Category Archives: Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday: Fizzy Lifting Drinks

This is what happened after my Civil War in 3rd Period English as I remember it.

So after my own personal civil war, I decided to avoid a situation like that at all costs by missing school. A lot of it. At the barest rumblings of trouble, I would stay home. It worked for a while and there were no more embarrassing and painful situations, but I started to fall behind in school. I also started to notice something peculiar about my illness.

Peculiar symptom number 1: whenever I got sick, no one else would. Either I have the immune system of an 80 year-old or there’s something else wrong with me. Another strange symptom was that once the storm hit, if you will, the pain passed and I felt good as new. So I revised my strategy of staying home at the drop of the hat and went to school for half of the day. This saved me from staying home all day, convinced I was sick, and then it turned out I wasn’t. It felt like a waste. If I was sick in the morning, I would wait for whatever-it-was to run its course and then I would go to school the rest of the day. If I started to feel sick at school, I would go home well before any problems hit. It was a nice plus that I got better at asking to go home.

But how did I know beforehand if I was going to be sick? The answer is quite graphic and honestly you probably don’t want to know, but for the morbidly curious let’s just say that I had the symptom of IBS that is called “bothersome belches.” The nickname I had for this symptom was much more crude. If you use your imagination and the letter “D” you can probably think of my nickname for it. This was peculiar symptom number 3 and it would hit 24 hours or less before the fire. As uncomfortable as this was to live with, at least I had a warning sign.

Missing half days of school was better than the entire day, but my teachers started to notice and they would bring it up at Parent/Teacher conferences that I seemed to be missing a lot of half-days of school. My parents were unblinking under their judgmental stare and wrote me as many excuse notes as I needed, but they had a point and it was getting stressful to me to try and keep up.

Time for a plan. Did you know that they make medicine for problems like mine and they sell it over-the-counter? Neither did I, and as soon as I found out, I asked my parents to get it for me. My mom was reluctant, but she got it for me and voila! I was back at school. I didn’t even have to beg a doctor for it. Just my parents.

At first, I followed the directions on the Imodium AD. But there were some mornings when I knew that I was going to need it later on, but I couldn’t take it at school. So the heck with the directions, I took it before any symptoms hit. And I took a lot of that stuff. Here’s where my plan backfired.

I started having a different version of the same problem and this one was infinitely worse. Before, my pain was a sudden gruesome battle that was over quickly. This was a slow, agonizing cold war that just wouldn’t end. My dad would often offer me apple juice for “my problem.”  It wasn’t very helpful.

It got to the point where I needed to go see a doctor. This was going to require more than just begging. I was going to need essays and the like. It may sound cruel, but let me explain a little why my parents were this way.

When I was 4 or so years-old, I went to the doctor for severe side pain on my right side. The doctor was stumped, I guess, and recommended me to a specialist. The specialist was positive that I had appendicitis and I’m sure my parents were worried that I had something so serious when I was so young. That was, until I went to the bathroom and came skipping down the hall past three very shocked adults.

“I was sure she had appendicitis…She was in so much pain,” the specialist said.

Needless to say, going to the doctor after that required some convincing on my part. Don’t judge them too harshly. Maybe their reason was they didn’t like spending money at the doctor when waiting and a good bathroom break seemed to cure a lot of my ailments. Maybe the biggest reason, though, was the fact that this doctor was ready to rip me open in emergency surgery and all I had was a severe case of clogged pipes. As a parent now, I would be a little horrified at that. Either way, after a lot of convincing and a lot of time, I went to the family doctor. Warning: Doctors like to use graphic language and Latin words.

“What seems to be the problem?” Dr. I-Can’t-Remeber-His-Name asks.

“Well, I’m having constipation and diarrhea,” I reply.

“That’s not possible.”

I have no idea what to say to that.

As we sit there in awkward silence, he decides that I need to do an x-ray. I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either but into the x-ray machine I go.

When the x-ray is developed, he informs me that I have “a large amount of stool in this area,” pointing to the right, and he prescribes me Draino – I mean, laxatives. Laxatives and a liquid diet for a week and things should go back to normal. As bad as this sounds, I’m willing to try anything at this point.

Liquid laxatives taste a lot like lemon-lime soda. They’re fizzy with a citrus zing and they don’t taste half bad. I take them and I’ve made sure to plan this momentous occasion around a weekend so I miss minimum school. It’s a great idea until I get an unfortunate phone call on Friday, which was Day 1 of Desert Storm. It was from a cute guy named Ryan at school.

“Do you want to go bowling?” Ryan asks me.

“Um…” I’m trying to buy myself some time. There are bathrooms at bowling alleys, I think, but how would it look if I spent the whole date in there? From what my doctor said, it’s going to be an eventful weekend. I really want to go on a date with him, but I’d like to make a better first impression.

“It’s okay,” he says. “You can say no if you want to.” Clearly, I’ve taken too long to answer.

“No, no! I want to go, it’s just…I’m not really feeling well today. Maybe another time.” I kind of lied. I haven’t started feeling ill…yet.

He never did call me back. Stupid boys and their stupid insecurity. I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that I turned down a date to prevent embarrassment or that I turned it down and then NOTHING HAPPENED. No planes, no bombs, not even so much as a hand grenade. I was relieved and seriously worried about how normal I was at the same time. I did end up feeling better, but “my problem” never totally went away in both of its ugly forms. I made a vow to never touch over-the-counter medication again.

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Flashback Friday: “There’s No Such Thing as a Purple Rock.”

One of my earliest memories as I remember it.  I decided to be a little more sentimental this week.  Hope you like it.

There’s a boy who lives across the street in a white-brick house. He’s my best friend and I’m four years old. I don’t remember his name now, but I remember playing in his basement with a toy that you could sit and spin on and riding bikes down our street together.

One day, he told me he was going to the mountains for a week. I didn’t know where “the mountains” were, but they seemed far away. I had no idea how long a week was, but it sounded like a very long time.

I asked my mom every day if it had been a week yet. It seemed like she always said no. And no matter how much I asked, the answer was still no. She thought it was cute at first that I missed him, but she got tired of answering my question over and over. I almost felt like he would get home sooner if I asked just one more time if it had been a week yet.

He finally did come home. I was so surprised when my mom finally said yes when I asked her yet again if it had been a week yet. Fully expecting him to get home that instant, I waited at the window all day until their car pulled into their driveway. And then I had to wait for him to come outside.

When he did come outside, we stood on the corner across the street from my house on his side of the road. Across from us is a house with a nice yard surrounded by a wrought iron fence and filled with pretty flowers that you can’t touch. Kiddy-corner from us is a house with no fence, a yard full of weeds, and mean dogs on chains that I run by as fast as I can whenever I pass it on the sidewalk. On the corner on my side of the street is the Black Dog’s house, but they have a fence. From the corner we’re standing on, you can see the blue, jaggedy Wasatch Mountains in the background. There are two vertical, parallel ridges on the tallest mountain that look like a great big slide. I always wondered, if I was big enough, if I could slide right down the mountain. The mountain reminds me of home because you can only see the slide from where we live. If you go any farther north or south, the slide disappears.

“I brought you a present,” he says.

“What is it?,” I say a little cautiously. He’s not holding anything and I don’t want him to tease me.

“It’s a purple rock,” he says.

With all my 4 year-old indignation I inform him that, “There’s no such thing as a purple rock.”

“Yes there is.”

“No there isn’t.”

“Yes there is.”

“No there isn’t.”

“Then how do I have one?”

He’s got me stumped. Then a thought hits me. “How do I know you have one? I haven’t seen it.”

“I’ll give it to you, then.”

I still don’t believe he has it, but I put my hand out anyway waiting for him to give it to me.

“You have to close your eyes.”

I give an impatient sigh and close my eyes. He better not be teasing me or he is going to be in big trouble.

I feel the rock in my palm and I open my eyes. My first reaction is that the rock is white, and not purple, but underneath the white I can see beautiful lilac flecks. It sparkles a little in the sun. It’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. Rocks are brown and grey. I’ve never found one that was purple.

“Did you find this?,” I ask earnestly. This is suddenly very important to me.

“Yes. I found it in the mountains.”

Him finding it makes it all the more valuable to me. Somehow, it makes it a real rock because it came from outside and that made it rare and hard to find. It also said to me that he missed me as much as I missed him. And when he found something so unique and amazing he gave it to me instead of keeping it for himself.

To me, the gift was more than just a rock. Looking at it, I felt wonder growing inside of me, blooming like little flowers. It felt like magic to get something you didn’t think was real. Even staring at it, it almost felt like it wasn’t real. Magic exists for a small moment when the way we see the world changes.

He moved away soon after that. I wish he hadn’t moved when I was so young so I could at least remember his name. But that rock continues to be one of my most prized possessions.

Yes. I still have it.

You think you know everything there is to know about this world full of brown and grey rocks until life gives you a purple one. Those are the best kind of gifts.


Flashback Friday: The Pop-Tart Wrapper

The urban legend of the Pop-Tart wrapper as I remember it. Please feel free to leave editing and spelling errors I missed in the comments.  Or, if you participated in this story and would like to tell your side of it, you are free to do that, too:)

I’m hiking up the mountains with my aunt, Karla, and we’re either in Sequoia National Park or somewhere in Utah. I can’t remember which.

Karla had a backpack that used to have the lunch we had eaten earlier on our hike. I, being around 9 years-old, carried nothing and had fun jumping in the little streams we came across on the path.

As the hike went on, I told my aunt that I need to go to the bathroom. She asks nicely enough if I can wait. Of course I can. I’m 9 years-old. I’m practically old now. But as the hike goes on, it starts to weigh on me like a ton of bricks. I tell her again that I really need to go and she says:

“There’s nowhere to go out here.”

That’s true. I guess there aren’t many outhouses on hikes. Though there should be. That would be a good idea. Because I really have to go.

After some more hiking, it’s all I can think about. I have to go, I have to go, I have to go. When I can’t take it anymore, I tell her again.

“Karla, I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Why didn’t you go earlier?”

Because I didn’t have to go then is my first thought. Since that’s something a little kid would say, I gather my pride and say, “I didn’t have to go earlier.” I didn’t even whine. I’m so old.

Karla stops hiking and looks around. She sighs and I can tell that she’s thinking of a plan. Good.

“You can go behind that tree.”

That doesn’t sound so good. The tree she points to is barely off the path. It takes some convincing on her part that it’s better than nothing and when she offers to stand guard, I agree.

The tree is wider than most trees are and it offers a lot of privacy. This is what leads my memory to place it as happening in Sequoia. Have you seen the trees there? You can’t even hug them, they’re so wide. As I answer nature’s call, it comforts me a little that we haven’t seen a soul on this hike. Deep down though, I can feel the terror of someone flying suddenly around the bend and seeing me.

When I’m done, I reach my hand out behind the tree.

“Hand me the toilet paper, Karla,” I say.

She scoffs. “I don’t have any toilet paper.”

I realize too late that it’s not a normal thing to bring toilet paper on hikes.

“Okay, I’ll take a napkin.”

“I don’t have any napkins. Why don’t you just air-dry?”

“I can’t,” I say, a little timidly.

“Why not?,” Karla says as she peeks around the tree and I can hear her gasp rip through the empty woods. “I thought you had to pee!!” She would later describe what she saw in that small peek as “a steaming pile.”

Oh are we in a pickle now.

“Why don’t you use a leaf or something?,” Karla suggests. I look around the woods as my thighs are starting to burn from all this squatting and all I can see are pine needles and sticks. Even if there was a leaf, I wasn’t going to risk wiping it all over my sensitive areas and then get some sort of terrible rash or disease. I’d rather sit here and let my thighs burn.

I’m getting really desperate now.

“Are you sure that you don’t have any napkins?,” I ask. We had food. It didn’t seem too far-fetched that we’d have at least a used napkin.

Karla, clearly frustrated now that I think she’s lying and that she actually likes standing there with me and my “pile,” pulls out her back pack and starts to rummage through it.

Angrily she says, “The only things in here are some trail mix, a water bottle and a Pop-Tart wrapper.”

“I’ll take it,” I say, immediately sticking my hand out behind the tree.

“What?” She sounds shocked. She wasn’t offering it as a suggestion but I don’t care. I wiggle my fingers urgently. Reluctantly, she hands over the tiny, silver wrapper that’s torn down the middle and covered in little red letters: Pop-Tart! Pop-Tart! Pop-Tart!

As far as toilet paper replacements go, Pop-Tart wrappers are not very good ones. It gets the job done, but I’d only give it a five out of ten if I were grading it for usefulness.

I walk out from behind the tree leaving all my pride behind. I’m never, ever going to speak about this again. We continue on our hike. Until.

“Is that you?,” Karla says as she sniffs the air.

“No,” I say defensively. She believes me and keeps hiking. Self-conscious now, I make more of an effort to stay down wind. I try to tell myself that it’s normal for all those flies to suddenly be interested in my back side and that Karla couldn’t possibly be right. As the hike goes on, Karla gets more and more insistent that she does smell something and that it is me. Finally, she stops on the path.

“You stink and you need to do something about it.”

“Like what? Do you have any more Pop-Tart wrappers?”

“No,” she says and she points to some snow next to the trail. This is where my memory insists that we were somewhere in Utah. I doubt there’s snow in Sequoia.

Karla stands guard again as I gather my courage and a huge handful of some cleanish snow. I’m so sorry I ever thought bad of you, Pop-Tart wrapper. You can have a nine out of ten for pleasantness compared to this. This time, as we continue on our hike, I leave my dignity behind as well in that small patch of snow.

You know how earlier I had every intention of never speaking about it again? Turns out, I forgot to tell Karla that. Okay, I didn’t even think to tell Karla that. I thought it was implied. And completely obvious. When we got back to the campground, she told everyone. The story has been passed down for years (and honestly most people leave out the snow part though I remember it very well) so that after a while, “Pop-Tart wrapper” became synonymous with “toilet paper” in my family. We’d be getting ready to go on a hike and I’d get a little nudge in the ribs. “Did you pack enough ‘Pop-Tart wrappers’, Jessica?” Ha ha ha. Laughing, laughing, laughing. Though napkins were more often thought of as essential on any hikes where we brought lunches – and me. For which I was very grateful.

Many years later, when I was a teenager and had all but forgotten about this, we had an activity in Young Women’s where we were supposed to tell embarrassing stories about ourselves. All the girls, including me, told stories like, “I burped in front of a cute guy. Tee hee hee!” The leaders anticipated this and called all of our moms to get the really juicy ones. We were all red in the face and laughing our heads off as the leaders went around the room and told the real stories they had gotten from all of our moms. It gets to my turn for the leader to tell the embarrassing story my mom told and she looks more serious than she did before.

“Your mom wouldn’t tell me the story. She didn’t think it was nice to embarrass you,” my Young Women leader says. I don’t know whether to feel relieved or left out. “All she would tell me was something about a Pop-Tart wrapper and-”

At the words “Pop-Tart wrapper,” I let out a high-pitched squeal, cover my mouth with both my hands, and I’m positive, even though I can’t see myself, that I’m beet red. My leader clearly thought my mom was just making stuff up (what could possibly be embarrassing about a Pop-Tart wrapper?), but when everyone sees my reaction, they won’t let it rest. I try my best to play it cool and pretend like I have no idea what my mom was talking about, but no one is buying it. I’m mentally kicking myself for reacting the way I did. Finally, I give in and through hysterical laugher I tell the whole story. Everyone in the room is practically drowning in laughter by the time I’m done. I think there were even a few tears.

Oh, the things that haunt you.


Flashback Friday: Civil War in 3rd Period English

Flashback Friday is where I post a little snipet of my life as a teenager. This story is totally true as far as I remember it.

I’m sitting in my 7th grade English class when severe pain hits in the lower abdomen area. There’s a civil war raging inside me and I know it’s only a matter of time before the South will inevitably lose.

My first plan of action is obvious. And simple. USE THE BATHROOM. But I’m scared to get up from my seat. There’s one obstacle that I have to overcome before I can get my freedom and then much needed relief.

My Teacher.

The hall pass is guarded by my teacher. As if it’s not humiliating enough to ask permission for the most basic of human functions, but I get to do it in front of an extremely judgmental 7th grade audience. Even that would be bearable if it wasn’t for the one tiny, frightening question that I know she’ll ask. “Why.” WHY do I need to use the hall pass?? There is only one permissible reason that students are allowed to use the hall pass but she has a sick need to verify it. Honestly, if I was going to do something else while in possession of the hall pass I wouldn’t tell her over my dead body. The truly evil teachers will ask you this inane question over and over until you cower away. I sit in my seat imagining that asking for the hall pass will go something like this:

“Can I use the hall pass?”

“WHY?”

“Um….I need to use the bathroom.”

“Why?”

Thinking to myself How much does she really want to know?

With as much implication as I can muster I say, “Because….”

Staring contest.

“Can it wait?”

Obviously not or I wouldn’t be here, I think. But saying that would definitely get me sent back to my seat so I continue with the staring contest and battle of wills.

I lose and go back to my seat.

The possibility of that scenario convinces me that there has to be a plan B. I look up at the classroom and the teacher has apparently stopped yammering and is sitting down. Glancing around the classroom I notice that everyone appears to be doing something, but for the life of me I don’t have a clue what it is. I quietly get out my pencil to blend in.

I’m starting to get a white knuckle grip on my desk as the war continues. It feels like all the tiny men have little knives stabbing here and there in my intestines. It’s taking all my concentration and will power to sit quietly and endure an ever-increasing and insistent pain.

I was thinking about something. Oh yeah. A plan B. Since nothing comes to mind, I consider waiting it out. It can’t be that long before class is over and I get exactly 7 minutes to get my books at my locker, dash to the bathroom and run to my class. Easy. No problem. I look at the clock. It’s only been 20 minutes?! I’m definitely going to die.

Back to Plan A. Asking permission. I envision myself being successful this time and walking blissfully and swiftly to the bathroom. My blood stops cold. The bathroom. If someone else is in that bathroom when this war is unleashed in all it’s fury, it would get me labeled for life. My reputation is shaky as it is and I just can’t take a risk like that. I’m going home. I can go home if I’m sick, right? And what is being sick if not massive and severe pain?

There’s the same obstacle. I’ll have to ask permission to leave. It’s not the same as asking for a hall pass since I won’t be coming back, but it’s close enough.

I carefully and very slowly make my way to the front of the room. On the first day of class, all teachers will insist and even beg that if you are violently ill, would you please, please just run out of the classroom? Or at the very least use the garbage can? No student in their right mind would ever heed this advice. Innocent until proven guilty is not allowed for teenagers. At the very least you would get lectured for ditching class.

Every teacher fears students throwing up in their classroom. While my illness is on the other edge of that sword, she won’t know that. The threat of that should get me out with minimal interrogation.

“I need to go to the office,” I ask quietly when I reach the front of the room.

“Why?” she asks. Not so quietly, I might add. It turns a few heads.

I clench my teeth a little while I take a deep breath.

“Because I don’t feel well.”

I can see that feared word on her lips just begging to come out, but something about my appearance changes her mind. There’s even a little fear behind her eyes. She says okay, and with all the clenching power I can muster between my legs, I walk to my seat, squat carefully and pick up my bag. As gracefully as I can, I make it into the hall.

Civil war is at it’s peak and the southern soldiers are fleeing to the hills as I walk this incredibly long hallway. Since no one is around, I resort to waddling slightly to increase my speed to the front office to use the telephone.

I feel out of breath when I finally reach the office, even though I’ve just been walking. Freedom is one phone call away. The phone is sitting next to the secretary behind the counter.

“Can I use the phone?,” I ask.

“Why?”

I feel all the breath go out of me as I slump in disbelief.

“I don’t feel well,” I try to say with anger, but it comes out more pathetic as it mixes with the pain in my voice.

Staring contest.

She plops the phone on the counter and goes back to whatever she was doing before.

As the phone rings, I pray inwardly that my mom is home. Please, let her be home!

“Hello?”

“Mom! Can you come get me? I don’t feel well.”

A pause. Oh, no. She’s going to ask why. What can I say to present the urgency of the situation without giving away too many details to the secretaries who I know are secretly listening? Terror starts to grip me. There are not many forbidden words left in the world, but what I have is definitely still one of them. I’ve never heard anyone say it out loud. It’s usually replaced with words like “flu” and “sick.” Or what my dad would later come to call “my problem.”

“Okay. I’ll pick you up where I usually drop you off,” my mom says.

My mom is an angel.

I hang up the phone before I realize that where she usually drops me off is at the end of the long hall that I just came down. The door at the end of the hallway that goes to the parking lot starts to shrink in the horizon as the hallway seems to get longer just looking at it.

As I start walking/waddling down the hall with all my muscles clenched tight, my confederate soldiers in my insides have retreated in alarming numbers. The end of the war is looming. My concentration is completely shot to … that one place. I can’t think of the word. Someone stops me in the hall to chat. I would probably know her name on another day. The way I say “Fine” to her question of how I am was meant to come off as care free, but from the look on her face I think it came off as more disturbed. She says something and leaves as I continue my walk of shame. I try not to make eye contact with anyone in the classrooms as I pass, but I can feel eyes on me as I waddle slowly by. Let them stare. There isn’t anything quite so painful as going against nature.

Fresh air hits me as I finally make it to the door and wait outside. It feels like it took forever to get there and I half expected my mom to be there already. I close my eyes and wait for an eternal five minutes when she pulls up in her glorious white mini-van to save me and take me to a judgement-free bathroom.