Category Archives: family

Tornado Warning for Wilkes-Barre Brings Back OK Memories

Today is an odd weather day in Northeast PA. We have a tornado watch. That doesn’t happen too often. Sure, we get hail and damaging winds. But I believe the last time we had a really devastating tornado in Wilkes-Barre ish areas was in 1998 at Lake Carey. At any rate, I had one of my end of the world dreams last night. We were leaving town quickly and by the time the bus we were on got out of town, I overheard someone saying the town was gone. In my dream, I had to pee so I told someone that I was glad I didn’t stop to pee after all or else I may not have made it. (I don’t know what the end of the world came from in my dream.) So, like you may also experience, when you have to pee in your dream, sometimes you wake up and have to pee, too. So, I woke up. I grabbed my iPhone to see what time it was. It felt early. I have no windows in my bedroom, so it’s a dark dungeon and I never know what time it is. Oversleeping is a result. A welcome result. My iPhone though was as dark as my room. Died overnight. (Like all those people in my dream.) I plugged it in and ran downstairs to pee. The clock on the stove told me it was just after 11. I took a few swigs of apple juice from the jug and when I got back upstairs to return to bed, I saw my phone also got some juice. And several old texts from earlier in the morning popped up. They were from the weather channel.

Tornado Watch for Wilkes-Barre.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Luzerne County.

Shit, I thought. Is my dream coming true? I lay back down,heart still racing a bit from having a movie-like Armageddon dream (it wasn’t a nightmare – it was more like a movie) but maybe racing because fear of dying in a tornado in the waking world was setting in.

I lived in Oklahoma for three years and that’s when I first really learned about tornadoes. In my memoir, I wrote a chapter about aclimating to Tulsa. Here’s a small excerpt of that chapter. To bring you up to speed, this is almost halfway through the book – the first part is about growing up in the Poconos. Here, I was 13, it was the Spring of 1992 and I had just moved to Tulsa — this was my third school that year.

Excerpt:

One of the first things I learned in my new school is that we may have made a tiny mistake in moving to Tulsa. I am not sure if my mom knew how much she was endangering our lives by bringing us to Oklahoma.

tulsa tornado
This is an image from the most deadly tornado in Tulsa. I also lived there for that, 1993 or 1994 I think. It destroyed a huge truckstop when it came up I-44. Image credit from bogoboo.com

I knew what tornadoes were: I’d seen the Wizard of Oz many times. But, I never thought I’d have to prepare for one. Since it was spring, which everyone in Tulsa called Tornado Season, we had tornado drills to practice how we’d survive if high, spiral-shaped winds hit Nimitz Middle School. Back in Pennsylvania, we only had fire drills, so this was quite scary. When the tornado drill bell sounded, we proceeded to the interior hallways and sat Indian-style facing the lockers. Being by the interior walls was safer, we were told. There were no windows, so we’d be protected from glass shards. We put our arms behind our necks and placed our heads down in our laps. This would shield us from the debris. After the first tornado drill, when we were back in the classroom, we were issued an informational packet with all sorts of safety tips and preparation techniques from an educational program Channel 8 News put together called Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide. Travis was a local meteorologist, so I trusted his judgment and studied his guide as if it were material for an exam.

But, I wasn’t at school the first time a tornado threatened my new city.

One Thursday in mid-May, Joe, Theresa, Michelle, Dan, and I were planning on going to the movies, New Jack City I think.   It was raining and I was getting petrified. I knew that rain in the heat could cause a thunderstorm and that thunder and lightening could bring a tornado. Our television had been on all day and, on the little ticker beneath the show, there was a tornado watch for Tulsa County. A watch, according to Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide, meant there was a possibility a tornado could form. But, a little later in the day, that watch transformed into a warning, which meant there were actually tornadoes on the ground. There was no way I was going outside.

“I am not going!” I yelled to Joe, even though going to the movies was one of my favorite things to do. Not much could tear me away from the prospect of Reese’s Pieces and hot, drizzly butter, but dying in a tornado did the trick.

He just laughed at me and continued watching TV. I called my mom at work. The mall management was instructing all employees and shoppers to head to the mall’s tornado shelter but, yet, she assured me everything would be fine; it was just a precaution. I’d be safe at the movies. My aunts and Dan had gathered at our apartment for the family outing. They saw I was freaking out.

“What’s the matter with you, Gutt?” asked Dan. He’d nicknamed Theresa and I “Butt and Gutt.” He even drew stick figures to represent this duo. Mine had a bubble in the front; Theresa’s bubble was in the back. I hated it.

“Don’t you watch TV? There’s a freakin’ tornado,” I cried from the hallway, the interior hallway.

“Well, a huge movie theater is safer than this place,” he said.

I didn’t care. I did what Travis Meyers said to do when severe weather struck. I pulled my twin foam mattress into my bathroom and told my family I was climbing in what was dubbed the safest place in the house, the bathtub. A video we watched in school showed totally destroyed houses with toilets and tubs still standing admist the debris.

“Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ, Donna. Stop your happy horseshit. Let’s go,” Joe said.

“We’re gonna die. Don’t you care?” I said getting into the tub. “Oh, I forgot my radio.”

I got out of the tub and went across the hall to my bedroom to grab my AM/FM alarm clock, which had batteries inside as a back up. This way, I would be aware of all the destruction and find out when it was safe to come out of the tub.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna miss the movie,” yelled Theresa. I was leaving her alone with all adults. She liked being with the adults anyway; she always sat at the adult table on holidays while the boys and I had more fun at the kids’ table. “You’re such a wuss.”

Wuss, I thought. I had the guide, in black and white, right here. Meteorological professionals don’t call it a tornado warning for no reason. There was a serious threat. She asked me one last time if I was really going to sit in the bathtub while they went to enjoy a movie.

“Yes. I told you guys. I’m staying here. You guys are crazy.”

She left the bathroom and I heard the front door slam. I could hear thunder and rain. I read and reread Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide in the bathtub until I became bored. The weather had calmed down. I put the mattress back on my bed. I plugged back in my alarm clock. I survived my first tornado. I waited for my family to come back from the movie theater, secretly wishing Joe got caught up in the winds like the cows in Wizard of Oz. But, the tornado had passed our part of Tulsa — this time. In fact, the Tulsa World the next day called it an F0 tornado, only causing some tree branches to fall.


Don’t Leave 2009 Behind! Do it Again in 2010!

Ah, New Year’s Eve.

I woke up this morning from a dream about work. It happens a lot, really. But in this one, my dream guy was our company co-founder, Scott Sanfilippo. He announced over the office loud speaker we could leave at noon, but first we all had to write a year-end “Best of” blog post. I texted my friend immediately to tell her about this dream. She texted back, asking if I was going into work because the roads were bad from an unexpected morning snow fall. Wow, I thought. Maybe my leaving at noon dream will come true.

As I remained in bed, hitting snooze two or three more times (or, 18-27 minutes), I thought about what I would write about if I had to, by noon, write about the Best of 2009. Then I realized something.

If something was the Best of 2009, why would I not want to also carry that into 2010 instead of making resolutions for all new things? This morning, I wrote a blog post on my company’s blog with this same title, but geared more toward the eCommerce business owner. I encouraged people to take an inventory of what worked well for their business in 2009 and continue to keep those practices up in the New Year.

All day, though, I thought how I could apply this hybrid resolution into my own New Year.

I did a lot of things right in 2009. I started a lot of great, new things that I must continue in 2010. Things like this:

  • Starting to attend more local creative and arts-oriented events, where I also met a lot of new, inspiring people, many of whom I can now call friends
  • Started my MFA in creative writing, which is just about finished
  • Started journaling and always keeping a Moleskine with me to jot down story ideas or ideas for dialogue that come from personal experiences and random observations
  • I started a new medication for a sleeping disorder I have
  • I reunited with some family members I have not seen in over a decade
  • I have attempted to get back in touch with other relatives that I don’t see often by sending hand-written cards that express I missed them (this was not successful; however, there’s still this year…)
  • Started doing speaking engagements on social media and writing/public relations – and was hired to teach this Spring at Wilkes
  • Started a few new blogs – www.social-media-for-writers.com and another one related to the sleep disorder I have and both have received some nice response from the people they serve
  • I can’t believe I am even sharing this in this blog, but I’ll end this bulleted list with one other thing I started — and, it’s still new, so I don’t want to jinx myself — but, I finally let someone in after almost two years of not dating and it’s pretty awesome so far. But, I don’t think I would have achieved all I did this year had I not been alone.

So, with all of those things, both personal and professional, public and private, I don’t feel I should focus on starting a bunch of new things in 2010, and rather, really hone in on this stuff that has a good start. There’s a great quote, I think from Wil Rogers, that goes like this: Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

I’ve been on the right track for so long, but I was in great danger of getting run over. It was as if I was that damsel in distress in the silent films, the one that’s tied to the tracks, in fact. It’s time to be my own heroine and get going. I made some great progress and have some great ideas — now I must focus on the doing. What I’ve started in the later part of 2009 needs to continue stronger into 2010.

However, there are some things that I want to achieve this year:

  • Find an agent for my memoir.
  • Start an after-work routine so that I don’t just go home and slump over the computer. This may be the gym, but it’s not a resolution to lose weight or get in shape. It’s more of a solution to my problem of being in a slump at home. Going to a gym or going for a walk or going to a Zumba class will energize me and clear my mind and get me in the mindset to be creative when I get home.
  • Focus on getting closer with my family.
  • Instead of work on ten ideas at once, I want to choose one new book project and start a new manuscript — and get serious about it. I need to be done with my writing ADD.
  • Clean out my storage shed and get my clutter down to an amount that will fit in my apartment. That will also require some cool new organzation of my closets and basement. But, I will feel so great to finally get rid of junk. This may need to wait for Spring because the flea markets and yard sales don’t go over too well in PA in the winter and there’s too much stuff to toss; I want to sell it.
  • Start writing short pieces to submit to literary or consumer magazines.
  • Try to land more teaching or speaking engagements.
  • Cut down on drinking and going to bars. This will help accomplish what I just said because it will be better use of my time, both at night and the next morning.

Quality vs. Quantity

That’s it. I am not making unrealistic goals. I am not putting numbers out there. I am making more of an effort to improve the quality of my life, and that is just measured by smiles, feeling good about myself, and not feeling stressed.

That’s a bit of my outlook for the New Year. It’s not about wiping out 2009 and starting over. It’s about keeping up with what you are doing right all along and making tweaks here and there.

Happy New Year, everyone.


What is the big deal about Facebook pages & pictures when it comes to employment? Really. What’s the big deal?

All opinions here represent me and me alone.

I hope this blog post sparks a debate. I do. I love creating conversation. I know you have an opinion on this, so please share. Onto business…

I hate seeing people I care about fear for their jobs.

What do employers think people do in their spare time? And since when is having a social life wrong?

I remember being a kid, hanging out at the adult table and seeing my family members and their adult friends drinking beer. I knew it was adult stuff. I wasn’t influenced negatively.

Me with a prop in the Sam Adams museum. This was an educational experience (history, industry, chemistry, agriculture, marketing, etc), as well as taste-testing. So, is a line crossed here, I mean, if I was a teacher?

Me with a prop in the Sam Adams museum. This was an educational experience (history, industry, chemistry, agriculture, marketing, etc), as well as taste-testing. So, is a line crossed here, I mean, if I was a teacher?

When there is educational measures about the dangers of drunk driving and alcoholism in place (which there is, just like for drug abuse and unprotected sex) children know (or should know) that underage drinking is wrong. And let me tell you something. Underage drinking has been going on for a tad longer than the Internet. Am I wrong? Heck, many adults still don’t pay attention to the laws and dangers involved in drunk driving and alcohol abuse.

So why, then, are our school districts so adamant about teachers not having Facebook pages? I have many friends who are teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and general college employees. For the most part they all have very active social lives and most live in constant fear that a picture of them with a drink in hand will show up online one day. I am pretty careful about what I post online out of total respect, but it still blows my mind that higher ups in education are so against this. First of all, profiles can be set to private. If students are going to look for Ms. Talarico, they aren’t going to find her. They will see she has a profile, but that’s about it. Think of it this way. Someone may know where I live, but they don’t know what is inside. If I let someone in my house, only then will they see the pictures on my wall and be able to peruse through decades worth of photo albums in my office.

What is the point of shielding children from seeing an adult doing something perfectly legal? For real! Like I said above, some of my earliest memories are adults with alcohol,  mostly because I grew up the child of entertainers. So we know that underage drinking is wrong. That also means that drinking after 21 is legal. Why, then, do we also hide that legal people are drinking? Why aren’t children asking, “Then Mommy, who DOES drink?” Think about it. Why are school districts so afraid? The argument, “It’s not professional” is completely lame. I want a better explanation. If someone can provide a better explanation, maybe I can be swayed. But simply, “It’s just not professional” is, in my book, an argument with no substance.

Well, this debate is coming from the girl who had the best Halloween costumer EVER at age nine.

Well, this debate is coming from the girl who had the best Halloween costumer EVER at age nine.

Besides, I never thought my teachers were perfect. Why must we paint them that way? I knew that most of the adults around me drank at family functions- whether a holiday, a picnic, a family reunion, a birthday or some other event. Some of those people were educators. So if the teachers I know drink, doesn’t that mean that other teachers may drink? Of course it does. They are humans just like anyone else, and while many adults abstain from alcohol, others don’t– regardless of what their day job is. They are of legal age and can drink a beer just like they can smoke a cigarette. And people are going to know about it whether they have a Facebook page or not.

I am not saying that these pictures should be rampantly widespread, but I can’t understand the harm if someone sees a picture of their teacher with a Miller Lite in their hand. I do not think that it would discount their teaching abilities in any way, shape, or form. I think the pros of having a Facebook page way outweigh the negative. And besides, like I said before, profiles can be private, and let’s not forget that we control everything about our pages. You don’t have to put pictures up. You can prevent others from tagging you in pictures. You don’t have to fill in any information if you don’t want to.

I would not lose respect for my teacher if I saw him or her drink. In fact, when you get into graduate school, it’s pretty darn common to have a brew with your professor. I understand that in grad school you are a grown up, but I am just trying to illustrate that professional people do partake occasionally in an adult beverage, together or alone.

What about on New Year’s Eve where a toast is customary? What about on a wedding day, where a toast is customary? Do you take those pictures out of a wedding album when you show your students your big day? What if you are a parent, but also a teacher? What if you are friends with a teacher and your children play together? Do you not have wine together when they are over for fear that the other kid will say, “I was at Kimmie’s house and her mommy- Ms. Talarico- had a beer.” It’s not a picture, but it’s the same effect. One kid saw it, and word can spread. What happens if a teacher is seen by a student at the grocery store buying a six pack? What happens if a student lives on your block and they are walking the dog past your porch while you and buddies are having a beer? Isn’t that the same thing as seeing a picture? Which again– you can hide a picture online and you don’t even HAVE to post a picture online. But you can’t hide in real life. And why should you, anyway?

PROFESSIONAL JOBS, TOO

It’s not just education. Studies show that employers are starting to pay attention to Facebook profiles. And, as this chart I pasted here from eMarketer shows, sometimes people aren’t hired because of a picture containing alcohol.

chartHRpicsI’ve worked in many industries, including the beverage industry where I promoted Bud Light and if I wasn’t seen with beer, there would be a problem. In general, when people come in from out of town for job interviews or people from a corporate office come for visits to an office, it’s likely that people will go out to dinner and have drinks. When people are at conventions or entertaining clients, people are drinking. “Can I buy you a drink?” is just common, professional courtesy in many situations. Company parties and picnics often have bars. Now getting out of control would be an issue, but I’m not talking about that– that’s completely different.

Why then, are some people so infuriated by pictures of others with alcohol? I don’t blame people for being afraid that they would lose a job, or lose the chance at an opportunity.

It’s that fear I have a problem with. Why is that fear there? Why is society painting a picture that it’s wrong to be social?

Personally? I have placed pictures of me at happy hours and other social occasions online. Why? Because it shows that I am a real person who likes to have fun. I am serious in my work and serious in my schooling and because I work so hard, I deserve to have fun. While in the past the majority of my pictures online seem to be at parties and such, some may assume that going out is all I do. However, it’s obviously not true. In fact, I have thousands of pictures on my computer and frankly I only post ones that I find entertaining so, oftentimes, that ends up being goofy pictures in social situations. I mean, how many pictures of the Gettysburg battle fields or fall foliage do people want to see on Facebook.

But more importantly, I am not hiding who I am. I am not afraid of who I am. If I were to ever look for employment again and someone were to judge my employability based on a photo of me at a Sam Adams tour posing with a picture of Brick Red Ale, then that’s their loss. Seriously. Why would we judge someone on a picture or two? Behind that picture is a woman with varied career experience, a solid GPA in all my college, countless publications, and more. I think that’s pretty lame for employers to base decisions solely on that. Fortunately I work in a field where we praise social media and all that it can do. But I am still smart about it. I am pretty liberal in what I share online, but I also know where to draw the line.

Finally, this is an out-there analogy, but think about celebrities. While my personal view is that parents (sometimes), teachers, and coaches should be the main role models for children, children seem to want to be like the actors and musicians and singers they see on TV. The covers of all those trashy tabloids are littered with pictures of celebs looking completely trashed. And guess what. They still get movie roles and record deals. They are still adored by millions. Granted when there is addiction involved, work and respect may be lost, but in general a party picture doesn’t hurt them one bit.

Had to show one more angle of this creative costume that won me Most Original, thanks to my clever, handy mom. Today, would this costume be child abuse? What have we become? Come on, really.

Had to show one more angle of this creative costume that won me Most Original, thanks to my clever, handy mom. Today, would this costume be child abuse? What have we become? Come on, really.

I can’t say that I would want to ever work for an organization that governed what I did outside of work. I don’t think I’d ever want to work for the government, or in general, for a conservative company. Blah. Ugh. No disrespect to anyone that does. The money and benefits are wonderful, but I just hold so true to being an individual that I know I would not do well in that type of environment, and it’s better for me to know that beforehand.

I hope that after reading this people aren’t assuming I am some alcoholic. I’m clearly not. I just can’t see the harm in being in a picture holding a beer. I simply can’t. Maybe I am too liberal. Maybe growing up in the entertainment industry and later working in media has made my tolerance for things like this higher. But I am glad I fall to this side of the fence. Things are much happier over here.

UPDATE: March 21, 2012

Three years after I wrote this post an Associated Press article appeared on Yahoo! Finance called “Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords”. This infuriated me and I wanted to write a response to it. Then I remembered that I covered this topic here, at Daily Dose o’ Donna (which sadly is not active any longer), three years ago. My opinions on this matter of Facebook being used as a hiring decision have not changed; in fact, I’ve only gotten more passionate about my feelings.

At the time of this post I worked for an eCommerce developer. Today, I work in higher education in a similar capacity — social media, web content and the like. I have started to be more careful and deliberate about what I put online because my career took me to a new industry–I’ve even went back and removed some things (and please don’t call me a hypocrite–I’m not!). Despite my tighter rein, I am still showing the real me and I am still having fun; that’s no secret. I feel that the benefits of social media outweigh the negatives and, further, that the negatives are completely controllable by the individual. Common sense, people. Common sense.

Here’s a screen shot of a Facebook post I made today. I forgot that when I read a Yahoo! News story that it appears on my Facebook timeline, so a debate started on my page. See that? Now people know what I am reading. If I choose to not let people know what I am reading I can simply turn it off. In fact, I”ll go do that right now.

facebook screen shot discussuing employers and hiring using facebook

What do you think of all this? It’s still an issue after all these years. Read the comments from three years ago and then share your own. Have your views changed over time? Let me know!


Seven Letter Words: Mom and Scrabble on 4th of July

I have been trying to beat my mom at Scrabble for as long as I can remember.  I beat everyone else I play.  I know strange two letter words.  I love anagrams– all those Anagram Magic Square puzzles in the Penny Press books I did as a kid until now paid off.  I can rearrange letters to make new words.  I recently chimed to two friends, Matt and Jim after I came up with something quirky about a word, “I like letters.”  I sounded like a third grader when I said it, but I was sincere. I do.  But when I am up against my mom, I just can’t win.  I beat her once in my early 20s and once again when I was 26 or 27.  That’s it.

I tried again on fourth of July.  I threw down VETO.  Not bad for a first word considering the poor selection of letters I had.  Next up?  Mom was dealt a seven-letter word- STOCKING.  She commented, “Ya know, I’ve been playing Scrabble online and people just leave.  They just leave in the middle of the game.   I don’t get it….”  Could be because she’s like Rainman with Scrabble.

scrabble game 7-letter word

I had to soak up the glory, but I sandbagged for a few minutes, sipping coffee, pretending I was looking hard for a word to put down.  I sighed.  Then, I threw down my own seven-letter word.  LOUNGES, also making VETOS.  I took the lead.  Woo hoo!  My mom was sweating.  She said so.

scrabble2

We both ended up with one more seven-letter word each as we played Scrabble.  I got INTEGRAL and mom got RETREAT.  I had the lead several times, but overall, she kicked my ass at Scrabble once again.

scrabble3

MOM:  402

ME:  332

A good-scoring game, but I still hung my head in shame and she threw the score sheet in the box with all the others.  We date and save them all, and it’s sad that most of the dates are birthdays and holidays.  We really need to get together more, because even if I lost, it’s still fun, quality time.


Stuff is Just So Cool: Office Supplies, Mags, Books & Non-Perishables

This is what I went in for.

p2240386

This is what I bought.

p2240387

Yeah.  So, I kinda overdid it.  But I really did need “sticky tabs” which I found out were professionally called Page Markers and Page Flags.  See, for those of you who don’t know, I am in an MFA in Creative Non-FictioWriting program at Wilkes University.  My required reading list this semester is 15 or so memoirs.  I am uber-excited about reading them- but trying to manage my time and keep organized is what I am battling right now.  So, I decided that in addition to the notes I am am taking, I will tag the pages I want to refer back to when I do my analysis of each book.  I found that Staples features a whole, entire wall of Post-It items- I wonder what 3M pays in merchandising fees for this awesome display.  At any rate, I bought for $5.99 a pack of multi-colored Page Markers- 500 count.  100 in each color.  Then, I also bought Staples brand Page Flags.  These guys are removable and pretty much can be used over and over.  I figure I will use the reusable ones for my own readings and cuttings, etc. while I’ll use up the 500 on the books I am reading.

p2240391I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look around.  What did I end up with?  Highlighters, new Sharpie pens, corkboard squares, white board squares (you post them to your wall and make your own display), a new orange writer’s notebook  (like a moleskine), a small flower-covered notebook, a stronge-durable three-hole punch that punches holes in more than three sheets at one time (I was in DIRE need of one of these- do you know how long it took me to hole-punch my 200+ page thesis?!) and finally, these cool push-pins and clips that are designed with old-fashioned typewriter keys on top.  (The picture is of two of my new cubey things.)

And that was just at Staples.  I am putting together a care package to send to my 17-year-old brother who just went away to Job Corp.  He now lives in a dorm.  I thought it would be really nice if I sent him some snacks.  He’s big into video games, but I was hoping now that he’ll have more time on his hands, he’d start to read.  My friend J suggested I get him books based on the video games he likes- adventure, etc.  Plus, he’s going into a business program- really likes computers and wants to own a company one day. I went to K-Mart yesterday to buy him snacks, toiletries and Uno but I wanted more.

p2240379After I left Staples tonight, I went to Barnes & Noble (I was sooo good on Sunday when I went for the Marlon James reading- only bought a big-ass green tea latte that I peed three times from while there), I went right to the magazine section, figuring I’d grab Wired or Inc. for him.  I ended up with two copies of Fast Company (one for him, one for me), Inc. for him and then for me– since I like business, my clients are in business and also want to begin freelancing for some of these magazines I figured I’d grab some for me- Success at Home, Small Business and Entrepreneur because the cover story this month is awesome.  Then, I peeked at the literary and writing magazines.  I had four in my hand, but settled on just Poets & Writers.  I also walked around the whole store, trying very hard not to buy a book for myself since I have 11 on the way from Amazon.  I succeeded.  I did.  Somehow.  I ended up with two teen novels for my brother- one by William Sleator who I read as a kid- – he’s still writing thriller books.  I also got one called Peak which is a mountain climbing adventure book.  Then, I saw a teenage Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I grabbed that too because he’s there alone and thought that’d be nice.

So, here I am.  With more stuff.  Stuff is just so cool.  Speaking of stuff. I have stuff to do.


Stuff Sweet Stuff. A Memorist Strikes Gold (and Mildew and Mold)

I cannot believe the crap I found. I mean stuff. Stuff. Stuff is good. I like stuff- I wrote about stuff before on this blog, and posted the video of George Carlin’s schtick on stuff- it was a family favorite growing up. Here’s a link to that– since I wrote that post, he passed away, so as you click on the link, think of George and all he shared with us.

So anyway- I like to save stuff. And I like to keep that stuff in boxes. Over the years, some of the boxes were transferred to Rubbermaid tubs for safer preservation. Many of my boxes of stuff have went from my house in Tulsa, to my several houses in the Poconos, to my mom’s storage shed, to my apartment in Wilkes-Barre, to my house in Luzerne, to my apartment in Luzerne, to my house in Bear Creek and to my house in Sweet Valley. I’ve been on my own since I was 17 and some of these boxes, as just said, preceded even that. Some have not really been opened except to peek in and say, “Oh wow! I’ll look at that later.” When Dave and I decided to go our seperate ways, I got a very small apartment with no place for said stuff. So, I left with just what I needed, proclaiming to get a storage unit in a few weeks. Four months passed. I finally got a shed and moved a big chunk of that stuff into it tonight.

THE STUFF MEANS MORE NOW, THAN EVER BEFORE!
I have been thinking of this stuff for a while. Since I writing a memoir set from age 5 until about 16, I have been struggling for details. I knew I had pictures– but little did I know just how much stuff I’ve saved. I struck gold tonight. Forget about my losing a few hundred dollars last night at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains. I’m rich as ever– in memories!

I found a journal from when I was about 14!! I only wrote 11 entries- but it’s good stuff!! I now have dates of important teenage events, like the day I got my braces on. I told my mentor about how I was missing details- I couldn’t remember how I met this one girl who became a close friend. I had this gang of people in 8th grade, but I didn’t remember how we got together. Lo and behold, tonight I find a journal from 1991 that starts off like this: “I can’t think of anything to write so I will tell you how I got my good friends….” Just like that- my answer from a young me!! I now kick myself for not writing more back then. But the material!! An amazing find! I found photo keychains with dates on them- so now I can piece together details!! I can now use these times and places as settings for my memoir. I now know WHAT I wore to a school dance. And– where I bought it.

I found all my old paycheck stubs from when I was 13-16 working for the Tulsa World- not shabby for a young kid!! I found a clipboard I broke in half because I was having a bad day while selling papers. I found two Cadillac hood ornaments that my friend and first boyfriend (if you can call it that when you are 13) stole for me. I found MY GLAMOURSHOTS which I found once before, but shoved in a box somewhere. I found a dozen Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mysteries found brother and sister’s baby pictures. I found a button from a fife & drum corp event I went to in St. Charles– I couldn’t remember when that was and now I know that dates. I found my first business card from my first ‘real’ job in radio. Just so much stuff. I brought some of the stuff here, but eveything else is in storage now. These are all things I have been writing about– but now I have access to them again– now they aren’t just things in boxes!!

My old footlocker I used for Girl Scout camp, which is filled with photo albums– these pictures that I haven’t look at for so long reveal more details I have been struggling for. What’s even more is that I describe a lot about Dado’s house and when I was 16 before I moved back to PA, I flew in for Dado’s funeral. While I was there, I took pictures of everything so I could remember Dado’s house. Everything that I talk about in my book- that lacks detail- has a photo. It was as if at age 16 I knew I would need these pictures one day. There are plane ticket stubs, receipts and so much more so I can piece together the memories. I know what happened- but sometimes forget in what order. I found a Friendship Fill-in book my mom got me before we moved in OK- it has all these little details of my childhood friends, what we’d do together, etc. and just brought a smile and a tear at the same time! I still keep in touch with Jasmine and Laura more than any of the others and just saw Cori last month– but to read my words about my friends when I was 12 is just incredible. I learned that skiing, playing outside games and playing Nintendo were my favorite things back then. I could go on and on, but I guess that is why I am writing a book!!

All this stuff I have been carting around for 15 years finally has a purpose. It’s my life, in boxes. It’s my research lab. It’s my memory lane. It’s my fact checking station.

My mentor is on a retreat until the 14th, but I CANNOT wait to tell her about all this stuff I found, especially these journals. Reading those entries brought me to my state of mind back then– gave me a peak inside what I was thinking and feeling.


Days 3-4 in Oklahoma

After I checked out of the hotel on Saturday morning, I didn’t have Wi-Fi until very late Sunday night when I checked back into the hotel near the airport- then, I wanted to write my final OK vacation blog from the Tulsa airport- but they charged $5.95 an hour for W-Fi. Ugh. My Cleveland layover you’ll learn about in my next blog. And Monday I traveled all day and crashed and went right to work this morning and went on a shopping extravaganza after work- so ah, the final vacation post isn’t happening until just…. about…. now.

THE FINAL DAY IN TULSA

So- Saturday, after I checked out almost an hour late, my friend DG called me- he wanted to meet up- I wanted to get to my cousin’s by 6ish, and they all live about an hour and a half from Tulsa in various towns like Krebs and Haileyville. He had to run his daughter somewhere and said he’d call when he was done. So, in between I did some more memoir research. I drove to the Yacht Club Apartment Homes, the first place I lived in Tulsa- first staying with my Grandmother and Theresa, and then getting our own place in the same complex. I actually made a video of it to help with my memoir. I recorded myself on the walks I used to take. Then, I stopped at Sonic and had a Coney and a Cherry Limeade- my first one in 14 years. (The pic to the left is of DG and I– he is also in that pic a few posts back from when I was in OK as a teenager!)

After my enjoyable lunch, I decided to do more gallavanting- wanted to walk around the Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa– my mom worked as a manager of a store in the food court for a while and I spent a lot of time there– but the mall parking lot was an absolute zoo– so I didn’t go in. By then, DG had called and we decided to meet up for a beer at a place called The Fox & The Hound in Broken Arrow. It was great catching up with him! Like with J, he reminded me of things I forgot, I reminded him of things he forgot- we caught up about families and careers. My visit with him wasn’t as long as with J’s, but it was equally wonderful! He said something really pivotal about our teenage years selling newspapers: “Somehow we accidentally learned some morals.” My memoir centers around this job and what it meant- he and I discussed how at the time it was just something to do, to earn some money and have some fun. As adults, he and I both look back and see how this job helped us be the hardworkers we both are today. Kind of neat about reuniting with these people I haven’t seen since I was a kid and hearing how we were similarly affected and all consider the job one of the most important things in our lives.

THE COUSINS

I made one more stop at Quick Trip and hit my cousin’s address on the GPS. I met my cousin Shawn and is girlfriend Rachel at her parent’s Italian grocery (where they live in the above apartment)– it’s a 100-year-old building and just adorable. He made an kick-ass lasagna with fresh veggies and herbs from the garden and a kick-ass bruschetta– oh my good. Amazing. We all ate dinner at my cousin Eli’s groovy pad, which was walking distance from Shawn’s. My Uncle Pat; my cousin Zack and his wife and daughter, Tina and Ember; my cousin Michael, Shawn & Rachel and her son Matteo, and a few friends enjoyed the awesome dinner and some drinks. After dinner, me and Pat went to get some beer and we pretty much partied into the night at Eli’s- went to a bar to see a band- hung out again until about 3-4am. Eli has lots of friends and neighbors so throughout the night, I got to meet of ton of locals passing in and out of the house. We took lots of pics, videos and laughed the light away. It was incredible to see everyone again- we had one killer time. (Picture- Eli, Michael, Shawn, Me, Tina holding Ember, Zack and Pat in front.)
The next morning, we didn’t get up until about 11am– we all got ready and went up the mountain to hang out at Pat’s (and where all the boys grew up) and hung out, played Balderdash and chatted. We decided to head back into town– picked up some pizza and this time headed to Zack and Tina’s house for dinner. Tina made an awesome salad and pulled out some of her homemade bread and butter pickles- awesome. All of a sudden it was almost 8pm- I decided to head back to Tulsa to get a hotel by the airport so I didn’t miss my flight. (Picture- Their friend Gates, Rachel, Shawn, Friend Kyle, me, and Eli an an awesome Beatles shirt).
FINAL THOUGHTS

Taking this trip was the best idea I’ve had in a long time. Just being in Tulsa brought back a flood of memories. As I walked various spots around town, I could feel emotions– like my mind/body knew something important happened at that very place. I tried to take in everything- even smells and sounds. The hardest part about writing a memoir is the details- not just the little details about people and places from long ago, but also the feelings and how I felt that long ago. This trip really helped me. I took lots of notes. I even did some research that I didn’t think I’d do.

Aside from the memoir research, being back with most of my cousins (there is only one I didn’t get to see of the Duffy pack- he’s in NJ) was awesome. All of them now have their own places, and in some cases, their own families. I grew up with these boys at the most important part of our lives I think- the childhood years. It’s with them that I learned how to be one of the boys, a trait I think I’ve had since I was very young. They’ve all done some incredible things in their lives– many have explored a lot of the globe- and they have such strong family values yet live simple, humble lives– I often wish we saw each other more. Love them so much!! But I’ll tell ya what- even though we don’t see each other very often, when we get together, we instantly connect like we just saw each other yesterday and we always stay up until dawn together- whether it’s partying (now that we’re older), playing games or watching the Goonies over and over again.