be doing and instead am (GASP) just enjoying myself doing “nothing”.

Even being able to recognize where this mode of thinking originated from, it’s still difficult to change it. For instance, my ex-husband used to call me at work and say “Hey, whatcha doin’?” I would reply with something funny I’d found on the internet or some joke someone had sent me and inevitably his reply would be “Glad to know you’re working hard.” It was a running joke, but there always seemed to be an element of truth behind it. He had a job that required him to drive, be outside and was generally very physical, whereas I work in an office and can do most of my tasks remotely from my desk. And because I instinctively want to please people I care about, I would feel guilty for not “working hard”, even when I had downtime, because he was constantly working hard. And I am very very good at feeling guilty for things that I probably shouldn’t.

That’s not the only thing that contributed to this way of thinking, but it did have an impact. And even now, living on my own, I still feel guilty when I have evenings on the couch by myself where I do “nothing”.

“Nothing” usually means catching up on back episodes of a show on Netflix or Amazon, surfing the internet or reading a book. “Nothing” means NOT doing laundry or dishes, NOT working on the umpteen projects I have sitting around in various stages of “not finished”. “Nothing” means not being productive.

Rationally, I know it’s okay to take an evening or afternoon off and just unwind. That it’s okay to let everything just sit. Does it mean I’m not a good person? No. Would I tell someone else that it’s okay to have downtime? Absolutely. So why is it so hard for me to allow myself to have it without feeling bad about it?

It’s a hard change to make. It got hard-wired in during my early 20’s, when we’re all a little chaotic inside but ultimately start forming the foundations for who we are later in life. Even if I tell myself “Tonight it’s okay to sit on the couch, eat whatever I want and watch Netflix until I fall asleep!” I still feel horribly irresponsible and GUILTY over it. I do it anyway, but there’s a lingering feeling of negativity associated with it. I’m even hesitant to post on G+ or Facebook that I’m “taking a night off” because I’m irrationally afraid someone will call me out on something I should be doing instead. Which is A LITTLE INSANE!

I’m slowly working through it. And I really believe I need those evenings/afternoons off to recharge. I just need to work on being okay with taking them.

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