Tacoma

At least we didn’t get shot 7

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For this former Washingtonian, the Denny’s in Parkland brings back floods of fond, maple syrup covered childhood memories. Whenever my parents felt like an evening out, the six of us would pile into our wood panelled station wagon and make a pilgrimage to “America’s Diner”. Before the waitress even had the chance to hand us menus, my father would order six $1.99 grand slams and six waters. “It’s the best value.” he would sternly say.

As we cleaned our plates, I dreamed of one day working at Denny’s–earning a king’s ransom in tips through exceptional service and witty banter with my customers. Free pancakes and popcorn shrimp would obviously be an added bonus.

Over the years, the restaurant of my youth has declined–or perhaps it’s always been crappy and I never noticed. Either way, I still secretly love eating there, despite it’s rough demeanor and questionable breakfast meat.

All this is to say, when my sister sent me the following text last Friday, I wasn’t exactly shocked.

Deny's text message

Apparently, she wasn’t either. ‘Ish like this really isn’t out of the ordinary in our ‘hood.

Speaking of P-town, the next morning I found myself back in my old stomping grounds–my parent’s house, to be exact. I had made plans to take my mom to breakfast prior to attending a wedding later in the evening.

ME: So…where do you want to go eat, mom?

MOM: Let’s go to Denny’s!

ME: We can’t go to Denny’s…two people got shot there yesterday–it was a drive-by. Let’s go with something a little less violent.

MOM (completely unphased): Oh…okay. Wagon Wheel?

ME: Yeah. Wagon Wheel.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the hot spots of the 98445 zip code, the Wagon Wheel is a 24-hour Parkland institution that sells beer for $1.50. They’re famous for having delicious, chicken-fried breakfasts, and a large, obnoxious sign.

Unfortunately, we made quite a disappointing discovery upon rolling up to “The Wheel.”

They had up and gone out of business.

ME: Look mom…they’re closed. For good. Do you just want to go to Starbucks and get pastries?

MOM: No, not really. I’m still kind of in the mood for Denny’s. Is that OK?

Long pause.

ME: I guess so. I mean…if someone just got shot there, chances are it won’t happen again for at least another month or so–statistically speaking, our odds for survival are actually pretty strong.

MOM: Right. And Starbucks doesn’t have good bacon.

She had a point. Five minutes later, we found ourselves seated on opposite sides of a booth in an extremely crowded dining room. Apparently, the people of Parkland are more than willing to risk their lives for a three dollar omelet.

Being that this could potentially be my last meal, I decided to go all out with a short stack of blueberry pancakes (extra butter and syrup), hash browns, sausage links, scrambled eggs, and several cups of coffee. Mom had the same.

MOM: Why does coffee always taste so much better when you don’t make it at home?

ME: I know. This coffee is totally worth a bullet wound. So are these pancakes.

MOM: Especially the pancakes.

We wolfed down our food, caught up on our gossip, and complained about my dad and his ridiculous pants collection. We felt totally safe — like the drive-by shooting never even happened. I even worked up the courage to use the ladies’ room before we left.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, our bellies full with grease and simple carbohydrates, I breathed a sigh of relief.

ME: Well mom, we didn’t get shot.

MOM: At least not yet. Hey–wanna go to the Quilt Shop?

ME: Not really. I kind of needed a few things from Target.

MOM: Yeah…but we’re far less likely to get shot at the Quilt Shop.

She was right. Worse case scenario, one of us would get stabbed with a crochet hook–but those things aren’t that sharp anyway. We probably wouldn’t even need stitches…just maybe a tetanus shot.

With an argument like that, I couldn’t really say no.

Well played, Mom. Well played.

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I survived my class reunion

I survived my class reunion 7

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The grandiose gesture of me, flying back for my 10 year high school reunion was typically met with one response.

“Wait a second…you came all the way here from Minnesota just for your high school reunion??

Yes. Yes I did.

Kind of.

To my friends and coworkers, I simply responded with, “Um, yeah. My class was kind of awesome.

To my classmates at the reunion, I went with something along the lines of “Oh…uh…I’m just back here for work. I timed it so I could…er…come to the reunion, too.”

Technically, I did spend two days at the office, so this wasn’t a total fib.

But really? The main reason for the trip was the reunion. Judge all you want, but I loved me some high school.

Perhaps it’s because Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I’ve been looking forward to my own reunion for years, and I wasn’t going to let a mere 1,500 miles stop me from attending. I booked three ticket (yes, Jolie made the trip to Washington), and that was that. We were going to reunite with the Franklin Pierce High School class of 2002.

(“We” as in Scott and I…Jolie stayed at my parent’s house.)

(Although I was seriously considering bringing her until several people pointed out how crazy it would make me look.)

(Plus, Jolie probably would have claimed she invented Post-Its and ruined the entire night, so leaving her behind was definitely wise.)

As soon as I arrived in Seattle, I started doubting my decision to come out. The more people I talked to, the more horror stories I heard about reunions gone wrong. Comments like “Only twenty people showed up to mine,” or “Mine was a huge disappointment — we stayed for fifteen minutes and then left”, made me question my entire journey. I also started realizing that most people nowadays don’t even attend their reunion. Panic began to settle in as I realized I had just dragged my entire household halfway across the United States for a tradition that many would describe as “lame” or “overrated.” Had I done something completely pathetic? Had I spent years looking forward to something  that was going to end up being a huge let down?

“Look on the bright side,” Scott suggested, “At least you’re not going to show up wearing that awful banana dress.”

The man had a point.

********

Fast forward twenty-four hours. After a whirlwind of spray tanning, teeth bleaching, and last-minute jewelry shopping, Scott and I walked into a room full of familiar faces. I knew right away that coming all the way out here had been the right decision.

I really wanted something hilarious and ridiculous to happen, and wish this blog post was a lot more snarky and over the top, but if I’m being totally honest, it was a completely pleasant evening. There was no scandal, no unfortunate incident — not even a catfight! To top it all of, I even followed all three of my high school reunion ground rules.

In fact, I only  had one glass of wine over the course of four hours.

One glass of wine.

I never only have one glass of wine, you guys.

Truly, this can only be due to the fact that I was having so much fun catching up with old friends, I didn’t even care about wine.

That my friends, is how you know it’s a successful reunion.

Class of 2002

Also? There was a taco bar.

This really made me wish I had in fact brought Jolie.

(Just saying.)

While travelling from ‘Sota to Seattle for a class reunion is quasi-ridiculous, I don’t regret it for a single second. It was a night of great conversations, great memories, and great people. There was no one-upping or weird reunion shenanigans. It was simply a group of people who were all genuinely happy to reconnect.

high school reunion

Well…most people were happy.

(Honestly, I think Scott was just jealous that he didn’t graduate from the most ghetto-fabulous high school in the 253.)

(Or maybe he’s just still upset that his reunion didn’t have a taco bar.)

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Proms and Moms 2

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I don’t mean to brag, but this post is kind of a big deal.

Today, my mom is graduating from college!

Graduation

My mom and I at my college graduation in 2006.

My parents are nearly 12 years apart, and got married while my mom was still in undergrad. A few years later they had me, and moved to Minnesota (yup, this wasn’t my first move to ‘Sota!) a few weeks after I was born so my dad could start graduate school. For the last 28 years, my mom has been just one semester shy of earning her bachelors degree.

She also suffers from Lupus, a debilitating auto-immune disease she was diagnosed with in her early thirties. Doctors told her she would never be able to work, not even just part-time. As a stay-at-home mom to four kids (who are only four-and-a-half years apart!) her health, fatigue, and constant pain were a huge hindrance to her duties at home. I can’t even begin to imagine the weight of the discouragement she experienced, yet I do know there were many times she feared she would never get better.

It took many years, and a great deal of experimentation with her treatment and medication, but eventually, mom proved her doctors wrong. She was able to work full-time for the first time since college, sharing her abundance of patience and kindness with special needs children as a paraeducator.

But mom wasn’t stopping there. Not  a week after my youngest brother Janss had graduated with his bachelors degree, she registered for her first semester of classes at Evergreen State University. Twenty-eight years later, she was finally going back to college, while continuing to work full-time.

Today, after countless hours of studying, thousands of words written, and even a creative writing interpretive dance class, she has finally earned her bachelors degree.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

Or maybe I could…?

A conversation from last week…

Mom: Oh! Guess what!

Me: What?

Mom: Your Dad and I are going to the Senior Prom!

Me: But mom…you’re not really seniors yet…Dad’s still a year away from being 65. Or have they officially changed the age to 55 now like they do at Denny’s?

Mom: No, Katrina…not a prom for senior citizens. The Senior Prom at school. I’m probably going to be the oldest one there, but who cares, right? All my friends are going, and I’ve worked so hard…I feel like I need a night out. Plus, you’re dad says we have to go because there’s free drinks and appetizers.

Anyone who knows my father knows he never passes up a chance for free grub and liquor.

Mom explained that she would be doing her own hair and makeup and borrowing a prom dress from a really good family friend. Dad would probably wear the suit he wore at their wedding 31 years ago, which I found to be wonderfully romantic.

I also was kind of jealous that dad still fits into his wedding attire. Must be all that running he’s doing.

Me: Mom, that’s so great! I bet you’re really looking forward to it!

Mom: Yeah. We’ll see. I’m probably going to feel really fat, and your dad is self-conscious about his face peeling, but we’re going to try to make the best of it.

Oh, right.

The face peeling.

Where do I even begin?

I just typed out 873 words explaining how exactly my dad ended up in the ER with second degree burns covering his entire face.

And then, I realized Mark might not appreciate the details of his candle melting accident gone wrong being divulged on the internet.

Long story short, don’t, under any circumstances, try to melt multiple candles into one jar at three in the morning when there’s a pretty good chance you might fall asleep during the process.

Apparently, problems with candles run in my family.

My dad was extremely lucky. He was wearing pants and a long-sleeved shirt that protected the majority of his body from being burnt. His glasses also prevented damage to his eyes, and he had the presence of mind not to inhale any of the lung damaging fumes from the fire.

In fact, the horrible burns have actually worked in his favor and given him results similar to a very expensive chemical peel.

Some dads have all the luck.

So, my fifty-two year old mother attended the prom feeling self-conscious about her age and the way her dress fit.

My sixty-four year old father stood by her side, beyond embarrassed that large, scaly sheets of dead skin were peeling off his entire face.

Thirty one years later, he was still too cheap to order my mom a corsage. (Although I do think he deserves some credit for not attempting to melt down all the votive candles used to decorate the tables at the end of the night.)

I called my mom last Sunday, eager to hear all the details of her big night out.

“It was okay,” she sighed. “I mean…there’s all of this build up and excitement, and then you get there and it’s just not that great.”

Story of my life.

And not merely in regards to big events like the prom, but just growing up in general. Prom is similar to adulthood in that you keep waiting for it to happen, and then when it finally does, you realize it’s a little bit…well…overrated.

I always used to think that once I reached a certain age, things would just fall into place. I’d have my life together, I’d be happy and responsible, I would finally be able to look back on all of my hard work and say, “I’m here! I’ve arrived! I’ve finally made it to the place I’ve been working towards.” Adulthood represented a utopian life where everything was polished and shiny. I envisioned myself being put together and problem free. A perfect version of myself.

Instead, adulthood involves sharing a car that doesn’t even have cruise control with my husband, realizing we actually have to pay back all of those student loans we took out, and coming to terms with the fact that we live in an apartment that is within walking distance of the mall.

Also? I no matter how old I get, I still relish every single moment I spend watching “Greek” on ABC family while lounging on the IKEA sofa we had to settle for as we still can’t afford a sectional from Crate & Barrel due to the aforementioned student loans.

Ummm….welcome to adulthood?

My mom’s night at the prom made me realize something really important: Adulthood is awkward. Sure, it’s different from the awkwardness of puberty, proms and pep rallies, but it’s uncomfortable nonetheless. I still wrestle with some of the same problems I did in high school. How do I make friends? Do I look stupid? Did I say the wrong thing? What if nobody likes my blog? What if nobody likes me?

I don’t think we ever grow out of our insecurities, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

Mom mom is a great example. She’s overcome a devastating disability, has raised three wonderful children (and one snarky one), gone back to work despite her health issues, graduate from college and enjoyed a wonderful 31-year marriage with Mr. Candle Melter. You’d think she’s got it all together, yet despite her list of accolades, she still felt goofy at the prom.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure I know anyone who didn’t feel goofy at the prom.

Yet in spite of our fears, our self-doubt, our flaws, and yes, even our peeling faces, we can still be successful, fulfilled, content individuals. We can have fun at the prom without being the King or Queen!

Having your life one hundred percent together is not a prerequisite for making it wonderful.  A comforting thought, indeed.

Almost as comforting as the knowledge that I’ll never have to go to the prom again.

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Running with daddy 2

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Yes, I still call my father “daddy”.

And no, it’s not creepy. It’s sweet.

When I hit 40? Then it will be creepy.

I was really glad my dad suggested going for a father daughter run yesterday afternoon. I haven’t gone in a few days as I’ve been staying in Parkland, and have no one to come with protect me. I’m just going to be frank here — unless getting curb stomped is your idea of a good time, don’t go running in Parkland alone. I’m allowed to say this as I grew up here, and have parents who were mugged a few blocks from our house earlier this year. Plus, while I’ve clearly never been curb stomped, I’ve had men in creepy vans try to pick me up on more occasions than I care to remember. I’m also pretty sure the neighbor’s horse farm is a coverup for a meth lab.

This be the ‘hood.

And honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way. But that still doesn’t mean I want to go jogging alone.

Luckily, dad was prepared to throw down if necessary.

Dad with garden clippers

Clipping is the new curb stomping. (Also…now do you see who I get my lack of eyebrows from?)

Okay…so he didn’t bring these along with the intention of hurting anyone. He was actually looking for dead blackberry vines. Last night was Good Friday, and he wanted to craft a homemade crown of thorns to place on the altar at church. Apparently he discovered the Easter crafts section on Pinterest.

I can’t say I was all that surprised…he has a bizarre habit of carrying weapons for totally unusual purposes. For years he kept a giant machete in the backseat of his pickup truck. I always assumed it was for self-defense, until he explained to me one day that it was for on-the-go watermelon slicing.

Of course. I mean…why wouldn’t you slice watermelon with an old world sledge-hammer?

But again — this is Parkland. You can never be too careful. Crown of thorns or street fight…I felt safer having dad with clippers in hand.

My dad is almost sixty-four years old, and in excellent shape. He warned me that he was “getting older” and “not able to run like he used to” because of his faulty knees and a recent back surgery. “You’ll have to go slow for me, Trina…”, he warned.

He then proceeded to continuously lap me for sixty minutes while repeatedly asking, “Are you sure you’re doing okay?”

Oh…and then there was the part where he ran ahead of me and did twenty pull-ups on the PLU track equipment before catching up with me again and asking if I was ready to “sprint the straights.”

I desperately struggled to keep up. This was my view the entire time.

Confession: I’m totally jealous of my dad’s shapely, hairless legs.

I’m just glad he was fully clothed. Anyone who knows my dad understands he has a habit of wearing as little clothing as possible during his two favorite pastimes: running, and sunbathing.

The fact that he’s actually wearing full length shorts and a t-shirt is nothing short of miraculous.

In related news, I literally received this note from my sister while typing that last sentence. Talk about timing.

Hayley text message sunbathing

I think this proves that nearly naked running/sunbathing is a dominant genetic trait.

I rolled my eyes and thanked my lucky stars that I hadn’t inherited such immodesty. And then I remembered the incident at the naked spa and realized invisible eyebrows weren’t the only thing my dad’s passed on to me.

We had neared the end of our five-mile run, the finale of which was running up a very long, very steep hill to the cul-de-sac my parents live in. To this day, I still desperately want to impress my dad. I ran up next to him, yelled out “I’m going to eat this hill for dinner!”, and sprinted with all my might.

It was torture.

But dad made it all worth it. “Wow, Trina! You’ve really gotten into good shape. Your legs looked strong on that hill!”

Shapely and hairless, no? But I’ll take strong any day. Especially when it’s coming from this guy.

Dad and Katrina

Love you, daddy.

Yup, still saying “daddy.” Deal with it.

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