Monday, September 5, 2011


Hi Folks! Thanks for stopping by.

The regular readers of my blog know that every once in a while, I like to veer off the subject of animals and onto something completely different. The desire to do this usually stems from an event, or "Thing," as I like to call them, and this time is no exception: a Thing happened this weekend, and it's weighing heavily enough on my mind that I feel the need to unburden myself. I hope you'll understand, and find it in yourselves to indulge me here. For those of you who absolutely cannot bear the idea of a critter-less blog entry, try googling Cayr Ariel Wulff. She writes a fun dog-related blog called Up on the Woof.

In any case, the Thing I want to tell you about is my 30-year high school reunion, which took place this Labor Day weekend. Reunions are funny things, aren't they? Because life is such a great leveler, people we voted "most likely to succeed" often haven't. People we thought would be total losers turn out to be bank presidents. Almost everyone in the class has experienced some harrowing setback or other - a death, a divorce, a health crisis, etc. We go into these reunion events remembering how things used to be, and wondering how much has changed. In truth, everything has.

There will always be the characters that make us laugh and say, "You haven't changed a bit!" Donny Whitner seems to fit that category nicely, but in fact, he's seen his own share of sorrow. I recall attending the visitation when his mother passed on, years ago. Life may have smiled on some of my classmates, but if I had polled them this weekend, I don't think that any would have said that life has been easy.

It certainly hasn't been easy for me. Some of you may not know that I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I endured over ten years of abuse at the hands of the one person I was supposed to be able to trust: my father. The resulting damage created what was, essentially, a shy, frightened, obnoxious, angry teenager who had no idea how to Be. You know what I mean: those popular kids in school who always seemed to know how to talk to the opposite sex, the ones who seemed so confident and sure of themselves. How I envied them! How I envied people like Shawn, and Tracey, and Barb, and Renee - who were all so pretty, who always knew how to act and what to say.

The obnoxious angry thing was a wall, of course, designed to keep people at arm's length. I needed a safe place, back in those days, and inside my wall was it. The only problem was, I never let anyone in. How could I, when I had no idea to behave, no idea what to talk about, no idea how to be a normal human being? How could I let anyone get close when I had no idea how to trust them? The end result was that I spent a lot of time alone and lonely, watching my friends and wishing I could be like them.

It may surprise some of you to know that back in those days, I felt ugly. Indeed, I was quite certain that I was ugly. Worthless. Damaged. The fact that guys rarely asked me out only served to confirm what I already suspected: that no one saw any value in me. I can't blame them for that, I probably seemed pretty undesirable: I swore like a sailor, I had no flair for clothes, I was painfully shy, I didn't know how to make small talk. I was not the sort of girl that any guy wanted to take home to meet his mom.

We held any number of dances, throughout high school. A few were formal, but most were informal "sock hop" type things. There was a building uptown that we used most Saturday nights. The partying crowd would usually get trashed at someone's house (often mine) beforehand, then turn up at The Beehive, as the building was known, thoroughly wasted, falling all over ourselves and generally having a fine time while an upperclassman played the songs of the day. It's funny how now, thirty years later, I can still associate certain songs with certain high school memories. Steely Dan's "My Old School" always got all of us on the dance floor. Back then, when high school seemed to go on forever, I don't think any of us could imagine a time when we'd never be "going back to my old school," but we were certainly optimistic about it!

The slow songs were the best ones, of course. Especially the longer ones like "Free Bird" and "Stairway to Heaven." The long ones gave you a perfect excuse to snuggle up to someone good-looking for a few minutes! You can't imagine how I envied all those snuggling couples from my vantage point against the wall! More often than not, if I wanted to get close to a hot guy, I had to do the asking myself. I didn't mind that, really, but it would've been nice if they had asked me instead.

So jump forward in time with me now to my 30-year reunion. I had the great good fortune of finding an absolutely stunning little black Ralph Lauren dress at a second-hand store for ten bucks. The minute I slipped it over my head in the changing room, I knew that it would be my "revenge dress." The revenge dress, in case you don't know, is that little piece of satisfaction that tells all the haters "kiss my skinny little ass" in no uncertain terms. And there were a few people in the class who needed to suffer the wrath of my revenge dress! Lucky for them, they didn't attend, which is fine with me. In any case, between the revenge dress, the minor nips and tucks I've had done over the years, and the 20+ years of therapy, I was stylin'!

That is to say, I looked FANTASTIC!

Now, I knew that I was oozing fabulosity. I've acquired enough self-esteem by now to know exactly what I looked like on Saturday night, and what my personality brought to the game, as well. I turned a lot of heads. Men flirted. Women were gracious about my look. I knew going into the occasion that it was going to be a special night for me, but at the time, I had no idea just how special it would end up being. Because, you see, I had no idea that the Gods were going to let me have a do-over.

No one ever really gets a do-over, do they? None of my friends have ever mentioned having one. Maybe it's a rarity, like Haley's Comet, only coming around once every 82.3 years or something. And I certainly wasn't looking to have a do-over kind of night; I just wanted to annoy a few specific women with my flat stomach and my great hair! But the Gods apparently smiled on me that night, and handed me Barry on a silver platter!

A little background here: Barry was one of the hotties on the football team. Guys liked him, girls wanted to be with him. He was that wonderful combination of good looks, charm, and humor. Self-effacing, easy to be around, willing to get up to a little mischief every now and then. Stories about riding around in his car - which was dubbed the "Death Wagon" with good reason - were legendary. I don't think there was anyone who disliked Barry. He was just that kind of guy.

I had a crush on him myself, in high school. Even asked him to a prom. He turned me down - he had already asked someone else. The rejection was understandable, but, as always, it felt like yet another confirmation that guys REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO GO OUT WITH ME! Let's face it: guys just don't want to be with an obnoxious swearing idiot. What they did want was Shawn - who dated Barry during our senior year, while I watched wistfully from afar.

Thirty years later, we've all reached a certain parity: some of the hot guys then are less so, now; some of the nerds turned out to be really good looking; a number of plain Jane's are now stunning beauties. We've all grown up, gained a little perspective, gotten our shit together (more or less). Now, we're a group of people on the cusp of middle age, fondly reminiscing about dumb things we'd done back in the day, remembering folks who died too young, and laughing at the ones who are still goofy after all these years. It was a fine evening, but it was missing something. That something was Barry, who had other commitments over the weekend.

So I spent some time stalking his best high school buddy, Billy. Hopping up and down impatiently at Billy's side, I said in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, "Billy-Billy-Billy-text-Barry!-text-Barry!-text-Barry!" As it turned out, Barry was able to squeeze some time out of his obligation-laden weekend, and showed up near the end of the evening. "I'll be there in 10," he texted Billy in response.

I'd be leaving out an important detail if I didn't tell you that Barry's been happily married for a long time, now. So I wasn't looking to do one of those infamous hook-ups that we all hear about at reunions. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly WHAT I was looking for, I just knew it was Barry-related. So I hopped up and down some more while I waited for him to arrive.

The class had rented the Holiday Inn ballroom until midnight - which was fast approaching by the time Barry arrived. I had already consulted the DJ, and then informed Barry in passing that when he heard "Stairway to Heaven" playing, it was time to dance. Then I wandered off to tease Billy about his horse-shaped weather vane.

To the opening strains of that classic Zeppelin song, I glanced around the room, crooked a finger at Barry, and walked out on the dance floor. I turned and looked at him. When I held up my arms, he swept me into the kind of embrace that a woman only experiences a few times in life. And then we danced. For the eight minutes and three seconds that it took Led Zeppelin to sing that song, I was transformed. I was the prom queen. I was the pretty girl that the hot football player wants to dance with. We talked. We laughed. It was easy. It was magic.

I'd never experienced magic before.

We were the only ones dancing. One by one, classmates filtered out of the ballroom, heading to the hotel bar to continue the party. Apart from the DJ, we were the only two left in the room. Neither one of us cared. It was our moment - a moment Barry later conceded was "long overdue," given his own admission, earlier in the day when he briefly crashed the class picnic, to a crush he'd had on me all those years ago. Those classmates must have wondered what was going on out on the dance floor, given that we were clearly in a zone all our own, where not so much as one molecule of air could've passed between us, such was our embrace.

The buzz I got from the evening stayed with me well into the next day before reality came crashing in. That's the way it is with do-overs, though: they're much too fleeting. And then they're gone. Barry, of course, went home to his wife and 2.5 kids. I went home to my cats, my depression and PTSD, to the horrific nightmares that plague me on a nightly basis. Back to the life that's frequently interesting, but never magic. I had no idea how hard going back to reality would be.

I spent the better part of this day crying, off and on. Crying because it took 48 years to experience the sort of magical moment that all my normal friends took for granted back in high school. Crying, too, for Barry's kind willingness to indulge me for those eight minutes. He can't know how much that dance meant to the frightened, ugly, shy, damaged girl who still resides within.

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Perrysburg High School Class of '81 reunion. It was such fun talking to all of you, catching up on new things, and laughing about old things. I'm grateful that so many of you were willing to overlook how abominably I behaved thirty years ago. And I'm grateful, too, for those eight magical minutes with you, Barry. You made a fabulous woman/troubled girl very happy. Thank you!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Something Different for You!

Hi Folks!

As a change of pace, I thought I'd post a link to an interview I did recently. I spent a very pleasant half hour or so chatting with "The Real Dr. Doolittle," Val Heart, being interviewed for her podcast. I've included the URL link to the interview, but my computer doesn't seem to want to work right, so instead of clicking on it, you may have to copy and paste it into your search engine:™/

For those of you who are interested to learn more about Val, here's her bio:

Val Heart is called The Real Dr Doolittle and is an Expert Animal Whisperer. She helps people who are struggling with their animals training, behavior, health, and end of life transitions. She resolves problems in minutes not years because she bridges the gap between people and their animals. She can also teach you how to be your own Dr Dolittle so you can save money at the vet, and resolve behavior, performance and training problems yourself. Free AnimalTalk QuickStart Course (value $79), The Real Dr Doolittle Show™ (free podcast) now on iTunes! (210) 863-7928,

I hope you enjoyed the interview! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters!