Mile 20 of 26.2

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It wasn’t until mile 20 of my first marathon that I was over running.  And  I don’t mean done for that day I mean I really felt deep in my bones that if I never ran another day in my life I would be ok.  Surprisingly the thing that got me to the edge didn’t directly have to do with the extreme physical exhaustion (that set in after the triggering event) or the mental thought that I still had a 10k to run ( that also came after the trigger). No, the marble that started the domino effect was my head phones tickling my underarm.

Allow me to explain my weird underarm sensitivity. First to clarify when I say underarm I don’t mean arm pits, that’s ticklish on most people. What I mean is the triceps area or as I call mine the bat wing.  As long as I can remember I have hated light touch on this area.  I noticed it first in the bathtub as a kid.  If my underarm wasn’t fully submersed or above water and water was lightly on in it I would get this tickle feeling in my arm that led to this agitated felling everywhere and eventually an itching sensation in my mouth. To relate to this sensation in my mouth imagine the most obnoxious itching that you can’t scratch:  A sunburn peeling on the back of your thighs while sitting in class, a bug bite on the top of your foot while sitting in a suit and tie in a business meeting.

I can’t say that it’s so extreme that normal shirt sleeves bother it but I have on more than one occasion had a phantom hair on a sleeve or those annoying hanger hooks that have caused me discomfort.    The good thing about this underarm area is it’s not touched very often. Unless you are me and have this weird sensitivity. Since undergrad I have worked with children with disabilities and this is an area that is often pinched. My cat enjoys sitting in the crook on arm with her butt towards my face and tail lightly wagging with happiness on my underarm (she especially loves this in the middle of the night or very early in the morning).  I of course being me have also made the mistake of telling friends and boyfriends, mostly looking to find that magical moment of “OMG! Me too!”  but alas I get told I’m weird and they have to try it out “Is you mouth itching yet?” Usually this is followed by “I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make physical sense”

So alas here I am after three years of  serious running (including at least six half marathons by this point) and six months of  intense marathon training (many times working 8 hours and leaving right from work to run 10 miles on the streets of DC) competing in my first full marathon.  When the tickle strikes. I have been running slowly to keep my pace on a hot may day, only walking through a few water stops to take breaks and make sure I keep hydrated. I have been listening to my iPod Shuffle which is clipped on my running tank top. My head phone cord has been fine all 20 miles but now is suddenly tickling my underarm just right to cause my already dry mouth to itch. I move the cord and switch the position of my Shuffle. All is fine and the tickle has resolved, when it happens again.

At this point I am pissed. Why is this suddenly a problem? I go to move the cord, swearing a little and all is well again. I’m doing my slow run and almost to the 20.5 mile water stop when my elbow catches my cord and jerks my ear bud out of my ear during the middle of the 4th round of hearing “Lets get it started”.  I stop running and shout a very loud “Fuck”. The good news is at mile 20.5 of a marathon there is a large gap between runners, I could see people a bit head of me and knew there were people behind me but no one is next to me to hear the start of my tantrum. I walk a little, put my ear bud back in, move my Shuffle and wipe my face on my shirt before taking a very deep breath and start running again, longing for the water station.

Right as I spot the water station, the headphones lightly touch my underarm which starts an itch in my mouth which causes my elbow to catch the cord and jerk the earbud out of my ear.  “God Fucking Damnit” I yell stopping and fixing the problem. Surely people have heard me as I get cheers and side glances through the water station. My strategy up until this point has been start walking at first table of a station and start running after the last garbage can. However this time I walk a little farther.

Why the hell did I ever think I could do this? Who thinks this is a fun activity? I have been running for over four hours and I still had more than an hour left. And that’s if I could run it, if I walked it I’m looking at more than two hours. Worse is I know somewhere behind me, no idea how far behind me, is the car that picks up stragglers who won’t finish the course in the allotted time.  I don’t want to start running and experience the underarm tickle and pulling my ear bud which has made me upset. At that moment I could not handle that disappointment. I am covered from head to toe in sweat, the sun is in all its glory and getting hotter as the day goes on.  My foot is cramping on and off to the point where I curl my toes to assure myself I still can.  My legs, shoulders and arms all ache. I am somewhere near the 21 mile marker meaning I still have a little over 5 miles to go.  Every part of me wants to sit on the curb and cry.  I feel tired, hot, disappointed and if I’m honest a little angry at my headphones still. “At least I tried” I find myself thinking, tears welling in my eyes.

It may be no surprise that there are not many spectators on mile 21 of a marathon course.  No little kids to give high fives to, no creative signs like “Worst parade ever” or “Make this hill your bitch”.  Essentially no external motivation to keep going, you have to dig deep and find it in your soul.  “Fuck this noise I say outloud” I wrap my headphone cords around the strap of my sports bra (earbuds and all) and start jogging slowly.  There is no way I am going to be defeated by a race.  I have never given up on a goal and this is certainly not going to be a first.  Wasn’t it I who worked my way through grad school despite having to take on multiple jobs and retake a couple practicals? Didn’t I train hard through winter and rain in order to run my first half marathon only two year earlier? And hadn’t I somehow gotten through the death of my father and my mother’s unhealthy response?  I was Amy and I could get through another measly 5 miles.  Instead of thinking about how much I had left I thought of how far I’d already come, both in life and in this race.

“Run when you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to” started repeating in my head as I slowly started running and anticipating that next glorious water stop and walk break. I finally came to the last water stop and started to see school kids running their hearts out the last mile of the course. Cleveland has this great program where kids run 25 miles during the school year and finish their marathon on the course. It was so awesome to see these kids, most in oversized shirts running with fresh energy and excitement, laughing and yelling to one another. I tried to pick up my pace but then decided I’d rather finish then die so kept with my turtle pace.  I can only imagine how gross I looked as I crossed the finish line and grabbed my popsicle, water and banana. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry.  As I walked around looking for my friends, I may have cried a little more when finally after 5 hours and 20 minutes I got to sit down in the grass.   I had met another goal. A goal which only 1% of the population has done. What next???

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Head, Heart, Hands and Health

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Performed as a featured storeyteller on Storyclub Cleveland stage at Waterloo Arts fest June 2018

It is two weeks before the county fair and I am screwed with a capital S.  It’s no surprise that like my school work I have put off working on my  fair submissions until the last possible moment. Because of this I have to spend hours of 1:1 time with Mrs. Smith who is not only the sewing instructor but one of the leaders of my 4H club.  She is grandmotherly like but also not afraid to tell me I am lazy and not the most natural at sewing.  My bright pink shorts (chosen  as a project due to the fabric and pattern being on clearance) are not about to get a blue ribbon but they are ready for judging.  I also get to spend a long afternoon with the basket weaving instructor making an ok’ey basket and drinking sugar free kool-aid in a non air conditioned house. I am starting to feel like this 4H thing is not worth the hassle. I am already use to being not very good in school and in sports why did I need another avenue to prove my worthlessness?  I then remember I still have to make a cake to submit. This I decide will be where I prove myself.  I’m making a Barbie cake,  something I’d always wanted at my parties as a kid.

The thing about a Barbie cake is it requires a special pan for the dress, a special Barbie for the center and pastry bags and tips for decorating.  My dad tells me we have money for none of these things and since I waited until the last minute we will have to improvise.  The skirt is a bundt cake, the Barbie an amputated dollar store purchase and the decorating completed with a spritz cookie maker.  All three of my items get a red ribbon (they give everyone a ribbon) and to my embarrassment placed on display at the fair.

How did I get talked into 4H as a city girl in the first place? I had neighbors who had moved from a more rural area and transferred to a local 4H club. I didn’t have a ton of friends and became friends with the youngest in this family.  She talked up dance competitions ( and I sure loved to make up dances!) and learning crafts (I should probably learn crafts as one of her sister has described me as being born without a personality).  As I wasn’t allowed to join many things as a kid due to them requiring money and me needing a ride (working class family) I begged to join. My parents agreed and I loved having monthly meetings, selling and making pizzas and being a clown cow in a production of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Thank god this was all before social media.

I also met a new best friend in 4H,  Sammy. Sammy had an Animaniacs obsession and a converse collection. She did a million activities and was super into the Smashing Pumpkins. I thought she was the coolest person I’d ever met. The good news was we were going to the same middle school and even had gym class together!  Sammy had been in 4H for a while and warned me to be careful of Mr. Smith (the sewing instructor’s husband and the other leader of our club). I ask her why and she says he’s a pervert, he once grabbed her butt rollerblading.  I don’t not believe her but I also don’t put too much thought into it.

My first disastrous county fair was the summer before 7th grade so in the spring of 7th grade I had decided I was going to put forth more solid effort and work gradually on projects. I’d also only do clowning, basket weaving and sewing,  cake decorating was obviously not going to work without the proper materials my dad still refused to admit I needed.  I was working on a dress with daisies I was actually excited about potentially wearing. I was also working on a wall basket which required a lot more patience and skill than my last project.

The night before the last day of 7th grade  we are at the end of the year cookout for 4H. I am drinking a coke and standing by the grill waiting for Sammy to arrive when a hand grabs my ass pretty hard.  I’m of course shocked and turn around  to see Mr. Smith the 60 something leader. He laughs and winks. I stand dumbfounded then walk away.  I of course tell Sammy as soon as she gets there “I told you so” She says as if this is just part of life.  My friend who got me into 4H the year before comes over and asks what we are talking about.  She is as per a normal reaction appalled. “Seriously?”

That night I can’t sleep. I know its not a big thing, bigger things have to girls I know, hell bigger things have happened to me but it just doesn’t feel good or right. This place I loved to go despite my carftual inability feels unsafe. I end up telling my dad as I know my mom will freak out and not allow me to participate anymore.  My dad hugs me and calmly asks if I want to keep going and if I want him to talk to the leader. I tell him no, that I just wanted someone to know.

The next day is the last day of school. I am called to the counselor’s office at the end of the day. My neighbor had been upset over hearing the leader of a group she felt safe in had grabbed me and ended up crying in her guidance counselor’s office who in turn called my guidance counselor. My counselor asked if I knew of him touching anyone else, I confessed what Sammy had told me and instantly felt nauseous about the whole situation. The counselor told me he had to report it further but as it was through the clothes it would likely be up to my parents and I if we wanted to take it  much further.

I instantly tell Sammy and she starts crying and tells me  “I’m going to be in so much trouble” and walks away from me. I try to call her several times that night but no one will pick up the phone at her house. Her mother doesn’t allow her to talk to me for almost a year and will not allow her daughter to talk to the police. My family had decided a man working with children should not be grabbing butts and should in fact be investigated not just shrugged off.

I of course instantly drop out of 4H, never finish my pretty wall hanging basket nor my dress with the daisies. I hear from my neighbors that pending the investigation the Smiths have to let other people run 4H.  My neighbors will still talk to me but also refuse to let their daughter talk to the police.  Later that summer I am with this family at a different cookout when while using the bathroom with the window open I hear the mother tell her friends “Yeah our club has kind of fallen apart because some little girl made up a story about our leader grabbing her butt”

It is now fall of 8th grade and I have survived a difficult summer full of  loss: my best friend,  hobbies and my trust in most adults.  My science class is walking down to a pond to collect specimens when we pass the dreaded home of the Smiths. I hold my breath while passing but I’m surprised to hear a girl in my class say “Stay away from that house!!!” I know why I want to stay away from that house but I am very curious to hear her reason.  “This summer I was playing with my friend who is his neighbor and he started chasing us with a hose which was funny until he got ice cubes, put them down my shirt then reached in to get them. Apparently he use to lead a 4H club but he’s definitely no longer allowed around children since we filled our report.”

I instantly felt that nausea again but then felt a little relieved. Maybe both of us stepping forward had prevented more children being hurt and humiliated.  Maybe we had saved someone from even worse atrocities. I have no way of knowing but I do know that I will always stand by children who tell the truth even when its hard and means change.   This incident helped me become the bad ass feminist I am today.  The next time a random man decided it was ok to randomly grabbed my ass was in grad school and I chased him around the bar the rest of the night yelling at him how this was what was wrong with the patriarchy. I’d like to think that guy never touched a girls ass again.  And as far as cake baking goes? You’ll be happy to know I can buy a beautifully decorated cake with the best of them.

 

My Creators

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This is an adaptation of my piece on my mom adding in my biological dad.

My initial creation happened 9 months prior to the Tuesday after labor day in 1982.  How my mom and dad created me is an absolute mystery. Don’t get me wrong despite not having my own children I am well, well aware of the baby making process, I just can’t conceptualize my parents doing it. I recently was going through pictures and found a very old picture of my mom and dad kissing which stopped in my tracks. They looked happy. And they were kissing. I have no memories of such a thing. My parents were divorced when I was 3 and my mom married the man I always considered my dad when I was 6.  The thought of them coming  “together” to make not only me but also my older sister is completely mind boggling.

Unlike Art Alexander of Everclear my daddy didn’t even give me a name.  In fact my dad wanted to name me Sapphire which would have destined me to be a stripper. My dad was convinced I wasn’t his daughter and therefore was involved very little in my upbringing. I was lucky to get a birthday call or card within the month of September whereas my sister got a call on her birthday every year. I’d also usually get talks on how great my sister was during my birthday calls.  My mother never trusted him enough to have us spend the night at any of his apartments or his hotel room when he’d later visit from 3 states away (ok so the two times he visited in the 5 years since we moved). My mother had my step brother go on visitation was with us for years for fear of him kidnapping us. But really I think this was silly as he didn’t want us or at least not me.   One night when I was a freshman in high school my dad called to tell my sister and I he was marrying his long time girlfriend the next day and wasn’t it great that we’d now have a new step mother? They were flying some of her children in to be part of the ceremony.  My sister and I cut off communication completely and my dad never once tried to reopen it.

When his wife called us almost 10 years later and left a message of “The girls dad is going to die, they better call now if they have anything they want to say”  I sent  a get well card with a picture of me and yes bragging a little about being in Physical therapy graduate school. He sent me a letter from hospice a few months later proclaiming he had always loved me and could I get my sister to write him? I debated sending him a letter in return but felt I’d made my peace. He died a few months later and I have no regrets.

My other creator, my mother, was always my proudest supporter. My mom loved me unconditionally but was the craziest person I have ever met. Mental illness has affected my whole life and in no way do I mean to trivialize it, but I can’t help but say my mother, as much as I loved her, was fucking nuts.

I can’t remember when exactly I realized my mom was unstable.  I can remember always knowing she was different than the other moms.  She rarely came to after school programs, didn’t bake, didn’t help me with homework (or even know what I was studying) or go shopping.   She had a big personality which would fill any room she entered.  She was silly and outspoken, would wear a propeller hat to the grocery store.  One time when I was five she spotted Presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis,  held me up and demanded he kiss her baby.   The other side was my mom would sometimes cry uncontrollably over things that even as a young child I thought to be trivial.  When I was getting bullied I knew to tell my step dad because my mom would make a scene.  Conflicts were always arising between my mom and my older siblings and I spent much of my childhood in the shadows trying not to make her angry or sad.

My mom always wanted to be my best friend, the “cool mom”.  She was absolutely Amy Poheler in Mean girls minus the fake boobs.   My friends and my siblings friends’ all started out thinking she was awesome. “The first time I met Amy’s mom she asked me if my brownies were special brownies” “The first time I met Amy’s mom she told me fuck was her favorite word as it was a noun a verb or an adjective.” “Dee bought me cigarettes”.  Our house was the house to hang out at.  No bedtimes, junk food, dirty jokes, R rated (or even porn) movies.  When I was in high school pot smoking wasn’t just allowed but encouraged.  Much to my humiliation though, my friends eventually recognized the instability.  She started to pick at her open sores (an aspect of her OCD) while my best friend was in the car.  She called another friend’s mom claiming she had Parkinson’s, which she obviously didn’t .

My mom began changing jobs when I was in 8th grade and by the time I was in mid high school she stopped being able to hold down a nursing job.  She began lying about work shifts, buying useless trinkets for herself and others behind my dad’s back.  When my parents would get into yelling fights in the middle of the night, she would come to me with presents I didn’t want, telling me “Everything was fine”.   When I got upset at her when she did abnormal things, such as pick at my scalp for an hour and insist on washing my hair, she threatened to kick me out and make me move in with my biological dad (fat chance).  I was a junior in high school when a series of events involving her claiming to not recognize my step dad one night, her childhood imaginary best friend appearing in the trees behind our house and my sister jumping out of a moving car because she was afraid of my mom’s erratic driving, ended up with her committed to a mental hospital for a week.  I almost moved into my best friend’s house, but my step dad begged me to stay telling me I was all he had.  The fear, anxiety, sadness and embarrassment of visiting my mom in a state run mental hospital and the burden and comfort of being my stepdad’s only source of stability are not easy things to express.

I’d like to say things got better as I became an adult but they became much worse.  I became serious with the first guy who showed me interest and used him as an excuse to get out of the state and out of my family (Spoiler alert: we’re now divorced). I spent much of my adult life trying to prove I’m not my mom by working hard and building a wall.  I learned in order to not be filled with rage and resentment I had to see her and talk to her as little as possible.  I never answered when she called. I would listen to the voicemail and see what kind of mood she was in and then decide whether to call her back. This is why when I was drunk on my birthday two years ago it was my friend who convinced me to pick up my mom’s call.  It was the last time I ever spoke to her, my brother found her unresponsive in her apartment four days later.

Loss is never easy but I had made so many rules and built such a wall between my mom and my past that I had no idea where to start.  I felt guilty that among the feelings of loss and shock there were some feelings of relief.

I was battling these feelings and this new reality as my plane took off a few hours after I got the news of her passing. As I looked out of the window through my tears I suddenly realized the date was  9/11.  I,  someone who was terrified to fly, was in a plane on 9/11.   I started laughing out loud; it was the first time I had smiled since talking to my brother. Despite how hard I tried to not be my mom I had her twisted sense of humor.  A few days later at her funeral, person after person got up and spoke about how much she made them laugh or smile. These people ranged from close friends to church members who had only known her a few months.  I realized in that moment in many ways, I am my mother’s daughter.  I had her love of laughing and love of making others laugh.  I am who I am because of my mother, not of in spite of my mother. And my other creator my biological dad?  Fuck that guy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Keeping your Pants on:  A Story in 5 ACTS

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The following is inspired by a night out with coworkers in which all these stories came out and lead to several questions.

ACT 1: The Tourist

The year is 2013 and I am on a trip to Mexico with friends. It has been a great trip so far filled with sun, belly laughs, lots of drinks and driving random jeeps in sketchy neighborhoods. This particular night we are finishing up at the buffet and I’m deciding if I need dessert. I decided I probably do but first need to stop by the bathroom.  I finish in the bathroom, sit down at my table then decided to take a last gander at the buffet.  I decide I’m full and walk back towards my friends.  I hear a voice saying “Senora” several times. At first it is softly but becomes very loud and urgent. This is followed by a tap on my shoulder. An older woman is sitting at a table with who I assume is her husband and they are both looking at me very seriously

Woman:  Your skirt is in your panties

I feel my face turn hot and quickly yank it out in one swift tug. I don’t remember ever doing this as a child, how is the first and only time I do this when I am 30 years old?!

ACT 2: The Date

The year is now 2015. I am on my first date with the second guy I have met on Tinder since separating from my husband. It is late April and a gorgeous night to eat and drink outside  next to the beautiful harbor in Baltimore.

I hadn’t expected much from this date as we briefly spoke on Tinder and the first guy I had met had turned out to be kind of a jerk. To my surprise the date is going well and my date is very quirky but funny and we have a lot of the same interests. We are debating a third drink when I need to use the restroom.  I tell him to decide on third drink and go inside the restaurant to use the little girls’ room.  I walk clear across the bar use the dingy bathroom then come back outside and sit on the metal chair.  My date tells me he’d rather get coffee and walk around the harbor. I agree so we pay and leave.

We are walking towards the pier when suddenly a woman runs up behind me and puts her hands on my shoulders. She is uncomfortably close to me and I can smell beer and cigarettes on her breath as she whispers in my ear.

Drunk woman: I’m going to stand right here while you pull your skirt out of your underwear

My face once again goes hot as I sneak my hand behind me, expecting to pull a corner of my mid-thigh skirt out of my thong.  Instead I pull,  keep pulling, and pulling AND pulling (imagine a shade which has wound clear to the top).   My date is looking at me puzzled until I am finally out of the woods and thank the woman.

ACT  3: The Facial

It is December of 2017 and I am racing to a facial appointment. I have only ever had one other facial and that was several years ago.  I made this appointment because someone had given it to me as a gift.

Per usual in my life I have packed in too much into this day. I ran in the morning and I’m going to a Christmas cookie decorating  party at my friend’s right after the facial.  I love Christmas so I’m wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and these very comfortable but ridiculous Christmas leggings.  I am driving to the appointment and will make it just in enough time when I take the express lane instead of the local lane. I now need to drive 10 minutes in the wrong direction to turn around. I frantically call the salon and make sure I can still come.  A woman with a thick Russian accent tells me its fine as long as I can get there no more than 15 minutes after the appointment time.  I put the pedal to the pedal and get there just in time. It is a very nice salon and I’m already feeling silly in my Christmas get up,  frazzled about being late.  On top of this I’m also pretty sure I have more skin blemishes than their average client.

A woman leads me upstairs, takes my jacket and asks me if I’ve ever had a facial before.  I nervously tell her I have once but it was a long time ago and it was in Canada. She tells me she will step out of the room and I should take off all my clothes including my pants and bra but keep my underwear on.  She continues that I should wrap myself in a towel provided then lay under the heated blanket.

Wait… what? Am I on an episode of FRIENDS or Seinfield? Why do I need my pants off for a facial? Did I accidentally book a massage too? I hope not as I do NOT have time for a massage.  I don’t ask questions and do as I am told.  I try to relax under the warm blankets in my mostly nude state.

The facial is actually fabulous and includes a hand massage and putting my hands in these warm mittens.  Ah-ha! That must be what the pants off thing is about: I’m getting a foot massage. The foot massage never happens but I am able relax more than I have in a long time (minus when they scrape my blackheads). The facial is over, I put my clothes back on, tip the Esthetician and leave for cookie making still wondering why my pants were ever off.

I get to my friend Shannon’s house.

Amy: You’ve had lots of facials right?

Shannon: I use to get about one a month.

Amy: Did you ever take your pants off?

Shannon: What? No!

Shannon’s mom: Did you ask why they wanted your pants off? That’s not a thing….

The next week at work….

Amy: Hey Alex, You’ve had lots of facials right?

Alex: Yes…. Why?

Amy: Did you ever have to take your pants off?

Alex:  What? No!

 

ACT 4: The Ceremony

It is February of 2018 and I am in New Orleans to take part in a recognition ceremony. This ceremony is part of my profession’s biggest yearly meeting; I am among 20,000 of my peers.  I have already talked to a few friends and former co-workers and keep learning more people I know are in attendance.  It is like a physical therapy reunion.

The recognition ceremony is quite large and they make us do a rehearsal and take pictures so the real event can go as fast as possible. At the rehearsal I make friends with women around me as one works with a former student of mine and one use to work with a current colleague of mine. We are getting to know each other and I confess to the women I have previously had problems with getting my dress stuck in my underwear. We all get a good laugh and they agree to give me a once over before I walk across stage.

After rehearsal I grab a couple drinks with friends and we come back for the actual event. I go to the bathroom, touch up my makeup and walk out to the hall. On my way I see someone I went to grad school with and a former professor; I have a few minutes so decide I should go say hi. I walk up and hug my former classmate. She looks at me very seriously.

Classmate: I’m going to go ahead and fix this for you

She then proceeds to pull my dress out of the FRONT OF MY UNDERWEAR. Once again I feel my face go warm and I giggle nervously and thank her.

Professor: That’s a good friend helping you with your wardrobe! Hi, I’m Bill!!

Me: Yeah, I know. I graduated University of Wisconsin class of 2008, Amy Phipps

Professor: Oh, ha 2008 was a LONG time ago……

We awkwardly make conversations then he excuses himself to find a seat.

Me: Oh my god!!!! How did I do that? That was so embarrassing!!

Classmate: Its OK, I just thought it was a weird cut of a dress at first.

Me: I can’t believe Dr. Bill didn’t remember me!!!!

Classmate: It’s probably because you look a lot different now. You look a lot better.

 

ACT 5: The Hike

It is March of 2018 and I am getting back to my car after a 5 mile hike. It was a great hike but I am covered in mud. I am thinking what I want to do with the rest of my Sunday as the next weekend day I have free isn’t for a couple months. I decide I should check out a brewery I’ve never been to and grab a quick bite. I don’t really care if I look like a mess but I can’t go into a brewery with muddy boots and muddy pants. I look around my car and find my running shoes and a pair of running pants, perfect.

I look around and there isn’t a park bathroom or a Port-o- Potty to be found. It is also early spring so there aren’t a lot of leaves on trees. It is a gorgeous day and there are several cars parked at the trail head, but no one around currently. I can do this I decide, just have to be quick.

I sit in my backseat on the driver’s side. I take off my shoes and socks and place them outside next to the car.  I close the door and take off my pants. I have just gotten them off my ankles when a car pulls in next to me on the passenger side. I think quick and pull a small knapsack onto my lap and look forward, pretending like I’m waiting for my driver. The car next to me pulls away and parks somewhere else…….

 

THE END

 

Sorry if you were looking for sex stories and ended up just getting five random stories about me being a hot mess.

 

Tonsilcation  

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Performed as open mic story at Storyclub Cleveland June 2018

As a kid my family didn’t take many vacations. Most summers we would do a daytrip or two which usually ended with me hiding in the car while my parents went to the casino or a 4 hour trip to a pizza hut in another city.  I began traveling when I was in college and I’ve had some pretty great trips mostly with my best friend Shannon. This story however is about the one and only time I took two whole weeks off of work.

Last summer as I prepared for my two weeks off  and alerted my patient’s families  I had to field the question of “Where are you going? Are you going out of the country?” Several times. “Nope” I’d say “It’s a tonsilcation.

What’s a tonsilcation, you ask? Well my deluxe tonsilcation package started by visiting an ENT  who confirmed that yes I should probably have the tennis balls in the back of my throat which caused me to snore and eat like a bird removed.  The visit ended with the nurse handing me a comic drawn for 3-5 year olds (their more common patients) entitled “My T and A”.

The night before my  surgery and the start of my tonsilcation I had a last supper of Angelo’s pizza.  After hearing horrible stories of other people’s complications,  I was pretty convinced I was going to die or would at least not be able to eat for months.  Alas its safe to say I was a tiny bit nervous and I’m only a little bit of a hypochondriac.

The surgery of course went fine and I woke up from surgery talking.   As in when I came to I was mid-sentence talking about who knows what with the nurse.  I suppose that’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’d come out of a throat surgery talking.  After sitting in recovery a little while and being unable to handle a popsicle despite Percocet the nurse took pity on me and gave me a little something for the road: Fentanyl.  My boyfriend at the time drove me home and annoyingly wouldn’t let me walk without help, I was fine! Despite feeling really good and the world floating a little I was a-ok.  So he helped gets me comfortable in bed and I was able to slowly work on a popsicle while we watched a documentary. I started to think about my two weeks off: The pain medications were going to make me feel stoned, I was going to watch movies and read book and swallowing would just be mildly uncomfortable, AND I’d get to drink tons of Mitchell’s milkshakes.   This whole recovery thing wasn’t going to be that bad. WRONG

That night I couldn’t sleep despite pain medication, propping myself up, breath right strip,  ice pack, humidifier and using my fire extinguisher. The fire extinguisher was a lidocaine spray in a fire extinguisher shaped container.  Another bonus of having a surgery as an adult more commonly done in children! But damn if that fire extinguisher wasn’t my life saver.  I found swallowing the first few days a task I had to mentally prepare for and even sometimes spit into a towel when the ex boyfriend wasn’t around.  Cold liquids such as ice cream were the only way I could get calories in a semi tolerable way. By about the end of the first week of recovery I was still sleeping like crap but could eat some warm soup and liquidy mashed potatoes and thought I might actually survive to tell about this experience.  I was climbing the mountain and would soon be on the other side. WRONG

I woke up three days before my follow up with the doctor in the worst pain of my life. Waking up had in general been a horrible experience as due to the swelling I was a mouth breather and woke up dry and sore,  but this was unreal. I used my fire extinguisher then tried to take a Percocet (which I had been trying to ween off as they didn’t make me feel stoned and actually gave me horrible headaches) with cold water. HOLYSHITBALLS. New pain. Radiating into my ears. I instantly got mad and cried which of course did not help. The next couple days pretty much went on like this as I was sad to discover I could no longer do milkshakes and forced room temperature soup and ensure in order to get something in my stomach, everytime getting angry at the radiating pain.

The follow up with the surgeon.  I told him I was convinced something was wrong, he told me my throat looked and smelt gross and the pain I was feeling was normal, did I still have the fire extinguisher? I tried not to cry but it happened. The awkward older ENT handed me a tissue and asked “Is anything else going on at home?” AKA Is someone beating you? You surely can’t be a 35 year old woman crying to her doctor when we do this surgery to 3 year olds.   I assured the doctor I was safe in my home and left without scheduling my next follow up.

At this point I am not only in pain, I’m crazy frustrated, have cabin fever from not being able to run for over a week and pissed off because I can’t eat my favorite foods or hang out with my BFF: beer.  I decide this is the perfect time to go over to COX to discuss the ridiculous amount they charge me when all I want is internet. I turned into a middle aged mom who couldn’t use her expired coupons at Giant Eagle.    WHAT DO YOU MEAN IF I PAY LESS IT WON’T BE FAST ENOUGH TO STREAM NETFLIX?!  Ma’am in order to have quality service you have the best service and with your intro package you have a bunch of the movie channels. “I DON’T WATCH THEM AND ITS AN INTRO PACKAGE? WERE YOU GOING TO TELL ME WHEN IT EXPIRES OR LET ME ACCIDENTALLY LET IT GO PAST AND PAY MORE?… I GET THE HBOGO APP?! Ok, that is kind of cool.

Anyways I eventually progressed to egg salad and the pain came down to being only when I swallowed certain foods . I started to walk a little for exercise. I had friends come in from out of town and other social engagements the weekend before I return to work and reintroduced craft beer, Melt, spaghetti and meatballs and Barrio into my diet which had consisted of egg salad, pudding, soup and jello over a three day span.  If you guessed I spent the night before going back to work shitting my brains out, you win a prize.

The good news is the day I went back to work I found out I passed a big scary specialist exam, I  got back to running a few days later. I also eventually reduced my internet bill by half as I think they don’t want me back in their office.

The Dresser

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The first thing I did after deciding to move out of the apartment I shared with my husband was go mattress shopping. I had never bought a mattress and the experience was quite the adventure. A middle age overweight man with bleeding pimples had me lay down in my “sleeping position” then asked quite breathy “Is that how you sleep?” As he looked down at me.  Once I had bought a mattress the next thing I needed was only all the furniture. I wasn’t exactly saving up to separate from my husband so I needed a one stop shop with cheap but new stuff. I grew up relatively poor and my soon to be ex-husband was incredibly frugal. Most of the furniture we had was from when his grandfather passed away.  It was important to me that my furniture was new.

The solution was of course: Ikea. I ended up buying a kitchen table, a couch,  a coffee table and a dresser. I didn’t pay for the assembly so was stuck in Swedish cartoon hell.  Luckily, I have very supportive friends who helped me assembly my new goods. However, if  you’ve ever bought anything at Ikea you understand these things don’t always stand up to the test of time.  The top of my coffee table shattered in the parking garage of my Baltimore complex the night before I moved to Cleveland. It was leaning against my car and literally just exploded leaving me to clean up glass from everywhere including my hair.  My kitchen table became so rickety I began using that as the reason why I ate on my couch (single life represent!)  The couch has been taken apart and put back together two times now after the most recent time the pull out part literally pulls out and rolls across the living room. And the dresser…

In the summer of 2016 I had started to date a guy and was talking on the phone with him while putting away laundry. I giggled really hard about something when pulling out a drawer causing it to come off the tracks and land on the drawer below it, breaking two of the four drawers.  I looked at it very briefly deciding it could maybe be fixed but not likely by me. The thing you should know about me is I am awful about putting away laundry. I am not totally sure why this is as I always feel so much better when it’s put away, but I’m the worst procrastinator about it and have been since I was a child.  Most of the time I have a chair or the top of my dresser covered in clean clothes. So having a broken dresser only added to my procrastination. I pulled out the broken drawers and would sometimes put clothes in them but mostly had “The pile”.

I ended up buying a dresser from a friend about a year later (yep, a year). I liked it but wasn’t sure it matched the colors of my room, so half used it and half thought about fixing the old Ikea dresser.  Again, “The Pile” mostly remained.  In an ambitious post workout power clean,  I  ended up looking closely at the old dresser and figure out how to to fix it (or so I thought).  After all this the old dresser worked. I decided to keep it for my spare room when I moved as the colors of the new dresser now matched the colors of  my new room.

Flash forward to my move a month and a half ago and the old dresser broken drawers “re-broke” (aka my shoddy craftmanship did’t hold up) during the move.  So I now had this damn broken Ikea dresser at my new place.  I decided there was no way I was going to let the broken dresser gather dust in my place.  As I live alone I had two choices: wait until a friend could help or drag the thing to the curb by myself.  I chose the later. I figured it couldn’t be heavy as it is Ikea so pulled out the drawers and tipped it on its side to see if I could push it,  I could!

I’m feeling like a bad ass independent woman as I pushed the dresser across my apartment, out the front door and onto my front porch steps. As I’m pushing it down the 4 steep stairs I had the thought of “Maybe this isn’t bad ass as much as it is dumb”, but I get it down the steps safely.  I’m pushing the thing across the driveway and feeling bad ass again when in an instant the dresser gets stuck in a crack and I go flying forward on top of it. Dresser collapses and I end up on my stomach spread eagle. I stand up shake my head and assess the wreckage.  No injuries. Across the street a voice yells “Are you ok?” The voice sounds very unconcerned for someone who just watched a 5 foot woman fall on and break an entire dresser. I look for the voice and it is an old man, shirtless, smoking a pipe on his porch. He has made no attempt to stand up and looks unamused when I start laughing awkwardly and yell “Only bruised my pride”.  He puffs without even a slight nod or faint smile. It is at this moment I realize I am Chris Farley.  I start laughing harder and happily dump the splintered wood at the curb. That ladies and gentleman is the Phipps way of getting rid of the old and welcoming in the new.

Service Industry

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Performed at Keep Talking Cleveland March 2017

My second job was working at a local small higher end grocery chain. This was the kind of place that sorts through the berries for you and sells artisan bread and has a fancy wine selection.  It was in the town I grew up in but my working class family had never shopped there so my interview was the first time I was in the place. I was told as a female I would be a cashier as girls were checkers and boys worked on the produce floor. The girls somehow also got to clean the bathroom.  I’d like to say this is where the division ended, but it definitely wasn’t.

The main manager was this guy Pete who seemed cheery to customers and would walk around singing songs. Pete however would tell very inappropriate derogatory jokes to the boys and was super critical of the girls. I once was the only cashier and needed him to fix my cash register. While he fixed mine I went on another and had a line of only like 3 people. Pate opened his line and ushered over one of the customers, the customer stated she thought his lane was closed “Well it was but I had no idea she’d be so slow. She has to grow up if she thinks she’s going to college in the fall” Another time when a female cashier accidentally hit a salsa display breaking a jar, he slow clapped and yelled across the store “That’s what you get for horsing around. Don’t just stand there, clean it up”.   Pete was a real asshole.

Its 4th of July weekend and the store is hopping.  We have 3 checking lines going and a line around the small store. So  I’m actually not that good of a cashier, there’s a couple of reasons for this: First of all I have a math learning disability so counting back change isn’t a strong suit of mine  and secondly anyone who knows me knows I like to talk. A lot.  So I often get in conversations with the middle aged moms coming through my store. It was actually really cool as I learned a lot, like you tell the difference between parsley and cilantro by smelling it (growing up I didn’t know what cilantro is, as its not an ingredient in Hamburger Helper.)  I start to get stressed by the amount of customers and by Pete circling around us like a shark around a boat.   I’m trying to keep my talking to a minimum and not screw up change too much when a man with a bald head and facial hair places a case of Budlight on my counter.  I am only 18 and years before my craft beer obsession but even then I question why you’d buy that at a store that sells so much variety. I look at him and think he has to be 23. I don’t why I pick this age and not 21 or 25 but 23 is what I’m going with and don’t waste time checking his ID. I check him out and move on to the next customer.  A few customers later and I see the 23 year old man back in the store with a man in his 50s. At first I don’t’ think too much of it, maybe this is his dad and they need more Budlight. I then notice they both have something large hanging around their necks and are carrying the case of beer. Shit.  The thing about my talking is the more anxious I get the more I talk, and the faster I talk, this is also why dating isn’t a strong suit of mine.  So the verbal diarrhea just runs out of me as I’m checking out a customer and prolonging the inevitable.  “Do you like fireworks? I like fireworks. I like the ones that rain down on you. One time I saw a star firework…”  The gentlemen eventually redirect people from my line to another and make their way to the front of my line.

“Ma’am I’m officer what have you and this is my partner who looks 23 but is apparently not 23 and this is this was an undercover sting. Do you know more people die from underage drinking 4th of July weekend than any other weekend?” Again the verbal diarrhea flows “Obviously you can see why I thought he was 23 and I NEVER drink (lie)”  It may be no surprise that this doesn’t faze the officer and he tells me he has to write me a ticket, he can’t write it in person but he thinks it will be about $400.  Now the verbal diarrhea becomes internal panic “I work in fucking grocery store, how am I going to afford a $400 ticket? I’m going to lose this grocery store job and I’m definitely not going to be able to community college now. Worst of all Pete was right about me, I am irresponsible” I thank them as they walk away and go back to my register to continue checking out customers. I finally calm myself down by thinking of ways to pay the ticket and convincing myself that maybe they wouldn’t tell my bosses.

“Amy to the back room, Amy to the backroom”   I try to choke back tears but a few escape as I walk to the back.  Luckily Pete isn’t in the backroom and another manager Tim is waiting for me. Tim isn’t exactly warm and friendly but he has a sarcastic sense of humor and doesn’t make snide remarks, he’s actually my favorite manager (the bar was low) Tim tells me the police told him what happened followed by “Since we never had you sign an agreement saying you take responsibility for selling to underage customers, we legally have to pay the ticket when it comes to your house” I start bawling and apologize.  Tim awkwardly tells me its ok and pats my back with a hand missing a few fingers and say the equivalent of “There, there crying teenage girl”.  I try to regain my composure as I still have to finish out my shift. On the way back to my register I walk by Karen, our cheese expert (I told you this was a fancy ass store), she also has the most righteous mullet I have ever seen.  Karen hugs me very tight and when she releases me she tosses her mullet over her shoulder and tells me “We all make mistakes, you’re a good kid”.  Which is exactly what I needed to hear, just because I did something wrong didn’t mean I was a failure.

About a month later my ticket comes and its more than we thought it’d be like $700 and within about 20 minutes of bringing it in to my bosses we all have to sign a waiver saying that if we sell to someone underage we are financially responsible. The moral of the story is just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean you are a mistake and you might even inspire policy change.