Parking Garages: Convenient or Confusing Hell?

Sometimes I forget about what scares me until I have to do it Twice in the last week I have had to use a parking garage.

Oh, big deal. Yeah, I know some of you use them daily, so you are immune to the dangers.

I hate parking garages! They speak to my claustrophobic tendencies in a way that is almost too horrible to describe. They are dark. They echo. They have confusing exit signs. They direct you to drive around until you are certain you have entered a parallel universe. There is a mechanical arm blocking your entrance and exit. You must take a ticket, and like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, if you lose the ticket, you will pay the MAXIMUM AMOUNT. They never tell you what the maximum amount is. What if you don’t have it? And speaking of money, how is it fair that my time begins when I get past the mechanical arm and not when I finally find a parking space?

Parking in a city garage is like driving your car in an unmarked cave of doom. My city even has the parking thrill ride of a twisted spiral in order to exit! Round and round and round. Reminds me of a hated art teacher I once had. And if you don’t move fast enough, the guy in back of you becomes a ogre and beeps his horn. Which of course, because he is going to ride my bumper and squeal his tires on purpose.

“C’mon lady! I ain’t got all day here!”

I continue to creep, stomping on my brakes at every turn, until, there it is…a perfect space. I start to pull in and see the sign. “Parking is only for residents.” Well, who would want to live here anyway?

So, usually I end up on the rooftop where there is no one, but I can let my car get some air. Frequently, it is either raining or snowing. This adds to the ambiance which I try to enjoy until I find the elevator down.

Before that, I take a picture of my level, but in one garage that didn’t help because I was on third level to park and had to go down to the second level to find the walking bridge. I was fine until I wanted to take a bag out to my car. Third level. I walked all over the hotel trying to find the walking bridge until I just gave up and waited to ask the bartender. I tipped her for the information.

When I finally found the exit, there was no attendant, and I had to figure out how to insert my parking card and pay. I swear the same guy was behind me: “Lady!” I opened my window and told him to calm down, not nicely. Then I turned the corner, and there was the street at the bottom of a long steep descent. Who designs these garages? Stephen King? Oh, the horror!




Waiting for the School Bell

As I write today, I realize why my moods have been introspective, and I have had to fight the Bad Critic when I thought I have been experiencing a reprieve. I woke up Sunday morning, and like two big globs of dark jelly, depression hit me hard in the face.

There’s no reason for this, I thought. I don’t have to go back to school to teach. My summer can continue for a bit. Of course, I remain a grad student, but I have no books to stack, no pencils and pens to stash and no bulletin boards to dream up.

Can we do a big Homer Simpson “Doh!”

I have been going back to school every year since 1990. I knew this moment was coming, but I thought I wouldn’t be affected. I remain a student. What’s up with this, Bad Critic?

By Sunday afternoon, I retreated to my safe place, where I don’t have to think. I napped for three hours. Three hours? Seriously, that cannot be healthy. But the reality is, my world has changed over the summer, and I walked out of the classroom. I said good-bye and cried a little, but I wasn’t expecting the Bad Critic to show up two weeks before school even starts here in the city.

I guess it all goes back a lot of years to when I was a kid, jumping up and down and anxious for school to start. New everything: clothes, lunch box, papers, pencils, everything. I mostly loved school all of my life. Regina, who lives next door, told me she was excited to go school shopping, too. I asked her if she would miss summer, and she said, “No! I’m sick of my brothers!”

Okay then. I’m going to be just a little school-sick, instead of homesick.

When I know why I’m feeling the way I do, I can get out of the depression easier. For example, when I was driving alone on the highway last Sunday, I yelled, “Get out. Leave me alone!” And you know what, it worked.

Happy Back to School, and listen to the school bell (buzzer). You might miss it one day.


Eddie was born at a farm north of where we live. I picked him because he was male and mostly white. Our cat already at home was dark in color. The two boys got along well, except Eddie was more like a person, and he got very lazy just like his brother Henry after an important visit to the vet.

So why am I writing about a cat? There are already so many pet stories everywhere. Eddie didn’t do anything remarkable or save a life. I don’t know of any cat that has saved a life. Eddie was just normal, fur everywhere, afraid to go outside, but he did love yogurt. He also talked a lot. You know what I mean. He meowed but it sounded more human.

Last October, Eddie had a seizure. I knew what people seizures were and had even witnessed one, but poor Eddie just flip-flopped on the floor, so out of control, we just watched in horror until he stopped moving. Then we would clean him up and hold him until he stopped shaking. I hoped this was a one-time occurrence.

It wasn’t. And it got worse.

When we got him to the vet, he had a seizure in the examining room. Afterwards, the doctor held him, ran some tests, and gave him some medicine. We hoped it would work, but the doctor told us to take Eddie to the emergency pet hospital overnight so he could be watched.

“We will do our best,” said the doctor, “but if he has a seizure even with the medicine…well….”

“I know,” I said. “We will have to make a decision.”

At three am, I got a call from the emergency vet. Eddie was still having seizures, no matter what medicine they gave him.

By the time we got to the hospital, Eddie was blind.

The doctor brought him to us, carefully laying him on the table. He was wrapped in a blanket and one of his front paws was wrapped in gauze with an IV. We all looked at each other, and my daughter couldn’t speak. My husband didn’t say anything because Eddie was my cat. I had to do it.

“We have to say goodbye to Eddie,” I said.

The doctor nodded and gave us some time before he returned. We all stroked the little white cat and I spoke into his ear so he would know we were there.  It only took moments for the final medicine to stop his heart.

I have his ashes in a wooden box with his name on it. The vet nurse also made a plaster imprint of his paw. When I collected these from the hospital a few days later, my daughter wanted me to put them away. She could not yet look at them.

I was and still am unable to tell Eddie’s story without crying, so if this were a piece of paper, you wouldn’t be able to read it. I have been lucky in life and had never said goodbye to a pet before, and it startled me to feel the grief.

Last Monday, my daughter bought a tiny wooden easel and said she was going to put Eddie’s paw print on it,  Yesterday she asked me to write about him. And so I have.

You may not believe me, but Eddie is still in the house. I see him out of the corner of my eye. It could be one of the other cats or Henry. (We adopted two cats that lost their home in hurricane Irma.) But I think it’s Eddie.



Jeans and Emojis? I’m Lost

I am very irregular. If I were a pair of jeans, I would be too wide in the waist, too long in the inseam, and all the pockets would be sewn shut. I would wear them anyway and spend the day pulling up my jeans and trying to find a belt that didn’t dig into my stomach when I sat down.

In fact, aren’t jeans somewhat a measure of ourselves? Go into a big store and look for jeans and you will find shelf after shelf of blue jeans: acid washed (that’s) scary; stone washed; straight leg; boot cut; elastic waist; comfort fit (whatever that means), but no more bell bottoms.

I’m not seeing pretty today. I’m having a pity party for myself (and my jeans). No emojis.I think we are beginning to use emojis to replace words in our language. We have already invented a sub-language with text abbreviations. OMG! LOL! Are these passe? If so then they were slang and not a dialect of English. I think emojis might became a kind of universal language. Seriously. From the hated and abused smiley face to the hundreds of choices that appear on my phone. Sometimes they add emphasis and sometimes they show laziness. OMG! I forgot to answer that text. Oh well, here’s a quick emoji for you 😊. I put a period afterwards because I thought it was the proper thing to do, but maybe we don’t need punctuation anymore, either.

Is there an emoji for a sigh?🤨

What Are You Afraid of?

I am not afraid of much any more.

Height doesn’t bother me as long as it is not combined with speed, I’m good. Oh, I should clarify: speed as in roller coasters. That’s just nuts. I can’t even watch them on television.

All right, I can tolerate roller coasters if I have to because I figured out if I close my eyes the whole time, I don’t see the scary parts, and I’m okay. Now some people might say that’s wasting a great ride and the whole point of roller coaster riding. I’m just telling you how I coped with it when I had to ride.

I learned at a young age how to cope with my fears. I had a kind of claustrophobia that started when I was nine, and it was pretty serious. I felt as though I was going to faint or throw up. My stomach hurt and everything looked woozy to me. Woozy. Yes, that’s the best word I can think of because it is not easy to explain a panic attack. I told my family, and the doctor checked me out but couldn’t find anything. So! In the 1960s there was no support for this kind of mental problem. (At least I didn’t get locked up!) There were no medicines other than Valium, and that wasn’t what you give a nine-year-old.

The reaction I got from people around me was like the so-called “natural childbirth” method: Breathe Through It! Just breathe through it. Just breathe. As an aside, I did natural childbirth three times. I am, as we all were, a very strong woman.

So when I got dizzy, which was what I called my panic attacks, I had to figure out what to do. Fight or Flee? No. Usually, I was in a place where I could do neither.

What I could do, though, was sit on the end seat, so one side had a bit more breathing room, and I could always claim that at family dinners because I’m a lefty. Easy.

(Don’t get me started on being a lefty. That will be a later topic. There will be discussion afterwards.)

Elevators were hard unless I could manage to stay near the front. Most children are squished to the back. However, the ride is usually short.

Movie theaters and auditoriums were my bane, and I couldn’t always sit near an aisle. So, you can imagine how terrified I was of being ON stage. I was usually in a singing group, but the hot lights really bothered me. I kept breathing and breathing and never directed my eyes to the audience. I don’t think anyone in my family knew then or knows to this day how anxious I was.

We find our way through the forest that frightens us. As an adult, I became a teacher and stood in front of many students, some who wanted to learn and some who wanted to curse me out. We keep going, usually.

Today I shopped at IKEA, one of my favorite stores, and it was packed with more people than I have ever seen. Back to College? Already? I managed okay upstairs, but when I go to the lower level where all the lights are, I have to stop myself from running to the checkouts and into the parking lot.

So I guess you could say I have IKEA lights phobia. Or IKEA electricity phobia. But I think there may be something about all that lighting in one place. I remember watching a television show where the occupants of the house were sure there were ghosts, because they felt sick and dizzy every time they went to the basement. The specialists used an electronic device in the basement and it went off the scale near certain spots. They recommended the owners have an electrician check the wiring because some people are bothered by certain electromagnetic fields When the owners had an electrician check the wiring, he rerouted and replaced some of it. End of problem. (I was a bit disappointed no ghosts were found, but I was glad the owners knew what was wrong.)

So, to recap…ha! I began with fear of heights and ended with electricity.

My mind at work.




Indiana Part Two

As I was thinking about Indiana, I realized I hadn’t addressed the old adage, “You can’t go home again.” Well, that’s pretty much crap because we are a mobile society, and of course, you can go home again. It’s what you may find changed you have to be ready for. At seventeen, I wasn’t.

I grew up near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in a small town until I was sixteen. My Dad got a transfer to Marion, Indiana, and I had a rough time of it since I was just about to begin my junior year. Maybe that wouldn’t be a problem for a lot of teens, but I had a complication I didn’t know about. I was beginning a path toward major depression disorder, so everything that was literally colorful and beautiful to everyone else was awash in grays in my eyes.

The first time our family went back to Pennsylvania to visit, I spent a school day in “class” with all of my friends. I followed their schedule and pretended to listen to the teachers. They all knew me, anyway. But in one class, there was a substitute I had never seen before. My friends tried to explain to her why I was in class, but near the end, she called on me for an answer. (It had to be math. I just know it!) When I looked up at the teacher blankly, she said,

“Oh you don’t belong here, do you? So you wouldn’t know what we’re talking about.”

That was my little snowflake moment. She was right. I didn’t belong there, and I’ve never forgotten that.

I survived Indiana, even graduated from Ball State, so I consider myself half-Hoosier. (If you don’t know what a Hoosier is, don’t worry; no one does. It’s the nickname for anyone who lives in Indiana and a lot easier to say than Indianian.)

Last week, when we visited Marion, one of the saddest things I saw was a beautiful, historic cemetery that had lost its wrought iron fence. Someone had sold it. A wrought iron fence that cradled all the graves in this cemetery–gone! I could tell people were trying to tend the graves as best they could, but it felt as though it was a sadder place than it should have been. It was missing something.

Yes, you can go home again, but remember this: where you had been kept on living just as the place to which you went lived on, too.

However, you can keep your hometown safe in your memory, and that will never change.


Second Home in Indiana

I just returned from a few days in the Midwest, that part of the country that startles you as you’re driving toward it and all of a sudden everything you can possibly see in any direction is FLAT. The first time I saw it I was sixteen-years-old, riding with my family on our way to move there. I don’t remember what I thought, but it has been a shock every time I’ve done it since. Makes the old Appalachians of Pennsylvania look big.

We had family to visit, and on the first day, we drove around the town for memories’ sake.

There was sadness, mostly. In the 1970’s, Marion was a growing town with varied industry. Since then, the industries have slowly. slowly left town or closed completely, so empty parking lots are pocked with weeds growing up through the lines where cars used to park. Windows are broken on the building windows and if there has been enough time, green ivy and other plants snake their way through to the roof.

The factories are one thing, but it was disheartening to see homes that must have been completely abandoned for years. Most of them were wooden, and the once clean paint was chipping away in big chunks. Porches–some with the furniture–were sagging and slowly falling closer to the earth. Cement steps were chipping away. And the ever-present green weeds were replacing the houses as though no person would ever return, and the weeds could grow without worry.

I learned Marion’s population had dropped to half of what it had been when I graduated from high school. No wonder, the houses were dying. They were dying of emptiness.

And yet, my family was there, and there were pretty houses and shops where people still cared and were trying hard to make Marion a nice place to live. You could stop in front of these places like my brother and sister-in-law’s, and be astounded by the mounds of colorful zinnias and daisies and see the soft green lawn that had been tended carefully for many years.

Many things had changed, and yet, others stayed the same.

My brother-in-law, Michael, had lived near Marion, but he was taken too early from the world ten years ago. We visited Pat, his widow, and as I walked into the house, I could almost hear Mike’s teasing laugh, but I felt his presence, and a few times, could have sworn I saw him coming into the kitchen from the hallway. Sarcasm. Mike and I had a great game with that, and his energy seemed to fill the home so much that I got distracted from the conversation at times. As I stepped out on the front porch to leave, I gazed up at the beautiful tree he had planted thirty or more years ago, and I stumbled on the second step.

Okay, Michael, I know I called your tree a stick and told you it would never grow, as it has.

You get the last laugh, Mike, because I have a stick tree in my yard, and I look at it every day and hear your laugh all the way from Marion, Indiana with love.