Tag Archives: true story

Flashing as an art form

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I’ve spent a lot of time writing about my journey into fosterhood lately.  Mostly because I’m SUPER excited about it and can’t wait.  But today I thought I’d remind you all why this blog was named after Murphy — namely because when it comes to me, Murphy doesn’t just have a law but a full-on war.

A while back I shared my first experience with flashing . . . errr, wardrobe malfunctions.  Yeah, that was fun.  At the ripe old age of 16 I was already well versed in humiliation.  Unfortunately that was not the end of my road as a flasher.  Nope.  There was the following year when my high school show choir was performing, complete with girls dressed in sequin-covered halter dresses, and my halter hooks snagged on the sequins and busted free in the middle of our performance at the local nursing home.  But as we’ve all learned, I take the concept of “the show must go on” very seriously.

But all of that was nothing compared to the embarrassment I experienced in Orlando.  It was nearing Christmas, and probably warmer there than it is right now in Syracuse.  Ah, how I miss the Florida sunshine.  Anyway, our church was rehearsing for a musical, a great show about a single mom in the 1930’s struggling to provide a good Christmas for her son.  It was Sunday, so after a full day of orchestrating kids ministry, I went out to eat with an amazing group of people I was lucky enough to have as friends and then went back to church for rehearsal.

Rehearsal was off to a great start.  Everything was coming together and I was getting excited for our performance.  It was nearing the end of rehearsal and we decided to go through one more big number.  It was set in an department store filled with both clerks and shoppers.  I was playing the mom in the story and at the end of the song I hopped up onto a cart next to the piles of goods.  Because the cart rolled, one actor was stationed behind it to hold it steady as I jumped up.  Then everyone else on stage angled towards me, pointing their arms my way as I flung my arms high for the finale.  That’s when it happened.

I was wearing a new shirt.  I can still remember it.  Chocolate brown, 3/4 length sleeves, with little silver rectangles which snapped up the front.  It was my first time wearing it.  And when I flung my arms wide in a high V for the big finish every one of those dang snaps popped open.  Every single one.  In rapid fire from top to bottom, as if someone had shot them off.  And there I was, sitting pretty on the cart with a cast of 30 all focused on me.  Did I mention that I was on staff at this church?  Yeah.  I was their pastor.  Let that sink in.  I was their pastor and I was flashing them all.  Fantastic.  Fan freaking tastic.

Everyone was too stunned to know what to do.  You would think that all these good Christian people would have had the wherewithal to turn away, but apparently they were in a state of PTSD.  Only one person seemed to be free from the shock.  Dear George, who is kind of my adopted dad.  He was the one stationed behind the counter I was sitting on.  Faster than I would have imagined possible he leapt from behind the cart and stood in front of me.  He spread his arms out as if protecting me from a bullet, while I tried to quickly reattach all those snaps.

Somehow I managed to show my face again at church, although I’m not sure how.  Two things I can tell you:  First, that shirt went the way of my green romper and was never seen again.  And second, to this day I always have on a tank top underneath what I’m wearing.  I’ve had enough flashing experiences to learn my lesson.

Invasion of the Coffee Snatchers

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I realized it has been far too long since I have shared one of Murphy’s attacks on me.  And we must remedy that right away.  I have already shared with you the story of the flood.  So it seems appropriate that we move on to the next plague of biblical proportions.  The pestilence.

I was living in Orlando at the time—in the same apartment where the flood occurred, and later a fire happened.  But that’s another story.  If you’ve ever lived in Florida you know that dealing with bugs takes on a whole new level of challenge in that warm state.  It’s the place where I first learned about storing your sugar in the freezer so that you wouldn’t wake up to find a spoonful of ants instead of sugar in your morning coffee.

It began gradually—the invasion of the ants.  There were the normal five or six you might find who had snuck in under the door frames.  But soon I was noticing a lot more ants than normal.  They were coming in through the side of my front door—apparently there was a large enough opening around the door for the disgusting creatures to scuttle through.  And from there they made a beeline to my kitchen.

If you’ve ever watched ants travel you’ve probably marveled at the way they move in a single file line like a small army bent on taking over our world.  Soon I was watching this tiny army march from my front door, across the wall, into the kitchen, along the counters, and into my cupboards.  There were thousands of them—disgusting, tiny, black beasts.  They were everywhere—in my sink, in the pantry, even inside the dishes.

I tried contacting the apartment office and requesting pest control.  They came out, sprayed, and left behind an army of unphased ants.  I kept calling the maintenance line.  The ants kept multiplying.

And then one morning it happened.  I poured water in the coffee pot, put in a filter and coffee, and switched it on.  As the inside heated up, suddenly ants started climbing out of the machine!  Hundreds of them!  Marching in that infuriating single file line out of my coffee pot!  I freaked out, to say the least.  And I hadn’t even had my morning cup of coffee!

I called the apartment office and received the same standard “We’ll send the pest control guy out next week.”  Clearly they didn’t understand the severity of the situation.  I tried to explain that someone needed to come out immediately.  They said “We’ll see what we can do.”  When I got home that night, it was clear “what they could do” was nothing.  The next morning I grabbed a garbage bag, put the coffee pot in it, and tied it up.  Then I went to the office,  walked in, and set the trash bag on the manager’s desk.  When I untied it, the army of ants began swarming out all over the place.  Now it was her turn to freak out.  “Put that back!!  Get that out of here!!” she began screaming.  I think I made my point.

The next day pest control came out and did some intensive work at my apartment.  Most of the ants died that day, never to be seen again.  I thought I was rid of them until several weeks later I opened the cupboard to make some tea.  I took out my stash of special Ugandan tea and discovered where the little monsters had been hiding.  Apparently they have a taste for Ugandan tea.

A horse is a horse, of course, of course . . .

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“A horse is a horse, of course, of course . . .” unless of course that horse is a vicious beast determined to eat you alive.

It all started one Christmas Day at the Smith household.  The Smiths are an amazing family whom I’ve adopted.  Or maybe they adopted me.  Either way, they rock.  We’ve shared holidays, birthdays, countless Sunday dinners, theatre performances, and much more. Everyone should have some Smiths in their life – they make life fun.  Take Christmas for example.  They have an amazing tradition of wrapping presents in a very special way.  First they take your gift—let’s say a gift card—and they tie it up in a plastic grocery bag.  Then they wrap a fourth a roll of packing tape around the bag.  Then they roll it in newspaper.  Then more tape.  Then repeat at least twice—plastic bag, tape, newspaper, tape.  Then eventually they progress to other packaging – brown paper bags, magazine pages, wrapping paper from 10 years ago, gift boxes they “reclaimed” from their famous neighbor, and always . . . more packing tape.  Once I unwrapped a gift from them that had 50 different layers—and that’s not counting the tape.  Christmas gifts cannot be opened without several tools, including pocket knives, scissors, and extreme amounts of patience.  It’s genius really.  First of all, it’s incredibly fun.  Second, it really draws out the gift giving.  Talk about teaching your kids some patience and appreciation for their gifts.  Like I said– everyone should have some Smiths in their life.

Anyway, back to the vicious beast determined to eat me alive.  One memorable Christmas day we had finally finished unwrapping the presents and were settling in to relax.  I had the flu and so my brain was a little foggy.  Therefore when my friend Rusty asked me if I wanted to go with him to feed his pet horse (whose name happened to be Orlando—not Mr. Ed) I stupidly agreed to go.  We walked down the road to the stables and I watched as Rusty started the process of feeding Orlando.  I reached up to pet him (the horse, not my friend), and that’s when everything went downhill.  I was wearing Rusty’s jacket—which apparently smells like him.  Orlando thought that meant I was there to feed him.  The problem was he thought I was the food.  He opened his big, ole horse mouth and chomped down on my arm.  He latched on like I was the tastiest meal he’d had all week.  When he finally released me I was staggering away.  I was so out of it that I didn’t realize how bad it was at first.  But eventually the tears began flowing.  In case you’ve never been attacked by a horse, let me fill you in: it hurts.  A LOT.  It was dark and cold outside, so I couldn’t really examine my injury.  By the time we had walked back to the house and I got the jacket off, it was clear this horse was not nearly as considerate as Mr. Ed.  I had deep bruises on both sides of my arm in the shape of numerous horse teeth.  It was like the horse was being fitted for a retainer and my arm was the mold they were using to get his imprint.  Ah, you vicious beast.

The next year I went with a group of friends to see Rusty perform at Dixie Stampede.  After the show we walked around to see him and his other horse—Ty.  We decided to take a picture, and I bent down to point out the all-important sign warning visitors not to feed the horses—they bite.  A truth I knew all too well.  That’s when Ty leaned over his stall and tried to take a bite—of my hair.

I think I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on I avoid Rusty’s horses at all costs.  I have no desire to end up as horsey-chow.

I Vant To Suck Your Blood

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Our culture has an obsession with vampires.  Brooding ones, sparkly ones, dangerous ones, ones with a soul.  One of the old vampire legends is that they can change form–usually from their more human-like form into a bat or bird.  Which has got to be a pretty neat trick when you’re trying to escape werewolves or lovestruck teenage girls.  I don’t have any personal experience vampires, but I have battled with my own set of bloodsucking creatures.  And apparently my blood was exactly their personal brand of heroin.

It all happened just north of Romania’s own Transylvania in the country of Ukraine.  A coincidence?  I think not.  I had just arrived with a team of approximately 25 people.  We were there to serve in an special non-profit home that rescues homeless kids from the streets and provides them with a loving and warm family environment.  It’s an amazing program where the kids are welcomed into a family and not just crammed into an orphanage.  (You should check them out at http://www.house-of-james.org.  You can even make a donation or sponsor a child.)

Anyway, we had just arrived in Kiev and were going to spend the night there before heading out to the home.  We were spending the night in a  large church.  The women were all sleeping on the third floor and there was a pile of comfy foam mattresses that were our beds.  It was a gorgeous night out and so one of my teammates and I decided we were going to sleep outside on the porch.  We drug our mattresses outside and settled into our sleeping bags.  The night sky was beautiful–lit up with a million stars that seemed close enough to reach out and touch.  Fireflies were dancing around the trees and birds were softly chirping a lullaby.  Soon we were both sound asleep, cocooned in our sleeping bags.

The next morning I stretched myself awake and climbed out of my cozy bed.  I smiled at my teammate and wished her a good morning.  (An impressive feat since I hadn’t even had my coffee.)  She looked great, stunning actually.  Far more beautiful than any woman has a right to look that early in the morning when climbing out of bed.  Smooth hair, perfect skin. Just beautiful.  I slumped my way to the bathroom to begin brushing my teeth and pulling the knots out of my hair.

To say I’m not a morning person is a gross understatement.  So I wasn’t really paying that much attention.  It wasn’t until I straightened up after brushing my teeth that I actually looked in the mirror.  What I saw was not pretty.  I had been attacked by bloodsuckers. No, there wasn’t a set of fang marks in my neck or blood trickling down my throat.  But it was a vicious attack.  Apparently a scourge of mosquitoes had decided to attack in the night, and I’d been completely clueless.  I sleep on my side, with my hands tucked under my chin, and you could clearly tell by the placement of the mosquito bites.  Although I do change sides in the middle of the night, I spend the majority of the night on one side, and you could see that one half of my face had twice as many bright red welts as the other.  The bites continued on my neck, arms, and hands.  There were literally hundreds of bites–I looked worse than when I had the chicken pox.  I stared at my reflection for the longest time.  Baffled.

Then I opened my door and went in search of my teammate.  The one who woke up looking so stunning.  The one who also slept outside under the stars.  Where were her mosquito bites?  Apparently nowhere.  She didn’t have a single mosquito bite–not one!  And I had hundreds!  Apparently there really is something to that “personal brand of heroin” crap–and here I thought it was just some romanticized nonsense invented to sway the hearts of the juvenile lit crowd.

I spent the next week trying to avoid scratching my face to a pock-marked mess.  Those vile creatures had done quite a number on me–sucked my blood and left me miserable.  Which leaves me wondering . . . maybe instead of just turning into bats and ravens, maybe vampires have perfected the art of turning into mosquitoes.  It’s a brilliant plan, really.  They can just attack us in our sleep and we’re none the wise . . . I’m just sayin’.

 

My Legs Are On Fire!

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Don’t you just love vacation — the relaxation, the fun times, the friends, the new adventures, the memories made.  I love vacations.  Coming home from vacation, not so much.  And not just because coming home means returning to the daily grind.  Returning from vacation has proven to be a very dangerous thing for me.  (Remember that time I got lost, missed my plane, got sick, broke my toe, and on and on?)  Perhaps I should just stay on vacation. Sounds good to me.

A few years ago I was flying home from vacation and was seated in a window seat next to an old man who had an oxygen tank and breathing tubes.  I had a sore throat, so when the flight attendant began serving beverages I requested hot tea.  In case you didn’t know, hot tea can cure any ailment.  It can also set your legs on fire.  I’m not sure what happened–maybe the flight attendant didn’t set the drink down properly, maybe I bumped the drink, maybe a puckish fairy snuck in and pushed it over.  Whatever it was, my cup of scalding hot tea went from the flight attendant’s hands to rest briefly on the tray before making a tragic turn into my lap.  My legs were on fire!  The water had just been boiled, and the heat was searing through my pants.  I was in agony.  It was so painful that I couldn’t speak or even scream.  My mouth was gaping open, but there was no sound coming out.  I looked like a crazy fish.  My first instinct was to pull the fabric of my pants (which was soaked in hot tea) away from my skin.  But I couldn’t move–I was strapped in with a seat belt and held in place with the lowered tray table.  Beyond that, I was blocked into the row by a man with an oxygen tank who couldn’t move.

I couldn’t make a sound, much less call the flight attendant back, and I began bucking in the seat, trying to get the tea off.  Eventually the person in front of me turned around to figure out what the heck I was doing.  Apparently she didn’t like me pulling and pushing her seat all over the place.  When she realized what was going on she immediately called for the flight attendant.  The woman assessed the situation, then helped the poor old man out of his seat before helping me climb out of my seat and walk to the bathroom.  By the time I closed the door on the tiny washroom and was able to peel off my pants, my skin was covered in blisters.  The flight attended brought me an ice pack–which is a fancy way of saying “she grabbed a large trash bag, filled it with ice, and shoved it through the door.”  I was in so much pain I didn’t want to move again, but unfortunately, the plane was now making its descent.  It had taken so long to get me out of the seat, and now the flight crew was insisting that I get back in it.

I begged the attendant to let me just stay in the bathroom, but she wasn’t having it.  So, I attempted (with a moderate measure of success) to position the giant trash bag full of ice onto both of my legs and still fasten my pants.  An interesting look, I can assure you.  Then I had to waddle out of the bathroom and back to my row, where they helped the old man out of his seat, I gingerly crawled in, sat on a wet cushion, and buckled up for landing.

As we touched down, the head flight attendant’s voice came over the loud speaker.  She warned everyone that there was a passenger who needed medical treatment, and everyone was to stay seated until that passenger could be evacuated from the airplane.  After we arrived at the gate, two flight attendants came back to our row and helped the old man stand up again.  (The poor guy probably was scarred forever after flying next to me.)  Everyone else in the plane assumed he was the one who needed the paramedics–he had an oxygen tank after all.  But no, I was the fragile passenger who had to be seen by medics.  I climbed out and the two attendants helped me walk to the front of the plane, where I was put in a wheelchair and rolled by paramedics to the nearest bathroom.  (Apparently that is the preferred place of doing a medical exam in an airport.)

Once we arrived in the bathroom they found a cleaning lady and sent her in to clear out the bathroom, since both paramedics were male.  Then they rolled me in and proceed to examine my injuries.  They determined that I had second degree burns all over both of my legs, and that I should probably go to the hospital.  Then they rolled me back out of the bathroom.  A helpful airline staff member brought my luggage over and placed it in my lap.  (IN MY LAP!  I had burns all over my thighs!  Was she insane?)  I tried to move the suitcase off of my legs, as she proceeded to push me in the wheelchair to the airport exit.  Then she left me outside, sitting in the wheelchair, to wait for my ride.

Ahh . . . if only I’d stayed on vacation.

My Drug of Choice

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I love to swap embarrassing stories.  It’s a strange pastime, I know.  They say laughter is the best medicine though, so let’s just say laughter is my drug of choice.  Whatever ails you, a good dose of laughter can make things better–even if for only a moment.  So today I’d like to share my favorite drug with you.  Open wide.

Long before Janet Jackson inspired the phrase “wardrobe malfunction,” I had perfected the art.  It’s an art which is guaranteed to rob you of your dignity and leave in its place a sniveling blob of embarrassed self-loathing.  My experience with wardrobe malfunctions began in high school.  I was a naive fifteen year-old the day I first experienced such humiliation.  Our local high school had received a bomb threat, and they evacuated the building.  The threat turned out to be a prank, probably from some hoodlum hoping they’d cancel school for the rest of the day.  However the administration was on to them and instead of sending us home, they marched all five hundred of us to the local armory, about a half mile away.  The armory featured a large all-purpose room about the size of a gymnasium.  Once we arrived we were told to sit down and wait.  Great, that should be loads of fun.

Anyone who teaches high school, or has a high school student, or has ever heard of high school students, can imagine what happened next.  And it didn’t involve sitting down and waiting.  Fairly quickly we began forming groups and devising all sorts of random games and obnoxious time-killers.  This was back in the old days before high school students carried cell phones, so we had to get creative.  I linked up with a group and pretty soon we were playing Freeze–a fairly safe theatre improv game usually found in drama classes, comedy sports bars, and late night reruns of “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”  The concept of the game is fairly simple–two people create a scene utilizing interesting body positions.  Someone yells “freeze” and the two actors freeze.  The person who called out “freeze” enters the playing area, taps one actor on the shoulder and then takes their place.  The new actor begins an entirely different scene beginning with the same body positions that the characters were frozen in.  As our group began playing, pretty soon a crowd formed around us –this was free entertainment.  I played out a couple of scenes, switching in and out of the game with my friends.  And then it happened.  I entered the frozen position and created a scene involving jumping on a trampoline.  As we joked around we jumped up and down like crazy people, bouncing on our invisible trampoline.  Everyone was laughing hysterically, and I could see the crowd growing.  “I’m killing it!”  I thought.  “I’ll probably be asked to join “Saturday Night Live” before I turn sixteen.”

But as I continued with the scene, I began to feel that something was not quite right.  I glanced down.  Houston we have a problem . . .

Now would be a great time to pause the story.  Press the rewind button.  Earlier that morning I woke up, washed my hair, and decided to put on my favorite outfit.  It was a cute little romper with loads of little white buttons.  I loved it because I was convinced it made me look skinny.  I only weighed 125 back then, but I went to school with all of Kate Moss’ long lost sisters who weighed about 90 pounds each.  Next to them I was a beached whale.  (If my fifteen year old self could see me now, she’d be mortified!)

Fast forward . . . I began to feel that something was not quite right.  I glanced down.  Every single one of those adorable white buttons had come undone.  And when you’re wearing a romper, that’s a lot of buttons.  I was mortified.  I tried to cover myself and began screaming out for someone to call “freeze” which, of course, no one did.  Instead they responded with more laughter.  That same laughter which I was sure signaled my rise to fame now cruelly mocked me.  I began frantically begging someone to take my place.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think to just run out of the room.  Probably the die-hard actor in me trained that no matter what “the show must go on,” or something like that.  That instinct would get me into a lot of trouble in life.  But that’s for another post.

I can’t really remember how it ended.  Perhaps I reached my maximum level of wardrobe malfunction tolerance and finally ran away and hid in the bathroom.  Or maybe a teacher finally got curious why hundreds of students had formed a tight circle and were laughing hysterically.  Whatever happened has been blocked out of my mind from the magnitude of my embarrassment.  One thing is certain.  When the day ended and we were finally dismissed, I went home and buried that romper where it would never see the light of day again.  And somehow I managed to get up and go to school the next day and face hundreds of people who had gotten quite a show from me the day before.  And for that, I am certain I should have received an award.

And thus began my introduction to the art of wardrobe malfunction.  Over the coming years, I would have many more opportunities to practice this art.  But I think, perhaps, you may have exceed the recommended daily dosage of laughter for today.  So you’ll just have to come back tomorrow.  The pharmacy will be reopening then.