Monthly Archives: August 2011

October 17, 1989

Six weeks into the new school year, and I’d made a couple of new friends in our new town. They lived in the neighborhood behind our back gate and through the abandoned vineyard, and if you squoze in between the two pieces of fence you wouldn’t have to go all the way around. It was how we got to the bus stop every morning. I’d been invited to hang out after school with perhaps E or was it C (they were best friends and I was someone new and therefore maybe interesting), and the three of us were riding our bikes up and down the street and around the cul-de-sac named for a wine grape varietal, just like every other street in the subdivision.

We’d watched TV and had snacks and all their little sisters were playing together, and I was just getting used to riding my bike on pavement instead of a dirt road or field like I’d grown up doing, when all of a sudden it felt like the bike was being pulled sideways out from under me. I fell over.

At first I chalked it up to my still-wobbly riding skills (unused to smooth surfaces as I was) but then I saw the little sisters huddled in E’s doorway. “There was an earthquake!” one of them yelled. No wonder I was disoriented. We went to C’s house and the TV, which had been tuned to the Giants-A’s world series game, became instead breaking news about the earthquake.

I decided that instead of watching all the scary things on TV at my friend’s house, I’d go home and watch them there. When I got home, my mom said that she and Lissa had been on the California king-sized bed in my parents’ room, and at first she thought Lissa was shaking the bed. After a few seconds, however, she realized that it was an earthquake. There was no damage to anything in our house, and though we were all a little shaken up (no pun intended), we turned on the news to see the first footage of the massive destruction that the 7.1 Loma Prieta quake had caused all over the bay area. Fires raged in the Marina district of San Francisco. A piece of the Bay Bridge fell down. A mall collapsed in Santa Cruz. A whole section of freeway fell in the East Bay, crushing ~40 people to death instantly, and days of rescue efforts to extract remaining survivors from their cars would continue. We sat, speechless. It was the first time I ever remember feeling truly mortal.

Many years later, the 1989 quake became a touchstone for people living in California, people with ties to California, fans of the Giants or the A’s. We’d learn that because of a quirk of fate, the World Series game scheduled for that day in which the two Bay Area teams competed meant that a disproportionately large number of people were indoors watching the game rather than in their cars on the bridges and freeways, and therefore probably saved many lives (normally, at 5:04 PM, many thousands of people would have been commuting). I’d go on to date a boy in high school who celebrated his 11th birthday that day, and marry a different boy who had his own story about the quake, even though he lived three states away when it happened. Looking back, what I remember most was the feeling of disorientation, the feelings of dread and fear the scenes of destruction caused. I felt many other earthquakes over the years, and every time, as I stood in a doorway, I flashed back to that sunny afternoon on my bike. I think about it sometimes when we’re on a bridge, silently saying the “No earthquakes” chant like someone on Press Your Luck says “No Whammies.” The possibility and, honestly, the likelihood of an earthquake is just something that comes with the territory when you live on the West Coast. The uncertainty is one of the prices we pay for living here, just like uncertainty in general is one of the prices we pay for being alive.

Welcome to Hogwarts

For all my kvetching about small town living, one of the best things to come out of our being here so long is that we’ve become good friends with some people who went to my high school. I was friendly with Karen (a class behind me) and while I knew who he was, her now-husband Andriy was an exchange student from Ukraine and I don’t know that I ever had a conversation with him back then. We randomly saw Karen and her sister and nephew in a mall in the Denver suburbs a few years ago, and since then we’d connected on Facebook, but it wasn’t until we moved to Cloverdale that I really had a chance to get to know either of them as adults.

Luckily, not long after we moved here I suggested that we hang out one evening, and the four of us hit it off. As it turns out, we’re all nerds and we all like playing games and we have quite a bit else in common, and in the months since we’ve been here we’ve spent quite a few nights playing games (the four of us), playing D&D (Dan and Andriy), and being game widows (Karen and me). Early this summer, Karen mentioned she planned to have a Harry Potter-themed party, either for the movie premiere or for her birthday. Their annual Ukraine trip in June pushed the timing back to Karen’s birthday in August, but that just gave everyone more time to prepare for the big event.

Dan made this for Karen's party

Karen spent MONTHS researching, re-reading the books, playing around on the Harry Potter Wiki, re-watching the movies. She spent many weeks planning food, activities, games, props, and decor. She went ALL OUT for this party, and I was tickled when the owl arrived in our mailbox, inviting us to be students at Hogwarts for an evening (appropriate dress required!) We’d had plenty of advance notice, and so I was finally able to plan and put together the costume I’d wanted to do both last fall and this most recent July for the midnight screenings of HP7.1 and HP7.2, but didn’t have the time.

Nagini, locket, ring, diadem, diary, cup

Internet, you should know by now that I can’t resist a good costume party theme. I went to Karen’s Harry Potter party dressed as all seven Horcruxes.

Can you spot all 7?

I won’t spoil anything for people who haven’t read the series or seen the movies and still plan to do so, but these seven things are a big part of the plots of the final two books, so read the next few paragraphs and view the photos at your own risk.

One of the most challenging things about this costume concept was that I knew we couldn’t afford to spend any money. So I had to be creative and use materials we had to put together something I thought would live up to my own standards. When we saw HP7.2 in July, for example, my sister and her friend dressed as the ring and the locket, and both costumes used this shiny gold paper stuff. So last weekend when we went down to the Bay Area to attend a garden party at Leah and Simon’s house, we stopped at my sister’s on the way so I could borrow a piece of their shiny gold paper, which I used for three of my Horcruxes: the cup, locket, and the eyes for Nagini. I cut up an old t-shirt, pulled stuffing out of an old pillow, used legs from a decade-old pair of green tights and a nearly-that-old pair of green fishnets. I dug a goblet out of one of our boxes in the garage, used old fimo leftover from making our cake toppers for the basilisk fang, and cut a piece of linen from a pair of pants that developed holes before I moved to Colorado. Sometimes I wonder why I keep so much junk, and then an occasion like this happens and I’m able to put together a neat costume without spending a dime. Sometimes it pays to be a packrat.

Sparkly!

Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem was made possible by a birthday gift of a tiara from Leah and Simon for my 31st birthday. I had a loose blue stone with a small ring on the end from some ancient family costume jewelry, and at first I thought of hot gluing it to the tiara, but then I had the genius idea of using a blue post earring, and put the post through the ring, thereby adding TWO blue shiny bits to the tiara to make it more Ravenclaw-ish.

Sneaky!

Snake-y!

Nagini was the aforementioned tights and fishnets, gold paper with pupil slits, stuffed with a piece of baling wire and some old pillow stuffing. I sewed it all up and she hung down my back and under my belt, peeking over my shoulder.

Shiny!

Salazar Slytherin’s locket is actually an evil eye charm my sister brought back from Greece several years ago. Dan used it for his Mad-Eye Moody costume last fall, and here I was able to repurpose it by covering it with the gold foil and drawing an S using a green sharpie. I added a bit of gold wire to the top and strung it on a chain.

Silvery!

Helga Hufflepuff’s cup was an old goblet I have from I can’t even remember why or where, and I used the gold paper to add a letter H. At the party, I tried drinking out of the cup, and water tasted OK, but the whiskey and coke I had in it tasted weird so I stopped.

I'm all out of S-adjectives.

Marvolo Gaunt’s ring set with the Resurrection Stone was gold wire I bought last fall to make my Cleopatra costume and a flat glass marble. The original marble was a seafoam green, so I used blue nail polish to paint the back, making it a murky color, and used silver nail polish to paint the Deathly Hallows symbol on the front, and hot glued the marble to the ring base.

Shabby. But still kind of cool.

My biggest triumph, I think, was Tom Riddle’s diary. I made the basilisk fang out of polymer clay leftover from when Dan made our wedding cake toppers, and the book was some cardboard, some scrap paper, a piece of linen cut from old pants colored with a sharpie, and a couple of snips off a piece of gold rickrack from the Cleopatra costume. It was hot glued together and then I stabbed the fang through the diary and hot glued the whole contraption to one of Dan’s old t-shirts on which I’d already cut the neck and sleeves.

Stabby!

So! Costumes assembled and donned, we headed over to Karen and Andriy’s house. When we got there, we were welcomed to Hogwarts and given free reign of the house and grounds to explore. Karen did a fantastic job of coming up with activity ideas that appealed to both kids and adults, including entrance exams for people less-than-familiar with the wizarding world, OWLs and NEWTs for more hardcore HP fans, and each room or area a different classroom or theme from the books. There was a treasure hunt for hidden horcruxes and other items important to the story, and a “sniff the potion ingredient” guessing game. There was a potion-mixing station for kids (I am told it was mostly colored sugars and different sodas), a potion-mixing station for adults (tasty adult beverages), and a Quidditch pitch. Dan and I collaborated on our OWLs and NEWTs and I spent a fair amount of time both inside and out, searching for the horcruxes.

We contributed a few of these bottles to the cause

There are days I could use a good wit sharpening.

One of the horcruxes in the graveyard

One of the ingredients smelled like dirty feet, but I'm betting that's not what was in the bottle

Not pictured: NEWTs

The best part of the party, however, was seeing the gleeful grins on Karen’s face as her friends and family had fun participating in all of the events and socializing with one another. Everyone was amazed at the sheer volume of work that had gone into transforming every room in their house and a fair amount of their yard into Hogwarts, and every person who came seemed to have a great time. The kids played Quidditch, the adults mixed potions, and I was thrilled to be amongst friendly people who were all at least a little nerdy (even if they weren’t actually Harry Potter nerds). Prizes were awarded to top scorers in the various games and contests, and Karen opened presents, and we all ate cake and sat around a bonfire.

...yum?

Weasley twins and a Hogwarts student play Quidditch

Professor Gilderoy Lockhart and a Weasley throw the water balloon bludgers

At Karen’s party, I got to reconnect with an old high school friend (we took driver’s training together, and I was delighted to discover that she had the exact same sense of humor). I got to see a couple of people who were younger siblings of people I knew, hadn’t seen since they were teenagers, and learned they had turned into awesome people. And I met a couple of new people who I feel could become really good friends. Karen and Andriy know a lot of good folks, and I felt so touched to be included with such a fantastic group, everyone geeking out a little, one guy with four-foot-long dreads and one girl in skinny jeans and one woman who’d named her daughter the same thing we’d name a hypothetical daughter, and one guy who didn’t come in costume but he sure did have a great time with the OWLs and NEWTs even though nobody knew he was a Harry Potter fan. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening.

Giant. Gold. Letters.

It was evening, and it was sometime early in 1997. I was at my boyfriend’s apartment and we’d probably just had dinner and were hanging out watching TV or studying or whatever we did then. It might have even been my birthday, because my mom called my boyfriend’s house (this was, of course, long before cell phones) to chat with me. It was during that phone conversation that mom broke the news to me.

“Jessica got engaged,” she said.

“What?!” I responded in disbelief. Jessica was my cousin. She was 18, just like me. She’d been dating a boy off and on for a year or so, I’d heard, one that was a few years older. When we were 15 she’d sent me a letter (it was truly the dark ages) telling me that she had a huge crush on this boy, Jimmy, but I shouldn’t tell my parents because she didn’t want her parents to know how much she liked him. Then all the drama happened with other boys and partying and alcohol poisoning and Jessica went back to her pious ways. While I was preparing to go to college, she was suddenly dating that boy she liked way back when she was 15. We’d been about as good of friends as cousins who see one another maybe once a year could be, and as my mom told me about their news all I could remember was the time maybe two years beforehand we shared a bed in the pool house and Jess mentioned how ‘far’ she’d gone and with whom. At that point, all I’d done was kiss a couple of boys, and I remembered thinking she was way ahead of me. I wasn’t ready for any of that sex stuff at 16.

So as I heard the details of her engagement to that boy she’d pined for at 15, all I could think of was that she was crazy. We were both 18 and I was light years away from wanting to make any sort of lifetime commitment to anyone. I hadn’t even chosen a major yet. Apparently, their best friends, another couple, had gotten engaged at Christmas and so Jess and Jim decided if their friends could do it, so could they. A date was set for late in the summer.

As I hung up the phone, the phrase kept going through my head: she’s crazy. Who makes that sort of life decision so young? She’d hardly ever dated anyone else! She was so young! Marriage was a huge commitment! What about college? Were they going to have kids right away? I was at such a different place in my life – staying the night at my boyfriend’s apartment sometimes, sure, but also studying and working toward a degree, going out and having fun with my friends, enjoying a bit of adult-ish freedom for the first time in my life because I wasn’t responsible for anyone but myself. Why would she want to give all that up?

Later that year, we went to Texas to visit my great aunt, and on the way home we stopped in San Diego to go to Jessica’s wedding. My favorite part of the event actually happened the night before, after we got to the hotel. Somehow, my sisters and I got into a silly physical altercation over a shoe on the lawn, and my mom must have taken a photo. My memories of this incident are among the best from that time in my life – just getting to be silly with my sisters when most other people around were stressed out about all the wedding fooferaw.

I cannot for the life of me remember why we fought over a shoe.

The next day, we got all gussied up (I’d had a difficult time finding a dress that was age-appropriate and fit well without showing off a ton of nonexistent cleavage, and so I’d actually sewed a piece of lace to the top of the too-big dress) and drove to the ceremony, which was at a giant megachurch in Del Mar. It didn’t look like a church so much as a big complex, with plenty of southern California styling; lots of palm trees and adobe. Above the entrance to the…chapel? Sanctuary? Place where the ceremony was going to be? was the word Jesus in giant gold script letters. JESUS! Then, we walked inside, and above the…alter? was an even bigger JESUS! in giant gold letters.

I knew that Jessica’s and Jim’s families were both religious, but I didn’t realize quite how much they’d decided to fall in with those beliefs; the last time I’d talked to Jessica, she wasn’t going to church at all. But that was probably a year beforehand. I wasn’t raised with any sort of religious tradition, and while I’d occasionally attended a very liberal low dogma church (mostly so I could sing in the choir and go to youth group) for a while, I was, at 18, very much not religious. I’d attended another wedding that summer and knew I’d need to be respectful through this service, but seeing the giant JESUS threw me off a bit, and then when the ceremony started I didn’t even know how to respond to all the weirdness. I sat in flabbergasted silence while the minister went on and on about Jesus, about how he would be at the center of their marriage. It got to the point where I felt like he was advocating that they have a three-way marriage, and I found that to be exceedingly creepy. As part of the service, we were all commanded to bow our heads in prayer (I did not, and instead kept my eyes on the crowd) and then asked if anyone had decided to accept Jesus as their personal savior as a result of the service, because Jessica and Jim really wanted everyone to do so. I saw a few people raise their hands. It was uncomfortable and kind of gross and I just couldn’t wait for it all to be done so we could go eat (I was hungry).

That was the first wedding where I ate Jordon almonds, and the first time I realized this divide in my extended family: the ones who were super religious (either Catholic or born-again Evangelical Christian) and the ones who were not. My sisters and I were seated at a table with our godless heathen cousins, and we all laughed and commiserated about how weird the service was.

Letting off steam after attempted conversion

* * * * * * *

That wedding was 14 years ago today. Jessica and Jim went on to have four kids, the first born nearly two years after they got married. Jessica never did much schooling after high school – maybe an early childhood certification so she could work in a day care. We’ve attempted to stay in touch through the years, but it was more difficult after my parents split up and we’ve really only seen one another at weddings. We went to their house once, during the trip to move me to Colorado, and there was religious stuff all over the place. But we had fun with them and their (at the time) 2 young kids, even going out to dinner with them and were delighted at how well-behaved the kids were. Her husband never did manage to make a paid career out of youth ministry and instead has been managing various branches of a fast food restaurant. Recently, they moved to Texas to facilitate the opening of a new branch of the same restaurant. Jessica’s devoted her life to being a Mom – homeschooling, gestating, rearing children. And now we keep in touch via facebook.

Today she wrote something about their anniversary: “I guess sometimes 18 year olds can make good decisions.” While I’m thrilled it’s worked out so well for them (and it hasn’t all been sweetness and light; they’ve been through their fair share of hard times, health scares, and at least one miscarriage), I think they’re exception rather than the rule. The best friends, the ones who prompted their early engagement, went through a nasty divorce due to infidelity right around the time of this wedding. They’re now a couple thousand miles away from the rest of the extended family. But they’re happy and healthy and it seems like my cousin really did make a good decision for herself. Would I have done the same thing she did, or advise someone else to do so? Never in a million years.

Culinary experimentation

I have a floppy white sun hat. Well, it used to be white. Now the crown of it is dotted purple. We’ve had a banner year for blackberries this year, and since I’m out walking nearly every day, and nearly every walk takes me by blackberry bushes in greenbelt/public spaces, and since I’m apparently part magpie, I cannot help but pick ripe blackberries. And what better place to put said blackberries than inside my hat? It’s a perfect receptacle.

I’d been brainstorming for a few weeks about ways to use the blackberries; I don’t want them to go to waste after I spend all that time picking them, but there are only so many blackberries one can eat in a day. I made blackberry peach jam, a blackberry peach crisp in July and a lemon cake (from lemons given to me by a friend) with blackberry sauce. I started to think about what kind of dessert I could make that would include both blackberry and chocolate (because sometimes, you just want chocolate, yes?). I found a recipe for blackberry chocolate chip pie, but the idea of making a pie crust and baking a pie for 50 minutes when it’s been as hot out as it has been just didn’t sound appealing.

Finally, we were invited to a party over the weekend and I knew I wanted to make something to contribute. I hit upon the idea of making chocolate cupcakes with blackberries inside, and took to social media to determine whether the general populace would find that combination a tasty one. Responses were mixed, and then I realized that we were out of both butter and eggs (we only shop once a week in Santa Rosa to minimize the use of gas). So there went that idea, because I wasn’t about to spend small-town grocery store prices (read: twice as expensive) on eggs and butter.

But then, my friend Cadi came to the rescue, sending me a recipe for cupcakes that didn’t use milk OR eggs. For icing, I decided that I could just melt chocolate chips to spread on top rather than try to make a chocolate buttercream with butter-flavored Crisco, which was the only thing we had that resembled butter (because it didn’t sound like it would taste very good). So here I present you with my final recipe for chocolate blackberry cupcakes, no butter or eggs needed.

Chocolate blackberry cupcakes

makes 22 cupcakes, or 12 cupcakes and one 8×8 cake

1 TB apple cider vinegar
1 ½ scant cups milk
2 1/8 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 1/8 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder (I recommend dutch process)
½ cup oil
1 ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Approximately 2 cups ripe blackberries (enough for 4 berries per cupcake)

Preheat the oven to 350º. Spray 22 muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with paper cupcake liners. Or, if you only have one muffin tin, line that with paper liners and line the bottom of an 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place the apple cider vinegar in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup and fill the cup with milk to equal 1 ½ cups. Stir well and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl whisk together the milk mixture, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and beat until smooth.

Drop 2 blackberries in the bottom of each muffin cup. Fill each muffin cup with ¼ cup of batter. Add one more blackberry to the top of each cup. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Do the same with the 8×8 pan with remaining batter, if using.

Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting. Frost with desired icing and then add one blackberry to the top of each completed cupcake.

Things I did this weekend that I have never done before

In no particular order:

I drank mint tea made with just mint and water (it was pretty good!)

I went naked in a hot tub, and also I bruised my butt while moving from one seat to another in said hot tub.

I curled my hair using this tutorial and it turned out pretty well. I only left it in for a couple of hours; now that I understand the mechanics a bit better I know how to get better results (like leave it in longer next time).

I accidentally used rolled barley instead of rolled oats when making a blackberry crisp. It was much crunchier than expected, but still edible.

I ate Salvadoran food.

I watched Robin Hood: Men in Tights and wondered why Cary Elwes doesn’t always play comedic dashing fantasy men because he’s good at it.

I accidentally ingested some rancid Grape Nuts. I do not recommend this.

Leah and Simon should ask us to housesit more often. Next time, though, maybe leave a warning label on the Grape Nuts.

Small Town Living

To keep myself from going completely insane, I’ve been keeping as physically active as I can, despite all the home/yard improvement projects and the heat we’ve had. I’ve been walking an average of 100 miles a month and bicycling over 150 miles, and to keep me focused while I’ve stripped wallpaper and walked mile after mile, I’ve been listening to an audiobook we got at the library: Stephen King’s “Under the Dome.” The book takes place in a very small town in Maine (shocking, I know, considering Stephen King NEVER writes about small towns in Maine), and within the first chapter of the book, every resident of the town is trapped underneath an invisible, impermeable dome, completely cut off from the outside world. I’m only about 3/4 of the way through the audiobook (the book itself is so long that the unabridged audiobook is something like 30 hours long), but the story is interesting enough and the characters are fleshed-out well enough that it keeps my brain occupied while I’m doing something mindless like hours and hours of walking in the heat under my sun hat.

Since we’ve been here, oh, about 8 months longer than we expected to be, we’ve on occasion tried to take advantage of some of the things going on here in town. We walked to the city’s fireworks display on the fourth of July, spreading our blanket out on the high school football field and feeling the rain of explosive detritus on our faces. We’ve ridden our bikes to the river park and gone swimming in a mostly-secluded swimming hole, which is both free and refreshing. We’ve even gone to the Friday Night Live a couple of times, which offers a farmer’s market, lots of booths set up by local restaurants selling food, a couple of local winery sponsors and free live music. One time Sara came, and that was nice. 🙂 But for the most part, because we’re at a point where we really can’t afford the gas to go anywhere other than Santa Rosa once a week for grocery shopping, our world has essentially shrunk. I’ve begun to feel trapped like a rat in a cage, my world condensed to the house, the yard, and the places I go walking and bike riding.

While I’m usually the more upbeat of the two of us, even I can’t maintain optimism forever. It wasn’t until I started listening to more and more of the audiobook, getting more and more agitated listening to all of the horrible things people trapped in a small town are capable of doing to one another, that I realized just how much of my mood and my despair were tied to listening to that book. The police in the story turn into a very bad man’s personal army. I see a police car driving by and I shrink away. Descriptions are given of various personal relationships, and I think of people fitting those descriptions who still live here in town (either they left and came back or they never left.) Granted, the town we’re in isn’t nearly as small as the one in the King story, but it’s still a small town, and I’m still feeling as though I have almost no control over my life, and the drawbacks to small-town living just keep rearing their heads in my brain. Some days, I feel like I’m going to explode.

Then, last week, something changed.

I’ve written before about my friend Heather – but to sum up, she’s a high school friend who chose to live here and raise her family here after getting married. She’s chronically ill with a variety of autoimmune disorders and has two young children, and has been off work on short-term disability leave for nearly a year now. Recently, she’s been back in full-blown disease state with her Crohn’s Disease and, despite an operation in February that she was hoping would help get things back on track, has yet to get any better. She basically got down to two options – either get involved with a clinical trial testing new medication, or take a medication that has proven helpful with patients similar to her in the past, yet has a nonzero chance of making the patient contract a noncurable virus that causes fatal encephalopathy. Heather is 33 years old, has a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old, and a husband and extended family who love her very much. She also has a promising career as a neonatal nurse, a blistering sense of humor, and an incredible spirit. Though she’s been sick for most of her adult life, she’s never let anything get her down.

A couple of weeks ago, Heather was in the hospital again, and was given a devastating choice. No clinical trial would take a patient who already had an ostomy, so she was faced with essentially permanent disability or try the new medication that had a chance of killing her. She chose to take the new medication, and two days later was released from the hospital with a low-grade fever. I brought some flowers from our yard to her house so she’d get to see them when she got home. 12 hours after release, her fever was up to 106.8F and she was rushed back to the hospital.

The first thing I thought of, of course, was that somehow that opportunistic virus had found her right away. Which is crazy, right? But what else could cause such a horrible reaction so quickly? Heather wrote on Facebook about how scared she was, and I could tell the gravity of the situation because there were no jokes – just frank, abject fear. I wrote on Facebook and twitter imploring people I knew to put good thoughts out into the universe for her, as did many of her other friends. And then it started to happen. People we’d known from high school posted on her Wall and posted status updates of their own. People sent me messages, asking if I’d heard any updates. An outpouring of support came from people all over the county, the state, and the country, many of whom hadn’t seen Heather since we graduated and knew almost nothing about Heather’s life now or what her illness might be, but offered prayers and good thoughts. One classmate, now in Nevada, even offered to sew clothes for her kids so she wouldn’t have to worry about back-to-school shopping!

After the doctors figured out what was causing Heather’s scary high temperature (neutropenia, which is not at all fun but treatable), she sent a message out on Facebook to everyone who had contacted her, mentioning how thankful she was for everyone’s good wishes and noting that there were benefits to growing up an a small town, where everyone knows everyone. Thanks to social media, we all know one another’s business just as much as we did when we took the same classes every day and passed each other in the same hallways, but even 15 years later many of us care when one of us is in trouble. It made me think about how even though I’ve loved (nearly) every minute of living in big cities and never regretted moving away from this place, if I’d gone to a big city high school I might never have seen such an outpouring of support for a friend who was really in need. There truly are good things about small towns even if, these days, they’re difficult to see. I may be trapped here right now, but I’m able-bodied and healthy, and if nothing else I can put good intentions out into the universe for my friends who aren’t so lucky.