Slaughterhouse Five

slaughterhousefiveAfter years of going to local libraries only to find out that Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five was out of stock, I realized there was really only one option left. So I asked my little brother to buy me it as a birthday present and made it my own. Take that, Sunset Park Library — I WIN!

Anyway, that being said, this is a Vonnegut book so of course there’s a lot of depth and creativity and tons of stuff flying overhead that you don’t necessarily catch on the first, or even second, read. Oh how I miss the days of college literature classes where I could have read this book and then talked and written about it for weeks on end with my equally interested peers. Alas I remain here on my blog where I will essentially dissect a novel by myself. So it goes.

The novel is a great anti-war piece as it shows the horrible effects of war on soldiers who survive and how traumatic PTSD can really be. Billy Pilgrim lives every day suffering flashbacks as he travels through time experiencing war, being taken hostage, and surviving the bombings of Dresden. His flashbacks are intense enough that he believes he is traveling through time to relive these parts of his life again and again. He faces constant nightmares and even has a barbershop quartet set him off into a panic attack because they resemble faces he saw in Dresden. Then he creates an alien abduction in his mind to escape the reality that he has trouble dealing with anymore. Reading about Billy Pilgrim’s life made me intensely unhappy because he seemed like such a bystander to all the huge events that would otherwise cause people immense joy. And it’s all because of a war he entered at an age where he was to young to properly process everything that was happening around him.

Vonnegut reinforces the utter sadness I’m filled of whenever I think of war and the people I know who are intentionally investing themselves in it. The narrator has a voice that seems to say, “This is what happened and it was terrible and we hated it. We saw death and destitution; we were miserable and scared. But it happened regardless and there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’re empty and have to live with what we’ve seen and done for the rest of our lives.” So it goes.

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I Quit


I’ve been talking about it for months, weeks, days and now I finally did it — I quit my job as an Administrative Coordinator and manager of Accounts Payable for a construction company. Cue applause, gasps of shock, and mutters about how I’ll be unemployed and am probably just a naive 20-something.

I quit without having a backup job. It’s not like I wasn’t trying to find one, but I couldn’t. It’s exhausting to work all day then try to search and apply for something new. By the time dinner is done, it’s close to 8 or 9 and at that point I just wanted to rest. And that’s on a day when I don’t have something planned after work. Maybe this should be a red flag that I should’ve stayed with safety and security, there were too many reasons that I needed to leave even without a job to go straight into.

There was this one manager at my job, the accounting manager whose assistant I was originally hired to be, who made my life hell for basically the entire time I worked there. This guy was in his mid-30s and definitely going through some sort of internal crises because he had it out for a friendly short girl ten years younger than him. About three months into my job, he thought I “stabbed in him in the back” because I told my boss I came to work late because I didn’t want to wait outside on the sidewalk to be let inside. My coworkers all consistently came late and no one trusted me enough to give me a key, so when they ran late I had to sit on the sidewalk at 8am. Or I had to sit with the mechanics next door who harassed and annoyed me. I realize it got him in trouble, but it didn’t even occur to me at the time to lie to my boss. What I did pissed this guy off so much that he held a grudge against me for the next year and a half.

After that point, he constantly berated me. One time he told me I looked like I was gaining weight, another time he told me I looked like I didn’t brush my hair. Often he yelled at me because I made simple mistakes for things I was never taught. He made me cry countless times. Still I stayed.

I stayed because I told my parents and family and they told me to be grateful I had a job. They told me that I was fortunate because not many people my age were able to move out and get a job right away. They were right; I don’t begrudge my parents anything. Their generation is used to working its ass off in any field just to make money while my generation wants to do what we love without an emphasis on status or material possession. Different times, different values.

And that was another thing that broke my heart — I wasn’t doing anything I cared about anymore. It’s not surprising that many liberal arts majors graduate and become administrative assistants because although we’re passionate about a specific subject, there’s not a lucrative work force for sociology, anthropology or English majors. It was so disheartening to see all the cover letters flow in after I gave my two weeks notice from other liberal arts students with well-crafted cover letters that spoke of a passion for administrative tasks. I felt differently though. I loved to write, I loved to edit. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12 years old and a copy editor since I first geeked out over grammar studying for the SAT.

The final straw came for me when my grandfather was unexpectedly killed in a car accident. I got the call at 10pm on a Monday night and went home without giving it another thought. I told my boss I would be out for the rest of the week due to a family emergency. Upon my return, I received a card signed by my coworkers and was told I had to use my vacation time for my week off. The vacation time I wasn’t allowed to have for an entire year prior to this and that I was saving for various weekend trips throughout the year. In the end, everything worked out in my best interest, but I was angry and felt disrespected. So I planned when to use the rest of my vacation days and told myself I’d be out by no later than September.

I’ve since met incredible people who inspire me everyday to do what I’m passionate about, regardless of how much effort, commitment, and hard work it will undoubtedly be. I feel so clearheaded and optimistic about my decision. I’m going to find work that I love with people that I love to be around. The only coworker I liked at my old job told me that she didn’t invite a single one of our other coworkers to her wedding and to me that is outrageous — I don’t want to be in denial that the people I spend most of my time with aren’t a huge part of my life.

I’m ready and feeling good about what my future holds for me and I only see myself going up. I have a great support system behind me and I’m genuinely excited to see what comes next. Goodbye construction industry. I thought you’d have more funny, ridiculous stories for me to share, but instead you taught me how to value myself again.

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Robin Williams and My Heartbroken Childhood

robin_williamsI don’t usually care for movies or the lives of celebrities. Namedrop and there’s a very good chance that I’ll have no idea what you’re even talking about. When a popular celebrity dies, I feel empathetic but it doesn’t normally go past that. When the news of Robin Williams’ death reached me, however, I was devastated and speechless.

It’s weird feeling like this because I was a total stranger to him. And he was a stranger to me. What did I know about him outside of his movies and stand up? Honestly, not that much. Jumanji was a gigantic part of my childhood, though. It recalls memories of me going to my mema and grandpa’s house, hanging out and watching this movie obsessively. Every time I went there (which was pretty often), I watched Jumanji. I cherish these memories. They’re memories of my childhood, of when my grandparents were still alive, of when my innocence was preserved and my biggest challenges in life were trivial and childish. It brings back times that I can escape to when the present seems daunting or surreal.

There’s other movies that do this for me too of course. But as I grew up, I didn’t find myself impressed with the movies from other actors I idolized as a child like I did with Robin Williams. George of the Jungle will always hold a special place in my heart, but I don’t give a shit about what Brendan Fraser is doing with his professional career anymore. I liked Robin Williams because he was talented. In the course of an hour and a half, I could laugh and also tear up from his impressive acting. In fact, the last movie I saw in theaters before his death was Boulevard at the Tribeca Film Festival and I loved it. I rarely go to the movies and if I do, I usually don’t care much for what I’ve seen (obnoxious, huh?). And yes I had free tickets for the day, but I was only able to see one film and I was pumped that it was a Robin Williams movie.

Robin Williams was a symbol of happiness and silliness. He was the needed joke in a serious situation. There’s no question he was talented, but he was also a good person. He cared about people, he inspired people. There’s countless stories about how people feel like their lives were changed just through watching a Robin Williams movie or from having a chance interaction with him. Even in his death he’s inspiring people to open up the discussion about the severity of depression and suicide. It brings to light the fact that even though someone may seem well-adjusted and “okay” on the outside, there’s endless emotions and thoughts that a smiling face can easily hide. I think we were all pretty fooled in this instance.

I feel like I was robbed of a huge part of my childhood. Watching these movies makes me sad when I realize that there isn’t going to be more for me to greedily take in. He touched lives inside and outside of his movies. I value him for what he represents to me as a symbol of my past and the memories he helps conjure up, and I’m left feeling a little sadder knowing I won’t have the opportunity to rejoice over a new Robin Williams movie again.

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Moving and How it has Slowly Destroyed My Soul

moving-dayI’m moving tomorrow! Hooray! Moving is special and unique because it happens infrequently and it signifies an important yet necessary change in life. Unless you’re me, apparently. I guess I should write that I’m a semi-professional mover on my resume because in the two years that I’ve lived in Brooklyn, this is going to technically be my fifth time moving.

The first time was the most necessary. It was the essential move from my parent’s home on Long Island to live with some friends in Brooklyn. It was perfect and stressful and horrible. My parents love me. A lot. And of course they’re two of the most important people in my life, coupled with my goofy younger brothers. But their love is strong, like an iron shackle hanging onto their only daughter/oldest child. I only moved from Long Island — less distance than when I was in college — maybe an hour from my hometown. The day I moved, my mom cried hysterically then adopted a kitten a week later and named her after me. My dad started a fight with me to hide his vulnerabilities in the car ride over. It was both adorable and a reminder of why I so desperately needed to leave.

The second move was necessary, but not as crucial. It was more a move to save my rapidly depleting happiness. The new apartment was fun and enjoyable at the best times and tense and depressing at the worst. I became the head cleaning lady (another line for the resume) until I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that I needed out. Conveniently I had a friend moving into town who was looking for a roomie. What could go wrong, right? Apparently everything.

I committed to moving out and someone was found to take my room. In the meantime, I moved my stuff over to my new apartment a week before the lease would start. We still didn’t have a third roommate, but I wasn’t too worried (read: I was freaking out). We were moving into a place that a friend of a friend lived at — I was under the impression that she had spoken to her landlord and he agreed to this change. When I tried to talk to him about the apartment, it was apparently news to him and he flipped out on me and told me I wasn’t going to be living there. They rejected us because my friend’s crappy Americorps job on Long Island (which she quit a month later) didn’t pay enough. This news came two days before the “lease” was due to start. My friend was disappointed but felt that it was for the best anyway, and I had to move back in with my parents for a month. *Cue the dramatic ‘dun dun dun’ music.*

So my third move was the move back to Long Island. My parents gave my old bedroom to my little brother, so when I stayed with them I slept on the basement couch. Staying with my ex meant that I could sleep in an actual bed, so I basically lived at his parent’s place for that month. There was a lot of stress and little sleep with commuting back and forth from Long Island to Brooklyn for work. Me and my ex fought a lot, and I think it’s safe to say that this move ruined my relationship in a way that was irreparable but that we ignored for a few more months. I made the decision to live by myself, but after some consideration proposed the idea of living together with my ex. “Hey, we kinda hate each other right now. Wanna make it so we can’t escape each other for awhile?” Good going, Nicole. The way I saw it was that I would be living in this place and paying for rent, utilities, and food by myself and he would be there almost all of the time anyway not paying for shit. It didn’t seem fair, and he agreed, so we came to the decision to move in together.

Then the fourth move was in with my ex boyfriend, who is my ex boyfriend for a reason. It worked for a few months and I was excitedfunny-pictures-new-york-cats-hate-their-apartments about it, but I always had this feeling like I had forced him into this because I kinda had. He reassured me time and again, and then one day we got in an argument over some insubstantial thing. He decided the relationship wasn’t worth it, that I had forced him to move there, and in two weeks time he was moved out completely and hasn’t spoken to me since.

I stayed in the apartment mostly because I didn’t really have much of a choice and also because I was sick of moving, if you can believe that. I was less upset about the ending of the relationship than I expected, which was eye-opening in a very depressing way, but the place still dripped with memories of my ex boyfriend. I wasn’t exactly planning to re-sign the lease.

Now I’m at my fifth, and hopefully final for at least awhile, move. I’m moving in with a close friend who I used to work with, and I’m pretty excited about it. In my past moving situations, I had doubts and apprehensions that I suppressed until they were proven true. I’m done ignoring my inner voice and intuitions, though — this time they’re cheering me on and I feel fully confident with my decision.

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Look Me in the Eye

I juLook Me in the Eyest finished (like yesterday morning) Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, AKA the brother of one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs. It was an honest and funny read about his life with mostly undiagnosed Asperger’s (he was diagnosed at age 40 I believe).

He’s so aware of his condition and able to write with such genuine introspection that it makes everything he writes feel so real. The struggle is actually real, and it’s brought on by undiagnosed disorders and all the repercussions of them. Robison evaluates his habits and compares them to someone who doesn’t have Asperger’s, then tries to imitate how he has observed others acting so he can fit in better. It’s very interesting to be able to get this sort of insight into how someone’s disorder effects them, and I truly enjoyed his awareness of societal norms juxtaposed with how Asperger’s makes him stand out as “different.” I think this novel offers a very unique perspective, and it isn’t boring to read, either — he has a humorous voice and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his life.

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10 Important Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years

25thI’ve hit another milestone, which is basically what I feel like I’ve been doing since I turned 16. For the past month and a half, I’ve been attempting to compose a list of important lessons I’ve taken away from life in these short (long?) 25 years. Initially I was going to do a list of 25 things, but that would be a long ass post that no one would read. So I cutcutcut and here we are! Hopefully it doesn’t come off as preachy because that certainly isn’t what I was going for. I feel like, especially lately, I’ve come to a lot of conclusions due to some pretty crazy life experiences, and naturally I wanted to share them with the anonymous readers of my blog.

  1. Who gives a shit what strangers in public think of you. High school me wouldn’t be caught dead going outside without straightening my hair until it was a nightmare of split ends, doing my whole “thick black eyeliner, emo girl” thing. Now it’s a miracle if I can make it through a train ride without my head falling backwards, mouth dropping open, and drooling on myself. These people will probably never see me again, so why do I care if the bags under my eyes or the food I spilled on jeans (pretty much a daily occurrence) bother them?
  2. Family members are the perfect people to help you at your lowest. Time and time again when a problem arises or I find myself in a situation where it feels impossible to recover, my family is there to pick me up. Even if we usually don’t see eye-to-eye, there are a lot of simple reassurances that a close family member can offer. Plus endless hugs.
  3. The people who complain the most are often the ones with the least to complain about. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. Hell, I’ve DONE it plenty of times. But once you’re faced with a true tragedy, it’s easier to listen to people complain about how annoying their day was as a distraction from your own problems.
  4. Being single is the perfect opportunity to rediscover yourself. I touched on this in my Valentine’s Day post, but I honestly love being single. I love prioritizing myself and working to make myself a happier Nicole every day, and this is something that I’m truly able to get from not having to worry about a significant other. Relationships are fun, but personally I feel like I’m a better, more content person when I’m single. Which is…depressing…Oh well, OVER IT.
  5. On that note…Prioritizing yourself isn’t selfish. Of course it’s nice to care about other people, and I’m not saying we should only care about ourselves all the time. I don’t even do that (I also like my cat!). We should recognize that making ourselves happy is really what matters most because we’re the ones living our lives — not our best friends, not our parents, not our significant others. Worry about yourself before worrying about the rest.
  6. Having a job that you enjoy is absolutely integral. After working a job that makes me miserable pretty much every day for the last year and a half, I’m realizing how absolutely important it is to work somewhere that I am excited to wake up for. Chasing down a dream job is hard work, but getting there is part of the fun and where you do a lot of growing.
  7. Having expectations often leads to disappointment, and maybe that’s because you already know what the outcome will be. I feel like when I’m excited for a date or seeing a friend or really anything, it ends up not being as great as I thought it would be. And maybe I always knew it’d be that way. Maybe deep down I had this quiet voice trying to tell me that there were signs that the date would probably suck, or that hanging out with my friend wasn’t realistic for when we planned it. But instead of admitting it to myself, I built it up into this incredible fantasy that ultimately doesn’t come to be. This is all simply speculation, but if I’m being completely honest with myself, it’s usually the case.
  8. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do the things you love to do. It seems like such a weird concept, but after I graduated, I fell into a rut where I stopped doing so many of the things I was passionate about (yoga, cooking, writing). These have all been things I have to make myself find time to do, but the payoff is always worth it because I’m doing something I love and enjoying the hell out of it.
  9. Being nice is great, but it shouldn’t come at the price of compromising yourself. I’m realizing more and more that as great as it is to be nice to people and try to help as much as possible, it leads to me getting taken advantage of often. I have to figure out how to walk the fine line between being helpful and also being self-assured enough to not let people use me.
  10. People are hypocrites. I’m hypocritical. You’re hypocritical. We’re all hypocritical, yeah! We all need to calm down and be honest with ourselves, even if it means admitting to believing something you might be ashamed to believe. It’s silly and deep down, you know the truth.
  11. BONUS: Life is way more enjoyable when you can laugh at it. Did you just fall down the stairs? Trip in public? Spill food on yourself? Find yourself in a bizarre/horrible social situation? Laugh it off. These are circumstances that I find myself in fairly often (seriously…), and now I’m in the habit of giggling about it and waiting for the next ridiculous thing to happen.
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A Sinner’s Wedding

I wrote this for an old prompt and realized I never posted it!



“I, Victoria, take you Paul, to be my husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”

My husband stood next to me in a crisp black tuxedo with a baby blue tie on. His dark brown hair was recently cut and parted to the left. His brown eyes crinkled in a smile making his freckles dance and I knew that this was genuinely the happiest he ever felt. I smiled back as I looked into the face of the person I loved, my best friend. Icy blue eyes, with bouncy blonde curls shaping a round, tanned face. The light green dress I chose, mostly because I knew how well it would compliment her, made her radiate with warmth and energy. I was in love with the most beautiful bridesmaid at my wedding.

Paul’s freckled cheek obscured my vision as he came in for the kiss, catching me completely off guard. I guess he said yes. If anything, my awkward unawareness must have made me look more endearing to the guests, because I heard a few aww’s and giggles from the first rows. I was a married woman now and it happened quicker than I thought it would.

It wasn’t a huge ceremony, and Paul and I walked out holding hands to the crowd of congratulations awaiting us. People threw rice in my face and I watched my mother, my two sisters, three of my aunts, and both grandmothers making the sign of the cross and muttering rapidly to themselves. My father reached me first with glossy eyes and a red nose.

“My little angel,” he cracked. “My girl.”

My eyes started a well up a little and I beamed at him. It reassured me to see how confident he was in the path I chose at least. “Oh, daddy.”

He hugged me and rested his head on my shoulder letting out a sigh. “God’s going to watch over you two. Ya’ll will be protected by our Lord.”

“Thanks, daddy. I know.”

I headed for the car with my new husband followed by a flock of female family members. We squished into a limousine, making the lavish space feel cramped and humid. My head swirled with southern accents and praise for Jesus while I watched one of my aunts as she finished up prayers on her Rosary beads. Sensing my growing anxiety, Paul squeezed my sweating hand. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring the desired comfort and only helped raise my heartbeat. I was looking for a smaller and less coarse hand to hold. The idea helped bring my anxiety to a more manageable level.

We arrived at the banquet hall where the reception would be held. Paul and I decided on having a modest wedding with our few close friends and family members. His family was on the small side while mine spanned halfway across Arkansas. Recently though a lot of relatives had discovered California and marijuana,  leaving us with our bibles and a sour taste in our mouths.

We walked inside and my other, less publicized reason for never wanting to leave ran up to me, embracing me in a hug that I dreamt about. A wave of fresh flowers and warm vanilla sugar rushed up my noise and I held my breath to keep the scent captive.

“Oh my goodness, girl, you’re MARRIED!” She squeezed me tighter and my wedding finally made sense if it kept me at this moment for longer. “I’m gonna miss you so much!”

Fear gripped my heart as my moment was destroyed. “Miss me?” I said barely above a hoarse whisper.

“Of course!” she leaned back and her curls bounced with her. “Well now that you’s a married woman, we ain’t gonna be able to hang out as much! I sure will be lonely ‘round here. Heck, maybe I’ll move. I have some cousins over at California and boy, do they love it. Maybe I’ll make a visit out soon and see if I like it much!”

“Gina, don’t be insane, I’ll never leave you behind! I love you!” I felt like the words were coming out of mouth too quickly already and knew if I didn’t slow down now I might lose control and destroy a life or two. I took a deep breath to gather myself and steady my shaking hands.

“You know you’re my closest friend. I can’t just forget you since I have a husband now. That’s just plain crazy.”

Gina smiled and replied, “Well good, because I feel like I would just hate California. It’s so big, I can’t even imagine! I’d be so dang lost!”

We both laughed, and while I was preoccupied, my hand took the initiative that I was always too afraid to make. It found its way into the soft, warm sanctity of her small left hand and prepared itself for a long stay. Her laugh trailed off and her big blues looked into my boring brown eyes, and I recognized the fleeting look of another girl afraid to disobey God.

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Post-Surgery Opposite of Jitters

About an hour after surgery. Attractive, right?

About an hour after surgery. Attractive, right?

Well it happened. I survived my first surgery and went through a pretty hellish recovery. Please read the following as a somewhat dramatic girl with the pain tolerance of a three year old.

I’ve never had a nose bleed before, and after my surgery, I was thrown into the world of perpetual bleeding, which was alarming to say the least. At first anyway. If my nose were to start gushing blood right now, I’d probably pull some gauze out of my bag and just roll with it (seriously — I have tissues hidden all over because this keeps happening to me).

If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that you cannot trust a doctor when they tell you that the recovery isn’t that bad and it’s a minor surgery. Like, no shit they think that. They perform these surgeries back-to-back weekly! I went into this telling people I’d be fine, I’ll be back at work in three days, it’s a minor surgery — no biggie! YES BIGGIE. Me saying this. Me. Nicole Ortiz. Telling people it’d be fine. I want to go back in time, punch myself in the nose, and then as I sit there crying in shock say, “IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE.”

So yeah, it sucked. CLEARLY. I was stuck in bed for about six days with the company of a cute,

Day Two: At least one of us was happy.

Day Two: At least one of us was happy.

overprotective kitty. I got exhausted and winded if I walked up a flight of stairs, and I couldn’t go anywhere without my nose leaking all sorts of colorful goodness. I couldn’t sleep well because…duh, I just got surgery on my damn nose and I had to sleep basically sitting upright. The pain medicine I was prescribed made me lightheaded and dizzy to the point that I couldn’t look at my computer screen for too long without my vision doubling. And there was so much nausea. I had no appetite, but whenever I did manage to force some food down, my body decided that it was the worst thing that could happen and it would consider throwing up for the next hour or so. Gotta love those small print side effects.

This past Monday I had the splints removed from my nose, which was just about one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever had to deal with. I walked around self-conscious as hell because I was unable to smile without looking like a serial killer (the placement of the splints caused this, I SWEAR) and because I had two chunks of rubber visibly stuck in my nose. When my doctor asked how I was feeling, I told him to end this now and put the whole ordeal behind us. Which he did, luckily. But not before making me sit in the office waiting room for three and a half hours to simmer in my anxiety. Then while cleaning me up, he shoved two gigantic q-tips up my nose and laughed at me because I looked like “such a sad human being.” Cute, right? Why yes, I am single, boys.

Here it is. The creepiest, surgeriest smile.

Here it is. The creepiest, surgeriest smile.

All this being said, would I do the surgery anyway if I knew what it would be like? Hell fucking yes.

I can BREATHE. Out of both of my nostrils! This has never happened in my entire life. Do you understand how weird and amazing that is? Air feels so cold and refreshing in my nose. I can now smell out of my right nostril, which is another thing that I’ve never been capable of. Currently I’m in the process of training myself to not breathe through my mouth as often because it really isn’t as necessary as it once was.

My friend who also got this surgery done told me how foods taste so much better. And she’s damn right they do! I ate Chipotle and Chinese food (whatever, judge me for my unhealthy habits — I haven’t been able to eat in two weeks.), and there were so many flavors! I’ve been missing out on the mastery of subtle spicing for my entire life. I can’t wait to eat more delicious things and experiment with my own cooking in a whole new way.

Better picture to redeem myself and show that sometimes I can look normal.

Better picture to redeem myself and show that sometimes I can look normal.

And in addition to all the better breathing/smelling/tasting, my nose is also straighter! It was never really that crooked, but I did have a little bump on the bridge of it. That bad boy is gone now! AND I think my voice is different! It’s very strange, but I feel like I sound clearer — my voice was always a little bit nasally, but now it sounds smoother.

Gone are the days of continuous sniffling and mouth breathing. I’m a new girl with a new nose, and damn does it feel amazing.

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Pre-Surgery Jitters

This picture is hilarious to me, but also a perfect idea of what my situation is.

This picture is hilarious to me, but also a perfect idea of what my specific situation is like.

I’m having surgery tomorrow afternoon to correct my deviated septum and I’m feeling a mixture of intense fear and anxious exhilaration.

I’ve had one surgery before in my life. It was mouth surgery and the doctor waited too long so, unfortunately, the novacaine wore off. And…it…was…horrible. I was crying and bleeding and I felt/saw everything, and then my mind kind of shut down for awhile as I sat shaking in shock.

I know, I know — these are two incredibly different scenarios. I’m going the extra step past novacaine to being put under general anesthesia, but that also frightens me. The idea that I’ll sleep and wake up drastically different just seems very surreal and scary to me.

As of right now, I can’t smell out of one of my nostrils and the other one is almost completely obstructed. When the doctor showed me the x-ray, he asked if I’d ever broken my nose (nope, but thanks, doc!). Since my left nostril is almost completely blocked off, I’m constantly sniffling because my nose is trying to remove the obstruction, aka itself. I always have to breathe out of my mouth, which is problematic with my asthma and has always caused complications whenever I do any sort of physical activity. When I’m running and try to regulate my breathing in my nose and out through my mouth, I feel like I’m trying to breathe through a pillow.

Breathing issues have always been a huge source of anxiety for me and I’m glad that I can finally solve this. I didn’t even know it was something that needed a solution or that was fixable — I thought it was just how life was. I imagine I’ll be able to breathe way better, and that my senses of smell and taste with greatly improve. Who knows how many things I’ve been eating that will soon taste TOTALLY different! I’m excited to see how things change. And of course I’ll update with a post-surgery blog entry (thanks for the idea, Molly!). The positives most definitely outweigh the negatives in my mind, because my situation is pretty extreme. I’m excited to smell and taste the world in a whole new way.

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Birthday Anxieties

birthdayI wrote this for my first writing club prompt ever almost a year ago. It’s probably one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written.


“Well, today is the day,” I told myself as I lay under the protection of my blankets, as still as a corpse with my dread.

Today was the day I’ve been pretending to look forward to while secretly having anxiety attacks over for months. The day that every single person I encountered loved to remind me would only come once, accompanied with a smug grin that I read as thankful to not be me. The day of my daughter’s fourth birthday party was finally here and after months of careful preparation, I felt like someone threw all my organized plans into the wind and laughed as they blew away.

I prepared myself mentally for the mess and made to-do lists in my mind that I checked and re-checked. I thought of everything and knew it, but there was still the one part I could not come to terms with. And for a well-accomplished single mother of thirty, I felt incredibly childish and in need of a savior.

My alarm started chiming and interrupted my thoughts, but let’s be realistic – how could I have slept in today? As if on cue, I heard the pitter-patter of little feet coming down the hallway towards my bedroom. A knock that wasn’t about to wait for any response came, and the face of my birthday girl peeked around the open brown door.

“Mommy?” A hesitant pause and then, “Mommy, are you awake?”

I put a smile on my face before rolling over and answered, “Yes, baby. Good morning!”

A ball of energetic color flew at me and was now bouncing up and down on my bed. Curly brown hair shadowed me on each jump.

“It’s. My. BIRTHDAY!” she said each word as her feet hit the comforter, with a grin that wouldn’t stop growing. She crashed down into a cross-legged sitting position and I grabbed her up and kissed her forehead.

“I know, sweetie, I remember!” I said as I moved her into my arms and started rocking her in my lap. “So, what do you want for breakfast this morning?” Her eyes lit up at the prospect of being able to make the first big decision of the day. I made a check on my mental to-do list.

“Pancakes! No, waffles! With syrup! And french fries!” Her eyes were glossed over as she thought about the myriad of options she had. If only such a simple decision could be the hardest part of my day, too. The doorbell rang and I heard it echo through the still sleeping house.

“Wanna answer the door while Mommy gets dressed real quick?” Another present, another check, and her eyes grew to take up half her face. She blurred out of the room again towards the front door.

I began changing out of my pajamas and heard, “It’s Aunt Meg and TYLER!” screamed at me from the front of the house. My sister Meg and her six-year-old son here to reinforce that this was going to be a day to remember. A soft knock at the door came, and Meg was walking in as I was buttoned up my blouse.

“Oh my god, are you so excited?” She came over to me and hugged me. “This day is going to be over before you know it! They only turn four once.”

I turned my back to her to pick up my shoes. Was I going to have to hear these statements for the rest of my life? I knew my daughter was going to grow up faster than I wanted and that each day would literally only happen once. It was on the border of comical and annoying how often people opted to tell me that.

“Come on, I’m making Sammy some waffles and french fries for breakfast. Birthday girl’s choice,” I responded to her arched eyebrow.

We went into the kitchen and saw two eager, angelic faces peeking over the table. I rummaged around in the freezer for food. Unfortunately I wasn’t a very inventive cook, which was another stressor for this whole party.

I ordered enough food to feed the thirty-five people coming at least three times. Sandwiches, salads, pastas, and finger foods. My mother was bringing the giant ice cream cake meant for fifty and the sandwiches since she was the only person I knew that had enough room for that much food.

I took a deep breath to suppress the nerves that were beginning to flutter around again as I set the waffles and fries on the table. Tyler looked shocked, but it didn’t stop him from covering his plate in syrup as soon as it was put in front of him.

The doorbell rang again and my eyes widened with anxiety and fear. My heart felt like it had stopped to prevent me the horror of seeing who it might be.

Oh god,” I thought. “He’s here. He’s here! I can’t do this!” I wanted to run away and hide in my bed again.

I heard a soft bahhh as I forced myself to walk to the front door and the fear melted away. My shoulders went back down and I let out of gust of air. Safe for now.

I opened the door to find a large, balding man with a baby goat and a sheep. His shirt and hands were stained with dirt and other questionable brown splotches. In one hand he held two ropes leashed to the animals and the other had planks of wood and coils of wire.

“I’m the petting zoo guy,” he said as he reeled in the curious animals sniffing at my skirt. “I’m Louis.”

“Right,” I said slipping between the goat and Louis. “Let me show you where you can set up.”

Louis and his animals followed me into the backyard, past his truck where I heard more bahh’s and, I swear, a moo. We walked through the gate into my transformed yard where two covered buffet tables, three tents (in case it rained, of course), and enough chairs to seat Sammy’s entire pre-school class plus parents waited. I directed Louis to a shaded area in the corner of the yard where he could set up his pen and lay down the hay. And, somehow, I just knew that I would be picking up that hay for the next five years.

My shoulders were already feeling tense again as I returned to the house and left Louis to set up the zoo. It’d be best if he just showed up already and I wouldn’t have to deal with this dread clinging to my muscles anymore. I wish he wouldn’t show up at all. It was an empty hope because Sammy specifically asked that he be here today, and I couldn’t disappoint my daughter.

I checked off the petting zoo in my mind and the doorbell rang again. I hardly had time to see the mess the kids made of their breakfasts, but I knew it was substantial.

“Meg, can you clean Sammy up and help her change into her birthday dress while I get the door? I think some friends might be here.” I gave my daughter a sneaky smile as her eyes lit up again. She grabbed Meg’s wrist with a sticky hand and pulled her towards the stairs. Maybe this day wouldn’t be as horrible as I imagined if I got to see her face light up all day.

As I opened the door with a more optimistic spirit this time, a chorus of incomprehensible screams smacked me in the face. I saw shiny glittering presents, balloons, and I think someone even threw confetti in the air.

“Wow,” I started as I tried to gather myself while presents were shoved into my arms and people walked past me into the house. “Hello…er, everyone.”

It looked as if the entire class had carpooled together in five cars. “At least I won’t have to keep leaving the party to answer the door,” I thought, trying to deceive my panicking brain with positive thoughts.

I began to check off another part of my list and close the door, but not before a hand shot through to stop it. “Oh, and don’t forget about me!” came a deeper voice. A voice I knew only far too well from the darkest depths of the twisted part of my mind.

He pulled the door from my hand and I saw his evil face veiled in a shadow. Covered in shimmering fabric with colorful face paint and a curly orange wig, he was a cliché straight from my nightmares. My voice caught in my throat where my heart was also trapped as it tried to escape. And before I could do anything, he was walking past me into the house, squeaking as he moved.

“I’m Ben, but you can call me Bubbles today,” he said with a grin painted on his face. “Four years old, huh? I’ve got two of my own; they grow up so darn fast! This is one of those moments that’ll only happen once, but she’ll remember it forever, y’know.” He laughed a high-pitched, escalating laugh. I followed Bubbles the clown into my once safe house and made a last mental check for the day that my daughter and I would remember forever.

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