Friday, December 25, 2015

This is Christmas

I'm sitting here on Christmas morning feeling very much at peace for what is probably the first time in my life.  I've been very VERY guilty of wishing my life away up 'till this point.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be a grownup.  When I grew up I wanted to be married.  When I got married I wanted a baby.  When I had a baby I wanted to be single again.  When I got single I wanted a relationship.  When I got a relationship I wanted my freedom.  About ten years of waffling back and forth between relationships and freedom and now I am free once again.  Except this time I'm enjoying it.

Times before when I've found myself single it was always because one relationship had ended and the next one had yet begun.  I had lost one and was looking for another.  This time I intentionally got rid of one (a big difference from losing one) and I really can't imagine looking for another.  They say when you stop looking for Mr. Right he will find you, but I'm not even sure I want to be found.

I have The Boy, and I'm so proud of the man he's turning into.  It has been a VERY long and hard road but he really seems to have matured five years in the last six months.

I have SO MANY wonderful friends.  And I'm discovering that what I thought was a fear of being alone was actually a fear of having no choice BUT to be alone.  Today I spent my Christmas morning in my jammies, with my dogs, watching A Christmas Story on TV.  And I haven't felt sorry for myself once.  I think it's not only because I saw The Boy last night, and I have somewhere to go in a few hours, but also because I know that there are multiple places I could be and people I could be with rightthisverysecond if I wanted to.

There's a very big difference between alone and lonely.

I have my animals.  My loyal lap dog Boo, always there for a snuggle.  My House Pony Rue, making me laugh every single day.  My lap cat Smudge, who I swear thinks he's one of the dogs.  And my new baby Spot, my shy boy who surprises me with a snuggle every time I think he'll never really be "mine".

As I sit here, rotating between writing this, watching Ralphie nearly shoot his eye out, and scrolling Facebook, I see people sharing many different kinds of Christmas.  I do have a little twinge of missing the past when I see the lit up trees with all of the presents underneath.  As much as I always dreaded Christmas and all of the work that was involved in the process, Christmas morning with kids in the house was a joy.  Then again I was in bed by 10 last night while those friends were up wrapping and assembling 'till long after Santa's rounds were done.  I'll leave my clean-ish house this afternoon, carrying one made dish and one bought one, and come back to the same clean-ish house with a belly full of food I didn't have to cook, and a heart full of love from my family that isn't blood but treats me as if we were.

So far in my life I've experienced many kinds of Christmas morning.  I've been 14 months pregnant on Christmas (I swear it's true).  I've been on the receiving and giving ends of the ridiculously overflowing Christmas of an only child.  I've had the warm, precious and rare "look they're getting along" moments of two kids in the house.  I've had lonely, sad tear-filled Christmas mornings, and now I have peaceful, contentedly alone Christmas mornings.  Some day soon I hope to have Christmas mornings full of grandchildren's laughter.  All in due time.

But for now, this is Christmas, and it's perfect.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Greetings From the Fountain

On this beautiful day in Crocker Park, 90% through an uncharacteristically difficult work week, I opted to have my lunch outside.
As beautiful as my work neighborhood is, I rarely leave my office for lunch.   This is not due to an affinity for lunch at my desk, but more a result of my increasingly busy schedule and the difficulty and frustration that comes from trying to run a growing Jamberry business or process dog adoption applications from an iPhone 5.
So I eat at my desk, with my ergonomic keyboard and my dual monitors, breathing the recycled, too-cold office air, envying the ladies who lunch outside my window, and wonder why I’m burned out.
But today, in an effort to circumvent this week's plague of computer issues, I brought my trusty laptop to work.  And, as expected, I didn’t need it.  The morning was blessedly free of technical difficulties but as sure as I sit here enjoying  the fall sun, listening to children giggle as people take group photos in front of the fountain (WHAT is so interesting about that fountain?), I know that had I not brought my laptop I would have had to go home for it and wanted to punch things the whole way.
So when lunch time rolled around I thought to myself, “Self…why not sling the trusty laptop over your shoulder, grab that leftover Subway sandwich and go have lunch in the courtyard?”  To which I replied, “Self, that’s a great idea!”
Alas, none of the available wifi networks are public, and my phone is not being a cooperative hotspot.  So I am disconnected.  Well as disconnected as I get, given that I do have my phone.  While I do have things I should be doing with a full sized keyboard and screen, it’s just too pretty out and days like this in Ohio are numbered.  So I’m not going back yet.  And the WiFi Gods can’t make me.
So I write.  It’s been a while.
As I approach the half-century mark, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned.  They say life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.  But I find that as I get older, while the time DOES move faster, I also seem to cram more learning into each quickly passing year.  The last ten years, in particular, I have become infinitely more aware of myself.  Of what I need and what I won’t tolerate, what I’m capable of and what I just don’t want to bother with.  What is important and what is necessary.  What comes easy and what I have to work at.  And what’s worth the work.
Blog Over Lunch is worth the work and, truth be told, it usually comes easy...once I get started.  I just have to get started.  It makes me feel good and I’ve been told it means something to a few people.  So I need to start putting it higher up on my priority list.  And you, one of my four dear readers, are probably sitting there thinking you’ve read this before.  And I’ve meant it before. 
For now I have to get back up to the office wifi so I can post this and finish out the last four hours of this horrendous work week.  But I promise it won’t take a lack of WiFi to get me started again.  Soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My name is Rue. And I'm a good girl.

My name is Rue, and I'm a good girl.  That's what they tell me anyway.

I used to live in a house with little people and big people.  I'm also what they call "a big girl", and somehow that means I tend to make little people fall down and cry.  I didn't mean to!  I was just playing.  Little people fall down REAL easy! And even when I kissed their little leaky faces they still were sad and leaky.  So even though I tried to be nice and stop making the little people leak they kept falling down and I got sent away to a scary, cold place.  And that made ME sad.

The people at the scary place were nice, but they weren't MY people.  They didn't play with me much.  They just gave me food and water and talked to me some, but the floor and the walls were cold and hard and it was SO noisy with other dogs crying and crying and crying for their people just like I was.  Maybe lots of dogs knock little people down and make them leak and have to go away.  It didn't make me feel any better though.

The people were nice, but they sucked at taking pictures.

After a long time at the scary place (I heard someone say "two days", which must mean a long time) a man and a lady came to see me.  They took me outside and petted me and walked me around a little bit and talked to me real quiet and sweet.

Me and The Man.  

They didn't have any little people with them so nobody fell down and leaked.  They had a little dog, but we sniffed each other's butts and decided we could be friends.

After they walked me around and I sniffed the little dog's butt we went back inside the cold noisy place and I was so scared my new friends were going away!  But they talked to the nice people and wrote some stuff down and then I got to go for a long ride in the car.

Car rides are THE BEST.  They had a big car!  So big I could stand up and even stick my face outside the window and sniff all the smells as they whizzed by.  The Lady kept telling The Man I was going to get a bug in my eye but The Man kept the window down anyway.

I wonder if a bug in my eye would be fun.

After a long time sniffing the smells that flew by the window we visited a nice lady with three little people.  I was so scared the little people would leak but The Man held my leash real tight while the little people hugged and petted me and didn't fall down or leak.  The nice lady gave us a big mattress which rode in the car with me for a while.

We went to the store and got a big fat collar with a handle on the side, and a short leash, and some food and treats that I couldn't have yet but oh my GOSH they smelled so good!  And then MORE ride in the car with more smells flying by.

And just when I thought I'd die of excitement from all of the new smells, we got to a house where I got to go inside with the little dog and sniff in all of the corners.

They said this is my yard.

And the mattress and the food and treats and stuff came in the house too. I slept on the floor for a long time.  It was so nice to be out of the noisy place.

I miss my people.  Why did they send me away?

When I woke up the mattress the nice lady gave us was inside a HUGE crate.  The people gave me treats so I would go inside the crate with the mattress.  I went, because I'm a good girl, but I didn't like it much.  It wasn't like the cage at the scary place.  It was soft and warm and quiet.  But still, Why do I have to be in a cage?  I cried for a while, but I saw that the little dog was in a cage too and he was happy and sleeping, so I tried to be a good girl and go to sleep too.  It's not so bad I guess.

I hope all of the dogs in the cold, scary place get to go for long, wonderful smelling car rides and then get a warm place to stay like me.  Nobody should have to cry and cry for their people like that.

I don't understand why I don't get to see my people, the little ones and the big ones, anymore.  But The Man and The Lady seem nice enough and they keep telling me how good I am.  So I'll try to  keep being good so I get to stay.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Moving Memories

A few days after I was born I was brought by my parents to my first home.  It was a small, 1,000-ish square foot slab ranch adjacent to Cleveland Hopkins Airport.  The only memory I have of this home is of sitting on the living room floor looking in to the kitchen, and seeing my father moving the refrigerator out of its spot and taking it outside.  I had no idea refrigerators could be moved!!  I was three and we were moving to the suburbs.

I lived in the mint green split level on Monica Drive until I was 18, when I moved into my friend's one bedroom apartment.  Each night I opened the fold-out love seat, pulled the mattress off and slept there on the living room floor.  My clothes were kept in the coat closet by the front door.  We both left the apartment on Friday mornings, heading to work with clothes for the weekend in the back seats of our cars.  We spent the weekends with our parents and our boyfriends, then came back "home" on Sunday night.  It was a nice year of freedom, but it wasn't a home.

After that year I moved back in with my parents.  The lease was up and my friend wanted to move back toward where she grew up, which was even farther from work than where I grew up.  And I was facing surgery and six weeks' of recuperation so moving home for mom to take care of me, as unpleasant as the prospect was, made sense. 

A year after that I moved in with The Ex.  Mom and Dad were still there on Monica drive, and I went there to visit every 2nd Sunday. I never intended to move back there, but I also didn't feel like I had to say goodbye to my home.  

We lived in a 14 x 70 tin can for the next six years.  I tried my best to make it homey, but with its wall to wall carpet (even in the kitchen and bathroom), floor to ceiling paneling (colored, patterned paneling in the kitchen and bathroom), leaky plumbing, leaky windows and an electrical system that didn't allow me to make coffee and blow dry my hair at the same time, let's just say that when I finally talked The Ex into buying a house I was more than ready to say good riddance to the old tin can.

We bought our first house.  A respectable starter home, a 1,000-ish square foot slab ranch in a decent blue-collar neighborhood.  It was on a postage-stamp sized lot, onto which the prior owners expanded the 2 car garage to a 4 car garage, leaving a "back yard" so small that I could stand in the middle and touch both the house and the garage.  And the front yard was so small that The Boy, when he reached his toddler years, could easily dart into traffic before I could grab him.  So, six years after buying that house, we built a home back in our little home town.  

I really expected to feel sad when we left "the baby house" as The Boy would grow to call it.  I remember a slight pang of melancholy as I walked out of my baby's nursery, a tiny, bright room with teddy bear and confetti wallpaper.  But that brief sadness was wiped away by the excitement of moving into a brand new home.  Almost double the square footage.  A clean slate.

The Ex wanted land.  Every house we looked at was met with the same criticism..."The yard isn't big enough to shoot my crossbow".  I wanted a house in a neighborhood like the one where I grew up.  A cul-de-sac where kids could play kick ball in the circle, all of the families knew each other, kids came home when the street lights came on.  But The Ex wanted a house like where he grew up.  A big piece of land on a state route.  No sidewalks.  Neighbors, if any, had to be far away.  The more secluded the better.  

This was one of the few battles The Ex won.  We ended up on almost an acre and a half on a country road.  

It's been 17 years since we moved into this house and today, as I cleaned out the kitchen closet, packing up everything I don't think we'll need in the next three weeks, it feels like just last week that I was filling it up for the first time.  I hate this yard, and I hate a lot about this house, but I love my kitchen.  And as much as I am absolutely in love with the little house I'll be moving into in less than three weeks, it makes me a little sad to be disassembling the kitchen here.  Watching the counter become more and more bare.  Seeing the empty cupboards and the bare wall where pictures used to hang.  Especially the bare refrigerator doors that used to hold school pictures of The Boy, The Girl, nieces and friends.

I never understood why people get sad when they move.  I mean unless you're getting kicked out of your home or you're leaving due to divorce, it should be a happy time.  And this is.  I can't wait to get into my new house and begin the next chapter of my life.  I have no delusions about who I am.  I was an empty nester for a few months earlier this year and will be again once I move.  I'm looking forward to having a house and yard that don't completely overwhelm me with their need for attention, maintenance and repairs.  I can't wait to start painting and decorating with nobody's taste in mind but my own.  I always knew I'd leave this house when The Boy was grown so I've sort of felt like a temporary tenant for the last few years. I just kept the place in halfway decent shape in anticipation of selling it when the time came.  I will invest time and money into the next house, not feeling like I'm throwing it into an endless void but feeling like I'm investing in my future.  

But with all that said, today I felt a little sad.  This is where The Boy celebrated 18 of his 19 birthdays.  He skate boarded and played basketball in that driveway.  This is where The Girl spent every weekend from the time she was 7 until she was 12.   My favorite dog ever was a puppy here, and he died here.  This is where I learned how to take care of a yard, change locks, work the grill.  And this is where I was part of a family.  Twice.  I've had great times on that deck, around that pool table, at that kitchen table and in this living room.  And I've had my heart broken here more than once.  Some of the happiest and all of the saddest times of my life happened in this house.  I won't leave those memories behind  I'll take them with me, so I don't know why it makes me so sad. 

But it does.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Living the (Bad) Dream

When I was 19 or 20, The Ex and I bought a trailer.  Nowadays it might be called a mobile home, or a manufactured home, but truth be told there was nothing mobile about it and aren't all homes manufactured?   It was a trailer, plain and simple.

When we first moved in it may as well have been a 3,000 square foot brick colonial.  It was my first real, independent address.  I got to help pick out the (mostly used) furnishings.  I had say in what happened there.  Even though my name wasn't on the title (The Ex was the official owner) it was still my first real home.  I didn't answer to my parents and I didn't sleep on a hide-a-bed in the living room.  I was the lady of the house.

By the time we moved out I was painfully aware that it was a 980 square foot tin can sporting a leaky roof, soft floors, an electrical system that didn't allow me to blow dry my hair and make coffee at the same time, floor to ceiling faux-wood paneling and windows which leaked rain, wind and - worst of all - spiders.

My worst memory of the trailer involves one of many, many encounters with spiders.  Thousands (it seemed) of baby spiders who had the misfortune of being discovered by me, shortly after birth, in the crease of one of my flouncy country-style bedroom curtains.  I pulled the curtain back to turn on the window air conditioner and from there it's a blur of screaming and crying with The Ex trying to kill the little monsters that were being blown out of the curtain by the air conditioner, landing on and around our bed.

But that is the worst memory of our five years there.  We were happy.  We were kids.  Working and living free, enjoying life without much in the way of possessions or responsibilities.

Because of the almost entirely positive memories I have of life in the trailer, it has always seemed odd that I have recurring nightmares which take place there.  Starting shortly after my divorce, the trailer has been the backdrop for a nightmare at least once a month, often several times a week.  These are not boogie-man nightmares.  Nobody is chasing me with Kreuger-esque blade fingers or forcing me to incorrectly use "they're" where "there" would be appropriate.  Nobody has dismembered a loved one or swapped my coffee for decaf.  The nightmare is just that I live there.  I have sold my 1700 square foot colonial on 1.67 acres and re-purchased the 14 x 70 mobile home on lot 149.  Sometimes I'm trying to convince myself that I can put to good use the thousands of hours I've spent watching HGTV and transform it into a cozy, beautiful space.  Sometimes I am asking myself what the hell I was thinking.  Sometimes The Ex is living there with me and I am dreading having to tell him, once again, that I don't want to grow old with him.  Sometimes I'm even having an internal dialogue wondering how I could be stupid enough to put myself back into this situation after I've had so many regretful dreams about it.  Sometimes I'm telling myself over and over again to wake up.

Almost always there are spiders.

These dreams have been so consistent and vexing that at one point when a "Dream Analysis Expert" was on a local radio show I called in.  I was put on the air and described my dream and she said that I have a fear that I will make a poor decision and lose everything for which I have worked so hard.

Seems legit.  The dreams started shortly after I began making decisions for myself.  And there have been many MANY times in the last eight years when I have been sure there must be someone more qualified to plot the course of my life.

Knowing the source of these dreams has not stopped them from plaguing my sleep on far too frequent occasion, but I do now recognize that they crop up more often during times of indecision.

All six of you, my loyal readers, are probably aware that less than a year ago I had a cast on my right foot, wheeling around on a knee walker, home-bound except for the kindness of friends who got me out of the house on a blessedly regular basis.  I had a broken fifth metatarsal (teeny tiny bone) in my right foot which, in spite of a full year of hoping, praying, resting, icing, elevating and bracing, had failed to heal on its own.  So I had to have a screw put in.  I had to work from home for a month, walk in a boot for I don't even remember how long.  I had to have special insoles put in my shoes and even almost a year later I still had to wear sneakers 99% of the time.

Last Sunday morning I had a day of cleaning and shopping planned.  I had a cookout scheduled for the next day, Labor Day, with about 15 people coming over.  All was well in my little corner of the world.  Life was good.

I started the day as I had each morning for the prior couple of weeks, walking Happy, my little foster dog, while my dogs ran free within the confines of our Invisible Fence.  In broad daylight, at 9-something in the morning, I stepped down off the deck step, right foot first, and landed half on and half off a stepping stone.  Before my left foot could come down to catch me, I went down and snapped the two main bones in my ankle.  If you've seen the hobbling scene in the movie Misery, you have a good mental image of what greeted me when I pulled my right foot out from under me.

Ever delusional in the level of my badassedness, I convinced myself that I could just brace myself for the pain, cowgirl up and do a sort of backwards crab walk, back up the deck steps and into the kitchen where I could only hope my phone would be waiting so I could call 911.  Less than a half crab step convinced me otherwise, as my right foot dangled unnaturally beneath my raised leg, and my left ankle (sprained and bruised but blessedly unbroken) screamed "Fuck you lady" at the attempt.

Darkness crept in to my peripheral vision.  Consciousness threatened to fade.  I screamed for the neighbors.  And they came running, thank God.

I got my first ambulance ride.  And I spent the better part of three days and two nights hospitalized while I waited for and recovered from surgery.

I'm home now.  My trusty knee walker by my side.  No cast this time, at least not yet.  But my right foot is elevated and bandaged up to the knee and I am once again forbidden from weight bearing activity or driving.  Working from home and relying in the kindness of others for every convenience or company.

Guys, this sucks.  And as many times as I try to convince myself that I'm dreaming, that I couldn't be repeating this experience again not even a year later, I can't wake up.

But I'm trying to look on the bright side.  At least there are no spiders.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Don't Panic

If you know anyone who experiences panic attacks, please give them a giant hug.  I don't think anyone can understand how awful this is unless they've experienced it themselves.

I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is mostly controlled with medication.  I've been dealing with this for about 20 years, though I didn't know what it was until 15 years ago.

My anxiety creeps in at the most bizarre moments. Either a few days AFTER a time of extreme emotional stress, when I forget to take my anti-anxiety medication for a few days in a row OR if I'm sick.  Illness is the one thing that will trigger it IMMEDIATELY.  Not every time I'm not feeling well, no it can't be that predictable.  Just out of the blue I'll start feeling unwell and panic.  I know it makes no sense whatsoever, and it causes a miserable, ridiculous, terrifying snowball effect that can turn a bad tuna sandwich or random flu-induced dizzy spell into cold-sweat, heart racing nearly blacking out panic.

Throw in a benign heart condition that causes heart palpitations, and a newly empty nest and there's a recipe for terror.

Knowing what's happening might slightly shorten the duration of a panic attack, but it doesn't make it any less frightening.

The inner dialogue goes like this:

Woah...the room is spinning.

Ok...idiot.  It's a thousand degrees outside, you just got done scrubbing rugs on the deck.  You've been breathing cleaning solution fumes in the bathrooms all day and you forgot to eat.  Two large iced coffees do not substitute for water or food.  AND every time it gets super hot and humid you can't breathe.  Where's your asthma inhaler?

Doesn't matter.  I'm dying.'re not dying.  You're overheated, overcaffeinated, dehydrated and hungry.

Nope.  Definitely dying.  And I'm alone.  Should I call 911??

DO NOT CALL 911.  You're having an anxiety attack.

Where's my phone.  I need to call 911.

Just hold your phone.  You have it if you need it.  It's an anxiety attack.  Just breathe.

The dogs are outside.  I'm going to die in here and they'll be outside in this heat.

YOU. ARE. NOT. DYING.   Sit down and breathe.

I think I'm having a heart attack.  My heart is beating out of my chest.

Because you're panicking.  Take your pulse....

It's 80.  What's normal?

Google says 60 - 100.  You're fine.

But I haven't been exercising and I eat like crap.  I'm definitely dying and I deserve it.  I swear if I live through this I'm going to start exercising an hour a day and living on lettuce.

You are overcaffeinated, dehydrated and hungry.  Drink some water and eat a granola bar..

Of course the water and granola bar make me want to throw up, because my anxiety is through the roof.

See?  I can't eat.  Something is very wrong.

Small bites.  You're fine.  Turn on the tv and lay down.

Within 5 minutes I'm physically fine.  But the anxiety remains.

I take a shower, but I keep the phone right outside the shower in case I need to call 911.

I drink water as fast as I can without making myself nauseous and starting the whole cycle again..

I lay down on the couch and focus on the tv.

A friend calls and asks if I want to come over and go swimming.  She lives 20 minutes away.  What if I start feeling bad in the car?  Or while I'm at her house?  I'll look stupid.

I tell her I'm not feeling well.  I know she understands but I feel stupid.

I think of the parade I'm supposed to be in the next day. It's going to be super hot and humid.  What if this all starts back up DURING the parade?  I think back to the time my mom almost passed out in the grocery store.  She caused such a scene.  I don't want to cause a scene.  I'd have to just walk out of the parade to sit down, and either someone would miss the parade to sit with me or I'd be totally alone among strangers.  Either potential situation is horrifying.  I let everyone know I can't go.

I stay home.

The next day I feel fine.  Stupid but fine.  I go out and do some yard work, working up a sweat and getting my heart rate up and I don't die.

And I know I'm one of the lucky ones.  Tomorrow I'll go to work like a normal person.  I have these episodes maybe once or twice a year.  While they can be terrifying and debilitating in the moment, they do not keep me from having a normal life.  I can easily understand how people with this disorder can end up a prisoner in their own home, and terrified of the solitude at the same time.

I have noticed a pattern.  This tends to happen when I do too much.  I'll be going along fine and WHAM, anxiety will knock me on my ass.  And while I'm on my ass I think back and realize I haven't relaxed in weeks.  I run and run and run until I'm forced to stop.  Maybe in a bizarre way the anxiety is my friend, because it makes me stop.  But it sure doesn't feel like a friend when it comes to visit and won't leave.  This visit has caused me to pretty much stay home all weekend.  Maybe it knows best.  Maybe I needed this downtime.  Some time to write and putter around the house.

The laundry room floor needs scrubbed.  Don't panic.  I'll get the bucket.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Your Actions Matter

Someone posted a video on Facebook the other day and I can't get it out of my head.  It's kind of painful to watch (at least it was to me) so I'll just save you watching it if you prefer to pass and just say it's a video of a boy being relentlessly bullied by a girl, until he just snaps and nearly strangles her.

A big part of why it hit me so hard was that it took place on a bus.

When I was in middle school I was relentlessly bullied by one of the girls in my neighborhood.  When we were very small we were friends.  We played together, I have pictures of us swimming together, doing each other's hair.  But as we got older, she became cool and I became a dork.  I wore polyester pants that, in spite of the fact that they were custom tailored for me (a nice way to say my mom made them) were two inches too short.  She wore jeans.  I was a fat little kid, she wasn't.  I was a shy only child with few friends.  She had siblings and friends and a family that, at least on the surface, was far less dysfunctional than mine.

So when we got to middle school she would take the seat behind me on the bus and pretty much torture me.  She pulled my hair, spit on me, poked me in the eye and hit me, all while her friends laughed and cheered her on.  And when I inevitably broke down in tears, that just gave her more to laugh about.

The bus dropped us off a few blocks from my house, so since she lived across the street she could continue to insult and harass me all the way home.

Many days I walked in the door to my house in hysterical tears, hyperventilating and begging my mom to start driving me to school.  Just sobbing "Please don't make me ride the bus again"

In the days when this girl and I were friends as little kids, our moms were friends as well.  That friendship had long ago ended, but my mom still felt that the best option was to talk to the girl's mother.  And that helped just about as much as you'd think it did.

This went on for months.  Even now, 35 years later, I'm a little nauseous thinking about those days.  The complete and total dread I felt any time I had to leave my house.  Just walking to the end of the driveway at my mother's request to get the mail was an invitation to ridicule.  And my clothes, my face, my body, my EXISTENCE in the neighborhood just gave her ammunition which would be used to make my life miserable when next she had me outnumbered and surrounded by her friends.

There were a pair of sisters who lived a street over from us.  Everyone was afraid of them.  They were a year or two older than us and, looking back, they were just kids.  But to us they were tough and mean and you did not mess with them.

So imagine my surprise when one of them stuck up for me!  It was on an unremarkable ride home.  I was, as usual, just trying to endure the humiliation and shame, hoping the hitting and poking and hair pulling wouldn't escalate into anything causing permanent damage to my body.  The damage to my psyche, self-confidence and self-esteem had already been done.  And I heard someone say "You're real tough with all your friends around you right?".  She didn't answer.  And I heard "You want to try doing that to me?   Yeah, I didn't think so"

She never messed with me again.

I'd like to be able to say that the tough girl and I became BFF's, but we didn't.  We didn't even speak until ten years later when, by chance, I moved in next door to her.  She had absolutely no recollection of me or even the day she stuck up for me.  She probably saved my life, and she didn't even remember it.  What she didn't know the day she put the bully in her place was that it was occurring to me on a fairly regular basis that I would rather die than continue to endure that daily misery. I saw no other way out.

Thanks to her I stopped being bullied.  I think the bully and her friends thought the tough girl and I were friends, and that was fine with me.  I made some friends, ditched the polyester, and I actually enjoyed high school.

Senior year I started dating The Boy's dad, who was best friends with the bully's older brother.  His family and the bully's family were friends.  I actually spent part of my honeymoon with her and her parents in their fishing cabin.  I smiled and made nice, and I tried to remind myself that I wasn't that scared little kid anymore so it was reasonable to assume she wasn't the monster I remembered.  I came to the conclusion that she still wasn't a very nice person, but she couldn't hurt me anymore.

They say living well is the best revenge.  If that's true, then I have evened the score and then some.  That video was the first time I have given that evil little girl a thought in the 20 years since I last saw her at her brother's wedding.  And even when the video brought her to my mind, the thought was less about her and more about how much difference a person can make in another's life.  Whether you're a sick little girl who enjoys hurting people, a parent who doesn't take it seriously when they're told that their daughter is torturing another child, or someone who sees someone being picked on and has the guts to speak up.  Your actions matter.  So choose them wisely.