On the Eve of 28

Flipping through a journal from a few years ago I came by this birthday eve entry written at the Wayside in Rockaway Beach where we lived in 2004.

dawning of a new day - on the eve of 28. i thought by now i'd be married with a house and 2 kids. I was 18. In my early 20s I worried that may never happen. And now, on the eve of 28, I know that it all happens in its own good time- I attract the experiences i need to take me to new levels of awareness and dimensions of understanding. On the eve of 28 I know to trust myself and that I am greater than my mistakes, regrets and shortcomings because all have contributed to the whole I am today - a work in progress. I've learned you can fall in love with the place you hated by a shift in attitude and suspension of judgment. I've learned that angels wear flannel and drive old trucks - and some have a penchant for cheap, domestic beer. I've learned that at the end of the day it doesn't matter who did the dishes last and that mom was right, you sleep better knowing you'll wake up to a clean kitchen sink.

I've gone from trading cigarettes and magazines to recipes and cleaning tips but I've never doubted or forgotten the circle of girlfriends that pull me in from the edge on days I could just say to hell with it all - and who celebrate my tiny triumphs and daily dramas - whatever they may be. On the eve of 28 I've learned that it's true no one cares what my GPA was and I've learned that friendship is a commitment you have the right to chose carefully.

his new wife

Isn't it odd how someone can be an intense part of your life and then fade somewhere into the recesses of your mind only to be brought back alive by some random trigger? I haven't thought about an old friend, well I guess an ex-boyfriend, in years but was reminded of him as I flipped through an old journal tonight looking for material for an essay I'm working on. It's not that I've forgotten K. exactly, I just don't ever think about him, so to see all these details come back, things written at the time of dating him ... for a moment it was the late 90s again and I was in Bellingham just moving into my first apartment. Then, in a later journal, I found these notes:

K. wasn't like a boyfriend you imagine. In a sense he was, he was romantic, but it seemed so staged. Still, we did fun shit together. Why do I remember myself in a business suit with him? I'd just dropped out of school and was doing Mary Kay. God. That's not a fun flashback. I remember hiking up at Baker, tripping at the beach, checking out my first apartment, and him feeling ... well, not feeling because K. didn't feel. He was just so logical about everything. I knew when I saw it that it was my apartment. And I realized I didn't have to do it his way. He wasn't my boyfriend. Not really. Because I loved B. So I can’t blame K. for what happened next – I never have- that’s probably why we could go back to being really good friends so fast. Gloria Gaynor – the party – tripping together – Chuckanut. What brought it all up tonight is Niki sayingI wonder what his new wife is like?”

Well – she gets her eyebrows and her nails done. Professionally. French manicure, nothing too bright. She wears khakis and sweater sets. She loves to cook, but not the meat. She enjoys hiking, but hates getting dirty, she’s into camping but can’t pitch a tent. Her name is like Meredith or Bonnie. Or Bethany. Probably Bethany."

Nik: “Are you just making this shit up?”

Me: "Well yeah, but you can see it, right?"

Dear Diary: March 2004

My Flashback to Fifth Grade post was buried in this journal entry written on a plane ride home from visiting my parents. What's interesting to me is that so much is said between the lines. As I flip through old journals, it's the unsaid that amazes me. Even though it was only a couple years ago, re-reading this entry I was surprised to see I thought having a baby within the year was a reasonable goal. And that writing a book in the same time frame was a possibility. Also, until I wrote the scene in Kickin' it with Ralph where Ani questions her dad about whether or not he has buyer's remorse regarding her adoption, I didn't really realize how much that bothers me. That maybe I'm not who my parents would've picked if they'd had it to do over again. And people can minimize that worry all they want but like I wrote in this entry - the whole being grateful enough thing is my own issue. But I got it from all these years of people telling me how lucky I am that someone wanted me. The thing of it is, I KNOW I'm lucky. It would just be nice to love my parents and trust they love me without worrying that I don't show enough how thankful I am. It would be nice to not have to feel so damn grateful for something most people take for granted. And it would especially be nice to be able to avoid people who tell me how to feel.

March 25, 2004

Flying into Texas - slightly tanned, relaxed and happy to have visited Mami & Tati. I have to sum up our relationship as emotionally complex. And express my gratitude to Matt who keeps it in perspective and intuitively knows what to say and what not to say. I cried saying goodbye to them at the gate because, although we drive each other crazy, I am always scared that it'll be the last time I see them and I won't have expressed enough how much I love and appreciate them. This is not based on logic, I know but it gets me really upset. I'm learning to allow it to wash through me and recognize the fear and also to acknowledge that they do know I love them. And the grateful enough thing is my own issue. It is interesting to think about the changes that will occur between now and when we see them again - they go to Bratislava in April and come back to Florida in October. And by then we'll have our house, hopefully in McMinnville, and maybe by then a book sold and a baby on the way.

It occurred to me talking to mom the other day that my kids are going to speak English and then a Goulash language with bits of Hungarian, Latin, German and, of course, Slovak mixed in. Bistos. Sicher. Bastante.

I am amazed that not once this entire trip did my dad didn't say a word about my weight or what I ate.

Fifth Grade Flashback

March 25, 2004 (excerpt from a journal & material for my collection of stories: The Thing About Bullies)

Flashback to fifth grade: I gave a speech in Social Studies. A quote I used referred to Japs and Jews. I swear to GOD this material was in the books I was quoting. By the time I got to my seat in math class, it was clear to me I'd fallen out of grace with the new group of friends I'd finally made at my new school. I was baffled as to why I was suddenly being treated with such hostility. And it wasn't a subtle matter of ignoring me - it was a full scale, systematic freezeout. I ceased to exist, save a few icy glares and shoves in the hallway. The bus ride home was painfully embarrassing as the girls whispered and shot poison glances my way. What had I done? I saved my tears as long as I could. I got off the bus, eyes brimming, and walked ahead of several of my friends turned tormentors listening to whispers punctuated by an occasional hissing of "bitch."

By the time I got home, to my mother waiting to drive me to swimming practice I was crying hysterically, it was a full ten minutes before I could tell her no one was hurt. Mortally anyway. I tried to tell her what happened "what did you do?" She kept asking. While now I might call that victim-blaming, back then I just sobbed harder, trying to figure it out, ticking off all my faults and possible reasons for them to hate me. My mom shook her head looking at her watch. "Go get dressed," she urged. I shook my head and sniffled a quiet no. She gently pushed me toward the hallway. "come on, you can't let it get to you." I remember wondering, "Is she crazy?" And shook my head again. I was far too traumatized to take more abuse at the pool. That stuff I never told her about but today I couldn't cope with it. Even at ten I knew I was on the verge of a meltdown and wasn't about to have it in front of a group of mocking, snobby ten-year-old bullies disguised as daughters of the rich and famous. I risked my mother's anger. But there was no way I was leaving the confines of my house.

When the phone rang at dinner, I watched my mother answer it hopefully. Normally I couldn't take calls at mealtimes but she must have sensed I needed to take it as she excused me from the table. It was Naomi B., Paula R.'s sidekick, calling to tell me that a racist like me isn't welcome at their school. Paula's grandma was Japanese - and she was offended by my use of both the words Jews and Japs. But that was the whole point of my paper! That we have to be careful what words we use because they could hurt other people! I exclaimed in my defense. Naomi laughed - you should've thought of that before you offended Paula, she said.

"Maybe she didn't hear my whole speech?" I suggested. "Could you explain it to her?" I was desperate not to be misunderstood. And horrified that the very point of my speech was misconstrued and held against me.

"Yea, sure, but you're out. Maybe you're communist parents can take you back to the communist country they came from."

I sucked in my breath. My teacher asked me to share their immigration story. I didn't expect it to be used against me. Now I was indignant. Again, they hadn't listened. My parents escaped communism, risked their lives to protect their children from it and here was some girl calling them communists. I puffed up my chest ready to defend myself when I realized she'd been calling from the very slumber party I'd been ceremoniously un-invited to. She thought I'd already hung up. The girls were giggling hysterically.

"Communists, that was a good touch," I heard Paula say. I heard "ugly" and "foreign" in the background, wondering who all was there. "She was really scared you were going to kick her ass." Naomi laughed. I held the phone to my chest, tears spilling down my cheeks - but I couldn't put it in the cradle - holding it back up to my ear, I heard N. say "she believes you're pissed." Paula responded, "And I'm not even Jewish or Japanese." My mom's heels clicked along the hallway - I heard the echo of my brother's laughter. I hung up just as my mom appeared.

"Everything alright?" She smiled, wanting the answer to be yes. I'd changed schools several times and my parents wanted me to make a better effort to make friends. "Is everything okay? Do you understand what happened now?"

I shook my head yes. As I sat in front of my cooled Hovedzja Polievka, my brother asked me why I cared so much what other people thought.

It's a question I ask myself to this day.

Dear Diary: Back to School 1987

Dear_diary_82487 Monday 8/24/87

Dear Mel,

Hi! How are you! I suck. Let's face it my mom hates me! O.K. Mom said I should invite Laura over so I did! Now she says she can't come over because she'll be gone.

9-6-87 Dear Mel, School starts soon. Oh no! I can't ? ...

Dear_diary_102287 Friday 10/22/87

Dear Diary:

Sorry: today you won't believe what happened at school today! Someone spread a rumor about me liking someone I don't even know! I'm so embarrassed!

I love Mike C. and Corey B.

Couple things: Flipping through these old journals answers why I still cringe at over-use of exclamation points!!! It must have been so frustrating to be the mother of such a drama queen daughter - so help me God if my kid is like that - actually, so help Matt since he'd be the one dealing in Hardy's House of Drama. And then ... I have to face the fact that I was so damn fickle and shallow. I didn't even know those guys. They were just cool. And I wasn't. So therefore they must be great, right?

As I'm helping kids (and parents) deal with back to school anxieties and questions, I'm in Flashback City remembering how scared I was before the first day of school -- after the rush and delight of organizing my new school supplies for the zillionth time wore off of course.

And yes, I was going into sixth grade with a Cabbage Patch Diary. It's not like I took it to school with me for Christ's sake!!! And really, Cabbage Patch Kids were cool. Especially my Mala Suzy. More on her another time.

Dear Diary: November 1986

Word Count: 28,481

Happy August! This is my favorite month. It's a time for relaxing, adventure and the excitement of school supply shopping on the horizon. As we went on vacations, dreams of shopping for a new Trapper Keeper, Pee-Chees, pencils, pens and notebooks danced in my head. Also, it was time for lists and planning. My desire to organize everything started very, very young. As is illustrated here in this journal entry written on a plane ride on the way to Mexico. Please note the legend, helpful in case I got my ten-year-old self off schedule.


I remember writing out ridiculously detailed outlines of schedules for the new school year, factoring in new bedtimes, sports and more time for homework since we were older and more mature. Martin was pretty tolerant of these schedules, even though it meant I was telling him what time slots he could shower and brush his teeth. Some might consider this bossy. I think I was an organizational marvel. Or completely crazy.

Dear Diary: August 1, 1995

As I was looking for one of the August lists I used to make, I found this journal entry that side-tracked me for awhile because, though I'd forgotten all about it, I was suddenly back on the train going from Budapest to Prague, 19 years old ...


July Thirty

This is not absolute yet, but I’m considering taking a serious bullshit break. I’ve been thinking of my unhappiest moments of my teenage years. 1) Boys & Boyfriends, 2) My parents and I fighting and that usually was due to a boyfriend …

August 1       


happy august. August is my favorite month. Close enough to the start of school that I can be excited, but it’s still summer. And it seems like August is always when we went on cool vacations: Chelan, Europe,


w/ Rob, etc. I’ve been thinking more and more about the bullshit break. It’s a great idea and what I need is someone to make a pact with me to be Single Women for a year. If I do it for a year it’ll be two years w/o a boyfriend because B. never really was. I thought about waiting until I came into a situation ~ seeing as there’s no prospects in my near future [note inserted later says: little did I know] but I really think it’s a good idea w/ things like this to make a decision and stick to it, rather than allowing circumstances to push me into decision making. And to the question What if The One comes along? I can date him too, but if he’s really “the one” he’ll be around in another year, right?

          I said good-bye to Milti today which was by no means easy …- Milti was a great little bro for a week! Good, good kid. I cried when I said ‘bye. And tomorrow I’ll be a mess for sure ‘cause at 6:50 am, Antonia and her parents are dropping me off at the train station and who knows if I’ll ever see them again? We saw The Jungle Book in Hungarian, again in the outdoors theater. It was fantastic. In the middle of the movie, the sound went out, but it didn’t make a bit of difference to me. I have a nine hour train ride ahead of me tomorrow and I’m not too excited about it ~ but I am looking forward to


and Kate. I’m curious about her family. It’s funny how similar Antonia’s parents and mine are. Dads can’t sit in one place long enough and moms are happiest being home. It’s mom’s job to get everything packed and organized ~ ... I’m sort of sad today. My thoughts are really negative. I’m worried about the train having an accident and I actually pictured my plane crashing and thought maybe I should write a last letter to everyone I love before I go. How depressing – and dramatic – but that’s me. I also am a bit down on B. It’s so funny how he said my call made his day ‘cause it ruined mine! I still haven’t written to tell him I won’t be coming. Now I wonder will I ever see him again? I sure as shit am not making an idiot out of me for anyone. no more Boy Bullshit – friends and maybe lovers. Someday I’ll maybe deal with it all again – but not for awhile.

The Bullshit Break

1)     I am responsible only to myself. I don’t owe anyone any excuses or explanations.

2)     I don’t have to wonder “will he call?”

3)     I don’t have to take care of anyone but me

4)     No more trying to “change” or “fix” him

5)     I can party if and when I want and leave with whoever I want to leave with

Revolving Resolutions

Besides feeling defensive and mentally defrosting, I am working on accomplishing some life-long goals this summer. Year after year after year, as demonstrated here, my New Year's Resolution list includes some variation of "lose weight" and I've never really done that. The only time I remember being even remotely happy with my physical appearance was on my wedding day because I worked my ass off going to the gym most mornings and to kickboxing classes, etc. to get into my dress. I still remember when one of the coworkers saw me on the sidewalk one day and said, "Oh my Gosh! Where's the rest of Nathalie?" (Go ahead and classify that in this category: What not to say!) Anyway, it's kind of sad that I could work that hard to fit into a dress for one day, even if it is an important day, and then not be able to keep up on being healthy for something as major as my health.

Dear_diary_12311990December 31, 1990

1)Be happy & cheerful 2) Make other people happy & cheerful 3) stop drinking 4) stop thinking & attempting suicide 5) loose weight 6) be healthier 7) work harder at tennis 8) Carpe Diem

December 31, 1991

1) Be happy 2) Don't argue back 3) Get a job 4) Get over $300 back in bank 5) kick hardcore tennis ass 6) Love my friends 7) Love myself 8) Dear_diary_12311991_1Love my family 9) Be loyal to R. and make him happy 10) Write a Novel 11) Get in the paper 12) Collection of my poems 13) get my license  14) exercise lots 15) Be healthier 16) Get spiritual - religious 17) Raise grades 18) Don't be so bitchy - Raise Grades - Organized

Dear_diary_12312000forblog_1 December 31, 2000

... and for my favorite New Years Eve tradition - resolutions and dreams for the New Year! 1) An area of my life I fell short is my health - taking good care of my body. I am getting pretty chunky. D. thinks I'm full on FAT but I believe I'm going to turn it around before i get there.

Dear Diary: March 1987

Unicomarch211987blogPossibly an over-reaction?

I'm just curious what that strike would look like, exactly?

This is from my first diary, my precious Purple Unico. I can't imagine what my life would be like without my journals. I can think of any point in my life and picture exactly what my journal looked like. When I flip through them, I discover new things, old memories are triggered and I am so thankful to my younger selves for faithfully taking notes in diary after diary. The closest thing to a "calling" as I can imagine, is what I feel when it comes to talking to people about journal writing because journaling, as far as I'm concerned, is mental and emotional alchemy.