Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Ugliness of Healing

We could learn a great deal about human behavior simply from watching our own bodies at work.

I suffered a severe ankle sprain a week ago. Watching the healing process has reminded me of another process, one we should be cognizant of when dealing with each other.

My ankle hurt badly at first. So bad that I cried. It swelled and had to be elevated.

But as the ankle heals, it looks worse. In fact, the black and blue discoloration was really quite gross and ugly at one point.

It reminds me of humans when we are working through the grieving process.

Think about it.

When someone close to us dies we often lash out at those around us. It is to be expected. Most of the time, for sensitive and aware individuals, we don't take this anger personally. We chalk it up to the grieving process and try to give the person who is hurting time and space.

Once the early stages pass, and the person in pain continues moving forward, they let go of the anger.

But make no mistake, when we are healing we can often be ugly and may not appear to be our usual selves on the outside.

It is much easier to sympathize with an individual who is physically hurting when we can actually see, with our own two eyes, the black and blue marks. So we have to look for the signs not reflected in the physical body when someone is healing from emotional pain.

This person may be curt when talking to you. They may be extra sensitive and lash out at perceived slights that were never intended. This person may attempt to cut off relationships irrationally.

These are all the ugly parts of the healing process. Sadly, the difference between these and a bruise is that bruises don't leave permanent cuts in a relationship.

If you are on the receiving end of a person's "ugly bruising" try to step back and remember that it truly is a process. Most recover eventually and may regret how they acted.

I want that to be the case with the tone and tenor of many United States citizens regarding the San Bernardino shooting and the anger towards all Muslims.

I hope, once the initial shock and fear pass, that the ugly "bruising" we are seeing and hearing so much of will diminish and that many of these previously tolerant and kind people will look back in horror at the mass labeling of Muslims as "terrorists", at the hateful speech and threatening actions.

If and when this happens, those of us who watched the process need to be kind. We need to understand that they were lashing out from fear and sadness.

This doesn't apply to all of the people filled with mistrust and anger towards the Muslim community (some will never change; bigotry is simply a part of the internal wiring of certain individuals), but I have to believe that many of the people in this country who are so openly ugly are simply reacting to the initial anger and sadness over the shooting. They are frustrated with ISIS and with what they understandably cannot understand. Maybe they are just working through the process.

Just like my ankle.

It has to get uglier before it can fully heal.

Our nation has experienced this type of ugliness before and I daresay it will happen in the future. Such is our species.

We should pay attention to mother nature, though, and not allow the ugliness to take over.

I'm keeping my ankle wrapped and I am aware of what the bruising and the discoloration means. It will go away and I need to speed that process along as quickly as possible.

I wish we could wrap Donald Trump and the others like him with an ace bandage so the process can't be broadcast so loudly.

I fear these wounds are more like a terminal disease for many though. Unable to heal.

Please let your fear be a minor pain; allow the bruises to work through the process but then heal. Go back to being the good, kind and sensible people I know you once were.

Please.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Donald and the Culpable

Alan Bullock, in his 1962 book "Hitler: A Study in Tyranny", wrote of WWII and the Holocaust that the heaviest responsibility lay with the German Right, who "forsook a true conservatism" and made Hitler their partner in a coalition government.

Daniel Goldhagen, in his acclaimed study "Hitler's Willing Executioners", provides thoroughly researched evidence of the culpability of average German citizens in the murder of six million Jews, a culpability rooted, essentially, in racism.

Let's not kid ourselves. There's nothing cliche with regard to what I'm about to say. Donald Trump's campaign is starting to resemble Nazi Germany's rhetoric and game plan. How Americans respond will have a monumental impact on our future and the future of the rest of the world.

What has been so intriguing is the recent fury with which he has so openly and blatantly stated his intentions. Even more disturbing are the large crowds cheering him on.

Trump's response to the shooting at the November 27th Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic by a white Christian male was surprisingly muted. He offered prayers for the victims.

His public statements since the ISIS bombing in Paris on November 13 are the antithesis of muted. They are downright Hitler-esk.

Trump calls for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, failing to mention the rigorous screening process many of them already have to endure (some of the most oppressed victims of ISIS, in fact).

He has suggested a national registration database for all Muslims in the United States so the U.S. government can track them.

Trump suggested he might make "them" carry a special identification card.

Speaking at a rally he stated that he believes we should place mosques under surveillance and that he is fine with warrantless searches of them. The Donald would even consider forcing them to close.

There are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. They make up almost 25% of the population.

They are your neighbors, co-workers and friends.

In Nazi Germany, the Jews were neighbors, co-workers and friends.

A charismatic speaker, using inflammatory language and lies (see Trump's claim that he saw "thousands and thousands of Muslims celebrating" after the World Trade Center attacks), was able to tap into a nation's racism, fear and national pride.

German's saw themselves as superior to all others.

Trump claims he is going to "make America great again".

He has called Mexican immigrants "rapists".

He is calling for a ban on all Muslims, claiming "they" hate us and want to kill us but has offered nothing else substantive in the area of policy with regard to the Middle East and ISIS.

The signs are not just subtle. They are glaring. They are screaming in our ears, punching us in the face and kicking us in the gut.

Donald Trump is just one man, though.

Adolf Hitler needed an entire nation of followers in order to carry out his goals. Donald Trump has followers, rabid fans who shout and cheer at his rallies. They openly advocate sending all Muslims away. They have physically attacked people.

Let's not kid ourselves.

Trump supporters say they like him because he says the things no one else will say. Part of the reason no one else says those things is because many don't believe them; many are, in fact, absolutely sickened by them.

It is time for Donald Trump's followers and the political party that still claims him to decide which side of history they are going to stand on; the side of bigotry, hate, lies and cowardice thereby giving ISIS exactly what it wants or on the side of everything America represents.

It's really beginning to appear that simple.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ways to Keep Busy While Running a Half Marathon

13.1 miles is a really long time when you are running. Okay, FINE, I'll humbly acknowledge when I am walking/running. The first thing I discovered when training was that a four minute run/two minute walk was my salvation; as long as I could maintain that pace I knew I could finish. Beyond that, how in God's name does a person stay sane while covering that distance on foot? Here are a few of my activities.

Poop before the race. Do not laugh at this. Very, VERY important. If you can't do it at home then head to the porta-potty the minute you arrive at the starting site because if you are lucky you'll find one untouched (aww, the sweet pleasures in life). If you do not manage this very basic human action then you will spend the next 13.1 miles worrying about it. Who needs worry?

Pandora beats the shuffle every time. Because you never know what song is coming next which means you never think "God, I'm so sick of that song" (trust me, this comes from experience).

Never wear underwear that is too big. Don't laugh. I've had my underwear slide all the way down under my butt cheeks before and let me tell you, it's slightly embarrassing having to shove your hand down the back of your shorts in order to pull them back up again. In addition, even though you KNOW it's your undewear, it FEELS like your shorts so you panic thinking your shorts have slid all the way down your backside. Race day? Definitely don't want to provide stories for the people behind you. Solution? Shorts that have a built in underwear liner. I run in one pair of shorts almost exclusively. When they die my running days may die with them. That's how much I love these shorts.

Check out the butts of people in front of you. Now don't laugh, this can provide a large chunk of entertainment and it's actually my favorite part of participating in races (besides the medals). I've discovered that butts of all shapes and sizes run. I've also discovered that some look good in certain types of shorts and others, well, made me realize how horrifying my own ass must've looked in those tight KU running pants I so proudly sported last March. Seriously. Thick spandex ladies, I beg of you; because cheap, thin spandex shows every...single...dimple...and choose black. I came up behind a nude colored pair of spandex shorts and thought the woman was naked. And this was not someone I'd want to see nude. For the love of God, no nude spandex. Ever.

Spend time looking at the ground so you avoid stepping in the hundreds of wads of phlegm that dot the surface. Yes, I'll admit to having spit a few times in the past when running but it was ONLY in extremely hot weather and I made it a point to spit towards the side of the sidewalk into the grass. Phlegm on the sidewalk keeps me focused on not puking rather than my own fatigue. Even the disgusting things in life can come in handy.

Check out real estate along the run. Realize some houses will be out of your price range forever. Accept this. Use other houses as a reminder to never, ever complain about your own again. Spot a cute apartment with a balcony and a cool view downtown? Imagine the amount of fun the twenty-something hottie who lives in it must be having...they probably don't drive a van (so uncool)...they are probably sleeping in right now after partying all night...ask yourself what the hell happened because YOU used to be cool...then look at the nude spandex in front of you and remember that at least you aren't wearing THOSE...and remind yourself that you are over half way to retirement while twenty-something hottie has his/her entire career to sweat for "the man" and chuckle softly in gratitude that you don't have a hangover or the beer shits today because YOU went to bed early. Puff out your chest, feel righteous and move on to the next mile.

Check out the sun rising and close your eyes for a moment (only a moment, you'll trip and fall if you keep your eyes closed too long) savoring the moment. Then remember that a blind woman with a guide passed you at mile two.

About the time you are feeling pretty accomplished at mile 10 notice the cool bicycles and official looking guys on them coming up on your left and in that moment realize they are leading the marathon leader. Accept that there are people getting ready to pass you and they've run TWENTY THREE+ FREAKING MILES to your measly ten. Now this will provide some really good food for thought, hopefully taking your mind off the fact that you are starting to lean a little while running, in a broken/intoxicated and embarrassing sort of way (you know this because you can see your shadow on the ground in front of you and it's rather bizarre). Think about how much you hate that marathon runner. Seriously. Who the hell runs that fast? Then notice the three graceful "gazelle-chariots of fire" sleek and lean runners pass you WHILE HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH EACH OTHER. For the love of GOD, who can talk after running 23 miles?

Alternate between hating these over achievers and admiring them. Briefly, in a psychological break (it's okay, these things happen when the body starts to weaken), imagine that it is YOU in the lead, after having run 24 miles...wait, after running 100 miles (it's YOUR mental breakdown so why not Hollywood this up), and you are getting ready to head down the finisher's chute to cheers, glory and a made for TV movie in your future!

Shake yourself back to reality after tripping and notice your bizarrely shaped shadow again (is that an old woman in front of you?). Keenly observe that there truly are some genetic differences between those of you on the right side of the road (i.e. 1/2 marathon runners bringing up the rear) and those on the left side of the road. For starters, no fat. Seriously. Not a single, teeny, tiny ounce of fat anywhere to be seen. And much can be seen. Because these guys have loose tank tops on and tiny running shorts. In 40 degree weather. And they are sprinting. It would be like filling a basketball court with average people and then throwing Wilt Chamberlain into the middle. He'd kind of stand out.

Smile at the supporters during the early miles of the race and pat those fun signs that say "touch here for power".

Grin through your teeth at about mile 8 and silently wonder what the hell these folks are getting out of standing out here in the cold weather cheering you on. Tell yourself you are being a dick and accept that they are sweet and keep chugging away.

Look for a rock at about mile 11 so you can knock those grins off their faces. Imagine places you can shove those stupid cow bells. Don't they know you are dying? Realize in that moment that you can't feel you hand and even if you could you aren't sure you have the strength to throw a rock, much less shove anything into anything. In fact, at this point you are pretty sure that if you had underwear on and if it were to slide down you'd simply have to cross the finish line with panties hanging out of the bottom of your shorts because you wouldn't even have the strength to pull them up.

Notice the shadow shape again and begin giggling uncontrollably.

At mile 13, you know you are home free so you can finally remove the headphones and listen to the cheers. As you enter the finisher's chute, start to sprint because, hey, you want to look like you've kept up THIS pace the entire race. Yes, I'm a bad ass!! Immediately cringe as your calf says "oh HELL no you don't" and realize if you do more than a slow jog you'll be on the ground crawling towards that mat in humiliation. So chin up high, jog like you feel fresh and then, once you cross, find yourself fighting back tears.

As with most things I write, there are doses of exaggeration and humor thrown in.

But I was serious about the underwear. And the pooping.

Oh, and the sunrise. The messages within a sunrise can provide sustenance for any distance if we let them.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Keep It Simple

Keep it simple.

This is the new message to myself today.

Details aren’t important, but after several weeks of intense stress I found myself starting to buckle. Sleepless nights, stomach pain, impatience with my family and…the number one tell-tale sign that something major is going on with me…a fever blister knocking at the door (managed to keep HIM at bay, fortunately).

At times like these I begin to question everything about myself, start believing that every action is the wrong one, every word out of my mouth should have been something different and I wonder if every person I come into contact with thinks very little of me.

Insecurities don’t just sneak up, they come flying at me like Mike Tyson’s left hook.

Again, the details aren’t important; it is the solution that I am in need of.

Here are the two things I must do when these emotions come visiting. I must change the self-talk going on in my head and distance myself from the cause of the stress.

Marah played in a soccer tournament out of town this weekend, which provided a distraction and a built in escape from ground zero. But that doesn’t mean the self-talk went away. Not even close.

It has been slow going, but the new messages are starting to flow a little more freely, a little more consistently and I am starting to believe them.

I am human.

I am flawed.

My heart is in the right place.

I am not responsible for the actions of other people.

I am not fully cognizant of all details in all situations. I am making assumptions….and we all know what ends up happening when we make assumptions.

Do not trust people who are not in my inner circle. Understand that as a species, we individually will most often do what we need to do to further our own personal agendas.

I am who I am and should never apologize for being the sum of my life experiences as long as I follow the golden rule.

Keep it simple; keep it in perspective.

It is not trite to step back and think about someone you know who is in the midst of a terminal illness when we get caught up in the drama of non-life threatening life situations.

It is perspective.

It is not trite to consider the people within our own communities who are hungry, poor, battling addiction or living with abuse when we get caught up in non-life threatening day to day stress.

This all became clear to me over the weekend when I spoke with a young man from Serbia. In the context of a jovial conversation I asked if he had ever visited Dubrovnik, Croatia, because I have been there and it is beautiful.

Seven words said it all as he shook his head no.

“They don’t like us very much there.”

War.

That was the perspective I needed to pull myself over the hurdle.

Find your own perspective, whatever it may be, and use kindness and compassion within the messages you give yourself.

Today is my reboot. And if I find myself slipping again? I’ll just return to these words as a reminder.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Best Kim Davis Memes

I could write a ten page blog on Kim Davis. But hundreds have already gone there.

The world of memes has easily tackled this current national "SQUIRREL!!!!" with absolute humor and flair.

I give you some of the most creative Kim Davis memes making the social media rounds.

( Click here for a link to another site listing "they still do their fucking job" memes, also highly clever)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Add Me to the List: No More Confederate Flag

Burn the damn things already, every last one of them except for those Confederate flags still in history museums. The lessons are deep, layered and still have messages for us today.

In Germany the Nazi flag is illegal.

Why on earth wouldn’t they allow that raging symbol of murder, torture, war and genocide to be publicly displayed by any citizen who likes it? I mean come on, it’s a part of Germany’s history!

Isn’t that the argument? That the Confederate flag is a part of the South’s history?

So because it’s a “part of history”, that should make it okay to be slapped on the front of your trucks, hung on the walls of your homes or garages, plastered on tee shirts, etched to the outside of your coffee mugs and baseball caps and, of course, to be flown from the top of your American state houses?

I think not. It’s a symbol of something slightly, if not deeply, similar to Germany’s Nazi holocaust.

Maybe we should start by talking about death. And slave labor. And acts of aggression against another country.

Half of all southern slave babies died within the first year (more than half the number of white babies at the time).

HALF OF ALL SLAVE BABIES DIED WITHIN THE FIRST YEAR.

By the age of 3-4, many slave toddlers were added to the work force. Take a look at your 3 year old child or grandchild; now imagine them being put to work. In the heat. With no shoes.

Imagine your 3 year old being taken from you and sold, like a dress or pair of shoes. Imagine all of your children being taken from you. Or your spouse. Or your mother, father, sister and brother.

Imagine being owned by another person.

Let me repeat that: Imagine being owned by another person. Say it out loud. Think about it.

Boys, by the age of 11 (my son’s age), had transferred to field work. Imagine your 11 year old being forced to work in 100 degree heat, for eleven hours straight while surviving on poor nutrition and unsanitary water.

The majority of slaves didn’t live past the age of 50.

Slaves suffered the effects of improper nutrition, unsanitary living conditions and excessive labor. This left them more susceptible to diseases and higher death rates. The water supplies were often contaminated and contained human excretions, leading to cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, tuberculosis, influenza and hepatitis.

But that flag? It’s just a part of history. You know, the grand old days of the South.

Oh, we know about the whippings, beatings and killings. Unless museums or schools deliberately exclude photos of the swollen and layered monstrosities of scars on the backs of slave men and women it would be hard to deny that these atrocities were associated with slavery.

There are ample photos of continued violence against blacks in the South even following the ratification of the 13th amendment. I’ll include photos of lynchings in case you don’t get the picture.

While we’re at it, how about some photos of the KKK eagerly wielding their sacred banner, the Union Jack, or the unrecognizably swollen and crushed face of young Emmett Till.

White supremacy groups still proudly fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of their hatred and bigotry (the Nazi flag is too obvious I guess?). They proclaim a mournful and wistful longing for the nostalgic old South. When fellow human beings were sold as cattle, ripped from the arms of their families, worked, beaten and crushed as if they were nothing more than an animal or insect and where that very belief, that these humans weren’t human, is singed into the depths of their souls, continues to fester and be transferred to their own offspring even as I type.

I don’t care who you are or where you live. Let’s not kid ourselves. The Confederate Flag represents violence, an economic patriarchy of the very few elite who were in power at the time, deep seeded racism and downright sedition and terrorism against the United States of America.

Yes, when the Confederates attacked America’s Fort Sumter in Charelston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, it was an attack on America. As a result of the South’s treason toward the United States roughly 620,000 people died.

But some keep flying their bastardized flag, the flag of a fabricated country. Some actual State Capitals still fly this flag, which completely boggles the mind. A flag that was never recognized by any other nation in the world.

Make no mistake, the Civil War was about slavery, pure and simple. Oh, for certain, it was about slavery as it related to the economic standing of a small majority. Slavery was the cash cow of only the wealthiest in the south; the fact that black human beings were viewed as stock in the minds of a deeply racist culture simply made it easier to suck in the majority of poor southern citizens to fight for the wealthy even though they benefited very little from the slave industry. In fact, slavery had a negative impact on the economy and hurt the development of industry and urban areas. It contributed to high debts, soil exhaustion and a lack of technical innovation while at the same time northern urban areas were expanding greatly. The south neglected industry, transportation and education. But the rich had free labor. And power.

Wealth was far more stratified in the south than in the north because large slaveholders owned nearly all of the slaves and wealthy plantations possessed the majority of land and slaves alike. In 1850, 17% of farmers held two-thirds of all acreage; in a population of roughly six million 7% of slaveholders owned three-quarters of the slave population.

These same plantation owners also held the political power. During this time, voting ballots weren’t secret and any white man who didn’t vote to support the wealthy slave owner’s agenda risked backlash (ah, yes, more of the golden days when only white men could vote; wasn't it a grand time).

Poor people and non-slave owners simply went along with the whims of the wealthy because of their deeply held racist views and because they had no understanding of the economics involved that were making their lives even harder.

As for the worn out “states rights” argument? The Southern politicians believed that states shouldn’t have the right to make slavery illegal, making their argument hypocritical at best. The federal government was a vital necessity after the Revolutionary War because the rag tag colonies were struggling on their own, fragmented and not aligned. Creating the American union is what effectively helped preserve it.

And any discussion involving the powerful Southern wealthy elite dictating political and economic policy at all levels of state government can't help but bring about a horrifying sense of irony for some of us currently living in deeply red states.

Today, in Kansas, voters continue to elect leaders who put the desires of a few small uber-wealthy businessmen ahead of the needs of the majority of normal citizens. The power wielded by these businessmen has led to politicians being put into office who are willing to enact laws that hurt the majority of citizens greatly and, in some cases, violate actual law. Ignorance and wealthy backing continues to put these people in positions of power.

To recap, there are Americans who continue to honor a flag that represents murder, slavery, child abuse, neglect and inhumanity. They want to continue flying a flag that represented an economy which supported a small number of massively wealthy men who relied upon the poor, often uneducated, racist and easily influenced citizens of the South to commit treason against the United States of American and to eagerly submit themselves and their sons to death and injury on the field of battle.

Let’s get real. Those who support the Confederate flag’s continued existence in our culture didn’t live during the tiny amount of time the South pretended to be its own country. You didn’t fight in the “war” (uprising). You call yourselves Americans...because you are Americans. The Confederacy invaded America in a blatant act of aggression, was defeated and ceased to exist on April 9, 1865.

So truly, what honest reason could any real American or patriotic citizen have to honor the Confederate flag?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Man Who Knew Phog

How many times in our lives do we meet someone new and ignore the chance to find out about them?

I’m guilty.

I can recall times when I was simply not interested, or distracted or so busy I only wanted to shake hands and move on.

There was even a time in my life when I thought “I already have enough friends. I don’t have time for any more.”

So many missed opportunities. So many amazing people in this world, each unique and special and each with their own rare story to tell.

My high school reunion a month ago is a good example. I met someone who reminded me that it is important to look, listen and hear another person when you meet them. You just might find a gem and a reminder of the things you love.

A childhood friend approached me after our dinner banquet ended and said “hey, you need to meet this man because I think you’d be interested in him!”

The man’s name is Keith Kappelmann and by the end of our short visit I was compelled to return to my hotel room, mid-reunion, so I could write down every detail of our exchange.

Keith graduated from White City High School in 1944, two years after my Grandmother Mary Jean Harmison. She passed away six years ago and I have felt the loss deeply. This man knew her, remembered her.

Keith’s sister Jean was also with him and she graduated in 1949 with my late Great Aunt Naomi Harmison. White City is a very small town and people from this generation are disappearing rapidly.

The first thing I did after returning home that weekend was to dig out my Grandmother’s 1942 year book. It is thin, paper, tattered and yellowed but I have loved looking at since moving in with my grandparents at the age of six. I know each page, recognize the names of her 17 class members. I would lie on the floor in our dining room and pour over the pages. Harlow Warneke, class Vice-President, seemed so handsome to me. Thelma Pretzer, class Secretary Treasurer, must have been smart, at least in my young mind.

I always thought my grandmother was the prettiest in her class and I could pick her out of every group photo.

Somehow, though, in those same group photos, I had missed a tall sophomore named Keith Kappelmann.

Keith told me that he remembered my Grandmother, that she had been sweet and kind. I knew this but it was wonderful hearing it from someone who had known her in her youth.

This little connection was only that, though. Little.

Keith and I had far more in common.

You see, Keith was tall for that time. 6’5 in fact. And he played basketball.

He planned to attend the University of Kansas and maybe, just maybe, play basketball under Phog Allen. Unfortunately, World War II was raging and like the rest of his generation Keith entered the military.

Yes, another connection.

Keith joined the United States Army and served in the Battle of Okinawa.

For those of you who know my own story, Okinawa is a very poignant place to my family. Keith served there at the same time as my Grandfather Delbert. Keith told me he spent most of his time on Okinawa helping with the supply chain on the Yontan airbase. My grandfather would’ve been further south at the same time, in heavy combat prior to losing his arm during the battle for Dakeshi Ridge.

Two Morris County boys, halfway around the world, fighting for their country on a small island in the middle of the Pacific.

I wonder if their paths ever crossed. If the jeep carrying my grandfather’s battered and injured body maybe passed by Keith as he was walking on the air base. So physically close, both knowing the same blue eyed girl, and yet so far away at the same time.

I’m sure I may have appeared a little odd and eager to Mr. Kappelmann, who is now in his nineties. In a ballroom filled with people a 46 year old woman was peppering him with questions, intent and focused. Of course he downplayed his time in the service, saying he didn’t do “much”, just helped on the airbase. Only I know what happened on the Island of Okinawa in 1945, to our own servicemen, to the Japanese soldiers and, most important, to the natives. It was a violent and turbulent place with many victims and nightmares.

When Mr. Kappelmann returned to Kansas he chose the same path as my grandfather. They both entered the University of Kansas in the fall of 1946 under the GI Bill. In addition to combing through my grandmother’s high school year book, I also dug through a University of Kansas 1946 year book, picked up several years ago in a KU vintage shopping expedition. I had never explored the KU album as deeply as I have in the following weeks since meeting Mr. Kappelmann and it has been a fascinating journey. In the fall of 1946, according to one of the year book articles, there were 370 veterans enrolled at KU. Mr. Kappelmann and my grandfather would have been two of them. By the spring, the number of veterans would be well over a thousand.

By that same fall of ‘46, Delbert was a married father, trying to juggle husband and father duties while completing homework using a single, non-dominant hand. The disability presented struggles, although to use that word could invoke his wrath.

Keith was single and, in piecing together what I can from our short chat, tried to resume his original course before the war created a detour.

Which involved Jayhawk Basketball.

Talk about yanking the proverbial “Marlys chain”. My grandmother…White City High School circa 1940’s…World War II Okinawa…KU basketball. We would be soul mates if only the same age and single.

I tried to contain myself while talking to Mr. Kappelmann. It was apparent that his small group was heading home from the reunion when we were introduced and I didn’t want to delay them. But curiosity was obnoxiously roaring in my head, creeping from my tongue.

The basketball story is short. There was roster space for 20 players and Keith was the 21st player, meaning he could still practice with the squad without suiting up. But he was a different man after the war, as was an entire generation.

He mentioned Charlie Black and Otto Schnellbacher; seemed impressed that I knew who these men were. He talked about the break the war caused and how the top tier players had been able to play while over seas, leaving them more like professionals after they returned. Players who hadn’t seen a basketball court during their time in the military had lost valuable time and seemed remedial next to the All-Americans.

The old veteran and KU alum was honest and forthright. He said that during one particular practice Phog Allen was pushing him to perform a particular spin move the correct way. The famed coach told Keith he wanted it perfected by the next day.

Keith told me he thought to himself “you know, I don’t really need this job.” So he left the team and continued moving forward with a free education (the word “free” somehow doesn’t seem quite appropriate now, does it).

I immediately thought to myself “no wonder - you had just been through war and this must’ve seemed so trivial, so minor; now that you had the financial support through the GI Bill to pay for an education I can’t say that I blame you.”

He talked about dunking and the fact that it was a fairly new phenomena and one which Phog Allen deeply disagreed. The players who were able to dunk would wait until Phog left the gym and then they would take every opportunity to dunk. The price, if caught, was high because Phog would bench the offenders during the next game.

Standing next to Keith was Jean’s husband. He was a Lawrence High School graduate, Class of ’49, and, like his brother-in-law Keith, had stories to share.

He said as a kid he managed a paper route which went right by Phog Allen’s home and he would often see Phog out walking. In 1938 his Boy Scout troop watched a game in Hoch Auditorium. It was so crowded students had to sit on the stage.

What was absolutely fascinating to me was the way they all still seemed to remember small details, like purchasing tickets to half of the basketball and football games for $20 during a time when only a fraction of the student body could even fit into Hoch Auditorium.

Keith’s brother-in-law recalled a time when Phog would actually address the young men who were registering for selective service, giving them a patriotic pep talk, if you will.

The conversation eventually drifted to Dick Harp and Phog’s retirement. Although Keith hasn’t seen the new movie, staring Justin Wesley, he says there was a law at the time that required Phog to retire at a certain age. But he gives credit to Coach Dick Harp, Allen’s predecessor, for ushering in an era of African American acceptance onto the court during a time when the country was extremely segregated.

Politeness required that I eventually allow them to continue heading towards the door but Mr. Kappelmann shared one last bit of information about himself. After college he joined the Air Force instead of reenlisting in the Army and served in the Korean War.

And although I was feeling guilty for holding them up and pressing them with questions, he relieved my guilt by telling me that meeting me and seeing my interest in him was the best part of the two reunions he had attended. They told me it was nice meeting a member of the Harmison Clan.

It was a brief meeting, a passing if you will. But I’ve continued to think about all three of them because they are from a generation that we are losing by the day, by the hour. Certainly, meeting someone who was coached by Phog Allen was a genuine pleasure. Hearing stories of Hoch Auditorium and Phog’s disdain for the slam dunk was, in the vernacular, awesome.

I was more honored, though, to meet a World War II Veteran, someone who had served on the same island at the same time as my grandfather. And though Mr. Kappelmann and every other member of The Greatest Generation will tell you “I was nothing, I did nothing, the others were heroes”, many of us recognize that this isn’t true at all. Every one of them contributed and was part of a unity and a commitment to putting our country, our freedom and our way of life before all else.

I’m documenting this to thank him for his service and for sharing a little of himself with a stranger. It meant more to me than he could know and for just a brief moment I could imagine him as a young man walking the halls of White City High School with a beautiful young blue eyed girl named Mary Jean Harmison.

Make sure to talk to people. You never know if their story may speak to you.

Update 11/09/2015: I received notice today that Mr. Kappelmann passed away on October 31. Having lost my own grandparents, I can honestly say it is a bittersweet thing when such a unique and special member of this generation leaves us. What an amazing life he lived and what a humble gift it was to have met him so soon before he left his family and friends. Obituary linked here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Year of Firsts

Another “first”.

Yes, the “firsts” hurt. Deeply.

The first Thanksgiving wasn’t as difficult because I made sure we would be out of town, visiting Brian’s parents in sunny Florida where I could stay busy and not think about it as much.

Thanksgiving was always the one holiday we spent with my Grandparents. The singular tradition I maintained after we got married and the one time a year when the majority of Stone offspring were together, unified in our deep love, adoration and loyalty to Delbert and Mary Jean.

Christmas was the holiday I decided years ago would be spent with our own tiny family unit. As the child of my grandparents, whose home was THE hub for all holidays, I remembered Christmas being a madhouse. I love my extended family but thought maybe we would make Christmas a tradition where we didn’t have to get out of our pajamas, where we would literally hang out and do nothing…no driving all over town, having to get dressed up or having to worry about making meals and desserts. It has been a wonderful tradition.

The first Christmas wasn’t as difficult because we did what we always did. We stayed home.

The first birthday was a tough one. I typically begin thinking about what I’m going to get my Grandpa Stone for his birthday not long after Christmas. He was just always so much fun to buy for.

The man collected pens, hats, knives, trinkets, gadgets, books, KU memorabilia, Marine Corps mementos and old school Democratic collectables. Buying for him was easy and once you bought him something he would use it. He would display it. He would find subtle and not-so-subtle ways to let you know how much he enjoyed his gifts.

He was like a little kid, eager to play with any new toy.

I never bought gifts for my biological father, having met him so late in life. He lives far away and I don’t know him well enough to feel comfortable buying for him. Likewise, I didn’t have the chance to shop like this for my Grandfather Wentworth because dementia had already taken hold of his precious mind by the time I introduced myself to him as his granddaughter. But Grandpa Stone? Oh how I loved to buy gifts for him, from an early age.

Yes. The first birthday hurt.

Today, Father's Day, is the last grueling summit of “firsts”.

I will get through today because my husband will keep me busy; the kids and I will be celebrating him. But I am reminded, in complete and total simplicity, that I am very sad sometimes. And I miss my Grandfather deeply, viscerally.

Those of you who have already lost your fathers or father figures know exactly what I am saying.

For some of you, it has been many years and the sting lessons over time. But it doesn’t mean you don’t still pause at times, still wince, still want to pick up the phone…and still want to buy that perfect item for them.

For others, the loss is recent. Maybe just last week. You are still trying to wrap your minds and hearts around the fact that you will never be able to look into his eyes again, talk to him again or hear him laugh again.

My heart goes out to you. The year of “firsts” is just starting.

We each handle grief in our own way, but I think the “firsts” are maybe not quite so bad in hindsight. They allow us to pause, let the grief wash over us, and feel what needs to be felt. I need those soulful crying episodes every once in a while. They are cleansing.

And in some way, during those moments, I am connected with the man I mourn losing. I feel him and know that he is beside me. I believe that his spirit understands how much I loved him…how much I still do.

Today I will cherish our time with Brian and I will encourage my kids to take advantage of the memories they are making with their own father. I will rejoice in my heart the life I had with Delbert and the lessons he taught me. I will laugh and tease, just as he always did.

Today’s “first” will be a celebration of my hero. Today will be a great day.

Here’s to you Grandpa Stone…I miss you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Message To My Daughter as She Enters High School

Message for my daughter as she enters high school.

You never, ever have to bear a burden alone. Your father and I are here for you. Always and unconditionally. But if you can’t talk to us, find someone you can talk to (we probably have a few suggestions). It can be another friend’s parent, one of our friends or even another family member. It might even be a close friend whom you trust; but please remember, sometimes an adult can have a wiser perspective. After all, we have each been through the teen years and we truly do know many of the situations you will be facing. If you go to someone else, your father and I won’t be hurt and we won’t be mad. We just want you to always know that you aren’t alone.

The actions of your friends are never about you. Your peers aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are. Their actions aren’t about you. Each of your friends and other teens are dealing with their own issues and finding their own way. Use this mantra (unless it’s a specific situation you are involved in and then refer back to the first paragraph): It’s Not About Me.

Because of this, be kind. Remember that the actions of your peers could be happening because of something they are missing or searching for. Sometimes, they are dealing with situations you may not be aware of…may have no inkling about.

Don’t hold grudges. Each of you is just a baby in your personal growth. None of you is the full adult you have yet to become and a grudge now could prevent you from knowing someone who may become a beautiful person in ten or fifteen years; someone you may need later in life.

Always stand up for yourself, your friends and those who are weaker than you. It is a hard thing to do, but will become easier. It will also become empowering and will endear you to those who know you. It will earn their trust and loyalty. And if we have set the right example, you know in your heart that it is the right thing to do.

You and your friends are children of a different technological age than we are. We don’t understand social media the way you do and we promise not to judge it. Live by this one rule, though, and you should be okay: never post anything online that you wouldn’t want us or your grandparents to see and never share another person’s secrets; it can hurt them and you both. You can’t hide something you post online, be it a photo or words and it can’t be erased, even after hitting “delete”. Your private personality should serve you well in this regard.

We will always be one phone call away. No matter what. No matter how late or how far or the situation. You see, nothing else matters if you don’t make it home safely. Your friend’s parents feel the same way. We will pick you and them up at any time if you find yourself in a questionable situation or if you have made choices you know will make us unhappy. The unhappy can wait in those moments and we will get through THAT together as well. Your safety comes first.

You can also talk to us about boys. We know you are a very private person and it is one of the special things that makes you who you are. But please know that both of us will listen respectfully and answer openly and honestly any questions you have. Girls usually talk to their mothers, if they decide to trust a parent, but you and your father have a special bond so never count him out as a resource. No question is too dumb. We won’t freak out. We know how emotional and passionate those feelings can be. Please don’t try to tread those waters alone, amazing and beautiful daughter. The consequences could be life altering and we can quietly and respectfully be there to help you navigate them. No judgements promised, ever, even if we don’t agree with your choices. Again, your safety comes first.

We promise to consider how our behavior impacts you. Because it does. Something as simple as teasing you in front of your friends might seem harmless to us; to you, it might be painfully embarrassing. We also know how important it has been and will continue to be for you to count on us to do the things we say we will do. We expect the same from you.

Those family vacations? They are important. There may come a time when you don’t want to join us and we promise to not force you to do everything with your family. However; there will be times when we insist. Our bonds as a family are more important than you can know right now and those precious vacations are a time for us to relax, be ourselves and feel comfortable within a unit that will be the one constant in your life. I promise to chronicle those times because memories are something no one can take away from you. Think of the laughs we already share when recounting road trips!

We promise to listen to you. When we fail at this, simply ask and remind us of this promise. We are human and we are flawed but you and your brother will always come first.

And finally, there may be times when you don’t like the answers we give. Or the consequences. Please, in those moments, remember that your father and I would never do anything to hurt you. Every action we take will be taken from a sincere belief that it is best for you. We do not have a handbook telling us how to parent a teenager. This is uncharted water for us. You do not have a handbook telling you how to get through the teen years; everything will be new to you as well. Together, though, we can get through anything.

We know you will be angry with us at times. We will be angry with you. But we will always love you, always cherish you and always try to do the right thing. We ask only that you also try to do the right thing and that you never forget your biggest supporters will be right there with you, every step of the way, even if we aren’t standing next to you.

Love,

Mom

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

10 Year Old Man in the Mirror

Today’s Facebook pages were oozing with depressing stories.

A father in Texas, while playing with his AR-15 last weekend, shot his three year old to death.

A video gone viral of a homeless man in Los Angeles, trying to give away money, shined a spotlight on man’s basest vanity, pride and willingness to insult and humiliate strangers.

I was feeling a little icky as the day began, to say the least.

Slightly irritated, mentally piecing together a blog that would call out ugliness, I took a few minutes to clean out some texts. Thank God.

I text myself sometimes (actually pretty often) when I want to freeze frame a statement or an incident. I have a horrid memory; even when I do remember, it typically isn’t accurate (curse of being a double Gemini). As a way to combat this problem, I’ve taken to using technology to capture important moments.

I recommend doing this folks. Freeze frame the best moments, the best random comments, the best feelings. Capture them and use them as sustenance when you need a lift.

Because when you do, this is the type of story you might come across.

I was heading to Target with Brody, our ten year old. He had earned a reward, a $10 item, but what it really meant was that I got the chance to spend some one-on-one time with him. This doesn’t happen often; between schedules and my own flawed distractions, I miss out on far too many opportunities to remain “in the moment” with my youngest.

I started a discussion in the car with him about the Tooth Fairy. He had lost a tooth recently and I was curious about whether or not he had found any money under his pillow (gads, I actually remembered this time). Inevitably, this led to the much feared “do you believe in the Tooth Fairy” question being asked by me.

Seriously. There isn’t a handbook telling you WHEN to ask this question. Somehow, I just felt that it was right. One thing I do trust is a mother’s instinct. Mine is typically on target (ask me next year when our oldest is finishing up her first year of high school; you’ll possibly get a different answer regarding the infallibility of my so-called “instincts”).

He pondered the question, quite intently, and finally said he really wasn’t too sure. In fact, he didn’t necessarily believe in the Tooth Fairy…but he DOES still think maybe Santa Claus exists. And this is where things got real.

Brody then told me that he equates Santa Claus with the “Soul of Hope” in Pandora’s box.

After asking him to repeat himself, because in all honesty I had NO idea what he was talking about, I almost wept upon hearing his response.

He told me that the God Zeus was mad at another God for offering humans the gift of fire. As punishment, he created a box for Pandora. In this box, he placed things like sadness, stress and depression. Because this was before Zeus developed an exceptionally bad temper, he also added something positive to the box. He added hope.

Hence, the “Soul of Hope”.

Now, whether or not that is the academic version of the story is irrelevant. This is the version shared with me by my ten year old.

As for Santa…Brody said he believes Santa Claus is real because he represents hope.

I told him that I thought it was pretty cool that he thinks of Santa as hope. Brody simply shrugged his shoulders and said “it’s because Santa is good and just gives without wanting anything in return.”

He continued, saying “we can pay Santa back by going out into the world and being kind to each other.”

Now, I’m in the moment. I’m thinking about how I can keep this conversation going because, quite frankly, it’s pretty darn awesome. We talk about spirituality on a regular basis and I think he’s transferring; I’m loving that he understands the same messages regarding how to treat our fellow brothers and sisters, but I’ve still got those downer Facebook posts in the back of my mind. So I say to him “that’s true, although sadly many people don’t do this so all we can do is be responsible for ourselves.”

Without missing a beat, as he walked down the aisle in Target, Brody said with the wisdom of the elderly, “yep, be the man in the mirror”.

It was then that I pulled out my phone and started texting myself. I didn’t want to forget this moment.

Technology is a yin and a yang but, right then, it allowed me to record for myself a message from my ten year old; a message I’m going to preserve. Thanks Brody. You are pretty awesome buddy.

Be the man in the mirror.

Postlude: While waiting for Brody to pack up his sparring gear at Tae Kwon Do tonight, the father of another boy whom I’ve never spoken to before approached me. He said “you are Brody’s mother, right?” After I replied in the affirmative, he said “I just wanted to say that he is a really good kid.”

Man in the mirror. Living it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Your Guns? My Children.

I received a private Facebook message a few weeks ago from the most avid, passionate and outspoken gun enthusiast I know. It contained a link to Kansas HB45, which eliminates the training requirement for conceal and carry permits, with a question: “Are they SERIOUS?”

This friend is an active NRA member. He owns multiple guns and goes to the shooting range weekly. I don’t believe it is a stretch to say he loves his guns deeply and they are his favorite hobby. That being said, he also believes that with gun ownership comes great responsibility. He understands the power they possess.

We had an opportunity to speak in person about HB45 and even though I favor more gun regulations than he does and even though I have no desire to even fire a hand gun much less possess my own we are always able to have thoughtful and open discussions. He is conscientious and as safe as one can be when it comes to hand guns. I grew up in a rural community, went through Hunters’ Safety, and respect the second amendment.

I deeply believe, at the end of the day, that American citizens actually agree on more than we disagree. Unfortunately, politics, money and lobbies typically dictate the dialogue and leave us regular folks out of the discussion. Even when they include us the manipulations and distortions of reality are monstrous.

My friend’s reasons for opposing this bill were sound, pragmatic and left me even more supportive of conceal-carry classes than I had been previously and for additional reasons.

He admitted that when he first signed up for the class he was irritated. A lifelong gun owner, he felt he understood every aspect of gun safety and that the class was just a way to take his money. After completing the course, he was grateful for the requirement.

The class instructor talked about "IT". He talked about when it is appropriate to wield a gun and when it is legal to fire the weapon. More importantly, he discussed when it is imperative to keep your gun holstered. Scenarios most gun owners never consider were presented and the fast and firm lesson was that the gun is for your safety only. In all other situations, stay out of it. The instructor talked clearly about the difference between law enforcement and personal safety; of assumptions versus reality; of impulsive action and unintended consequences.

Yesterday Governor Sam Brownback signed the bill into law.

And now my stomach is in knots.

I am as fearful as many of those who are compelled to carry a gun.

I see random comments on FB from other folks I know saying they went to the shooting range. These comments are posted in the same manner they post selfies when attending a margarita happy hour with girlfriends.

I am fearful.

I woke up last night in a panic, having dreamed that my son spent the night with a friend and was shot dead. In the dream, he had gotten up to use the restroom. In the nightmare, the friend’s mother heard a noise and in a sleep induced fog panicked, got her hand gun out of the small drawer safe, and killed my son thinking he was an intruder.

One of my friends on FB who randomly posted her excitement over having a hand gun now is someone I frankly think of as a dingbat. I would never in a million years have thought she would carry a weapon. She was recently in my home but I had no idea she had entered with a handgun in her massive blinged out purse.

I could cite incident after incident after incident that continually comes across my feed of children dying because of careless adults not securing firearms. There is always an argument from the other side. Always.

In the end, I have one responsibility. That responsibility is to protect my family.

I don’t know you well enough to trust that you are capable of safely securing and interpreting the utmost importance and infinite details related to gun safety.

I have no control over what you do.

I do not have a crystal ball alerting me to future danger when it comes to your weapons.

What I do know is that those weapons are capable of snuffing out the life of my child in the blink of an eye.

So I am giving notice.

If you are not in my tight circle of friends and you invite my children to visit your home or spend the night in your dwelling I will be asking you one important question.

Do you have guns? What kind of guns? How are they secured? What is your level of training?

The litmus test is going to be damn stiff and if your answer is yes to the first question then my answer will more than likely be no. There might be some exceptions but each situation will be considered on individual merit.

If I don’t know you well and you are getting ready to walk into my home then I will also begin asking whether or not you are carrying a handgun on your person. If you are, I most likely will not invite you inside.

You see, if the state of Kansas believes your right to freely walk around with an item that can cause death in the blink of an eye based upon your judgement and your judgement alone, with absolutely no training whatsoever, than I need to protect my kids.

Things have changed. We live in a country where I try not to make eye contact with strangers for fear they might misinterpret my look, get pissed, and shoot me. We live in a nation where I passionately preach to my children the dangers of making eye contact with other drivers on the road for fear they will take offense; if I had a dime for every time I’ve said “stop looking at them, they might have a gun” I would be a wealthy woman.

Bottom line is this: if I don’t know you well then I don’t trust you to use good judgement when it comes to having handguns around my children. Especially with absolutely no training and when you can walk around with one as freely as you do your diet Coke.

Kansas may not require a test but you can damn sure bet I will.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let's Face It, Women Have Some Nasty Bathroom Habits!

I love women.

I love my friends. I enjoy their insight, their passion, their laughter and their support.

Women are amazing and unless you are one of us and unless you’ve experienced the enlightenment of a close friendship with a woman that resembles that of a mother or sister you cannot possibly understand how valuable such a relationship can be to the long term happiness and mental health stability of us females.

I feel certain I would wither away and shrink without my circle of lady friends.

With that being said, and I mean this in the kindest way, some of us are downright nasty.

I’ve had the horror (I don’t think that is too harsh) of experiencing three different bathroom experiences over the past few weeks that have left me wondering if some of our feminine sisters have lost their mother loving minds.

Some of us are downright disgusting.

Exhibit A: The women’s public restroom at the northwestern end of The Legends outside shopping mall. It needs to be fumigated. As in yesterday. The first thing I noticed upon entering was the stifling smell, reminding me of an elementary school kid who has been playing outside in the heat for a solid four or five hours without bothering to take a restroom break. It was that heavy, moist, crotch-like smell. With my face jammed into it.

Oh stop it, if I had to endure it then you can read about it.

I found myself wondering if any of the women who had been in there ever bother to wash their private parts. I also wondered if they know how to pick up toilet paper because it appeared as if ten litters of kittens had been set free to attack every single toilet paper roll in the bathroom. It was everywhere on the floor. I do believe a person would have to make a concerted decision to teepee a bathroom in order to make such a mess. Come ON ladies.

The smell, however, was most pressing.

Here’s my advice when you find yourself in a bathroom like that; you know, the ones that smell like the stench never quite goes away and just piles on top of itself day after day after day after day.

Use your own shirt as a makeshift gas mask. Remember, though, that strong thigh muscles can help. You don’t want to touch these toilet seats, which means you have to have strong thigh muscles to support yourself while crouching in the defensive basketball stance. This has the added bonus of taking your mind off of the smell.

If you are really lucky, and have a strong sister like my friend Kris-Ann (we mastered this act many years ago while visiting our first co-ed bathroom at a club in NYC; worked beautifully), then you can help each other by joining hands while she helps hold you up, kind of like a balancing act. This, however, could impact the next paragraph’s suggestion because it requires both hands. Life sometimes presents us with difficult choices, I know.

If you are wearing short sleeves or a tank then simply pull the neckline up to a point just over your nose and inhale deeply your own smell. Hopefully you use cologne, lotion or use those yummy smelling Downy Unstoppable scent boosters in your laundry. If you are wearing long sleeves simply hold your forearm under your nose.

In defense of fellow stinky sisters, a bathroom IS the place we are supposed to go for THOSE issues. Which means the stinky bathroom at Legends is the least of the horrors I experienced within a three day span of time.

Exhibit B: The women’s restroom at TJ Max at, again, The Legends (maybe I’m on to something here). These bathroom stalls included feminine product disposal boxes. The box was not full. Someone, mother of God, decided she didn’t want to take the time to wrap her “feminine product” in toilet paper neatly and dispose of it properly. She thought it would be appropriate to leave it lying, sticky side down (dirty side up) on the LID of said disposal box. As an aside, it is a deeply held belief of mine that we are responsible for teaching our daughters proper and clean feminine product disposal practices. My own daughter hated this “talk”, begged me to stop speaking the day we reviewed it, but I sleep better at night knowing this crime will never be committed by my offspring.

Back to the crime - what the hell????

At what point does this seem appropriate? Who thinks other women want to stare down a used maxi pad while in the thigh burning defensive stance position and gasping for air inside the neckline of their shirt?

I have faith in my sister brethren, though, because even though there was a line in this bathroom not a single woman would venture into that stall and every one of us was commenting loudly on how disgusting it was. I feel confident this could be an isolated issue?

Scratch that. After this last exhibit I don’t think anything would surprise me.

Exhibit C: A visit to the women’s restroom in the Amtrak Station in downtown St. Louis resulted in a panic inducing nightmare later that night in which I was being attacked by feces. I’m still not over it.

While waiting to return to KC after a quick two day getaway to St. Louis with my husband, I needed to use the lady’s restroom. Every stall was open so I did what I always do (don’t ask me why - why do any of us practice our unique bathroom habits?); I walked all the way to the end, just before the handicapped stall (I never use those unless it’s the only one available in case someone who needs it comes in while I’m finishing my business – I’m proud of this habit).

What I found there left me scarred for life.

A woman (it IS the women’s restroom after all) appeared to have walked in, turned around, bent over and assaulted the back of the toilet, handle and wall with excrement.

Silence.

Silence.

Silence.

That’s how long it took before I gagged.

Then, out loud and at a fairly high volume, I said something like “holy shit, what happened in here and how the HELL does a person do that? What is WRONG with people? What is wrong with the WORLD? Gag, ack, whew, breathe Marlys, breathe.”

I wanted to run out of that room and never return but we had just finished an eight block walk after consuming multiple beers while watching the NCAA basketball tournament. My eyeballs were floating.

I was faced with a conundrum.

If I went to the furthest stall could it still get me?

I decided to clench and find another bathroom (yes, I know it wasn’t reasonable to think the darkness could creep under the stalls and touch me but at this point I was experiencing a mild form of poo-trauma).

After passing Brian, who looked at me curiously when I held up my hand and tersely said “don’t ask”, I headed down the hall to the other women’s restroom.

It was closed for cleaning.

The situation was becoming dire and I knew, in that moment, that I would have to head back into the women’s feces room from hell.

I pulled the collar up over my nose, quickly walked into the first stall and set a world’s speed record for peeing.

Not taking the time to wash my hands for fear the black plague was streaming towards me (Purell is our friend), I hauled ass out the door only to run into the cleaning woman.

Noticing the panic in my eyes and fear in my face, she asked “what’s wrong honey?”

I decided to give it to her straight.

“Someone shit all over a stall in there. I’m so sorry.”

She didn’t miss a beat, instead coyly asking “It wasn’t you, was it?”

I didn’t even know how to respond to that. Was the question even necessary? Seriously. As if?

Then she laughed and, I swear to God I’m not making this up, said “it’s okay, I see it every day.”

My first thought was “and you come BACK?”

That’s when I decided I needed to write this blog.

If you are a woman and don’t clean yourself, leave soiled feminine products exposed after using a public restroom (or ANY restroom for that matter) or feel it is appropriate to relieve yourself all over the back of a toilet without cleaning it up (I can’t allow myself to imagine how that happens) then please stop it.

You are being chastised. You are being called out. I’m begging you to show some self-respect and, barring that, practice respect for your fellow sisters.

You are giving the rest of us a bad name.

Along with nightmares and poo-PTSD.

Please, I beg of you. Stop it.