We Can Rebuild Her……..we think

My First Job

I’ve had some interesting jobs in my lifetime. I’ve worked almost steadily since the age of 16 up until now. The only time I didn’t have a job was during the 6 months I was at Stockton College in NJ and while I was at The Restaurant School. Well technically I did work when I was at The Restaurant School, I just didn’t get paid for it. Anywho, my first job was working for the Summer Housing Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Say what now? Yeah I know not your typical job for a teenager, but I liked it. I got the job because of my mom, she worked at UPenn in the Academic Housing department. I basically grew up on that campus. When I was little I used to love walking through the mini parks they had scattered around the campus. All of her co-workers loved me and I loved tagging along with them whenever my mom was busy. Kind of funny that outside of my mom and her best friend Ms. Jean these were the only people who called me by my full first name instead of my nickname. I think they just loved saying my name I don’t know.

This is the high rise my mom worked in….Hi Academic Housing!!

As a kid I had no clue what my mom’s job really meant, all I knew was she worked in a high rise and dealt with a lot of cranky people all day. There’s a difference between middle class cranky and rich cranky. When I turned 16 my mom thought it was time for me to get a job. Since I was so familiar with the UPenn campus, it just seemed natural that I should work there too. Basically me and my friend Melissa would push this big old bin on wheels from high rise to high rise. They’d give us a list of the rooms that needed to be checked on and we were on our way. Had all the essentials we needed for cleaning the rooms and whatnot stuffed in that wheely bin. Here’s where it gets interesting….it’s amazing the things people leave behind. So we’d go into these rooms the summer semester students were using and run through the list. Making notes about damage to the room, cleaning it up, taking the linens and dumping them in bags so they could be washed, and leaving clean linens behind. Some of the rooms weren’t too bad. But other ones look like someone had a rave the night before. College kids are nasty! And they would leave behind things that were either cool, broken or just oh-my-god-you’re-seven-types-of-nasty. Rich kids don’t care what condition the things they leave behind are in, they can just replace them  the next day. So we’ve seen lamps, radios, dishes, clothes, shoes, books, used condoms. All types of random things left behind. I only worked during the summer because my mom was worried about me keeping my grades up. But I worked there two summers in a row. It was a fun, interesting job to say the least. But it made me thankful for the things I had, and made me want to work harder for the things I wanted.

No clue what the name is for this art piece so mom and I called it The Dueling Tampons

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This is the first time since 2003 I’ve had a reason to look forward to September. My mom died on Sept. 29, 2003 so I’ve had a hate/hate relationship with the month ever since. She had been battling lung cancer for about a year. At one point when she was in the hospital it looked like she was getting well enough to come home. I started prepping the house to bring her home and when I went in the next day they told me she was getting worse. No one really explained the process to me so I spent a long time being confused. Even when I went in to see her when she died it just didn’t click. I thought she was asleep. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I kind of understood she was gone. But my heart hadn’t caught up, so I was confused and lost. I only remember bits and pieces of the days after she died. Visiting the funeral home, picking out her coffin, finding clothes for her to wear, flower arrangements. Thankfully my mom had thought of all of this and prepared everything for me. Along with her will was a list of what she wanted me to do for her when she died. There are no words to describe how much that meant to me. Knowing she took the time to take the burden off my shoulders of making those decisions. It was her final act of taking care of her baby girl.

I used to get this pit of sadness and anger inside. Sometime during the next year I came across a song that would spend a lot of time on repeat. Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day. Don’t remember how it started, think the video was on in the background and I wasn’t paying attention or the song was on the radio. One of the two. Whatever the case, it went from background music to becoming one of my personal anthems. Course I didn’t care about what the video for the song was about. It was the title that stuck in my head. That’s how I felt. I didn’t want to deal with September at all. I have music for just about every mood I’m in, it helps sometimes, music has always been my default way to get through or deal with something. It’s my outlet. After mom died I don’t remember how long it took before I actively listened to something that wasn’t a melancholy or angry song. There would be songs on at the bar but I always looked for the rock music in the jukebox. Anything with a howling guitar in the background. It was the only music my heart wanted.

At some point I had two songs that were my go-to songs for those moods I just couldn’t shake. When I was somewhere between feeling lost, betrayed, depressed and alone. Wake Me Up When September Ends, and Dare You To Move by Switchfoot. I would put those songs on and curl up and cry my eyes out. Dare You To Move ended up becoming a personal challenge after a couple years. I found the lyrics and had them playing with the song while I cried and something clicked in me. I started trying to listen to the song without breaking down into a mass of sadness and grief. Eventually it got to the point where I could sing-a-long without needing a box of tissues on standby. There were times when I got sad for no reason. My thoughts just drifted off and I would have flashbacks. Of my mom in her hospital bed, talking to her after she slipped into a coma state, kissing her forehead after she died, walking up to her coffin and watching them bury her with my grandfather. So these songs after a while they became a way to reconnect with my inner strength. I had to find a way to get up and keep moving even when I didn’t want to.

So these songs, were and are a big deal to me. For close to 8 years I dreaded September. Until I met my boyfriend. I had told him everything about me, and vice versa. I think the fact that we both went through a traumatic loss made it easier to understand where the other one was coming from. His father died when he was young, so he understood how devastating losing my mom was to me. And I told him about how much I hated September, and he promised me that I wouldn’t be alone in my grief anymore. He would find a way to give me a reason to smile in September. He has. Tomorrow, September 5th, will be our one year anniversary. I know he meant something else along the lines of marriage or a baby. But for me, this is enough, anything else is extra reasons to be happy. So for the first time since 2003 I have a reason to smile this September. And I don’t hate September anymore.





Little Miss Productive

I’m one of those people who chose to work for a while until I figured out what I wanted to go to school for. After two false starts, communications then restaurant management major, I figured I needed some time. Student loans make it easier for you to get the education you want. And you don’t think about them until after you’re done with school and have to pay them back.

I spent 6 months thinking I wanted to be a writer or PR exec, after I graduated high school. When I lost my desire for that I went to culinary school for 6 months. Then I realized that wasn’t the life I wanted. So I left. Spent the next few years working at some interesting places. I’ve sold office supplies (door to door), gave guided tours by horse drawn carriage, done store inventories, raised funds for an environmental group, and worked in customer service. What can I say I don’t always pick your typical 9 to 5.

I waited until I was 28 to go back to college and get my degree. Always had an interest in Criminal Justice and Psychology. I remember watching Silence of the Lambs when I was 11, and thinking “I wanna do that“. Tip-toe through the mind of a serial killer and help bring a family justice. Yeah, I wanted to be Clarice and work for the FBI. So I went back for Forensic Psychology, and I love it! I’d never been an honors student in high school. But I am now. I work my butt off to get projects done on time. I’ve got a wall calendar with all my assignments on it, so I can keep track of things.

When I can, I work ahead. Right now I’ve got 4 of my last 8 projects for the semester done already. And I plan on having the last four done within the next two weeks. I have the one thing I never had in high school, a high GPA. 3.95 and I plan on keeping it that way. So I’ll stay in instead of going out with friends. I’ll work on papers instead of vegging out in front of the TV. In the end I’ll be proud of myself for dedicating all that free time to keeping myself on track. I made my mom a promise before she died that I’d be her only child to finish college. In 14 months I’ll be a college grad 🙂 Call me dedicated, call me tenacious, call me sleep deprived…..my name is Little Miss Productive and I’m keeping that promise!


One day you’ll realize I’m right

When you’re little you might say or do something that causes your mom or dad to utter one little phrase that will stick in your head for the rest of your life. “One day you’ll realize I’m right.” That’s it. Short, simple but effective.

Me (as a kid): But why do I have to go to school?

Mom: Because you’ll need a good education if you want to have a great career.

Me: But I just wanna be a drummer!

Mom: That’s what you want right now but that’ll change when you get older.

Me: Nuh uh I’m gonna grow up and be the best drummer in the world!

Mom (sigh): One day you’ll realize I’m right.

Me (age 17): But I love him!

Mom: He’s not good enough for you and it’s not going to last. Trust me this relationship is going nowhere.

Me: You never know! Things will get better with us and then we’ll get married and have a family!

Mom: He’s not good enough for you. He’s never going to make you happy. I don’t like him. Trust me this is going nowhere.

Me: How do you know?!

Mom: Trust me I know!

Me: You’ll see! He’ll change!

Mom (sigh): He’s never going to change. You can’t make someone change unless they want to change. One day you’ll realize I’m right

From the time I was 3 years old up until I was 10 or 11 I wanted to be a drummer. Think it had something to do with Animal from The Muppet Show being my favorite character. At some point I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian, marine biologist, cop, firefighter, equestrian show jumper, archer, writer and then a restaurant owner. What can I say, I’ve never been big on sitting in an office.

That guy I was with my senior year of high school. Yeah that didn’t last. Things didn’t get better they just kept getting worse. He never changed, but I realized I had to get away from him.

There’s been so many times I’ve heard my mom’s voice in the back of my head saying “You finally realized I was right”


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