When you write memoir-based pieces, it feels like it’s all kinda already out there, but…
- I was a probation officer right after college graduation for three months while my internship supervisor went on maternity leave. It was one part hilarious, because of my appearance, which is not intimidating. I have been described as “sweet, kind, understanding, etc,” by people in interactions. It’s not the disposition typically associated with probation work. This dispositional mismatch was clear to me during my year-long internship my senior year of college. But I needed the money, I knew it was only for three months, and I didn’t realize what one of my duties would be. One of the duties always given to the lowest probation officer on the totem pole was to co-lead the sex offender treatment group. Worse than that, I had to drive two hours to do it once a week. One of those sex offenders later murdered a woman. I didn’t get an instinct from him that told me he would do that. That gives me chills.
- I don’t read fiction anymore after devouring books as a child. My mother says I carried around Little Golden books with me in a Frank’s Sauerkraut box starting when I was two. Moving around a lot and schooling in a two-room church school resulted in delays in my reading abilities in first grade. Later on, in third grade, a teacher invested a lot of time in reading skills. She also got me addicted to books. I was checking five or more out at a time from the library. I was reading them while walking to school. I was reading them in the bathtub. I was reading them at night using the light from the hallway as it cast a sliver under my bedroom door. I was reading them to escape my environment. This continued for years until graduate school. I no longer had any time to read. My level of trauma was also kicked up to levels where intrusive thoughts overpowered reading as a coping mechanism. I had to turn to TV for distraction. Therefore, I went from stacks of books per month to less than one a year. I mean, yes, I still read a lot. I’m on Medium. I read the newspaper. Thousands of articles online. But the book has become like a treat I don’t or can’t allow myself anymore.
- I have read the Bible cover to cover, in addition to playing a sacrilegious game with it. During my teen years, I got up at 5:00, showered, and left for six AM Bible study every day before school for two years. When I first started attending, I was alarmed at what the group leaders were having us do to our Bibles. We were given thick, flexible Bibles, colored pencils, and assigned passages from the text to memorize. Then, when we arrived at Bible Study, we competed with other in time trials to see who could locate passages first based on small clues the leaders would give us. Each week, we would color the edges of the pages where the Bible passages appeared that we needed to memorize. We would also crinkle the page where the passage appeared. Then, when we began competing each day, we would turn our Bibles sideways, bend the spines slightly so the edges of the pages became visible, and we’d hunt through the colors to find our passage. I couldn’t believe we were marking up and wrinkling our Bibles. This was all part of my Mormon church membership. Later on, in college, I was required to read the Bible cover to cover for a class.
- I had growing pains as a child and still wonder what that was. One of the reasons I was reading all night was the pain my legs were in. It woke me up. It wouldn’t let me get to sleep. It was intense. Sometimes, an aspirin would help a little bit, so I started taking those when my mom wasn’t looking. I probably could have given myself Reye’s Syndrome. I remember taking the aspirin on an empty stomach, because I was a dumb kid, and thus hurting my stomach, too. I am curious if spine problems could cause growing pains since I ended up with significant spine problems. But if I had pains just from growing, so be it. It led to major sleep deficiencies starting by age eight.
- Thus, I have always been obsessed with sleep. I overslept so often in high school, my orchestra teacher threatened to have me expelled from his class. He was my first class of the day every day for my first three years of high school. I was petrified to go to sleep through the end of my junior year for fear of not waking up in time for his class, and getting expelled. It didn’t dawn on me that stress, an eating disorder, a job, extracurricular activities, and a slew of other factors might have been causing me to get almost no sleep. Going without sleep at night was making me excessively sleepy during the day while at school, though. Thus, I took a Sleep and Dreams class in college my freshman year. I was absolutely drawn to it thinking I could learn how to make up for the huge sleep deficit I had accumulated. I was informed it was impossible to make up for it. As a bonus, I learned dolphins sleep with one half of their brain at a time. Somewhere along the line, I also ended up with sleep apnea, so there was a period of time when I was waking up 70 times an hour without a sleep mask.
- I was mugged in Rome in a disgusting way. Everyone warned me about Roma people, but they were not the problem (It is a common prejudice in Germany to believe every Roma person will mug you). A Roma child did try to take my wallet by the train station, but I caught him with his hand in my purse and scolded him. He was begging for money while also trying to take my wallet. I knew they were poor as a people. I felt sorry for the little boy. My friends and I continued to make our way toward the Vatican. We were trying to see the Pope. We got onto a packed city bus. No one warned us about what happens on tightly-jammed busses. Two men surrounded me. One pressed against me from the front. He was sexually aroused, and he grabbed my hand to press it against his genitals. Instead of screaming like I should have, I tried to pull my hand away, and handle the situation quietly myself. Meanwhile, while I was very distracted by the sexual harassment, the other man was reaching under my coat and stealing my wallet. The same crew got another one of my friends with the same method. When we went to the Italian police office to report our crime, the police officers were frustrated by American women. They said that we were culturally taught to handle situations like this on our own instead of screaming. This method of mugging was being used successfully in the early 1990s at least due to American cultural practices like this. I wondered where I had learned that. What taught me this?
7. I almost joined the Air Force ROTC program. I received a scholarship for a full-ride to college. The only requirement was that I had to major in aeronautical engineering. I stared down the barrel of that major and I just couldn’t do it. I was drawn to understand social policy, mental health systems, and criminal justice. I wanted to have the same impact my brother’s juvenile probation officer had with him. But I was also already thinking about a PhD to teach college. I thought a PhD would mean a guaranteed job because of tenure. I smile at the expression “Man makes plans, God laughs.” Even as an agnostic, I have the worldly wisdom to see now that there is no such thing as a guaranteed job.
8. I have been to an Aircraft Carrier Decommissioning Ceremony.
There is a great deal of pomp and circumstance involved with decommissioning a military vessel, and probably with commissioning one as well, but I haven’t been to one of those ceremonies. Navy sailors stood at attention for hours without moving all along the rim of the carrier. A band played music. Speeches were given. Everyone was proud to be an American including when we sang along to “Proud to Be an American,” by Lee Greenwood. There were American flags everywhere and jets flew in synchronizations above.
9. If it isn’t obvious by now, I was very conservative half of my life. Raised by fundamentalist Mormons, I spent my life prompted by Bible verse. My father directed us to and fro with military commands such as, “Front and center.” I was in love with a Navy man with a Harley. I listened to country music including Hank Williams, Jr. After my dad got out of the military, he didn’t want any of his kids to join, but I almost did. It wasn’t just for the college money, I also had a sense of patriotism involved in my decision. My brother joined the Army and served two tours in Afghanistan. I learned through genealogy that serving in the military is a family tradition which goes as far back as the beginning of the republic. God and country. That’s definitely been what my family has stood for. That’s why accusations of “Liberal, socialist, pinkie, commie, witch” always have to be coming from people who don’t know me. Yeah, no. Wrong tree you’re barking up.
10. I tried to bribe a police officer when I was two years old. I was in the back seat of my aunt and uncle’s car in Chicago when they were pulled over for speeding. As the officer was discussing the ticket with my uncle, I pulled two pennies out of my pocket, scooted forward in the seat, because I was unrestrained — Bless the 1970s — and I handed the money to the officer. I no doubt babbled something incoherent, but I made my point that I was paying him to let us go. Everyone thought it was hilarious including the officer and he let us go with a warning.
I want to say, “bless your heart,” to the people like Jason Stelzner 🌹🍁 and Terijo and others who thought of me for these writing activities lately. I have been a complete wreck in the past couple weeks. It took me quite a while to rack my memory for things I hadn’t disclosed already or to try to conjure up a poem (not my strong suit). The mental energy was distracting and healing. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t already said all this. Please forgive me if I repeated myself about something.