I always both joke and relay that I’m a glorified storyteller. As a photographer, a mama, and an influencer, my entire life is based around telling stories. That’s why it’s always so odd that I freeze up when I’m putting the kids to bed. It seems that after a day of glorified storytelling, all I want to do is curl up at the foot of their beds and fall into a potentially dreamless bliss. The thing is, though, it’s like the cobbler’s kids having no shoes. How could I not tell them the rich and unique stories that make up my life; that are still making up my life. Why do I freeze?
I live for a good story. I’m an edge-of-my-seat listener, Dear Abby column reader, serial TV show watcher, and avid book devourer. It’s all about the stories, because what else do we have otherwise? For years now, I’ve kept post-it notes filled with story prompts of events, experiences and moments that happened to me. I think I intended to write them all in my blog one day. Back then I probably thought I could do 5-10 a post, but now I realize that each one would be a whole post. As you know, my kids will read my blog one day. Scarlet seems interested but I thought I’d wait until she stops believing in Santa and/or knows where babies come from first.
We’re All Just Stories in the End
Starting With a Bang, Aren’t We?
When I was four, I got a furry “catkin” from a pussywillow plant stuck up my nose. I was playing with catkins in my old house. I must have had two of them and I put one in each nostril to be funny, when suddenly, I could only find one. I’d assumed the other fell out somewhere and I quickly grew tired of searching for it, not realizing I had actually inhaled it. Months later, a horrible smell followed me everywhere I went. My family said I smelled like cheese. Finally my mom brought me to the doctor and he had the sense to know that something had gotten stuck up my nose and rotted up there, so he used some long instrument to get it out. I don’t remember the details and if I cried or if there was blood, but it was over quickly and became a legendary story in my household. I used to be embarrassed about it but I’m not anymore.
A Story of Adventure
The time is hazy to me but I know this was either the winter after I graduated college, or the winter after the winter after I graduated college. My heart had grown cold living in an icy winter in a bad job market and after the recent deaths of my grandparents and my childhood dog, I was just done with real life. My then-boyfriend, Dan, and I decided to go on one last adventure before full-time work began so I pooled together the graduation money I had left over after buying a car and we decided we were going to drive to New Mexico. The night we left, my parents were away and we scrambled around looking at maps on the internet and packing random layers of clothing. We got on the road and were instantly in a dangerous ice storm where second thoughts led us to a gas station and then back to my parent’s house again.
Did you know that in the winter even the desert gets ice cold? We didn’t and we’d had it with cold. I flung out the clothes in my suitcase and packed even warmer weather clothes. So we left that same night and drove and drove from NJ to…Jacksonville, Florida! We had a quick stop in Savannah, Georgia at 5 am where we watched the sun rise up on the broad mansions and Spanish moss covered oak trees. Then we sat on the water and were surprised by a very loud, very large ship sailing by inches from our backs. Then we got back in the car and kept going.
I called my parents later that night and told them I was in Key Largo and I wasn’t stopping until the land dropped off and all that separated me from Cuba was the ocean. My parents took it well – I was an adult and they were used to my shenanigans. We stayed one night in Islamorada right on the ocean and I woke up in the middle of the night and Dan was nowhere to be found.
I was soaking wet after never having dried off after our midnight hot tub adventures and all alone! Turns out he woke up and took a flashlight outside to the dock where he lit up the water and saw an octopus! I would have peed my pants. We decided we couldn’t sleep and took pictures of the sun waking up the ocean, the palm trees and the hotel staff. We had breakfast on the beach from a conveniently placed five dollar omelette station. They were delicious.
We then went to a strange aquarium that had a stray cat population along with sea creatures. I wish I had taken a photo of the image that haunts me to this day: a cat sunning itself above a shark tank, its curled tail hanging inches above a dorsal fin. At the aquarium, Dan went swimming with groupers, rays and dolphins but I was shy and hung back taking pictures. The staff called one of the Jewfish “Abraham” – a nice Jewish name fitting for a nice Jewish fish.
Then we got back into the car, crossed the Seven Mile Bridge and finally stopped at the ends of the earth – Key West – where we checked into the fanciest hotel suite on the island (where we had no business being) and went for some key lime pie. We laid out on a private beach with oceanside hotel service, charmed the staff into giving us free brunch passes for a fancy brunch (we had no business attending) and took pictures of jellyfish in the water. We went to another aquarium, talked to tourists and locals alike, rented bikes, and watched Mallory Square at dusk.
I’ll never forget that feeling of driving through Miami and then getting onto Route 1 into the wilderness of deer, alligators and tarpons. I could go on and on describing that trip but the point is that we followed our wildest dreams into an ocean adventure. If that’s not living…
A Story of Otter Love
For a Christmas present, the same Dan booked us a trip to Vancouver. There’s this park – Stanley Park – in the middle of the city and it has amazing tall tree forests, art, restaurants, wildlife and the Vancouver Aquarium. Even though we were smack in the middle of the real wilderness, we went to the aquarium for kicks. Dan was taking photos of the whales when I wandered over to the otters. There were two otters floating asleep on their backs, holding hands!
It was too precious for words. The sun had dried half their fur and it was cuddly and warm looking so they must have been sleeping for awhile. Suddenly, a very loud plane flew right overhead them and startled only one awake. He (she?) fumbled around, yawned adorably, stretched with his arms over his head and then reached for the other otter’s paw again and fell back asleep. The whole crowd just gasped and oohed and ahhed. By the time Dan found me, I couldn’t tell him the story without tears blurring my vision. It still makes me cry.
A Story to Avoid at Job Interviews
When I first got to San Francisco, I lived off of my savings for awhile but eventually had to find a job. I went to a temp agency in hot and sunny Marin County and found a job across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Rafael as an Operations Manager for a Life Coach Training Institute. You heard that right. You know those Life Coaches you hear about on Dr. Phil? This was the school that trained them to be that way. It was weird from the start because you could bring your dog to work and our weekly staff meetings consisted of heartfelt therapy circles which always ended in no less than three people crying. Having had my fair share of strange jobs, I initially thought I could “hang” with these people, but many of them were truly miserable. It got to be ridiculous.
And it was hostile working there so I’d often go for “smoking” breaks out on the balcony overlooking Mt. Tam. (I didn’t smoke) My partner and I were the young people in the company and they didn’t like her much, but I did, so I got some of the abuse she had been getting. After getting in trouble for taking personal phone calls, we both gave our notice in the same week.
Our boss thought it was a conspiracy and called us into her office to yell at us. I don’t take too kindly to unnecessary hostility and abusive workplaces, so when everyone was at lunch break, I made my move. I packed up my belongings, left a squashed banana in a low drawer that wouldn’t be found for awhile…and walked out into the brilliantly sunny parking lot and drove home. I’ll never forget how my mom reacted when I told her. She said she was proud of me.
I was so shocked and exclaimed, “Proud of me?? I just told you I quit my job in the middle of the day without telling anyone! Not only that, I left a dirty glass on the counter and a rotted banana in a drawer!” And she said, “I know, but you stood up for yourself. You’re a rebel and I like it.”
A Story of Freedom Fighting, Or Is It?
It was the fall of 2005. I was coming out of a very dark time in life and things were made better by my new friendship with my friend, Matt. We didn’t know each other well yet and spent our whole weekend together seeing Harry Potter, going out for what would become our ritual weekly brunch, and lastly – he came with me to my parent’s farm for a special dinner.
Blairstown was hopping that night because the symphony was in town so all of the shops had open doors and wine and cheese, and some local horseback rider was showing off by riding his horse drunk, in a tux and without a saddle. LOVED it. Before it got dark, a murmured shadow settled over the bookstore we were in and I looked outside to see a tall figure walking down the street in a white robe and hood. He looked so strong and confident and people were whispering on the streets and moving away from him. The shopkeeper closed the shop door and told us that the KKK were still around Pennsylvania and sometimes crossed the border into NJ.
I simply couldn’t believe it. I was literally yelling, “This is Jersey! In 2005! Don’t they know the North won the Civil War??? I’ll…I’ll…kill them.” Matt and I decided we were going to confront him and tell him to leave this beloved town. I was 105 pounds but anger made me crazy. The best part was that Matt is a very tall and very strong guy and we both stormed out of that store for a confrontation, probably looking like a Boston Terrier excitedly following the heels of a Great Dane and trying to look tough. Were we nuts? This KKK member could be armed and murderous yet we ran down the street after him and yelled out “Hey!” and he turned around..
And guess who (or what) turned around? It was a teenage boy dressed as Gandalf the White Wizard, on his way to his school play. He even had a tinfoil sword attached to his hips. We had to laugh about it and sent him on his way telling him to be very careful. I’m not sure he knew what people thought he was but the relief I felt that my parents’ lovely small town wasn’t being invaded by intolerant, hateful, horrible people was immense. That weekend totally solidified my friendship with Matt in unexpected but awesome ways.
This is me linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “A story that stuck with me is…” And there’s still plenty of time to write yours. Come link up with your spin: HERE.