statue

Old Friends, New Memories.

(The “featured image” with this post is actually from my 20th reunion trip 2 years ago. I decided to respect my friends from this weekend and not plaster their faces all over my blog where I also talk about crotch chaffing and boob sweat. I’m a good friend like that.)

I drove 4 hours to Knoxville on Sunday, just to join some old friends for dinner.

There was a group of women (Are we women? Girls? Ladies?) from my elementary and high school years gathering for a meal and I had to be a part of that action. Some I’ve known since I was 5, others since high school, but all of them more than 25 years.

HOLY CRAP. That’s a long time.

I don’t really think about not seeing childhood friends on a regular basis. There’s not a part of me who says, “Man…if only I could meet up with my friends from first grade…then my life would be complete.”

But with how good I felt leaving that dinner…I don’t know how I lived before without that as a regular thing in my life!

We had so much fun, but I learned that I have lost a LOT of memories over the years. It started with an inability to even remember the face of our principal my freshman year. But then they would discuss other people I couldn’t remember and even EVENTS, like evidently some of them were on the swim team (I vaguely started remembering that, sort of) and I had evidently gone to some of their practices and/or meets (I do NOT remember that at all). Then there were memories concrete in my mind but not in theirs (although, not much, most of it was fuzzy in mine most of all) and it was all very weird because WASN’T HIGH SCHOOL YESTERDAY? HOW DID I FORGET SO MUCH IN SO FEW YEARS?

22 years. It’s been 22 years since I graduated. That’s a lot of time to forget stuff.

I left that dinner with my soul just feeling revived. How wonderful it was to remember a part of my life that no one in my current day-to-day life knows about! It was crazy awesome and I can’t wait to do it again.

They all live in the same town, so they get the flashes from the past at church or work or even at their kid’s school. But this was all new to me and it just felt amazing. They’re going to try to do it again next month and while the entire thing was EXHAUSTING, I just can’t imagine missing it because it just felt so good!

Do you live in the town you grew up in? Donnie does, so he has these kind of interactions once in awhile, but me? This was new and awesome! Have you spent time reminiscing with anyone you knew from your childhood? Did it fill your soul like it did mine? Have you discovered ginormous holes in your memory like I did? Does that come with age or was that thanks to the hippie years that followed high school?

I highly recommend it, it’s weird how hanging out with people you knew in high school can actually make you feel young again in many ways. Those ladies at dinner? We were all teenagers again…laughing so hard we cried.

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The One Where You See I’m Not Exaggerating My Driving/Parking Anxieties

I had a dinner meeting last night at a restaurant I’d never been to in a part of town I’m not familiar with. I knew Donnie knew where the place was so I asked him. He was able to easily tell me where it was as it related to a job I used to have, and that’s all any normal person would need to know. But me? I had a follow-up:

Okay. But I need to know the best way to get there without taking a left onto, or off of, University.

He told me the easy path 99% of Huntsvillians would have taken to also avoid that situation.

Eh. But then I have that scary merge situation. I think I’ll go around Research park and take a right at a light instead.

So. When you’re telling me how to get somewhere, my ideal route has the following characteristics:

  • NO merging during any – even moderate – traffic level. I’m good at merging before 7am or after 8pm. Other than that? NO MERGING.
  • NO left-hand turns without a green arrow. And don’t give me one of those intersections where it’s SOMETIMES a green arrow but OTHER times “yield on green”. Nope. Green arrow or RED. Those are my options.
  • NO right-hand turns onto 4-lane highways without a light during the aforementioned traffic times.

Obviously, if you’re crossing town, finding a route with those characteristics is impossible. But I come as close as it IS possible. I didn’t take the interstate last night. I only stayed on the controlled access highway until I knew I’d have a mild-traffic level merge OFF of the highway. Then I took a regular road with tons of lights (I do not mind lights! They are my friend!) all the way across town where I weaved through our research park to come out on the correct side of the big highway to turn right (at a light) on the road that would allow me THEN to turn right into the restaurant.

It took me 45 minutes. It would have taken Donnie closer to 30. Of course, I always allow for those kind of time differences to give me peace of mind. I actually would have even gotten there earlier but the restaurant light wasn’t on so I didn’t know for sure I was in the right place until I pulled up a map.

BUT! It doesn’t stop there.

I also need to know about the parking situation. First and foremost? Is there enough parking that I can find a spot in the back where I can pull through? If it’s one of those alternating lanes/alternating directions/slanted-spot lots? Then I need to know it will be empty enough that I can feel safe in the back, getting in and out of my spot. The shopping center where E used to work had that type of lot AND it had tons of restaurants so it would get SLAMMED at meal time, so I avoided it like the plague. Even if he desperately needed something from me, I would wait until a non-peak time.

If it’s a parking lot that is often full and there’s not a way to pull-through? I’ll probably find a nearby lot and walk. Seriously. I did that meeting someone for lunch once. Donnie told me where the place was, I kind knew and felt confident the parking lot would be my nightmare. BUT! I also knew it was adjacent to a craft store in a bigger shopping center with GREAT parking so I parked there…AND WALKED TO LUNCH.

You have no idea how many times I park SO FAR away from my destination, just so I can avoid a high-stress parking situation. But then? I enjoy a peaceful walk!

I know this all seems CRAZY. But the truth is? It is following these type of protocols that give me peace. I avoid situations where I have to make judgements based on OTHER people’s driving patterns. I don’t have to turn left with the fear that the person coming at me might be speeding and therefore will get to me before I cross the intersection. I don’t have to merge assuming someone is going to let me in when instead they might prefer running me off the road. I don’t have to try to back my big van out of a lot so full that I can’t see if anyone is coming. I actually have several regular parking lots I visit that I’ll back into if it’s not crowded, just so I can pul forward when I leave. I do this at the kid’s school because the parking lots are empty when I get there, but full when I leave.

All of these criteria seem stressful, but they actually help me avoid stress. I didn’t get worried at all driving across town last night. No high-stress turns or merges. The 45-minute drive and stopping at 20 traffic lights? That doesn’t stress me out at all like it does my husband.

And when I got there and saw they had plenty of pull-through parking? I was the happiest camper in all the lands.

huntsville-map

Showing My Geography Dork Side

When I studied Geography in college (Remember, in my past life I made maps!), we talked a lot about “spatial awareness” as it related to understanding how things fit into a bigger picture of “space”. Not in OUTER space, of course, but just in the landscape of a community, of a country, of a planet. And it was during all of those studies that I came to realize that I have no natural spatial awareness…just like I have no natural sense of direction.

I think the two must be related, but I think most of us understand the sense of direction better than spatial awareness. In terms of no sense of direction? I am sitting at the desk of my house in a town I’ve lived in for 14 years and I still couldn’t point what direction the Space and Rocket Center is. When I’m running trails I memorize which trails to turn on and I learn distances on those trails. Some of them I’ve run 100 times. Yet, if you stopped me in the middle of the trail, blindfolded me, spun me around 20 times and then told me to go back to the car? It would be a 50/50 shot whether or not I started in the right direction. Once I got to an intersection I’d be able to pull up my mental map that I had memorized and make a good guess as to where I was, but that initial step? Would be nothing more than a shot in the dark.

I believe this also relates to how I understand size. I have to memorize numbers to give me a reference point for measuring things, my natural ability to understand the size of something is WAY off. For example, when I was in college I knew that my city had a population of about 35,000 people. I knew that Neyland Stadium (in Knoxville, where the VOLS play) held 108,000 people (back then, I’m sure it’s more now) so if you said, “How many cities of Florence, AL could fit into Neyland Stadium?” I’d easily say, “Almost 3!”

But if I did not know those 2 numbers to begin with? I would have said, “Eh…I’d say half of the city of Florence could fit into Neyland Stadium.” Because my only reference would be the size of the city itself, and while logically I knew you could cram people tighter into the stadium, I’d not be able to really grasp how many people that would make.

Donnie – in contrast – would have answered the question right on day one and could always make it back to the car in the woods, even blindfolded.

Once, in college, I gave a presentation about a GPS mapping project at a local park. I was super nervous and memorized all of my methods and data to read off in front of the crowd. But then someone asked a question I wasn’t prepared for: “How big is the park?” SHIT. SHIT. SHIT. I had no idea. I knew about how many miles of trails, but that didn’t give me a point of reference. I knew my Dad’s house was on about half of an acre of land, so I used that reference and tried to imaging how many of my yards could fit in the park.

“8 or 9 acres?”

Turns out? It was 80 acres. I was off by a factor of 10.

I have a really hard time understand how small businesses stay afloat because I have a hard time grasping how a city that FEELS small could harness enough business to profit. If no one I know personally ate at my favorite restaurant today, then how do they stay in business? Because I know a LOT of people.

I think it’s the same as how people are born with a strong sense of empathy, or how they’re bad at math. (Interestingly, I’m good a math. Just like I was good at reading/understanding maps. I think some traits I developed to balance out a natural lack of others traits.) And I really believe this concept of “spatial awareness” is related to “sense of direction” but it just doesn’t come up as much. But here’s a good test:

How many people do you think live in NYC as it relates to Alabama? I’ve learned that my natural tendency is to grossly underestimate these type of things so I probably would have guessed they were equal if I didn’t know the numbers. But you know what? There are TWICE as many people in NYC as in the entire state of Alabama. WHICH BLOWS MY DAMN MIND.

My husband? He’s all, Eh. I’d say double and entirely would be entirely unfazed. He gets it right AND is not impressed at all. Whereas I’m blown away because my ability to understand size in that kind of situation is completely off.

I’ve gotten a lot better with local distances, because I run in this town. I know my house is about 4.5 miles from Target because I’ve run that stretch before. I know two of our marathon courses locally and 2 half marathon courses, so there are several numbers and references I can use when I’m guessing distance between things around town.

BUT. If you asked me about Knoxville, a city I grew up in but never ran in and only drove in for two years before I moved? I’d be screwed. I think it was about 20 miles from my Dad’s house to my Mom’s old house when I lived there. And keep in mind – I’ve learned that my initial instinct is always too little, so I adjust. Part of me says 20 miles is NOT ENOUGH.

I just looked it up? 15 miles. And I drove that distance a million times when I lived there. And I was still like 25% off.

SO! Where do you fall? Do you have a good understanding of size? Distance? Direction? I used to think Chattanooga was SO much bigger than Huntsville because the downtown is so much bigger. But – in terms of the population in the city limits? Huntsville is actually BIGGER. (Huntsville: Approx 180K, Chattanooga Approx 175K.) Now, Metro populations are different and Chattanooga is about 528K Metro and Huntsville is like 440K Metro, but still…THAT IS WAY CLOSER THAN I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT.

How about you? Think about cities you know or acreage of parks you’ve been too and try to calculate those numbers. How close are you? Do you know how many people are in the US? How about the UK? How about on the whole planet? The only reason why I know these things is because I’ve memorized them to give me a point of reference so as to try not to humiliate myself when I’m guessing things in the future.

2014

10 Years of Christmas Cards

I’ve been meaning to scan my old Christmas Cards for AGES. I was actually missing a few of them but did screen grabs from Shutterfly if I couldn’t find them. Some years I still have a pile of 30, some I have zero, but now I at least have one decent digital copy of all of them! And “decent” may be pushing it because my scanner is ninety billion years old. I might have been better off photographing these with my iPhone.

I present to you: The Zoot Family 2004-2014.

(P.S. I’m really sorry to those of you who have told me that your work internet blocks my blog images. This is going to be the most BORING POST EVER for you.)

2004

2004 (We sent two collages, one of the humans, one of the animals.)

2005

2005

2006

2006

2007 - A

2007 – A (From our family portrait session, these cards just came with the photo package.)

2007 - B

2007 – B (These are the cards we actually sent out.)

2008

2008

2008

2009

2010

2010

2011

2011

2012

2012

2013

2013

2014

2014

I Can’t Even Remember His Last Name.

So. There’s this story making the rounds about a girl who got asked out by her childhood bully and she “GOT HIM GOOD”. Here is where I read about it. But here’s the thing…while the middle school girl who was called “pizza face” nonstop at summer day care and who was made fun of for not having enough clothes not to duplicate an outfit in a week, and who was mocked for reading Babysitter’s Club books all the time? That tiny part of me smiled at that story.

BUT ONLY FOR A SECOND.

I was a shitty kid too

Just because I got bullied in certain parts of my life by certain people didn’t mean I was perfect. My actual school was small and I had been there since First Grade so we had a tight-knit group that always supported me. HOWEVER, I was a bitch to new people that joined our class. We had a pretty girl join us in Third Grade and I was SO MEAN to her. She was pretty and she was new and I hated her. There was this nice boy in 8th grade who joined us and I was mean to him too. Then, in high school I had a guy make a list and put me in the top two spot with the name “Kim ‘the Whore’ Moore” but you know what? I was a bitch to him at other times.

I may have not been the prettiest or the most popular but I was still NOT the bottom of the tier of popularity and so – I was mean to people below me.

I contemplated suicide at certain points in my life because I was so miserable at being mistreated. But did that stop me from mistreated others if I had the chance? Nope.

So – can I get behind some sort of embarrassing “Calling Out” of a bully? No. Because I had my moments where I was mean too. It wasn’t often because I was not often in a position to be a bully, it’s hard to bully from the bottom, but if I had the chance…I sure as hell took it.

I don’t carry grudges

I don’t know why…but I don’t carry grudges. I often remember a feeling I had towards someone in my past, but I usually have a hard time remembering exactly why I felt that way. And I rarely feel it strongly once the incident faded. I know people who can tell you exactly the name of the person who hurt them 30 years ago and every detail of the incident. I only remember my daycare tormentor’s first name. Jason. I contemplated suicide because of that guy and I don’t even remember his last name. And beyond that, I really only remember the basics and the feeling of hating him. But – I also remember running into him years later and really not giving 2 shits he had bullied me, I was just excited to see someone I knew even if it had been my tormenter.

Maybe it’s because I know I’ve done shitty things in my life (I was not good in relationships before I met Donnie – I was often the shittiest person in almost every relationship) so I don’t want to harbor grudges for fear of them being harbored against me. Maybe I just don’t have the attention span. It takes a lot of energy to remember how someone wronged you…and I don’t have a lot of energy for the stuff I like, must less for the stuff I hate. Hell – when my ex-husband and I split I distinctly remember walking up to a group of friends on campus and they were badmouthing me and I had just been hanging out with them a few nights before and I totally thought they were still my friends. I remember they were talking bad about me as a Mother and that hurt TERRIBLY. I remember that feeling of my heart sinking when I heard the word. I remember making eye contact with someone in the group who panicked when they realized I was right there and listening. I remember finding somewhere to smoke and cry and swearing I would get the HELL OUT OF THAT SMALL TOWN where everyone knew my business.

But I can not remember the names or even really the faces of anyone there. And that was, like 1999. That was probably my most recent moment of REALLY being upset with someone and I can’t even remember who it was. For all I know they’re in my running group now.

I firmly believe people change

Maybe it’s naive of me, but it has been my experience that everyone is a completely different person at heart when they become an adult than they were as a teenager. Maybe it’s just because I feel so different. Maybe it’s because I have friends who claim they’re so different. Maybe it’s because I’ve had reunions with classmates and while yes – there are definite similarities still there of course – we’re all very different as adults. I don’t know. But I just can’t get behind the assumption that just because someone was shitty as a teenager means they’re still a shitty adult. Like I said – this could be REALLY naive of me. But I’ve worked with teenagers enough and I’ve had one of my own and I’ve seen bullying and I’ve seen shitty behavior but I’ve also seen the same kids be hurt and vulnerable and there are just so many sides to a teenager because they have so much going on in their lives at any given moment. And I believe that as they mature, the shitty side that wants to bully those below them on the totem pole, falls back to the more human side as they get older and see the world is much bigger than that one totem pole.

I don’t know. Like I said, part of me was like, “DAMN. BULLIED KID DREAM COME TRUE.” But 95% of me just felt bad for everyone involved. And I felt REALLY good for myself that

A) I was a shitty kid so I (maybe naively) have faith that people can become good adults even as shitty kids
B) I don’t hold onto the memories of the people who were shitty to me.

What about you? Am I the minority? Does almost everyone thing, “GOOD FOR HER! WOOT!” and nothing else?