The Day I Became a Believer in Things I Didn’t Want to Believe In

This story is not about weight loss or any of my usual topics…and there’s certainly not much humor in it, unless you think I’m being so ridiculous it’s laughable. And that’s entirely possible. I didn’t much believe in these things before this happened…I wouldn’t blame you for laughing. But the subject is very real, and very serious, to me even now…11 years later.

I once told HMH that I would never talk about this on my blog. I had a number of reasons, but mainly because I’m afraid of it happening again. I don’t know a lot about these things, but talking about them too much makes them real again in a way that makes me uncomfortable. And afraid.

In 2004, HMH and I had officially outgrown our one bedroom apartment in southern California. Two bedroom apartments were ridiculously priced (as is anything there, really) but we managed to find a two bedroom condo for rent that was very fairly priced. The neighborhood was decent and it was closer to work for me. We decided to go see it.

I remember feeling a bit awkward when I first walked into the place. The current renter was there with her young son and she kept staring at me as we walked around. Not like she was angry or suspicious or anything. Her expression was almost pleading. Once we were out of earshot upstairs, the owner explained to us that the current renter had asked to break her lease and he was trying to do the right thing and let her out of it…if he could find someone else to move in.

Well, the place looked fine to HMH and I. The bedroom was huge compared to our apartment. The second bedroom would make a nice office for us to share. A bathroom upstairs and one downstairs…and a cute little kitchen with a breakfast nook/dining room. The kitchen slider opened to a small courtyard and there was an enclosed garage behind that. Not a bad deal at all for the rent he was charging. It was a no-brainer for us. A little bit of paperwork and we were the new renters of 1200 square feet of shag carpet.

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We’d been in the condo for a few weeks the first time I saw it. I was downstairs in the living room, folding clothes on the couch when something moved. I saw it just out of the corner of my eye…on the left, high in the doorway of the downstairs bathroom. I didn’t know what it was, but something had been there and suddenly wasn’t. Weird.

It kept happening. Always in the same place. This picture shows the spot where it happened. (Pardon the mess, this was taken when we were packing up and moving to Texas…the house was a mess.)

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Although I continued to see it for months, I never said anything to HMH. I love him dearly and he’s a wonderful hubby…but sometimes he finds the WORST things to tease me about – and I didn’t want him to use this to tease me. Or worse: scare me!

I had never been a person who believed for certain that the paranormal existed. Sure, I’d had a few experiences as a child and in my teenage years, but the years have a way of washing those things away. Whatever this was that was happening, I kept thinking there was a logical explanation for it. A car passing by…or a plane overhead…or kids outside. Whenever I would see it, I would start looking around for the source. I made sure the lights weren’t flickering in the bathroom, the kitchen, and the dining room. I ruled out passing cars and planes. I ruled out people walking by. It happened during daylight and night time. There was no pattern to the time of day it happened. I investigated it over a period of months and I could never find any explanation as to what was causing it.

And then one night, when HMH went fishing with his buddies and I was home alone, things really got weird. I’d been home alone many, many times. But nothing like what I’m about to share had ever happened.

I was upstairs in the office at my desk, catching up on email. From my chair, I had a partial view of the upstairs hallway and the top of the stairs. This was 9 years ago, so we didn’t have Kirby and Dyson then. We had Kokopelli, a 40 pound Britney Spaniel with 100 pounds of attitude. When she would come upstairs I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She usually came straight to me to tell me she needed to go out…and if I didn’t get up immediately there was usually a very unpleasant surprise waiting for me.

As I sat at my desk, I saw a shadow on the stairs out of the corner of my eye. I assumed it was the dog. It was low to the ground…and bigger than the shadow I’d been seeing in the bathroom doorway downstairs. But instead of the dog rushing up to me, I got…nothing. No dog.

After about 20 seconds, I got up and went into the upstairs hallway…thinking she was drinking out of the toilet in the master bathroom again. She wasn’t. I went to the bedroom doorway, thinking she’d gone in there. She hadn’t. There was no way she could have passed me either. I stood there for a minute wondering where she’d gone. Although I didn’t see how it was possible, I started going downstairs to see how she got by me so fast. Halfway down the stairs, I stopped in my tracks. She’d been on the couch the whole time: belly up, legs in the air, completely asleep.

She had not been the reason for that shadow. We had three cats at the time: Squeak, Sarah, and Caesar. Squeak & Sarah were sleeping on the love seat downstairs…and Caesar was asleep under the stairs. After I’d taken note of where they all were, a chilling thought occurred to me: what the hell did I see coming up the stairs then?

The hair on the back of my neck was standing up straight and I all but ran down the remaining stairs. HMH wouldn’t be home for several hours, but I decided to sit down there and wait for him. I went to the kitchen and turned on the oven to preheat it, got myself a soda, and plopped on the couch for a while. I had the tv playing an episode of “Friends”, my favorite. That would bring me back to a happy, lighthearted mood. I had all the fur persons with me…I was ok. I forced myself to think of something else. I decided to catch up on my magazine reading for a while…and then I noticed Sarah.

Our gray tabby cat, Sarah, was by far the smartest of the cats. She’s a cat’s cat. She was sitting in the downstairs hallway, staring up at the exact spot where the shadow appeared. She was sitting at ATTENTION. I called her name a couple of times and she didn’t even flick an ear…she just sat there like a little soldier and stared at the highest point in the doorway. Creepy…very creepy.

“Friends” was over. I flipped thru the listings on the DVR and found the pilot for the tv show LOST, which had just aired that week. I’d never seen the show…but it looked great, so I started watching. Probably not the best choice.

About 20 minutes into the show, I noticed the dog looking down the hallway and I thought she was looking thru the sliding glass door in the dining room and could see HMH coming up to the door. But he wasn’t home yet…and I realized she was looking too high for it to be HMH. Then she started looking at “the spot” with a frightened look on her face. She hung her head as if she was in trouble, got down from the love seat, and moved toward the stairs really slow…like she was being scolded. I didn’t see anything out of place, but she sure was afraid of something.

Have you ever seen a dog who was being scolded for doing something naughty? They hang their heads, thump their tail, and have that pitiful, shamed look? That’s exactly what she was doing…and she kept her eye on that spot at the top of the bathroom door frame the whole time.

I started getting creeped out again, but I kept my cool. I called her name and tried to be consoling, telling her to come to me. Normally when she’s scared, hurt, hungry, or…anything…she’d come right to me. She looked at me like she was thinking about it. I know she wanted to. Then she looked back at the spot, hung her head and high tailed it up the stairs. I tried calling her repeatedly, but she refused to come back down. That was the point where I got really scared.

Kokopelli had never done that before. There was something wrong. The vibe in the house had changed. I didn’t feel safe anywhere. Caesar and Squeak still hadn’t reacted to anything, but Sarah and Kokopelli had me on edge. I sat there on the couch until HMH came home, afraid to go to the kitchen because I had to walk thru that spot. I was freezing because the air conditioning was up too high, but I was too frightened by the shadow on the stairs earlier…and the thermostat was up there. I stayed where I was and watched LOST…which only served to scare me MORE. By the time HMH came home, I was a nervous wreck.

He walked in to find the oven still on, every light on in the house, the air conditioning going full blast, and his very freaked out wife curled up on the couch. He could tell right away that something was wrong. I knew I finally had to tell him.

I mentally prepared myself to be laughed at. Any normal person wouldn’t want to have to say what I was going to say. I mean…c’mon! Every time I thought about what I was going to say, it just seemed ridiculous. I was still certain there was a logical explanation for all this that I just hadn’t connected with. I kept telling myself it was nothing.

I honestly wasn’t sure what his reaction would be, but I didn’t expect the one I got. I sat him down in the living room and said, “Honey…have you ever been sitting down here watching tv or something and then you think you see a shadow out of the corner of your eye…right there in the hallway?”

I waited for the laughter to start. And the teasing. But he didn’t. He was very serious. He nodded and said, “You’ve seen it too?”

That’s when I bolted for the effing door. I needed to get out of the house and away from that spot downstairs, so I made him go outside with me so we could talk about it. I felt so uneasy in the living room. He explained he’d thought he saw something a couple of times but he didn’t want to scare me so he hadn’t said anything. We agreed that we didn’t even know if there was anything to this other than completely logical causes…but we agreed that it was pretty creepy. HMH tried to console me by saying that if we did have some kind of presence in our house that it probably didn’t mean to hurt us or it would have
done so…but I didn’t feel any better about it.

Over the course of the next several months, I continued to see the shadow out of the corner of my eye. Most of the time it was in the bathroom doorway downstairs, but I did see it twice upstairs. The first time, I was laying in our bed…ready to go to sleep. I was facing our dresser, which has a big mirror attached to it. I opened my eyes and saw it at the top of our doorway to the bedroom…in the reflection of the mirror.

The second time, I woke up in the middle of the night and saw it over the bed. It was way up high on the ceiling…above the ceiling fan. That was the longest I’ve ever seen it. It hovered up there for about a minute and then it was gone.

The “sightings”…or whatever you want to call them…eventually slowed down. I got pretty good at staying busy from the time I came home to the time I went to bed. I never felt at home there. As soon as I walked in the door, I worked full time at keeping busy and keeping the mood in the house as happy and lighthearted as I could. It worked for me, at least well enough for me to deal with it.

The only time I had any difficulties was when HMH would go fishing…because I was alone and I was afraid to be alone in the house for any length of time since that first night. When he went on fishing trips, I had to take something to make myself fall asleep. At first it was Tylenol PM…and then my doctor prescribed Ambien (now you know where that started, folks). As soon as it got dark when HMH was gone fishing, I would log into an online game I played and I’d talk to my friends via headset until I was ready to go to bed. Then I would take Ambien and head off to sleep. I hated that I had to do that, but it was the only way I could be alone there overnight.

In the following months, Sarah AND Squeak, our black cat, would stare at “the spot” on occasion and without warning. I’m not sure when, but Squeak started doing the same thing upstairs in the office…staring up at the door frame of the closet that’s just over my right shoulder as I sit at my desk. The only explanation I have for that is that Squeak was always near me…and perhaps she noticed it upstairs more than downstairs…but I’ll never know. I will say this, though: the spot where Squeak would stare upstairs was EXACTLY above the spot downstairs. It was like there was a column of “weird space” going right thru the center of the condo.

Months went by without any significant sightings. One night HMH and I were watching tv together and, for some reason, he brought up “the thing”. Reassured by the fact that I hadn’t been scared in a while, I said “Actually, I don’t think there’s anything to it. I think there was a logical explanation for it…and it’s gone now.”

The next week, he and I were watching tv together. All the pets were sleeping…no one was moving around. The controller for our Playstation was resting on the coffee table. HMH didn’t move, I didn’t move…but the controller flew off the table and landed on the carpet between the table and the tv stand.

Kevin didn’t notice. I couldn’t believe he didn’t notice. But he was so wrapped up in what we were watching, he didn’t even see it until I pointed it out.

That night, the weirdest thing happened. To this day, we are still saying there has to be a logical explanation for it…but we have yet to find one. Let me preface this by saying that I am a VERY light sleeper. I wake up for any little thing. However, that night HMH and I both woke up at the same time…in the middle of the night…and realized we were on opposite sides of the bed. I was on his side, he was on mine. It was 3 am.

No, I hadn’t taken Tylenol PM or Ambien. No, he hadn’t come to bed on the wrong side of the bed that night. No, we hadn’t “made whoopee” and ended up on the wrong sides. We went to bed that night like we normally did. We have no explanation as to how it happened…but we both looked at each other in surprise…and we both immediately thought the same thing. He spent about an hour trying to calm me down and convince me that there had to be another explanation. We were both EXTREMELY unsettled, though – I knew he was freaked out by what happened. I remember the look on his face to this day.

Because we knew we were moving to Texas, we stayed in the condo…even though there was this “creepy factor” that I couldn’t shake. To be honest, we really couldn’t afford to move anywhere else.

Another night, while I was sleeping, HMH was up late on the computer and he went downstairs to get a drink. He started to walk to the kitchen when he noticed Sarah in the hallway…staring up at “the spot” again…not moving. He called her name a couple of times and she didn’t respond…and he was so creeped out he went back upstairs without getting his drink. Later that night, he went back downstairs and Sarah was gone. As he approached the spot by the bathroom door he felt something move through him. He said it was cold and creepy…and it felt something like a person. He’s not very good at describing things, but it was hard for me to talk about it anyway.

In August 2005, about a week after we returned from a trip to Texas, I was sitting at my computer catching up on emails before HMH got home. The tv was turned off. No music was playing. I was simply typing on my computer and thinking about what a wonderful time we had in Texas…and how we’d decided to move there. As I was sitting at my desk, I heard a whisper in my right ear…just behind me…that said “Just go.”

It scared the ever loving shit out of me, I swear. Every hair on my body stood straight up and for a minute I wanted to bolt out of my chair and run outside. However, this weird “self preservation” impulse came over me…and I opened my music folder on my pc and starting playing music…LOUD. I picked songs that would lighten my spirit and take my mind off what just happened.

It would come and go. Things would happen and then all was quiet. There wasn’t a pattern. However, June 3, 2005 something really weird happened. Everything was fine…HMH was playing on his computer, I was updating our family website and talking to my friend Brad via the computer, the pets were sleeping. Kokopelli had been sleeping downstairs and she suddenly went completely NUTS. She started barking like there was someone trying to get in the house or something. It definitely got our attention.

Kevin got up and went downstairs to see what was wrong. As he did that, I snapped his picture…intending to show it to my friend as a joke. Once I take a picture with my camera, it briefly shows the picture it took on the display window. And I looked down to see a white cloudy streak right in the doorway. Of course, I immediately thought of “the thing”…and then I immediately told myself it was a reflection off the white walls or something, so I took more pics at the same angle. I was certain I was going to see it again. No…I didn’t.I don’t know what it is…don’t ask me. But it didn’t show up in any other picture I took of the same area…at the same angle.

I do still have the picture, but I’m not going to share it here because HMH is partially dressed and it would be embarrassing to him. Even though it was a weird white blur, it was still the first time it had showed up in any kind of picture.

Yeah…I took an Ambien to go to sleep that night. I was glad we were moving. HMH just hugged me and did his best to remind me that we were leaving soon…it’s all he could do, really.

One last thing…while I was still at my job in California, I told one of my friends some of the things that had happened in the condo. She told me I should talk to one of the girls on her staff…because she was just sharing a similar experience that her son had and she thought it was close to where I live. Later that day, I went to talk to her.

She told me that she had a teenage son who went to a slumber party at a friend’s house that weekend…and that all the parents were called to pick up their kids in the middle of the night because the boys were all scared after seeing some kind of black smoky thing on the ceiling. When I asked her where the party was, I discovered that the party was in my condo complex…on the other side of the complex from us.

We had done tons of research trying to find anything we could on the development where we lived. There was nothing. I don’t know what I was expecting to find, but whatever it was…I didn’t find it.

So…that’s it. We left California with no other incidents, thank God. I’m not saying there’s something paranormal there…in fact, I tried like hell to explain it logically…and to ignore it as well. But the fact remains that I never felt at home there…that HMH and I continued to have very real, very frightening experiences there…and we are both glad to be away from it. And I did wonder after a while whether that pleading look on the last renter’s face was meant to warn me off. Maybe she was staring at me because she wanted to tell me what was going on there. We’ll never know.

And that’s our scary story. Hopefully, you don’t think I’m too crazy for sharing it. Happy Halloween!

New Age MCWS3 Smudges and Herbs California Mini Sage Wands, 3-Pack

Clear and Loud

About a week ago, I put on a pair of shoes I haven’t worn in quite some time. They’ve been sitting in my closet forever, waiting for me to find courage. I gather my courage a little every day, not all at once like a badass heroine in an epic summer movie. Mine is more a quiet gathering. In so many other parts of my life I can be loud and proud, but this part of me is quiet as a mouse…and just as meek. The ghosts of much of the pain and anguish I’ve felt in years passed have come from this time in my life. The voices that tell me I’m not good enough…that I can’t do it…that I’m not deserving of it…all of those voices come from this. Yet still, for some reason, I walked into my closet last week and put these shoes on my feet.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know my story. If you haven’t, where the fuck have you been all my life? Let me try and bring you up to date quickly. I’ve known some major assholes in my life. When I was nine years old, I started dance lessons at a place run by the biggest asshole in the universe. On our first meeting, he stood me in front of a huge mirror and pointed out all the parts of my body that were “fat” as my mother watched. I still remember my nine year old heart feeling crushed when I was told that my legs and face were fat and my belly stuck out too much. Yeah, I know…it just got worse from there. This man was the significant male role model in my life from age nine to age nineteen-ish. I’m a little fuzzy on when I left exactly because, well, I had a shitload of negative crap going on in my life back then. But I did leave.

I got up one morning and realized that dancing brought me more pain than joy…and I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I walked into the studio and I quit. Then I walked out determined to find another life away from all of the negativity and hurt.

Quitting dance was what I needed at the time, although it didn’t come off as I’d imagined a million times in my head. When I finally had the courage to tell “The King” that I quit, he didn’t have the reaction I expected or wanted. I wanted freedom, but I ended up handing him one last opportunity to hurt me.

I went from dancing for hours a day to no activity at all. I retreated into food in order to self-medicate. I spent all my money at the book store, scouring the self help section for answers to all my problems in titles like “Adult Children of Alcoholics”, “Women Who Love Too Much” and “It’s Not What You’re Eating, It’s What’s Eating You”. I was obsessed with finding the solution to my problems, all the while firmly curled up on the couch with a box of snack cakes and a glass of milk by my side.

I read (and ate) my way toward answers for years. I never danced again. The pounds I was rapidly adding to my body made it difficult, but I also found that I couldn’t even pull my shoes out of my dance bag without a million flashbacks slapping me in the face. The smell of the shoe leather made fresh all the memories I was trying to eat away. What I didn’t realize back then is that there wasn’t enough pizza in the world to eat away the horrible things The King made me feel all those years ago.

Four therapists, countless bad relationships, a truckload of junk food and thirty some-odd years later I’ve finally mellowed. And I moved 1,300 miles away from my hometown. That definitely helped. A few weeks ago when I was cleaning the closet, my eyes fell on that pair of shoes. My tap shoes. And before I could go on auto-pilot, look away and force any other thought into my head, I felt myself say you have those shoes for a reason.

I don’t just have those shoes. I saved those shoes. In the thirty-ish years since I walked away from that part of my life, I’ve written half a dozen letters I never sent (telling The King what a fucktard he is). I’ve thrown away memorabilia. I even had a bonfire at the beach once when I burned a shitload of mementos that came from that time in my life. But in thirty years, I’ve never parted with those shoes. I can’t. And now I realize it’s okay that I don’t want to.

These shoes are mine. The knowledge I have of dance, from warm-up routines to ballet positions to tap steps…is mine. The joyful feeling I get when I bang a set of steps out on the floor is mine. The sound of the taps hitting their mark with precision is clear…and loud…and fabulously mine. And nothing The King has ever done or will ever do will ever…ever…EVER take that away from me.

I took a quick break at work today to make a list of things I needed to get done when I got home. This is what I ended up with:

  • Clean kitchen
  • Outline chapter two
  • Tap practice

Without even thinking, I’d written “tap practice”. It really made me smile. I don’t even know why I wrote it. I don’t remember even thinking about it. It just happened. It’s just another bit of joy returning to my life. Another grain of courage that I’ve gathered in the journey.

Speaking of the journey, I’ll leave you with this: over the years, I’ve walked my way through dozens of pairs of walking shoes. I’ve taken Jazzercise. I’ve joined gyms. I’ve done my time on treadmills and elliptical trainers. I’ve found a way to like most of it. There’s usually a silver lining I can find if I look at it from the right angle. But tonight, as I forced these too-tight shoes onto my still-chubby feet, I realized that when I dance I don’t have to try. I don’t have to sell it to myself as something that’s good for me. I don’t have to look at it from a certain angle or constantly reaffirm why I’m doing it. It is just who I am. And it has nothing to do with an asshole tyrant who terrorized me as a child.

It’s mine. It’s me. And it’s fabulous. ♥

Singin’ in the Rain

I Met Jenny Lawson and It Was The Best Day EVER

I finally met Jenny Lawson…and it was fucking awesome.

Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, is a hysterically funny, amazingly real, incredibly gifted blogger/writer whom I happen to adore. Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is amazing. I was pretty much peeing my pants and crying with laughter the whole damn time. You’ll wet yourself at both ends and you’ll be happy about it. So you can imagine my shut-my-mouth-piss-my-pants delight, then, when I learned her new book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things was being released. Yay!!! I knew all I had to do was call my pal Andrea and tell her about Jenny’s book signing in Dallas and she’d be all “Fuck YEAH!” and she was…so we made plans.

First, we had to head to Dallas this morning to pick up numbered passes for the book signing. Jenny would be doing a reading and Q&A before the signing, but all that wasn’t scheduled until later in the afternoon. We got there just before they opened this morning and BOOM! Mission accomplished.

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Rory the raccoon graces the cover of Jenny’s latest book, so naturally we had to get a selfie, right? I tweeted it as well…and Jenny Lawson favorited it. And retweeted it. Holy SHIT biscuits, people! I mean, that’s basically like Jesus retweeting something. Such an honor! Andrea and I squealed all the way to Starbucks (which was exactly across the street). As we were excitedly high-fiving each other over our overpriced legally addictive stimulants, we declared this to be the Best Day Ever.

Next up? A lunchtime catch-up with our pal Lauren (you’ll remember her from the DFW Penis Expedition).  I can’t confirm or deny whether there was any talk about possibly having another DFW Penis Expedition again except yes, there was…and yes, we will. Andrea’s about to get married and Brenda’s engaged, so we need to squeeze in another expedition between weddings.

Then it was straight onto talk about whether the evil Lord Sauron from Lord of the Rings has spent his retirement as an interior decorator for The Cheesecake Factory. Thoughts?

The Tower of Sauron:

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Sauron’s Cheesecake Factory:

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One cheesecake to rule them all. I think I’ve made my point.

Back to the bookstore we went…and before we knew it, it was time for Jenny to take the stage! It’s amazing, by the way, how many people you meet at a book signing. They were all just as wonderfully weird and unique as Jenny herself. And me. And Andrea. It was like having a room full of siblings I’d never met before. Awesomeness.

By the way, I made Jenny a card with the DFW Penis on it. Surely someone as awesome as Jenny would want to know that they were balls deep in the DFW Penis, yes? Yes. So I made her a card to show her exactly where the bookstore is within the DFW Penis.

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Jenny entered the room to thunderous applause. I actually tried to start a standing ovation, but I was in the back so no one could see me except the people behind me who were already standing. Sometimes I don’t think when I’m over excited. I got about five people to stand, though, so let’s just call it a win.

She read two chapters: one somewhat serious and one funny. Both were funny, though. Jenny has a way of telling painful truths in a way that’s still funny and still real. She has a gift and I want to be her when I grow up. The Q&A was awesome as well and full of laughs. With all the shit this woman has to deal with, I expected her to be a bit awkward…but she really wasn’t. I’m sure she probably felt that way, but she was amazing. Sincere, funny, and very real. And quite brave for being out and about with a gazillion adoring fans.

We lined up for the signing, chatting with more of our fellow fans and just enjoying the day. The closer we got to Jenny, the more excited we were to share with her that she was smack-dab, balls deep in the DFW Penis. Shit was about to get real, yo.

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OMG…she’s right…THERE!!! (And yes…I did put a sparkly glitter daisy sticker in the middle of the balls on the map.)

Then the moment arrived. We met the incredibly awesome Jenny Lawson!!! In true hot mess fashion, we welcomed her to Dallas and then…well…I actually uttered this sentence:

We wanted to let you know that you’re balls deep in the DFW Penis, Jenny!

She’s all…what? LOL. I explained. It was a very surreal experience to explain to Jenny Lawson that we basically live in a dick. And she loved it.

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Best. Day. EVER. Truly.

Thank you, Jenny, for letting us be part of your tribe. ♥

Taming Ghosts

Hey, y’all…

This post is going to have precious little to do with weight loss and a hell of a lot to do with making peace with the ghosts of your past. It is also insanely long and has only one picture, which is at the end. Not scared yet? Please continue.

This particular ghost in question has nothing to do with my food demons, but I’ve been battling this monster since I was 15 years old. In order to explain, we have to go back to that time…

I should warn you that this story might be upsetting for some. It certainly is to me, even 35 years later. Time to get it out, though, so here it goes.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s teenage years are awkward. Mine were no exception. When I was 15 years old, I had a problem with my knee and had to take a year of adaptive physical education. That’s where I met a boy who eventually became a good friend. We’ll call him Randy. That’s not his real name.

Randy and I became good friends and hung out together a lot that summer. His family was kind of a mess like mine, so we had that in common. My family, like many alcoholic families, loved to use other less fortunate people to steal attention away from the fact that we didn’t have our shit together either. They felt sorry for Randy’s situation and welcomed him into our family with open arms. He loved it because, frankly, there wasn’t much love in his house. Everything was just dandy. For awhile.

At the end of the summer, Randy pulled me aside and confessed his undying love for me. Uh…

Maybe I should’ve been flattered, but he was my friend. I felt only friendship for him and I didn’t know how to handle this turn of events. My mother and sisters were no help. I was basically told it was all very sweet and adorable, interlaced with my mother reminding me that I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 anyway. That was fine with me because I didn’t want to date him.

He started buying me gifts. I absolutely adored Snoopy and he bought me everything with a Snoopy on it that he could find. I accepted them because I thought it was mean not to. I was 15 years old, for fucks sake. No adult was giving me any guidance. I had no idea that I was just encouraging him.

School went back in session and that’s when things started to take a turn for the worst. See, I wasn’t popular. I wasn’t UNpopular, but I stayed to myself and my little group of four girlfriends. I had no time for school activities because I was in dance all the time. My life was outside of school as far as I was concerned…so no one really knew me. Now hold onto your asses: I was shy. Shut up, I really was shy around people I didn’t know. I was a total nut around my girlfriends, but around other kids at school…not so much. It wasn’t easy for me to trust people.

Anyway, Randy had lost a bunch of weight at the end of summer and went out and bought all new clothes to impress me. He showed up at school and all the girls went NUTS. He was a real hunka hunka burn’in love. The cheerleaders especially were ga-ga over him. I thought to myself “Good! Go find a girlfriend and I’m happy for you!!”

That’s not what happened.

Girls started flirting and asking him to dances. Did he like it? No. Did he turn them down graciously? No, he didn’t. His standard reply (and I shit you not) was “I’m sorry, when it comes to beauty you just don’t hold a candle to Dianne.”


You can imagine how that went over. Not only were these girls understandably hurt, they also turned their hurt on ME. Because who was I to compare to them, right? They were gorgeous and popular cheerleaders ‘n shit. Or at least one of them was. All the girls in question were prettier than me. Their clothes were perfect, their make-up was flawless. These girls had it together. And then there was 15 year old HMP wearing nothing but t-shirts and jeans and lugging around a tote bag with Morris the cat on it. A fashion plate if ever there was one.

The entire school year was hell. Randy didn’t budge in his “love” for me. He doodled my name all over his notebooks. He brought me up in conversations with everyone. He was clearly obsessed.

Family life started to get extra hellish as well. He already had everyone’s sympathy in my family and he started playing it to his advantage. Poor Randy. Dianne doesn’t love him. Why, God, why? My sisters started pressuring me to be nicer to him. My mother too. But not TOO nice. Not like THAT, understand?

There wasn’t one moment when anyone in my family considered that they were pushing me out and bringing Randy in. I was already dealing with the asshole dance teacher (you remember him, right? Told me I was fat at nine years old? Yeah, him). My parents were separated, so my barely-there father was non-existent. My girlfriends were all involved in school activities. I don’t remember even trying to talk to any of them about it. I was just trying to handle it as best I could, but I was quickly feeling like I didn’t matter – even to my own family.

It went on and on like this for months. He would pressure me to go to a school dance with him, I’d say no. He’d mope around in front of my family, they’d chastise me for being mean. Over and over and over again. And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, he started showing up at the dance studio to watch me dance. He made friends with my friends. He met the King. He knew everyone. To them, he was this sweet teddy bear of a guy who had an adorable crush on Dianne.

To me, he was a close friend that I didn’t trust as much as before for some reason…who caused me a ton of pain and had wedged himself between me and my family. And now he was infiltrating the dance studio.

I started refusing the gifts. Mom (and quite a few others) came down on my swiftly. It was mean and ungracious to refuse to accept them. He’s such a sweet boy. What’s my problem? Why can’t I just be nice?

Towards the end of the school year, I started sliding into a pretty sad place…emotionally speaking. I felt there was no place where I was welcome. No one thought I was nice. No one was on my side in this crazy shit. I felt trapped and I didn’t know what to do. Then the King, my dance teacher, asked to see me. Shit.

He pulled me aside with the expression of a concerned, loving father, which always set me on edge. He was not a loving or concerned person. He was a despicable person who took every opportunity to hurt and manipulate me. Even back then I felt it was true, thought it would be years before I had the courage to break away from him. He sat me down and asked me how things were going. Fine. That was always my standard answer. My family had long instilled that standard reply in my head. We didn’t need to burden others with our troubles. We’re always fine.

Of course, he brought Randy into the conversation. And there it was. With all the fake concern he could muster, he proceeded to tell me that I needed to give Randy a chance. Go ahead and ask me why he said that. Go ahead. Why?

Because a girl like me should feel lucky to have ANY boy’s attention.

Not even kidding. He said that shit.

I let him say what he had to say. I listened to it. When I look back at times like these I wish to God someone, some adult somewhere, had taught me to have some balls and stand up for myself. I just listened. And I left feeling like there was truly something wrong with me because I didn’t have romantic feelings for Randy.

I started shutting everyone out. It hurt too much to be told all the damn time how mean and horrible I was because poor Randy was hurt. Everyone obviously had more love for him than me. So fine, I’ll back out. I hope you’re all happy with each other. By the time the school year was ending, I was making plans to leave home and never come back. I didn’t know where I would go, but it was better than putting up with this hell.

I remember walking home from school alone one day when Randy’s brother came walking up beside me. He wanted to tell me that he was sorry for what I was going through. He told me he didn’t think it was right that his brother was turning everyone against me so much. We talked all the way home and I remember feeling happy for the first time in a long time just because someone understood that my life was hell.

Then something really horrible happened.

My mom had to leave for an hour and I didn’t want to go with her, so she left and told me to lock the door behind her. We had just been fighting…over Randy. What a shocker. In my teenage anger, I decided not to listen to her and left the front door unlocked – but the screen door was locked. Sure, it was only locked with a thin strip of metal, but I was a teenager…so I was invincible. About ten minutes later, there was a knock at the door.


He was crying. I rolled my eyes as soon as I saw the tears. What the hell did I do now?

He told me that he’d seen me talking to his brother and that he was so hurt because he finally understood what was going on. Obviously, I’d been secretly dating his brother the entire time and THAT is why I wouldn’t go out with him.


I was so angry. I started yelling and I couldn’t stop. I let it all out: how I felt about him manipulating everyone, shutting me out, being so obsessed with me. I emphatically denied dating his brother (for the 500th time, I wasn’t even allowed to date).

The whole time he stood there, he was holding something behind his back. I didn’t know what it was. I assumed it was flowers or another Snoopy. Whatever it was, I told him I didn’t want it. I told him to go home and come back in an hour when my mom would be home so that she could punish me AGAIN and he could get sympathy AGAIN. I slammed the door in his face.

I stepped back and watched to make sure that he left. I couldn’t see him, but I could see his shadow. I saw him pull something out from behind his back. It was long and sort of bulky. He was pointing it in the air for some reason…and, just when I started realizing what it was, the loudest boom I’d ever heard in my life made me jump right out of my skin.

A gun. He was firing a gun.

As long as I live, I’ll never forget that moment in my life. After a second of absolute terror, I bolted down the hall and locked myself in the bathroom. Hysterical and crying, I waited for another shot. He hadn’t hit me, thank God. It didn’t take me too long to realize I’d just done the dumbest thing I could do: I barricaded myself in a room with no exit. What was I going to do…wait until he found me and then let him kill me?

I don’t know how I found the courage to do it, but I opened the bathroom door and stuck my head out to see what I could see. I had an open bottle of rubbing alcohol in my hand in case he was right there. Logic, huh? I was going to try and throw it in his eyes if he caught me coming out into the hallway.

All clear…but I could see his shadow on the living room carpet. I didn’t know if he was inside or outside. He fired again and started screaming my name. I ran into my parents’ bedroom and shut the door, but the lock on the damn door had been broken for years. No way to be safe in here, but the phone was here.

I grabbed the phone and called the police. We didn’t have sub-stations back then and they were a good 30 minutes from me, but I had to try. I told the dispatcher what was going on and she desperately tried to get me to calm down.

Another shot rang out.

She asked if I could get out of the house safely. I told her I didn’t know where he was. She told me to get out if I could and run to a neighbor’s house, so that’s what I did. I kicked the screen out of my parent’s window and climbed out. I ran straight into my neighbor’s house, no knocking, and hid behind one of their living room chairs. Mrs. Smith (surprise, also not her real name) was scared to death. She was like a second mother to me. She had no idea what was going on.

Randy wrapped the rifle up in a towel and walked home to wait for the police. He’d been crouched outside my parent’s bedroom window and heard everything. The fact that he went from crazy to calmly walking home was one of the first times in my life that I remember knowing that there’s a God. He could have killed me and the Smith family for sheltering me, but he calmed down and walked home. No rhyme or reason.

My mother arrived home to find four police cars in her driveway and her daughter missing.

Mrs. Smith went over to tell them where I was. I remember a police officer standing over me and trying to talk me out from behind the chair. I could see his lips moving, but I couldn’t hear a sound. To this day, I don’t remember the sound of his voice. I simply didn’t hear it. When I heard my mom crying and I saw her, I came out.

It took about 30 minutes before I could find the words to talk. A few officers stayed with us and the rest headed to Randy’s house. All of this happened before there were anti-stalking laws, so basically this means that he had to actually shoot me in order for the cops to do anything about it. He hadn’t. I was unharmed, physically anyway.

The cops took him into custody and confiscated the rifle he’d fired. They left the other 17 guns in the house. Randy was locked up for observation for 48 hours. That’s the best they could do. No charges filed.

Suddenly my family went from telling me how horrible I was to being concerned about me. I was scared to death, but I was relieved to at least have my family back. I’m sure I had either post traumatic stress or something like it. I saw Randy when he wasn’t there. Any loud noise put me into instant hysterics. I was constantly afraid of strangers around me, afraid that they would hurt me. I was afraid to be alone, but when I was with people I was still afraid. I was always afraid.

It was the last week of school. The police told Randy he couldn’t go back because he had to stay away from me, so his teachers let him finish from home. My friends walked me from class to class because I was afraid. And, even though I thought things couldn’t get any worse, a rumor went around the school that I was raped.

I wasn’t raped. He never touched me.

Trying to help, my sisters called the school and told the principal that they weren’t convinced I wasn’t raped. LOL. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up. It’s like a really horrible reality show. I was called to the principal’s office to talk. A social worker, a police officer, the school nurse and my school counselor were all waiting for me. I sat with them for an hour, repeating the story and telling them again that I was not raped. They finally believed me, but the damage was done. Again.

So that’s the story of the ghost I’ve been carrying with me for years. I was probably in my 30’s before car backfires didn’t leave me in tears. It took me a long time to get over this.

By the way, Randy stayed away from me after that. A year later, he was coming home from a camping trip when he was killed in a car wreck. I was sad about it…and I still am. He was a good person before this whole episode, and I had faith that he would be again.

Back to the ghost…

HMH is a country boy who grew up in Texas. He also served in the Marines Corps for six years. That means he likes guns. It wasn’t a problem in California because you need 37 permits to even think about owning a gun there. We weren’t living in Texas for very long when he brought the first one home.

I cleaned around the thing. I was afraid to pick it up. And I can’t even adequately describe how much I freaked out when he would clean it and the barrel would even come close to pointing at me.  (And let me just say here, HMH would NEVER point a loaded gun at me. He is the safest person I know. So if you’re not a gun person, please don’t think we’re one of those families who accidentally shoots grandpa on Christmas because we’re just playing with our guns in the house. LOL).

I don’t like being afraid of things. It sucks. I’m actually pretty afraid of bridges. What did I do about it? I walked the Golden Gate Bridge, bitches. I like the feeling I get when I don’t let my fears win. So when we moved to Texas, I was determined to make my peace with guns. I don’t think anyone should live in a home where there’s a loaded weapon if they don’t know how to handle it safely.

In 2014, one of my new year’s resolutions was to get my concealed handgun license (CHL). I had done so many fabulous things in my life that I was sure it was time to get over the gun thing. I went to the gun range with HMH, which I’d done a few times when pressed to do so. It didn’t go well. Even with double ear protection, the sound of gunfire had me in tears within minutes. I was okay with HMH and I was even okay firing a gun, but not with other people firing near me. I was terrified.

I didn’t get my CHL last year. It was too much for me. It felt like what trying to run a marathon when I weighed 383 pounds would have felt like. Too much, too soon. I gave up.

Now it’s 2015 and I’ve conquered even MORE badass shit. So I’ve been to the range a few more times. Still pretty terrified. But about a month ago, something pretty awesome happened: I found a group of badass chicks called A Girl & A Gun. They’re into competition shooting and educating women about gun safety. And a friend of mine made me realize that, as much as I love him, HMH is really not a very good teacher when it comes to guns. So I went to a meeting. At the gun range.

It was really weird walking into the gun range without HMH, carrying our crappy little .22 and a box of ammo in a Kate Spade tote bag (just because I’ve got a gun doesn’t mean I have to carry it in a backpack, peeps. Handbag ho forever!)

But I did it. And it was awesome.

It was so great to get to hear about the whole gun thing from a woman’s perspective. Most of the women in the group are competition shooters. The ladies who run the group are patient teachers and all the ladies in the group are welcoming and just plain badass. I stuck with our crappy .22 for the first meeting. At the second meeting, I had the courage to fire a few higher caliber guns. And I started shopping for my own gun. Last week I found a gun that doesn’t freak me out…and I started learning how to handle myself when a gun jams.

Today I went to the gun range with HMH again…and even he’s noticed how much more relaxed I am. I still jump when a stranger is firing a high caliber weapon anywhere near me, but I’m much more confident than I was. I’m slowly squeezing the 15 year old victim out of my head. It feels pretty good, peeps. It feels pretty damn good.

hot mess gun goddess

If you want to learn more about gun safety and shooting, I highly recommend connecting with a women’s only group. As much as the men in our lives may love us, there are some things women can teach us better…and that includes how to shoot around the hooters. :-) Go find A Girl and A Gun chapter near you.

Radians Remington Womens Eye and Ear Protection Combo Pack

I have seen the light!!!! No, really. I have.

So do you remember the episode of Friends when Rachel FINALLY realized Ross had feelings for her? They’d known each other since high school and he’d had a crush on her forever, but he could never get her attention. Yeah, I just had a moment like that…but not with Ross Geller.

Ross and Rachel…perfect for each other


The past several weeks have been a struggle for me. Things are crazy stupid busy at work right now, and not likely to lighten up until the holidays. My 12 year old craptastic Hyundai has been breaking down, viciously dipping into my handbag fund and putting household repair projects on the back burner. We’re in a bit of a financial bind at the moment.

On the happy side of things (I think) I’ve landed an opportunity to do some ghost writing for a decent sum…but where do I find the time for that? It’s rare that I can find time to write a blog post of my own. Am I to work a full day and then come home and work several hours more, then struggle to relax enough to get a few hours of sleep? For a Hot Mess like me, that’s not much quality of life…and honestly, one of the main things that keeps the food demons in check is me maintaining my quality of life.

To top it off, HMH has changed his work schedule and we’re all in the middle of adjusting to a new way of life because of it. So I’ve got a mountain of things to get through and the new schedule is jacking me up…and I’m constantly running around to compensate for it. Honestly…I’m quite stressed out. Things are a mess.

As y’all know, I’ve been trying to make exercise a real habit – and for a few weeks there, I was actually doing it. My alarm goes off at 4 am so that I can get up in time to get on the elliptical trainer and get on with my day. I was really kicking ass at getting it done every morning. And you know what? It felt great! I loved getting to work in the morning feeling wide awake and ready to go, even though I’d gotten up at an ungodly hour. I loved the energy I had and the powerful feeling in my legs and the downright badass feeling I had because I was actually effing DOING IT!!!

And then things got busy. Then they got crazy. The ghost writing job came…and the car problems…and the family members visiting and all the little busy work in between. And what did I do? What I always do: I started shutting down and eliminating things that I deemed an inconvenience. So…what have I always looked at as an inconvenience?


Working out has always been a mundane task that I stubbornly chose to do because of what it can do for me. Even then, I don’t stick with it long enough to really see what it can do for me. Except for those few weeks that I truly enjoyed last month.

Yesterday, I was sharing all this with a friend while lamenting my own stubbornness and inability to juggle all this crap that’s going on…and BAM! It hit me like a truck load of Little Debbies: as things have gotten crazier, I’ve not had time for exercise and the stress is piling up.

No exercise.

Stress piling up.

Not exercising…and stress is getting worse…

Wait a minute…I may have something here…


I know, I know, I know…most of you are reading this and thinking “HMP, you’re a dipshit!” The older I get, the more I realize it takes me five times longer than the average person to really learn the big lessons in life.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read articles and books on exercise and have been told that it’s a great stress reliever…and every time I’ve read it, I’ve said “yeah, yeah, yeah…blah, blah, blah” in response. For me, I’ve always thought it meant exercise that people find enjoyable…and I can’t honestly say that about any cardio.

Sorry, fitness freaks of the world…it’s not fucking enjoyable to me. So I wrote it off as fitness guru rhetoric. It never occurred to me that ANY exercise, when done regularly, relieves stress. Even if you don’t like doing it.

Until now.

Suddenly I was Rachel Green realizing she had feelings for Ross. But I’m not Rachel, I’m me. And I don’t have feelings for a lovable paleontologist…I have feelings for my elliptical trainer. Feelings that, for once, don’t involve anger and revulsion. Holy shitballs, Batman!

Actually, this has happened to me before. In 1986. Yep. I had just broken up with my first love and I was absolutely a mess. Even though I’d graduated high school four years earlier, I was flipping through my high school yearbook one day for some reason and saw something I hadn’t seen before. My sweet, lovable pal Dougie had written this in my yearbook:

“I never had the guts to tell you, but I think you’re the most beautiful girl in the whole world.”


I didn’t see it for four years because I never read it till then. What a superficial bitch, right? LOL. Poor Doug was probably waiting by the phone for a few days, wondering if I’d call and say I felt the same way. But no…I was too busy being happy that I was finally out of high school. I never knew he had feelings for me until it was too late. He probably led a horrible life after he realized he couldn’t have me. Poor Doug.

Actually, I’m still a little embarrassed that I never read what he wrote in my yearbook. He was the sweetest guy. How rude of me not to read it until it was too late. And then when I read it, I cried like crazy because I was all “OMG, the love of my life doesn’t want me…and poor Dougie might have really been the one but I was too blind to see it!”

We were just two ships that passed in the night. Actually no. He was like a really sweet ship that probably would have been really nice to me. He would’ve treated me with respect and wouldn’t have tried to show me his anchor till I was ready. But I was a total bitch ship. Like a big shiny cruise ship with too much shit on her deck who thought she was all Royal Caribbean when he was just some local tour boat. Oh, for fuck’s sake, I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Let’s get back to my point…if I can find it.

All this time I’ve been angry and pissy about exercise, never realizing what it was doing for me. Thank God I had the fortitude to stick with it for a few weeks. I wouldn’t have noticed the difference otherwise. I stuck with it long enough to miss the benefits when they were gone.

Anthony and Cleopatra. Peanut butter and jelly. Ross and Rachel. HMP and exercise. Matches made in heaven, peeps.

(By the way, I reconnected with Dougie a few years ago. It turns out that not being able to date me didn’t ruin his life after all! He’s happily married with children and everything. I’m so glad he was able to rebuild his shattered life after losing out on a hot mess. *smirk*)

I haven’t exercised in a few weeks. I’ve been letting the stress monster get to me. My elliptical trainer is dusty and sad looking. It fills me with guilt every morning when I grumble and stagger past it on my way to the bathroom. So today, while I was housecleaning, I went into the bedroom and gave it a good cleaning. I wanted to talk to it, but I wasn’t sure what to say.

I’m sorry I’ve been a cold hearted bitch?

I can’t believe I never realized what you do for me?

I’m really looking forward to our date tomorrow?

No. I just sprayed cleaner and wiped it down with paper towels. I think it realized that I’d had this epiphany, though. I pushed one of the giant pedals too hard as I was cleaning and got a pretty good gut punch when it came swinging back at me. Probably my elliptical’s way of telling me never to ignore it again. We hugged it out, though. We’re good. Now it’s sparkly clean and waiting for me.

Another crazy work week is ahead of me…and I’m slightly more okay with it than I was last week. Because I know, even if I’m sleepy and grumbly at 4 am, I’m going to get up and get on my elliptical trainer. Because even though I might not like pumping away like a sweaty monkey at zero-dark-thirty, I love what it does for me. And that’s enough.

It took me a while, but I think I finally got the point. Elliptical trainer, you’re my lobster.

Do you have a dusty unloved friend sitting in your house right now? Maybe it’s time to pull the laundry off of it and put it back into use. What do you say?

Workout Journal (Diary, Notebook, Fitness)