15 years ago today, having a ball

by Jason Tudor

Your whole life, you never thought you’d be in Mississippi for any reason. Now, there are a dozen people in a Biloxi hospital working to save your life, and you had to drive yourself here to have them do it.

Surgeons hauled out that golf ball-sized tumor three months ago. Soon they’ll tee up the jokes. Take your ball and go home is still No. 1. You’ve been scratched onto the list of the 7,500-8,000 diagnosed every year. You’ll never be able to say the words “radical orchiectomy” to anyone because they’ll think you’re talking about a snowboarding trick.

At least you’re two weeks in. The Greek gyro payoff at the end of each session is worth it now that you’re not dry heaving your way to a stroke every day and you’ve stopped bleeding out of your eyes.  (Hooray, pharmaceuticals!). The lead blanket’s not so bad. It’s that lead ostrich egg they wedge your privates into that could use a happier face (Well, maybe “face” isn’t the right word …). And who thought that thing up? “You’re going to need radiation therapy, but we want to avoid radiating your joyboys. So we’ve created this lead Pac-Man to encase them. We’ve got three sizes. Oh, you want the largest? All guys do.”

Everyone is kind. Helpful. Warm. They smile. It’s not like you’re in this alone. They reach out and ask how you’re doing. They seem to mean it. That matters. The 85-percent survival rate jumps to 100 when someone holds your hand to help you through the tough moments. You’re 320 miles from the nearest person who loves you, and at least for the hour you’re lying there being partially cooked by some medical Transformer spitting radiation, they help you remember you’re human and not some slab of ribs they’ll sauce up later with a few Coronas. 

Having an oncologist who’s a woman turned out fine. Sure, she’s attractive. All of your guy friends said if you were assigned a female doc, every meeting would turn into a scene that would make a Vivid Video reel. “Hey, doc, I brought us some pizza.” Fortunately, you leapfrogged over 7th Grade intentions (including your own) and it’s just a weekly visit.

You’re working again, even if it's just something to do after treatments. Two weeks ago, at the same time of day, you were smashing your fist against the rim of a toilet, wondering when the vomit, pain and tears would get flushed permanently.  Now you’re writing and helping out wherever you can (and that line about “the island is really no bigger than the period on the end of this sentence” is genius).

Is there some life-affirming change on the horizon? Will Jesus or Buddha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster suddenly stroll through the door with a Mai Tai and a club membership in hand? Will you want to climb mountains or hack Samson’s hair? Go on some sort of spiritual journey? People say that happens. I don’t know. There are two weeks to go. You’ll still have go to work, mow the lawn and change the cat box. If some greater force is going to put itself front and center, he/she/it should probably bring a few bags of Fresh Step Scoopable as incentive.

Your whole life, you never thought you’d be thinking about these things. Mortality, being humbled and gaining even the slimmest glimpse into humanity will do that.

Have a ball.


Two Doctors Walked Into a Bar

by Stacey Graham

Note: As editor, I asked the Ermas to describe their life 15 years ago. Some columns are hilarious and others more poignant, but when I took a spot I didn't realize that I'd be describing my daughter's experience instead.

My second pregnancy was a breeze. No complications, labor was a short 1.5 hours and on her due date my lovely Syenna was born a healthy weight. At 10 weeks old, I noticed her stomach was hard to the touch - I figured she had gas. Her three-month visit to her pediatrician had yielded nothing abnormal. Two weeks later, however, the world turned upside down. At her four-month checkup, her doctor couldn't feel her kidneys so sent her for an ultrasound; there the technician discovered Syenna's abdominal cavity was filled with fluid. We were in the hospital the next day where they extracted a liter of a milky liquid called chyle from her belly. She was diagnosed with Chylous Ascities,  a condition that didn't have a great batting average due to being associated with cancer, organ failure and ripe for infection from her loss of antibodies. She had nothing else, thank goodness, except for a whopper of a birth defect. In the past few hundred years since Chylous Ascities was recorded as its own condition, there have been less than 400 cases -- out of those only a handful were females. Awesome.

Eighteen months passed with us in and out of the hospital, usually for three weeks out of every four. Three major surgeries, shunts and blood infections from procedures and the tubes criss-crossing her body kept us regular guests at Doernbecher's Children’s Hospital. I had my own mug at the nurse's station. I showered on the oncology floor while old ladies rocked Syenna so she wouldn't be alone. My eldest daughter, who was two at the time, stayed with her grandmother during the day while her father split his time between work, visiting Syenna and I, and still being a fantastic dad. I watched as families admitted their child and the patience of the nursing staff as they guided completely freaked out parents through the horrors of what came next and I said goodbye to a disturbing amount of children as they passed from this life. Our surgeon worried that our marriage would be torn apart since so many couples handled stress differently, it only made us stronger. If we can face down this, what's arguing over who forgot to do the dishes that night?

At her last major surgery, which ripped open her belly for a second time so the surgeon could look for the leak in her lymphatic system, he told me this was it. Our options were limited if he couldn't repair the damage. The operation was not a success and while devastated I asked what the next step was and to move forward. I had no time for weeping. She was put on a cocktail of meds that were piped through a tube into her chest -- and no eating for 13 weeks. By now, Syenna was nearly two years old and hadn't taken a step, she was too weak. She refused to eat the no-fat formula the doctors prescribed so was losing weight quickly though her belly had swollen to 64 centimeters around. Obi-Wan, the cocktail was our only hope.

It worked. Thirteen weeks later, she ripped out the tube and took her first step. This chapter was done. She’s fifteen now and shows off her scars proudly. I think this week the says she was bitten by a shark. Last month she’d been caught by spies but escaped under barbed wire. Nothing is going to slow this kid down. Syenna's case was (and still may be) used during lectures at Oregon Health Sciences University because of its rareness and that she's adorable. CA hasn't returned but it doesn't stop me from squeezing her a little tighter during hugs -- just to be sure.

Stacey Graham has only a slight twitch from her experience with hospitals and went on to have three more children with no medical difficulties. Syenna is a straight-A student and plans to be a marine biologist unless One Direction asks her to be a roadie. Stacey is the author of two books: The Girls' Ghost Hunting Guide and the Zombie Tarot, as well as an editor and short story writer. Visit her at her blog, on Twitter and on Facebook to say howdy.


Monkey Boy and Inappropriate Words

by Pauline Campos

I followed a boy to college. I met this boy, who would eventually become referred to as Monkey Boy amongst my little circle of friends, when he took part in the presentation group during my high school tour of the campus) and promptly decided that he would ask me to marry him just moments after officially graduating, ring in one hand and his diploma in the other. The families in attendance at the graduation ceremony would clap and cheer and my friends would sigh dreamily and then glare at their boyfriends who would be pretending to be suddenly fascinated with the graduation program in their hands, and we’d all live happily ever after.

What actually happened went more like this: I returned home from that day’s college tour, threw away the pile of college applications I had been filling out, and instead applied only to the university I knew would accept me because of that whole “minority” thing. (Politically correct? Nope. But it makes for a ready-made punch line.) Monkey Boy and I instantly became “a thing” and he accompanied me to my senior prom, which turned out to be probably The Second Worse Decision Ever Made. I don’t remember all of the details, but friends tell me he was a total Insert Inappropriate Word Here and I walked around most of the night with a face The Husband usually takes as a sign to head for the hills and wait until the dust has settled before returning.

Monkey Boy, it seemed, felt my little high school dance was beneath him and had probably only agreed to come with me for a reason to flaunt his ego for the public. There was no dancing to be done and the corsage I wore on my wrist was only there because, well, I bought it. I have no idea where it is, but somewhere in my collection of Photos Before Digital there is one of me glaring at my date, arms crossed over my chest, and hip cocked to one side, while the smart people in the group backed away. Monkey Boy was too busy making crazy faces while hamming it up for the camera to notice the fact that I was trying to light his hair on fire with my eyes.

I saw him one more time after my prom (and before my freshman year officially began), and I’m thinking it was mainly for me to confirm that he really was an Insert Inappropriate Word Here and that I was Too Good for him. Both turned out to be true statements. And I arrived on the grounds of the campus I had selected based on a daydream and a promise a free woman just in time to witness Monkey Boy’s academic swift academic demise. I’m not sure where he is now, but I can’t blame him for being the Insert Inappropriate Word Here that he was. It wouldn’t be fair.

I am who I am and where I am right at this very moment all because of the fact that I followed a boy to college…and then chose my own path.


Coke Bottle Glasses and GiGi

By Jennifer Caddell

I’m in the last year of my 30s. Yep. The big ‘three nine’. The age most people joke about, as in “Oh yes, I’ve been 39 for at least fifteen years!” Well, this is my first year being 39 and instead of looking at the forties as some sort of mid-life doom and gloom, I am looking back at who I was, and feeling grateful. I can’t help but sing like Maurice Chevalier in the 1958 movie version of ‘GiGi’ - “Oh I’m so glad, that I’m, not young, anymore!” 

Now, when I stare at my laugh lines and think of when I was 24, I remember the angst I felt scraping the bottom of the financial barrel and wondering how I would ever pay for college; and for food. I was living with a guy at that time and the two of us managed to make rent, barely. I wore thick Coke bottle glasses and walked around with an air of worried anticipation because I still couldn’t see the future. There was the constant wondering if I was making the right decisions with my life and worrying that I would never get my life in order.

No, I don’t miss those days. Now I can look at that young woman, the one worrying about the small stuff, the one whose Coke bottle glasses were a bit too far sighted, I can look at her and smile. The smile is sad and grateful: Sad because all that young vigor was wasted on worrying, and grateful because now I know better. Myself at 24 was a leaf floating on an ocean and trying like mad to catch just the right breeze to take it in the right direction while all along, it was the deep current of life that was pushing me along, all I could do was stay afloat and do my best to navigate the waves. 

And that current has taken me for quite a ride so far. There have been peaks and basins, stormy skies and clear blue waters. There are still times when I worry, especially over those things I cannot control, but more and more, with age, I worry less and simply appreciate the current of life I am floating on. I love that I write, I love that I garden, I love being a goofy wife and guiding mother, I love my earthy sense of humor and my wit. I am beginning to really appreciate who I am after 15 extra years of floating on this current and I am looking forward to giving less of a damn over the small stuff as life progresses. Instead of looking at birthdays as a year of aging further, I like to look at birthdays as a year of extra experience, and I survived it.

Don’t get me wrong: It wasn’t all bad 15 years ago. I actually took time out from worrying and managed make a decision that was one of the most important and wonderful decisions of my life. Remember that guy I was living with? Fifteen years ago, I stood with him in city hall and said, “I do.”


Hey Girl, Put Down That Club

by Beth Bartlett

Hey girl. 

Oh yeah, it’s 1997 over there, Ryan Gosling’s probably playing a Little League game right now and you have no idea what I’m talking about. Quit looking at me like I’m crazy. Because I’m you.

Right now, you have a decent job that doesn’t involve a grease-resistant uniform or any knowledge of fryer maintenance. It does, however, require a suitable amount of antacids, especially after committee meeting days. How would you feel if I told you that in a few short years, you’re going to go after your dream of being a full-time writer? 

I thought you’d like that. You’re all bouncy and shiny and happy and innocent, and I love that about you. I would tell you that in less than a year, you will get your heart stomped on by a gorilla in golf shoes, but-hey, come out from under that desk-I won’t tell you that. I also want to tell you to take more chances, jump off more cliffs, but that could change everything. Butterflies die, the universe changes and I could end up not even being here to tell you all this. 

So, in self-preservation, I’m telling you to go forth. Forgive the gorilla, but take away his shoes. You can also make him walk on sharp gravel if you want. The lessons reality will hand you on a tennis racket swiftly moving toward your head will keep you sharp, make you a little cynical (okay, a lot) and introduce you to drinking: three ingredients needed to be a freelance writer. Within three years, you will wake up one morning and realize that the overwhelming dread of another 9-to-5 day does not trump the joy of writing. You will say “Pfft!” to the idea of a safety net and do a full dogpaddle off the high wire straight into the Slurpee cup below. 

The first year, you will make enough money to cover the cost of your new computer. You’ll also learn 43 ways to make beans totally inedible and discover that not even you can screw up Ramen noodles. You’ll pin up that retirement card your co-workers gave you when you left. They thought you were taking the easy way out by staying home. As the months progress, you will snort out loud when you look at that card, because they had no freaking idea how much work this would be. Honestly, you don’t either. 

Thank goodness for the Internet, because you will find a group of maladjusted, muse-addled people who will accept you, mainly because they can’t see you on the days when you’re butt-in-the-chair, beating a deadline while wearing a Scooby-Doo beanie and a muumuu. I won’t mention swatting at your legs because you think there are mosquitoes in the house but really you’ve just forgotten to shave them for ten days in a row, because right now you think writing is glamorous and mysterious and awesome.

You know what, kid? It is. 

Even fifteen years later with all the rejections and successes and near-misses, after all the insults and compliments and regrets, in spite of the groove in your desk that perfectly matches your forehead, writing is the best thing you will ever do.


Ermas interview: Pauline Campos

Today's interview is with up-and-coming Erma, Pauline Campos.

Ermas: You've been an Erma for a year now and you haven't run away screaming - you've got the chops, babe. Tell us more about you and what you're working on.

A year? Already? And we forgot to celebrate with cheap wine and a last-minute greeting card? Obviously, our relationship has surpassed that New and Shiny stage and cruised right into Happily Ever After and this makes me happy. Aside from playing a semi-convincing role of a humor writer on here and a few other sites I love, I'm currently email-stalking my agent during the submission process of my memoir for updates. She has kindly requested that I wait at least five minutes between emails.

Ermas: You're fighting the good fight about body image and how it affects our daughters on your blog, what's been the most positive thing you've seen come from this?
 I might be full of saucy-awesomeness when it comes to not having a filter and cracking wise, but it took a long time for me to be able to reach the level of comfort in my writing to be able to share my own eating-disordered past. Because of my own history, I'm very aware of what I say around my daughter and how I say it because no one ever means to encourage their daughter/sister/niece to hate their own body or become a bulimic. I want other mothers to be aware of that. A mother of a 14-year-old once thanked me after reading a column I wrote about PLUS Model Magazine's decision to feature a full-figured model in a photo spread criticizing the current obsession with the thin ideal. This mother shared my column with her daughter because she thought it would have a positive impact on her teen girl. That single act made me feel like I had made all the difference in the world.

Ermas: Motherhood isn't for the weak, you need upper body strength to wrestle the last cookie away from the kids. What was the last thing you wrestled your daughter for -- and who won?
Every day is a mental wrestling match with this kid and by the the time it's ready for her to go to bed, I'm frothing at the mouth at the thought of a wine slushie. She'll be five very soon and I'm pretty sure she's been able to out-logically-think me since the day she said "Mama" for the first time. I'm not bragging when I tell you that she was just about 12 weeks old when The Husband realized she had just uttered her first word. No, my friends, not at all. What I am actually doing is explaining to you that should your future progeny ever do something similar, it's probably best to admit that your newborn is smarter than you than make yourself look plain silly trying to look like you still have the upper hand. Also? The last wrestling match involved the Tickle Monster and much giggling. She stopped, thankfully, before I peed myself.
Ermas: Do you have a hidden musical talent? And is there video?
There probably is but I'm pretty sure it's still on VHS and that I should be very glad of this fact because this head of curls did *not* rock the middle-school craze of Aqua Net and teased bangs very well. I played flute and piccolo in concert band, got wild and crazy with the cymbals for parades and half-time shows and occasionally liked to hang out with the pit percussion on the sidelines with a pair of mallets and a marimba. Please don't be impressed. Have you ever seen an Aqua-netted chia pet marching backwards on a football field? It isn't pretty.
Ermas: The zombie apocalypse finally started after that last bite of infected taco and they're headed your way. You've been preparing for it for at least the last fifteen minutes, what weapons do you have on your desk to protect yourself?
I did already mention the Aqua Net...didn't I? Oh, and my bad. I thought that taco meat didn't smell right when I made dinner....


My late wife

by Bill Mullis

In the middle of July, 
The air was hot and humid.
The bride was nowhere to be found;
The groom was getting groomèd.

His beard was not as gray back then,
His aches were less insistent;
His hair, though less than years before,
Was basically existent.

He dressed himself as best he could 
In what garb he remembered.
His tie he borrowed from a future 
Former family member.

And as he dressed he watched the road - 
For time was running out - 
For signs of his belovèd, though 
In truth there was no doubt.

Well, maybe just a little one:
There's always just a chance
That her intelligence will trump
The blindness of romance.

And so he tied his borrowed tie,
And wiped his sweating brows,
And stole a glance or two or three
While practicing his vows.

But timepieces were being checked,
Though surreptitiously,
By people wishing she’d arrive
More expeditiously.

“Has the woman changed her mind?”
The bystanders all wondered.
“Oh, surely not,” was the reply,
“that’s one chance in a hunderd.”

And then - at last! - the glint of sun 
Shone from the auto glass.
In his relief he sat down hard
Upon his... fundament.

For in the middle of July
The air was hot and sticky.
But his relief was mighty, ’cause
His bride was not that picky.

Bill Mullis often thinks in bad verse in the Upstate region of South Carolina, where he continues to live in marital bliss with Amy, and hardly ever has to wait for her for very long.


Why Men Shouldn't Shop at Foodland

 By Steve Barber

About fifteen years ago, my ex threw me out and I got to re-experience the joys of bachelorhood. You'd probably be surprised at how well I took care of myself. I did the whole nine yards--shopping, cooking, laundry. I got so good at it I could have given Heloise tips. A couple years later I met Hunny and things changed.

See, Hunny has no faith in me whatsoever. By that I mean she refuses to trust me for even the simplest tasks. For example, she's convinced I'm incapable of running the vacuum, making coffee or even filling an ice cube tray. “You'll do it wrong,” she says to me. Naturally, I do what I can to encourage that kind of thinking. That's why I was surprised the other day when she agreed to let me go grocery shopping.

Daughter # 1 and her brood were coming over to meet our new dog, and we figured a Sunday brunch would be in order. Unfortunately, we don't cook breakfast much anymore, so we were out of even the most basic staples. But I had some free time on Saturday and Hunny was busy pretending to work when what she was really doing was playing Bejeweled on the computer. So, much to my shock and dismay, she agreed I should go to the store. I considered feigning injury, but then thought, Wait a minute. This is only breakfast stuff. How hard can it be? We're talking about things like eggs, bacon and juice, right? Piece of cake. Besides, it's not like I've never been to the store before. So I sucked it up and headed out.

Big mistake.

We needed maple syrup and I found the aisle right away. But the label on the first bottle said,  “Contains High Fructose Corn Syrup.” That left me confused. Why would corn syrup be in a maple syrup bottle? I pawed through several other brands, but they were the same. I finally found one that claimed to be “Pure Maple Syrup,” but it cost more than the GDP of Denmark, so instead, I closed my eyes, grabbed one randomly and tossed it in the cart.

"Milk," I said to myself. "Milk will be easy." Little did I know milk was no longer just whole or skim. Now milk could be low fat, no fat, 2 %, ½ %, ultra pasteurized, soy, lactose-reduced or acidophiles. Does anyone even know what acidophiles means? By this time I was starting to hyperventilate.

Maybe I'd calm down in the orange juice aisle. How can they screw up OJ? I thought. The last time I'd bought orange juice there'd been  two kinds--frozen and fresh. But as I stood there surveying my choices I saw before me low acid, high acid, low pulp, no pulp, double pulp, vitamin C, vitamin D, Organic and Calcium-added varieties. And guess what? Almost all of them had High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Right then, right there, I lost it.

Hunny had been right all along. I had no business in a grocery store anymore. So as I ran screaming out the door, I wondered how I was going to explain to my grandspawn why we'd be eating our pancakes at IHOP. Then I remembered they're both girls, so I figured they'd understand.

Steve Barber picks on Hunny a lot and some of it might even be deserved. The rest is all lies, of course, but what else would you expect from someone who's spent half of his adult life pretending to be an evil, undead Chihuahua? In his rare, lucid moments, Steve writes funny stuff and horror stuff because he doesn't see much difference between the two. You can check out his seldom updated blog at http://whatdoyoumeanishouldstartablog.blogspot.com/, and read his latest short horror story, Arkie Studabaker's Very Bad Day, in the anthology No Rest for the Wicked, (Rainstorm Press), which will be coming out any day now. A.n.y. d.a.y....


Of Captains and Cupcakes

by Amy Mullis

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the past fifteen years; it’s just disconcerting to find out that these days my body resembles the neighbor’s back yard: spare parts are piled under the hedges, weeds of various sizes sprout enthusiastically at random intervals, and the screen door flaps like a flock of geese in a high wind.

Fifteen years ago, I was a single Mom with a body young and lithe enough to tie my shoes without having the deductible on my health insurance come into play. Honestly, the money I spent on super-strength Tiger Balm was a total waste of money, until last spring when I discovered that to avoid bending over, I would have to wear slide-in bedroom shoes like the Women of Wal-Mart whenever I go out. That, or I was going to have to pay random passersby to lace up my sneakers.

A decade and half ago, I also discovered that if I was going to get two kids through fourth grade math, I was going to have to marry someone who could figure --without a calculator -- just how fast the train that left Los Angeles was traveling, and when it would overtake the train of thought that derailed when I discovered that, as class mom, I was in charge of cupcakes. These days I just use Google Earth and divide by Facebook, but in those days Social Media amounted to little more than a “Girls Wanted” ad in the personals section of something we called a “newspaper,” math was accomplished on the ten fingers I had available, and neither was any help with the cupcakes.

So almost fifteen years ago, on July 12, I considered all the options and decided it was the perfect time to marry the Captain. There was a time when I thought sticking my hand in a frightened dog’s mouth was a good idea too, but hopefully this plan won’t come back to bite me. Or require stitches. So far it’s smooth sailing. But we keep the vet on speed dial.

I’m different than I was fifteen years ago. I'm slower. Slower to get angry. And I'm heavier. I’m carrying some wonderful memories along with me. But they don't have a parking space near the Pearly Gates reserved for those that are pokey and fat. So, God willing, I’m gathering myself up to forge ahead, full throttle, without thinking whether this 15 year bump in the road will send me soaring into the blue or skidding into a ditch.

Sure, the last fifteen years showed me that the springs may be rusting. They also showed me that the most important thing to remember is that in another fifteen years, the me I am right now is gonna be looking pretty good.

And no one will ever suspect that I ate all the cupcakes.


Learning to Love the Law

By Terri Coop

In 1995, my engineering career was cut short by mass layoffs. I decided to go to law school. I was 35, ready to downsize, and made what I now know was a really stupid choice.
I decided to live in the dorm.

Quit laughing! It seemed perfect. Newly remodeled, single rooms, parking, dining hall, walking distance to my daily classes, and no bathroom to clean.

Resident Assistants and rules to ensure a harmonious communal living environment.

I said stop laughing!

Never having studied anthropology, I was unacquainted with the sub-species undergradis-idiotus and had spent little time with this odd primate in its natural habitat.

It wasn’t the stereos. As an adult, my system beat anything they could throw at me. I see your gangsta rap and raise you Waylon Jennings (to watch their little hipster heads explode). It wasn’t my upstairs neighbor and her boyfriend (squeak, squeak, SQUEAKSQUEAKSQUEAK, squeak, silence (oops).)

No, it was the inability of these young ladies, these future arbiters of fashion and captains of industry, these mothers of generations yet unborn, to walk like upright homo-sapiens.

There were the horses: “clippity-clomp, clippity-clomp, clippity-CLOMP.”

The buffalos: “STOMP STOMP STOMP.”

The Doppler air-raid sirens: “sssssscccccrrrrRREEEEEEEEEEEAAaaaaammmmmmm.”

Next door was a biology graduate student. She left after scoring a fellowship. It seemed that being on a trawler in the Arctic Circle beat dorm life.

My petition for contract release was denied. So, I learned to love the law while loathing the dorm.  

::cue college memories::

Hearing the usual ruckus in the hall, I stepped out of my room and saw the RAs screeching, “fly little butterfly, be free,” while galloping up and down the hall flapping their arms. The rule-enforcers greeted my gobsmacked expression with sullen muttering.

I was leaving for class when a girl skipped (yes, skipped) past, carrying a laundry basket. I said she might want to slow down. Glaring at me, she said she was in a hurry. I pointed down the hall at the line of laundry that had bounced out of her basket with every skip and told her then she’d better hurry. Cue pouty silence and resentful collection of scattered thongs.

Poor things. They’d escaped to college only to have their mom move in across the hall.

The final straw came at dark-thirty in the morning during midterms. A flock had gathered in the study room (supposedly closed at eleven) and every time they mastered something, they celebrated with a clap/stomp/scream cheerleader routine. Awake now, I gave them the law-student-glare-of-death as I shuffled to the bathroom.

The next day the dorm president summoned me and said the girls had filed a complaint against me for (wait for it) racial discrimination and harassment. Campus hate crimes.

I was told to appear before a student court on Monday. After I stopped laughing, I told her I wouldn’t be there, it was exam week at the real school and to get back to me when they rescheduled. She seemed quite nonplussed that being called a Klansman didn’t seem to bother me.

I never did get another hearing date. However, I did get a letter saying that my appeal (which I had never filed) was granted and I was free to leave the dorm. Next year when the school catalogs came out, they prominently read that graduate students were welcome only in campus apartments.


A Conversation With My 29-Year-Old Self

By Carole Lee

Fifteen years ago was a critical, pivotal point in my life. I was newly freed from a lifetime of low ponytails with bows, hairspray, low heels, pantyhose and the never ending saga of my soon-to-be ex yelling, “Where’d all my money go?” I don’t think he ever realized that when you pay a bill, the checking account balance goes down. Eh, well. He’s someone else’s problem now. There are times when I really wish I could have a heart-to-heart with my 29-year-old self. Unfortunately, I am hard-headed, regardless of which ‘me’ you happen to be dealing with. But if I could have that chat, it might go something like this:

Don’t pluck your eyebrows so painfully thin
At 35, they’ll stop growing back in again
(Seriously, they look really weird now. Eyebrow pencil is not the best look for you.)

Stop with the tanning; your skin’s not refractive
Age spots on wrinkles are quite unattractive
(Maybe you can play them off as really big freckles!)

Bleaching and dyeing your hair is just fine
But to fix it, you’ll need your own credit line
(That one time when you dyed it black? Just don’t.)

Savor each time someone says you look young
At 40, it’ll just be a slip of the tongue
(Pulling your ponytail back tighter to smooth out the wrinkles isn’t fooling anyone.)

Get your hind-end back in school right this minute
Moving is fine, but quitting just isn’t
(There are colleges in Orlando, dummy. Waiting until you are 40 will suck. Trust me.)

Don’t answer the phone when your ex jerk-face calls
Just don’t.
I have no rhyme for that.
Just don’t do it.

When you turn 34, you’ll get married again
Stop searching for it, blondie; you’re getting eye strain
(You’re going to have a lot of fun in your 30s. And most of it will be legal. But you’re not getting re-married for about 5 more years. And yes, you’re marrying that really cute guy that you’re about to visit in Orlando. He stays cute, by the way. But he eventually shaves his head. And pierces his bottom lip. And starts listening to rap music. Focus on the ‘cute’ when that happens. It’ll pass. I hope.)

Speaking of that guy you’ll eventually wed
Don’t question his motives, you’ve not been misled
(Remember the jerk that you’re divorcing? New guy is just like him. Except completely opposite. Let’s put it this way. You won’t ever have to buy Spray and Wash to manage HIS underwear, and he’ll go out at 3 a.m. and buy you ice cream.)

I’m sure there are more things that I should warn you about. Lighten up, don’t think that you are indestructible and don’t fret so much about whether the jerk is being mean to the boys. New Guy is right. Once they’re grown, they’ll have it all sorted out in their own heads. Worrying is going to give you an ulcer. Like, a for-real ulcer.

One final word, and I will leave you alone. Start writing now. I mean it. Don’t give me that look. You can write. You’ll just have to trust me on that. Oh. And don’t try poetry, because you suck at it.