Ch…Ch…Ch…Changes

I haven’t posted in ages. The last six weeks have been full of LOTS of changes in the Nolan house…because we have acquired a teenager.

Its-a-girl-gif-the-lion-king-2-simbas-pride-38187265-500-261

One of my closest friends has joined Teach For America and is moving to Louisiana.  Her daughter, who is much like a niece to us, wasn’t keen on going and really wanted to start high school with all her friends here.  Hubs and I have often talked of adopting an older child, so we figured this could make the perfect test run since she’s already a kid we know and love.  So we made the offer and it turned out to suit everyone involved.  The last month has been a flurry of activity, cleaning out a bedroom, refinishing some furniture, getting all the legal stuff taken care of.  It’s left little time for writing, which was fine as I was waiting on edits from Awesome Editor anyway.

She finished moving in yesterday and will be on unpacking duty for a while.  No one ever realizes how much stuff they have until it’s all pulled out of its place and shoved in boxes or bags.  She’s totally a kid after my own heart.  Before unpacking anything, she tagged every drawer and shelf with a post it note dictating what would go there.  She’s a natural neatnik who’s spent her whole life living in a house with…not neat people.  Eventually you get to a point of learned helplessness and give in to the chaos.  So she’s excited to be coming to me because I am all about neat and rules and order.  After supper last night, we sat around having pie and a deep philosophical discussion about the varying portrayals of Lilith and Lucifer in assorted lore (spawned by Supernatural–because, of course, we were eating pie at the time and what else does one discuss over pie?) before she hit the unpacking again. Because she’s a cool kid like that. She’s lusting after my library.  We’re going to have to label her books…we have a lot of the same ones.  I can’t wait until she finishes The Infernal Devices.  I gotta have somebody else to discuss the world’s most perfect ending to a love triangle.

So…yeah.  We’re rocketing into parenthood late in the game!  This is gonna be an adventure.

BRING IT.

Charleston Vacay Day 2

No early morning wake up today.  Well, just before 8 rather than 6:30.  Hubs is still sleeping.  It’s another gloriously sunny day.  Probably muggy, though I haven’t stepped out on the back porch yet.

Yesterday we went into downtown Charleston to the City Market.  I wound up getting a nice leather composition book cover as my souvenir.  I NEARLY wound up with an Agent Carter hat.  It was SUPER CUTE.  But I just couldn’t pull the trigger to spend $85 (which, truly, isn’t bad for a Stetson) on a hat that I’m only likely to wear in the winter and even then not as often as I’d like.  Hubs got a new wallet and a cute little sculpture of a guitarist.  It was pretty darn hot by that point, so we had lunch at Molly Darcy’s Pub (the Guinness and onion burger is amazing, just so you know), then headed to the marina by the aquarium to board the Schooner Pride for an afternoon dolphin sail.  We only saw a few dolphins but the sail itself was totally worth it. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been on a sailboat (the last time was when I was sailing it myself on Loch Tay in Scotland).  I’d forgotten how much I love it.  If we lived anywhere near a body of water where you could actually sail, I would absolutely have at least a little Sunfish.  But this was an 84′ schooner.  I got to help raise the sails, which was fun.  We got rained on by the end, so between the wind and rain, my hair was looking super fine (not).  Back at port, we took an Uber (this trip has been our first experience with Uber and it’s been awesome) back downtown for dinner at The Griffon Pub, voted (justifiably) home of the best fish and chips in Charleston.  After that, a quick stop in at the grocery to pick up some stuff for a picnic lunch for today, then back to the house.

Today we’re headed to Magnolia Gardens (hence the picnic), then on to John’s Island to see the Angel Oak and the Charleston Tea Plantation (because I’m me–of COURSE I want to see the tea plantation).  We’ve still got to sort out where to have dinner tonight for our last night in Charleston.

Then tomorrow, I’m thinking breakfast somewhere awesome before hitting the road and heading home.  Fast trip.  I’d have taken another day but my boss is preparing to leave the country for two weeks, so we’ve got a million and one things to sort out before she leaves at the end of NEXT week, so it’s back to the grind on Monday.  I wanted Sunday to recover and do things like hit the grocery store and finish up laundry.  We’ll be starting a second round of Whole 30 on our return to counter vacation excesses.

Took me a few days to legitimately throttle back, but it’s been a lovely break away from the norm.

I Need Some Practice At This “Relaxing” Thing

It’s official.  I suck at relaxing.  I exist at such a high RPM most of the time, constantly going, constantly working, constantly doing.  There’s this voice in my head that drones on ad nauseum about all of the things that need to be done.  If I’m not napping (which is rare), I’m never idle.  The closest I come to consciously doing “nothing” is when I read.  And that’s becoming few and far between these days unless I’ve got an audiobook going while I’m doing other stuff (I listen to a LOT of audiobooks).

We left on Tuesday for our first vacation in five years (you may begin to see exactly why I’m no good at relaxing).  I made it all of forty minutes before I had to pull out a notebook to scribble in.  Got a bunch of notes on the character arcs for Sooper Seekrit Project Book 3 by the time we hit Birmingham.  Oh, and did I mention I blew through an entire critique of a manuscript before we left?

Tuesday night we went to an acoustic show by Breaking Benjamin at Iron City, which was awesome.  It’s a good venue.  Small.  There’s a balcony where we ended up tucked up above the crush, which was much better for these two introverts.  Only downside was that the line before the doors opened was wrapped all the way around the block and there were smokers.  Which meant BOTH of us had our sinuses screwed up, which meant both of us were snoring, which meant we both slept like crap in the unfamiliar hotel bed.  I tried to pick up some Sudafed before we  left (because in Alabama you don’t have to have a prescription for the real thing).  But evidently you do have to have ID from a state that also doesn’t require prescription because they wouldn’t sell me any.  This is me giving the middle finger to meth makers who make the rest of us suffer through allergies.

Yesterday was the rest of the drive to Charleston.  During that drive I finished inputting the copy edits on the crit I’d done, emailed those off (hooray for being able to use my phone as a hot spot!), read a bit, and generally waited for my sinus headache to go away.  Hubs landed a place through AirBnB on the marshes of Goose Creek, just north of Charleston.  I cannot begin to describe the level of swank of this place.  I’m pretty sure I had a kitchengasm when I walked in. The kitchen here is, no lie, about a third the size of our entire house.  Double ovens, induction cooktoop (which took me about 35 minutes to figure out how to even turn ON), acres of counterspace,and a fridge/freezer combo that I would give my first born for (not really but OMG I WANT).  It felt like I was forcing the kitchen to go slumming by making something as pedestrian as tacos last night (and then we ate the tacos and it was good because tacos are ALWAYS good).  There’s a double reclining swing on the back porch where we sat and talked about what we wanted to do today and dozed when the sun went down last night.  There’s something about being by the water that I find soothing, and I think that was the first step in my finally starting to unwind a bit.  We watched an episode of Flash from the ginormo bed (we have a king at home, but this thing is HUUUUGE and way up high…I have to actually give a hop to get into it–short people problems)–the first time in I don’t know how long that there wasn’t a laptop in my lap (working on something or other) or a phone in his hands.  Which is probably a pretty sad commentary.  So we’ve vowed to make that a more regular occurrence.

Now, getting up at 6:38–what is really 5:38 my time–is very much NOT what I had any intention of doing on my vacation.  Part of vacations, to my mind, is sleeping in.  But owing to the cigarette smoke and lack of Sudafed, there was more snoring and you know when you hit that morning call of nature there’s no going back to sleep.  So I got on up, intending to just curl up on the sofa.  And then I looked outside and forgot about sleep entirely as I dove for the nearest camera and headed outside.  There was a heron in the marshes behind the house and the sky was on fire behind it.  It was hub’s Nikon I grabbed (my Canon was in the bedroom), so I hope there was a memory card in there and that it turned out because holy crap, it was beautiful.  EDITED: It turned out!  So the sunrise over the marshes was ENTIRELY worth getting up early.  Gorgeous.

After a twenty minute hunt for a kettle (there isn’t one, despite the swank–who doesn’t have a kettle????), I finally got tea made.  I’m enjoying the solitude.  That is one thing I really enjoy about early mornings, despite the fact that I am not a morning person at all.  It’s not quiet–not really, especially not here with all the marsh birds and the very opinionated Canada geese swaggering down below–and it’s not even really still with the motion of the water and the breeze and the near constant movement of the birds.  But am still.  And that’s a rare thing indeed.

In a little while, I’ll start the bacon and coffee.  And if those don’t effectively lure hubby from sleep like the song of the Pied Piper, they’ll at least soften the insult of my waking him up to get started on the day.  We’re heading in to City Market this morning, then probably wandering around the Battery, maybe hitting up Rainbow Row before we go on a dolphin sail this afternoon on a REAL 84′ Schooner!  I’m super pumped.  Then it’ll be dinner at The Griffon (because we always love finding a good pub to get fish and chips).  Then,  I expect it’ll be back to the house, where we’ll sort out what we want to do tomorrow. Maybe head to Sullivan’s Island or to see the Angel Tree.  But for now…maybe a second cup of tea.

Canine Trauma

It’s been a stressful couple of days.  Sunday, our baby dog Huck started acting…odd.  He’d vomited twice in the morning (as they sometimes do when they inhale their food faster than the speed of light).  And by dinnertime, he ate REALLY slowly (totally out of character) and wasn’t even interested in sniffing our dinner plates.  He barely touched his breakfast yesterday and didn’t want to go for his walk, so I immediately took him to the vet first thing.  And then there was a lot of hurry up and wait until the radiologist looked at the radiographs.  So by 2, he was in surgery for a bowel obstruction.

Meanwhile, I was at the vet school playing guide to my mom and a friend of hers, whose dog was being evaluated (poor Molly is diabetic and going blind).  This was the first time I’d been at the vet school since Daisy, and I’d brought her helper harness to donate.  The physical therapist ended up being out, so I’ve still got that riding around in my car.  Going back in there was…a lot harder than I expected.  It’s been nine months.

Fast forward to 5 yesterday and we get the notice that Huck came through surgery fine and he is banned from rope toys for life.  All in all, it could’ve been much worse.  They were able to extract the rope strands with only 3 small incisions and no actual removal of the intestines.  His gut wasn’t actually damaged, just irritated.  And they expect a pretty quick recovery.  They were keeping him overnight for observation and all that jazz.

I spent all night locked in nightmares, stuck in that place where you’re not totally asleep, not totally awake and caught desperately wanting to sob or scream and…not being able to.  It might be I have a bit of trauma when it comes to health scares for my furbabies.  So that sucked and I woke up exhausted.

I called to check on him first thing this morning and again this afternoon before we got the go ahead to pick him up at 4:15.  Hubs got him a little bit ago, as it’s his day off.  And, of course, he’s fine.  Everybody’s fine.  Well, I’m not completely fine.  I won’t be until I can snuggle my baby in approximately twenty-five minutes.

I’ve already ordered Huck some new rubber tug toys (as tug is his favorite thing).  And I’m prepared to spoil him completely rotten.  Working from home tomorrow to keep an eye on him.

So…that’s been my week so far.  I’ve still got half of Just For This Moment to finish proofing, then ARCs will be going out.  There’s booklaunchy stuff to do.  Mostly I just want puppy cuddles and the pot roast I have in the crock pot.

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Ashamed of My Shame

*Image by Carlos Portos

Y’all, I kind of hate myself this morning.

I need to back up and give context.  So one of my evil day jobs is as an online college instructor in psychology.  I’ve been doing this for…nine years now?  Anyway, from time to time, the university requires that the teachers take a class to be all up on the latest and greatest in online instruction.  And I’m starting one of these courses today.  Yeah great, whatever.  No big.

So we get to the introduction where we have to post about who we are, what we teach, and they ask us what book we’re reading.

And I hesitated.

Because this class is full of other instructors and professors at my university and I’m me, so OF COURSE what I’m reading is romance.  For a few seconds, I actually felt shame over the idea of sharing my favorite books with this particular audience because they might judge me.

After I got through the shame that I’d even FELT the shame in the first place for loving a genre that I will happily defend to detractors in virtually any conversation, I had a great big WELL SCREW THEM moment and posted the title WITH LINK to Accidental Cowgirl by Maggie McGinnis, which I just started.

But the whole thing has left me unsettled.  It’s like how you think you don’t have a problem with something and then some circumstance pops up that proves…well, yeah you kinda do.  And it changes how you see yourself.  That.

Romance is NOT my guilty pleasure.  I love this genre.  I love reading stories of hope and triumph and happy endings.  It’s a genre I’m proud to write in (no matter how many times well-intentioned family members say I should be writing something else because they have their own issues with romance).  And I don’t like what it says about me that I’m still affected like this, that I still hesitate and worry about what other people will think or say or do because I love something I love.  Because I KNOW this wouldn’t be a thing if what I was reading was mysteries or horror or ANY OTHER GENRE.  I HATE that I’ve internalized the denigration of this genre, that my instinct is to think about THEM and THEIR opinions first because mine, as a woman, is somehow less or not okay?

SCREW THAT.  And SCREW THEM and their baseless judgement (if they’re actually being Judgy McJudgerson and I’m not projecting).

So, Romance, I’m sorry.  I love you.  Forgive me for being weak.

 

Reclaiming A Room of My Own

I am a neat freak.

My husband will deny this unto his last breath given the state of our house most of the time.  But the fact is, we’ve been married for 12 years and he’s very much NOT a neat freak, and I just don’t have the time or energy to fight it.  Tried that for a while and it nearly put me into the nuthouse and was generally bad for our marriage because I was convinced he was being disrespectful of my neat preferences on purpose and expecting me to be his mother–because, dear God, how could he not SEE the stuff that needed putting away or organizing????  No…he just truly does not see mess the same way I do.  I don’t underSTAND it, but I’ve finally accepted it, and it makes my life less stressful than to try to make him into something he’s not (though I will forever be trying to prove that I find a gift of spontaneous cleaning outside his normal weekly chores without my having to ask way more romantic than flowers).

So, here I am, neat freak living with a…not neat freak and two dogs who shed a LOT (well, Callie does…we presume once Huck grows in his double coat, he probably will, too).  Add to that my very busy schedule with the Evil Day Job, the part-time teaching, all the from-scratch cooking I do to accommodate both our food allergies, gym time, social life, and writing, and I just don’t have a helluva lot of free time.  The clutter drives me nuts way more than the dog hair.  Dog hair is my husband’s irritation, so he’s actually really great about vacuuming when the fur balls start growing legs and walking past the dogs themselves.  Anyway, with everything I have going on, time is limited and I recognize I just can’t do everything all the time.  Something has to slide.  And I’ve come to a place–especially when I’m drawing close to the end of a book–where that’s usually housework.  As such, I’ve had to develop more of a tolerance for chaos than I tend to have naturally, until I get to The End and have a good, whole hog dig out of the mess.

Part of how I’ve managed to do this is that I have an office.  Well, office/library.  A room of my own.  We have absolutely no need for a formal dining room, so I turned it into my space, lining one full wall with bookcases, setting up a nice rug, my wingback chairs, and my desk.  My library I kept immaculate.  Because that is my work space and I NEED the neatness to work most efficiently.  I could go in there, shut the doors, and get in the Zone, no matter what the state of the rest of the house is.

Now my husband has his own creative pursuits.  He’s a musician and photographer.  As such, he has a metric crapton of gear for both.  Sometime in the last year, he got an iMac.  Big pretty screen with huge resolution, which makes photo editing a LOT easier on him.  Great.  Good.  Fine.  As he has no desk in his man cave (where all of his stuff is meant to be relegated), I agreed that he could put the iMac on my desk in the library and I could use it when I wanted.  I find the giant screen handy when I’m doing revisions.  But I discovered I really don’t like it for normal drafting.  Which was okay.  There was still room for my laptop in front of it.

Until there wasn’t.

Because unlike with writing, photography and music both involve a whole lot of other accouterments.  Almost nothing he does uses JUST the keyboard and mouse.  There are speakers.  And a keyboard (the musical kind).  And some kind of ginormous touchpad thing with a stylus.  And cables (so many flipping cables).  And myriad of other stuff that has displaced my desk mascots and eaten up every square inch of space on my desk, and bled out all over the rest of the room (amps and guitars don’t fit ON a desk, obviously).  It’s manspreading but with STUFF.  And suddenly my space is no longer my space because his stuff is all over it.  Just…SITTING THERE.  Not in its place.

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I haven’t been able to write at my desk since last winter.  When I’ve protested about it, he claims that there’s not room in his man cave for all of his stuff, a fact which I proved flagrantly wrong when I took the afternoon off last January, pulled everything out of the room and closet, yanked the crap wire shelving out, installed 2 sets of industrial stainless steel shelves, and organized the entire damned thing–all in THREE HOURS (after it had been sitting for 6 months and I couldn’t take it anymore).  “But I want to be able to get to my stuff!”  This really means “I want to leave all my stuff out all the time,” which nobody who doesn’t live in a 5,000+ square foot house can do.  So we had a little come to Jesus yesterday and I ordered another 5 guitar hangers (yes another 5…we have 12 guitars in this house–2 are mine–my huge collection of books isn’t looking so huge anymore, is it?).  It is my goal to get him evicted from my office by the end of Round 3 so that I can start the next book fresh in my nice, neat, organized space.

In the meantime, I need to start digging out the REST of the house.  We have horizontal surfaces here somewhere…under piles of other clutter.  I’ve got boocoodles of vacation time built up.  I really need to start using some of it to clean out closets and declutter.  I keep saying I’m going to, and then I don’t.  I write instead.  But there’s just SO MUCH CRAP.  Some of this is because when we moved into this house, all sets of parents IMMEDIATELY divested themselves of everything they ever held on to for us.  Given I’m the kind of person who is fully unpacked in a week from a move because anything less means I need a Xanex, I was much more in a “get it out of the floor” frame of mind than properly going through it.  Plus I wanted to wait for six months or a year and see if we would actually use some of it.  That was, um, a little over 3 years ago?  Definitely a ton we don’t use.

I am finally getting into a mental space where I’m over the whole “but I might use it” thing.  I know myself well enough to know that I probably won’t, and if I do, then I can just buy or borrow another.  It’s not worth the mental toll of clutter to keep it.  Maybe I’ll make a plan of taking off one day a month and tackling one room or closet.  That would get me through the whole house in a year, I think.  I do better with more whole hog cleaning out than tackling, say, a drawer a week or something.  I don’t like leaving things unfinished.  As soon as the weather cools off tolerably, hubby and I both are on a crusade to organize our garage.  That was a plan for the spring, and then it did nothing but RAIN and get scorching hot.  NOTHING but the bare minimum gets done outside around here in summer.  It’s just too miserable (101 this weekend).

I’m supposed to be writing today (since I’m off) between hitting the gym and grocery.  But I think I need to do some clutter busting first…

I’ll Be Your Huckleberry

Huck

So last week was unabashedly awful.  We cried a lot.  I apparently made a bunch of other people cry with my post.  Sorry about that.  But I’ve found some peace with the whole situation.  She had a long, VERY well loved life and I know we did absolutely every single possible thing that could be done for her (and I’m grateful we didn’t have children and could afford it).

We’re a rescue dog kind of family, so Sunday and Monday we (by which I mean hubby, myself, and Callie) met 3 Great Pyrenees mixes from Grassroots Animal Rescue, whom we’ve fostered for before.  We particularly were interested in the pyr mixes because Callie herself is a Pyrenees/Malamute mix and she’s the most chillaxed, awesome dog.  That sort of temperament really suits our lifestyle.

The first little girl was sweet, even tempered, pretty calm but I didn’t feel any real tug.  But the two brothers we met Monday…OMG.  Pyr/Husky mixes.  As soon as this guy crawled into my lap, I was a goner.  And then his brother crawled up, too, and for fifteen minutes I was insane enough to consider bringing them both home.  DOUBLE PUPPY LAP CUDDLES.  And then I remembered that these adorable balls of fluff will top out around 75-80 pounds and added to our already 110 pound dog…I wasn’t going to be able to manage all that without attaching them all to some kind of sled.  Not whatcha call practical in Mississippi.  So much as it pained me, I split the brothers up and brought this one home.  I’ve never had a boy dog before, so I’ve saying “she” and “her” all over the place.

imageIn an homage to Daisy, we’ve named him Huckleberry, Huck for short.  If you do not immediately get the reference, go and watch Tombstone post haste.  Great movie.  He was Hank at the rescue, so we figure that’ll be similar enough he ought to be able to learn his name quickly.

Hubby managed to catch him still for long enough to take a decent picture.  Most of mine are blurry, with him streaking toward me to kiss the camera.  He loves kisses.  And laps.  And snuggles.  And even his new big sister, who keeps rolling her eyes and giving me this pained “Mooooom!” look.  Yes, Callie, big sisters the world over have that look for their little brothers.

So far, he’s a chill little dude.  Likes his crate (he already had a head start on that with his foster mommy).  Was quiet overnight and even while my hubby (now on night shift) was sleeping today.  I think we have a winner!  Daisy would approve.

Dear Daisy

The floor looks all wrong.

I thought you should know that, being that you’re now in a position to run the Universe like you always wanted (I presume that flash storm we had yesterday afternoon was the coup you staged shortly after your arrival upstairs).  I hope you find the minions there to your satisfaction.  I know you were always harping how it was hard to find quality minions.

Daisy
Quality Control

None of us know what to do without the Queen.  Callie is laying all around the floor where you should be, but not in your spot.  Your Dad and I are in rough shape.  Stupid day job.  As much as I prize quiet, the silence is utterly deafening and intolerable.  You’re supposed to be giving orders with that curious half bark you’ve had since the stroke.

Daisy
Mush, human!

I’m sure you’ll let us know, when the time comes, which pooch is the right new member of the family.  Being that you were a pound puppy yourself, I know you’ll be supportive of us rescuing another.  We thought we’d stick with the flower theme for a name–maybe Shasta, in your honor, if we get another girl.  When you’re done plotting the downfall of all the squirrels up there, feel free to pass that info along.

Daisy on her special bed in the PT room.
Daisy on her special bed in the PT room.

We’re going to donate your helper harness to the vet school.  You were their mascot and a real champion success story after your FCE.  Maybe your indomitable spirit will be passed on to another pup who needs it.  You went from this:

Daisy
Daisy in ICU

To this:

You bounced back from unilateral paralysis in an amazing way and never stopped enriching our lives.  It was a privilege and a joy to serve you.

Daisy
Sister love

So until you figure out how to pull a Winchester, give Angel and Uncle Shadow our our love and have fun plotting your world domination.

Love,
Mom

Announcing Team Nolan

As this week is drawing to a close, so to are revisions on my next book (at least until it comes back from my editor).  I’m anticipating a July release, for those who are interested.  As always, I definitely need help in getting the word out.  There are always several of you who go out of your way to both review and  harass share with your friends in person and on social media whenever I have a new book.  Y’all are awesome (goes without saying), and I’d love to create a more formalized group.  The official term for these groups is street team, which seems silly to me since nobody is pounding actual pavement, but whatever.  I want to invite y’all to join Team Nolan.  This is a totally separate thing from my regular newsletter.  If you’re a fan of my work and aren’t afraid of a little pom pom waving, Team Nolan is for you!

So what will members of Team Nolan be doing?  

  • Posting reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Kobo, wherever, during release week
  • Share favorite quotes from the books, if you have them
  • Share whatever Twitter or Facebook posts you like
  • Generally do your best cheerleader impression

What’s in it for you?  

  • FREE BOOKS!  Probably the biggest benefit to you will be getting an early copy of new releases so that you can read and have reviews ready to go on release day.  Getting reviews early on is SO SO IMPORTANT to authors.
  • My undying gratitude and devotion.
  • And…other stuff as we get rolling and I figure out what kind of fun goodies I can afford.

And if you have ideas for how to get the word out, I would LOVE to hear from you (actually, I’d love to hear from you either way–readers are fabulous).  

So are you in?

Click here to sign up!

Powerpuff_Girls

The Middle School Crush

So the last couple of weeks, I’ve been intermittently spewing out notes on a new quartet of bunnies (or maybe it’s just a four-headed single bunny, really) that deals with four lifelong friends.  Lots of history between them and a lot of bits and pieces from their growing up years that come back in the present to impact the plot.  For one of them, it’s the infamous middle school crush.  He comes back as part of a current day love triangle that should be hella fun to write–except for all the awkward feelings I get to remember from my own infamous middle school crush.

I say the infamous middle school crush because there’s something very particular about those…shall we say rabid powerful attachments from that period.  I mean, everybody had crushes growing up.  A new one at least every year (probably).  But there’s something very specific about middle school, when we were stuck in the hormone-laden waters of adolescence, not yet grown, not a child (before “tween” was a word).  They stick with us in ways we might not like.

For me, that infamy began in the 7th grade.  Will Edwards (name 100% changed to cover my grown-up butt) was new to school.  He and two of his best buddies had been at the local private school (which, at that time, stopped at the 6th grade).  Being new to public school the three of them garnered all kinds of attention (not surprising as they were all really cute).  Will was in my gifted class and the sight of those almond-shaped, Arctic blue eyes struck me–usually the articulate head of the class–completely stupid.  Tongue-tripping, stuttering, all but drooling with lack of functional brain cells stupid.  Added to that, this was during my protracted awkward phase–braces, struggling with my weight, bad hair, glasses (which I actually found in a drawer when I cleaned out for our last move–and dear holy Jesus, they were worse than I remember).  So–the geek had a crush on the smart, popular boy.  You can see where this is heading.  A fast track to Embarrassmentville.

This, unfortunately, was not a passing thing.  In 8th grade, Will was in my pod (our middle school housed 7th and 8th grades, and each grade was subdivided into 5 smaller chunks), so we had all our classes together.  He sat behind me in Mrs. Fitt’s science class.  I got my braces off and got contacts that year–GREATEST THING EVER–so I actually had the confidence to, you know, try to TALK to him.  I managed whole, coherent sentences of what I imagined was flirting and was probably really a painfully awkward display of pathetic.  He never mocked me to my face (I have no idea what may have been said behind my back and choose not to imagine).   I mean, why would he?  I helped him with his homework (which he didn’t need, but took advantage of anyway).  I don’t actually have a lot of clear memories of what I said or did–mostly just a hazy sense of Wow, I made a fool of myself.  And I’ve worked hard to keep it that way.  I was really grateful when his parents shipped him off to boarding school in 10th grade.

But that was not the end of middle school crush.  Oh no.  I didn’t see him, talk to him, or even really think about him for 3 years.  I finally got a handle on my weight, got in shape, figured out my hair, gained confidence and generally pulled a butterfly.  Between my junior and senior years, I did a summer program at Ole Miss, where I suddenly discovered that everything that made me an outcast in high school made me cool in college.  Guys started to notice me.  I realized high school boys were morons and had my sights set on college boys, who actually appreciated the fact that I had a brain.  I had a serious countdown going to graduation and the end of hell as I knew it.  I was GETTING OUT.

Then came the Charity Ball.  In my hometown, the Junior Auxiliary has this big formal, black tie shindig as a fundraiser every year on Valentine’s Day.  It’s the biggest babysitting night of the year, and usually I was booked months in advance (I was totally popular as a babysitter–I actually PLAYED with the kids).  But senior year, I got invited to be a living ad.  Local businesses pick senior girls to sponsor for the ball–we got a fabulous dress, had our picture in the paper (as ads for whoever was sponsoring us), and then did a sort of fashion show deal at the ball itself.

Well, guess who was back as one of the escorts for the ball?  That’s right.  Will Freaking Edwards.  And he was my escort (he was one of four escorts for all of us, so it wasn’t like we got paired up in any special way).  This was my chance.  I was confident.  I felt pretty.  I knew I rocked the hell out of my dress.  And I was SO OVER HIM.  He was beneath my notice.

don't know what to sayThen the night of the ball came and he showed up in a tux with those eyes and that smile and…instant brain melt down.  It was horrible.  As if all the intervening years had disappeared and I was that same, awkward 7th grader, I’d been.  What I’d expected to be a personal triumph left me feeling small and incompetent and shamed–not because he’d actually done anything but EXIST, but because I couldn’t manage to hang on to the confidence I’d worked so damned hard on.

Our next encounter was some three years later in college, when I walked into my best friend’s house to find him sitting on the sofa.  I credit adulthood, a solid relationship with my not-yet-husband, and a lot of life experience being crammed in there since my senior year of high school for the fact that I didn’t actually shut down to complete brain melt stage.  But there was definitely that immediate physical reaction–the quickening of breath, tightening of chest, adrenaline dump–you know, that place that’s somewhere between attraction and abject panic.  I actually had a casual conversation with him–he and my BFF were working on some accounting project together–and blessedly, made it out of there without further embarrassing myself.

I never saw him again, a fact for which I am immensely grateful.  I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to distance myself from who I was back then.  I like who I am as an adult, thanks very much.  But I suspect that if I ever did run into him, I’d probably be caught again in that weird time warp to junior high awkwardness (I also suspect he wouldn’t know me from Adam’s house cat)–because some things you just can’t escape.

An informal poll of my friends tells me that this is a fairly ubiquitous experience, and that there’s no getting away from that visceral reaction to being in the same room as your middle school crush, even years later.  But I want to hear from you!  Do you have a middle school crush that’s come back to haunt you?  Were you one of the rare ones to end up with your middle school crush (one of my current BFFs swears that it’s a rule you can never end up with your middle school crush)?  Tell me a story, folks!