Category Archives: Childhood

Sometimes, All It Takes Is A Memory (Or Two)

I’m not sure if it’s because of summer finally arriving in all her sunshiney glory, distractions around the house, or general lethargy, but my writing has been unceremoniously shoved onto the back burner lately. And so, this morning, I decided I needed to go on the search for some much-needed inspiration.

Step one, as usual, involved coffee. (Don’t judge me. Caffeine sometimes jump starts my brain into that “be creative and funny” space that orange juice just doesn’t accomplish.)

Brain cells active after a cup (or two), I sat down at my computer, opened up Spotify, and pulled up my new favorite playlist. It’s titled “Take Me Back.” And it’s filled with 90s radio hits. And it makes me giddy.
2Pac and Green Day and Train…Oh My!

Tunes rockin’ from the speakers, I clicked on my internet browser and headed over to Abby Gabs. Confident something blog-worthy would smack me in the face, I opened up a new document. And sat there for 20 minutes, the white page staring starkly at my caffeinated face.
For some reason, in the nano-second before I clicked the red X and gave in to my writer’s block for the day, I was struck with the sudden urge to give it one last college try. I took my coffee and headed for one of my several book shelves. And there, on the top shelf, covered in an embarrassing layer of dust, was the book that I thought might solve all my problems.
A graduation gift from a high school sweetheart, and we’re back in business, baby!

Filled with faith that Shel would help me out of my writing funk, I wiped the dust from the jacket and headed back to my desk. I began to thumb through the pages, smiling at the pencil sketches, giggling at the silly rhymes. Memories of my younger self, sitting in the floor of my dorm room, this same book in my lap, flooded my brain. I flipped to my favorite poem in the book from memory, barely noticing the small slip of paper that floated down to land in my lap. I wiped a tear away as I read about Deaf Donald:

And then I closed the book. As I stood to return it to the shelf, the slip of paper that had been hiding between the pages fell from my lap to the floor. Curious, I picked it up. And found a carefully preserved, slightly wrinkly artifact from my childhood that stunned me.

It was a ticket stub from the one-and-only New Kids on the Block concert I’ve ever attended, way back in 1990. I was 9 years old, and I still remember the way my stomach lurched when the house lights went down. I can close my eyes and hear the roar of the teenage crowd as the group took the stage. I remember dancing in the aisles with my little brother, waving our homemade signs around with certainty that they’d be seen. I even remember catching a glance of my parents, smiling and singing along with the music that became the soundtrack for my childhood. It wasn’t just a concert, it wasn’t just about the boys in ripped jeans.  It was a life experience. And it’s one of those memories that I’ll always cherish.
As I held the ticket stub in my hand, I wondered how it had wound up hidden between the pages of a book that was given to me at my high school graduation. I trailed my finger along its battered edges, reading every letter of print, marveling that such an insignificant little thing as a used ticket stub could hold so much meaning. I slipped it back between the pages of Silverstein, marking the page for Deaf Donald, and cradled the book in my arms as I took it back to the book shelf in my bedroom. And knew that each time I passed that book on my way to bed each night, at least for a little while, I would smile with the knowledge that it was there, hidden among the words that had inspired me for much of my life.
And suddenly, a blog was born.

I Pity The Fool

Meet Mr. T.

If you were expecting the guy from the A Team, I’m sorry to disappoint. Mr. T was the nickname for my first car. That’s him in the background (and me in the foreground, on graduation day, 1999.)

Let’s rewind a little. It was the summer of 1998. I had just turned 17. I desperately wanted to be able to drive my senior year, and in order to do that, I was determined to have my own means of transportation. And that meant work. A LOT of work. I’d been promoted at my summer job at a local water park, from lifeguard to lead guard (the highest on the lifeguard ladder you can get as a student.) 

While my peers spent their summer days basking in the sunshine, splashing in the water, and saving the occasional life, I patrolled the park, walkie-talkie hooked to my belt. My responsibilities were to oversee the lifeguards, put bandaids on skinned knees, and deal with water park emergencies (ranging from a rogue turd in the lazy river, to a broken leg on the speed slides.)

Every week, when my paycheck came in, I diligently banked that money, leaving myself little to spend frivolously on my rare days off. When I had enough for a car, I went to my dad, gave him the figure, and left him to find me something reliable. I know I tossed in the word “cute” more than once. But, having little cash flow, despite my summer of savings, I wound up with Mr. T instead.

An all-white, boxy, slightly rusty 1982 Datsun Maxima, Mr. T sported a sun-roof, a cassette player, electronic windows, and a back door that wouldn’t open.

I was instantly in love.

This little car took me and my friends everywhere we wanted to go. Afternoon trips to the beach, weekend drives up to Myrtle Beach to visit the boardwalk, Walmart for school supplies….Mr. T did more than just schlep us to and from school. And for that, we loved him.

Spring of 1999, 4 best friends, and the beach. One of my favorite memories, captured on film.
From left to right: Trish, Tifany, me, and Becca.

Mr. T was solely responsible for many of our double-date nights. He took Trish and me prom dress shopping. If it weren’t for Mr. T, the four of us, thick as thieves, might have missed some of the most memorable moments of our lives (senior parties, sleepovers, days by the pool, nights by the ocean).

Becca was my most frequent passenger. She lived one neighborhood over, and I picked her up every morning for school. On the warmer days, she knew I’d be opening the sunroof at some point. I’d turn to her and say, “Sunglasses secured.” We’d flip our glasses down onto our faces, I would press the button, and the sunroof would creak open, raining down shards of rust and debris. The glasses were less about protecting our vision from the sun, and more about protecting our eyeballs from the detritus trapped between the metal and the glass.

But you may still be wondering how my little Datsun got his nickname. So let me tell you that tale.

It was the first day of school. It was also the first day driving my car alone, as a legally licensed driver in the state of South Carolina. I remember my mom standing on the front porch, tearfully waving goodbye as I backed out of the driveway. I’d gotten to school just fine, the day had come to an end, and Becca and I decided a trip to Georgetown was necessary. You see, we’d found out that a favorite teacher of ours was in the hospital there, recovering from surgery. We also needed supplies for one of our classes, and Walmart was calling our names.

So we loaded into the car and hit the road, Madonna blaring from the speakers.

As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I started the hunt for a parking spot. I wasn’t trying to be a hero–I knew parking wasn’t my strong suit. I was looking for a spot as far away from another vehicle as I could manage. The best I could find was near the back of the visitors’ lot, near a big brown van that looked older than my Datsun. I figured it was worth the risk. So I turned on my signal like a good little driver, and started guiding the car into the space. 

And almost had a heart attack when I heard the telltale “SCREEEEEEE” of metal on metal.

Still halfway out of the parking space, I slammed on the breaks and threw the car in to park. Becca and I turned to look at each other, eyes wide. “Did you just hit that van??” she whispered.

“I totally think I just hit that van,” I replied.

Panicked, I threw the car into reverse and sped out of the parking lot.

Minutes later, safely parked in the Walmart parking lot (approximately 2 miles from the actual store, or so it seemed.)  We stepped out to survey the damage to my new-to-me car. We studied it from headlight to tailpipe and could find no evidence of the collision at all. The paint job was still in tact (in all the places it had been in tact before.) There had been no paint transfer, and there were absolutely no dents to speak of.

Becca looked at me, dumbfounded, and said, “Your car is indestructable.”

“Apparently,” I said. “Like a super-hero of cars.”

“Like Mr. T,” she said. And in her best Mr. T voice, continued, “I pity the fool who tries to scratch Abby’s car.”

And that is how my Datsun forever became Mr. T.

I had that car for 3 years. It went with me to college. I drove it from the mountains to the beach and everywhere in between. As Mr. T started declining in health, I even learned how to change the hoses beneath his hood. And when he took his last breath in the driveway of the basement apartment I shared with Brian and Jenna, I mourned for him.

RIP Mr. T. The super-hero of cars. 1982-2002.

Are Ya’ll Ready For This?

Before there was this version of Abby:

There was this version of Abby:

In case you are squinting at your computer, wondering who the adorably precocious child in fringe may be, let me just tell you. That’s an eleven-year-old me. And I used to be a clogger.

“What’s that? A clogger, you say?”

Yes. A clogger. For those who don’t know what clogging is, let me tell you.

Clogging is a traditional type of percussive folk dance which is common in the Appalachian Region of the United States, associated with the predecessor to bluegrass – old time music which is based on Irish and Scots-Irish fiddle tunes.
Thanks, Webster.
So you see, when I say I was a clogger, I mean I danced in tap shoes. Not wooden shoes.

To tell ya the truth, I was pretty dang good little clogger, ya’ll. I was a dancer with the Tri-City Express Cloggers from Kingsport, Tennessee, and we didn’t just dance at weekend festivals and nursing homes. Oh no. We also competed. (Hence the trophies in the picture above.)

My dancin’ feet took me travellin’, in contests and competitions state wide. One of the more memorable experiences was at Dollywood–a brand spankin’ new theme park in Pigeon Forge. We’d practiced, and practiced HARD, for weeks leading up to the Dollywood competition. It was our first time competing in such a large venue, and we had no idea what we were up against.

(PS: Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you’re probably laughing at me right now. You know it, I know it. It’s totally ok. Let’s move on.)

This competition at Dollywood wasn’t a 3 hour affair. Oh, no. It was a weekend-long competition. And so our entire troupe–all 8 of us–brought our sequins and our hairspray and our tappy shoes and filled up a small corner of the giant auditorium. We each had our own entourage–parents, siblings, grandparents, friends–and the excitement was palpable.

I vaguely remember a guy wearing all denim and cowboy boots taking the mic and making a brief speech, and then, the competition finally began. We settled into our seats to watch as the first team clacked out onto the wooden stage. There were at least 30 of them, and they were all wearing matching red jumpsuits. Not just any red jumpsuits, but SEQUINED red jumpsuits.

A collective “WOW” could be heard on our 2 rows as we took in the spectacle. We’d never seen a clogging team like this before.

And THAT’S when the music started.

The bass pumped through the huge speakers, the synthesizer loud enough to make our already-big  hair stand up even taller. And like a perfectly-oiled machine, the dance troupe on stage began their choreography to the song that would haunt us for the rest of the weekend. You might remember it–a little diddy called “Are You Ready For This?”


(We’re going to pause again right here so you can laugh about the awfulness awesomeness of that video. then we’re going to move on. Ready? Ok.)

As the red-bedazzled team tippity-tapped their way into the judges’ hearts, we just sat there in awe. Where was the blue grass? Or the Garth Brooks? Who were these sophisticates from the big city? How could we begin to compete with our modest costumes and our small numbers? And they were dancing to music so cool and hip, we’d never heard it before! We were doomed.

Twenty minutes and 3 teams later, we were beginning to feel the nerves. Another team, this one decked out in green ruffles, took their places beneath the spotlights. And we sat watching, hearts in hand.

The now-familiar strains of  “Are Ya’ll Ready For This?” played over the loud speakers.

My Dad was sitting behind me, and I remember hearing him say, “Really? Again?”

We sat through another 4 minute routine, the unfamiliar song pulsing in our brains. And when the next team danced to the exact same song, I could see the adults in our group begin to cringe.

By 6 pm Saturday night, we’d heard the song approximately eleven-hundred-and-forty-seven times.

(What? So I might be rounding up a little. Big deal.)

After our performances were done, we began packing up our little group to head back to the cabins for the night. To say that we were ready to get out of that auditorium—and away from that song in particular—was understatement of the year. As the last team took to the stage, none of us were surprised to hear that fateful question asked of us again.


Without rehearsal and in perfect unison, my Dad and 2 other dads stood up and answered with a resounding “NO!”

And our merry little band of cloggers made our way to the exit, laughing all the way.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *

Fast-forward to spring of 1994. I was in the eighth grade, and a proud JV Cheerleader. As we jogged out into the middle of the basketball court to perform our first halftime show, my years as a clogger were the last thing on my mind. My parents sat proudly in the stands, and I took one last second to look up and smile before taking my position.

When I looked back up again, the strains of Jock Jams playing loudly in the background, I nearly tripped over my pom poms. Because when the guy yelled “Are Ya’ll Ready For This?” both my parents reflexively shouted the word, “NO!”

We now equate that reaction to PTCPD. Post-traumatic clogging parent disorder.

I’m sharing my love of techno music today with my favorite
Blogging Community–Yeah Write. (You totally
thought I was going to say Clogging Community, didn’t you?
That’s okay. We forgive you.
Especially if you stop by on Wednesday and vote for your 3 faves.

Making New Friends

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a blogger, it’s that certain phrases from your childhood are really more relevant in the blogosphere than in real life.

“You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
“Turn about is fair play.”

“Tag, you’re it.”

It’s true. And in the last few weeks, I’ve been attempting to play nicely with my fellow bloggers. But here’s the thing–some of my FAVORITE bloggers are hanging up their hats to pursue other interests. And that’s GREAT…except I miss them. And I don’t have as many blogs to read. And that makes me sad.
So, in an attempt to make some NEW friends, I’ve started linking up with Erica at Yeah Write. It’s a great system for bloggers looking for…well, just about anything. From new readers to inspiration and more, Yeah Write has brought some new blood to Abby Gabs, and for that I am already eternally grateful.
Then Erica ran up to me on the interwebs playground, poked me in the shoulder, and challenged me to a contest.
Don’t worry. Not like dodgeball, or anything scary. She just challenged me to answer 11 questions about myself. And you people know I can never say no to a list blog. So, here is my response to her challenge.
11 Answers to 11 Questions
What’s your favorite sandwich?
My husband makes this killer grilled cheese sandwich. The key is the perfect sourdough bread. Add crispy applewood smoked bacon, smoked gouda cheese, and thick slices of summer tomato, and it’s game on. Mmm. So good.
Who is your favorite ethnic actor?
Ewan McGregor. What? He’s Scottish. That’s not American, therefore, it is ethnic.
Besides searching for porn new blogs, what’s your favorite internet activity?
Oh, well, that’s easy. Twitter-stalking Donnie Wahlberg isn’t just a daily activity for me, it’s a sport. It’s all about the hunt, you see…
Fill in the blank: When I was 13, I got in big trouble when my parents caught me __________.
…on the phone past 8 o’clock. What? I was a goody two-shoes in my tweens. I got in more trouble when I pulled the fan out of the ceiling, or when I whacked my baby brother over the head with a deadly sweater. Just sayin’.
On a cross-country road trip, who are the three people you’d want with you, living,dead or fictional?
#1: My husband, because his sense of direction is way better than mine.
#2: Guy Fieri, because we’d ALWAYS know where to stop for grub.
#3: A good conversationalist. This could be Brian’s aunt Tina, my Dad, or Anderson Cooper. I’m not picky, so long as the conversation is rolling.
What item do you keep buying at the store over and over thinking you’re out, and when you get home, it turns out you had plenty?
That’s easy. Pasta. I think the current count is 6 boxes of spaghetti, 2 boxes of elbow macaroni, 1 1/2 boxes of lasagna noodles, and at least 3 boxes of penne. And the funny thing: we really don’t eat that much pasta.

What’s the most expensive item you’ve ever let your children play with? If you don’t have children, insert [irresponsible unemployed ingrate] here.
I don’t have kids. And I don’t know any unemployed ingrates. But the most expensive thing I play with on a regular basis is my camera.Without it, there wouldn’t be blogs about the Monday blues, how I killed a spider with my brown loafers, or the most amazing dream I ever had.

Who wears the pants in your family? And do they make your butt look cute?
I would say that we both share in the pants responsibility equally. It’s hard to judge a butt’s cuteness when it’s crammed into the same pants your husband is wearing simultaneously. But, next time he’s home, I’ll take a peek and let you know.
If it paid good money, which of your character flaws would make you a millionaire among millionaires?
Flaws? FLAWS? I have no flaws to speak of.
Ok, maybe my lack-of-humbleness. Or sarcasm. Man, if I could get paid for being sarcastic…
Leftover pizza: cold or reheated?
Depends on where it’s from. If it’s homemade pizza I’ll probably reheat it. If it’s from a pizza joint, I’ll probably eat it cold. However, I always eat cold spaghetti. It’s my favorite.
Tell us about your first love, fictional or inanimate, in exactly 140 characters.
Sky blue eyes & floppy blonde hair, he chased me on the playground and shared his last cookie with me on the school bus. We were 9 years old.
I’m hoping I sated Erica’s curiosity about my eating habits, travel companions, and pants. And I’m hoping she’ll still want to play with me when I break the rules of this game and intentionally skip the part where I’m supposed to challenge 11 bloggers to play along.
I just can’t do it. I’m not good at confrontations.
There you go. A bonus fact about me that you probably didn’t know, in exchange for breaking all the rules. I’m a rebel.

Senior Superlatives

I was voted Most School Spirited in high school.

So was Russell. He was known for removing his shirt, painting his chest,
and arriving at school functions wearing a black Afro wig.
These functions included, but were not limited to,
pep rallies, basketball games, and even girl’s volleyball tournaments.
I’m guessing this probably isn’t much of a surprise to anyone who knows me, or even reads my blog on a regular basis. I’m peppy. That’s just me.
Here’s the thing: I loved high school. Loved. There’s not a single thing I can remember that I didn’t enjoy about the entire experience: from school dances to English class. I was surrounded by a fantastic group of friends, many of whom I’m still close with today. I loved (most) of my teachers and got along with them famously. I participated in clubs and after school activities, and took great pride in my school.
In fact, I often remember being insulted when any of my peers had something negative to say about WHS. I took it personally. How could they say such rude things about Mr. Algebra Teacher? Sure, he was old, and a little smelly, but he’d always been nothing but kind to me! So what if we didn’t have a track around our football field–that didn’t make rival schools any better than us! What do you mean you think the theme for Prom is goofy? Did you attend the 12 after school meetings where we deliberated for hours, trying to find just the right idea?? Then you don’t get to complain.
I took this ferocity, this passion, with me to college. While I wasn’t a cheerleader for Appalachian State, I was “dressed out” at every home football game, gold and black donned with pride.
I even took my hair ribbons with me to college. And I rocked them,
even when friends made fun of me for my “pep.”
I was always the first to cheer on the team, pom poms swishing, for no other reason than my desire to support my fellow students. It went above and beyond having a good time at a football game. I wept when the band would play our Alma Mater at the end of each match, my heart welling up with the love I had for my school. (Our band is also famous for Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” which still gets me choked up today.)
Moment of Truth: I’d go back and relive those 8 years of my life in a heartbeat, even knowing what I do now. I loved it all. Reminiscing isn’t painful for me—I think back on those years of my life and smile.
The trick, you see, is learning to apply that tidbit of my nature into my adult life. Learning to cheer for my family, my friends, my peers, even if my pom poms are proverbial.
I think I manage to do a pretty decent job at it, for the most part. I’m fairly certain that my husband feels supported and appreciated in his position as bread winner AND nursing student. I think Dana would agree that, while I may not have the best form when it comes to hammer curls, I do bring enthusiasm and dedication to our workouts. I’m nothing if not supportive of my brother, my father, my mother, in everything they do: from finding their own paths to mastering the grill to finding the perfect puppy sweater on eBay.
If they have pom poms for that, I’d totally take a pair. Cheering is in my blood.
(Seriously, I couldn’t help myself. Below I’m sharing a video of Appalachian’s Marching Band…they open every single show with the first few bars of “Appalachian Spring.” Enjoy.)

Other things that make me emotional: The National Anthem, some Oreo commercials, and Bambi. Oof…Bambi.

It’s the Little Things That Make Me Happy (Literally.)

While taking down the Christmas tree yesterday, my husband pulled out the shoe box containing my New Kids on the Block Action Figures and shoved it in my face.

B: What are you going to do with these guys?
A: I don’t know. All the shelf space in the house is taken by books or robots. *shoots Brian a pouty face*
B: *looking scared for the future of his Transformers shelf* We’ll come up with something.

Thirty minutes later, he comes to me, a smile from ear to ear.

B: I know what we can do with your New Kids dolls.
A: Action figures.
B: Right. Action figures.
A: Ok, I’m all ears.
B: What if we take them out of their boxes…
A: GASP! But they’re in MINT CONDITION!
B: Hear me out, woman!
A: *Clutches her proverbial pearls*
B: What if we take them out of their boxes and put them in one of the cubby holes on the desk?
A: But…
B: You can pose them however you like…
A: But…
B: …and you can put your Donnie Wahlberg calendar in front…
A: .  .  .  .  .  .
B: …and it’ll be like your own personal tiny New Kids concert every day!
A: <APPLAUSE> It’s genius! I love it!

I held my breath as I broke open the first package. I kept having to tell myself that they were purchased for me to enjoy, not resell. I’m not a collector by trade, even though my instincts were SCREAMING at me to keep their original boxes in tact. But honestly, after I broke the first seal, I was literally giggling with glee.

Brian kindly offered to help me arrange my shelf (as he is a bit of a pro at it.) So I opened the boxes and handed him each New Kid, watching as he posed them just so.

And he was 100% right. I totally LOVE it.

It really is a teeny-weeny concert on my desk.
OH yeah. Turn on the iTunes and I’m THERE, yo.

Now all I need are some tiny little lights to hang inside. And maybe a small New Kids poster to hang behind them.

And a teeny weeny smoke machine.

They make those, right?

*Abby begins eBay search…*

The History of a War Hero

In December of 1942, a young man from Tennessee, who we’ll call Junior, got a letter from the United States Government that would change his life forever. It was a draft notice. He was to report to Fort Orglethorp, Georgia in January, 1943, to be inducted into the United States Army, to prepare for combat in World War II.

Junior bounced around from army base to army base, from Idaho to California, Texas to Washington DC. Finally, in late 1944, Junior departed for over seas duty and arrived in Belgium, Germany. He was assigned to Company I, 18th Regiment, First Infantry Division of the United States Army.
On the 8th day of February, 1945, Junior saw his first combat action. His regiment was under serious enemy fire when a bullet struck his rifle, destroying it.  The bullet richocheted as a result, grazing Junior’s left ear, leaving him partially deaf, and burning the cornea of his left eye. His rifle saved his life that night.
He was treated at the 18th Field Hospital, and kept out of combat for 3 weeks until the bandage could be removed from his eye.  By the first of March, Junior was headed back into combat.
In mid-March, 1945, Junior and his division were in the Early Crossing of the Rhine River. On March 24, 1945, he was injured again when struck by burning shrapnel from a white phosphorous shell.  It struck him in the face, and ignited his field jacket, which was completely destroyed, although it saved his upper body from what would have been life-threatening burns.  He also took shrapnel to his left thigh.
Once again, Junior was headed to the hospital, this time the 187 General Hospital near London to have the shrapnel removed from his leg. He was there recuperating from the surgery from the 25th of March until the first of May, 1945. He would have a slight limp for the rest of his life.
By May, this brave soldier was prepared to return to battle once again. He was enroute to combat duty at Camp Lucky Strike when the war in Europe ended.
Junior’s duties in WWII included that of a scout, a rifleman, a grenade launcher, and a B.A.R. Team member. Upon returning to the United States, he was decorated with 2 bronze stars, a Purple Heart with a cluster, a Combat Infantry Badge, a World War Victory badge, a Good Conduct Medal, and several other awards.
When he returned to the states, he married, had three beautiful baby girls, and grandchildren eventually followed. Junior became known as “Pappaw,” and he was a doting grandfather to my cousins and me.

Mammaw and Pappaw, 1984.


Me and Cousin Carrie with Pappaw, circa 1987.
A more recent picture of Carrie and me with Pappaw, September 2010.
Pappaw with my brother, Adam. One of our favorite pictures, ever. 1987.

On November 23, 2011, Pappaw turned 88 years old. And today, November 25, 2011, he left this world for a better place.

He was a husband. He was a father. He was a war hero. He was my grandfather. I love you, Pappaw.

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Author’s Note: The information included above is from a timeline Pappaw gave us a few years ago. He never talked about the war, and if asked, would change the subject. Only after years of asking did he relinquish what information I’ve included in this post. This is all we know about his years during the war. For all you history buffs, I’m sorry if I’ve gotten anything wrong. I plan to spend some time researching the movement of his battalion at a later date, and will include any amendments here I may uncover.

Grace Is NOT My Middle Name, Part Two

When I was 2 years old, I toddled my way around the kitchen, using any surface to maintain stability, including the face of the oven. I suffered 2nd degree burns on my palms.

When I was 3 years old, I chased our dog through the living room on wobbly legs, tripped and fell into the coffee table. I had a gash on my head that required 3 tiny stitches.

When I was 4, I chased my cousin around his house, until he unintentionally slammed my pinky finger in the old-fashioned screen door. The doctor stitched the end of my finger back on with only 5 stitches.

By the time I was 5, my parents did the only thing they could think of to help me with my clumsiness. They enrolled me in dance classes.

Tap, ballet, jazz, tumbling, clogging—from the ages of 5 until high school, I twirled and tapped and flipped and shuffled. Dance taught me discipline and teamwork. It taught me to be an entertainer. It taught me how to be graceful.

It did NOT rid me of my clumsiness.

Case in point: I was a freshman in college. The dorm I lived in hosted a haunted house every year to raise money for a local women’s shelter. East Hall had classrooms in the basement, and they made for the perfect creepy landscape for our endeavor. Eager to help, I volunteered for the decorating committee.

A sunny fall afternoon, I was given the task of hanging heavy black fabric over the windows so that the street lights wouldn’t shine in, ruining the effects of each room. I’d been at it for well over 3 hours and was ready for a break when I finally got to the last room slated to be used for the haunted house. Unfortunately, the windows were impossible for me to reach without a ladder.

Except there was no ladder to be found.

Always the industrious one, I spotted an old-fashioned desk nearby that would allow me to climb up into the windowsill. I dragged it over, tossed my supplies up into the sill, climbed up and started my project.

There was just enough room on the windowsill for me to perch on my knees. I stapled the fabric to the top of the window, and draped it down over the sill, climbed down and took a look at my handiwork. Nope. It wasn’t good enough. The fabric was gaping just enough along the sides to allow light in. So I climbed back up into the windowsill, knelt down on top of the fabric, and began taping the sides down to the glass.

At that moment, a friend walked into the classroom behind me and called my name.

In the instant that I turned to answer, I knew I’d made a grave mistake.

My knee slipped on the satiny fabric, right off of the 6 inch mouth of the windowsill.

And the rest of my body followed.


The only thing that kept me from landing on my head (and probably breaking my neck) was the desk I’d used as a step stool. It slowed my momentum when my face connected with the corner.

I vaguely remember waking up with a sea of concerned-looking faces hovering over me. I also remember writing my parents’ phone number on a sheet of paper and being alarmed that my hand was bloody. I remember being totally embarrassed when the paramedics arrived and wouldn’t let me walk to the ambulance. I remember being even more embarrassed when I realized how hot the young paramedic was who was riding in the back of the ambulance with me.

I remember my heart stopping when my roommate wouldn’t let me see my face in a mirror while we waited in the ER.

Injuries sustained:
mild concussion
contusions on my hip, back, and buttocks
gash in the bottom of my chin (from the desk) which required 8 stitches
3 bruised ribs

The worst of my injuries, though, is not one to discuss with the feint of heart. So if you have an aversion to weird stuff, you might just want to scroll to the bottom of this post. Seriously. You’ve been forewarned.

My front tooth punctured through my bottom lip. And somehow following through that trajectory, managed to turn completely around in the socket. So when I smiled, my front tooth was essentially backwards.

To repair this damage, I had to have emergency oral surgery. Believe it or not, this only entailed the surgeon grasping my tooth with his fingers, turning it around, and shoving it back into the socket. Hard. He then wired my 4 front teeth together, sutured the inside of my bottom lip, then the outside of my bottom lip, and told me to come back to see him in a month to have the wire removed.

Don’t worry, there was plenty of lidocaine. (If you’ve ever taken a shot of lidocaine for dental work, imagine taking 6 of those, two in the roof of your mouth. Now weep for me and the pain I endured.)

Needless to say, the next 2 weeks of college are a colorful blur. Always a fan of bruises, I’m told I was more than willing to share them with any and all who asked. (Including my husband, who was at the time little more than a friend.) (Let me say that the one on my behind was a beautiful shade of indigo.)(I tell people that Brian fell in love with me the moment I showed him my ass.)

In the moment that I fell, my dance background never came into play. I can only imagine how much more damage would’ve been done if I’d tried that fancy pirouette mid-air. Sorry, Mom and Dad…your attempts to heal me of my clumsiness did not work.

Remind me to tell you guys the story of how I lost my balance and fell into the bricks lining my parents driveway one day…

Be Enough Me: The Day I Became An Adult

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2003.

My Mommy and me, circa 1985.

I remember sitting on the dusty boxes in the storage room of the bookstore where I worked, cradling the phone between my ear and shoulder. My hands went numb, and my heart stopped beating in my chest.

In those brief moments when my father told me they’d found a lump in my mother’s breast, and that she would be having surgery to remove it, I instantly changed.

Before that phone call, I was just a senior in college. Brian and I were busy making plans, thinking about our wedding, dreaming of moving to the sunny South Carolina coast. The most worrisome things in our lives were making rent, studying for exams, and figuring out how to get Kool Aid stains out of the carpet. I was young. Carefree. A child on the cusp of maturity.

It took two words to snap me into adulthood. “Breast Cancer.”

I wanted to scream and cry and shake my fist at the world. I wanted to drive home, pack a bag, and race to my mother’s side. I wanted to hug my Daddy, and cry with my Mommy. I wanted to comfort my younger brother, and I wanted him to comfort me. I wanted my family.

The last family portrait taken before I got married.

But I couldn’t. I knew, as I placed the phone back in it’s cradle, that I had responsibilities in my own life that I had to deal with first, before I could have all that I needed in that one moment.

So instead, I finished out my shift at the bookstore. Then I went to class. I made arrangements to take a test early that I knew I’d miss when I went home for my Mom’s surgery. I called around to co-workers and got my next few shifts covered. I phoned the editor at the newspaper I was interning for and let him know I’d be out of town for a week, and when he asked me to finish the story I’d been working on, I did so and forwarded it to his inbox. I deposited my paycheck so Brian would have funds available to pay the rent while I was gone.

That night, I collapsed into Brian’s arms. I cried for my mother, and the pain I knew she would endure. I cried for the unknown, the uncertainty that comes with chemo and radiation. I cried for my father, knowing he’d have to be strong enough to carry this burden without shedding tears. And I cried for the girl I was, knowing in some way that I was leaving her behind.

Cancer is life altering. It is terrifying, and sobering, and invasive. It makes decisions for you that take your life on an unexpected, unplanned course.

And for a 21-year-old college kid, it launched her into adulthood.

♥My Mom. My Friend. And Breast Cancer Survivor.♥

I’m proud to say that my Mom beat Cancer, and has been healthy and cancer-free since 2003. She may have lost her hair during chemo, and she may have suffered the effects of radiation, but she’s stronger than even she knows. Love you, Mom.  

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In that spirit, please note the new addition to Abby Gabs on the top of the left column! Every time you click the Breast Cancer Site button, their sponsors make donations to help pay for mammograms for women who can’t afford them. Let’s beat Breast Cancer, one click at a time!

I’m Innocent, I Tell You

For the most part, I was always pretty happy to be a sibling. It was awesome being 6 years older than my brother–wise enough and creative enough to think of new ways to torture him, but still young enough to appreciate having a younger sibling to carry around. (Read: dress up like a life-sized Barbie doll.)

Most afternoons, when I would get home from school, Adam would be patiently waiting for me, ready for after school fun to ensue. Most afternoons, I welcomed that play-time with open arms.

Except for one infamous afternoon in particular.

It’s the Halloween that will go down in infamy.

I’d had a particularly rotten day at school, despite having donned my festive “Happy Halloween” sweatshirt with over-sized acrylic scarecrow pin.  All I wanted to do was change into my play clothes and soothe my 4th grade heart with a little New Kids on the Block  dance party therapy.

I made it up to my room, turned on my tape deck, and was immediately soothed by Jordan Knight’s voice. Just as I whipped my sweatshirt over my head, I could hear the distinct sound of 3-year-old feet pounding up the stairs. With no time to turn my sweatshirt outside-in, and less than no time to finish changing, I did the only logical thing.

I froze.

Thus, my brother found me standing in my room, wearing nothing but my acid-wash pleated jeans and my white turtleneck dickie.

This left me less than pleased. Hence the Angry Birds eyebrows.

The next five minutes went something like this:

Adam: Sissy, wanna play?
Abby: I do, Bubby, but I’m trying to change, ok?
Adam: I wanna play wif this ball, ok Sissy?
Abby: Ok, but I’d like to finish changing clothes first.
Adam: Let’s play wif this ball, Sissy. Catch! (*ball smacks Abby in the face)
Abby: Bubby! Don’t! I want to change clothes! Go wait for me downstairs!
Adam: No! Want to play NOW. Play NOW Sissy!!!!!

Let the record show that I did, in fact, ask him NICELY to leave my room.

Also, let the record show that I attempted to keep my cool in the beginning.

But a 9 year-old in New Kids withdrawal only has SO much patience people.

I lost my cool.

I JUST wanted to change. I JUST wanted dance around my room to “Cover Girl.” I JUST wanted to be alone for FIVE MINUTES.

And when Adam wouldn’t leave, no matter how many times I yelled at asked him, I took matters into my own hands.

I hit him with my orange Halloween sweatshirt.

He stood there, momentarily stunned, tears welling in his big blue eyes. And I immediately felt terrible. But before I could get the words “I’m sorry, Bubby,” out of my mouth, he squinched his eyes closed, opened his mouth, and went into the “silent wail” cry that kids do only in the worst of circumstances.

Oh. Crap.

He pivoted on his chubby legs and sprinted for the door.

That’s when I saw the bleeding hole in the back of his head.

It’s also when I remembered the heavy acrylic scarecrow pin, still attached to my orange Halloween sweatshirt.

My festive sweater was now a murder weapon.

In a matter of nano-seconds, my heart sunk, my palms went sweaty, my mouth went dry, and I began mentally packing a bag. (New Kids tapes, a change of underwear, a tooth brush, my Sony tape player, and my favorite doll, Nancy. I wanted to take my New Kids dolls, too, but there just wasn’t enough room in my make-shift bandana knapsack.)

I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my mother was going to kick me out. Ship me to the gypsies. Throw me out with only a map to the nearest circus.

I was a GONER.

I could hear Adam wailing as he made his way down stairs. I heard my mother meet him at the bottom of the steps.

And I knew the only course of action was to throw myself on the mercy of the court.

I ditched the murder weapon and rushed downstairs, my white turtleneck dickie flapping in the wind.

To this day, Adam thinks I hit him with the scarecrow pin on purpose.

But I swear to you, on the sanctity of this blog, that I never, EVER intended to make him bleed.

I swear.

PS: Is it creepy that I still have the pin?