What I would say if I were Claudia

I’ve said it before (though maybe not in these exact words): 8th grade offers a higher concentration of social confusion, awkwardness and all-around nasty crap than any other year known to humanity. And that’s on its own. It doesn’t need tragedy to make it more challenging.

Today the children at Claudia’s middle school learned that one of their classmates has died. I don’t know anything about the young man or how he died, but my heart aches for his family.

For many of the kids at that school, I’m sure this was their first experience with death. For most of them I’m sure this was their first experience with the death of a peer. And since, as an alleged adult, I’m struggling with categorizing and labeling my own thoughts and feelings on this subject, I imagine that in the hormone-steeped, drama-fueled brains of many of those 13-year-olds, this must be a complete freakout.

Claudia didn’t know this young man very well, but watching other people’s reactions and trying to sort through her own reactions was kind of freaking her out. Not catatonic. Not medication-worthy. Just a little freaked out. So after talking with Corinne and with one of the counselors on site, we decided to let her go home and spend some time processing.

Figuring out “the right reaction” is the heart of that nasty Rubic’s cube we call 8th grade. And evidently one of Claudia’s friends disagrees with the “spend some time processing” approach:photo

No big deal – just run-of-the-mill 8th-grade drama. And, if Claudia really had just clinically seized on a chance to go home and watch The View, I would see her friend’s point. But it got me wondering about the thoughts that must be going through these kids’ heads. And if a friend called me out on that, what would I say? After all, she’s right – Claudia barely even knew the kid.

In fact, I think that’s the point I would keep coming back to…

(Commence dream sequence.)

I barely even knew the kid. And now I never will. I don’t think I ever said more than “hey” in the hall to him – and only half a dozen times at that. What if he had this insanely random sense of humor that no one gets … just like mine? Or what if it turns out he was not only super-smart in math but also happened to have just the right combination of words that would have helped me see the solution to that stupid word problem from yesterday’s assignment?

What if we were supposed to have a class together next year at the high school and start talking and turn out to be best friends? What if that’s the way it was supposed to happen and it didn’t and now it never will? What if he was the one person in the world that I could have told all the crazy things in my head to who would have understood what I was talking about and who wouldn’t judge me about any of it? If he was that one person and he’s gone, does that mean I’m stuck with all this stuff in my head for the rest of my life?

Or what if whatever it was that he was supposed to be had nothing to do with me – but he was supposed to cure cancer or run for President or something? And now he never will. I didn’t know him enough to know WHAT his potential was. But whatever it was, it’s for sure going unfulfilled now.

And what about this “death” thing? There were crying kids at school this morning, whining about “why him”? And, yeah, I want to know that answer. But, to be perfectly honest, half the reason I want to know “why him” is so I can figure out the answer to the real questions that are bugging me: “Why not me? Am I next? Could I be?”

(End dream sequence.)

That would be enough to freak me out a little bit. And if I had the chance, I’d probably opt for taking a couple of hours to go home and spend some time processing. And if any of my friends called me on it, that’s what I would try to explain.

Death sometimes casts an alluring veil of celebrity over its younger victims. And to many a lonely, quiet, misunderstood teen, watching today’s outpouring of tears and reverent respect and affection has to look strangely attractive. Fortunately, thank God, I haven’t sensed any of that in Claudia. I think (and I pray) that she’s aware enough to know that there are people right here, right now who love her. And I think she understands enough about death’s finality to know that it’s a pointless waste of potential and possibility. Sometimes I speculate that her head’s screwed on cockeyed. But I’m so glad that it’s a good head and it’s sitting firmly on her shoulders. I pray as much for the rest of the students at that school over these next few days.

No, no, it’s not you, it’s me

Creative Memories? Come here, sit down. We need to talk. Look, you know I love you, right? I mean, we’ve had a ton of laughs and I’ll never forget some of the special moments we’ve shared (because some of them are carefully preserved in wonderful, quality scrapbook albums). We’ve been together almost 12 years now.

But I think it’s time we split up.

It’s not you, Creative Memories, it’s me. I just need something more in my life right now. No, wait, wait, not “more” – did I say “more”? Because I meant “different”. I just need something different in my life right now. That’s on me. You’re great, Creative Memories. You are.

What’s that? Is there someone else? Look do we really need to do this right here? Okay, okay, yes. Yes, there is someone else.

What do you mean, what does she have that you don’t have? Look, don’t do this. You’re better than this. What? Fine. Well she’s got a helluva daily buffet luncheon. So. There’s that.

I know, we’ve gone through some rough times. And we’ve always been there for each other. Right now I love what you’re doing with yourself with these innovative, incredible plans you’ve got in place. For real. You’re going to burst forth from this more beautiful than ever. You’re going to be fine. You are. I just can’t be there with you.

Huh? Well, she’s a little older than you. She turns 100 this summer. She looks great though. Lots of bricks and shrubberies and stuff.

And you should see her with the kids. She’s just amazing. What? No, not better with the kids than you, just different. You’re great with kids. What was it that noted child psychologist Dr. Kenneth Condrell said? “I think photos and scrapbooks might be a parent’s secret weapon. There are few tools out there that are more powerful or effective in helping to raise confident, happy, well-adjusted kids.”

That’s you, Creative Memories. That’s what you can do for my kids. And that’s awesome. But, uh, see, she has this thing she can do with providing free college tuition after I’ve been there two years (assuming the kids qualify academically and are accepted). And I think a small-college, liberal arts education is going to help them with confidence and happiness too.

Do you know her? Come on, I don’t want to get into this. Okay, okay. After 12 years, yes, you deserve that much. Yes, you do know her.

It’s The College of St. Benedict. I start with the Advancement Communications team right after Memorial Day.

Look, I think you’re one of the most amazing companies in the world and I hope we can still be close after this. In fact, maybe every once in awhile we can get together – freelance – and rekindle a little of that old magic, huh? What’dya think? Okay, too soon. You’re right. Let’s talk later though!

EDITOR’S NOTE: I really am going to miss Creative Memories. Don’t mistake anything I’ve written here for mean-spirited snarkiness. I’m just being a goof. Creative Memories has been great to me for nearly 12 years. But I’m EXTREMELY excited about the new challenge and opportunity in front of me. And I can’t wait to get on campus at CSB and get started! Wish me luck.

Don’t squeeze me, I’m intestinally challenged

Pressure's on, because Lucy here has an awesome stick technique.

Greg to second nurse: “Pressure’s on, because Lucy here has an awesome stick technique!”

Special guest post by Corinne!

When your usually loving, sensitive husband asks you to ‘please, don’t squeeze me’ – something’s wrong.

When it follows a two week bout of sinusitis with a colonoscopy thrown in, it probably means that a trip to the ER is in your future.

Of course, Greg spent most of the week not really letting on how badly he was feeling. By Sunday, he started to let his guard down and asked me to drive Erin to the airport in his place. I probably should have pushed the issue then. But I think Greg likes to put on his brave face and make sure he’s not being an inconvenience.

Case in point – he told the admitting nurse we were there because he was having some “intestinal challenges” this week. If that’s how you describe nausea, inability to eat, massive abdominal pain and more urgent trips to the restroom (Editor’s note: We really tried to come up with a fun euphemism for that, but couldn’t come up with anything Greg found acceptably ungross.) than we can count – then I guess he was suffering from just that.

When the doctor offered some relief from the pain while we figured things out – he politely declined. They politely declined to let him decline (okay, I told him not to be a hero and he totally crumbled). One dose of morphine and anti-nausea medication later, Greg was feeling a little more himself and chatting up the nurses – taking bets on who sticks the best needle.

For all of you who have emailed, messaged or called today – Greg’s going to be okay. We still don’t have solid answers and they are running tests to check for a little bug called C-Diff (rapid culture is negative – so that’s promising). He also has a follow-up scheduled with his colonoscopy surgeon for tomorrow afternoon.

Intestinally challenged or not, I’ll give him a hug from all of you. But I promise not to squeeze too hard.

My pianist has a mind of its own


I like to think of my pianist as a strong, intelligent, competent woman. So sing us a song, Corinne, you’re the piano woman. (Although I AM prepared for it to be sung fairly quietly.)

Yep. Bought a piano tonight. Well, technically, half a piano. It’s currently safely tucked away in the walkout basement of a fantastically friendly (read: talkative) woman from rural St. Joe. So we’ll pay for the other half when the snow melts and we (and some as-yet-unnamed friends) haul it around back, load it up onto a truck/trailer, and transport it home.

It’s important to note that this is not an impulse purchase. Far from it. She’s been going off on this idea for years. And so, last year around this time I got my road bike. This year, it’s Corinne’s turn.

And so (happy ending in sight), instead of listening to persistent pestering about “when are we going to get a piano”, I’ll get to listen to the electrifying strains of the theme from Remington Steele.

Eff you, Al Gore.

bits_gore.480There was a time when I was a kid with purpose and potential. I was useful and valuable – to the point where people would actually seek me out for the wisdom of my counsel.

Then Al Gore had to go and invent the Internet. Asshole.

I was a trivia savant. A once-in-a-generation font of pointless bullshit. I was the chosen one of whom the prophecies spoke. But no more. Now I’ll fumble through whole categories while watching the Jeopardy TEEN Tournament. My skills have tarnished and faded with disuse.

“Skoog, who sings this?”
“David Essex.”

“Skoog, on this mixtape, next to ‘Don’t Misunderstand Me’, you’ve just got ‘R.C. Band’. Who’s that?”
“The Rossington Collins Band. They were made up of survivors from Lynard Skynard after the plane crash.”

“Skoog, The Monkees sucked, didn’t they?”
“Actually, The Monkees get a bad rap. Some of them had some real musical talent. And they were the first band to incorporate the Moog synthesizer – so really they were kind of innovators.”

I had information of value (extremely limited and selective value, but value nonetheless) and people wanted to talk to me because of it. Then Google came along and knew, like, a gazillion times more than I ever did.

I became the buggy whip of the trivia world.

Today I caught a glimpse of myself and recoiled in revulsion at the wraith that I’ve become. Our Internet access was down for most of the day at work today – on a day when I was trying to work on concepts for a couple of projects, rather than writing*.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let my mind run and play with concepts without the ability to instantly search a dozen different phrases, facts, events and ideas. I needed the web.

I was like a once cocksure corner drug dealer who has been overpowered by his own wares until he’s discovered – wretched and catatonic – in the fetid squalor of a smoke-filled opium den.

Oh, trivia! Foul temptress. Cruel mistress. Why must thou vex me so?

draft copy

*Now, if I’d been WRITING today, I’d have been just fine. I still proudly kick it old-school when I’m writing. Pen and paper for first draft, baby!

Things to write about when you’re just a little too buzzed to formulate a coherent blog post

Had a couple of beers tonight. So here are a few thoughts for the evening:

• When given the choice between “high school job” and “potentially life-defining moment”, always choose the life-defining moment. (Rush rules.)

• How much is too much ZZ Top?

• Kindergarten is overrated. (Although I DO think they’ve got that nap-time thing nailed.)

• The Yum Yum Shoppe in Haverhill, Mass., lost big time when they gambled on me with their “eat what you want” policy.

• I hear Puerto Rico is lovely in the springtime.

• Wedding planning is probably more about your families than it is about you.

Special bonus thought:

• There is NO WAY I would go back to 8th grade. And, if I did, I CERTAINLY wouldn’t want to do it as a girl.


• It is totally awesome that the first guy to ever offer me a joint was named Steve Dube. (Shout out to all New Hampshire friends – that’s not an indictment of Steve – he was a great guy and I really liked him!)

• “Zook” is not a name that should be hyphenated. It should be taken and taken proudly – mostly because it’s structurally cool like “Skoog”.

Welcome to 45

It took me forty-five-and-a-half years to discover how college girls with low self-esteem feel. I went to see the doctor this morning for a “routine physical”. I was anxious and apprehensive, not sure what to expect. I debated with myself for what seemed like forever, trying to decide what to wear. In the end, what I wore never really mattered to the doctor.

He kept me waiting forever, he violated me anally, told me I was fat, then left me half-dressed and crying.

Now I’m just waiting for him to call.

[drops mic] I’m out.

(Hey, you’re going to get 40 posts in 40 days. I’m not going to guarantee they’ll all be LONG.)