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Throwback Thursday: A Cursed Weekend

It was a busy Friday at work. I was the receptionist at a small insurance company – a job I loathed, but was too insecure and full of self-doubt to do anything about it at the time. I’d been ignoring the urge to pee so I could finish distributing the mail and putting people’s used coffee cups into the dishwasher before my boss could find something to nitpick about.

When I finally made it to the bathroom, I was surprised that, although I felt like I had to go urgently, not that much came out. And it burned a little. Weird, I thought, but I ignored it and made a mental note to drink more water.

By the end of the day, after multiple uncomfortable peeing episodes, and a few WebMD articles later, I realized I was likely coming down with a bladder infection. I’d never had one before, so I figured I would just make sure to chug a bunch of water and flush it out. It would be like a having a cold, right?

I hopped in my car and drove straight to Vermont. I’d been looking forward to spending the weekend with my family. I sipped on water as I drove, but was careful not to drink too much because I didn’t want to stop too many times. By the time I got to the rest area in Vermont, I thought I might die. I rushed into the bathroom, only to struggle painfully to release the contents of my bladder.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I continued on my journey to the family home, which was another hour and a half drive away. Once there, I was relieved to be in close proximity to a toilet at all times, and I made an attempt to drink more.

The next day was the same. It was uncomfortable, but I could bear it. I chatted with my parents, and played games with my brothers. We ate lots of food and took a leisurely walk down to the pond and back again. I convinced myself that it wasn’t really a bladder infection and that I was probably fine.

That night, I tossed and turned. I got up to pee multiple times. In the morning, I felt horrible. I went downstairs to have breakfast but the nausea was so intense that I couldn’t keep sitting upright. I was also freezing cold. I wrapped myself in quilts and lay on the couch.

My parents looked at me with concern. I told them that I thought I had a bladder infection but I wasn’t sure because I’d never had one before. “It hurts to pee!” I cried as I shivered uncontrollably under the blankets, unable to get warm.

After a little convincing, I agreed to let my mom take me to the emergency room. I must have looked like death warmed over. When we arrived and explained the situation, I was given a collection cup and told to provide a urine sample. I stumbled to the all-inclusive unisex/handicapped/family party time bathroom that was just off the waiting area and squeezed out what I could into the cup. It was the color of apple cider. (Sorry if you like apple cider.)

The nurse laughed when I handed the cup back to him. “Uh, yeah, looks like you have a bladder infection!” he said. Then he told me to sit and wait.

Before long, they put me in a private room with a bed. I changed into the hospital gown, got into the bed, and collapsed onto the pillow as they covered me with warm blankets. It was a surreal feeling to be in a hospital bed with my mom by my side. Talk about a throwback.

The doctor came in and stood at an awkward distance as he asked me about my symptoms. He agreed that it was a bladder infection, and the urine sample was ample evidence. He said that if I had waited any longer, it would have become a kidney infection. This was alarming news. If I hadn’t been with my parents, would I have had the sense to get myself to a hospital for treatment before it got that bad?

The painkillers and fluids in the IV worked wonders, and soon I was feeling much better. Even the nurses commented that I looked more alive. My dad stopped in to see how I was doing before he headed down to Philadelphia for work. Normally I would have been heading back to CT myself, but decided to go back to the family home and get a good night’s sleep first.

The next day dawned to snowy/icy conditions. I called out of work, a legitimate sick day, and began my drive south. I was feeling a lot better – the violent, painful urge to pee had subsided, so I felt confident I could make the trip. I drove along, being careful on the icy roads, but not fearful. I’d driven in worse.

After about an hour of driving, I began mentally drifting off and forgot to pay attention to my speed. I was heading for Proctorsville Gulf, on Route 103 (if you’ve ever driven to Ludlow to ski, you’ll know the part I’m talking about). It’s a section of road that goes between two mountains, and it’s somewhat steep and curvy. In the wintertime, the sun barely reaches down to the road, so it’s the perfect spot for icy conditions to form.

I came out of my daydream long enough to notice that the road was pretty slick and that I needed to take my speed down a notch. Absent-mindedly, I pressed my foot on the brake, and immediately the car began to slide on the ice. I veered into the oncoming lanes of traffic (fortunately no one was there) and pressed my foot harder on the brake out of desperation. I yanked the steering wheel to the right, anxious to get back in my lane. The next thing I knew, the car was sliding sideways down the road, and I was heading straight toward a guard rail.

I braced myself for impact – squeezing my eyes tight and clutching the steering wheel. BAM! The car slammed into the guard rail head on and bounced back a few feet.

Surprisingly, my airbag did not inflate. I sat in stunned silence for a second. The car had shut off. I quickly restarted it so I could get my car off the road before someone else lost control and slammed into me. I pulled over after the guard rail ended and got out to look at the damage. One headlight had popped out and was dangling like a zombie eyeball. The license plate was bent, but otherwise the car looked unscathed. I could hardly believe it.

Another car slowly drove past and pulled over a few feet in front of me. A young guy leapt out. “Are you ok?” he looked at me incredulously. “I saw you lose control and I was so scared!” I admitted that I was a bit shaken, but physically unharmed. I refrained from telling him about my bladder situation.

He asked if he should call the police or an ambulance, but I said I was fine and I just wanted to get home. He popped the headlight back in for me and went on his way.

Back in the car, I noticed that the bottle of juice I’d been drinking had coated the entire stereo system, the cup holders and the gear shifter, and that all the stuff I’d had on the seat next to me was now on the floor. I wiped up the juice and situated myself as best I could, and proceeded with the journey.

An hour and a half later, I stopped for gas in Springfield, MA. I went to the Pride station just off of 91, which was one I often went to with my brother Kris  when we’d drive to Vermont together. He lived nearby, and I wondered what he was up to as I began pumping gas.

All of a sudden, a gruff voice behind me said, “Give me all your money, bitch!” I froze for a second. I knew Springfield had some problems, but could I really be getting robbed in broad daylight in the middle of a busy gas station? And wasn’t this just my luck – I’d been gravely ill, nearly killed myself in a car accident and now I was being harassed at a gas station.

I turned around warily to face my attacker. I was in such a mood that I was ready to tell them to go rob someone else. It was Kris! I almost cried with relief. I was glad to see him, even if he did try to scare the crap out of me.

I managed to make it the rest of the way home without any more dramatic incidents. Once there, I collapsed into Dave’s arms and drowned my sorrows with cranberry juice and antibiotics.

I never did figure out why that February weekend in 2009 was so cursed for me – was it karma for something I had done? Who knows. I did learn that if I ever feel burning when I pee, I’d better get myself to the doctor ASAP and not assume that I can heal myself with water and a prayer.

Throwback Thursday: The Cheese Lamp

I grew up in the house my grandfather built in the mid 1950’s.  The decor ranged from mid century modern to 70’s funk. We had some interesting stuff, to say the least.

In my bedroom, which had a multi-colored animal-print shag rug (it had been the t.v. room before I came along), there hung a lamp.  A hideous, orange, ceramic pendant lamp with various sized holes punched through it.  My parents called it  the cheese lamp.

This is not OUR cheese lamp, but the closest I could find via Google search!

I remember this lamp clearly because it scared me.  At night, bathed in the glow of my Winnie-the-Pooh night light, this lamp was pure evil.  The holes were like dark eyes watching me from across the room.

One night I dreamed that my parents were zombies, and my mom had this lamp stuck on her head, the heavy metal chain wrapping around her body.

Not long after that, the lamp came down.  It lived in the utility room for a while, sitting up on a shelf between jars of nails and curls of sand paper.  At some point it disappeared, hopefully to the dump, because otherwise it will haunt some other young child.

Seriously, who’s idea was it to make a lampshade out of ceramic? It must have been insanely heavy, not to mention opaque, so it would only let light shine out of the holes and the bottom. Dumb.

Another thing that I found creepy in that house were the light switches that lit up when turned off. At night, when the house was dark and I looked down the stairs into the living room, I could see these amber-lit switches glowing like the eyes of a menacing beast.

I suppose I can be thankful that the scariest things in my childhood were lamps and light switches, and that I had to imagine monsters, rather than actually face them.

Was there anything that scared you in your childhood home?

Throwback Thursday – Papers from the Past

Lately I’ve been on a roll going through old papers and either taking pics of them or scanning them and then CHUCKING THEM!

It feels so good to be rid of the excess stuff, and since I’m preserving it digitally, I don’t feel so torn about throwing it out. Of course, there is still the arduous task of organizing all the digital files, but I think I can handle it.

I’ve found quite a few gems which I look forward to sharing and expounding upon further in this blog.  I just wrote a post for my Daily Art Challenge page, sharing a nursery rhyme I illustrated in college.

Maybe it’s simply nostalgia, but I feel a strong connection to this goofy girl I once was. Check out some of my drawings from 2nd grade (age 7)

I think the deer on the right is actually quite well executed for a 7-year old.

I don’t know why I was always writing “See” next to stuff. How demanding! Also, not to psychoanalyze my past self, but what’s going on with my hand in the drawing? And my teeth?

I’m pretty sure there was some tracing involved in this one.

I wrote “Look!” at the top of this page and then must have decided against it. I was cracking up when I took a closer look at the audience. We have an exuberant vocalizer on the left, then a guy with T-Rex arms in the middle, and what appears to be a completely armless girl in a bikini on the end.


Throwback Thursday – Thoughts from a 25-Year-Old Me

It’s been a while since I did a TBT post. I pulled a random journal off the shelf to find something to share, and it just so happened to be one from exactly 10 years ago. At the time I wrote this, I had just left the religious group that I’d grown up in, lost my best friend in the process, and was about to quit a well-paying job to go back to school to finish my degree. My world was in turmoil!

I wrote this while I was spending a week in Vermont, watching my brothers while my mom took a trip to London.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I must remember to thank God every day for my awesome family and this amazing place we call home.

Tonight we had taco pie for dinner and then John went to a friend’s house. Nick practiced clarinet while I vacuumed my car (Dave reminded me to). Then we watched Dead Poet’s Society. That movie is so good. It makes me want to read poetry, write poetry and get out there and do a bunch of stuff before life passes by.

I was looking at pictures of Mom and Dad when they were teenagers. It’s so weird to see them so young. I mean, I’m older now than they were in those pictures. They look so mischievous and silly and happy and have no idea what their futures hold. Maybe they thought they knew, but of course life has a way of happening differently than you plan.

There’s a picture of Mom and her friend in the room that would later become the nursery for Me, Kris, John and Nick. They’re sitting on a couch in front of the window and there’s a box of records on the floor beside the couch and a Yes poster on the wall where our crib would later be. Obviously it’s before any of us were even thoughts in their minds. It just blows me away. It is so weird how you can life live without someone (like a child or your significant other) and then once they enter your life you can’t imagine it without them.

Life moves so quickly, yet when you’re wondering about the future it can seem so slow. Sometimes I get frustrated that you can’t go back. Not necessarily go back and relive a moment, but just observe. Like in Our Town, when Emily dies and she goes back and is able to watch her parents without them seeing her. Maybe that’s too painful. I’d like to rewind sometimes and see certain events again. Actually, what I’d most like to see would just be normal, everyday life from different perspectives.

I don’t want to grow old and have my life end. I know it’s a cycle, but where is the lesson? When do we say, “Aha, now I understand!”?

That was deep, right?

Also, I kept having crazy dreams about my ex-best friend… here’s a couple of excerpts:


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I had this elaborate dream that Deb and Jason came to a theater where Dave and I were going to watch a movie. They sat behind us and made all these rude comments about how I shouldn’t be with Dave. Then we ended up at their house, but it was just Deb and I. She was really upset about something and started stabbing me with steak knives. In self defense, I overturned a huge, heavy table onto her and killed her. Then I called 911 and ran into the street with my stab wounds (which were all in my face). When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics weren’t worried about me at all but instead ran inside to tend to Debbie. Then somehow I ended up in the basement of their house, but it was a huge labyrinth with tons of weird little rooms and I couldn’t get out.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I had another dream about Debbie. This time I was somewhere like a wedding or something. Debbie approached me very happily and was like, “Heather! It’s been so long! I’m so glad you came!” (or something along those lines). She started hugging me and I pushed her away and said, “Get off of me! How dare you act so happy to see me when it was YOU who pushed me away?” The look on her face went from joyful to angry and then we started fighting again. It wasn’t as exciting as the knife-stabbing, table throwing incident of a few days ago, but still, it kept me thinking of her during the day.

Moral of the story: Don’t get on my bad side! I may appear sweet and nice on the outside, but in my dreams I will kill you and verbally abuse you!

I’d also like to add a disclaimer here: I am pretty certain at this point, 10 years after the fact, that I have successfully completed the grieving process over my former best friend, and all of the other friends I lost when I tried to break away from the herd. I won’t lie that it wasn’t an easy process, and there were lots of dreams of rejection and hurt. After a few years, I even went to therapy, (which I probably should have done at the very beginning) and that helped me immensely. So don’t worry – while I may at one time have been filled with angst and rage that presented itself in murderous dreams, I have since healed and moved on. Hooray!

Throwback Thursday – Highlights from 1994

Not quite as hideous as 1993....
Not quite as hideous as 1993….

Here is my puffy, floral journal from 1994. I feel a little funny sharing it because the girl who wrote most of it doesn’t even really seem like me.

13 going on 14 is a strange time for most people, I guess. You’ve got the “teenager” label, and you think you’re really grown up but at the same time, you’re pretty much still a kid.

This journal is from kind of a weird time in my life. First of all, we moved out of the house that had grown up in, which was also the house that my father had grown up in. I felt like this was a huge insult, and spent a lot of time moaning about that in the journal.

The second “weird”” thing was that I was awkwardly obsessed with boys at this time. I saw awkwardly, because the one in particular that I was obsessed with was basically the only one available in my church group. I think it was more that I just wanted someone, ANYONE to be my boyfriend.

So without further ado, I present… deep thoughts from 1994.

Cue dramatic music...
Cue dramatic music…

April 15, 1994 4:49pm

I feel so weird. Today was my last day of school. I’m kind of glad. I made it through. I’ll never have to go back (see 1991 diary). I’m packing now. I am so confused. I don’t know where to start. I’ve cried already and now I’m losing my temper. What a mess. Well, tomorrow’s the big day. I am so sad I will probably cry myself to death.

Well, gotta go. Love, a very emotionally disturbed Heather.

April 16, 1994 10:09pm

I’m still alive!! I didn’t really cry today. I had tears in my eyes at times but I didn’t weep or wail. I’m like, emotionless. I guess it’s depression. I feel empty and lonely inside. I will see my old house again. I hate calling it my old house.  It sounds like a piece of trash or something. I miss it. 

Today was busy, I went wacko trying to 1. pack, 2. control my emotions, 3. unpack and make this place feel like home. 

I miss my house.

There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. 

Editors note: I drew a tiny pair of ruby slippers next to that sentiment.

Tuesday, April 19, 1994

Today we went home (our OLD house) to clean up. I cleaned John & Nick’s room and Kris & my room. I kept a lot of little things that I found. Someday I want to buy the house back or something. 

It was like 80 degrees there today, and beautiful. It made me cry because I know once we are all done cleaning it, we’ll never see it again. I was standing there in John and Nick’s room, vacuum in hand, looking out the window at the baby leaves on the trees. I said to Mommy, “isn’t it so beautiful?” That made me start to cry. Tears welled up in my eyes. I fought them back because I knew if I started crying I would never stop. But when mom asked if I was ok, I began to cry. Amazingly it helped and I felt better from then on. 

Gram was there with us. It must be so hard for her, since our grandfather built that house and they raised their family there. She didn’t cry in front of us. Or at least I don’t think so. I wanted to comfort her. It must be so hard for her. I mean I was like, crying every 5 minutes.

On Thursday we are going to come back up and bring the camera and I’ll make Mommy take pictures of EVERYTHING! I hope I never forget all the things that happened there. Here are some major events:

1. Birthdays 2. Holidays 3. My first period (seriously, this ranked #3) 4. Operations 5. Sleepovers 6. Swimming 7. BBQ’s and parties 8. Joanna & my umbrella escapade 9. Watching “A River Runs Through It” for the first time(s) 10. Bible Class and CYC 11. People  12. Our every day life

 Apparently I was really into list-making during this time of my life. And super dramatic!

Let’s move on to the boy- craziness…

Sunday, May 1, 1994 9:54pm

Today was your average Sunday. We went to Sunday School and Meeting. I found out that Jimmy (sorry, “Jim”) likes me.  I’m not sure. Last night Mom found his paper from CYC and at the bottom he had written my name really fancy. The reason I thought it might be someone else was, maby someone at his school. I don’t know. It must have been me because I was sitting next to him last night.

He doesn’t act like it though. I mean he doesn’t follow me around or say anything. He is cute, (sort of), with his tan from Florida. He’s really not a bad guy, except for his foot fungus. (Personal joke.) I don’t know, it’s so confusing. I wish I could just know. Then I wouldn’t need to worry.

Wow, dude. I was really putting the pressure on myself over the mere idea that a guy might like me. I wish I could go back and tell myself to just chill and enjoy the thought and let things unfold in due time… but I guess that’s not how 13-year-old love goes.

Every summer, we had bible school for a week in July.  Our church group rented dorm rooms, lecture halls and other rooms at Shippensburg University for this event. It was pretty much all my CYC friends and I ever talked about. It was like our lives orbited around that one week in the summer.

I cant wait for bible school, so I can ogle guys!
I cant wait for bible school, so I can ogle guys!

As a young kid, I enjoyed bible school because it was basically summer camp and I got to spend lots of time playing with friends that I’d only see once or twice a year. When I got to be a teenager, it was all about the boys.

Sunday, June 26, 1994

Yesterday we went to Jim’s graduation party. Susie and I hung around. Jay wasn’t there. We swam and talked about Shippensburg. When it came time for the cake, everyone sand “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and then they sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I was embarrassed.

After cake, we went swimming. Jim came in too. You see, here’s why I’m confused. He’s always showing off around me, like in the pool, I was just standing there and he looked over at me real quick to see if I was watching and then he did a fancy little thing and swam across the pool. I wouldn’t think much of that except he did similar things twenty five million times that night.  Like, we were playing Marco Polo and I was standing on the deck with my foot in the water. He was it. He went “Fish out of water” and I didn’t move because my foot was in the water. He KNEW I was there, that’s why he said it! Then he used MY towel to dry himself off. I don’t know whether to like him or not!

Can I just mention that this guy that I’m talking about here had just graduated from high school. I had just graduated from 8th grade. Even if he DID want to date me, that’s kinda messed up.

In July, I wrote all about my week at Shippensburg. I’ll spare you the vast detail that I went into, describing what room number each of my friends resided in, and what hymns were sung at what times, and what outfits I wore (in case I ever wanted to recreate the experience in my future holodeck).

I will say that I did not mention Jim once in that account. Probably because I was hanging out with kids my own age and he was hanging out with older people. Or maybe he didn’t even go.

July 15, 1994

Today Joanna was here. She slept over last night. We had a CYC get together last night. It was OK.  Jim flirted with Joanna SO bad it was discusting. (In case you haven’t noticed, I DON’T like him anymore.) I can’t believe I ever liked him. I must have been eating something bad.

And so ended my brief obsession with Jim…

The rest of 1994 passed without any major imaginary love affairs. In August that year we went to visit my grandmother in Canada, which was an exciting trip at the time. In the fall, I started high school. I really didn’t write much about that. I think I was a little shy about sharing my actual feelings in this journal because I would often share it with Joanna when she visited, so I didn’t want to write anything too vulnerable. But let me tell you, I was pretty scared about high school most days. It was so huge and full of angsty teenagers, it was just not a happy place for me.

In closing, here is a lovely self-portrait I drew in my journal late one night:

I was tired a lot because I stayed up until 11 every night writing in my journal and then I had to get up at ungodly hours to get to the bus stop for school.
I was tired a lot because I stayed up until 11 every night writing in my journal and then I had to get up at ungodly hours to get to the bus stop for school.

Throwback Friday – It’s Potty Time

Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to complete yesterday’s Throwback Thursday (look for it next Thursday…)

So I hereby present a special Throwback Friday, to 1981, where a one-year-old me was already learning to multitask.

1981 Potty Training
Just looking at a book on the pot, nothing to see here…

I found this picture in one of Gram’s photo albums shortly after she died. It brought back a flood of memories. It’s not often that you have a picture of your childhood toilet, or that you’d really think much about your childhood toilet, but really, a lot happened in that room.

Across from that toilet was the medicine cabinet/linen closet. It always had a strong smell of cough syrup or antiseptic, combined with the more gentle hint of fabric softener. When Kris and I were older, we would hide the Fisher Price tape recorder in there to try to catch each other talking to ourselves in the bathroom or better yet, making bodily function noises. Hilarious!

Use a hair tie to hold down the microphone button and you've got yourself a spy tool.
Use a hair tie to hold down the microphone button and you’ve got yourself a (not very discreet) spy tool.

To the left of the toilet was the sink. Oh, we had a lot of fun in that sink. We would play scientist by taking all manner of items from the medicine cabinet and mixing them together with q-tips in paper cups. A favorite ingredient was baby powder because it would make wonderfully thick concoctions. (Highly viscous, as a scientist might actually say.)

The sink was part of a long counter, which we would use when playing doctor.  A towel was laid on the tile and and the patient would lie there while the doctor used various implements, bottles and bandages found in the medicine cabinet.

We also played hair dresser, which was yet another exercise in imagination that combined  water and various ingredients from the bathroom.  The bathtub served as the waiting room, with a few little plastic chairs for the next customers.

These chairs!

The bathtub. Oh boy. I’m sure I could find pictures of the tub, but I will spare you. The tub was another source of fun and adventure. On more than one occasion I would get a little too excited and create tidal waves, which would then spill over the edge of the tub and soak through the floor and down into the family room below.

A lot of reading went on in that bathroom too, especially as I got older and was more and more obsessed with books. I distinctly remember sitting on that toilet and crying as I read about Laura Ingall’s dog Jack getting swept downstream when they crossed a river and Pa wouldn’t let Jack ride in the wagon. What the hell, Pa?

So yes, that little picture of baby Heather learning to use the potty can certainly stir up a lot of memories. It also explains why I still prefer to have some reading material when I head to the bathroom.