Thursday, September 18, 2014

Girls' Night Out

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Moma Rock chose the topic: Tell us about your first homecoming/prom/formal... and don't forget the photos! If you didn't go to any high school dances, why not? What did you end up doing instead?

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

A few years ago, I was asked about something I regretted from the past. I decided to talk about not asking a friend of mine to go to prom with me because I was hung up on what people thought. You can read that post right here.

This time around, I will share about a positive memory that came out of not going to a dance. When I was a senior in high school, I did not end up going to the Homecoming dance (amongst the many others I didn't attend). Instead, I went out with two girlfriends for the evening. One of them was a close friend of mine from school. The other was a family friend who had moved to a nearby neighborhood. We saw For Love or Money and then went out for dinner. I just remember hanging out for a while at the restaurant and laughing about random things. The family friend did a great impression of Jack√©e from 227 and my high school friend and I found it hilarious. It was just a pleasant evening overall and I didn't even feel bad about missing the dance. I'm still friends with both women, even though we mostly talk through Facebook these days.

Sorry this is so short, but I figure that since I said a lot in the post from a few years ago and I don't really have any other positive or negative memories of what I did instead of going to a dance. I probably just babysat when I was younger or stayed home and did nothing. It's all a blur to me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's go to the movies....or not?

When I wrote my post last week about stuff I enjoyed in the past but don't enjoy now, I didn't include "going to the movies" as one of the items. It's something I go back and forth about because going to the movies these days is nothing like it was when I was younger. I still enjoy going to the theater--sometimes--but there's a price to pay, and I don't just mean from my wallet.

Back in the day, movies were reasonably priced. Usually about $4.00 for a matinee. And if you had a coupon from the Entertainment book, it was $4.00 at night too. The only time it's $4.00 to go to a movie theater now is if you get some major deal from Groupon for Fandango. Otherwise, it's $12 for an adult to see a matinee. At least it feels that way. It's not any less expensive for kids. Maybe $10 instead? There are NO second run theaters out by where I live. We have the big name ones like Regal and AMC. When I lived in Illinois, the dollar theater was around the corner. I loved it there. Sure, we would see these cheesy ads before the movie started and the seats weren't super comfortable, but it was nice for a date night where we didn't feel like we were spending a fortune. It reminded me of being in college and all the inexpensive options for seeing a movie on or off campus. Also, snack items were way more reasonably priced back then. I don't even bother getting snacks at the theater these days. After spending my life savings to see a movie, I am not inclined to go into debt over snacks. What bothers me the most is that theaters show a billion ads before the movie starts, but they're somehow not getting sponsorship for these ads or they would be able to charge more reasonable prices overall.

The next factor is how RUDE people are in the theater. They get up and walk around. They talk during the movie itself. They kick my seat. They play with their cell phones and text all their friends. And I won't even begin to tell you what one of my friends caught someone doing when she went to the theater once. I'll just say that the movie should have been rated X for the behavior it elicited. I also hate when people bring babies or small children to a movie that's clearly for adults. Someone brought a BABY to Les Miz. Seriously! And even when I'm at a family friendly movie, people practically encourage their kids to talk and scream. If your kid is screaming, TAKE THEM TO THE LOBBY!!! I didn't pay half my college tuition to see a movie where the soundtrack is someone's child throwing a tantrum. I'm sorry they're throwing a tantrum when the parents probably paid just as much as I did to see this movie, but if they weren't ready for the theater, they shouldn't have brought them. And now that they did, ignoring them is not going to stop the tantrum from getting worse. I was a kid once too and I remember not allowing my parents to see Mary Poppins in the theater because I was too scared of the dark. That was when tickets were 50 cents though....

I'm still somewhat traumatized by an experience I had while watching Monsters Inc. the first time in the theater back in 2001. Some man came in toward the end and was looking for his wallet. Instead of waiting an extra five minutes for the movie to be over and the lights to go up, he decided to get into our row and practically lean on top of me to look behind me for his wallet, blocking my view of the screen. He ruined an emotional scene for me and also freaked me out considerably. He was breathing really loud the whole time he was leaning over me, so you can imagine why that would be super uncomfortable.

It's also a matter of how great vs. how much of a letdown the movie is. More often than not, I have been disappointed by the movies I've been excited about seeing in the theater (i.e. Les Miz, Frozen, Brave, Avatar, etc.). Maybe one out of every three times I go, I actually enjoy the movie throughout (Monsters University, Wreck-It Ralph, The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted, Turbo). Still, there's an imbalance of movies I didn't like vs. movies I enjoyed. I do want to see Into the Woods and The Last Five Years in the theater, but worry about being disappointed by both.

I still like the feel of being in a theater, where the screen practically overtakes you and the sound fills the room. I may not like the ads before a movie, but I'm a trailer junkie. I love finding out what movies are coming soon and getting a glimpse into them. I like the comfortable chairs that are way better than the ones I sat in at the theater when I was a kid. And stadium seating is amazing. I resent when a theater doesn't have stadium seating and I have to look up from below the screen. There's something intoxicating about the smell of popcorn as you're going into the theater, along with the lights, colors, sounds, etc. It's something that the price, rude people, and caliber of movie can not take away from me.

There's a theater by my parents' house (in the west suburbs of Chicago) that does something awesome...every Tuesday, they charge a flat rate of $5.00 per ticket all day, along with FREE popcorn. We saw Mr. Peabody and Sherman there and got to sit in this auditorium that had really comfortable lounging chairs with lots of room between our row and the row in front of us. It was probably one of the best theater experiences I've had in a long time and I enjoyed the movie too!

I long for a day when we can get back to old school prices for seeing a movie (even just once a week), or at least have some second run theaters established nearby. I don't think either will happen anytime soon. Until my fantasy becomes a reality, I'll just hang out on the couch and watch a DVD in my pajamas, with a bowl of microwave popcorn. That's the ultimate movie experience for me these days!

Friday, September 12, 2014

I'm too old for this "stuff"

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Darwin Shrugged chose the topic: Write about 3-5 things that you used to love, enjoy doing, etc., in the past but now you don't like. Or, write about stuff you used to not like but have grown to enjoy. And feel free to throw in one thing you've always loved and always will.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

This topic got me thinking about stuff I wouldn't normally give much thought to. I've come to realize that as I have gotten older, I have less of a tolerance for certain things. Sometimes it's just due to a lack of patience and other times to a lack of interest. Since I can't think of anything I have grown to enjoy, I will share things I used to love and now don't like.

Side note: My subject line has to do with an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where Ted is telling his kids about some behaviors he has outgrown. However, instead of saying the "S" word, he says "stuff" each time.

A pic my older son recently drew
Drawing: When I was a kid, I loved drawing pictures. I had this huge pad of paper on my desk at home and would spend time drawing scenes with people, backgrounds, etc. I wasn't necessarily good at it, but I found it relaxing. I would even doodle in my notebooks at school when I got bored. As an adult, I have absolutely no desire to draw anything. My older son likes art and it's fun to see his drawings, but I just can't share his enthusiasm for the activity.

Riding my bicycle: I mentioned before that it took me a long time to learn how to ride a bicycle. Once I did, however, I would ride it all over the place. I always felt so free and it was great exercise. The last time I rode my bicycle was shortly before I became pregnant with my first child. Now the only bicycle I ride is stationary and sits in my basement.

Me at 14 with our first two cats
Having pets: At one point in my life, my family had four cats and a dog. I loved having them around and especially treasured the time I spent with our beagle, Buddy. I even had a cat of my own until my son developed allergies. Thankfully, we found her a new home. And now I actually like having a pet free home. My kids keep asking me if they can get a pet that won't cause allergy problems, but I don't even want that. There's a lot of responsibility involved and if they get attached to the pet and it dies, I know they'll be devastated. And really...I just don't want a pet in the house. I just don't have the patience to worry about it. After reading Moma Rock's post about her new kitten, I stand my ground even more. (Not saying ALL pets are that much work, but still...) I love other people's pets though. I don't know if this will be set in stone as I get older, but this is where I stand for now.

Me at 15 with Buddy


Going to the mall: Unlike Robin Sparkles, I do not want to go to the mall today...or any other day. The only reason I go to our local mall is for Target. Being spoiled by thrift store prices, I see no point in going to the mall anymore. The malls these days seem overwhelming and I find most of the stores to be pointless or even sketchy looking. When I was a kid and even through my college years and a bit beyond, I enjoyed going to the mall and had certain stores I had to visit each time. I think after moving out east, the malls just don't have the same feel they did in the midwest. (And some of my favorite malls have changed so much since then.) I don't even know how to explain that, but just take my word for it. Even so, when we were in Chicago and went to Water Tower Place, I was just so unimpressed and wanted to spend as little time in there as possible.

Carnivals: The only reason I go is for my kids. The exciting feel I had over carnivals when I was a kid is replaced by annoyance at the prices, how loud and crowded they get, the fact that I get sick from rides that go any faster than a carousel or ferris wheel, etc. I remember when I'd love to go to the local carnivals or state and county fairs as a kid and ride the craziest rides and eat lots of junk food. I probably romanticized them at the time. Now I just get overwhelmed.

Mini-golf: It was so much fun to do as a kid (I especially loved this one course by Randhurst Mall in Illinois) but now I find it boring. If I can't get my ball into the cup after a certain amount of taps, I just give up. I don't even keep score anymore. A few weeks ago, I just let my husband take the boys mini-golfing at a park while my daughter and I did other stuff.

* * *

As for something I'll always love...well, isn't it obvious by now?!? If not, visit my other blog.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You had to be there....

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week Froggie chose the topic: Those that get it will understand.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

Before I go on, I wanted to share links to some posts I saw recently where I felt like people had access to my mind.

*A recent post about motherhood by Scary Mommy. (Warning: There's a swear word in the title, so don't open with kids around)

*A song by Garfunkel and Oates about wishing people "Happy Birthday" on Facebook when you don't really know them.

What Froggie's topic really made me think of, though, is inside jokes. Oddly enough, Moma Rock inspired this post idea, as well. Her recent post about friendship, along with a post about her new kitten (and the joke has nothing to do with that), got me thinking about this even more.

Most of my friends and I can find stuff to laugh about together. And I'll send things to certain friends that I know will specifically interest them. However, most people would understand that stuff I'm sharing with these particular friends. And then there are friends with whom I have inside jokes that no one else would ever understand except the two of us.

My BFF and I have some inside jokes. Twenty-seven plus years of friendship is bound to generate a bunch of them. I think ours are more in the sarcastic way we respond to each other and some of the silly things we do during our Google hangout sessions. (Like I'll message her the next day that I "might" forgive her cat for interrupting our conversation or we'll take pictures of each other's face on our screens. And our "sign" offs to each other are classic and can't be forgotten at the end of each hangout!) Aside from our humorous moments, we also share a mutual understanding, especially now that she's having some experiences in her life that allow us to relate to each other even more. Even so, she's the only one who truly appreciates the Ed Debevic's radio commercial I made in sixth grade.

When I met my friend A.S. at a Jewish youth retreat during freshman year of high school, we instantly had inside jokes. We'd send each other drawings and tape recordings that made sense to only us. Most of our jokes revolved around Barbie and McDonald's, as well as people who annoyed us. I can still post random stuff on her Facebook page and she'll remember exactly what it's related to. When we got together this past May, we had so much to laugh about.

There are certain jokes I have with some friends from both high school and college. We still find these things funny. I shared some great inside jokes with the friends I lived with in my last semester before graduating and fondly look back upon the night we spent carrying an old grandfather clock (that was lighter than we ever expected) into different rooms of my condo so we could take weird pictures of it. There's also Mr. Aah. A lot of the laughter in college came from my junior year, when another close friend and I would talk about Lino all the time.

The cake my friends from college got me for my
birthday because of Waiting for Guffman.

"Will" and I still have a lot of random inside jokes from high school and beyond. He can tease me about my nickname for IHOP while I can tease him about his bicycle stationery. Later on, our inside jokes came from experiences at the gay clubs or at some of the Pride Parades we attended. ("Rod! You're so cute! I voted for you!") And there's the never-ending debate over whether Buffalo (a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs) should have an "s" at the end or not. I haven't seen him in person in over five years, but our inside jokes keep us close.

I have the most inside jokes with my husband, hands down. I keep lists of our jokes and will look back on them sometimes and laugh all over again. He totally gets my sense of humor and knows how to make me laugh so hard that I can't even see straight. I'll admit that I can make him laugh too, but he's just the master of comedy in our house. He always tells me that he could only be a comedian if I were cloned many times to make up an entire audience. A lot of our inside jokes come from our favorite shows and movies. He also does great imitations. No one would be able to make sense of most of the stuff we joke about. Sometimes we'll have inside jokes with our kids and they love laughing with us. One of my recent favorites is when I put a picture of the Fonz on a bottle of lotion because the brand was related to a pyramid scheme, which we equated with a Ponzi scheme....and Fonzie rhymes with Ponzi. It took him almost a day to notice the lotion bottle and then he posted on Facebook about it instead of saying something to me first.

I've started to form inside jokes with some of the friends I've made since I moved to Maryland, as well as some I met through my book blog. It's cool to know that there are some people who just "get" me without ever having met me in person or even having known me a long time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

You win some, you lose some....

I recently entered my first fiction writing contest (well, at least since high school, even though those were entered for me by my amazing creative writing teacher). I didn't win, but I'm not disappointed about it. The winning story was really good! I'm glad I had the opportunity to compete and that Every Free Chance Books allowed me to share my story here now that the contest is done.  (I wasn't sure if it would become their property whether I won or lost.) I want to thank Samantha Stroh Bailey for helping me with editing and for her support and encouragement!

Keep in mind I had to write this in 1000 words or less. Not so easy....

Side note: I did win a caption contest on Facebook recently and got a $10 Amazon gift card. It was a picture of an empty toilet paper roll and a full toilet paper roll right next to each other on the same holder and I said "This is how we roll." I apparently made the author who was running this contest giggle...a lot.

The Destiny Do-Over

“And you're Mary Tyler Moore. I don't care what they say about us anyway. I don't care…”
I reach out to whack my snooze button and notice that my clock radio isn’t where I normally put it. I somehow manage to whack someone in the face instead, as I hear a stream of expletives behind me. Except the voice doesn’t belong to Dan, my boyfriend of two years. And my room looks like it has thrown up a 1990s shrine, complete with Backstreet Boys and Friends posters.
“Okay, if this is some sort of surprise fortieth birthday prank, it’s not funny!”
“Aren’t you aging yourself a bit there, Jackie? You just turned twenty-one.”
The voice sounds familiar, and not necessarily one I want to hear first thing in the morning. Especially since it belongs to Bryan, my ex-boyfriend from college. Either I got really drunk on my last night of my 30s or I’m having a nightmare that I just can’t seem to snap out of. I squeeze my eyes shut and roll over, hoping that when I open them again, it will be March 11th, 2014.
I slowly open them. Chandler, Monica, and the gang are still looming over me from their spot on my ceiling. And now “Wonderful” by Adam Ant is playing on the clock radio that I still have yet to locate. “Did I tell you that I was wrong? I was wrong…”
As I look around my dorm room from junior year of college in 1995, I can feel my heart racing and I suddenly have trouble breathing. There’s no way this could be happening. No way. As I try to regain composure, I brush some stray hairs off my face, noticing that they’re much longer than the sleek brunette bob I recently got used to.
“Deep breaths, Jackie. You didn’t miss your Business 201 exam. You still have a few hours to study. That’s what’s wrong, right?”
“That’s far from what’s wrong at this moment. I’m supposed to be at work. And you’re not supposed to be here.”
“Slow down. What are you talking about? You signed me in last night when you were too drunk to get back up to your room alone.”
“I know this is going to sound absolutely insane but humor me for a moment. Today is my fortieth birthday and last night I was celebrating with my boyfriend, who I’m sorry to say is not you. When I went to bed, it was 2014, but now I’m somehow supposed to believe that it’s 1995. And that I’m twenty-one again. I don’t even have my iPhone here to prove that it’s true.”
“Is that like a phone you use with your eyes?”
“No. It’s half the size of what you would call a cell phone and you can do e-mail, surf the web, text, take and post pictures, Tweet…”
“Tweet? Text?” Bryan scratches his shoulder length blond hair, reminding me of how much I used to like running my fingers through it. I quickly snap out of my daze.
 “Look, I don’t have time for this. I need to find a way back.”
“A way back to what? Is there a secret time portal in your closet?”
It suddenly hits me that I gave up on my plans for the future to follow Bryan to Los Angeles so that he could follow his dream of writing the next big Hollywood film. And when he achieved that dream, he tossed me aside like the crumpled up scripts that made their home on the floor of his dorm. Something inside me snaps this time. I’m not going to live that life again. If I want to live in L.A., it would be on my own terms and I’d have a successful career to show for it. Who knows if it will lead to meeting Dan this time around, but if we’re meant to be together, we’ll somehow find each other. All I know is that I’m breaking up with Bryan now, before I waste my life on him again.
“Bryan, I can’t go out with you anymore.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Absolutely….not.  I have plans for my life and can’t waste them to focus on your big goal. Find another girl to follow you while you find yourself. I’m done.”
“Look, I have to run to class. Why don’t you sleep off your hangover and when I get back, we’ll talk about this.”
“There’s nothing more to talk about,” I say as he shuts the door behind him, a little too aggressively.
 I curl up in my bed, content in my decision, and doze off while “Zombie” by The Cranberries plays softly on my radio.
*****
“You're my end and my beginning, even when I lose, I'm winning…”
As I hit the snooze button, the smell of pancakes and coffee drifts into my room. It actually makes me feel slightly ill. I must have had more to drink than I thought.  I reach for my iPhone to check the date and to my relief, it says March 11, 2014.
“Happy birthday, sweetie!”
I turn to the voice that doesn’t sound anything like Dan and discover, to my complete shock, that Bryan is still here. But he’s an older, even more attractive version.  And he’s holding a tray with pancakes, hazelnut coffee, and a small bouquet of roses.
“How…how did you…how are we…”
“I’m guessing that when you had your weird time travel freak-out and decided to break up with me, I did some thinking.  So here we are…you, the hotel magnate and me, the Oscar nominated screenwriter. Now get yourself ready for work and then prepare to be wined and dined tonight!”

Either 1995 or the other version of 2014 was a dream, but after looking at my slightly rounded belly and feeling another wave of nausea come over me, I realize there’s no more going back.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Six degrees of Merrylandgirl

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for about a year now, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week I chose the topic: Tell us about a time you were "set up" for a friendship with someone. Or a time you matched two friends together. (Or both.) Please keep it to "in person" friendships only since it's way too easy to connect people online these days.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic:
Darwin Shrugged
Froggie
Moma Rock

My friend Denise (different from Darwin Shrugged) changed the name of the famous Kevin Bacon game so that it applies to me instead. This is because she claims I know everyone. I don't think I know everyone, but I happened to bring a lot of friends together at once. After I graduated from college, I decided to bring some of my friends together because I felt they would be a good fit. I had some friends from college who lived nearby and could easily hang out with some of my friends from high school. Back in 2001, Kris (from HS) reunited me with Lauri and Denise. (They later reunited me with Dawn.) Around that time, Kris, Lauri, and I started bowling together and I invited Jenny (from college) to join our team. From that point on, she started hanging out with us more often, even though we had different circles of friends in college (for the most part...she introduced me to some friends with whom I am still in contact, as well). I also remember seeing Little Shop of Horrors at a community theater with Cari, Rob (both from college), along with Kris and Lauri. I think this is the first time I had seen Lauri in forever and thus Cari and Rob's first time meeting her too. They all hit it off though. Soon enough, we had this group of my friends from both high school and college. I was really the link between both groups or they never would have met. At some point down the road, Denise became close with Betsy and Jenny. I especially love her friendship with Jenny. I mainly see them interact through Facebook, but they also take all these fun pictures together and I just know that they're good for each other. If I lived closer, I'd be hanging out with them way more often. Nowadays, I'd introduce one of my closest friends in my neighborhood (along with her husband) to this group of friends, as I feel they'd also get along well with them. Their personalities would blend in well.

Just because I like bringing friends together doesn't mean that I am excluded from being matched with friends too. One of my favorite friend matchmaking efforts was from my mom. She introduced me to Sheila, who worked with her at the time. We are the same age and my mom thought Sheila was really friendly. I think I came with her to the office once so she could introduce us. From there, we would get together for dinner sometimes and eventually started hanging out more often. I find it ironic that the one friend my mom introduced me to was the first person to buy me a drink when I turned 21. We also danced together on top of a bar at Boogie Nights (an 80s dance club). She even took me to my first gay club (a few weeks prior to going with "Will" for his 21st birthday.) Sheila has always been really easy to talk with and I've enjoyed her company when we got together. We've since both have outgrown our "party girl" ways and are now moms of three kids each. When I was in town back in 2012, we got together and I got to meet her first two boys while she got to meet my daughter. It was great to see her again and I hope we'll be able to get together the next time I'm back in town for a visit. I'm definitely thankful that my mom thought to introduce us!

I'm always glad to connect friends with each other if I feel they would be a good match (for friendship, that is). In turn, I'm open to making new friends, so if you think I'd get along really well with someone, please don't hesitate to make an introduction.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back from my fiction break

Last month, I did not post any fiction because I just couldn't get into the mindframe for writing anything substantial. I was unmotivated due to everything going on in Israel and even in the US. However, fiction writing keeps my mind strong and I missed coming up with ideas. I did write a short fiction piece for a contest recently, but won't know until Monday if I won or not. Hopefully, I'll be able to share the piece one way or another. (So wish me luck! Thanks!)

The story I have for this month is based on a real-life situation I read about a few years ago and found recently in Timehop. (I LOVE that app!) 

Bring Out the Big Guns

“Mail’s here! And it looks like my diploma arrived too. I’m an official graduate!”
“That envelope looks a bit small to be holding a diploma, don’t you think?”
“Maybe it’s a letter telling me where to pick up my diploma?”
Chris used his index finger as a letter opener and pulled out a letter written on letterhead from Hargrove High School.

Mr. Lyons:
It has come to our attention that you used an inappropriate word in your Valedictorian speech, implying gun violence. Therefore, we cannot give you your diploma at this time and have alerted the admissions office at Princeton that you have not officially graduated.  If you wish to appeal this decision, please have it to us in writing within 30 days of receiving this letter.
We apologize for this change in plans.
Regretfully,
Simon Grinne
President, Hargrove High School Board of Education

Chris read over the letter several more times in stunned silence.
“What? You’re starting to scare me here.” His mom, Abby, tried to glimpse at the letter, but Chris held it against his chest, still standing in shocked silence.
“Gun violence. When have I ever told anyone to use guns?”
“What are you talking about?”
“They said I can’t officially graduate because I 'implied' gun violence in my speech.”
“I’m sure it was a misunderstanding. I have your speech on video. Unless I was sleeping—which I wasn’t—I didn’t hear a thing about using guns. You’re the least violent person I know! And I’m not just saying that because you’re my son.”
Abby scrolled to the video on her iPhone and turned up the volume. When it was finished, she still looked puzzled. “There’s nothing about guns in here. I am—I mean—we are going to take this to the school first thing tomorrow so they can tell that idiot Board President that he was hearing things. “
“Good. Maybe we’ll get this whole nightmare behind us. I hope I can convince the admissions office at Princeton that it was all a mistake.  Liz and I were supposed to go there together. She’ll freak out if she has to go without me.”
“We’ll get this all figured out. Don’t worry about it.”

*****
“Mrs. Lyons. Christopher. Thank you both for coming in. We’ve reviewed the video of Christopher’s speech several times and there’s no mistaking it. He said the word ‘shoot.’ According to school guidelines, words that are related to guns in any way are not permissible at school programs.” Simon Grinne adjusted his glasses and scratched at his bald patch as he spoke.
“He said ‘shoot for the stars.’ It’s a common saying.”
“He could have said ‘reach for the stars.’ It would have been more acceptable.”
“Then why didn’t you review his speech before he gave it and make the appropriate edits. Isn’t this your fault?”
“Given that he’s the Valedictorian, which makes him the smartest student in his class, he should have taken the responsibility to look over the guidelines before writing his speech. My hands are tied here and we cannot let him graduate given that he promoted gun violence in any capacity, even unintentionally.”
Chris groaned and buried his head in his hands.
“Simon, if this is about me turning you down for prom way back when, ruining my son’s life is not the way to handle it.”
“Well, aren’t you full of yourself, Abigail Grant. What made you think I’d even remember you until you just mentioned that?”
“The fact that you told everyone I was pregnant with Dan Harper’s baby after I turned you down, but the laugh was on you because Dan came out of the closet around that same time. I know you’ve been waiting to get revenge ever since.”
“You’re just a bit paranoid, Abigail. That still isn’t going to change what your son said in his speech. He can appeal it all he wants, but a rule is a rule.”
“With all due respect, Simon, we will find a way around this. Chris would never hurt a fly.  And he’s way more popular than you would have ever been, even if you had been in school now. So you know where you can shove your pompous attitude.”
Chris just scowled at Simon as he followed his mom out of the office and back into the warm June sunlight.

*****
Dear Mr. Lyons,
We regret to inform you that we received a letter from Hargrove High School’s Board of Education stating that you did not graduate. We have no other choice but to revoke your admission. Should you resolve this matter and take the extra steps to graduate, we can add you to the bottom of our waiting list.
Best of luck to you.
Sincerely,
Rosie Watson
Dean of Admissions
Princeton University

This time Chris was vocal in his response to receiving the letter from Princeton that threw his future a huge curveball. “They’ve got to be kidding me. Did they even bother to listen to my side? No! I would never use a gun, but I have the strong desire to kill Simon right now.”
“Don’t let him hear you say that or you’ll probably get pushed back to freshman year and have to start high school all over again.”
“This is not a time for jokes, Mom! What is Liz going to say? She’ll probably break up with me. No one wants to date a Valedictorian who can’t even manage to graduate and get into an Ivy League school! I’m screwed!”
“I’m sure Liz will understand. She loves you, right?”
“I guess we’ll have to see.  I dread finding out though.”

*****

Dear Chris,
After our talk the other night about your new college plans, I’ve decided that I should make a fresh start by going to Princeton as a single lady. I don’t think I can do the long distance thing. It’s been a great couple of years, but I’ve decided to move on and see what happens in college.
Love (as a friend),
Liz

Chris slammed his laptop shut and threw it on the ground, jumping on top  of it. How could his girlfriend of almost three years break up with him through a Facebook message? What was wrong with the world?
“Christopher Joseph Lyons! That is not the way for a Valedictorian to behave! You’re paying for any damage done to that computer, so you might as well get a job while you’re waiting for this graduation issue to get resolved.”
“But she...broke up….with me….on Facebook!” Chris was sobbing as he continued to stamp on his laptop. “And who is going to hire a Valedictorian who didn’t graduate, can’t get into Princeton, and whose girlfriend broke up with him through a social media site? I’m. A. Joke!”
“I’m sick of the self-pity party. So you said a word that was taken grossly out of context. We’ll fight this. You’re better than Simon Grinne ever will be.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re my mom.”
“The entire student body was cheering for you at graduation. You were invited to all the parties year-round. Clearly I’m not the only one with a high opinion of you. Besides, you haven’t checked the mail today.”
“Why should I? All I seem to get is more bad news.”
Abby sighed and handed him a letter encased in a gold envelope with fancy calligraphy on the front.

Dear Mr. Lyons,
We would like to formally invite you to visit Wrightman College and see how an education here can open doors for you in your future career path. We heard about your predicament and we would be open to you just taking an admission exam in order to qualify. We are a prestigious college, established in 1882, and we only invite people we believe would represent us with the utmost quality.
Please contact us at your earliest opportunity to let us know if we can arrange a visit to our campus.
Sincerely,
Jasmine Kirtch
Dean of Admissions
Wrightman College

“Is this some kind of trick to make me feel better?”
“No! It’s real. It came in the mail today. I’ve never even heard of this school.”
Just then, he heard a pinging from his iPhone, alerting him to a new Facebook message.
“If Liz wants me to take her back, it’s too late.”
“Maybe you should just look for yourself.”

Hey Chris,
I wanted to tell you how sorry I was to hear what the school did to you. You totally didn’t deserve that. I found out when Liz got all drunk outside Taco Bell and decided to tell everyone who walked by how her boyfriend somehow ruined HER life. Of course, the gossip got to me pretty quickly, given my sister, Tiffany, is her best friend. In any case, you should have received a letter from Wrightman College by now. My cousin’s father-in-law works for the admissions office and I asked her to tell him what happened.
I also wanted to thank you for not making a freshman like me feel invisible. It’s hard to fit in when everyone expects me to be like my sister, and I’m not. So I appreciate you giving me attention that was purely about me and my interests. It means more than you know.
Anyway, if you decide to go to Wrightman, I hope you’ll stay in touch.  
Your friend,
Marnie Douglas

Chris reread the letter several more times in quiet contentment.  Before he could even think of something deep and meaningful to say back, he decided to write a quick message instead.

Marnie,
I believe I have something to celebrate. Care to join me for ice cream in 30 minutes? I’ll swing by.
Hope to see you soon.
Chris

Simon may have made his life a nightmare, but maybe he did him a favor in the end. Either way, Chris hoped Wrightman would give him the tools to become far more successful in the future and he magined the look on Simon’s face would be when that happened.