Track

My freshman year in high school I decided to join winter track. I’d always been a decent runner, and I was eager to get involved in a school sport now that volleyball season had ended.

During tryouts, the coach had the freshman run various race lengths to see where our strengths lied. I was at the starting line getting ready to run the 220 next to a proven sophomore – she had legs like a colt and was rumored to be the best female runner on the team.

She knew it too. She looked at me with snort and a smirk, clearly displaying her superiority over a mere freshman. It pissed me off, and I wanted to beat her really, really badly. The coach, before firing the starter pistol, warned us to take it easy and not push ourselves to the max. These were just warm up races.

Yeah, coach. Sure thing. You betcha.

When the pistol shot rang out I was off, as was the smirking sophomore. We quickly left the pack behind, and it was just me and her out in front. We were neck and neck for the longest time, when I heard her say, “Ugh, I can’t!” as I passed her.

Ha! Having crossed the finish line first, I toyed with the idea of smirking back at her, but Tracy don’t play that way. Instead, I walked it off, heading across the field back to the starting line. As I approached the team clustered around the stands, a few girls ran up to me and said, “You broke the school record!”

WHAT? ME? On my first DAY?!?

Turns out I had. I was so intent on beating that show-off sophomore that I had run faster than even I knew I could. The coach confirmed it, but said it could not be counted officially because it had not happened during an actual race, just during practice. A friend of mine said that during the race the coach had said something to effect of, “Look at her go…”

I always liked that.

I spent the next month or so running and re-running the 220 in practice, sometimes breaking the record, sometimes not. Our only meet that season was a huge Tri-State event in which runners from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania would compete. It was held on a college campus with a large, indoor track facility; where I could not tell you. I just know we had to leave really early and the bus ride was loooong.

I had one event, a relay in which each of 4 team members ran 220 yards and passed the baton to the next runner. While I cared if my team won our heat, I was more interested in my portion of the race, because this was my shot at beating our school record.

The event arena was crowded, and It was difficult to make my way to the starting line when the call time for our race came. groups of students from God knows how many schools were camped in any open spot they could find

I had the outside lane. I remember being confident rather than nervous at the starting line. All I had to do was run, right?

As I heard the bang of the starting pistol, I was off running and was soon neck and neck with girls from the tri-state area, but I wasn’t interested in them. I could come in dead last, as long as I beat our school’s record.

As I came into the first turn, there were legs across the track. How odd.

See, the arena was really too small for all the people that were there. A set of bleachers came within 2 feet or so of the outside lane of the track until you got to the turns, where it opened up a bit. A group of students had decided this little spot by the turn would be the perfect place to hang out and relax before their next event. Apparently said group of students had not heard the race begin.

So there they were. A set of legs, clad in athletic socks and white sneakers, in my path. Not to be deterred, I leapt over them without breaking stride, which was fine & dandy.

Except for when I landed, my ankle twisted and I stumbled right into the girl running next to me, who fell. It was enough of a blunder to demolish my time and annihilate any chance I had at the school record. I remember passing the baton to my team mate with the sage advice of “Run your ass off!”

Our team not only lost, but didn’t qualify for the next heat. And like that my winter track season was over. I would never gaze proudly at my name on the record board in the cafeteria. No mention of my name would be made in the morning annoucements in home room. No accolades, no nods of approval from fellow classmates.

zip.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the chick I stumbled into? She was pissed. And tough. She looked like a Bronx gang lord. I’d not only messed up my chances, I’d messed hers up as well. With wounded pride and a sore ankle I spent the remainder of the meet skulking around in the shadows desperately trying to avoid getting my ass kicked.

I don’t rememer if my coach ever lodged a complaint about the human obstacle in my path. Who knows what might have happened if that girl had sat cross-legged, or had used a Q-tip that morning and had thus heard the starter pistol, or maybe just decided that baton twirling would be way more fun that winter track. Who knows?

But she was there, and in my path, and changed my fate.

Typical.

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The other day we were talking about crime filled areas, and somebody mentioned that I must have experience with that coming from Northern Jersey, and having lived so close to New York. Actually, my town had very little serious crime at all. Until January 8th, 1975 that is.

I had been at the next door neighbor’s house playing, and walked across the driveway to the back door. I found it locked and banged on the glass to be let in. My sister, peeking through the door, quickly opened it up, pulled me in, and locked the door behind me.

Then she said, “There’s been a murder in town.”

What? IN LEONIA? To make matters worse, it had happened just a few blocks away. And I had just been out in the near dark alone…with a murderer on the loose.

Over the course of the next few days we’d all hear the gruesome details of how Joseph Kallinger, a shoemaker from Philadelphia and his son, forced their way into a house in my town and murdered a young nurse, Maria Fasching, in the basement.

After the murder Kallinger and his son had walked down to a park in our town that is literally a few houses from where my husband grew up…they probably walked right past his house to get there. They had washed off in a puddle in the park, and Kallinger discarded his bloody shirt there, which was a dopey move because the shirt had his name imprinted in it from his cleaners in Philly.

He was caught days later.

Maria Fasching’s face was plastered on the cover of every newspaper for days, and I remember feeling so sad for her. She was young, and was going to be married. And she just happened to stop by that house to check on a patient at the wrong time.

Oh, and that house – it scared the crap out of me for years and years. If I had to walk past it in the daytime, I’d try to not stare at the basement windows. But at night? I kept my eyes on the sidewalk and walked very, very fast.

There was a book written about Joseph Kallinger and his life leading up to the murders called “The Shoemaker.” I’ve read it, and let me tell you, this guy was really wacko. It amazed me that someone so mentally ill could slip through the cracks and live right out in the world with the rest of us. It scares me to think of how many similar characters are out there now…

Yesterday marked the 40 year anniversary of that murder. It really changed our little town – it smudged it. Made it seem less of haven and slightly haunted.

FIVE

WordPress sent me a congratulatory message today – I’ve been blogging for five years.

I was like, “whoa, really?”

So I checked. My first post on my first blog was exactly 5 years ago today. It was a private blog, meant only to record happenings in my life and stories of the past for my kids. But after a few posts, my ego got the better of me – I wanted to tell my idiotic tales to the world!

I was curious to see how many followers I could get, or if anyone cared enough to comment on a particular story. I started a semi-daily blog regarding my diet and weight loss goals, and stuck to that for a year and change – way longer than I stuck to my diet.

Then in July of 2011 I started Typical Tracy with no fanfare or intro blog. I just started writing. While I’m no internet sensation, I have to say I am smugly pleased with myself. I have over 470 followers to date and almost 34,000 total views. Not to bad for an absolute zero from New Jersey.

My most popular post by a landslide is the one I wrote about my years on the nude beach. Go figure. Another popular one was about girls who wear boots with shorts. Not sure how that one marched it’s way to the top of the old blog hit parade.

But there are some posts that I thought were overlooked – ones worthy of more views than they actually got. Here are a few for your re-consideration.

1. The worst camping weekend. Ever.

2. My Biting Habit

3. Driving Miss Tracy

4. Losing One’s Debit Card

5. Getting Even is Sweet

And in case anyone is mildly interested, below is a screenshot of my first ever blog post. Oh, and thanks so much for reading. Here’s to another five years together.

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2014 – I have to admit it was kind of a cruddy year. We lost a pet, I learned that Obamacare is not in any way affordable, and in turn am stuck driving the Sloviemobile, at 235,000 miles, for God knows how long. But in an effort to end it on a positive note, I’ll talk about the good things the year had to offer.

I’m still alive. That’s always good. Although I finished off yet another year not losing a single pound, I did manage to walk over 400 miles in 2014, so much so that I actually wore a hole in my sneakers.

I saw my friend John. My trip to NYC in June was probably the best 72 hours of the entire year – I only wish I’d had 24 hours more – then I might have been able to eat a hot dog at Hirams. Best of all was sharing a few hours with my oldest buddy John, and finally meeting his significant other over several drinks and fabulous Chinese food.

The Week at Flagler Beach. During our annual visit to my dad’s in Florida I came to the conclusion that I absolutely adore Flagler Beach. It’s kitchy and unspoiled and a mere 10 minute drive from Dad’s house. If I ever decided to do the senior move down to good old F-L-A, Flagler Beach is where I’ll place my Welcome mat.

The Big Breakup. My daughter finally got her head together and broke up with her manipulative boyfriend who was wasting a ton of her time and bringing down her GPA.

Summer Days at King’s Dominion. I really had a blast this past summer with my girls at KD, the big amusement park an hour away from our home. With a season pass it was fun every 10 days or so to take a few hours, go on rides and leave without feeling like we didn’t get our money’s worth. If the park was empty, we stayed all day. If it was crowded, we’d split and spend the day shopping instead. We already have our season passes for 2015…and it is my goal to ride the Intimidator.

As this year ticks away its last few hours, I wish my readers a fantastic new year filled with love, health and happiness. And here’s hoping 2015 is a year very untypical to Tracy.

Wishbook

When I was a kid there would come a time each fall when my mother would bring home the Sears Christmas Wish Book—600+ pages long and as thick as a phone book. The arrival of this book would trigger a month-long “it’s my turn!” between us four kids, because this book had a killer toy section.

I had all of these, by the way. Sigh…I wish I still did.

Page after page of Barbies, Fisher Price Little People playsets, doll houses, slot car sets, play kitchens, record players, puppets, and tons and tons of games. As a child you practically drooled as you turned each page, eager to see what “it” toy was going assault your “I want that!” senses next.

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

But you didn’t get to dawdle when you had the wishbook, not at first anyway. Once a sibling saw you with the book in your hot little hands, you were asked to hurry up, and sometimes not so politely. Of course, every so often when you took too long, the coveted book was simply ripped out of your hands, leaving you staring at the linoleum counter top as opposed to Malibu Barbie.

One of the creepier pages in the book - I don't think I'd be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

One of the creepier pages in the book – I don’t think I’d be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

But eventually there would come a time when the book was all yours. My brother and sisters had had their fill of rod hockey and Jerry Mahoney dummies, and I could take the Wishbook in my hands and do what I did best…pretend.

I would stare at each page that held a toy I wanted and imagine playing with it. I’d just look at the toy and actually pretend that I was opening little Barbie kitchen doors or bringing a plane in for a landing at the Fisher Price airport. I could spend hours in a pre-Christmas fantasy land. What a dork I must have looked like…sitting in a corner talking to a catalog.

bad fashionsAs time marched on and we got older the Wishbook was less alluring. We spent more time glancing at the front of the book which displayed “today’s hip fashions.” However, let it be known that I did not spend much time imagining myself wearing any of the clothes.

With the exception of a bathing suit when I was around 13. I loved that suit. It was my first maillot.

I highly recommend visiting the site wishbookweb.com. Pick a book and flip through the pages—you just might lose yourself remembering all those great toys you got one Christmas.

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I love my cat. He’s a scamp. He sleeps in unconventional positions. He has a wide variety of “meows” that are all expressive and super cute. And he’s never hissed at us or scratched us. Not once.

He has his moments when I want to kill him too…like when he decides to play with everything on my nightstand at 4:30 am, which by the way, he did this morning. Or when he crawls into my Christmas village and steals the little elf to bat around the floor.

But for the most part, he’s a super cat and is showered with much love and attention. He’s not a lap cat, which is a bummer to me, but he will allow me to hold him for a short while, and that’s when I shower him with love.

The other day as I was whispering sweet nothings in his ear and repeatedly kissing his head, I wondered if he realized that this is a good thing. Cause sometimes he just seems annoyed. But other times he purrs and almost seems to lay his head against mine.

Does my kitty know that I love him? When he feels my hot breath against his neck does he know that I’m telling him how much he means to our family and that he’s a good boy? When I kiss his giant melon head does he understand that he’s loved and adored?

I know when he’s showing me affection…like when he head butts me, or licks my forehead. When he rubs up against me and gives me tail hugs. But does he understand my signals?

I sure hope so.

child-abduction-bw

Last night I had a horrible nightmare. I actually had several bad dreams throughout the night, but one was a real doozy.

In short, I dreamt that my youngest daughter, who in the dream was only 6 or 7, was murdered. She ran away from me at a crowded carnival, and as I was trying to call her back, a man picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, and disappeared into the throngs of people.

My voice wouldn’t work. I was trying to scream and couldn’t. It was incredibly frustrating. People were staring at me, but nobody was helping, and like that, she was gone.

I knew she was dead, but at first couldn’t convince anyone in my family. My husband was strangely optimistic she would come back unharmed. As I sat stuffing envelopes a coworker of mine put two six packs of beer on the table next to me (dreams can be super weird, right?) Then she sat down and told me they had found her body.

The grief I felt was overwhelming. I was crying from a place I didn’t even know existed. My brother in law Mike looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I’m never going to see her again.” I cried, and moaned, and screamed in utter sorrow.

And then I woke up.

At first I wondered if anyone had heard me…it was so real that I was certain I had to be making noise in my sleep. Then I went to my daughter and held her hand, and looked at her, thankful beyond measure that it was just a dream. And I thought of all those mothers who have lived through my nightmare only to have nothing to wake up from.

With Christmas just days away, I thought about the parents of poor Hannah Graham, the UVA student who was abducted and murdered this fall by a loathsome creature who should only live in nightmares, not be a living, breathing thing prowling the streets.

It must be such a sad time for them, this first Christmas without her. There’s no stocking to hang for Hannah, no gifts to buy, nothing to pass to her at the Christmas dinner table. They must be feeling a hole the size of the Grand Canyon without her there. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child, especially when it’s at the hands of a monster.

When my baby girl wakes up, I’m gonna smother her with kisses. And hugs. And then more kisses. I’m so thankful she’s still here.

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The other morning I went into a gas station to prepay on my gas pump. There was a woman at the register cashing in winning lottery tickets, and another woman behind her. I fell in place as #3, wishing I could have just paid at the pump, but that morning all I had was cash.

The lottery machine is down the counter by another register that was not open – this is where the lottery lady and the cashier had moved to in order to complete her transaction. An old woman walked in, saw me and the other woman waiting in line, and walked over to the second register. I eyed her suspiciously, but knew that the cashier wouldn’t take her before us. After all, we were here first.

When lottery lady walked off with her 23 tickets (and hopes of hitting it rich), the old woman stepped right up and began her business with the cashier. I looked at the woman in line in front of me and said, “Well that’s not right…” to which she replied, “I was here before her.”

Apparently the cashier, who I know from first hand experience is a miserable old man, could have given a rat’s ass who was next in line.

Another case in point – we’ve all been at a grocery store with too few cashiers open. The lines grow long until they finally announce “Aisle 5 is open with no line!” In my world, the folks who were already in line should get first dibs at life in the fast lane. But no…it’s always some tool who wasn’t even in line yet that zooms his cart to the aisle. Sometimes I find that I am in position to be that tool…but I always offer the place in front of me to someone who was already waiting.

Or take the deli counter. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who pushed their cart up to the counter first. In my world, when the deli dude asks “who’s next?” it’s customary (and polite) to turn to your fellow shopper and ask permission to go next…or to relinquish your turn and let them go first. Folks who just barge up and ask for two pounds of baloney are dickheads.

Then there are the car cutters. Those folks at an intersection that can’t wait the extra 6 seconds it would take for your car to pass. No, even though there is nobody behind you, they feel the need to insert their vehicle between you and the car you were trying to keep a safe distance in front of you.

I hate line cutters. I really do. Is there a special something in their molecular make up that leads them to believe that they are above waiting their turn? Some sense of privilege that I am not privy to? The only thing I hate more than line cutters is my inability to call them on it. Like George McFly, I’m not very good at confrontations. I usually rely on the wrath and big mouths of others to set these assholes straight.

Folks, it’s the holidays, where lines are long and the roads are crowded. If you find yourself in one of the aforementioned situations, stop, think, and wait your turn.  And if you see someone cutting, call them out on it for those of us too meek to do it for ourselves.

If all else fails, just sing along with Spongebob Squarepants…”Don’t be a jerk. It’s Christmas!”

cashier-handing-money

Today I am reblogging a portion of a previous post. Why, you ask? Has she got nothing better to do than to serve us a left-overs? Believe you me, it’s not that – I just need to reiterate what I had stated before because this problem not only still persists, but it’s getting worse.

What could possibly be so bad?

I hate the way folks hand back change! There! I said it!

Below is a post that originally made its way to my blog almost back in January of 2012 – almost three years ago. In that three years NOTHING has changed in the way I get change. Now, did I really think my idiotic little blog would change the world?

No.

But I am really sick of getting my changed handed back in a little pyramid – you know what I’m talking about. The assholes that balance 83¢ worth of change atop a dollar bill and hope they can get it into your hand before the coins topple over. Which they always do.

Heads up….That is a douchebag way to hand back change.

Read on if you want…I give up.


ORIGINALLY POSTED 1.16.2012

On Saturday I went shopping with my youngest daughter. While on the hunt for elusive and impossible to find Skylanders figurines, I picked up this, that and the other thing at a variety of stores. Every time I was handed back change from my purchase, it was done so in the annoying, obnoxious way that has become the retail norm for the past few years: Dollar bills in hand with receipt, and coins placed on top of that.

This makes me crazy. Why? Because half the time the coins roll off your hand onto the floor or the conveyor belt after the slightest movement of your hand. Or because while I am holding my wallet with my one hand, a pile of money precariously balanced in the other hand renders me incapable of anything but utter frustration.

Then I must put my wallet down, transfer the loose coinage to my now freed up hand, pick my wallet back up with my hand still holding the bills, drop the change into the zippered change pocket (which I must unzip with my teeth or the hand still holding the bills which by now are a crumpled wad), and then un-wad the bills and slide them into the appropriate slot. Meanwhile, I am getting more and more rankled because I know I am holding up the person waiting in line behind me who is growing inpatient to get their purchase underway.

I can remember a day when a cashier would hand you back the coins in the palm of your hand first, and then you grabbed the bills with your fingers. This way, you could slide the coins easily out of the hand into the purse and put away the bills in almost one deft movement. Or, if you were quick, you could store the coins before they even handed you the paper money back at all. But it seems as if those simpler days of receiving change are lost forever.

Since I am a meek freak who can almost never speak up unless lives are at stake, I appeal via this blog to any and all folks who handle money. I do not have the balls, guts, or gumption to lecture each and every cashier who hands me my change in this very wrong and frustrating fashion. However, If you are a cashier and you are reading this try to change your ways of giving change. For the love of God, put the coins in the customer’s hand FIRST!

And smile a little when you do it.

slovak-flag copy

Earlier in the year, a woman began working at our real estate firm. When she introduced herself I recognized her accent right away and asked if she were Slovak. She confirmed that she was, and thus began the conversation of family ties and foods we eat, etc. I love meeting fellow Slovaks because I find it to be such a unique heritage, especially here in Virginia.

corn husk dollsI have always embraced my Slovak ancestry. Our living room had photos and portraits of relatives in traditional Slovak garb, our china closet had Slovak dolls and corn husk figurines, and once a month our fridge reeked of garlic and spices from the sausages and  meats my dad would bring home from a Slovak butcher in New York City.

My older brother and sister had to attend Slovak school on Friday nights and a few times a year were dragged in full costume to several Slovak events in New York City along with cousins of mine. My brother even had to take accordion lessons.

I had travelled twice to my dad’s birthplace in what was then Czechoslovakia, staying with relatives and gorging myself on incredibly awesome foods…soups, goulash, dumplings, cookies and wine. I’d been to Prague, Bratislava and the Tatra Mountains. All these things combined left me with an overblown sense of being in touch with my heritage.

Hovadina.

Yesterday afternoon, my Slovak co-worker, Marcela, called to invite me to her St. Nicholas celebration. Not having any clue what she was talking about, she explained that it was a Slovak Christmas tradition where Mikuláš (St. Nick) shows up to give the children treats. She said that she does this with a group of local Slovaks every year, and wondered if I would like to join them. Hmmmm – I wouldn’t know any of these people, but I figured it would be fun to meet them and see what this St. Nicholas thing was all about.

Slovak Sandwiches

My daughter and I arrive at the party to a table loaded with traditional Slovak open-faced sandwiches (aka obložené chlebíčky – had to look that one up), cookies and puddings, and a gigantic pot of goulash on the stove. I ate and talked to the other guests, all of whom were phenomenally friendly and social. They knew I was a newcomer and took great pains to include me in conversations, and I was grateful for it.

Then came time for St. Nicholas to arrive. Called “Mikaloosh” by everyone there, he entered the room flanked by a devil in all black, and an angel in all white.  I had asked about the tradition earlier in the evening, and was told the tradition was meant to keep naughty kids in line. The devil carried a sack over his shoulder, and if a child was deemed bad, was carried off in the sack. If Mikuláš found the child to be worthy and good, the angel gave him or her a treat.

I had never heard of this tradition. We never did it growing up.

Mikuláš began calling children up before him. He was kind, but I have to tell you, these kids were scared shitless, even with the angel there. Each of them got up and listened to Mikuláš list their more virtuous traits, but each time he mentioned a bad thing that they needed to work on, the devil would sneer and gobble at them. Then they had to recite a poem or sing a song.

Each child, all very American, and all under the age of 10, got up and sang a song. In Slovak.

In Slovak.

I’m 50 years old, and I think my Slovak vocabulary consists of 12 words, and 3 of those are dirty ones. And here stood these children singing songs in Slovak –  and it was evident to me that their parents took the time to teach them these songs, and to make sure they rehearsed them to have their performance perfected for good old Mikuláš. I was stunned, impressed, and a little envious.

Here I was thinking that because I had regularly eaten Slovak sausages, could hold my own during a Polka, and drank my fair share of Slivovice, I was a true blue Slovak. Now I feel like I don’t know the first thing.

I know that’s dopey, but I’ll tell you, it makes me want to go cook some dumplings and have a shot of Shlivy…

And teach my daughters a Slovak song or two.

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