I’m in Your Head, Effing Up Your OCD

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I promise, 99% of the time I’m not a mean person. Even when a scenario presents itself where I would be perfectly justified to be mean, I’m not.

But yesterday, I saw an opportunity so tempting — more delicious than the loaves of freshly baked French bread I’ve denied myself — I couldn’t resist.

In our break room at work, someone created a lovely vertical line of of thumbtacks and arranged them so that all the colors were grouped together on the bulletin board. As I stood at the water cooler filling my glass, I wondered, “If I were to take that green thumbtack and randomly stick it somewhere else on the board, how long would it take for someone to put it back in line?”

The question got the best of me, so I moved the thumbtack. Later that afternoon when I returned to the water cooler, the thumbtack was back in its spot in vertical line.

So I moved it again.

I know. I’m horrible. But I’m not the only one. This morning, someone had moved the other two green thumbtacks and lined them up with the one I moved.

I’m examining all my coworkers for facial ticks that might indicate the new thumbtack arrangement has given them fits.

Five Things for Friday: Miscellaneous Observations from Alumnae Weekend 2014

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I did the sappy, reflective post on my Columbia College Alumnae Weekend 2014 experience, but I had these tidbits I wanted to share yet didn’t have a great place to put them.

1 — In college when I made the drive to the Upstate on Friday afternoons, I-26 East had barely any traffic, and there were times of the day when Malfunction Junction (intersection of I-26 and I-20) was desolate. Holy. Cow. Not anymore.

2 — How old is Joe Pinner? I mean, seriously. Friday afternoon I’m in the hotel room getting ready for Friday night’s dinner, with the news on the background, and I hear, “And WIS’s Joe Pinner is out at [Don't remember the name] Festival this weekend…” I was like, Really? Wasn’t he at retirement age twenty years ago? I posted on FB that I must be in Columbia because Joe Pinner was on TV, and someone commented, “He’s still alive?”

3 — Apparently, our class is the red-headed step children of alums because we got shuffled over to the side of the dining hall at one long, solitary table while the rest of the classes were neatly lined diagonally in a V shape in front of the stage. Whasup with that C2?

Part of our table when our class was recognized at the luncheon

Part of our table when our class was recognized at the luncheon, and yes, that’s me putting my hands in the air like I just don’t care. (Photo courtesy of my former roommate Tiffany)

4 — I wore the wrong shoes for the occasion. I could have walked around campus barefoot and come out better than I did Saturday. In my defense, all my pants hang on me now (pleasant side effect of the weight loss and haven’t had a chance to have anything altered yet), and I needed to wear heels to keep the hem from dragging along the grass and pavement. The mental note has been imprinted on my brain and the soles of my feet for the 25-year reunion.

5 — I discovered that the 20-year reunion is the sweet spot where Alumnae Weekend classes are concerned. We’re old enough to blink incredulously when we hear an alum from 2009 talk to a fellow classmate about a photo that was “taken for-EV-ER ago” (Seriously? You’ve been out of school FIVE YEARS!), yet we’re still young enough that when a member from the 1964 class passes us, she looks at our name tag and says, “1994? Lord, you’re just a baby!” Bless you, you dear, dear woman.

We Sing the Praise of Her We Love

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IMG_2524There is a section of I-26 East that is my favorite stretch of highway. Right around mile marker 68, just past the rest area where my family and my dad’s sister’s family would stop and eat homemade biscuits for breakfast on the way to Myrtle Beach, the road straightens out for at least a mile, and you can see three hills. Each one is slightly higher than its predecessor, and the trees line the interstate like spectators watching a parade 18-wheelers, delivery trucks, minivans, SUVs, sedans, sports cars, and motorcycles zoom past.

I never noticed this stretch of road until I started college, and even then it took me well into my freshman, perhaps my sophomore, year — probably because those first few weeks were so traumatic for me. I knew only one person at Columbia College when I first started, and she was a year ahead of me. I was only 100 miles away, but it might has well been 1,000. Those first Sunday afternoons driving back to Columbia found me in tears — sometimes wondering if I should turn around at every exit I passed.

Second semester went more smoothly than the first, and the second year even better than the first. Eventually, I saw how that one section of I-26 seemed to roll out before me like the rug that lines a foyer — an asphalt welcome into my new reality. The view is not the same if you travel the same section from the opposite direction; it’s a one-way spectacle.

I’ve traveled that road many times over the past twenty years since graduation, and each time I feel that exhilaration of what laid ahead of me. This past weekend, my 20th college reunion, was no different. As I rounded the slight curve and passed mile marker 68, there it was, and I was traveling to see the place and people who inspired, sheltered, and educated me two decades ago.

Me & college roommate in 1992 and this past weekend

Me & college roommate in 1992 and this past weekend

Dinner Friday night with 14 other friends at Liberty Tap Room in Columbia’s Vista area lasted 3 1/2 hours. The poor waiter came to check on us no less than five times before we finally relented and ordered food. Before long I started having flashbacks to our dining hall conversations as my former roommate began discussing her stepdaughter and current boyfriend and sent all of us into fits of laughter. I went to bed with my belly hurting from laughing and my throat dry and scratchy from talking.

Friday night's dinner

Friday night’s dinner

Saturday brought more of the same, and although we had the majority of the day together, we still didn’t have enough time. Some girls I knew back then and some women I know now couldn’t understand my reasoning for going to a women’s college. There’s no guys! they say. Pffft whatever. My education experience was just fine without those who pee standing up. It had never really been my plan, but I can’t describe how perfect of a fit Columbia College was for me. I am beyond grateful for the sacrifices my parents made that allowed me to attend this school.

Recently, I came across a blog post written by a young woman in another state who will graduate from college in just a couple of weeks. In the post she talked about the friends she had made and how while falling asleep one night she noticed how their voices drifting through her window made her feel she was back at home when she was young. I remembered my own experiences .

High school was never traumatic for me, but I’ve only been to one reunion. I still like those people, but before that 20-year reunion, I felt apprehensive — like I was falling back into that high school teenager who was so unsure of herself. For college reunions, however, I go every five years. We all seem to pick up right where we left off. I am at home with these women. They are my family, and I love every one of them.

The Class of 1994 at The Columns on campus

The Class of 1994 at The Columns on campus

One friend who now lives in Atlanta had the perfect words at dinner Friday night. “Coming across I-20 this afternoon, I just had this wave come over me like I was coming home.”

I thought about my stretch of I-26, and I knew exactly how she felt. I would have a totally different life if I had turned around on one of those Sunday afternoons; I’m thankful I never did.

The "new" Old Main

The “new” Old Main

(FYI: Title is the first line of Columbia College’s alma mater.)

Who Am I and What Have I Done with Myself?

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I’ve talked before about struggles with my weight. I was pudgy as a child — “pleasantly plump,” if you will — and the mild teasing and occasional ostracism as a young person led to issues that I believe kept me from losing the weight for good because I felt like if I lost the weight I was giving in to their negativity.

For the record, let me just say again that accusing overweight people as lazy lumps who need to “put down the chicken leg and get off their ass” is not the way to motivate someone to lose weight. One of the worst statements I’ve heard is, “There’s no excuse for someone to be overweight.”

I’ve stood up on the soap box about that issue before (see link in first line), and I can say that for me, the negative experiences I had as a kid regarding my weight created a rebellion in my mind and made me want to eat what I wanted. These incidents didn’t happen daily for years and years, but it didn’t take long for the damage to settle in my subconscious.

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The Breakfast Routine

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photo (2)Two mornings a week I don’t go in to work until noon. On the other three mornings, it ranges from 7:30 to 9:00, depending on the day, the schedule, the position of the sun, the stock market in Japan, or whether I’m wearing socks. Seriously, some Nobel Prize mathematician would have to come up with a chalkboard-sized formula to correctly predict my schedule.

But on my early mornings, when I get to the office I have my breakfast preparation process for my bagel and coffee in the staff break room. I have my coffee cup, my butter, cream cheese, my own coffee creamer all splayed out on the counter next to the microwave. On many of these mornings, I encounter D from our marketing department.

This morning he remarked on my routine and how meticulous I am. “I’m jealous of what you’ve got going on here with your routine and all. I wish I could keep something up like that,” he said.

“Because it’s food,” I said.

Marco Polo and Cancer Can Bite Me

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Until I was around 14 or so, my family and my dad’s sister’s family (including her parents-in-law) went to North Myrtle Beach together during the third week of July every summer. When they were in high school, my older cousins each brought a friend as well, so I remember several years when there were 13 to 15 of us in a three bedroom condo.

Every morning the living room was a minefield of air mattresses and snoring teenagers, and to this day, these weeks remain my favorite vacations ever. They’re probably the reason why I feel like a road trip feels incomplete without at least five or six people with me.

swimming poolDuring these beach trips, my brother and I spent the majority of our days submerged in chlorinated water until our skin shriveled to the point where even a prune would be like, “Damn…” Attempts to keep us properly sunscreened proved futile, and our fair, freckled skin turned angry pink in just the first day. Eventually, mine settled into a reddish brown with extra freckles.

Sometimes we’d see other kids in the pool playing Marco Polo — a game that never interested me. Who wants to be the one kid standing alone, eyes closed, flailing about in desperation to tag someone else who stays just out of reach and then disappears only to pop up again behind him or beside him?

Just don’t get tagged, you might say. But sometimes you slip up. Perhaps you lose your footing on the bottom of the pool and fall within reach. Perhaps the “Marco” ends up being faster than you. Sometimes, getting tagged is just a matter of time.

I find the game as sick and twisted as Dad’s lymphoma. At the beginning of January, the doctors sent out all their Marco calls in the form of scans and tests and nothing answered, so they said Dad was in remission — except there was this pain that had started in his hip, like his sciatic nerve had started acting up.

Then the pain was in his back, and last Friday he ended up in the ER with a bunch of jackasses who had less compassion than a drill sergeant. Dad had an MRI, and despite not having done a spinal tap yet, one of the a-hole doctors swaggered over to him announced that the lymphoma had moved to his spine.

Unfortunately, the spinal tap did show lymphoma in his central nervous system, in the blood-bone barrier — a hiding place that would not have shown up on any scan or bone marrow test. Polo

The Leukemia and Lymphoma society predicted that almost 70,000 Americans would be diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2013. For ease of math, (which I’ll still be doing with a calculator because… English major) we’ll say 70,000. Of those 70,000, five to ten percent will receive a diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma, the type of lymphoma Dad has. Some statistics say it’s closer to four to six percent, but let’s be generous and say it’s ten percent.

Then 7,000 people should have gotten the mantle cell lymphoma diagnosis. Of these 7,000, LESS THAN FOUR PERCENT of them will have their lymphoma move to their central nervous system. We’ll be generous again and give it an even four percent calculation, which equals 280. Two hundred and eighty people will wind up with their lymphoma moving to their central nervous system, and Dad is one of them. How sick and twisted is that?

If my advanced math skills hadn’t vanished after my first semester of college or if I had the patience, I might try and figure what the odds of this occurrence would be, but I’m not attempting those calculations because they don’t do anything to change our new reality.

The new reality is that he has to have weekly chemo shots into his spine along with a daily dose of a new drug approved by the FDA in November. The new reality is that the doctor is not as optimistic about remission; however, this new drug in its trials reduced or eradicated the cancer in 66 percent of the participants.

While we knew the chance of relapse was present, we hoped that we’d have more time to enjoy the good news. Instead, the road has narrowed and lengthened and developed potholes that make this nightmare of a journey tougher to handle.

However, Thursday morning as I sat and listened to the TV on ESPN at work, I heard Curt Schilling’s statement regarding his cancer announcement, and despite talk of him being the occasional a-hole himself1, I found comfort in the following statement:

Tough times don’t last, tough people do.

And if there’s anyone who’s tough enough to outlast this lymphoma (or a rousing game of Marco Polo), it’s my dad.

1 — With the exception of the Atlanta Braves in the early ’90s, I’ve never been a huge MLB follower.