Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Archive for the tag “scintilla 2013”

Scintilla 15: Fears

Work and life have taken a hold of me this past week or so and I’ve sadly neglected Scintilla 2013, but carving out time for writing was a much needed priority this week.

Prompt: Fears come in different sized packages. Tell the story of a time you had a face a fear, big or small.

I would never describe myself as brave or courageous. I’m a practical, logical thinker who doesn’t take big risks or go too much outside my comfort zone. But one of my fears– of haunted houses- was something that was easy to avoid for many years.

My fear of these silly seasonal amusements started somewhere when I was young and my parents would take my brother & I to these ghoulish places- cornfields, converted warehouses, hayrides- as a way to celebrate the season of Halloween. I never liked it and remember on more than one occasion as a child having a full out, crying panic attack before entering a haunted house that would almost certainly end with my mother sitting with me at the entrance while the rest of the family and friends went through. One year, my mom and a close family friend, Sharon, tricked me while walking through a haunted house- Sharon was walking behind me with her hands on my shoulders while I held my mother’s hand in front of me. As we turned a corner, Sharon’s hands came off for a minute and then went back on quickly….except it was not Sharon and it was a random masked guy who Sharon let scare the heebeejeebies out of me. Traumatized for life is more like it.

During the high school and college years, I was peer pressured on more than one occasion into joining a group of friends at haunted houses on weekend nights. Nothing like crying like a 5 year old in front of a bunch of teenagers to make you realize that it’s much better to stay home than have a panic attack and virtual nervous breakdown in front of your friends.

So for years I avoided haunted houses like the plague, but when I was dating my ex husband  I was somehow talked into going into this big haunted cornfield/maze/barn/ my personal version of hell with him and his sister and her boyfriend. I spent the ride there with my stomach tied in knots and generally freaking out. But then, when we arrived, my boyfriend’s sister started getting even more nervous and scared than I was. And because the two boys thought it was funny that we were freaking out, something switched in me. I took charge. I wanted her to know it was going to be OK- that no one would touch or hurt us in the thing. I told her I would hold her hand the whole time. And I told her to laugh instead of scream and that we would make it through it together.

And it totally worked– for the first time ever, I made it through an entire haunted experience without freaking out or crying. Of course I screamed a few times and jumped when walking through everything, but I didn’t have a panic attack or end the night shaking like a leaf. It was a real moment of facing a fear head on and realizing it was all in my head.

Of course, that was the last time I’ve been at a haunted house.

Scintilla 6: Plane Ride

Prompt: Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

I rarely talk to my seatmates on plane rides. I take the time to read or sleep. Other than friendly conversation, I almost always keep to myself and prefer that others don’t ask me where I’m from or where I’m going.

Maybe it was because we were one of the few people on that plane that were not with children en route to Disney World. Children who were on this particular Saturday in May overjoyed to be on their way to see Mickey Mouse, aided by their parents and the flight attendants singing Disney songs over the loud speaker. Maybe it was because he was stuck in the middle seat on a packed Southwest flight.

It was May 2011–I  was en route to Houston for a conference, he was in the Navy and on his way back from  training in RI and going to Texas too. Our conversation started about the loud and boisterous children and how many times the back of our seats would be kicked on the 2 hour flight to our layover in Orlando ( note to self: never fly on Southwest on a Saturday via Orlando– worst idea. EVER.)

He was only a few years older than me, but had a wife and kids at home in Texas- we talked about baseball, traveling the world, museums, things I should see when in Houston. He asked me what my husband did after seeing my rings- and for whatever reason- the ease of talking to strangers or just the  situation, I started to tell him how things weren’t going the best with my marriage.

This gentleman– whose name I cannot remember– listened to me go on about the issues and fears I had, the problems, the endless hours of couples therapy I did not think I could endure any longer– and he just listened. I didn’t cry like when I talked to my parents, girlfriends, therapists, husband– it was the first calm, rational conversation I had about the state of marriage. And this guy just listened, nodded, and maintained eye contact with me. And when I realized I may have gone way over the airplane conversation etiquette line and profusely apologized, this guy didn’t pick up the complimentary magazine to look busy. He talked back. He told  me about his  marriage of fifteen years, and how the Navy was the third person in his relationship. He talked about the strain of being deployed overseas while his wife tried to build a life in whatever city he was based out of, about missing his son’s birth, and about a girl he was engaged to from high school who was one of the reasons he joined the Navy. He offered kind words and advice, without judgement or preaching.

It turned out that he was on the next flight with me from Florida to Texas and we ended up sitting next to each other again, but on this leg, he came upon a fellow Navy guy who he knew  and ended up as third in our row, so the conversation this time wasn’t as deep, leaving me to my book for most of the quick flight.

When we landed in Houston, I thanked him for his conversation, company, and advice. In that two hours, I was more honest and learned more from a complete stranger about life and love than months of therapy had taught me.

I’ve never had a conversation with another person on a plane again.


Scintilla 3: The Sunny Open Road

Prompt: Talk about a time when you were driving and you sang in the car, all alone. Why do you remember this song and that stretch of road?

It’s one of those late fall Saturdays that have you smiling all day just because it’s November and the sun is out and it’s warm enough for a light jacket. It’s one of those days that make me realize living in New England with four awesome seasons is just one of the best things of life.

I’m driving in my car on the way back from some vintage shopping with my best girl friend in Providence. The day was perfect- girl talk and exploring that was only brightened by that special light that comes through the fall leaves- the light that makes you look up and go, “wow.”

Those days are pure magic for me- and it was as if the universe knew it was a red letter day for me already because the songs on the radio are all awesome and in line with my awesome mood. I’m belting Journey, Mariah Carey, and so many other tunes in the car on my way home. As I pull into my town, Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” comes on- and with all the combined elements of the day, I find myself practically yelling the song at the top of my lungs. It’s exactly at what I need to hear at the exact right moment in my life: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…. Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone. It’s the song, it’s the weather, and I just keep driving instead of pulling into my driveway. It’s the first day I’ve felt like the old Kristen was alive again- not the sad, making her way through a divorce, living on pennies Kristen.

Driving in the car on a sunny day with great music is one of life’s great pleasures to me.  And on that day, Kelly Clarkson was singing the soundtrack to my life and I had a smile and spirit that nothing could ever stop.


Scintilla 2: Lies I Told My Teacher

Prompt: What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told? Why? Would you tell the truth now, if you could?

(This is not the biggest lie I’ve ever told, but I wasn’t quite in a good emotional spot to write eloquently about the lie of being happily married so here is the story of the time I can first remember ever lying). 

When you’re in first grade, you’ll say or do anything to be the cool kid in the class.

Some kids had it easy- they had pools with diving boards or slides, their parents drove a nice car, or they were somehow related to the one or two ‘famous’ people who were originally from Somerset.

In first grade, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was already taller than most of the kids my age and was more interested in reading books way ahead of my age level just because I was so desperate to feed my curious mind.

It seemed so innocent at the time. We were learning about puppets in music and art class because there was going to be a school assembly with a ventriloquist at the end of the week. To a class full of seven years old, this and magic are the coolest things ever. In all the talking about it being a super special talent and skill that few people can do, I raised my hand in class, desperate to be the cool kid.

“Mrs. Kozak, my dad is a ventriloquist.”

“Oh really, Kristen? Does he have his own puppets?”

“Yes and sometimes he lets me use them.”

At this point, I think Mrs. Kozak moved the topic onto something else and I was happy as a clam to have the kids on the playground asking me about my cool dad the ventriloquist.

That night, after dinner, the phone rang. It was Mrs. Kozak calling for my father. After he hung up he said, “Kristen, why did you tell Mrs. Kozak I was a ventriloquist?” I don’t remember what my reaction was or if I was punished in some way for making up a story. Mrs. Kozak of course knew that it wasn’t true when I said it in the class, and perhaps she was calling my parents to just tell them I told a little fib. It seems silly and harmless now, and something kids do all the time ( I think my brother told his second grade teacher his grandmother was an American Indian or that we had ancestors at the first Thanksgiving).

I’d like to think it was just the beginning of my creative mind and love of storytelling.


Scintilla Day 1: My First Job

** For the second year in a row, I am participating in The Scintilla Project, telling my stories with the internet community. 


Prompt: Tell a story set at your first job. 

It was one of the most coveted jobs a 17 year old could get in Somerset- working at Blockbuster Video. The cool navy blue polo, the unlimited access to videos and those new DVDs that were coming out, and as much popcorn, movie sized candy, and ice cream sandwiches you wanted on a shift.

My first two weeks there included the twice-yearly inventory of the store, but I couldn’t work the real inventory because I wasn’t 18 yet and it started on a Saturday night after we closed at 10, the drop-dead time for under 18 workers in Massachusetts.

I was a Customer Service Representative (Blockbuster’s fancy name for checkout girl) for 2 1/2 years- many nights and weekends wearing navy polos, blue Oxford shirts, and khaki pants. I rewound thousands of video tapes, dusted off dozens of old tapes that never were checked out, and dealt with my fair share of customer complaints about the $3.99 for two days charge for new releases.

Blockbuster taught me how to clean a glass door in record time in between people walking in and out, gave me some stellar obscure movie knowledge that helps me at many a pub trivia or game night, and brought me my first ever secret admirer ( one of the guys I worked with left a rose on my car in the high school parking lot once….ok it was kind of creepy).

The particular Blockbuster store I worked with was huge for selling “PPTs”- previously played tapes, which was their fancy acronym for taking the extra stock off the rental shelves and shoving it in a huge bin of videos for people to buy used. Maybe it was because I frequently worked Sunday and Monday nights when we would prep the rental shelves for the new releases on Tuesdays, but I always ended up being the re wrapping and pricing gal for the PPTs. I felt a weird joy and excitement at the shrink wrapping machine- though I don’t miss that smell of burning plastic. Not too long ago I was in a specialty gift shop where a lady was doing the shrink wrapping behind the counter and the smell brought instant flashbacks to Blockbuster, summer 2000.

Post Navigation