Category Archives: Memories

Life’s potential.

I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t even know how to avoid being a rambling idiot.

This happened this weekend in the town where I went to college. A young man, a student at the same college, celebrated his 21st birthday early Saturday morning. He was found in the river that runs to the west of downtown, only a few hundred feet from the “Square” where many of the bars in town are located. (All my thoughts are with his family and with the college community rocked by the life cut short.)

Sadly, this is not the first alcohol-related drowning in the state of Wisconsin this year. And a few years back, a later graduate of my high school also passed away in the same manner. (As an aside, you can google “La Crosse drownings” and you find results that suggest a conspiracy theory about a serial killer. Who knows. This is not about that.)

This saddens me. This disturbs me. This makes me reflect.

I write of chronic conditions for which I have been diagnosed that come with the potential to shorten my life. I wrote of an acute illness I experienced that came with the potential to end my life. But I forget those college years (and a few years after), when I ran a bit wild and did some things under the influence of alcohol that came with the potential to harm my well-being. So did some of my friends.

Which leads me to question…how do some of us escape unwise choices unscathed, and others do not?




Friday cat blogging: Not so alone.

The year I turned nine, my parents separated for a few months. It ended up being just me and Mom at home.

We found ourselves at the local animal shelter picking out a kitten named Kizzy a few weeks after Dad moved out.

For the longest time, even after Kizzy passed away at the age of nineteen, I thought the cat was meant to smooth over the huge change that occurred in my life that year.

Now I understand that my mom must have also needed a little something to make her a little less lonely as she adjusted to a different way of life.

Eighteen. Years. Old.


How did the sweet little boy grow to be eighteen and into a young man already? Seems like just yesterday that I met you at your ripe old age of five days old. Those days watching The Lion King together at your Auntie L’s house (19 months old) and visiting the Shedd Aquarium with Grandma and Grandpa (4 1/2 years old) seem so fresh in my mind, even though you may not remember them.

Always proud of what you accomplish in soccer and school, I am even more impressed with the lovely words you spoke earlier this month for your mom and M. You brought so many happy tears throughout the crowd at the wedding, both for what you said and for being such a good kid without giving my big sister much trouble during those tough years you all faced.

You may be considered an adult today, but I know from experience there is still so much to learn and so many more ways to grow. It can be scary, though I think you will do just fine with that process, especially if you keep that sense of humor alive. I cannot wait to see how everything transpires from here on out, from this last year of high school to college to everywhere beyond.


Aunt Rachel

Here we are again – 9/11/2011.

Ten years ago on the evening of 9/10/2001, I watched as Ed McCaffrey suffered a compound leg fracture during Giants-Broncos MNF.

I went to work early the next morning to prepare for our annual department strategy meeting scheduled to begin that afternoon. Turned out not much work got done that day (or really, at all that week) with the news that hit me as soon as I walked in the door.

It was not college graduation or buying a house that made me feel like an adult – it was 9/11/2001. Any remains of childhood innocence vanished for me that day, at the age of twenty-five, as the country witnessed that terrible attack on our own land.


Here we are again, another anniversary of sadness and despair.

Have we, as a country, ever really recovered from it all? Only a few brief moments united until the initial phase of healing ended, until we began to fall into a downward spiral divided.


NBC News used “Hallelujah” to wrap up coverage several nights that horrible week in September 2001, which touched me so very deeply. Though Leonard Cohen wrote it many years before, it had been used in the movie Shrek that was released earlier in 2001. I’ve chosen to share that version here, to convey the sense of innocence that the country felt in the months before September 11, 2001.

Moving ahead.

Cleaning the old place, turning in the keys, not looking back at the past five months.

The hardest part is over, making the first move to separate lives.

Bright spots happened in the past five months, no doubt. Spending time with local bloggy pals – for lunch on my thirty-fifth birthday in April, a quick dinner and book signing in May, and for a Pho King good time after work one Friday in June. More fun with more bloggy friends in Chicago over the long holiday weekend in July. A new job with much to learn and a pathway to a career that will allow me a little wiggle room in regards to finances. One more nephew to add to Aunt Rachel’s brood.

But the darker spots came much more frequently. More tears, more anger, more regrets. I felt trapped in the situation over which I had little control, in a little apartment with a cat who might have been just as depressed being the only cat around.

This is not exactly what the plans were for 2011 as I finished up that blogging conference in New York City a year ago this week. I missed out on quite a bit, trying to get settled in the new job before taking vacation time and saving money for trips to see family instead of conferences and advocacy opportunities.

Glimmers of hope shine in the window each morning now in the new place, even as the sun rises later and later as the calendar moves ahead towards the time I dread.

A weekend to meet that new nephew and watch my sister get married again will be here before I know it. A local blogging conference after that, with the funniest blogger around speaking at it. Another whirlwind weekend visiting Kansas City to see many of my d-blogger friends as we welcome a member who will be visiting from Australia in October. And when all else fails, there is football to watch and two cats to cuddle.

Beyond that, plans are unfolding, though with caution and the knowledge that all can unravel, all can shatter rather quickly. A rough outline is all I want, all I need.

A balance between all which makes me happy – family, day job, advocacy opportunities, conferences to enhance writing and such – that is all I want, all I need going forward – no matter where I land when separate lives become more concrete.

This day.

Today is just like any other day.

Except it is not, not deep inside where I still feel so tender and so raw.

This day, so many years ago, the day when we began.


The same words, every time, every single time.

It could be a new acquaintance who catches the tears as a recently popular song of lost love plays somewhere in the cubicle farm. It could be a trusted friend who touches base at just the right moment as love slowly unravels. It could even be the brother who opens up about his own first time around the wedding band.

They all say the same words, more or less.

Refrain from holding back the emotions of sadness, of anger, of fear as they will build and build otherwise; seek help from loved ones and lean on them for support; recognize the blessings in disguise. Most of all, the world may seem like a world of suck out there right now but things do improve, they do get better.


I am counting on that in the long run, but not today.

Today, I cannot hold back the tears full of sadness, anger, and fear.

Not when I remember this day so many years ago, the day when we began.

Chicago memories.

In advance of the upcoming trip to Chicago, I reach back to a post from November 14, 2006


Sooner or later, everyone goes to the zoo

The title of this post comes from a movie set in Chicago. If you guess it, there is no prize, just satisfaction that you guessed correctly.

Anyways…on to my Chicago memories.

Childhood memories:
*Watching the Cubs play at Wrigley Field numerous times.
*Field trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo, Field Museum, and Museum of Science & Industry.
*Taking the El to go see the Marshall Field’s on State Street decorated for Christmas. (The name may have changed to Macy’s this year, but apparently the tradition will live on.)
*Seeing the Nutcracker performed at McCormick Place.
*Enjoying a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall (another field trip).
*Not enjoying trips to Santa’s Village and Six Flags Great America. (Not a fan of roller coasters or spinning rides.)

Recent memories:
*Walking along the lakefront in Evanston.
*Enjoying a cocktail at the Signature Room on the 96th Floor of the John Hancock Building.
*Going to the newly renovated Shedd Aquarium with my parents and four-year-old nephew just days before I moved to Colorado. Chatting it up in the car on the way from Wisconsin to Chicago, the dolphin show, the exhibits, H. left me with good memories of that trip.

Shared memory of childhood and adulthood:
*Eating traditional Chicago deep dish pizza at Gino’s East on Superior. (Not the best deep dish, but it is all about the setting – the writing on the walls, Chicago memorabilia all over, etc etc.)


Since that post five years ago, I had the opportunity to watch Venetian Night from a rooftop not far from the John Hancock building and finally visited “The Bean” in Millenium Park.

Sweet home Chicago, I’ll be there again very soon.

Hail, hail.

Oh, BugginWord, complain all you want about snow and cold and ice coming after the calendar has turned to spring. There are two things I want you to remember.

  • It may be warm and sunny and springlike here in the Denver-Boulder area, but that means that wildfire danger is high because we haven’t had measurable precipitation since sometime in February (and March is typically our snowiest month). Every time I walk out my door, I smell smoke and I don’t mean the kind that comes from smoking a cigarette or a joint. Pee You.
  • Hail is not just a winter weather thing. In fact, in all my years, I only remember hail accompanying spring and summer thunderstorms. In fact…

Once upon a time five years ago, to celebrate turning the big 30, I decided to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. 26.2 miles of walking the first day, 13.1 miles the second. I trained and raised money and walked the entire marathon length the first day, only to be defeated early on the second day by nasty reactive hypoglycemia a couple miles from breakfast. That’s not the point, though.

The point is, after I showered and ate dinner the first evening, I went to get ready for bed in the tents at the park where we were to spend the night. Except that it started thundering in the distance, with swirling winds battering the tent. I thought about heading to the food or first aid tents when lightning seemed to get closer and closer, making me realize I probably should lay low in the tent to avoid being the highest point around.

And then came the hail. Pounding the tent, pounding my head and my back through the tent, as I huddled in a corner. Please make it stop, I said over and over to my agnostic self, as I became convinced I would get struck by lightning or the hail would pelt me in the head or chest and kill me.  What took about five minutes to run its course over the tent city seemed to last about five hours.

Yeah, I know. I walked 26.2 miles that day and yet I could barely handle being stuck in a tent during a hailing thunderstorm. Such a wimp!

Back pocket.

I stared at all the jewelry the local discount department store offered on racks.  So many pretty things.  So little money with which to splurge, even with price tags of $19.99 and lower.

No, if I bought anything today, it would be a nice blouse for Thanksgiving dinner.  Or perhaps even a dress.   Something I could wear again and again, maybe even lasting until after college graduation as part of an interview outfit.

The one bracelet, the one with emerald wannabes, still called out to me.  I took the disposable contacts out of my back pocket, and looked at how much money I spent this time around for being spectacle-free.   Nope, I just couldn’t splurge.  I sighed and put the contacts back in the pocket.

If I spent any more money today, it would be on that blouse.  Or a dress.

Grudgingly, I headed to the trendy fashion store, without any luck.  None of the blouses screamed out “Thanksgiving dinner!” or “future interview!”.   Next stop – J.C. Penney – surely they would have a blouse that fit the occasion(s).

Once again, I quickly found myself distracted.  This time by lingerie, of all things, with the new boyfriend in mind.   Mind started wandering for a moment or two to thoughts of him, until I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Two angry-looking women, around the age of forty, stood in front of me.  One tall and thin, one short and stocky.

“I am with security and she is with mall security.  You must have seen us following you ever since you took that jewelry from my store,”  the tall and thin one explained with anger and accusation.

“I…I…I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’ve just been window shopping,” I explained with fear and with a racing heartbeat.

“I saw you place jewelry in your back pockets at my store.  Empty your back pockets.  Now.”

Scrambling, I showed that the left back pocket held nothing.  And that the right pocket, oh NO, oh NO, it held those contacts.  Those contacts whose price I perused while looking at the jewelry in her store, just to make sure I could not afford the sparkly emerald wannabe bracelet.   Suddenly, I felt quite warm and anxious.

The tall and thin woman took one look at the contacts and asked me to open my purse.  As she searched, disappointment crossed her face as she realized this young woman she pursued through the mall was no shoplifter.

The short and stocky woman spoke for the first time.

“Sorry to have bothered you, it’s just our jobs to watch out for stolen goods.”

And then they walked away, no other words spoken.

And I hurried out of the mall into the cool November air, hoping for relief against the panic attack I thought for sure would occur.   (It didn’t.)

I did go back to the discount department store a few more times to pick up contacts.  But I refused to do anything else there, out of fear I might trigger those women to follow me again.

The thing is, even now, something like fourteen years later, I cannot walk into stores without being extra cautious.  Extra cautious so that nobody thinks I am stealing from “their store”, enough to do most of my shopping online.  Even at the grocery store, I feel the security cameras watching me everywhere I go, making me restless and panicky if a shop goes too long.

(Inspired by Schmutzie‘s “25 Things I Fear“, #23.)

The old names, the old ways.

When I was fourteen, they were called “stretch jeans” not “skinny jeans”.

When I was twenty-four, they were called “microbrews” not “craft beers”.

But it took me until the age of thirty-four to realize how disgusting cooking sprays really are and that they must not be good for us.  Scrubbing a cookie sheet coated in such spray furiously makes me wonder what exactly that spray is doing once it enters my body.  Not that the margarine my mom used is any better, right?

Sort of like refusing to call stretch jeans or microbrews by any other name than I originally knew, maybe I need to go back to the way my great-grandmothers did things* for all of my cooking.

Yeah.  I think I’ll just sit back with my microbrew, laugh at the latest stretch jeans fad, and use real butter to grease a cookie sheet when baking a winter squash.


*Michael Pollan’s catch-phrase ed for dramatic effect.  Given the times in which they lived, they may have used margarine for all I know.


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