Monday, October 31, 2011

Scarred For Life

It looked so foreboding.

I stood on the sidewalk and tried to summon my courage. My big brother, several steps ahead, looked back and tried to goad me on.  I wanted to.  I had planned to.  

But I couldn't. I was terrified. 

It was the picture of innocence any other day of the year.  I played with the kids who lived inside almost daily.  Though their mom yelled a lot more than mine did, she was pretty normal.  Good grief, the house across the street was even pink.

How scary can a pink house be?

I timidly followed my brother up the driveway.  I could hear spooky sounds coming from the open door; I knew it was the sound track from Disney's Haunted Mansion, but it didn't matter.  It was the epitome of creepy.

Closer and closer we crept.  It was dark inside the house; I couldn't see anybody.  

Then I heard the clanking.  

She walked down the hallway toward the door.  She wore a loose white robe draped in chains; chains that kept her earth bound, unable to enter into eternal rest.  The nylon stocking over her head was needed to hold her decaying features to her face. She limped toward us, her eyes boring into my brain.

I screamed and ran.  I may have even wet my pants.  

No candy was worth it.  Mrs. Lloyd left me scarred for life.

When I was eleven or twelve, Mrs. Lloyd was asked to put together a haunted room for our elementary school carnival.  We neighbor kids were asked to participate.  One kid guarded the pot full of brains and eyeballs.  Another lifted a big lid from a table, exposing a decapitated head that was still alive.  My job was to sit in a chair with blood dripping all over me and look dead. 

I could hear people whisper as they walked by.  I thought I was pretty convincing until I heard a boy arguing with his mother.  "She's not dead, Mommy.  It's just pretend."  He got closer and closer...and then...and then...he touched me.

I screamed and ran.  I may have even wet my pants.

I bet he did, too.  

He's probably scarred for life.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Max

I'm kind of sheltered here in River City, Alaska.

I know there are people in our community who deal with difficult physical and mental challenges.  I also know there are those who struggle with substance abuse, addiction and homelessness.

But I don't see them very often.  Honestly, here in my little town, I'm not really sure where to find them.

It doesn't feel good to admit that.  I should know.

That changes whenever I visit The Big City.  It's a really big city, especially for a country girl.

I like the public transportation there, it's a tram called The Max.  It's affordable, user friendly and convenient.  It's great.  And it opens my eyes.

One night I was on The Max with a man whose body twitched uncontrollably.  He spent the entire ride talking to a passenger who wasn't there.

A lot of twitchy people ride The Max.

I once saw a little woman board with an impressive collection of plastic grocery bags tied to her walker.  She was wearing open shoes and had horribly deformed feet.

I've had strong, healthy men ask me if I can spare a dollar.  I've ridden near a group of ridiculous teenagers speaking an unintelligable gang language I could not understand. I saw one guy get arrested the minute he stepped off the tram.

Though some of these things have made me uncomfortable, the folks I find the scariest on The Max are those who never look around, never smile and never speak.  That's, like, everybody.  Even when scrunched together shoulder to shoulder, the overwhelming majority of riders never look up, never say anything...they never really acknowledge there's anybody else on the tram.

I always find myself wondering about these people.  Where have they come from, where are they going?  Do they have somebody waiting for them to get home?

Do they know Jesus?

Am I one of them?

Jesus was drawn to illness and instability.  He healed those with deformities, disease and demons.  He never turned them away.

And he had strong words for those who lacked compassion and understanding; who ignored the downtrodden.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start conversing with drug addicts and gang bangers the next time I ride The Max.  But what if I bury my head and choose not to interact with somebody who needs an encouraging word?  Is there anything wrong with making eye contact and sharing a smile?

Why am I asking these questions?

I should know.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I remember the days when my kids were little.  The "b" word was butt, the "s" word was shut up and the "f" word was fart.

Man, I miss those days.

Cussing.  I really, really hate it.  Always have.  I think it's irreverent, degrading and cheap.  I think it makes a man look weak and a woman look trashy.

Aren't you glad you asked me how I really feel?

There was a group of kids that hung around the entrance to our Safeway store.  They dressed in black, smoked cigarettes and cussed.   They were scary and everybody I knew hated walking through them just to buy groceries.  Lots of folks would go to a different store to avoid them, including my 17 year old daughter.  I didn't blame them, but it sure was inconvenient. 

I had complained several times to the management, but they said the cops were tired of coming around and unless this group of kids did more than loiter, they wouldn't come back.  I guess I can understand that from the cops' perspective.  It just seemed like the store should do something since it was their property and their business.  Ever heard of private security, Safeway?


Anyway...I'm not sure what the catalyst was, but one night I had just had enough.

I was braver back then.

I stormed into the group of kids and told them I did not appreciate their language.  There were little kids and older people within earshot of their filth every day.  Besides, a lot of other people - including me - just didn't like it.  I told them I suspected their mothers probably taught them better and they should be ashamed of themselves.

So there. 

I went into the store and immediately started shaking.  Was I nuts??  A sane person would have told them off right before she got into her car and drove away, not before she intended to shop for 45 minutes.  That gave them all kinds of time to plan my demise.

I exited the store with trepidation.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I hoped if they planned to kill me it would be quick.  I didn't want to feel any pain.  And I was glad I had recently purchased life insurance.

Sure enough, three kids broke off from the pack and followed me to my car.  "Ma'am?"  the ringleader said. 

I hate it when people call me ma'am.  But considering the words I had heard out of the mouths of these kids, ma'am seemed like a step in the right direction.

I turned around and faced them.  "Yes?"

"We would like to apologize.  You're right; our mothers did teach us better than least mine did.   I'm really sorry."

We stood there for 30 minutes and had a nice chat.  I was able to to admire their tatoos and piercings up close.  And I'm pretty sure my ice cream melted.

So, if that was your kid, thank you for teaching him better.

You may be surprised, but he really was listening.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In The Dark

Let’s face it; being from Alaska is a novelty.  I doubt whether people from Nevada or Kansas or even Maine get asked some of the ridiculous questions we Alaskans do when we travel. 

Alaska, huh?  Do you live in an igloo?”

“You’re from Alaska?  Do you eat whale blubber?”

Alaska?  Wow!  Do they have roads up there?”

I mean, seriously. 

As amusing (or insulting) as these questions can be, my least favorite is, “Isn’t it, like, dark 24 hours a day up there in the winter?”

I think that ridiculous question bugs me because it’s kind of true.

There are locations in Alaska where it does stay dark in the winter pretty much all day.  Thankfully, I don’t live there.  In the dead of winter where I live, it gets light about 10 am and dark around 3:30 or 4:00 pm.  I don’t have a window in my office, so if I don’t leave the building for lunch, I don’t see any daylight. 

I always leave the building for lunch.

It’s an interesting thing, learning to deal with so much darkness. The biggest adjustment is realizing the sounds that go bump in the dark night are the same sounds that go bump in the light night.

I’m not afraid of the dark.  But I do like to see what is making scary noises.

I had a girlfriend once who would not come over to my house at night in the winter because I didn’t have blinds on all my windows.  It didn’t matter that my living room was on the second floor on a hill and faced a swamp where nobody would ever go.  She was scared.  And I thought she was silly.

I’m not sure I think that any more.

A couple of years ago somebody knocked on my door at 10:30 pm.  I was just about to head to bed and it really startled me.  I clicked on the front porch light and there stood a strange man.  He was disheveled, unkempt.  Because I’m brilliant, I opened the door.

I know, right?

He told me this story about his sister and how she sent him to borrow some items a man would never ask for.  I told him I couldn't help him, then closed the door and locked it.  He hollered at me for awhile, then left.

By the time I found my neighbor’s phone number he had already been to her door.  We decided to call the police because it was just too weird.  They drove around our neighborhood, but didn’t see him. 

I was surprised my neighbor opened her door to this creepy dude.  What was she thinking?  She had little kids..and besides, she's smarter than me. Then I found out she answered her door brandishing a gun. 

What a woman. 

Now when I hear bumps in the night, I just click a button on my phone.

I have her on speed dial.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I had a life altering experience last Friday night.

I lost my phone.

I mean, I really lost my phone.  Like, it was gone.  Nowhere to be found.  

You may wonder how I knew it was nowhere to be found.  Well, I have two cell phones; one is my personal phone and the other is my business phone.  When my brilliant son-in-law suggested getting another line, I ran to AT&T as fast as my Toyota could carry me.  It made sense to have a line dedicated only to business, but, more importantly, I knew I'd have a way to call myself when I couldn't find my phone.

I called myself Friday night and nobody answered.

I remember talking to a friend on my way to the store, so I knew it had to be there.  HAD TO BE.  I called the customer service desk.  They didn't have it, and they were getting ready to close.  No time to send a search party.

That's when I panicked.  


I texted the bad news to both my kids from my business phone.

I immediately received a text back from my daughter.  It said, "Who is this??"  

My son didn't recognize the number either.  

See why my other phone is so important????

The next morning I called the store again.  Nothing.  NOTHING.  I was beginning to feel lost, disconnected, estranged.  The truth is, I know very few of my friend's phone numbers.  My phone, on the other hand, knows all of them.  

It's a sad state of things, but it's the truth.

About noon I decided to go search the store myself.  I had been trying on jackets and sweaters, so I checked every pocket of every jacket and sweater in my size.  No phone.  I called my number thinking maybe I would hear it, but it went directly to voice mail.  Nuts!  The battery was probably dead.

As a last ditch effort, I checked with the customer service desk.  I had little hope; I had already talked to them that morning.

The clerk opened her drawer and there was my phone.  

Somebody had turned if off, so I waited anxiously while it came to life.  Just as I feared, I had missed something important.  Lots of somethings important.  I had twelve missed calls.  TWELVE!!!

Every one of them was from me.