Bully Pulpit

English: A Bully Free Zone sign - School in Be...
English: A Bully Free Zone sign – School in Berea, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is April 10th.  A date that is etched into my brain for one annoying reason.  Today is my childhood bully’s birthday, and for some reason, I can never forget it.  A girl who made my life miserable from about grade 5 until freshman year of high school.

I don’t think of this girl often, as it’s been 20 years since I last saw her, but every April 10th I remember it’s her birthday.  I hope wherever she is, she’s happy, as I can assure you she was not as a kid.

I met D’Vile (Ha!  Get my play on words?!) when I picked her mom to babysit my sister and me.  It was between a lady who had a nice boring house that abutted my school or her mom, who had a super fantastic playground and a POOL in the backyard.  Pretty easy decision when you’re 9.  It started out fun enough.  Her mom was nice.  A little possessive of food (meaning I couldn’t grab Little Debbie’s whenever I wanted, which to me, was the End. Of. The. World.), but otherwise a good babysitter.  Her dad worked 3rd shift at the Jeep Plant and was chronically laid off.  (Sidenote:  This was my first real experience with a loser.  He basically scared the crap out of me.  Lord help his kids (never us thank God) if he had to get his paddle, which was hung on the wall as decoration, for punishment.  It was sadistic.  Not because of the paddling, but because of the psychological torture leading up to said paddling.  Crazy.  No wonder this girl was messed up.  He was often laid off and was always smoking and drinking beer even before we left for school.  His favorite pastime was recording on VHS Looney Toon cartoons on the TV in some sad desperate attempt to “get them all.”  (Poor dude, all that time wasted, I can buy him a complete DVD set now for $50).  And another fun fact, he had a “secret” room.  One with a padlock on it in the basement.  As kids, we never thought anything of it, except it had plants and a lot of neon lights in there when we did see the door open.  In grownup hindsight, dude was growing his own medicinals if you know what I’m sayin.

Anyways, I’m just providing some background.  Here’s the thing that freaks me out and makes me kind of a crazy parent – my parents never knew any of this.  Why?  Because I didn’t think they needed to know.  First, I had no idea about the pot.  Second, they never hit or yelled at me or my sister, so I thought this was just the way it was in their house.  They basically were good to us; it was their own kids they fucked with.

Anyways, back to D’Vile.  It started kind of slow and as a kid, I didn’t recognize it.  First, there was another girl her mom watched that she was just plain ol’ mean to.  They blamed her for everything that went wrong, made her feel crazy, fat and ugly, all for no apparent reason, except maybe D’Vile’s mom didn’t like her mom.

She eventually left.  I met this girl again in my 20s.  We ended up working in adjoining cubicles at my 8 months of torture call center job, when I recognized her name.  She survived and turned into a nice normal adult, but has very different memories of her time there, but it still has the same crazy undertones I remember.

After she left, they turned on my sister.  I don’t know why they never picked on me, I think it’s because of my wallflower tendencies.  I remember one day they pulled her chair out from under her as she was sitting down just to be mean.  As her older sister, I started to cry.  Cry because no one had ever been mean like that to my sister (besides me) and I didn’t know how to stop it.  This girl and her little brother terrified me.  Never once did I think to tell my parents.

So, this girl and I were friends.  Friends in that I was terrified to not be her friend.  We were in the same class that year, and I noticed she was mean to others around me and I didn’t like it.  I never had the balls to stand up to her and defend any of my classmates, I just stood by hoping she wouldn’t turn on me.

As time went on, we got older and eventually stopped being watched by her mom, and after a few years of this “friendship,” it got too much for me.  Some straw broke the camel’s back.  I can’t remember what now, but I remember my real best friend and I decided to take a stand.  We completely stopped talking to her, which at 10 was totally the right way to go about ending a friendship with an unstable crazy bully.

Let’s just say that didn’t go over well.  Over the course of the next few years, all culminating at a rough inner city middle school, she made me and mostly, my best friend’s, life a living hell.  She called my friend butterball and other fat names when we got off the bus each day.  She’d follow us home.  Things never got physical thank God, but then, girls are much more sadistic about bullying.  They go for the jugular, and by jugular I mean tear into an 11 and 12 year old girl’s physical appearance.  It was pretty brutal.

By now my parents knew, but were pretty much helpless to stop it.  I mean, she wasn’t physical, just threatening mentally.  Plus, these were the 90s, waaay before anti-bullying campaigns became popular and schools became more involved.  It was just us kids figuring it out on our own, in a very Animal Farm/Lord of the Flies type of way.  (See?  I did read in 8th grade.)

Things got better when my best friend and I went to the private high school and she continued onto the public high school.  We no longer saw her and thought it was over.  Then, one summer we started getting prank calls.  This was pre-technology anything.  Heck, we still had rotary phones in our house and caller ID hadn’t yet been invented.  Now, as the babysitter of my younger sister, initially these calls were terrifying.  I was alone in a house all day long with my sister and some weirdo kept calling, breathing into the phone and then hanging up.  We called the police and they put a tap on our line (or the phone company did, I can’t remember.)  All we had to do was pick up the phone each time for it to record.  I don’t know how we figured out it was her, but we did.  One day she called and hung up over 200 times, which I knew because I had to keep track of and pick up the phone each time.

Nothing really happened when they tracked it back to her.  I think we pressed charges, but not much was done.  I think they found out she was stealing from someone else and got in trouble.  Her parents divorced.  I went to high school, tried to fade into the background and not draw any attention to myself in true introvert fashion, pretty much hated it, and survived. Life got dramatically better in college and I grew up to what I am now – a fairly confident 30-something.

I wish I could take my 33 year old brain back to that 8 year old girl I once was.  I would tell her what I was confirming in my young brain – that this girl is batshit crazy, you should tell your parents, and get away from her and her family at all costs.  That you and your best friend were beautiful, funny and smart and to never let some scrawny insecure little girl make you doubt that.

Funny thing is, this girl still has a bit of power over me.  Right now, I am a wee bit afraid of putting this on the interweb for fear she will find me again and start all over again.  But, with some preliminary research, I am pretty sure this girl is mostly off the internet grid.  So maybe, if we’re real quiet, it won’t get back to her.

I guess to wrap up, bullies still scare the crap out of me.  My son is just starting to experience mild forms of it, but so far, we have escaped mostly unscathed.  I am sure this is temporary as my kid is quirky, intelligent and funny in a weird way, which will eventually make him a target.  And my daughter is fairly timid in her interactions with kids her age and basically lets her friends run all over her.  I am absolutely clueless on how to handle this.  Do I helicopter over them, so I am not largely unaware as my parents were?  Do I teach them when, where and how to defend themselves?  How do I teach them biting sarcasm and dry humor that has become my defense as an adult against big meanies?

I have no idea.  Guess I’ll Google it or ask around if and when the time arises that I have to deal with it.  I am just terrified some punk is going to stub out the quirky, unique, adorable strengths of my children way before they realize it’s those traits that make them awesome.  I never want my kids to feel they have to fit into some box of preconceived normal.  I want them to think for themselves and be leaders.  I want them to have best friends who look out for them and love them for who they are, not because they are good at a sport or drive a fancy car (not likely on both accounts – they do have us as parents.).

I just hope I’m doing something right and can guide them through as best I can.  What are your thoughts?  What are you doing for your kids?  I’m all ears.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

Being an introvert has its challenges. Being that any sort of unknown scares the hell out of me and the fact that I avoid large gatherings like the plague, finding and making friends is not a skill I possess naturally.  It also doesn’t help that I also have a slightly introverted husband who, as a means of introduction, tells new people we meet that we are “socially awkward and don’t have a lot of friends.”  aawwwkkward.  

But, the perk of being an introvert is, the friends I have made, are long-time, loyal ride and die beotches.   The people I have opened up to have, over time, come to love me in all my weirdness.  Most of my friends, I’ve had for 15+ year, and I will have them forever.  (Mainly because they remember me when I was thin.  Never forget!!!!!  The skinny girl is trapped in there somewhere!)

The best part of these friends is that even though most of them are scattered across the country, we can pick up where we left off and after a lengthy catch up session, we are back cracking the same jokes and acting like we live next door to each other.   

Before we go any farther, I don’t mean to shortchange my close range friends on this post.  Know I love you all, old and new, and am so thankful you are HERE with me in this God forsaken frozen tundra we call northwest Ohio.  NEVER LEAVE ME!!!   We have lost too many already!!!!  Two of my best friends are right here and know I couldn’t live without you.  One gets to see me in all my crazy glory EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Give this woman an award because let’s face it, I can get seriously annoying when exposed to in large doses.  The other gets to see my lovely face mostly on Sundays and Mondays, when I put on my most angelic face and pretend I am not cray cray.  But, she sees through the facade and loves me anyways.  These girls make me laugh daily and I pray they never abandon me for greener pastures, or say, popular parks ruled by a big mouse.  And I can’t leave out my blood related friends, my sister, but she already got a post, so quit yer bitchin.  And my sisters by marriage, who have put up with me almost as long as my actual sister, I love you three more than you’ll ever know.   (But, seriously SK, when are the Girl Scout cookies coming???) 

This post is for my long distance friends, two of which I had the wonderful pleasure of escaping this freakin freezing weather for a few days and hiding out in Florida with.   

I met these girls in college (remember THIN) and 5 minutes after meeting them, I knew we were soul mates.    Ever meet someone and it just clicks?  Well, that was us.  That was 1997 and even though we are all grown up, we are still closer than ever. 

We couldn’t be more different.  One is a super positive save-the-world social worker, who is seriously the world’s biggest extrovert.  This girl attracts friends like flies.  PEOPLE LOVE HER.  She is one of the most genuine real people you’ll ever meet.    The other is an extremely successful PR genius who is beautiful inside and out.  The one who’s always put together, even when she’s hot and sweaty after a workout.  The one who, after 16 years, still let’s us tease her mercilessly for taking over an hour to get ready every single day.  And me, the neurotic, introverted, long married, mother of two who makes jokes CONSTANTLY.  Especially during the inappropriate moments – that’s when I really shine. 

We have been through it all.   College, hangovers, graduation, job hunts, crazy boyfriends, big moves, promotions, career changes, falling in love, marriage, infertility, sickness, death, postpartum depression, babies.   We are basically married because we hit all the vow highlights.  Love/cherish, sickness/health, good/bad, you get the gist – we are in this until the end that’s for sure. 

I have watched these women grow more beautiful, stronger and smarter with each year.  They make me laugh, help me cry, build me up and support me no matter how far apart we are or how long the time passes between conversations.   We are very different, but share the same love and respect for each other, which makes the bond strong no matter our differences.  Even if one of us did vote for Romney. 

I’ll take these sistas before mistas anyday.

I love you girls and hope this post does you justice. 

Getting Old

For the first time the other day, I really felt old.  I was checking out at Kroger, buying my ton and a half of veggies and fruits for my crazy diet.  Which, by the way, since it is now defunct, does anyone want a head of cabbage?  What the heck am I supposed to do with that?  Is sauerkraut hard to make??  It’s the only thing I can think to do with cabbage that at least one of us will eat.

As I was paying, I overhear the tail end of a conversation between two co-workers.  Two girls were talking and must have realized they both attend/attended the same high school.  The younger girl asked when the older girl graduated, to which she replied 1996.  The younger girl was all like, “OMG, that was the year after I was born!”  What the what???  You are old enough to work and you were born when I was a sophomore in high school?  If I had had much worse luck and God truly decided to punish me for my mischievousness, this girl could feasibly be my daughter???  Holy crap!

Then a few days ago, I drove by my alma mater, Bowling Green State University, on my way to take my son to a doctor appointment.  It’s been 12 years since I graduated and I started waxing nostalgic.    Sometimes I really miss those carefree days.  Although, to say college was not stressful would not be fair.  The stress of being an adult and when I was in college is just different.  I remember the killer math and science classes, which almost put a stop to obtaining my useless degree, because as Barbie would say, “Math is hard!”  These were not my forte for sure.   I remember feeling the pressure that at 20 years old, I should have what I want to do for the rest of my life figured out before college ended, which honestly, I didn’t figure out until 6 months ago, and I’m still not sure.

But I do miss the absolute freedom and the ability to be completely self-centered and responsible for only me.  I think of college as a summer camp to life.  All the freedom of an adult, but 1/3 of the responsibilities.  (Yes, I am very lucky and had VERY supportive parents who made the hard decisions and big tuition payments (mostly), but to my credit, I didn’t disappoint them…right Mom and Dad??)  My life consisted of the following decisions:  Skip class and sleep til 11?  Check.  Eat Spaghetti O’s for breakfast?  Check.  Sleep over with your boyfriend who just happens to live one floor down from you in your dorm?  Check!  God it was great.

I miss the days of smoking weed in some random cornfield with my best friend and his roommate, who got all New Agey when getting high.  This was fun because while he wanted to pass the energy ball (read: nothing) between friends and ooo and ahh over the Earth’s aura (read:  lights from Perrysburg), the rest of us were stifling giggles and naming and making out with cornstalks.  PSA:  WEED CAN MAKE YOU STUPID!  I miss having all my friends in one apartment complex, fondly referred to as Melrose, and the Halloween party thrown by my best girlfriends my first year.  Getting totally drunk in our matching couples’ genie costumes for which we totally won the bottle of Absolut for Best Costume, and then recovering the next day with a nice greasy cheeseburger.  If I drank like that now, I’d be in a coma.   Sitting on a couch for the entire day with your best friend watching the crazy Christian channel where everyone got healed and redeemed and you just made fun of the dramatic screaming and jubiliation.  Playing jeopardy so competitively that no one wanted to be your friend afterwards.   Watching endless hours of Golden Girls and realizing that each of your roommates was one of them. Yes.  I was Dorothy, as I have never been the fun one.  Someone, who shall not be named but who now lives in San Fran was Blanche, one very smart nurse was our lovable Rose and my husband fit perfectly as Sophia, the wise-cracking older person who just made fun of the rest of us.  God those were fun days.

College could be hard, but the stress now sucks way more. I have a mortgage, a car payment, a low-paying but comfortable job (therefore little motivation to achieve higher success), an unemployed husband, and a house I desperately want to scour with a magic eraser the size of a car.  I have two kids who are growing up in a world where kindergartners are expected to be able to publish something on-line by the end of that year (seriously, next year’s new standards), where they can’t play alone in the front yard, and bullying has reached new and terrifying levels.  I have no time for anything because dishes are piled in the sink, the kitty litter needs cleaned, and apparently my daughter needs clean underwear every day, and I only have around an hour a night to do it before falling into an exhausted heap in my bed because I’ve spent the evening after getting home from work making dinner, doing homework and catching up with my kids and husband who I haven’t seen all day.  Heck, the only reason I’m typing this is because I am ignoring the dishes in the sink and my husband has been banned from any 50 Shades action tonight because I have my annual check up tomorrow and I don’t want the doctor to get all judgy down there.    Too much?  Sorry.  That, and he just got Black Ops II because, under the guise of “looking at some cool lamps he saw online,” he took us to Target after dinner and just  happened to see it on the shelf, and just happened to suggest it be my Christmas present to him.   Lamps?  Really, was I born yesterday?  It took staring at the Black Ops shelf, a quick tour through Christmasland and then another run up the boy toys aisles before I had to remind him why we were there.  “Lamps honey remember?”   “Oh yeah! umm, uh, yeah…these!  These right here!  I really think these are awesome!” (insert fake enthusiasm here).

So, would I go back to the easy days of college?  No.  I love my life.  With the crazy hard responsibility comes a strong happy marriage, two hilarious and adorable kids, a good chunk of life experience under my belt and a comfortableness with who I am that at 20, I had no idea even existed.  What I do miss was that all my friends were just a stone’s throw away (we used to call our apartment complex Melrose), and are now scattered across the country as well as the sense of freedom and self-centeredness.  Maybe, we could compromise and just meet back for one week a year and relieve the glory days?  Anyone?   How fun would that be?  Though, I am not sure our 30 something bodies could handle all the alcohol and weed, so we might have to cut it back a little.  And close the bar?  Please no, it just messes up my sleep schedule and the kids will still be up at 6 no matter what time I go to bed.  So – maybe some slight adjustments. Hey, I can dream can’t I?

Ah, good times.  I miss you my friends.  This one’s for you.