Category Archives: StoryTime

10 Years

So on Wednesday I’m going to San Francisco.  It’s my first time to California and the first time I’ve been on an airplane in ten years.

Which made me realize: I’m old enough to have things I haven’t done for ten years.

The movie 13 Going On 30 used to be my favorite movie; I thought it was hilarious and I watched the DVD on repeat for like a year.  That movie made me want to eat Razzles and learn the Thriller dance (both of which I did).  But there’s a line in that movie where Mark Ruffalo’s character says to Jennifer Garner’s character, “That was fifteen years ago.”  I’m not entirely sure what he was talking about, but I do remember watching that every time and thinking “I can’t even fathom being old enough to remember what I did fifteen years ago.”  Probably that was because at the time I was fifteen…and who can remember their first years of life?  But now, I’m older, and I can remember one of the first times I took a plane: my family took a trip to the Grand Canyon, and I remember being freaked out during take off.

Well, that was ten years ago.

Now, I’m old.

Call me gramps.  I’ll see you at the retirement home.

Hiding My Heart Away

Have you ever heard the song “Hiding My Heart” by Brandi Carlile, which was later covered by Adele?  My guess is not, given the fact that it was a hidden track on Carlile’s album The Story, and was a left over track from Adele’s 21.  I only found out about it because I got an extended version of Adele’s 21 that had “Hiding My Heart” on it (and that wasn’t easy to find).  Both versions are phenomenal and just beautiful in their own unique way, and it really brings to question why both these artists and their respective teams decided not to include them on the albums and make them singles.

The thing I really love about this song is the chorus:

“I wish I could lay down beside you
When the day is done
And wake up to your face against the morning sun
But like everything I’ve ever known
You’ll disappear one day
So I’ll spend my whole life hiding my heart away.”

Those words strike something within me.  I think it’s because it describes how I feel about my life.  I do have a tendency to want things, dream of things, but just kind of hide myself away and not tell people anything.  I’m a pretty goofy, free person, but I’m not really that open around many people.

Recently I realized that this is because I’m afraid.  I’m scared that if I even attempt to live my dreams or be myself, I will somehow fail.  I’m afraid of what people will say about me and I’m afraid of just being alone…for the rest of my life.  But I don’t want to be a person who didn’t do something because he was afraid.  I don’t want to live my life scared to try new things or be myself.  And as Adele sings at the end of the song, “I can’t spend my whole life hiding my heart away” (I don’t think this line is in Brandi Carlile’s version).  So every time I feel a bit down, and feel nervous, I listen to this song and just remember that line.

Brandi Carlile’s version of “Hiding My Heart.”


Adele’s cover of “Hiding My Heart.”


I went to return a DVD to Redbox, and there was this kid waiting in line behind me. His phone rings. He looks down, sees the name, and suddenly looks kind of nervous/shocked/flustered. He answers the phone as he surreptitiously smooths out his shirt.

“Hey, Valerie?” he asks, incredibly nervous…his voice is shaking. “Yeah it’s -” his voice cracks and we can barely hear him say, “it’s Dave.” He clears his throat and tries again, “Sorry it’s -” voice cracks again, and yet again we can’t hear him say “Dave.” Finally, he takes a deep breath and tries and third time, but again fails.

Poor bloke. What a bad time for puberty to set in. Well, Dave, we’re all pulling for you Valerie! #GiveDaveAChance


Okay, what is the point of birds? Seriously. All they seem to do is poop on your car, and wake you up at some ungodly hour by chirping to each other. And if you’re trying to grow grass in your lawn and have put down fresh grass seed (like my parents), they will swoop down and eat the seeds. I guess if you’re a Disney princess, they will help you clean and get dressed, but most of us are not Disney princesses. If you’re Harry Potter, they’re can be used as the postal service, but again how many of us got that letter to Hogwarts when we were eleven (by the way, I’m still waiting for my letter…obviously the owl got lost, and it’s just taking them ten years to deliver it to me…).

If you’re wondering, a bunch of birds of all types are living outside my window, and they decide to gossip around 5:30 a.m….every single morning…and it’s driving me crazy.  And, a bird flew right into my head the other day when I was biking.  So….


When I was in high school, I had teachers who told me I was an awful writer and that I could not write no matter how hard I tried. I also had a guidance counselor who asked me which colleges I was going to apply to, and I told her my plan was to go to this particular university and she told me to reconsider.   Actually, her words were “don’t go there” because I wasn’t “good enough.”

Three years later, I go to that particular university, I work as a writing tutor, and I am a published author and have readers from all around the world.

So, who got it wrong?

Thank you all for reading!!!


Day Road Trip.

My day started with my dad driving down to Cape Cod, my mom in the passenger’s seat, and me sitting behind them in one of the middle bucket seats of our SUV.  “Phillip, can you get me a drink for the cooler?” asks my mom.  I oblige, and climb like a spy into the back to lean over into the trunk.  We’re at a red light, waiting to turn onto the highway, and I’m hanging like a monkey into the trunk, trying to pull out three sodas from the cooler.  It really wasn’t graceful…at all.  I look up, and the guy in the car behind us is staring at me, smirking. Well, this is awkward, I think, but then I climb back to my seat.

We finally make it down to the Cape area (I don’t know the exact name of the town, I wasn’t really paying attention…clearly) and we pull into a McDonalds to use the restroom and regroup.  Then, this EMT guy comes out of McDonalds and holds up the food to the other guy in the ambulance, who shouts, rather aggressively, “AW YEAH!”  And I get the urge to shout “YOU’RE HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS!” like a character did in a scene from Nurse Jackie, but the EMT guys look rather mean and giant…so…I mean, if they were that passionate about McDonalds food, can you imagine what they would do to someone being rude to them?

We continue on our journey until we get to the canal in Bourne/Sagamore on the Cape.  Can I just say, there are a freakin’ ton amount of roundabouts in this area.  Like, every five seconds the GPS would say things like “take the third exit in the roundabout.”  It was crazy.  Anyway, so we’re driving on the road parallel to the canal, and we notice these indentations where you could pull over and look out at the canal.  Because it’s such a beautiful day and because I like taking moments like these to just appreciate how beautiful life and nature really can be, I convince my parents to pull the car over.  I get out of the car and walk up the dirt path that leads to train tracks.  Now, where I’m from, most of the train tracks don’t operate
anymore, and they have either turned them into bike paths or have made path near them; the canal on the Cape has a bike path right next to these train tracks.  So, obviously, my mom and I climb onto the tracks when a guy says “be careful, a train just came by twenty minutes ago.”  Well, there goes my plan to lay down on the tracks to recreate Taylor Swift’s single artwork for “Mean.”  Oh well…I didn’t have rope anyway…

After hitting some Christmas Tree Shops (they have a lot of them on the Cape…) and visiting different sites, we make our way home.  Every road trip I take, I make a special playlist.  A lot of them tend to be interactive where I ask my audience (i.e. my family) to listen to original songs and then covers or remixes, and I try to start a spirited conversation about who did it better, etc.  Anyway, my parents and I really got into in on the way home because we started a segment we like to call “Backseat Karaoke,” (something Jimmy Fallon should pick up for the Tonight Show), meaning I sing along to the track from the backseat.  The song I get?  “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain.  Now, if you’re a guy and ever in this situation, you have two options: you either sing this song with passion, especially the line “the best thing about being a woman,” or you just kind of lamely sing along and change it to “I feel like a man.”  So, I went for it, and I had my parents laughing their butts off.  So yeah, backseat karaoke is a thing.  Because I say so.


Pure Genius: Lana Del Rey’s Cover of “Once Upon a Dream”

Whoever decided to have Lana Del Rey cover “Once Upon a Dream” for the upcoming film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, is a genius.  Del Rey’s spooky performance is a perfect match to echo the darker themes of Maleficent.

Maleficent tells the story of the villainess, Maleficent, from the classic Disney film, Sleeping Beauty.  In the original story of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent places a curse on Princess Aurora because she was not invited to her christening or something, and says that Aurora will die on her sixteenth birthday.  In all honesty, I know the gist of the story, but I’ve never seen Sleeping Beauty.  Seriously.  I was doing some quick research to understand the plot so I could sound informed when I wrote this, but it got so complicated that I was like “gosh, it’s just easier to watch the dang movie,” then I realize I don’t have a copy of Sleepy Beauty handy, which means I would need to go to the library even though tomorrow is my day off (I work at a library), then I rounded the whole fiasco out by just thinking “eh, who’s got the time. ”

Anyway, I digress.  My understanding is that Maleficent is like Sleeping Beauty as it involves the same characters and setting, but it is more focused on the dark villainess, not the bright, cheery heroine.  The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” is rather optimistic and, well, darling.  Take a listen:

The original version of “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty:

Now, Lana Del Rey’s version, like Maleficent, takes a new spin on the old classic, making it darker and more suspicious.  When I first heard Del Rey’s version, I thought “Once Upon a Dream” was originally intended to be this brooding, haunting song; the production and performance in Del Rey’s version is so striking that it colors the song to have a different meaning.  It’s exquisite.  Take a listen to Lana Del Rey’s version:

“Once Upon a Dream” performed by Lana Del Rey:

Disney made the right choice in picking Lana Del Rey to cover “Once Upon a Dream” because it’s such an iconic song that needed to be transformed to fit this new, darker telling of Sleeping Beauty.  Lana Del Rey’s music has the subtle, nuanced way about it that makes it appear to be dark and somewhat depressing.  Even by the deep timbre that Del Rey sang “Once Upon a Dream” with gives me the chills.  I don’t think Disney could have found a better person to give a classic a dark twist, and do it so well.


If you're on the struggle bus this week, here's a clip that you may relate to (I know I did):



There I was.  Eating lunch in the kitchen, watching an episode of VEEP when I looked out the backdoor window and saw the groundhog.  Eating in my mom’s garden [insert gasps].

I jumped up, kicked off my sandals, and ran to get my bow and arrow shouting “RALLY THE TROOPS!” (I don’t really know why…it just kind of came out).  I snuck out of the front door of my house barefoot, and snuck around to the back.  My neighbor was outside and saw me, and was about to shout something over to me when I waved at him, miming for him to shut up.  I could not talk, I could not let my enemy get away!  (Although, in all fairness, I must’ve looked rather strange…a grown man with a manic expression, standing barefoot with a child’s bow and arrow…)

I crept around the house and made it to the driveway that runs parallel to the garden, with the groundhog about fifty feet away.  I had an arrow in place, I took aim, and shot.  And I hit him!  From fifty feet away!  I am Katniss.

Again, this is a kids bow and arrow, so it didn’t kill him, it just hit him and made him jump in shock.  He scampered away, and  I followed, loading another arrow.  I saw him, hiding behind a tree next to our shed.  I took aim again, and I think I hit him again…it was hard to tell because there are a lot of bushes there… I  heard him scramble away, under the fence and away.

The enemy may have gotten away, but I hit him.  Twice….ish.  My neighbors cat has just come out and is again patrolling the garden. #WeMeanBusiness.


Related Stories:

“The Groundhog War”

The Groundhog War

I’m at war with a groundhog.  For as long as I can remember, my mom has had a garden where she grows everything form potatoes, peas, and carrots to green beans, tomatoes, and raspberries.  No issues.  I do remember when I was younger her having issues with squirrels eating her strawberries and other crops, but it was not as annoying as this freakin’ groundhog.

Two years ago, we finally planted all the usual seeds and the, want for a better word, crops started to come in when I heard my mom gasp and shout, “what the hell is that.”  We all came scrambling down the hall to look through the window in our kitchen to see this beast that I thought was a beaver chomping away at some plant.  We spent days figuring out what it was, although, I’m sure my parents knew it was a groundhog right away…I was the one who kept stupidly saying it was a beaver.  This led to a summer of chasing the darn groundhog out of our garden and trying to trap him.  My uncle lent us some traps and we were told if we placed them where he usual ate (i.e. my mom’s peas) he would walk in and be stuck.  We could then drive him away so he could never find his way back….or drown him in the bathtub, either way…

Except this groundhog was smarter than most.  He never went into the trap; he would walk beside it and nudge it so the trap doors would fall…with him outside of it.  We only ever caught birds.

The next summer (last year), the groundhog came back.  This time, he came back with a vengeance.  He did more damage because while
he was eating up the plants in the garden, he was having fun digging tunnels under our driveway.  In fact, the tunnel he dug made part of our driveway collapse, causing us to have to get our whole driveway redone.  He even expanded his horizons by digging into our neighbors’ yards, causing two neighbors to each take down their sheds because he was “living” underneath them.  We had enough.  After extensive research, my neighbors got traps of their own; my parents invested in fox urine as a repellant to the groundhog; I got a bow and arrow and had daily target practice, preparing for battle; and my other neighbors lent my family their bb gun.  We were going to win!

Except we lost the second summer to the groundhog.  My neighbor’s traps failed, the urine washed away with the rain, and we never so much got a bb near him.  I did manage to hit him with an arrow (#score), but it only bounced off his blubber (did I mention it was a kids’ bow and arrow…non lethal); he came back within the hour.

So now, we enter the third year of this war.  We lost some battles, certainly, but our troops are preparing to take down this menace.  I got more arrows and a handy little quiver to store my arrows,  and I’ve perfected my battle strategy so I can have a better shot at him.  My neighbor’s cat has even joined me as an ally; every morning, it circles my mom’s garden, leaving it’s mark, and keeping an eye out for the groundhog.

As I write this, I have this vision of my neighborhood having a neighborhood meeting (which never happens…we don’t really talk to each other) about said groundhog and I can picture me reciting Amy Adams’ monologue from the film The Master:

Amy Adams, in The Master:

It just fits, doesn’t it?  Although, I guess we do have to be careful in our attack, because apparently a guy killed a young girl in Ohio because he thought she was a groundhog.  So all those suffering from this pest, double check who you’re shooting at:

Late Night Radio Love Story

The other night I was driving home from work, exhausted.  It was one of those drives where it’s late at night, and every single radio station is on a commercial break.  That’s when I skip my presets, and hopefully find a station playing anything but an advertisement.  Somehow I landed on a rather obscure channel (i.e. one that I’d never listened to) and the host was talking.  Normally I would just skip over the blubber and go to the next channel, but for some reason I stopped.  And I heard the most…intriguing “love” story.

The radio station in question apparently asked their listeners to write in about how they met their significant others; they were especially looking for stories that were like Hallmark Channel Original Movie quality.  So this woman wrote in about how her brother had texted her a “dirty message.”  I’m not entirely sure what that means, but this woman decided to forward it to her friend but got her friend’s number wrong by one digit.  Then, the number she sent it to called her, and it was a man on the end.  So this woman was freaking out and was like “I’m so sorry, I meant it to sent that to someone else,” and this guy was just like, “The message was so rude, I just wanted to know who it was from.”  And they spent the rest of the night talking on the phone.  Then he called her like every night and they would chat. They finally met in person and have been together ever since.

That’s like a romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams or Sandra Bullock…with Ryan Reynolds or Hugh Grant.  Any time I text the wrong number (by accident…ahem), I usually get ignored or a reply of “wrong number.”