Float Fanatics: The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade

The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade is to me what Christmas is to a small child:

  • Exciting
  • Highly anticipated
  • And when it’s over, depression sets in

[I could also add a bullet or two here about drunk people, shouting, and the police—but hey, that’s just my family.]

For the past several years, my organization has had a float in the Mardi Gras Parade here in Burlington, Vermont. Being in the parade is the most fun I’ve ever had. Nothing compares with the thrill of cruising down the main street of your hometown in a ridiculous, tricked-out-trailer, while wearing even more ridiculous, over-the-top costumes, with 25,000 people cheering you on.  I love to watch the crowd smile as they discover each approaching float and I’m always blown away by the sheer amount of joy a fifty cent strand of beads can bring to people’s faces. The invisible (but giant) middle finger we’re all giving Old Man Winter also makes Mardi Gras pretty special.

Amber LeMay sharing her beads at The 15th annual Mardi Gras Parade! A wild day downtown, presented by Magic Hat. Church St., Burlington. Saturday, February 27, 2010. (BEN SARLE/Free Press)

Like all good things, this epic parade time is short-lived. Each float may get about 20-30 seconds in front of each person for a total of 20-30 minutes in the parade. So when you’ve passed the last parade goer, and thrown your last moonpie, it’s common to look at your fellow float riders and say, “Is that it?!”

Erika and I in the Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade last year

But building…ah, that’s a different story, my friends. It literally takes weeks to plan and execute a Mardi Gras float. The ratio of work time to parade time is so disproportionate that most people would call us “crazy” if they ever found out we gave up all Saturdays in the month of February for the 30 minutes of parade glory.  I like to use the word “dedicated.” There’s a huge sense of pride associated with each float because we give it our all, including our blood, sweat, and tears. Emphasis on the word blood.

Our first float build day this year started off with a phone call informing me, “Rob chopped off his thumb and we’re at the ER!”

We hadn’t even pulled out the power tools yet, and people were already losing limbs. In this case, poor Rob had gotten into a fight with a propane heater, and I’m sad to report the fan blade won. But like the trooper he is, I heard him scream in the background “I didn’t chop it off…I just lost some of it. Hang tight and I’ll be back in an hour.”

True to form, he was back in an hour. He looked slightly pale from all the blood loss and had a perpetual thumbs-up from the bandage, but he was ready! The Mardi Gras Parade is a big deal with my crew and nothing was going to stop him from getting our float ready – not even half of his opposable thumb.

Good to go!

We’re just about ready for the big day. The soundtrack is being finalized, the costumes are picked out, and we’re adding some final touches to the float. Basically, we’re ready to rock this city (pssst…that’s a giant hint of our float theme)!

I hope you’ll come out and support the local businesses who are participating, especially HopeWorks, who benefits from the event. And this year, cheer a little louder for every one. You never know what people sacrificed to bring YOU the greatest floats of all time. Cheers!

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2/1/12: Update on Buddy the Cat

First, I just want to say thank you to everyone who keeps asking about Buddy. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get an inquiry from a caring coworker, or a call from a family member about our little guy.  Just last week, my coworker from New Hampshire read on my Facebook page that we were trying to fatten Buddy up, and she brought up a bag of gourmet chicken for him. She told me she and her husband are routing for him and are happy to help.  I should probably add here that they have never met Buddy, and only know his story (and cute little munchkin face) through my posts. Lisa & Rob, thank you so much for not only the delicious food, but for your support. Same goes to everyone else out there.

Now on to the update…             

Buddy has been on his chemo medicine for about a month and we have noticed a huge improvement. He actually has energy again. He’s been playing with toys, going outside, and chasing after his brother (also stealing cheese, licking oil & vinegar off my plate, and chatting up a storm…). Basically, he’s the cat he used to be before cancer. Check out this video of him from earlier in the week:

Today we took Buddus to the vet for a follow up appointment. Knowing the nature of his lymphoma and the fact that it’s “multicentric” (that means wide-spread), we were remaining realistic instead of optimistic.

From feeling him, the vet said his lymph nodes were much smaller. She suggested we do an ultrasound to see just how much smaller. And honestly what they found was shocking:

The giant, cancerous mass in his chest is completely GONE! And the lymph nodes in his stomach are significantly smaller!

Everyone at the veterinary office was stunned, including the Dr. who delivered the results…The same Dr. who voluntarily came in four hours early to see Buddy and do his ultrasound.

How is this even possible after only one month of treatment? How can a mass as big as the one he had, which was cutting off his ability to even breathe, just vanish? Two words: chemo therapy, bitches. It’s a beautiful thing.

We’re certainly not out of the woods, yet. We’re still deeply buried in a forest of uncertainly and mystery (like that analogy?). But one thing is for sure: Buddy has never been a “normal” cat—so why should we expect anything different for his recovery?

Update on Buddy

Three ultrasounds, four needle aspirations and a biopsy later…Buddy the cat is still a medical mystery. And his mom & dad are going broke.

Here’s what we do know:

He has really bad breath (a.k.a. “Stink Breath)

 

 

 He licks cement, the side of our house, and the ground for no known reason.

 

 
He jumps on shoulders without warning (see last post).


He sleeps in cars.

He steals waffles.

He hogs the bed.

It’s a good thing we love him.

Dressing up for September 11th

September 11th, 2001 was a day I had decided to dress up for school. I was a senior at Burlington High School and I had made up my mind to put more “effort” into my wardrobe that year.  In all honesty,  I was also probably trying to impress some boy—who, I can’t remember.

I curled my hair, put on makeup, and wore my brand new purple plaid skirt. God I loved that skirt. I had purchased it over the summer and was just waiting for the perfect fall day to wear it. And I had decided September 11th was that perfect day.

I remember walking through the hallways with my friends, laughing and joking as we made our way to first period.  Mine was Creative Writing. It was 9:00am.

To my surprise, my classroom was pretty much empty. There were only a few students out of the twenty that should be present. Even our teacher wasn’t around.

I had a weird feeling.

“Where’s Ms. Greenman?,” I asked the girl I sat next to.

“No idea,” she told me.

Then Ms. Greenburg walked into the class. With tears in her eyes she told us, “Something’s happened. Please come to Mr. Donoghue’s classroom.”

We walked across the hall and found two classrooms worth of students and teachers huddled around the small social studies tv. No one was speaking. On the television, smoke was pouring out of the World Trade Center.

“What is going on?” I whispered to my friend.

“The World Trade Center is on fire. A plane crashed into it. But no one really knows why.”

At that point, the term “terriorst attack” wasn’t part of our vernacular. Everyone thought this MUST be an accident. A weird, freak accident.

And then we saw the second plane fly into the other tower and explode.

We all screamed when it happened. Some of us cried. And we continued
to watch the television in absolute horror.

I don’t remember much from that moment on. I don’t remember if an announcement came over the intercom. I don’t remember if we continued with the day’s classes or if they sent us all home. I don’t even remember talking to my friends about what we had just seen.

I just remember feeling really confused and really scared.

And what I remember most was a remark from one of the senior boys in my class. He looked at me in disgust and said, “Why are you all dressed up today, huh? Did you know this was gonna happen? I think Amy’s a terrorist!”

That was the last day I ever dressed up for school.

***

Where were you on September 11th? What was your experience like?

Sex, Lies, and Misconceptions

This is what my parents taught me about sex:

• It’s shameful
• It’s wrong
• You’ll get pregnant.

They had a super hard time talking to us about the “birds and the bees.” Come to think of it, they had a hard time to talking to us about everything. When my great aunt died, they broke the news to me by reading a book about death they rented from our church’s basement. It was called “When People Die” or some shit like that. After 20 tearful minutes of them suffering through this supposedly helpful book, I caulked my 8-year-old head to the side and bluntly asked, “So did Aunt Gloria die or something?”

Luckily for me, my school believed in comprehensive sex education. I was able to learn the plumbing there…but it wasn’t easy. Because my parents had such negative things to say about sex, I was embarrassed to really pay attention, to really learn how everything worked. And so I developed a bunch of misconceptions about sex. Two really big ones come to mind:

1) I literally believed semen was green. From all the cartoon photos I saw in class, I swear it was the color of mint ice cream. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I learned otherwise. As a friend told the story of giving her first hand job, she nearly snorted milk out of her nose when I asked, “So how did you get all that gross GREEN stuff off your hands?”

2) I thought you could get pregnant from going to 2nd base. When the same friend missed her (erratic, brand new) period, the other girls and I CONVINCED her she must be pregnant. Our theory was based on the previously mentioned hand job and was the following: Semen must have gotten on HIS hand too, and when he returned the favor, he implanted his boy sperm inside of her body. Duh, that’s how these things happppen.

Another friend was apprehensive about our Immaculate Conception theory, (and because the potentially pregnant girl was now becoming hysterical), and she suggested we just called Planned Parenthood. We found the number to the “Facts of Life Line” and gave it a call. Hmmmm. To our surprise, there was NO information on getting pregnant this way.

We hung up and dialed the number to the Planned Parenthood clinic. Our bossyfriend got on the horn and explained the situation to the person on the other line. It sounded even more preposterous as she told the story to a professional. The helpful woman told us our theory was “possible, maybe?” but was “not very likely…” She said the best thing to do was to just come in for a pregnancy test.

But we were only 14 years old—no one we knew had a license and we were most certainly NOT going to take the BUS (or “the shame train,” as we called it). So we did what any respectable 14 year old does: we rode our bikes to the nearest drug store and bought a pregnancy test.

I know I don’t even really need to clarify this, but no, of course she wasn’t really pregnant.

Fast forward 13 years: I am now 27 years old and have been working for a sexual health organization for two years. My job? To answer questions about sex and relationships from college-aged students. Man, talk about coming full circle. Someone called me “Sexually Liberated” the other day and I almost laughed out loud. In a way, I guess I am.

If I could give my younger self any advice about the sex, it would be the following:

• As long as the two people doing it are consenting and are being safe, there’s absolutely nothing shameful about sex.
• You can get pregnant from sex, but there are also a lot of tools at your disposal to make sure that doesn’t happen.
• When done right, sex can and should be a lot of fun.

Observations from a High School Health Fair

I hadn’t stepped foot inside a high school since the day I graduated. Although I promised certain teachers and advisors I would visit, I secretly knew there was no way I’d ever go back unless I was forced to—you know, like if my cousin’s basketball team was competing in the championship game…or if a friend of the family had the lead role in the school play. But more likely, I assumed the next time I would enter a high school would be the first day of my hypothetical non-existent child’s freshman year.

Hypothetical, crying child

Why was I so resistant to visiting? Because high school SUCKED. And I’m pretty sure it sucked for my entire graduating class, too, minus the ten individuals popular enough to rack up a senior superlative.

These would be those 10 individuals
You can imagine my hesitation when I was sent to a high school in the middle of NOWHERE to table for work. It took me two hours of driving on bumpy backroads, ridden with pot holes and frost heaves from the unforgiving winter, but I finally made it to the school.

The second I walked through the doors, I heard a muffled woman’s voice on the loud speaker announcing the news of the day. “Prom tickets will be sold all day in the career center and cost ten dollars.” I pictured her to look exactly like Phyllis from The Office—soft-spoken and nice.

Photo credit: NBC/Mitchell Haaseth

My image of her quickly changed when she announced, “Just a reminder, NO senior will be allowed to walk at graduation OR participate in any senior activities until he or she has completed their requirements.” She really made sure to emphasis the word NO. I had forgotten just how strict high school was.

I set up our informational table just as the bell was sounding…and what was such a strange, foreign sound that was. The last alarm I experienced was a fire alarm…at 3am…in a hotel.

But as foreign as that bell was, not much else had changed. High school was still high school. The nauseating smell of cafeteria food wafted through the air.  The bathroom hand soap still felt toxic. And kids were of course divided into cliques.

delectable

There were the popular girls, or as I thought of them, the Mean Girls. They traded their backpacks for knock-off designer hand bags. Their hair was colored and straightened, and they had a face full of make up. They dressed in the most revealing clothing. Just looking at them was exhausting—it must have taken them HOURS to get ready.

Photo: WireImage

Then we had the awkward, nerdy boys. They wandered around the informational fair with their hands in their pockets, and their heads down. They did their best to look invisible. Unfortunately, it just made them look more uncomfortable.

The jocks were my favorite group to watch. They spent the entire time HITTING one another. No seriously, I mean physically punching/smacking/slapping each other around. And this must have been a pretty common occurrence because the teachers did nothing to stop them.  It was very strange.

"No, no, it's cool. They do this ALL the time!"

Goth chicks in my day had been replaced by their sister group, the Emo girls. They rocked mostly black clothing, dyed black hair, and more black eye liner than Janeane Garofalo.  And just like when I was in high school, I had no idea why they were so mad.

Because we were stationed right next to the State Trooper’s table, I got to really analyze the gearheads: the type completely obsessed with anything containing an engine. They asked the trooper lots of questions containing the words, “horsepower,” “V-8,” “throttle,” and a bunch of other terms I was unfamiliar with.

"Cars are cool, man!"

Let me tell you though, the trooper was in his hey-day! He was finally the popular kid at school. The students gathered around his table to watch his action-packed police video and asked him question after question about being a police officer. “Ever shot anyone?” “Ever been on a high-speed chase?” “What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen?” And the most popular question of all: “Will you tase me!?!?!?”  (which he disappointingly answered “no” to every time.)

When it was finally time to leave, I was thankful to be on my way. High school was exactly the same as it was ten years ago: Brutal, disappointing, and nowhere close to the “best years of your life.”

Facebook Etiquette

Eat your heart out, Emily Post.

Logo property of Mark Zuckerberg, Justin Timberlake, and everyone else he ripped off in The Social Network

 1. To soften an electronic blow, simply add a smiley face to end of any sarcastic/bitchy post: “Oops! You spelled that wrong 🙂 ” is always nicer than, “You spelled that wrong.”
 

2. Instead of RSVPing “no” to an event you have zero interest in attending, it’s more polite to respond “maybe” to give your friend the impression you’ll try soooo hard to come. Follow up on the event wall with this exact sentiment.

3. Basing your guest list on who RSVPed “yes” on Facebook is the equivalent of closing your eyes and spinning a globe to determine where to vacation. You may stumble across an appropriate place or two…but mostly you’ll end up in third world countries and the Atlantic Ocean.

What are some things YOU’VE learned from Facebook, boys and girls? Leave a comment below.

Why The Vet Sucks

Buddy, the best cat ever

Most of you know the current saga of our cat Buddy and his health. For those of you who don’t, here’s a quick recap of our lives for the past 10 days:

Sunday: We notice Buddy is “can’t cough up a hairball” and is having a really hard time breathing.
Monday: We take him to Green Mountain Animal Hospital and it turns out he’s real sick. They do x-rays and find lots of fluid around his lungs. He’s breathing at 25% of his capacity. He needs an ultrasound, which they don’t provide.
Tuesday: We take him to Burlington Emergency Veterinary Services (BEVS). They do an ultrasound. They find masses in his stomach and chest. They drain the fluid and send it off to be tested.
Wednesday:  GMAH calls us to tell us they are pretty sure he has FIP, a deadly feline disease, or lymphoma.
Thursday: We call BEVS for test results. Nothing.
Friday: BEVS calls our vet, and they call us (at the bowling alley) and say it’s not FIP, and they’re pretty sure it’s not lymphoma either. They say to come back in on Wednesday.
Saturday-Tuesday: Buddy’s breathing slowly gets worse and we await our next appointment at GMAH for him to get drained again.

Today we took Buddy to his highly-anticipated follow up appointment. We were told by our vet on Friday that they should “definitely” be able to get some of the fluid out of his cavity, that another ultrasound is not needed, and that in general, this should be a pretty “routine” follow-up appointment. We were pretty psyched to hear all of this, because, well, Buddy thinks we’re trying to torture him. I’d probably have the same reaction if some chick in a white lab coat stuck a giant needle in between my ribs to drain fluid. But, clearly, since I’m writing a freakin’ blog post about this whole ordeal, it was NOT a routine follow-up appointment.

First of all, the fucking weather ruined everything. We were supposed to take him in at 2PM so he could see the vet we’ve been working with. Fearing this highly publicized snowstorm would trounce our ability to get there, we ask if he can be seen earlier. “Come on in. We’re wide open.” Perfect!

Well, not exactly. Our regular vet is in surgery and we’ll have to see a different doctor. Sounds ok to us. I mean the guy is a doctor, right. What could possibly go wrong?

We talk to the new doctor for a while about how Buddy’s been doing the past couple of days. We explain his breathing has gotten worse, and that the other vet suggested we come back in today for him to be re-drained.

“Well, we could drain him today, but I have some concerns.”

Concerns? What concerns? The other vet made it seem like it would be a walk in the park.

“When fluid develops in the lung cavity, it sometimes accumulates into small pockets. These pockets can be throughout the chest and without an ultrasound, there’s no way of knowing if you’re tapping into them or not. It’s kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

“Oh,” we say. Confused. These “pockets” were clearly new to us.

“So…what you might want to do is actually go back to BEVS. They can do another ultrasound (at the tune of $300) and really see what they’re getting. And I bet because of this weather, they have a bunch of openings. Would you like me to call them for you?”

“Uhhhh….I dunno…” we say. “Does this mean that you can’t drain any of the fluid?”

Hi! I'm your new vet and I don't know dick.

“Well, no. I mean I could. But I just might not get a lot of it out. It might be for naught.”

“Uh-huh. So you are suggesting we go back to the other vet.”

“It’s up to you guys. I know how expensive another ultrasound is and if you don’t want to pay it I don’t blame you.”

“It’s not about the money,” I say. “Buddy hates being in his carrier, traveling in the car, and especially coming to the vet. Today has already been dramatic for him (this is where I’d like to point out the need for a cat thermometer that doesn’t need to be shoved up an animal’s ass). I just don’t know about bringing him somewhere else.”

“Right. I understand. Listen, you basically have two options. I’m offering you the Gold package, but you can certainly take the Silver if that’s what you want to do.”

Annnd, I think this is the point where I lost it.

“I am just so frustrated,” I say, throwing up my hands. “The other vet specifically told us we did NOT need another ultrasound. She didn’t mention anything about these ‘pockets’,” I say, using big hand quotes, as if they were made up.

“I can assure you Dr. L. is a very capable Doctor. She’s the best of the best. She graduated from Cornell.”

Like.I.fucking.care.

“Well yeah, I mean I’m sure she’s a great doctor. However, we’ve sort of been waiting ALL WEEK to come back here. Had we known that it actually would be more beneficial to take him to BEVS instead, THAT’S what we would have done. On Monday. When his breathing started getting back again.”

“I can drain him if you want. It’s not a big deal. I’m just telling you I may not get it all.” Oh so now you CAN do it.

Turning to Liam I say, “I think we should just have him to do. I mean, we’re already here. This freakin’ visit alone has already cost us $100. We might as well see if he can get something out.”

“Yeah…” Liam says, unsure. He asks the vet a lot of questions, questions that he’s spent many nights researching. He throws out drugs he’s read about on the internet. I ask about a diuretic. We search for any sort of answers.

The vet mostly shakes his head and says, “Ehh…those could work if he had X disease…” and since they can’t be sure what he has, he doesn’t want to give Buddy any medicine yet.  We finally agree to have him drain Buddy.

“Ok, so I wouldn’t normally ask patients this, but given Buddy’s breathing and his condition…there’s a chance he could code when we’re draining the fluid. I really don’t think that’s going to happen, but it could. Do you want us to resuscitate him if need be?”

Without even flinching I blurt out, “YES.”

“The reason I ask is because we can’t see what we’re doing, and well, we could puncture his heart and send him into cardiac arrest.”

“?!?!”

“Also, resuscitation is super expensive. It really starts adding up. We give him this drug, and that drug, and do X,Y, and Z, and it can get pricy.”

“Like how pricy?”

“Couple hundred dollars, easy.”

“Well I don’t want him to die!”

“Yeah, the other thing is…even if we do resuscitate him, his chances of ever leaving the hospital are slim. Of the animals that are resuscitated and survive, only 5% EVER go home.”

Well Jesus Fucking Christ. This just keeps getting better. Not only is our cat very sick and you can’t figure out what’s wrong with him, he may now DIE during a procedure the other vet called “routine.” I was really starting to question why we ever brought Buddy to them in the first place.

Liam and I were bewildered. We didn’t know what to do or say. We had no idea we’d be deciding on a DNR for our 4 year-old-cat.

“Oh my God. Ok. Well. God. I just really don’t know.”

“You have to think about his quality of life, too,” the vet says, trying to help. But it doesn’t help. “If we do resuscitate him, he could just go back into cardiac arrest within an hour. I know it’s a hard decision.”

In the end we can’t make up our minds. The vet agrees to let us go sit in the waiting room, and he’ll “come out and talk to us” if need be. We kiss Buddy good-bye, certain this is the last time we’ll ever see our cat alive, and make our way to the waiting room benches.

After 30 minutes of uncertainty, and hearing the vet over-head page “assistance to surgery!”, the doctor and a side-shaven Buddy emerge, both perfectly fine.

“Well he did great. I was actually able to get quite a bit of fluid from his lungs. A quart of a liter. Or about a cup,” the vet tells us.

“!!!”

“Wow. That’s great. We’re so glad to see him and that everything went fine.”

“Yeah! He was great,” the vet says.

Seriously. Am I on some sort of sick Candid Camera episode. This dude had us convinced Buddy was going to die, that we were doing the wrong thing by getting him drained, and in general made us feel like the shittiest human beings ever. And now he’s hanging out in this waiting room acting like life is grand, and he and Buddy are tight.

The vet is going to send the fluid he obtained off to be re-analyzed. We should hear back in a few days about the results. No matter what the tests reveal, I do know one thing: It’s time for a different vet. No one should go through the drama we went through today.

The Snowball Effect

This morning was a living hell. Scratch that. Since yesterday, I’ve been experiencing a cluster-fuck of epic proportions.

What getting home last night was like

It all started last night. The cold weather combined with a dusting of snow resulted in multiple accidents across Chittenden County (I’d also like to add some people drive like complete assholes and deserve their fate. Yeah, silver Honda Pilot, I’m talking to you.). My usual 30 minute commute turned into an hour of bumper-to-bumper, everyone’s-pissed-and-no-one-is-directing-traffic MESS.  I thought, Ok, this is super annoying but it’s completely out of my control. WHATEVER.

Then Liam calls me.

His car over-heated because of the stop-and-go traffic. Of course, as fate would have it, I had just driven by him at the gas station he managed to get to. He says there are “bubbling” sounds coming from the hood–never a good adjective to use when describing a car.  He’s going to call the insurance and get a tow-truck.

I make it home, still talking to Liam on the phone, and start prepping dinner because, did I mention…? We’re hosting a “Dinner & Cruise Planning Party” tonight. Four of our friends will be walking through the door any minute.

And then the stove breaks. 

The handle comes off completely and the door is now unhinged, lying limp on the kitchen floor. I’m acrobatically holding the handle in one hand, trying to lift the oven door with the other, and was balancing the phone between my ear and neck so I could talk to Liam.

I thought my troubles were over when Dan walked through the door. “Oh, good, you’re here. Can you help me with the stove?” I explain the situation, and laughing, Dan attempts to help me piece the stove back together. But of course, it’s not that simple. The screws are stripped and won’t screw back into the handle. We try what seems like every single head in the tool kit. Nothing works.

And then on the other end of the line, Liam tells me he needs a ride home from the gas station. Road side assistance (another post on what a waste of $$ that is coming soon) can’t locate any available tow-trucks (damn all of you horrible drivers!!!). They tell him to leave his car there and call back in the morning.

Giving up on the stove for a few minutes, Dan calls Steph and Shane (two of the party guests), and praise Jesus, they offer to pick up stranded Liam.  Something finally goes right.

Back to fixing the stove…

We still can’t even get the screws to turn, let alone piece the POS back together. Frustrated, I give up and tell Dan I’m getting the duct tape. He’s reluctant but he helps me tapes it back together. Dan puts the finishing touches on just as everyone else arrives. Sweet.

Not his car, but might as well be

A frazzled Liam walks through the door, along with Steph, Shane, and Liz, and he begins to tell everyone about his crazy car adventure. Tubes bursting, liquids leaking out of the hood, and an out of control temperature gauge were some the details. We all eat dinner, have some much needed beer and decompress.

We talk for a few hours about vacation plans and different options to explore. Because of astronomical flight prices, we can’t nail down anything concrete. But that’s ok. It was a good start. The evening winds down, friends leave, and we go to bed.  

Then begins Hell Day 2.

At 8:00, Liam calls the road side assistance again and they say they are sending a tow truck in half an hour. He goes outside and starts my car, and we both get ready for the day. When we are about to leave, I ask for his keys to lock the house. He looks in all of his usual spots, but he cannot find the keys anywhere.

His keys are missing.

Liam is a very patient, mild-mannered person. But just like everyone, he has a breaking point. And that breaking point was 8:15 in the morning, scouring the house for a set of keys that were no where to be found. Did the cats knock them off the bookshelf? Are they buried on the counter behind last night’s beer bottles and dirty dishes? Maybe they’re in my coat? Did you check the mini-fridge? We say these and other ridiculous things to one another as we search for the fucking keys.

We still cannot find them. It’s been 20 minutes.

Worried we will miss the tow truck, we leave the house without them. I drive and Liam tries to get a hold of our friends to see if one of them took his keys by mistake.  He reaches everyone except for Steph. We wonder if maybe the keys are in the backseat of her car from when she picked him up. Or maybe he locked the keys inside of his car?

I take this opportunity to remind Liam he really should have a spare set. He doesn’t appreciate my advice.

Anyone wanna take a guess at what happened next? Ohhh, that’s right–we miss the tow truck. It had juuussst been there, according to the convenient store clerk. The jeep is also gone, so we assume/hope/pray it’s at the auto-body shop.

It’s now 9:10. I call work to tell them I won’t be there at 9. I call my coworker I am supposed to pick up at 8:45 and tell her the story. I stew as we drive to auto-body shop…

We  pull up to the auto-body shop holding our breath. Good news, the jeep is there. Bad news, the keys are not inside (not that locking the keys in the car is “good news” but at least the search for them would be over). We still cannot reach Steph and the auto-body shop won’t be able to work on the car until they can get into it. Things just keep getting better.

We remember Liam’s sister is home visiting, so we drive to his parent’s house to see her. We hope maybe she can give him a ride back to our house and I can finally go to work. But she has a plane to catch in a few hours, needs to pack, and has other errands to run. Outlook gloomy.

Now I can either drive him alllll the way back to our house and help him look for the keys, or stay with him at his parent’s house until we hear back from Steph. Since she’s supposed to be to work by 10, and must be waking up soon, we opt for the latter.

At 9:45, she finally calls Liam back. Turns out his keys were in her backseat. Thank-fucking-god.

We all breathe a breath of relief. Steph arrives shortly there after.  We thank her, apologize for the 15 phone calls and messages, and we drive back to the auto-body shop. I then go pick up my coworker and finally arrive to work at 10:45.

It’s now 3 o’clock. Although this “adventure” appears to be over, we haven’t heard back from the mechanic, yet. Based on our luck, I doubt it’s going to be cheap and painless. That’s just not our style. So, to be continued…Until then…

Here are some things I learned from this experience:

  1. Have many, many sets of spare keys made. Hide them in various locations.
  2. Cancel road side assistance immediately.
  3. And finally…Situations like this really test relationships and personalities. Crisis’s seem to bring out the absolute worst in people (myself included). But if newspaper throwing, screaming in frustration, and frantically calling all of our friends is the worst Liam’s got, then I think we’re gonna be just fine.

The Secret in the Shuttle

I’ll be the first person to admit that Vermont is a small state. Not just geographically speaking, but small in the sense that you can’t go into the corner store without running into five people you know. It’s the single greatest and worst part of living in Vermont. You never know who you’ll run into, or where…

I should have realized when the Hyundai shuttle picked me up yesterday I would know one of the passengers.

{Speaking of Hyundai, if you want to feel like royalty, buy a new car from them.  I get treated like gold every time I show up. Someone greets me outside, they drive me to and from work (even if the shuttle isn’t around), they take my car to the carwash and vacuum it out, and they leave me cookies in the car when I pick it up. I’m telling you. R.O.Y.A.L.T.Y.}

The Hyundai shuttle pulled up to my work around 4:30 that dark, Wednesday afternoon. It had been a long day, and I was looking forward to heading home to relax. I slid open the heavy white door, saying hello to the passenger in the front seat and the driver, and climbed my way into the back.

I immediately recognized the little old man driving. He’s this super-cute, super-opinionated, 70-year-old. During our last ride together, he managed to tell me his entire life story in a mere 15 minute commute. I guess you could say he’s a talker—one of those people that simply hates silence and feels the need to eliminate any gaps in a conversation.

“Hey, how you doin’ today?” he asked me. Before I could answer, he reached into the backseat and handed me a Burlington Hyundai reusable grocery bag. “There ya go. This is for you.”

“Thanks!” I replied, even though I had three at home and had yet to use a single one…but it’s the thought that counts.

Then, diving right into the personal, he asked me, “So. You work for THEM huh?”

Oh boy. Here we go, I thought to myself. I work for a well-known, reproductive health organization. In my experience, people either love us, or hate, and either way, most people aren’t afraid to let their opinion be known. It can make for some really wonderful, or really awkward conversations.

Taking a deep breath I replied, “Yes, yes I do,” and braced myself for his reaction and the reaction of the person in the front seat.

“Yeah…I’ve seen them people with signs outside your building in Burlington,” the old man told me. “I don’t see why they can’t just leave you all alone!” Annnnd breathe, I thought. He’s ok!

The little old man continued talking for some time about abortion and the issue of choice, saying he thinks people should just “do what they want.” Abortion didn’t become legal until 1973, so this man probably witnessed, or at least heard of the lengths to which women went to avoid unwanted pregnancies.  I respectively listened to him, decided to not say much–I still hadn’t heard from the front seat passenger, and for all I knew, she could be some crazy-religious nut-job.

Finally, in a thick, Russian accent she chimed in. “My grandmother once said, ‘Every baby should be wanted. And when you have that baby, love it and cherish it always.’”

As soon as she spoke, I realized I knew her. She was my neighbor growing up, and more importantly, was the mom to my high school friend A*** who took her own life. Her words had new meaning now.

As she and the old man continued their conversation, I was all in my own head about what to do and what to say. I hadn’t spoken with her mother since A*** was still alive, and due to the circumstances, I wasn’t sure I should bring it up in the freakin’ Hyundai shuttle. I asked myself a million questions: Should I admit who I am? Did she recognize me when I climbed into the shuttle? Should I bring up her daughter and how much I miss her? Or would that make it too hard? What should I do?

I ultimately decided I had to tell her who I was. “Ohh…hey…You live on P*** St., right?” I asked sheepishly. What a stupid question.

Turning around and looking me in the face, she said, “Yes! I thought that might be you. We are neighbors!” she proudly told the shuttle-driver. Yeah, neighbors, and I was also best friends with your now deceased daughter.

“Yes, exactly. You live three houses down from my parents. I was also friends with your daughter A***…” I said trailing off, trying to get a feel for how she’d react.

“Oh yes. Time goes by so quickly, doesn’t it? How are your parents?” she said without missing a beat.

I couldn’t believe it! She completely changed the subject. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

I was a sophomore in college when I found out A*** had died. Long before the days of Facebook, I received a series of frantic IM’s from my friend Nick. He told me A*** had been found dead in her apartment and her parents were telling people she died of a heart attack. It doesn’t take a genius to realize a 22-year-old never dies of a heart attack.

Later the truth came out she had taken her own life by consuming a large amount of some pill. Even then, her parents continued to tell those who knew her the cause of death was cardiac arrest. The word “suicide” was too much for them. I don’t know if the word made them feel like failures as parents, or if it made them feel guilty because they couldn’t save her (a feeling I know all too well), or if they just refused to say it out of love and respect for their daughter. I guess I’ll never know.
***
I spent the rest of the shuttle ride honoring A***’s mom’s upspoken request–to keep my knowledge, my history with her daughter, swept under the dirty rug of that shuttle van. It seemed ironic that while I had worried what would be said about abortion, it was really her mom who had to worry about the secrets I would reveal. I guess there are still things in this world more stigmatized than abortion–suicide being one of them.