The Scamp Remembers

Today is a hard day for my mom. Today is the day that she lost her mom to a horrific car accident. Today is a day that we usually eat a club sandwich from iHop, drink a diet coke and watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I wrote this last year for her birthday, and I don’t think I can write anything better to capture how I feel. So here goes:

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The woman in these photos is Frances Ann. Today is her 80th birthday.

Or, it would be if she believed in wearing her seatbelt. When I was in the third grade she died when she overcorrected her car on the highway. The car flipped and she went through the windshield. Her best friend was in the car with her and survived. Before the funeral, her friend insisted on telling the story of what happened. I remember the crazy curved couch that everyone was sitting on. She was sitting with her husband, my mom, aunt and grandpa sat and listened.

Sometimes I think it would be better for my mom if she hadn’t heard the story.

I can’t remember what her voice sounds like. I can’t remember the way she felt when I hugged her.

I can remember the way she smelled. Sometimes I go to the cosmetic counter at the shopping centre near my house and spray the sample of Red Door into the air just to trigger a memory.

I can remember where we stood when we spread her ashes in Indian Canyon. I’ve only been there one other time since then, and it was to spread my grandpa there after he died.

I can remember the horrible photo she drew of me when I had to go to the emergency room for an ear infection. The picture was me in a hospital gown with my butt exposed and a doctor with a very very large needle ready to give me a shot. In the butt. I have a few scarves that belonged to her with me now.

They smell like my mom.

When my mom smiles, she looks like my grandma….or at least how I remember my grandma in my head.

It is a smile that involves teeth. I know this because it is the same smile that I have (most people tell me they know I am American because of my smile…all those teeth).

This is a hard day for my mom. She can’t call her mom and wish her a happy birthday. She can’t call her when one of her children (cough the oldest one cough) drives her crazy. It is a hard time for me because I have to think about the day when I won’t have my mom.

and that terrifies me.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my great uncle who was in town on holiday. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so, but he knew exactly who I was when I met him for brunch. He gave me the best compliment that anyone could ever give me: he told me I look and act exactly like my mother.

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 Since my mom sometimes looks and acts like my grammy, and I look and act a lot like my mommy, it must mean that I am a little like my grammy too.

I’d like to think that she would enjoy what I am doing with her smile.

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The Scamp Persists

2018 was not my year. In fact, it was one of the worst years I’ve had in a long time. I stumbled a lot. I had some of my worst lows. I thought about quitting the PhD. I thought about quitting Scotland. I quit on my diet. I quit on some of my friends. I quit making emotionally healthy choices.

There were some days that I felt 2018 quit on me.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

After 25 failed job applications, 2018 did me a solid. I got a full-time job in Scotland. I think it was quite poetic that I got the news while I was in the lift at Napier. I told my supervisor first.

No, that’s not true. I did a happy dance and cried in the lift. Then I told my supervisor.

He actually hugged me! I think I wanted to tell him first because he has been so hard on me and we spent most of 2018 not seeing eye-to-eye on my work.

The best in-person reaction was from my mentor. She is the only reason I got the job. She has given me work, let me publish as lead author and sent me a million and one jobs postings. When I told her, she jumped up and gave me the best mom hug ever. It is exactly what my mom would have done. She also told everyone in the office, including the two women on the hiring committee for the post in the office. Those women refused to even look at my application. I spent a week feeling bad about the fact that the place I worked for the last three years wouldn’t even consider me for my own position. I met the person they did hire on the day I got my acceptance letter….and I have to tell you, I did not engage with the new person at all. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t make conversation, and did not care one little bit that I was being rude.

I have spent three miserable years in that office. People who work there still have no idea what I do or how far along I am in the process. Not too long ago, one of them introduced themselves to me thinking I was new. I have been taken off projects, removed from the staff page, been moved to a closet, had my desk taken from me, and have my every move tracked for ‘audit purposes’.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

I am very very very behind on my thesis. I don’t care. I’m very very very behind on work for one of my jobs. I don’t care. It is not the way I want to start the new year. I’ve scheduled a meeting with my favourite supervisor to get the kick in the ass I need to get everything finished in time. I want to start 2019 on the right foot by putting Napier behind me. It saved my life by getting me out of California after CSUF, but that is just about the only good thing I can say.

So, in an effort to make up for a rotten year, and to live up to the promise of this year, I will persist.

The Scamp Fights the Winter Blues

Thanksgiving has passed, but the post turkey day depression has not. It doesn’t help that the sun sets here at 4pm and I have to wear extra layers when I leave the house.

I  used to love Thanksgiving. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes and gravy, go crazy for stuffing, and love the fact that it was one day where all my family gets together and hangs out. After my MSc, Thanksgiving was a weeklong getaway for me. First it was graduation, then it was Estonia, and since I have been back in Edinburgh full-time, it was a chance to see my mom and dad. Last year we were in Switzerland. 

This year I was at my desk by myself.

I made up for it by eating my weight in what Tesco calls ‘Asian inspired snacks’. I haven’t seen my parents in over a year. I haven’t seen my brother, sister, brother-in-law and the babies in 2 years. I miss my family.

Thanksgiving now sucks.

When I am by myself and not on an adventure it also reminds me that 3 years ago on Thanksgiving my dad found my brother dead from alcohol-related complications.  I had just thrown my first (and only) Thanksgiving dinner at my flat for the people that I worked with (and the lying cheating scumbag Dan). I started getting my parents to go on adventures on Thanksgiving so my dad wouldn’t have to be at home. 

He had to be at home this year because I am not graduating on time. I haven’t seen my family because I am not graduating on time. I’m sad because I am not finished with my PhD yet which means that I am an undesirable candidate for jobs that I am completely qualified for (including a job in the office where I currently work). I’m burned out from the 6 jobs and I feel like the only thing I am doing well right now is procrastinating. 

Well, that and eating chocolate. I’m really good at that right now. 

I am about three weeks away from submitting a new draft of my thesis to my supervisors and about a 6 weeks away from sending a draft to committee to put me in position to my viva. I am looking forward to that. I cannot wait until that little monster is someone else’s headache. There is nothing I love more than giving someone else a headache. 

The Scamp and Confidence

I took an extended break from the Scamp Chronicles.  I didn’t mean to do it, but I have 6 jobs and very little free time so instead of writing for fun, I have been hiding under the covers binge watching bad TV and freaking out about the future.

I am 30 days from turning in another draft of my thesis. At this point, I have done no work on it. I keep putting it off to do other things. People keep coming to visit. I have too many projects on my plate. I cannot sustain this lifestyle, but for now, it is what I have to do to pay the bills (seriously, can someone just hire me already?). I am relieved to finally have a submission date, even if it means that I have to work through Christmas. I am so close to finally finishing my thesis that I should be happy, and writing away, but I am tired, and when I am tired, I doubt myself.

The writing challenge for this week (although, who am I kidding, I haven’t been following that at all) is to write about my confidence in my ability in the workplace. If you asked me two weeks ago I would have said that I have no confidence in the work that I do. I recently applied for a lecturer post in the office that I have been based in during my three years at Napier. The post advertised was an entry-level position doing all the work that I am currently doing. I felt like I had a really good chance, and felt like the office would be stupid not to hire me.

They didn’t even shortlist me for an interview.

It really sucks to be told that you are not good enough for the job that you are currently doing. I have a feeling I am also going to have to give up my desk when they hire someone, which leaves me out in the cold again. It was a tough blow. A really tough blow.

Move forward a week and I have snapped out of my stupidity. I have recently started a major project at the University of Stirling. I spent last week meeting with programme leads and discussing my ideas for improving feedback at the programme level. The work is based on my thesis and based on the last three years slogging through the mess that is Napier. The five people that I met with listened, and by the end of my pitch were more than willing to work with me and help me actually put my thesis into action.

It is more than Napier was ever willing to do.

The fact the Stirling is letting me run this project and giving me carte blanche to do as I please renews my egotistical thoughts that I am good at what I do and that I have chosen the right field. I am really good at developing curriculum for teachers, and really good at teaching new teachers. One day I will actually be known for it. People will follow the Wilder Way of feedback and curriculum design. I will have a single office (with a window that opens and a comfy chair) at a reputable university and co-workers I like. I’ll have a nice steady income and be able to start paying off my student loan.

I’ll be living the dream….and then I will get a puppy….and a car.

But first, time to finish my thesis edits, book chapter, conceptual article, quick guide, project admin work, student meetings, GTA training and feedback initiative.

oh, and job applications. Lots of job applications.

The Scamp at a Loss

Today I woke up in a world without my Odie. He has been one of the only constants in my life for the last 15 years.

I hate the idea of being in a world where he no longer exists.

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I remember when my brother brought him home. Matt was a pain in the ass 18 year old who is the reason that my mom has grey hair. He left a note on the kitchen counter that just said “Mom don’t be mad”. When she raced up the stairs to his room and threw open the door, she was greeted with a tiny hiss from a little puff of fir in the middle of the bed. Matt had rescued a tiny kitten. He had a lot of names. My brother named him Odin. My sister and I called him Pepe because he was found in a dumpster outside a Mexican restaurant. I called him smooshy because he liked to be smooshed up against you when slept next to you.

He had a head like granite. He had no concept of personal space. He would steal your seat on the couch if you got up for any reason. He had awful kitty breath. He liked to drink from the toilet. He was obsessed with boobs and would often sit with his paws resting on them. He drooled. If you wanted him to come in for the night so you could go to bed, he would escape and evade you like a pro. He would leave out the front door and then magically appear at the top of the stairs. He liked to sleep on his back with his feet in the air.

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He was a pain in the ass. He was a great source of comfort. He was the only man in my life to never disappoint me. He slept on a special blanket on my bed when I moved back to California for a little while. He slept with me every day I was back for a visit.

He used each of his nine lives in the last 15 years. He survived being poisoned. He survived a bee sting.  He survived trying to hump a coyote. He survived me bathing him. The last few years were tough. He slowed down. He had to have his eye removed. Eventually, he developed cancer. Yesterday the vet said that it was better to gently end his life rather than put him through any more treatment.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t get to tell him I loved him one more time. I didn’t get that one final cuddle.  I did not have a chance to prepare myself for this moment that I knew was coming. I’m going to miss the cuddles, the headbutts, the curling up on my work so I had to pay attention to him.

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This little face offered me unconditional love, occasional love bites and constant reminders of how to enjoy the little things in life. I will miss him a little more now, but I know he is headbutting angels and that he is happy.

 

The Scamp Plays a Game

I’ve been tasked from a fellow blogger to play a ‘get-to-know-you’ game. I have to answer 31 questions (because I’m old as shit) from a list of 198. I usually hate these, but it has been a while since I wrote anything that wasn’t thesis related, and I think this might be more fun then another post about how miserable I am in the current thesis phase…because let’s face it, everyone is miserable at this stage.

1. IF SOMEONE NARRATED YOUR LIFE, WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO BE THE NARRATOR? I think it would have to be Anthony Bourdain. There is just something about the way he narrated his own life was quite brilliant. He’d say all the snarky things I was thinking as well which would be nice. 

2. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK YOU’VE EVER READ? God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

God Went to Beauty School

He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy 
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
“Nails by Jim” He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands--
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds’ wings, 
and after He’d done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails 
any color He wanted,
then say,
“Beautiful,"
and mean it.

3. IF YOU RECEIVED A SALARY TO FOLLOW WHATEVER PASSION YOU WANTED TO, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I would start my own literacy foundation and help people learn to read. I’d set it up all over the world. People would learn to read in their native language and depending on the location, another language that would be useful. For California, people would learn English and Spanish or English and Korean. I think raising the literacy rate of the world is important and that it can be done if people are willing to make it happen.

4. WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’RE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? I am working on a project that would allow me to use the research from my PhD to actually help a university with their assessment and feedback procedures. I’m really buzzing about this one and hope that I can make it happen. 

5. WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF YOU WEREN’T AT YOUR CURRENT JOB? I want to be a travel writer for Lonely Planet. 

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SMELL IN THE WHOLE WORLD? Red Door by Elizabeth Arden 

7. NACHOS. WHAT WOULD YOU PUT ON YOURS? I’m a purist. I want a lot of cheese, really spicy salsa, guac, sour cream and jalapenos.  

8. WHAT IS THE SOUND YOU LOVE THE MOST? My nephews laughing 

9. IF YOU COULD GET AWAY WITH A CRIME, WOULD YOU? IF YES, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I would. I would evade paying my student loans

10. WHAT’S THE OLDEST THING YOU OWN? My very first stuffed rabbit called Bun

11. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY AND WHY? Any holiday that brings my family all together. Usually, that is Christmas Eve, Passover, or if I make it to California to celebrate my birthday. 

12. WHAT’S THE BEST CONCERT YOU’VE EVER BEEN TO? The first time I saw the Mighty Mighty BossTones and getting to see JD McPherson in Glasgow.

13. IF YOU COULD PLAY ONE INSTRUMENT YOU AREN’T ABLE TO NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? I want to play the trumpet. I don’t know anyone who can play it, and I think that I would enjoy it.

14. WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE CARTOON CHARACTER AS A CHILD? Velma from Scooby Doo.

15. WHICH FAMOUS PERSON WOULD YOU LIKE TO BEST FRIENDS WITH? Anthony Bourdain.

16. IF YOU COULD LIVE IN A BOOK, TV SHOW, OR MOVIE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I’d live in the Dresden Files

17. IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE TO LIVE WITHOUT ONE OF YOUR FIVE SENSES, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU GIVE UP? Smell. It would make public transportation more tolerable

18. IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANY ONE PERSON, LIVING OR DEAD, WHO WOULD THEY BE AND WHY? My mom. It has been almost a year since we have seen each other and I’m not enjoying it.

19. IF YOU COULD MASTER ONE SKILL YOU DON’T HAVE RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I want to have an easier time learning languages.

20. IF YOU COULD ASK THE PRESIDENT ONE QUESTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Who does your hair?

21. WHAT SINGLE MESSAGE WOULD YOU SEND TO AN ADVANCED ALIEN SPECIES? Don’t waste your time here.

22. WHAT ANIMAL WOULD BE CUTEST IF SCALED DOWN TO THE SIZE OF A CAT? A giraffe.

23. IF YOU COULD TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHERE WOULD IT BE? Brea, California

24. WHEN HAVE YOU FELT YOUR BIGGEST ADRENALINE RUSH? Jumping out of an aeroplane when I turned 28. It was such a rush that I almost puked when I landed. I had to lay on the ground for half an hour

25. WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN LIFE? I want to help people in some way.

26. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT THIS CITY? All of the people from all over the world who have chosen to settle here.

27. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A BILLION DOLLARS? I’d take care of my family first. Pay off debts, set up college accounts for my nephews, get my sister a house. I would then invest a couple million in stocks and keep a couple million for myself. The rest of the money would be divided between charities that help with education, environmental conservation, and making the world a better place.

28. WHAT IS ONE THING YOU MISS ABOUT BEING A KID? Not worrying about money or paying bills.

29. WHERE IS THE MOST RELAXING PLACE YOU’VE EVER BEEN? Any place where there is a beach and a sunset.

30. DESCRIBE ONE EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD WHERE YOU TOOK A HUGE LEAP OF FAITH. I moved to Scotland on my own to pursue my PhD.

31. IF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE WAS A MOVIE, WHAT TITLE WOULD BEST FIT? A Series of Unfortunate Events…..wait, that’s already taken. hmmmm. Tales From the Little Black Rain Cloud

The Scamp is Accidentally Funny

Today I finally got an email from a supervisor that I am excited about.

I am a handful of edits away from a complete draft of my theory chapter. Considering the last draft I submitted was ‘confusing’ and ‘unclear,’ I am so chuffed that I am almost done. Of course, I would not have been able to get that far without having sent the draft to my mom as an extra set of eyes. Turns out, I am not as bad a writer as I thought.

I may actually finish this thesis.

That aside, I have been dipping my toe into the festival. I went and saw Ari Shaffir do a set on being Jewish and it was the best thing ever. I laughed the entire time. He’s in the city this month to prepare for a Netflix special, and I cannot wait until the final set is done. It probably won’t be half as funny though when it isn’t done in front of a room full of people who know nothing about Judaism.

Since one of the besties is in theatre, and working during the festival, when she mentioned that she was out and about, I knew I had to detour in her direction. She introduced me to the writer for the show she is working on, and to a casting director and I felt like my job is borning in comparison so I blurted out the most outrageous thing I could think of: I was an accidental Jewish guest at a white supremacist wedding.

The story was a big hit with the crowd, and I think maybe it is time I shared it with the world.

The rest of this is the how the big day unfolded to the best of my recollection. I am going to try and avoid using names, although most of my family and friends from California will have an idea of who this is.

When I was 21 years old, I was dating a very sweet guy who lives in Hollywood. The house he grew up was the house that his dad grew up in, and his dad knows everyone and anyone. He has amazing stories that he likes to tell (often on a loop. I heard the same ones a lot in the two years I dated his son) and was often collecting strays that would live at the house for anywhere from a few days to a few months, to a few years. It was one such stray that had been cared for by the family that asked if he could have his wedding in the giant front yard of the Hollywood house.

It was summertime (I think it was June) and I spent my time going back and forth between my parent’s house in Orange County to the boyfriend’s house in Hollywood. I got to the house in the late afternoon for the rehearsal dinner. The first thing that I noticed was the motorcycles and muscle cars. I have an El Camino and the boyfriend has a classic Mustang (I loved that car), so I was immediately interested in the cars.

Unfortunately, that was the last thing I was interested in for the rest of the weekend. I walked into the house and felt like I had walked into a Klan meeting. The groom was a tall dude covered in tattoos. He was wearing jeans and white undershirt with the sleeves rolled rockabilly style. His tattoos showcased his love of his heritage….including the swastika on his neck. The bride to be was also covered in tattoos and piercings, including the SS lightning bolts. Their friends looked much the same. During the course of the party, the two got more and more hammered and then shared how they met. They had met through MySpace (which tells you how long ago this happened) when they each thought the other was someone else. They talked for a couple of weeks before they realised the mistake that they had made, and after a few laughs (and not a lot of time) they decided that they couldn’t live without each other and decided to get married.

Strong foundations for a good marriage, right?

The next day my boyfriend and his friends helped put out chairs, make sure the front yard was clean and went about helping set up for the BBQ after the ceremony. The best man, my boyfriend and I went to get as much ice as we could for all of the booze that was now sitting in the driveway of the Hollywood house. During this outing, I learned that the best man was married, he liked muscle cars, and he had a habit of lingering a little bit too long when he touched me. I changed into a nice sundress and tried to stay out of the way while everyone got dressed. The wedding party had been drinking since about 9am, and by the time guests started arriving, the wedding party was beyond three sheets to the wind. Even my boyfriend’s dad was drunk….and he was the one in charge of officiating the wedding!

The best guest of the day was the mother of the groom. She showed up with her very fake boobs spilling out of a very tight dress that was better fitted to someone half her age. She was very theatrical and dramatic and did not really act the way that you would expect a mother to act. The wedding was delayed for a couple of hours, although I can’t for the life of me remember why. People showed up in jeans, baseball hats, leather. Their tattoos were crude and slightly offensive, and I decided that it was best if I just made myself scarce. When it was finally time to start, one of the groomsmen had lost his shirt, and his very large tattoo of the word ‘thirsty’ across his stomach was on display. He sported a backwards baseball cap and several beers. The groom could barely stand up straight and the officiant was in shorts and a black shirt with a paper collar to make him look like a priest. He was swaying slightly as well.  The bride walked down the aisle to some hardcore song, but she looked stunning in her white strapless mermaid gown and tiny net veil.

The ceremony was short, the kiss at the end sloppy.

And then the fun began. BBQ and booze flowed. I felt very uncomfortable in a crowd of people that proudly displayed their racist ideology, and even asked my boyfriend at one point if I had been invited to the wedding as a ritual sacrifice. He failed to see the problem, so I hid in his room for an hour or so and text my mom about the ridiculousness of what was going on. When my boyfriend neglected to come to find me, I decided to venture back out. One of his friends was sitting on a couch on the phone arguing with his girlfriend. It was obvious that she was mad at him, and while I started to move out of the bedroom, the mother of the groom came tumbling in dragging the best man by his tie (yeah, he was wearing a tie, go figure). The two of them disappeared into the bathroom together. I looked over at my boyfriend’s friend, and both of us were shocked and confused….so much so that he interrupted his girlfriend and asked if they could pause the fight so that he could tell her what we just saw.

Needless to say that a slutty mother of the groom having sex with the married best man is a good way to end an argument.

They came stumbling out a few minutes later and I went outside to find my boyfriend and tell him what I had just seen. I was waiting for them to cut and serve the cake, but by 11 or so I was tired of waiting and went to bed.

At some point after that, the groom learned that his friend had slept with his mom. They got in a massive fight in the front yard and the best man lost a tooth. The bride and groom then got in a massive screaming match and she threw her wedding ring over the fence and into the middle of a very busy street in front of the Hollywood house (It was never found). They slept separately and were still not speaking the next day.

I learned a valuable lesson that day….always look at the wedding invitation first. If it has a swastika on it, respectfully decline.

As I write this, I wonder if it is as funny as it was when I told it to a shocked audience last night in an effort to make them laugh. They joked that I could have my own fringe show, and said they could not write a better scene. I hadn’t thought about that in years, and now I wonder if those two are still together and whether or not they have started their own little Hitler Youth group.