Life Was ‘Rich’ When I Was Poor

Growing up as an 80’s kid

The most interesting thing about growing up poor is that I didn’t realize I was poor. As long as I had food in my belly and a place to sleep, life was good.

I loved my childhood. My mother was a waitress and my father was a car mechanic. I don’t have many childhood memories of my father because my parents separated when I was five years old. We moved from a trailer in the hood (although I had many tricycles as you can see), to another trailer located in Hollywood, Maryland with my to-be step-dad.

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My step-dad worked in Washington, DC, near the Capitol so he was a bit of a celebrity in my eyes. I had only visited DC once on a school fieldtrip. My friends used to ask me: “Hey, where does your step-dad work?” I’d respond: “He works in Capitol Hill with very important people.” I felt good about my standard response but I’m sure it confused many kids considering we lived in an unflattering trailer. I laugh when I think about that now. My step-dad looked more like a Bounty Hunter than a Capitol Hill employee. Imagine: A trailer in a lonesome field, a big guy living in it who could kick your ass, a German shepherd named “Axel,” and a few beaten down vehicles. Oh yeah, baby.

The trailer was tiny – brown and off-white in color. It wasn’t pretty, certainly nothing to brag about but it was “home.” My bedroom was like a human sweat locker, just big enough to squeeze in a single sized bed and a tiny dresser. Dark brown paneling surrounded me. Didn’t everyone have paneling in the early 80’s? It was hideous yet nothing made me happier than being with my family. I especially adored my little brother, Michael. We didn’t have much but we had love and togetherness. Today, lots of families live in huge homes even though most only use a handful of the rooms. Why do people need all this space?

No one complained there wasn’t central air conditioning or a dishwasher. Nobody whined that there was only one TV console with no remote control. Funny thing is I don’t know how I’d survive today without a remote control. If my remote died in the middle of the day, I’d rather run out to Walmart for new batteries than get up and change the channels.

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Who remembers the TV Guide? It was awesome. I used to sit down and circle every show or movie I wanted to watch. If I missed the opportunity to see a good movie, I might not see it again for another year. That ain’t no joke.

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The Wizard of Oz always left me in “awe.” I didn’t believe dwarves (or little people) were individuals I’d ever see in real life. After all, I did live in a small town. As a kid I felt amazed that TV producers found so many of them for one movie. Am I the only person who thought this way?  🙂 Now, there’s several reality shows starring little people and I love it.  I’m a fan of Little Women LA and The Little Couple.

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Another thing I find thought-provoking is that I didn’t hear sexual or foul language on regular TV channels back then. Today, children can turn on the TV and learn more about life’s vulgarities than I knew of at 25 years old. Actors and reality stars can say “ass,” “dick,” “bitch,” and insult others because it’s considered funny to so many people. I don’t get that? Why? I guess saying “Take a step back, jerk!” isn’t as cool as saying “Take a step back, motherf**ker!” Haha.

I remember the enthusiasm I felt when the fat Sears catalog was delivered around Thanksgiving time. I put my marker to work circling a thousand items I wanted, knowing I’d only get a few of them. But that was okay because just the book alone made me feel happy inside. I loved looking at the many colorful pictures. Who feels that way anymore? There are no catalogs for kids any longer. Now children are on Amazon asking their parents to order them things all year long.

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School days taught me a lot about different cultures. My most influential educator was my 5th Grade Teacher, Ms. Betty Brady. She went above and beyond the typical 5th grade education. She actually cultivated us about life. We wrote poetry and talked about our feelings. We took picnic lunches in the woods, sat in a circle and named positive things we liked about each other. Another cool thing we did was write down our name/address on a piece of paper of which we attached to a balloon. All at once, we released our balloons into the sky hoping someone far away would receive it and become a “pen pal.” A few kids were lucky and it worked! Can anyone imagine doing this now? That’d be like giving a possible child molester your full name and location.

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Hollywood, Maryland was so small that we only had one African American in our class. His name was Jermaine and he was super cool and friendly. I didn’t understand until I was older that racism is something that’s taught by adults to children. It doesn’t naturally exist on its own. We also had one disabled boy in our class. His name was William. I don’t know what condition he had but he wore a sturdy back-brace daily and struggled to walk sometimes. My classmates were helpful and kind to everyone. No one was cruel or obnoxious acting.

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I didn’t have a miraculous wardrobe, and I owned just a few pairs of shoes yet I felt okay with that. None of my buddies made me feel inadequate over it. I’m not sure the same applies in today’s world.

Our elementary school had a special program called “Grand Pals.” It was an incredible experience. Each 5th grader “adopted” two elderly persons living in our local nursing home. Our grand-pals were chosen by drawing names out of a jar. Although I don’t recall their names, I vividly remember who my grand-pals were. One was a blind black man and the other was a disabled veteran (both legs amputated at the knee) who carved wooden ducks as a hobby. I was fascinated by both of these gentlemen. They were so welcoming and kind to me. They shared stories about their lives with me and my letters were posted on their bedroom walls. Those two men will never know how much their wisdom and friendship meant to me. How many elementary kids in this generation can say they’ve had this type of experience?

When I had a school assignment I turned to the Britannica Encyclopedia set in our home. Those books were amazing, filled with color portraits and easy to understand. My parents took out a small loan to buy them. Now, schools basically require you have a computer/Internet at home to research projects and essays. Oh, and a printer.

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In middle and high school, a fight was just that… a fight. A kid worked off his or her aggression, spoke to the assistant principle, then went home for a few days. Today, most schools have cops permanently located within the school “for your safety.” Now a child could be smeared with a criminal record if he/she gets into a fight. Did bullying become worse or was it there yet ignored because social media didn’t exist?

I wrote letters to friends and boyfriends in school. In class or in the hallway, I passed my note to my recipient with a big smile upon my face. Also, back then people wrote addresses down in an actual address book. What have we gained since social media and email began? Swiftness of communication. And for this generation, speed is everything. What have we lost? Closeness, voice contact, the intimate communication of actually knowing what a person is feeling, and that can only come from presence. I don’t know any families that are actually closer as a result of email or social media.

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I remember the enjoyment I felt when my favorite song played on the radio. I owned a stack of 45-records and a few albums.  Then cassette tapes came out.  Major improvement! I discovered new music at a local record store called “Can’t Stop the Music.” I eagerly awaited the release of new albums. There were no piracy issues because people were allowed to record songs straight from the radio.  Imagine that!  Who else thought it was incredibly annoying to play their favorite song on their cassette tape? Fast forward. Stop. Play. Rewind. Fast forward. Stop. Play. God forbid you tried this out with your “Walkman.” It was ridiculous. Now a person can just turn on their iPod and hear their favorite tunes whenever they want. The “thrill” is over.

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House phones: I’m reminded of when “call waiting” first emerged. My friends and I were so excited! I told my girlfriend, Sheri: “Okay, call me at exactly 6 p.m.” Then, I’d have my boyfriend call me at 6:05 p.m. just so I could hear the BEEP and try it out. Mission achieved.

If I met someone I wanted to talk to, we exchanged home phone numbers on a piece of paper. If paper wasn’t available I wrote their number down on the back of my hand. If I wanted to ask a guy out, I didn’t start communicating via texting or IM’ing. I called his house. ‘Ring-ring…riiing-riiing…riiinnngggg-riiiinnnngggg’ (Please don’t let it be his mom or dad who picks up the phone… please don’t let it be his mom or dad who picks up the phone…) Then I’d talk to that boy for HOURS on the phone. Time just flew by. What the hell did we actually talk about? Who knows…

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I kept my sanity after breakups because back then there was no way to keep tab on your exes. Then the Internet came. Yikes! “Oh no, girllll… He was tagged in a picture where he’s hanging all over some chick. You gotta see this.”

A 35mm camera was the happening thing but if you were poor, Fujifilm invented the modern disposable camera. When I wanted my film developed, I had to take it to a store, drop it off and wait a few days. There were no do-overs. I photographed what I photographed. If I didn’t like the picture and wanted to redo it, too bad. The moment was gone. It’s printed now. If my eyes were closed, my hair was a mess, I had red-eye… oh well. Now, a smartphone takes better pictures than some digital cameras on the market. Constant do-overs make people appear flawless and it takes away the humor of an ugly photograph.

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Renting a movie was an adventure! I strutted around the movie store looking at all of the boxes of beta/VHS tapes available. I read the covers from front-to-back and glanced at the actors’ fashion statements. I dreamt of becoming a beautiful woman like the many featured on the movie covers. Who remembers “Be Kind. Rewind.”? Haha. A person had to rewind their tape or else the rental store charged a fee. I was sneaky too because I used to wander into the X-Rated room in the back to check out the naughty porn collection. That is how I learned about porn as a kid since there was no internet at our disposal. It scares me that a kid can easily access a porn site without their parents knowing.

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If I wanted to play a video game I went to the arcade armed with pockets full of quarters. I stood at a big boxy thing squeezed in next to a lot of other big boxy things, put in quarters and played the hell out of the games. And then I went home happier and poorer. Now there’s X-Box, PlayStation, games on our phones… you name it… endless entertainment available right at your fingertips.

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I spent my free time outdoors. Nature was my life. As kids, my aunt, Kristi, and I loved playing on the old railroad tracks behind her house. We caught tadpoles and held them in our hands without thinking “ewww….. gross.” I’ll admit I was afraid to hold a frog in my hand because I was told it would give me warts. I must have some kind of wart-fighting-power because I never did get any warts.

We rode in the back of my step-dad’s pick-up truck. There were endless bicycle journeys; Kickball; Tag; Candy cigarettes; Mello Yellow; Starburst; Scraping change from the couch cushions; fruit flavored Chapstick. We used make forts in hollowed bushes and re-hammer rusty nails into makeshift signs or we made mini sailing vessels with old pieces of wood. We flooded the narrow hillside of my yard using a garden hose and like magic, a “flowing river” appeared for my sailing vessel. Speaking of garden hose, I used to drink water straight from it without hesitation. Now, I’d probably need an immunization shot before pulling such a stunt. I was easily amused with a dirt driveway and a few small rocks to carve out Hopscotch blocks.

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On pretty days, we’d try to catch butterflies. This is totally unrelated, but I have a confession. I’m 42 years old yet I’m still haunted by an act of violence I committed once on a butterfly. I saw a wounded butterfly on the ground and instead of putting it out of its misery I took one wing and ripped it off. I have never forgotten that horrible act, as if it were some Jeffrey Dahmer shit or something. I have no idea why I did it. “I’m sorry, Mr. Butterfly. Please forgive me.”  😦

In the evenings, my grandmother gave us old mason jars and we’d run out in the front yard trapping lightning bugs. We poked holes in the metal lids and kept them overnight. I loved how they lit up the room at night. Some of the breathing holes weren’t big enough so many of my lightning bugs suffocated and died as a result.

Come to think of it, I’m starting to feel like a bug murderer… WTH.

Honeysuckle bushes lined the right side of my grandparent’s yard and we picked many of them for a taste of sweetness. Raspberry bushes were located in the woods right beside my house. Kristi and I picked huge bowls of them. It took hours and the chiggers we were totally worth it because the berries were free and delicious in exchange for the labor.

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I roamed the back streets throughout my neighborhood until sunset without concern from my parents. I wore a watch, the only way to tell time – A Swatch Watch.  Now, if a person doesn’t know where their kid is at all times, there is possible cause for panic — and a call to 911 may be in order.

We used yarn for ‘string art’ – ‘Witch’s Broom’ or ‘Cat’s Whiskers’.  Endlessly, we tried to come up with new string tricks.

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I had multiple bundles of colored string of which was used to make friendship bracelets. I pinned the knotted end to a pillow and then braided until it was long enough to fit my wrist.  I loved seeing the final outcome.

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Kristi and I choreographed dance acts to our favorite songs and performed our synced moves in front of our family in the living room. We looked ridiculous but it was fun and it killed time.

Often times, my grandparents took Kristi and I to the flea market and we loved it!  We frequently came home with multicolored rabbit foot key chains. I wouldn’t want one of those now – how depressing… “Let me cut off an innocent rabbit’s foot and color the fur. Children will love this.” Hell, I’d have PETA beating down my door today for owning such a trinket.

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Yard sales were fun. My mom and I used to hit up every yard sale in town. I’d always come home with a cute top or VHS movie. I wasn’t embarrassed to wear hand-me-downs. Before we left our house, we used to scrape up change from all around the house to treat ourselves to McDonald’s after yardsaling.

My parents used a map to go somewhere… Yes, it’s called a map. Crazy, isn’t it? I bet if I handed my adult son a map today he’d have no clue what to do with it. I recently watched an episode of 20/20 where a college student decided to spend her Spring Break on a solo road trip. She followed her Yahoo Maps app all the way to a dead end dirt road in the blistering desert. She was stuck there for nearly a week without gas or cell phone reception before someone finally found her.  She could have died.  Why aren’t we using maps as backup to GPS?

When I started working at my first job I had to either balance my checkbook or visit the bank to know how much money was left in my account. Pretty wild, isn’t it?

I had to teach my adult child how to write a personal check just last year:

Matt: “Mom, how do I write out a check for the security deposit on my apartment?”

Me: “You fill out who it’s going to, the dollar amount, and write the cash line out as (ex.) “One Thousand two hundred twenty-five dollars and xx/100. Date it. Sign it.”

Matt: “What? I don’t understand.”

Me: “Re-read what I last texted.”

Matt: “Can you just send me a picture of a voided check and pretend you’re writing this out so I can see?”

Me: {Laughing out loud} “Sure.”

If I left my house I didn’t care if someone couldn’t reach me. If I needed to reach out I used a pay phone booth. They were gross but it got the job done.

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Nearly everything I did in my childhood for entertainment was cheap or free. That’s the intriguing part. What kid can say that now?

Killing time never involved me texting, taking a selfie, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, or Twitter… seeing how many “likes” I had… Instead I took time to think… really “think.” Boredom made room for me to reconnect with myself.

Did technology take over? The Internet came with a lot of knowledge but it also filled our heads with plenty of junk and fluff like YouTube, endless porn, social media, and crimes. It gives people an excuse to stop speaking to others in person. It provides individuals with online bravery to insult or bully other people.

Life seemed simpler and healthier to live with less communication technology than we have today. Most would agree that it creates a sense of dependence that we did not used to have, not only in the form of separation anxiety from the people in our lives, but also from the separation anxiety we have developed for information and technology itself.

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Brave Girl Battles Two Rare Diseases

Chloe’s Hope: Stop the Burning

What does a juvenile disability look like?  Some might envision a homeschooled child or perhaps a wheelchair user. What if a child outwardly appeared normal yet their insides were screaming in agony?  Try to imagine a child who’s never known a life without horrendous pain and suffering.

That is the case for 11-year-old Chloe Louise Kuschert of Corowa, a town in the New South Wales in Australia. She oftentimes cries to her mother, “Why me? Why can’t I have a normal life? I hate this so much.”  But all her mother can do is comfort her and wipe away the tears streaming down her face.

Chloe was just two years old when her health began rapidly deteriorating. It started with a sensitive area that some people wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about. Debilitating symptoms of bleeding, swelling, redness and pain developed in her vulva (female external genitals) area. As her condition progressed, the burning became so excruciating that Chloe could no longer function. Her life became overshadowed by throbbing pain and discomfort. After visiting numerous doctors over a 4-year period in Australia, doctors were still unable to diagnose Chloe’s condition. The doctors decided to have Chloe’s medical chart reviewed by a pediatric group based out of the United States where a genetic specialist finally made the diagnosis.

Chloe had a rare disease called Erythromelalgia (EM) which not only affects her vulva area, but also her face, ears, and hands.  The condition affects 1.3 in 100,000 people, and there is no cure.

EM causes unbearable burning pain, noticeable redness of the skin, swelling, and increased skin temperature. The exact underlying cause of EM is unknown. It’s thought to result from vasomotor abnormalities or dysfunction in the normal constriction and dilation of the caliber of certain blood vessels, leading to abnormalities of blood flow to the extremities.

There isn’t a typical treatment for EM, and sometimes nothing helps. Chloe has tried many prescriptions and supplements, and dealt with dreadful side effects. She is on a strict ‘cooling’ regime to prevent overheating.

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EM flares on Chloe’s face and ears

“Managing her EM pain is incredibly difficult,” said her mother, Jacqui. She  went on to say that every day is a battle in which Chloe fights for her joy and freedom from pain. Since the condition also affects her private area there is no way of knowing the impact it will have on adulthood with sexual activity and childbirth.

Chloe’s health continued to worsen over the next several months after her EM diagnosis. She began experiencing vaginal bleeding, frequent toilet needs, urinary incontinence and burning along with bladder and stomach pain. After seeing several doctors, going through more examinations and cystoscopies, a gynecologist diagnosed Chloe with interstitial cystitis (IC), a condition that results in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and the surrounding pelvic region.

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“I felt helpless as I just sat there crying. I wanted to take all of her pain away,” Jacqui said.

Chloe has been repeatedly tested for everything you could possibly imagine and still no doctor can provide answers.

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Just a few months following the EM and IC diagnoses, Chloe developed more unbearable symptoms. Her joints began aching and swelling, and she bruised more easily. She had trouble walking due to the pain in her knees and ankles. Ultimately a rheumatologist diagnosed Chloe with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a group of inherited disorders marked by extremely loose joints, very stretchy skin that bruises easily, and easily damaged blood vessels. EDS affects about 1 in 5,000 people globally.

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Most parents couldn’t fathom their child dealing with one rare disease let alone two.  The effects of having all three conditions has caused Chloe to have fainting spells, abdomen pain almost daily, dizziness, and low blood pressure.

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“To manage her many combined symptoms Chloe regularly sees a local general practitioner, pediatrician, gynecologist, neurologist, and a cardiologist. Currently she’s taking 11 pills a day plus a pain reliever in an effort to give her a somewhat normal life. Of all her conditions, EM is the most painful for Chloe,” her mother said.

Chloe is in the fifth grade. She battles through the pain most days because she loves attending school. Her teacher is very kind to her, and her classmates are supportive and understanding. She’s sad to miss school days when she’s overwhelmed by pain.

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An emotional Chloe as she struggles with daily pain

EM causes the body to quickly overheat during physical activity so Chloe is unable to participate in any outdoor sports. Although it’s disappointing, Chloe maintains a positive attitude. Instead she enjoys reading and doing arts and crafts.

Chloe enjoys spending time with her family — mother, Jacqui, father, David, and brothers, James, 18, and Caleb, 14.  She also loves hanging out with her dog, Molly, and her rabbit, Gizmo.

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Chloe with her brothers, James and Caleb

“The unknown is scary. I don’t know if my daughter will ever live a normal life, free from pain and misery. I want her to be happy, and not just have ‘happy moments.’  This is all very devastating.  I also have to accept that she may never experience the gift of pregnancy. I’m heartbroken inside,” her mother said.

Disabilities aren’t always recognizable to the public. So when you see a child who seems carefree and happy, please think of Chloe. There are children out there like her whose lives are a lot harder than they appear to the outside world.

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If you’d like to support Chloe Kuschert, you can do so by helping spread awareness.  Please Like and Share her Facebook page titled Chloe’s Hope: Stop the Burning

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Chloe and her mother, Jacqui

To see this story on The Huffington Post:

Brave Girl Battles Two Rare Diseases

To read more about Erythromelalgia, please see the following blog:

Burning for Hope

Jacqui and Chloe are active members of the “Parents of Little EM Warriors” program where they communicate and share their experiences with other families in need of support. Join “Erythromelalgia Warriors” on Facebook to learn more.

EM Warriors on Facebook

Chloe has also joined the “I Am The Face of Erythromelalgia” campaign.

Please Join Our Campaign here

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EM Awareness Video:

The Wilted Sunflower 🌻

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Overlooking a field of sunflowers,

A few appeared out of place.

They tried to stand tall but couldn’t,

While others more lovely filled their space.

Gravitating toward the beautiful ones,

As the wilted were quickly passed by.

Few people desire to view the weak,

And this group of flowers is soon to die.

The wind blew the pedals to the ground,

Changing them from golden to brown.

A little more rain and sunshine is needed,

Especially when ‘living’ is bringing you down.

But aren’t they pretty too, these flowers…

Who looked stranded in a crowded field?

For not every blossom can be flawless,

And there are some that may never be healed.

Healing isn’t the same as ‘fixing’ or a cure, 

But rather to ‘accept’  and mend the soul.

So love ALL the flowers to cross your path,

Even the sad blooms that don’t appear whole.

With a new season a fresh life will begin,

And a new journey will soon be told. 

‘Unique’ is still special and worth seeing,

Because eventually all living things grow old.

Written By: Melissa Curley

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The ‘Desk’ Jockey’s Big 16

Complexities of an Office Worker

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Everyone wants to believe they have a fun, easy-going personality and can get along with anyone. If you’ve ever worked in a busy office, particularly a cubicle farm, you know it can be an interesting journey… especially if you’ve got a decade or two of “the experience” under your belt.

I’ve written about 16 comical pet peeves and personality types you may have dealt with, or are currently experiencing.

1.  Pot Suckers: These are the cheap, shameless coworkers who attend your office Pot Lucks, who SUCK. They don’t bring a dish to share.  Even worse, some of these Pot Suckers actually bring leftover 2-day old coleslaw or a hardened-noodle dish, as if we can’t tell it’s been partially dug into and eaten already by their family members.  They make their way through the buffet line pretending to be “incognito,” but we know who you are!  You’re a Pot Sucker.

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2.  ‘Ho’ Down the Fort: These chicks will strut around the office throughout one’s  career. They dress way too provocative for work. Men may not mind (duh), but career-dressed women usually dislike these types.  “Did she wear that clubbing last night, and this is her walk-of-shame outfit for work?”  You’ll never know.  Honestly, she might not even be a ho, but fo’ sho,’ she dresses too sexy for her job.

 

3.  Secret Poopers: These folks like to poop where they don’t belong. It’s not a secret that we all poop.  The problem with secret poopers is that they purposely use a different floor’s restroom to avoid being seen (or heard- yuck) by their coworkers.  It’s whack. They’re technically getting paid to poop since it’s happening during work hours, so it should be in their office’s designated bathroom. Own up to your poop.  #poopdupe

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4.  Lunchroom Slobs: These are the coffee mess/kitchenette pigs we all dread sharing a common space with.  It makes us think, “I wonder what their house looks like inside… Gross.”  These folks don’t clean up after themselves.  The microwave clock is never set back to its rightful place of “zero.”  Their food is often times left to mold in the refrigerator, and they leave their dirty dishes “soaking” in the sink as an added bonus.

 

5.  Productivity Slayers: Envision this scene- You’re feeling productive, and trying to get a project done before lunchtime when BOOM! The stench of a huge whale carcass knocks you down in your cubicle.  You want to gag from the obnoxious landfill odor, but then it dawns on you:  “Who the heck is heating up leftover FISH in the microwave?!”

Additionally, burning microwavable popcorn stinks like smelly feet, and is also a productivity killer. Please, just don’t.

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6.  Sexy Grannies: This is an older woman who thinks she’s hot but unfortunately no one else does. They’re the sexy seniors that parade around the office who need “let go.”  Orange-glowing self-tanner and lots of cleavage are not hip once you’ve qualified for discounted meals at the Cracker Barrel. Your day has come and gone. It’s time to pass the torch, sexy granny.

 

7.  Speed Bumps: Just as it sounds – they’re like a bump in the road that slows you down.  They provide no real benefit in getting work done.  If anything, they’re in the way.  Heck, they’re in their “own” way.  Some Speed Bumps are better known as a T.W.A.T. (a person who doesn’t work Monday or Friday – only Tue Wed And Thu).

By the time an accomplished worker clocks out for the day, he/she feels like they’ve been hit over the head with a heavy metal object. They’re dumbfounded at the Speed Bump’s laziness.  “AIN’T CRAZY ABOUT LAZY!”

 

8.  Oversharing Oddballs: These are the bizarre people who stop by your cubicle to share way too much of their personal business.  For example:  Sally stopped by to inform you of her killer yeast infection, and chronic constipation she’s dealing with.  You barely know Sally yet she feels comfortable asking if you suffer with constipation… and if so, what laxatives are you using?

WAIT.  WHAT?  …It’s only okay to talk about vagina problems or constipation with coworker “friends,” not acquaintances.

I had a personal experience with an oddball who used to share a cubicle with me.  Even on a good day, I was never fond of his overgrown chia-pet-like chest hair that popped out of his dress shirts.  One day he asked what my favorite holiday was, and I told him it was Halloween.  OH-MY-GOSH!  Shut the front door!  That little man told me about his haunted house, and how he dressed up in a gimp suit and chased his victims around the garage.  For months I felt tortured by those hideous images of him running around in tight leather pants and a zip-up face mask.  No matter how professional he was after that story, all I envisioned (and heard was), “I’m a furry-chested gimp at night.”  ……… “IT AIN’T FAIR TO OVERSHARE!”

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9.  Dirty Handlers: This office worker leaves the bathroom without washing his/her hands.  OH, HELL NO.  Men might not be fanatical about this, but office women will track that female down based solely on her visible shoes under the stall door.  It’s like an airborne disease.  Once the “hand-washing” woman tells her “hand washing” girlfriends, it’s all over for Ms. Dirty Hands. No one will ever eat the desserts she brings in, or her pot luck dishes… and she won’t be invited to any office girlfriend lunch outings either.

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10.  OG’s: Oh, here he comes… dressed in his 1970s brown attire. He doesn’t care that he looks like a human version of the Charlie Brown cartoon character…  Nope.  He’s a part of the OG posse.  The OG thrives on his past accomplishments and accolades, but provides little value in his current job as he nears retirement.  These people merely “exist” in the workplace, taking up space.  They also enjoy talking about the many vacations they’ve taken throughout the year because they’re big pimpin’ until they’re gone…. for good.   An OG can be male or female.

 

11.  Germ Spreaders: Watch out for these coworkers!  They drag their sickly selves into work for your “convenience.”  He/she sits in their cubicle hacking up a lung all day, and blowing their nose until it sounds like a horn going off in the office. Some even snort back phlegm, then swallow or spit into their trash can.

A small piece of a healthy coworker’s soul dies inside every time they hear these bodily noises.  Repeatedly, people will tell the ill worker to go home but they refuse.  After all, they’re in the office to “save the day” by doing minimal work between gagging, snorting and coughing. “Yes! I’d love to catch the flu,” said NO ONE ever.  Go home and rest.  “YOUR VIRUS AIN’T DESIRIOUS!”

 

12.  Opinionators: These know-it-all’s can’t help themselves. They’ve got an opinion about everything, and they’re usually negative people. It doesn’t matter if it’s about work or personal affairs; they’ve got something to say.  A coworker could be talking about the crazy weather with other coworkers when the “Opinionator” from two cube aisles down suddenly chimes in with, “No! I disagree! I think it’s been unseasonably hot this year.”  What these folks really need is a nice tall glass of Shut-The-Hell-Up.

 

13.  Lord Farquaads: You can recognize this jerk from a mile away. He sits up high on his make-believe horse, and he’s just galloped over to your cubicle to grace you with his presence.  His hair is over-gelled, nice and stiff. He thinks he’s every woman’s dream-come-true, but he’s really a Lord Farquaad… who can’t take a hint.  Be prepared, ladies!  He’s also marinated in some overpowering cologne.

 

14. Loud & Proud:  Dang, dude… Are you a “smoke detector?”  ‘Cuz you’re really freaking LOUD and ANNOYING.

These folks want everyone to be a part of their exciting workday!  The louder, the better. Every conference call is implemented via speaker phone from their cubicle.  Coworkers are forced to listen to every bit of their chatter throughout the day.  It’s uncertain if these folks realize they’re obnoxiously loud, or if they just want to sound important.  “HOW ABOUT TONING IT DOWN A NOTCH, SKID ROW?”

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15. The Triple Threat: The Triple Threat is a scary experience, particularly if you’re an amateur.  It’s a clique of 3 – 5 office females, and they’re more than just “coworking girlfriends.” They’re (1) favored, (2) gossiping (3) mean girls. Men and women can be affected by this mini-Mafia, but typically insecure females struggle the most.

If you’re a secret pooper, dirty handler, speed bump, Opinionator, or OG, you’re in for a rude awakening by this chick clique.  Think of it as the cougar version of Mean Girls (the movie).

 

16. Office Scroungers:  Imagine this scenario- You left work for the day and everything looked fine. Your chair was tucked in, and your desk looked tidy. You head into the office the following morning, and notice your seat has been replaced with an old dusty 1960s chair you spotted earlier that month in the recycling “hallway.”  You’ll never know who did it!   THE STRUGGLE IS REAL!

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Also, on any given occasion an office worker may find their scissors, tape dispenser, or stapler has disappeared… never to be seen again.  Apparently, its wandered off to Staple’s Land of Misfit Office Goodies… but there is no rescue.

The office worker feels pissed, and it makes he/she feel as if they’re back in grade school. “Who the hell would steal my scissors?!!  Don’t they know I need those for the annual holiday door decorating contest?!”

Nobody wants to look like Milton on Office Space, walking around asking your coworkers about your missing stapler.

 

Thanks for reading!  If this blog made you smile, please share to spread the laughter 🙂

A Letter to My Dad <3

Dear Dad,

Yesterday was a strange day filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. I was in a great mood, laughing and feeling a few moments of pure inner joy and cheerfulness. Mom, Michael, Kristie, Jenny and I had just had lunch together. It wasn’t a planned lunch. As a matter of fact, the “planning” happened over a period of about five minutes. Mom just happened to be nearby at Kohl’s. I’ll give you a moment to absorb that… as I know you’re shocked that Mom was out shopping. Haha. As everyone joked, told stories, and laughed, I thought to myself: I love my family so much. We’re mostly last-minute planners yet it turned out to be such a fun gathering.

I was in a productive meeting at work and once it ended, I walked back to my desk expecting to carry on with my day. It’s incredible how just one email from my brother could change my entire day from that point forward. Michael knows Jenny and I well enough that we’d rather read something and absorb it, than endure a devastating phone call. At first I thought to myself, “Did I read this correctly? Let me go back and read it again.” My heart sank. Did I just read that my dad has cancer? It felt like the air had just been sucked from my lungs. I called Jenny and I could tell she too had been crying. We met outside in our work parking lot, and we shared a sentimental moment together.  We talked, vented, hugged – and then we realized…. We are very ugly criers. We decided to go home for the day to pull ourselves together.

I suddenly had a flashback to when I was 10 years old. I had always been the little leader in the house, particularly in my relationship with Michael. I remember having a private conversation with Michael, asking him how he felt about us calling you “Dad.” Michael was only six years old at the time yet he had been so confident in his decision. He said, “I’m good with it.” It was as if Michael had been waiting for me to tell him it was okay. I felt very nervous about sharing my feelings with you. How exactly does a 10-year-old kid tell her step-father this? I didn’t talk to Mom about it because I wanted to be brave on my own. Michael and I walked out to the garage where you were working on one of your vehicles and I remember my sentence like it were yesterday, “Me and Michael were talking, and we’d like to start calling you dad if you’re okay with that.” Then, we just stood there… tick-tock…tick-tock… The uncomfortable, silent pause felt like an eternity but I think you were just gathering your composure. You said you’d be honored and that it meant the world to you.

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Remember the day of my wedding? All of the guests were inside the church waiting for me to walk down the aisle. The double doors were closed. No one stood behind those doors other then you, me, and Josh. Josh opened the doors and then there was a 5-second pause before the wedding march began. This would be the first (and only) time you’d ever walk me down the aisle. You looked at me and said, “Are you ready?” I gave you a huge smile and said, “Yep. I’m ready!” You looked so confident and proud as you said, “Okay, Let’s go.” Look at Jesus in the background.  It’s almost as if he was winking at me saying, “Go ahead, girl! Get on down that aisle!”  To my surprise, my friend Brenda caught our special moment on film.

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I’d love to share more amazing stories like the last few paragraphs, but let’s be realistic. I was a bratty teenager with little regard for anyone but myself. So there was a gap of time where things weren’t perfect. Thank God I found my way back to the person I once was before life’s circumstances took away most of my happiness.

Daughters use that quote “My Dad is my hero” all the time but I actually lived through that phrase. I wouldn’t be alive today if not for you. Typically you’d only see a father screaming his daughter’s name then aggressively removing her abuser’s hands off of her in a movie. But that was me, and you were my hero. You’re still my hero!

I wrote you this letter for a few reasons: (1) I want you to know that we love you, (2) I wanted to share my two most favorite memories with you to make you smile, and (3) I want you to know that you’re not alone in whatever journey you’re facing. We’re all here for you. Your faith and assurance in God is an inspiration to all of us; however, don’t expect your family to sit back and be nonchalant either. LOL. Not happening.

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I love you.

Love,  Missy

PS – Please, anyone who reads this letter, I would ask that you say a prayer for our dad and our family. Our family strongly believes in the power of prayer, and we know that God is the #1 Physician. Thank you.

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How Robin Williams Changed My View on Life

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As an extroverted, fun-loving person, I’m the type who can barely get through telling a joke without laughing before the punch line. I’ve always viewed myself as a comedian at heart. While I enjoy making others feel happy, Robin Williams’ death made me realize I hadn’t truly focused on my own inner happiness. Laughter had been the drug that distracted me from feelings of sadness. Although I’ve never been clinically depressed, I was surprised to learn that even the funniest people have struggled with depression.

Drew Carey released an autobiography which told of his bouts of depression and two failed suicide attempts. Jim Carrey, one of my all-time favorites, said he went through cases of depression during his career in an interview with 60 Minutes back in 2004. Even Ellen DeGeneres overcame depression.

After hearing of Robin Williams’ death, it’s not uncommon to think, “Wow. Why would he commit suicide? This is a guy who had it all.” But did he really? Just because someone is famous, wealthy, and/or a comedian, doesn’t mean they’re living a perfect life. I started looking into the events prior to Williams taking his own life. He had become gradually more ill with Parkinson’s Disease before ending his life. He was also suffering from Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), which was discovered during his autopsy. Protein deposits, called Lewy bodies, grow in nerve cells in the brain regions involved in thinking, memory and movement. It is believed he may have been encountering hallucinating thoughts during the days leading up to his suicide.

Williams wasn’t the only funny person who couldn’t find his way out of the darkness. Ray Combs, former stand-up comedian and host of Family Feud, committed suicide after his long battle with depression. Other comedians such as John Belushi, Chris Farley, and Richard Pryor all led troubled lives battling substance abuse behind their comedy acts. All of them died of involuntary drug overdose.

Chris Farley, cast member of Saturday Night Live, was a very unhappy man hiding behind his humor. Farley long carried a replica of a poem “A Clown’s Prayer” in his wallet. It read, “As I stumble through this life, help me create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair.” Laughter and tears go hand and hand for many comedians.

 

I realized the miracle of “happiness” doesn’t magically occur by laughing, or by making others laugh. Being funny isn’t the same as being happy.

I’ve been through short periods of expected depression when life threw curve balls my way – divorce, financial struggles, moderate health issues, and so on. But the real challenge came when I received my chronic illness diagnosis of Erythromelalgia. It’s not as if the doctor said, “Okay, you have a life-long chronic illness, but here’s a therapist to help you deal with the mental aspect of it.” I felt like a homeless cat trapped outside during a thunderstorm. I had no clue how to deal with my physical and mental anguish over it. Suddenly my prior stints with depressions felt like a cake-walk in comparison to this.

After the diagnosis, I spent about a year mourning the loss of someone very special to me – “myself.” It’s that moment when you realize “you” are never coming back again, and you must carry on with your new life. It may not be the life you dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an uplifting, and rewarding journey.

 

Robin Williams’ death made me appreciate how precious life is, and how essential it is to find your inner happiness. Once I stopped feeling sorry for myself I realized there were others suffering with my same condition. I decided to turn my chronic illness into something positive: advocacy. I focused my energy on learning more about my illness, and spreading awareness in hopes of a cure or better treatments in the future. Now, I feel empowered to help others like I’ve never felt before. It’s been a blessing.

I found my laughter again, but mostly I’m glad I found my inner happiness. It’s kind of like comparing your disposition to a car’s transmission – You go from being an “automatic” before chronic illness, to a “manual” after chronic illness. Both engines work but one requires a little more effort.

 

The Erythromelalgia (EM) Awareness Video:

 

Time Waits for Nothing

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It’s free yet it’s priceless. You can use it but you can’t borrow it. It can be your friend or your worst enemy.  You have no control over it, and you can’t move it forward or slow it down.   What is it?

It’s called TIME – a simple four-letter-word with such powerful meaning behind it.  “Time = Life.”  Time is the only unpredictable measurement that comes between the moment you’re born, and the moment you take your last breath.  But what is time to you?

The word “time” creates an image in my mind of an Olympic athlete racing against a clock toward the finish line. Nothing matters more in that moment than time itself; every fraction of a second counts.  Another moment I envision is watching the countdown of the clock during a football game, and the opposing team is down by just a few points.  When you think about it, one could say there is no such thing as losing; they just simply ran out of time. Regardless, “time” is not only about winning or losing.  It goes far deeper than that.

When the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, it made the world question many things, including the meaning of time, and how invaluable it is. Typically, you wouldn’t foresee a national tragedy to have a theme song, but on how many occasions did you hear “Only Time” by Enya playing on the radio during that heartbreaking era?  Employees’ working in either trade tower that were running late that morning thought time wasn’t on their side. On the contrary, time is what saved their lives. Same goes for the passengers who missed their flights that day. Just think if only one person didn’t make it on time to their metro station stop; or if someone stopped to tie a shoelace on the sidewalk; or the coffee shop had an unusually long time that morning.  All of those examples of time could have meant the difference between life and death that day.

Time is everything when a loved one is dying. Imagine a Hospice nurse’s role in helping patients with their end-of-life care. “Time” is what they represent to grieving families. The nurse measures the patient’s pulse beat per minute.  When the time has come, the nurse peacefully says, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  Just like that, their time on earth is done.  Life in human form is gone forever, and a permanent date and time is marked on a death certificate.

Just as time can take away a life, it can also represent the spirit of bringing a new life into the world. Most mothers could tell you the exact time their child was born.  After nine months of anticipation, excitement, and curiosity, time is no small thing to a mother.  Many expectant mothers can’t wait for “time” to reveal their baby’s gender before it’s even born.

The only time one person’s life and another person’s death play a role together, at the same time, is through organ donation. Organ donors make the ultimate sacrifice in saving another person’s life. Matching and compatibility are everything when it comes to saving a life.  Will the recipient receive the organ in time?  Only time will tell.

There are moments when “time” feels like an unattractive word:

  • To a coworker, “I’m sorry you didn’t get the promotion.  It just wasn’t your time.”
  • After a loved one dies, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Time makes things easier.”
  • Once a relationship ends it’s usually accompanied by, “Love takes time to heal.”
  • When a student hasn’t finished taking their exam before the teacher yells, “Time’s up!”

Just like the old saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” it can also drag when life sucks. Prisoners and insomniacs probably know this better than anyone.  For insomniacs, it’s unbearable to watch minutes tick by while you’re lying there wide awake.  Waiting on medical results is a time-dragging experience as well.  Also, chronic pain sufferers know how slow time can move. Time may not fix anything but it does teach us how to live with the pain.

Regardless of whether you use it wisely or waste it away, time keeps on ticking.  And we shouldn’t question the days we’re stuck in traffic or got up late for work.  Perhaps there is bigger meaning behind those moments saving us from a misfortune?

No one would be able to recognize good times without having bad ones.  Time is a part of where you are, what you do, and who you’re waiting for.  Until the moment we die, “time” makes us all equal in that we each get twenty-four hour days.  How we choose to spend it is what determines our future.

As Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”