Tag Archives: Red Dress Club

Chipping Away at Change

It’s said you have to hit rock bottom in order for something to change.

But just when I thought I might have been close, I would get out my chisel and start chipping away at the ground, refusing to believe I had hit a new low. So even though the chisel felt heavy and my body felt tired, I ignored it. I continued to chip, chip away, always pushing myself just a little bit more, always challenging my body to keep up with my mind.

I was my birthday seven years ago. I had finally came home for a visit, the first after moving away for a six-month internship across the state. There was cake I didn’t eat, concerned looks I didn’t see, things said I don’t remember.

Any pleasure I’d once found in food had been lost, yet it still felt like a drug, one I literally tried to run away from as I ran myself into the ground. I needed it, I wanted it, I hated it, I loved it, I was bored, I was stubborn, I was stuck.

Instead my thoughts were consumed as they usually were with the next chance I’d have to destruct, to push my broken body a little bit more in an effort to calm down my mind, to use my body to show a pain I couldn’t put into words. It was a pain I had chose to ignore.

But what I couldn’t ignore was the pain in her eyes when my mom broke down sobbing that day.

We were sitting on the deck talking about nothing of note, or at least nothing I can recall now. What I can recall is the hard wooden chair digging into my back and the scent of the freshly cut grass, a smell I had missed living in a concrete city for the past few months.

I rested my eyes on the view from the deck, but the weight of her gaze drew me back.  She was crying, and then she was sobbing.

She let it all out, a flood of emotion, a mother both scared and confused. I had no clue what I had done, what had caused this sudden outburst of words and tears, concerns and fears. Not sure what to do I just kind of stood by, still numb to the fact I was sick.

But I listened.

I acknowledged the fact that things weren’t quite right, that my pain was no longer just mine. I acknowledged that something was wrong. My 5’ 8” frame suddenly held more than just my double-digit weight; it held the weight of the worry she felt, the gravity of a situation I had tried to ignore.

That chisel I used to keep digging the hole was put away just for that night. It wasn’t a fix and it wasn’t the end, but it would be the start of a very long journey.

It would be the start of some change.

This post was in response to this week’s RemebeRED prompt:


This week we’d like you to write about a moment in your life when you knew something had to change drastically. Really explore the moment.

Even though I’m not ashamed of where I’ve been, this post was still hard to publish. I feel weird, like it’s something I just want to forget, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind.

However, my next post will be day one of the 30 Days of Shamelessness. Let the freak flag fly!

Destiny Takes a Detour

When I was seven or eight, I heard my life’s calling, and it came in the form of a show tune.


My parents had gone to see Les Miserables and I got the first taste of my destiny—to be on stage, to sing, to perform—to be a star. I played that tape over and over, memorizing every word to every song. While I was too young to know the story, it didn’t stop me from rollerblading dramatically around the driveway to the songs or performing solos on our deck to flowerpots and pets. 

I was destined to be a star, and it’s not like I didn’t have experience.

When I was four, I had to be dragged off the stage after a breathtaking tap/ballet performance. Then there were the dozens of living room concerts, foam balls stuffed in my shirt for fake boobs and a gaggle of bangles adorning my wrists. I would shimmy and shake down the staircase, emulating Mariah Carey or Barbie and the Rockers in what could only be described as an exact approximation of their talents.

The years saw me hand jive through “Grease” and sing for my “Rent” of “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes."  I’m not sure what happened, but somehow the use of my musical talents became restricted to years of piano lessons and leading cheers in the dugout of softball games.

I can only assume that this town just wasn’t ready for my unique talents.

As an adult I’ve seen a few shows locally—Les Miserables a couple of times, of course—and a trip to New York afforded me the opportunity to see my first Broadway show—“In the Heights.” I left in awe, reminded of the life I could have led.

(And hearing show tunes still gets me singing and dancing around the same way that watching Jackie Chan movies gets me karate chopping my way through the house.)

But apparently being able to sing well is a prerequisite for starring in musicals, and unfortunately, things always sound much better in my head and living room than they do when presented to an external audience—say, people at the grocery store watching me sing “Summer Nights” to the summer squash.

I suppose sometimes destiny takes a detour.

(insert dramatic sigh)

Lesson learned.

This post is in response to the RemembeRED prompt:


Write a post that either starts or ends with the words "Lesson learned." Word limit: 400 words.

Vive la France!

There’s just a certain, je ne sais quoi about the melodic sing-song nature of the  French language.


Let me rephrase that.

There’s just a certain, je ne sais quoi about the melodic sing-song nature of the  French language when spoken by someone who can actually speak the French language.

When you’re in high school and studying French as a graduation requirement, the cadence of dialogue resembles a choppy staccato more than a flowing  ballad. The words don’t exactly ebb and flow in intensity with each inflection, rolling off the tongue like butter from the croissant that students are struggling to remember the gender of as they reenact an awkward café scene in front of their overly enthusiastic French teacher.

For my high school teacher, to teach our class was to teach us about a life she was meant to be living 3,000 miles away.

Madame was convinced she was born in France and not in Michigan, and to prove that she immersed herself in the culture of a country she had visited just twice.  This love extended to not just her professional life, but also to a mullet, unshaved legs and children who could speak better French than half of Paris. 

As high schoolers, our first goal was to learn the curse words, how to ask for the bathroom and how to proposition complete strangers to sleep with us. Our second goal was to convince Madame to throw French “rendezvous” with snacks and “French” movies.


Considering her children had the complete collections of both Babar and Madeline and that she took our desire for food as a desire to experience the culture hands-on, we had an alarming number of that more resembled a two-year-old’s birthday party.

The conversation was only marginally more advanced.

We were forced to endure workbook after workbook of conjugation and verbs, describe our mood and the weather with alarming frequency and take an unnatural interest in the lives of manically happy strangers talking on videos and tapes about how where they were going in their blue car on various days of the week.

While I got to the point in my studies where I could read and understand a great deal of French, my spoken attempts remained choppy at best.

Madame, who eventually refused to speak English after two years, would speak to us as if in song. The ebb and flow in intensity with each inflection lulled me into a false sense of security that the same thing would happen when I opened my mouth and attempted to reply.

Yet when I set out to join her in a duet of dialogue, the words seemed to stick in my throat. More cacophonic than melodic, I struggled in vain to tell her that I was going to the bibliotheque on my bike on Tuesday and that I was happy about the weather.

“Viola! Can I can write it down instead?

How about another Babar party?

I’ll bring the crepes.”

At any rate, I recently ran into Madame at the store. Twelve years later she was still rocking the mullet and still refused to speak English, but we did have a brief and friendly conversation.

I believe I either told her I was fine or that I was a car.

She appeared pleased and either told me it was great to see me again or that I was still —how do you say it in English?—a pathetic monolingual loser with no rhetorical rhythm. 

Either way, je m’appelle Abby.

Ou sont les toilettes?

Click the link to watch it on YouTube.


This post was in response to this week’s RemembeRED prompt:

Write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in your life. And don’t use the word “rhythm.”

It Was a Drive-By Beaching

Today I am going to tell you a story about the time me and my best friend B went away together for Spring Break.

This could conjure up expectations of a “Girls Gone Wild” type post if I failed to omit one important detail—we were 8th grade girls and we went to Florida to stay with my grandparents at their condo.

Every morning we would throw on our suits, flip-flops and tanning accelerator, hop on  three-wheeled bicycles and spend our days in the sun by the community pool. Aside from the occasional water aerobics class and shuffleboard tournament, we basically had the place to ourselves.

My grandma was someone who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated. What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large Ziploc bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

Because of a desire to avoid food poisoning, we often suggested frequenting various chain restaurants for dinner, be it gram’s favorite—Juicy Lucy—or something more familiar to those of us under the age of 65. This suggestion was often well-received, not only because my grandpa loved to eat anything anywhere, but because Happy Hour drinks were 2-for-1 at most of these restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant that when you walked into any Applebees, Outback, etc. between the hours of 4-6, you would be greeted with tables full of senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes, Screwdrivers or Vodka Tonics.

The waitresses were thrilled with their tips, I’m sure.

One day my grandparents presented us with an exciting proposition—going to the beach.  About an hour away, the beach was where the action was. We eagerly packed our beach bags and hopped into the backseat the Cadillac, windows down, Neil Diamond warbling from the speakers.

As we got closer, B and I exchanged excited glances and gathered up our bags, waiting for the car to slow down and park so we could join in the whole beach experience.

The car never stopped.

“This is the beach,” said my grandpa, proudly pointing it out as we kept driving by. Confused, I asked where we were going to park.

“What? Why would we?” asked my grandma, looking a me as if I had just suggested only playing 12 Bingo cards at once or actually refrigerating leftover chicken. “It’s too busy, too hot. Do you girls want some ice cream?”

Now mortified, I looked at B and saw panic in her eyes. The only way we wanted ice cream was if it could be eaten on the beach, which meant the car would have to stop at some point soon.

But despite my protests, the next time the car stopped was at McDonalds just off the highway. Grandpa placed the order of sundaes and cones while we sat in shock in the back. No basking in the sun on the sand, no dipping our toes in the ocean—just a drive-by in the Caddy and “Sweet Caroline” on repeat.

As we pulled up to the pick-up window, my grandma leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle, turning around to face us in the backseat. “When you’re paying (.99 cents) for each ice cream, you better make sure you get your money’s worth.”

Because after all, nothing completes a day at the beach like free ketchup and mustard to hoard with your ice cream.

“Now who’s ready for happy hour?” she asked, tucking the packets into her oversized purse, no doubt to make room for the sugar sure to be swiped from the restaurant.

I looked at B and saw hope in her eyes.

We were ready.

Make it a double. 

This trip down memory lane was brought to you by this weeks RemembeRED prompt:

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life. Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

As you probably know, I could write a whole book on my senior experiences. And trust me, we always find the funny…and the discounts.

Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll

We slept together—literally.

I spent the night in his oversized T-shirt in his undersized bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering why it was spinning, his soft laughter in my ears when I shared with him my wonder. 

He acted like a complete gentleman that night, despite the fact that I wanted him to be anything but that at the time.

At 21 and newly single, I had fallen into a pattern of discovery.

I was finally free to discover just who I was and what I wanted to do, with the answer shifting as quickly as the company I kept. New friends, new experiences—I was finally free to discover that I didn’t need to know, that I could choose my own adventure.

Most nights were spent at the bar—working first, playing second—short shorts and long nights. I countered my good girl image with a raw sexuality and harmless flirting that left them confused and intrigued, not unlike myself at that point. I was getting culture—bar culture—and discovering more every night.

He was a local celebrity of sorts, a regular at the bar and a bit older than me. Our love of sports and sarcasm made us fast friends. I was invited to game-day parties and cookouts, making new friends and no plans, discovering the fun in spontaneity and Stoli.

That day was hot and full of cool drinks, more than I could count. There was hummus and things on the campfire, pitchers of drinks that fueled guitars and singing and dance.

To this day I still associate the last song I remember hearing them play as I sat around the campfire, a bottomless glass in my hand and a fuzzy recollection of time—The Rolling Stones, no less. 

The ride home is a blur, as is much of that night, but I know where I ended up last. In his oversized T-shirt in his undersized bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering why it was spinning, his soft laughter in my ears when I shared with him my wonder.

He acted like a complete gentleman that night, despite the fact that I wanted him to be anything but that at the time.

Yes, the first time I slept with a man after sleeping with someone so wrong for so long, I learned a little about sex, drugs and rock and roll.


(Even if you don’t know it at the time.)

This trip down memory lane was in response to the Red Dress Club RemebeRED prompt:

The first time I _____ after ________.

How would you fill in the blank?

Summer Rhyme Time

Today’s post is the result of what happens when it’s 96 degrees outside and I don’t have air conditioning. It is also a combined effort of a prompt from Studio 30 Plus—Summer Days—and the Red Dress Club—something you memorized or remember from childhood.

Mine involves a hook man and a pot selling ice cream truck. Go figure.

Anyway, it’s a two-for-one prompt special today. Next time I will try and compose something more coherent and less heat-stroke induced. Now without further ado (ahem–clearing throat here,) begin!

Long gone are the mornings spent scraping off snow,

wearing our hats and gloves each place we go.

Flip-flops (or no shoes) replace our big boots,

and out come the T-shirts and bright bathing suits.

But when I was a kid summer meant a bit more,

you never quite new what fun could be in store.

No school to attend and no homework to do,

or boring assemblies left to sit through. 

Instead I would sit on my bike or the swings,

falling in rosebushes, icing bruised things.

Wiffle ball games were held back in the grass,

so that it would hurt less to slide on your ass.

The arguments came with about every play,

as someone who sucked at the game would then say:

“I so wasn’t out, you can all go to hell,

get off of my property before I tell.”

Running through sprinklers and stepping on bees,

Skateboarding fearlessly, skinning our knees.

The trampoline served as a real launching point,

as we “popcorned” each other right out of the joint.

Over the fence they would fly with great height,

setting new records for seconds in flight.

Slip and splash basically served as a way

to quickly maim someone through innocent play.


A water-slicked tarp leading straight down a hill?

A highway to taking one hell of a spill.

Trucks all pimped out with some music and lights,

would sell us kids all kinds of frozen delights.

(Looking back now I think most of those rides

were really a front to sell pot on the side.)

At any rate, we ate treats in a cone,

and our parents bought brownies and left us alone.

We always would find that one friend with a pool,

(the one that we never hung out with at school.)

Camping’s been talked about here once before,

but it’s simply a summer thing I can’t ignore.

For I still remember the fear and the fright,

when told of the Hook Man each hot summer night.


Thanks to the moron who told me that bit,

I was waiting for serial killers to hit.

(Another reason I don’t like camping.)

Anyway, now that I’m older and work every day,

this “job” that I speak of just gets in the way.

Work on my tan is replaced with real stuff,

like deadlines and editing drafts that are rough.

But things balance things out with the sunshine and heat,

flowers in bloom and the market with treats.

My skin glows with color and freckles appear,

that normally hide for the rest of the year.

The smell of a charcoal grill still can’t be beat,

even though I’m not into consumption of meat.

Things can get steamy, uncomfortably so,

but at least I’m not shoveling three feet of snow.

So while things are different for whatever reason,

summer is still quite a wonderful season.

I might not get weeks off but with any luck,

I soon will cross paths with that great ice cream truck,

(For ice cream, of course.)

Humor me—summer memories from childhood?

Simple Math

It started with Goldfish crackers.


While the details are fuzzy, I remember that it was sometime in October and that on this particular day it was raining outside—indoor recess. Stuck to the board was Wilbur—a brown (felt) bear the first-grade class dressed each day with weather-appropriate clothes. Sporting a yellow rain slicker, boots and an umbrella under a (felt) gray cloud and a handful of raindrops, there was no question as to the conditions outside.

The conditions inside most likely included a fascinating discussion about shapes, colors and the pros and cons of multinationals and globalization in a modern society. That’s not important. What was important was the seating chart, for the stars were aligned—or grossly misinformed—and my desk at the time was conveniently located in a block of four with two of my best friends, both boys and both my neighbors.

Yes, they participated in the deterioration of Barbie’s reputation.

For the sake of their self-proclaimed innocence, let’s call them Mike and Danny. Danny was my best, best friend, but I kept Mike along for the ride—even marrying him once or twice in his basement and often skating sweaty hand in sweaty hand to couple’s skate at school skating parties in later years. He served a role.

With the polygamous nature of our playgroup, I think Mike knew and served this role well.

As for the day in question, we were doing some sort of math exercise that involved using Goldfish crackers as counting pieces. The details aren’t important, but what is important to note is that Danny had to leave for weekly speech therapy. His Goldfish crackers,  unmanned and vulnerable, would not be joining him.

I was hungry—or I just wanted them, again the details are fuzzy—and the Goldfish were consumed. Mike wanted in. I obliged.

Two for me, one for Mike. Two for me, one for Mike. Two for me, none for Mike, as our mid-math snack was cut short by the intrusive presence of the authoritative adult that has instigated this cracker caper in the first place. Apparently our behavior was being frowned upon and warranted a lecture.

Mike cried like a kindergarten baby, blubbering out promises to give our lisping buddy all the Halloween candy he anticipated hoarding in the coming days.

I was stoic, annoyed with both the interruption and the insinuation that I had done something wrong. I knew I should feel bad. The reaction from my teacher, the sobbing fool next to me, and the quiet hush that had fallen over the class were telling me as much.

But it was Danny. It was crackers.

So while the teacher was lecturing the class on what was most likely the importance of sharing and stealing, I was building a solid argument up in my head. I wasn’t a criminal. I knew right from wrong, good from bad, snacking from stealing.

There were countless times before and would be countless times in the future when Danny would take (and eat) things that were mine, when he would participate in some plot against my scheduled script of play, when he would be told to “get off my property” or kick me out of his tree fort. I failed to see the importance of a handful of crackers that could be easily replaced and forgotten.

It was Danny. It was crackers.

Emboldened by my rationalizations and oblivious to danger, I looked left. I looked right. I looked down at the remaining fish on Danny’s desk, baiting me as they were with their innocent smiles and bright orange glow.

It started with Goldfish crackers.

It ended with crumbs.

Simple math.

This post is in response to this week’s  Red Dress Club RemembeRED prompt to “Mine your memories and write about the earliest grade you can recall.” I’m sure I have others, but this one popped up first.

It’s time for show and tell. What’s the earliest memory you have of elementary school?

Chocolate Closure

I’m not a big dessert person at all, but I do enjoy a little piece of chocolate every night. It’s something I consider my chocolate closure on the day. Although I am partial to the small Hershey’s Bliss chocolates, Dove Promises come in a close second. The prices are practically the same, yet when it comes down to it, I usually throw the Dove Promises in my cart.


Because I get more than just a small piece of (delicious) chocolate with the Dove—I get a small little note inside each wrapper.


I have since made a pledge to overachieve this promise on the weekends.

That doesn’t sound like much and the sayings are rather lame, but I have to admit that I look forward to reading the message each night when I eat my piece (or two) of chocolate. It’s like a fortune cookie that actually tastes good. When I open the wrapper of each Hershey’s Bliss, I am faced with an empty wrapper and a sigh.


Because I get just a small piece of (delicious) chocolate with the Hershey’s, and that’s it. With all other factors being virtually equal, it’s that little extra something with the Dove that persuades me to buy that particular product. It’s that little note—my chocolate closure.

Where am I going with this?

I’m not sure if it’s age, experience or ambivalence, but I’ve gotten rather good at letting things go. There’s not that anxiety hanging on every decision I make (or don’t make.) There’s not that stress of wondering what I think others want me to do. There’s not the resentment or frustration I used to haul around each day. For the most part, I do what I want and move on.

I’ve come a long way. I’m proud of that.

But there’s still that part of me that wants closure, and not just of the chocolate variety. When I send an e-mail, I want a quick reply. If I leave a message, I want a swift response. When I publish something, I want feedback—good or bad—so I’m not forced to make assumptions as to just where I might stand.

There are times I still doubt what I do, say, write or sing at the top of my lungs when I think no one else can hear me. And yes, silence still makes me doubtful at times.

It’s probably the Leo in me—we are a prideful bunch.

But to that I shrug and say oh well. It’s a natural craving. Some days and some people might be more Bliss than Promises, more sugar than substance.

I’m okay with that. I’m proud of that.

So if I want a damn piece of chocolate to tell me to “Write a letter, not an e-mail” or “You make everything lovely,”  that’s all the closure that I need.

Not that I don’t expect an automatic e-mail reply, text message or comment on my Facebook status, blog post, etc. I do. I probably always will. It’s just that now I feed my feelings of insecurity with a couple pieces of chocolate at night, convince myself that I’m wonderful and then move on.

Closure—chocolate or otherwise.

Dog Day Detour

Since I covered sex and religion in my last two posts, I thought I would switch it up a bit and attempt another RDC prompt. Don’t worry though—an upcoming post is dedicated to plastic women with big boobs.

This week’s Red Dress Club assignment is to write – fiction or non-fiction – about a time when you took a detour. Where had you intended to go and where did you end up?

red writing hood

With a phone interview in 10 minutes, I was almost home when a dog on the street brought my thoughts back to Earth. Skin and bones, a soiled white, the ragged Pit Bull stood as a stark contrast to the neighborhood.

I slowed down my truck. She slowed down as well.

I looked at the clock. She looked so confused. 

First lesson: Think with your heart and not just your head.

This dog was obviously dropped off on our street, callously left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar territory.

She didn’t know this. I did.

Pulling in the closest driveway, I got out and realized I had nothing I needed. No collar, no blanket, no leash.

She didn’t know this. I did.

Second lesson: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I did have dog treats and something that resembled a leash of sorts in the backseat of my Blazer, but with no collar I was forced to get creative. She must have sensed my good will, or the opportunity for free food, as she was sweet as could be and cautiously approached me.

Her nails were jagged and long; her delicate face was soiled and scratched, eyes filled with a look of confusion and hopeful trust; her ribs jutted out like prison bars.

I gave her a treat.

There was no struggle when I threw my makeshift collar/leash around her neck and led her to the truck. I dropped the hatch and spent the next five minutes trying to convince this dog that jumping into the back end was the plan.

She didn’t know this. I did.

After hefting her front paws on the tailgate, I was able to boost her massive frame into the back. I gave her a treat.

Off we went.

Third lesson: Homeless dogs will not be content being shoved in the back of a Blazer—and they stink. A lot.

Three seconds into the journey, my canine companion decided to fling herself from the back of the Blazer to the passenger’s seat.

She wasn’t into sticking her head out the open window on her side, but she was into sticking her head out the window on my side. Nails digging into my legs, dirty hair shedding across my lap, the makeshift collar doing nothing to restrain her.

We eventually made it to the Humane Society, where after some paperwork she was turned over to the competent staff that would eventually clean her up, trim those nails and prepare her for her new life.

Fourth lesson: There are still people who understand that life happens—usually to me at the most inopportune time.

I drove back home and prepared myself for the call in which I had to explain to a prospective employer that I missed our phone interview because I was detoured rescuing a homeless Pit Bull from the not-so-mean streets of northwest Grand Rapids.

I didn’t think giving her a treat would work.

She understood. We rescheduled, most likely under her assumption that even if I was making up the story, those creative powers could be editorially harnessed and come in handy on the job. I’m not sure.

Either way, I got the job.

The dog got a home.

Detour taken.

Lessons learned.

Our scars

This week’s assignment from The Red Dress Club was to write a short piece, either fiction or non-fiction, about something ugly – and find the beauty in it.

Sometimes I rhyme things, and apparently this is one of those times.

In rare times of frustration and brief self-despair,

She claims she is broken and beyond repair.

From surgeries more numerous than fingers to count,

She has her scars on the inside and out.

A neck and a spinal cord basically fused,

Excuses to dwell on this always refused.

Body casts, braces were part of her life,

Part of her role as a mother and wife.

For me I thought surgery was part of the norm,

Something all moms did in one shape or form.

Hiding her scars on the inside and out,

With clothes that concealed and no signs of self-doubt.

In fact, she was always the fun one to see,

The mom on the block you wish your mom could be.

Baseball in summer and raking in fall,

Snowmen in winter and trips to the mall.

Even if she couldn’t do it herself,

(Limited as she was in her own health,)

She made sure all the kids had more fun than they should,

Doing the things that she wished that she could.

I never quite realized the struggles she had,

Physically, mentally, feeling so bad.

As time has gone by I see more of her pain,

Taking it on as my own, yet in vain.

She thinks they are ugly, these scars that she wears,

Constant reminders of what she must bear.

A physical flaw isn’t what comes to mind,

When I see her scars or a mark of that kind.

The scars tell a story of one woman’s life,

As a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife.

It’s flawed and not perfect, with times of self-doubt,

But beautiful still, on the inside and out.