A sign of Preparation & Loss

Written in 2010 © Karen Maeby

One day, in the middle of November 2004, my parents were coming home from somewhere late at night and they had called me on the phone to hurry up and raise our garage door. There was this huge dog that was outside that would not leave and they were afraid that the dog might have something wrong with it. They quickly got out of the vehicle, lead the dog to the back yard and shut the gate. We fed it and took care of it overnight, as my dad had called the humane society and his police friends and nothing could be done until the next day. 

The next day, someone came and got the (what we later found out was a) boxer. The boxer had mange, so all in all, we didn’t get the dog like we had hoped. I called this dog “Doggie Stares” and the dog was growing on our entire family. Days later, I realized this was a preparation for what was yet to come. 

Our next door neighbor’s wife had just passed away and he couldn’t take care of their Lhasa Apso dog, Peaches, anymore. So it was his deceased wife’s wish (as well as his) that we took over Peaches. He handed her to us on November 29, 2004. 

Now, before I go on, something about my parents? They didn’t ever want pets because of the mess they created. However, with the incident of “Doggie Stares,” something changed. 

From the very day we got the newly two-year-old Peaches, our world instantly changed. We went from being a family of three to a family of four. She became the center of our world; I finally had a sister even though it was a mutt. 

I remember having to take care of her the first night we got her and she puked all over my bed. Welcome to… parenthood. Peaches was a very good dog, even though she bit a lot, because she was never really “trained” to stop doing that at a younger age. We took her on various many trips, had tons of fun with her, and did the usual dog thing of evening walks, running and playing in the backyard. Everyone must know she had this amazing howl she would do when one of us came home. It was set in high soprano and we adored it, even though it was extremely loud and ear-breaking to the neighbors who were home to hear it. It was more unique than most people had ever heard coming out of a dog. 

The only terrible down fall of Peaches was having to watch her suffer through seizures every few weeks. It was one of the most heartbreaking things you can imagine to watch a helpless dog fall into one of those… especially after being really happy to just play like normal. This happened so often and we tried everything we could with the vets to figure out why. This, my friends, was left up in a mystery. 

Fast forward a couple years to 2008. After having dealt with everything from my store closing in January, moving on with my life, Peaches started getting sick after a wonderful weekend of activity. She started hanging around me the most, wouldn’t really leave my side and just always stared at me. A few weeks before the end of February, Peaches grew ill. 

[These next two entries were taken from my MySpace.] 

[27 Feb 2008 | Wednesday] 11:11 PM

Monday she didn’t seem ok at all… she laid around the house all day and wanted to be held be all of us. Seemed like she had been trying to tell us something all along. Anyway, she wasn’t eating or anything like that…

Tuesday rolls around and she’s not any better. At 3pm we took her to the vet and they ran a blood test on her. First thing, she had 16% blood count instead of where she was supposed to be like 45-50%… Blood wasn’t coming out of her body so something inside her had been eating it up and disposing of the blood.

So she had to have a blood transfusion. And lots of pills being given to her.

Today (Wednesday) they ran more tests on her and they said something about her liver being flamed. So she has some rare infection in her liver. They’ve got her hooked up to IVs and hospitalized so she can get better.

[01 Mar 2008 | Saturday] 3:24 AM

She stayed in there Weds-Fri… Thursday she seemed to be better, up walking around and noticing movement and such. Friday – still no change in her habits but she had fallen into a seizure and they had to put her down because it was so bad she couldn’t come out if it. Mom and I had planned on seeing her in the afternoon but mom called at 9am to see how she was doing (and she was fine); after running errands she stopped by there and the vet told her hold on and said “we just called your husband, Peaches didn’t make it.” So I got a phone call from mom then my dad called and we three were up there saying goodbye.

February 29, 2008 was the day we I got the phone call that Peaches passed away. Mom was already at the vet and my dad was on his way when I arrived there. I walked into the room where they left Peaches in the cage where she died. 

I gathered myself on the floor and stuck half my body on her inside the cage and just cried. Cried for hours just laying on her, remembering asking “why, why?” and saying how much I was going to miss her and what a good mutt sister she had been. It was the most heart breaking moment in such a long time. When my dad arrived, it was just… bad. I rarely saw him cry and this is definitely one of the moments where he did. That broke my heart even more. 

Peaches, having a dog in our lives, were a staple to us being a family. A compete family. 

Before we left that vet office, the final goodbye, I took one of Peaches’ stuffed animals (a dog) that I had bought for her one Christmas and just rubbed the fur all over Peaches. I put that dog in the dashboard of my vehicle and it has remained there since that very day, never having been moved yet (even 3 years later). We decided to have her cremated and put into a pretty oak-wood box with her name on the top of it. 

Peaches died on leap year, which occurs every four years. We had her for four years. 

A couple weeks later after her death, my parents went on a search to contact the owners that gave Peaches to our neighbor. They found them and went to visit them in Ohio and one day that I came home, there was a new Lhasa Apso that greeted me named Bella. Bella was a sister to Peaches somehow down the line and they needed to get rid of her or a male dog and my parents wanted her. 

I must say, after all Peaches was my baby, I was quite offended and thought it was too soon to get another pet. I remember telling mom prior to Peaches’ death that if something happened to her, I was going to be leaving that house and that statement was more than true.

Bella turned out to be a very quiet and calmer dog, even still, after finally finding her barking voice months later after having adopted her. Bella still remains with my parents and is in good health, considering she was having struggles with anemia right at first. 

2019 UPDATE: Bella passed away in December of 2017.

The School Daze: My Love Life (Non-Fiction)

Written in 2011, never published anywhere. © Karen Maeby.

Wait for it. Yep. Crickets. That was basically my love life throughout my school days and half of my college years. I had a few takers but at some point (and quickly), they lost interest. You’ll hear more about that later.

I had so many things stacked against me, like for the fact that I wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t skinny. Oh, and I didn’t have boobs, either. Yep, stack all of those against me at the time and it would have been taller than I.

As a poet and writer, not having love but always yearning for it was such a struggle and kind of damaged me, so to speak. There were many nights where I wrote some of the most depressing poems out there for love. I was always reaching out to someone who wasn’t there, or who was there, but wasn’t. Feel me? 

I remember when our choir director was having issues with us not putting passion into singing a love song. (I want to say the song was Love is Like a Red Rose.) She said, “Pretend you are singing this to the person you love.” Boom. ‘Dear future boyfriend or husband, I am singing this song to you. Please be at our concert. Love, me.’ Just kidding about the last part, but still, dude (er, ma’am), I had no one to love (or sing to)! 

After reading tons of books and watching so many movies and shows with love as the main key factor, I ended up just milking a bleeding soul. I had to imagine, without knowing, how love felt. And, you know what? People always told me I was ‘beyond my years’ because damn straight I was! Not to mention, I was right about love this whole time. 

What was love to me at that point? A best friend, someone who cares for you, does things with you, had fun with on trips, had a deep connection with on every level and so on. Just to let you know in on a secret (again), I had it right, then. 

I was more than ready to find “the one”. I never really wanted those high school relationships where you were with someone one minute and then the next you weren’t. 

I thought and dreamed in proper terms, like the most amazingly irresistible passion that makes your clothes want to instantly come undone (as seen in Gone With the Wind)! Or, some of the other classic love stories that makes you keep your pants on but yearning for those days. Oh, Mr Darcy. Swoon.

I was plenty lonely and it was awful. If only you people could have seen what I saw out of my two eyes — and what I felt within my heart. It was bad. 

Like most lonely teens (and I don’t say that in a snarky way, either because I can relate in so many ways), when I would see couples in love it would affect me. It sent me into several patches of depression, wondering what in the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t get anyone. 

On my senior year prom date, guess what I was doing? I was at home working on Momma’s retirement video which needed to be done that weekend. I didn’t have a date to prom and no one even came near me to ask me, so I was completely fine with it. I later got the video of prom from graphic arts, and eh, I’m perfectly fine with the decision I had made. The decision of which made all of the difference in the world. 

The Tequila Lady (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Since I reference the adult beverage more than once in my book, I felt that I needed to share a really funny story from my retail days about the Tequila lady.

It was midday on New Years Eve in 2005. Several customers had already come in after last minute New Years outfits, paid for their items and left. It was quiet for a few minutes until this lady presented herself outside the fitting room. 

She was blonde, aged somewhere between 20s and 30s. Her eyes burned holes in my body as she walked near me. She asked, “Does this look good on me?” 

Oh dear… That was the most dreaded question you had to answer while working in retail. Now, if it was a “yes”— it wouldn’t have been so bad. But, if it was a “no, no, no”—it was a “please don’t make me answer that question.” 

She had a black dressy top and a denim skirt on that didn’t even compliment her body at all. Taking that chance I might offend her, I told her the truth that it didn’t look good. 

“AND WHY NOT?” She demanded, as her jaw dropped to the floor.  

“I think you… just need a different shirt,” I told her, as I silently prayed she would go away. 

I felt like I was on a hidden camera show. As she continued to oddly stare at me for about what seemed like ten minutes, I sighed a huge sigh of relief when she finally walked away. As soon as I turned around to walk back to the cash register, the other employees were near me, looking and grinning from what they had seen. 

As she walked out of the fitting room, she asked, “Does this look better?” 

I turned around to get support from my coworkers and every single one of them split! I slowly turned back around to her and said, “Yes… it looks…better.” Honestly, it did look better than the other shirt. 

After she had another battle of the shocked deer-in-the-headlights look, she walked back to the fitting room to gather up her original clothes and walked up front to check out at the register. 

This time? I stared at her. 

“Ma’am.. you’re going to have to put your original clothes back on.” 

“What do you mean, you can’t check me out when I’m wearing these clothes?” 

“No…” 

“You mean to tell me you can’t get these tags off with me wearing them?” She asked, as she proceeded to put her leg up on the counter, displaying the tags. 

“Uhmm…no.” 

As she walked off, I held back what would have been the loudest laugh in the world. 

Minutes later, she arrived back at the register with her original clothes, and handed me the ones she was buying. 

The lady and I talked while I rung her up. She told me that she wanted the new clothes for when she went out that night for New Years. She paid for her clothes, then looked around as if she misplaced something. 

Oh, and she did. 

Just as serious as could be, she asked me, “Where are my clothes?” 

I looked at her and she looked down. “OH! I’ve got them on!” Then she quickly walked off towards our bathroom to change into her new clothes. 

When she officially left the store, I finally had the chance to laugh. Tears were POURING out of my eyes I was laughing so hard! Oh my, amazing. That was such an amazing moment. My manager who had seen and heard the entire conversation was laughing just as hard as I.

For days, I told and retold this story to the coworkers who had missed it. 

It definitely brought a whole new meaning to the lyrics of the song “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” I still haven’t forgotten the story and every time I hear it (even years later), I grin as I remember the Tequila lady. 

2019 UPDATE: I don’t hear this song very often, but when I do, I still think of this story. Last year when I went back home, I visited with someone who used to work with me there, and I brought up the Tequila Woman and we laughed like it happened yesterday. It was too bad she didn’t see that. In 2016 or 2017, I wrote a short play about this, but it turned out terrible….so I am in the process of converting it into a musical.

The Storm is Passing Over (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Back in April of 2014, I had a dream that our choir family from high school got together for a reunion of some sorts. I woke up crying because I knew there was a huge chance it wouldn’t ever happen. 

Well, to my surprise, it actually sort of did. In May of 2014, my high school choir director, Ellen, retired from the school that she went on to teach at a few years after I graduated. Since it was a last minute decision, I couldn’t attend this wonderful “last concert” reunion sort of thing that her family was planning for her. When I saw photos and comments pertaining to the reunion, it seemed like it was a great time. 

I was reminded of the great times I had in choir. The KMEA assessments, music festivals, trips to Philly & Atlanta, preparing for concerts and concert nights. I remember how powerful I felt when I had my black choir dress on with pearls. I still have all of the programs from each concert and any of the newspaper clippings that we were in. 

Out of all of the concerts I attended, my senior year spring concert in 2004, had to of been the best. Prepping for that night was completely epic. One phone call turned into way too many and my mom’s sneakiness was figured out. She was trying to hide the fact that some of my family from Indiana was down for the concert. 

The very last song that my group of seniors sang with the rest of the choir was “The Storm is Passing Over.” The weather was quite maddening and I will never forget the moment when I saw lightning out of the corner of my eye. As much as it was storming outside, it was definitely doing the same inside.

After the song was over, the choir members from my graduating class gathered around Ellen and Larry and sang several songs for them. It was such an emotional night. Both of them had such a positive impact on every single student that was a member of the choir. I know that I’m right when I say that for the majority of us, choir was one of the single happy moments of our high school lives. 

For six years from 1998-2004: I was a teacher’s aide for a choir director, a part of the choir, helped out at every concert that I could, taught myself how to play piano, learned the history of music and composers, studied music theory, learned how to judge choirs at contests, choir stage presence and so much more. 

After six years of nothing but music on my mind, I went on to study it my first year of college but then I stopped due to life taking me down another route. Unfortunately, I haven’t returned to music yet, but I’m almost always surrounded by song every day. 

Music and lyrics alone are the gateway to someone’s soul, recollection and relatedness to and in life. It’s the one language that everyone speaks. 

2019 UPDATE: Music has always been with me, especially as a poet/writer, but it wasn’t until Feb 2019 that after 15 years of being without music in my life–I’m back in.

The Bookstore (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Today I met the owner of a bookstore in Gulfport, FL. A couple of weeks ago I met the other nice lady that’s worked there for quite some time. That day had also been my first time in the store and first time ever in Gulfport, even after having lived in the Tampa area for nearly three years. 

It’s oddly symbolic for me. Finding out the ending of the store was my beginning of even having seen it. It absolutely breaks my heart to see any small businesses closing down shop, especially a bookstore. However, I’m pretty sure this situation wasn’t a casualty of not making it, it was a casualty of timing and life’s age setting up for a closing of a chapter. 

There’s something so familiar between the walls of the shop, though I’ve only been there twice now. The smell, the little newspaper clippings taped on the door, the secrets that the books hold within their pages and among the walls. There’s so much history inside that place. The aura has to be amazing when the night grows dark. 

I’m hoping to visit the bookstore a couple more times before it disappears. I’d like to know more than what I know, maybe there’s a secret or two or some piece of history that’s definitely worth knowing. 

What struck me the most was finding a cart that had poetry on the top and boating on the bottom of it. Both are my favorite subjects and I write “nautical poetry.” I’d like to believe that I was meant to see that before it was gone. Since it means so much to me, maybe it’s my personal sign that I need to continue that path. Poetry and boating, I can see that being a good part of my life forever. 

I’m often looked at strange for my expression of how I can have such deep connections to certain people or places that haven’t been in my life for very long. There’s just a feeling that never goes away. There’s something special within that moment, and I’ve lived long enough to know that when I feel something this deep… I need to hold on to it. 

It may also very much be for the fact that I’m going through a lot of changes and difficult decisions right now. I need to close some more doors to my past so that I can move on with new things in my future. I really think everything relates back somehow, and the answers I’ll have looked for this entire time will already have been written within the pages of this book. 

2019 UPDATE: Shortly after that shop closed, my new friend opened up “The Book Booth” right next door at the Beach Bazaar. It was there for a while, but she ended up leaving. We lost touch for a while….a few years later we reconnected and she became an important part of my writer’s group.

Push Pin Memories (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

It was the spring of 2003, my second semester of junior year in high school. I was sitting quietly with the rest of the students in my keyboarding class; typing away at a test that we were given in the early days by our teacher. 

All of a sudden, a deep Philadelphian accent sounded in my ear. “Do you want a pair of scissors?” 

I stopped typing, turned around and asked, “Why?” 

As an answer to my question, she offered me a scarf and said, “Are you having a bad hair day? Because it REALLY looks like it!” A smile never left my teacher’s face that day. 

That was the jest of mine and Elaine Hunt’s friendship for the rest of the year. She and I didn’t really grow close until I found out that she was from Philly right before I was leaving for the city with my choir. After that, I’d hang out with her after school. Not only was she a great advice giver, but she also filled me in on things I wanted to know about Philly and she really knew her stuff when it came to sarcasm.

We had several different “fights” throughout that semester. She’d tell the class to be quiet, look at me and I’d laugh; then she’d say something smart instigating another fight. Anyone else who did that would get into trouble. I felt a little bad about it, but I must confess that I always looked forward to the days where we’d battle it out right in front of the class.  

Around the second week of May, I begged Elaine to come see our last Bye-Bye Birdie performance. When I saw her at school the next day, I asked if she had come, and she had not. I told her that I was mad at her and I wasn’t going to speak to her for the rest of the class. She then said, “GOOD! My wish has finally come true!” I nearly died. 

Later that day during our class, one of my close friends got mixed up in the middle of that specific fight. My friend became our “messenger” to reply messages back and fourth since we weren’t speaking (but we could clearly hear one another). Right before school let out, she gave our messenger a push pin to give to me. I asked, “What am I supposed to do with this?” She replied, “GO SIT ON IT!” 

She must’ve told her classes about that, because the following weeks, I had several classmates come up to me and ask about the famous “push pin story.” The rest of the year was classic, but nothing compared to that. Before school let out, I asked if I could be her teacher’s aide. I think the answer might’ve been a “maybe”—just like everything else in my life.  

• 

When August 2003 rolled around, I was finally a senior, and boy, was I ever so excited to get back to school! As a tradition, I returned the day before to catch up with my teacher friends and to see if they needed help setting up their rooms. I went straight to Elaine’s business room and found another teacher in there. 

“Where’s Mrs. Hunt?” I asked. 

“She won’t be here this semester.”

I was stunned. I backed out of the room out to the hallway, where I met another teacher. I asked her what happened. She said, “Karen, I think you need to come down to my room. I have something to tell you.” 

I was told that Elaine had ovarian cancer for the second time and she wouldn’t be returning to school that semester. I couldn’t stop crying. That was not the way that I had planned on starting my senior year. Since I knew about it before all of the other students, I had to stay quiet for a few days. Soon enough, everyone found out from the staff at school and I was asked multiple times if I was okay—because they knew how close Elaine and I had been.  

I kept Elaine informed of my life that semester, but I barely heard back from her. I’d get weekly updates through her best friend who also worked at the school. Every other update would be ‘she’s better’ or ‘she’s worse.’ 

One day in October 2003, I had a dream that we were in her classroom with the new teacher and she was telling everyone that Elaine wasn’t coming back. I fought them, screaming, “YES SHE IS! YES SHE IS!” 

The following morning during my first class, Momma pulled me aside and told me that Elaine was forced into early retirement and she wasn’t coming back. I was an absolute mess. 

• 

Before I knew it, school was out at the end of May and I was helping my teacher friends pack up their stuff for the summer for my very last time. Because I had dealt with so many of my own battles that year, and I was sad about graduating and leaving everyone, I had forgotten one tiny huge detail that made that day so special. The teachers would always have a “day after” meeting, one that I was allowed to attend that year. 

When I walked in, I got the biggest surprise of my life: Elaine was there. She waved and smiled at me. During the meeting they showed a video that I had made for Momma’s retirement and they had a small party for her and Elaine’s retirement. 

When the meeting was over, I walked over to Elaine, gave her a hug and talked to her. We walked around a bit, and before she left, I made sure to tell her I loved her and I still thought about all of our inside jokes. She told me the same, we said goodbye, and that was it. 

• 

Year 2005 rolled around and I was moving on with my life, going to college and working. I never heard one update about her that year. 

One day in October 2006, I had just gotten home from work and I opened up my email. The subject? Elaine Hunt’s passing. The funeral was arranged for the following day but I was scheduled to work. I went to work, but was only there for a few minutes; I realized I was physically in the wrong place. 

I left work and went to her funeral mass. It was the most beautiful funeral I had ever attended, and the most saddest. I ran into the school principal and some teachers, and also met her husband. When I talked to him, I promised the family that I would gather up all of our inside jokes and our stories to send to them. I finally fulfilled this promise a few years later, right before moving out of Kentucky, and I received the most nicest email back in regards to my present. 

• 

It’s 2014 now, and I still can’t read through the entire storywithout welling up with tears. It’s just one of those things. Only a tiny portion of the story was captured for The Captain in Me. There’s still so much more left to this.

The letter from her husband stated that he was really surprised to see that she let her guard down with a student (me). Almost the entire staff at school told me I was extremely lucky for having what I had with her, because she was not at all that way with other students. When I think about it, I was in her very last class of her very last semester, and the only student she allowed in like that. Being the one exception to her rule made me absolutely special. 

I would really like to think that Elaine would be proud of me for where I am today—for being in business, marketing and doing all kinds of fun things, staying positive and just enjoying life. She taught me so much in those few months that I knew her. 

In the current place where I am living, I have so many push pins in the wall holding up posters and photos of things that I love dearly. I guess it’s me thinking that if I push pin it, it’ll be there forever.. in my memory. 

“If you can’t remember it—push pin it!”  (And also use a sticky note—if you need it to stick longer!) 

Packing Up the Memories & Key of Trust (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

Since 2014 marks my ten year high school reunion, I must share my “Packing Up the Memories” story with you. Instead of rewriting something that’s already written, I am using my essay from college that I wrote in September 2004. 

• 

I will never forget how I held the “key of trust” from January to June of my senior year. I was not ready to close up my 6th and final year of aiding, so I was offered a position 4th block by my ex-English, media and comp IV teacher, who I now call “Momma.” When I became her aide I was forewarned of what I had to do. I had been given the not-so-easy task of cleaning the media editing room/English hall storage room, which had later been named my office. Knowing that Momma and I were the only ones going to be going into my office, one day I asked her for the key, because I needed somewhere to store my belongings and I didn’t have a locker. 

I had been familiar with working in that room before it even became mine. I was one of the two media editors that used the computer in there first semester. Before I cleaned it, the room looked like Florida after hurricane Frances hit it. 

As soon as you opened the door, the first things you would notice was how it smelt like dust and mildew, and how the sunlight would always light up the room during the day. On the left hand side, there was a regular sized table with a computer and VCR on top and above that was the bulletin board. Beside the table there was an old wooden teacher’s desk, bigger than the ones that are in classrooms nowadays. On top of the teacher’s desk, there were at least a hundred cds that had been sent to our media class for the school announcements and a bunch of teacher editions of English textbooks. In the back of the room, on the left hand side close to the windows, there was a shelf that attached to the wall and was full of old papers and empty binders. 

On the right side of my office was several shelves that went from one end of the wall to the other. There were at least eight sections that divided into 4 or 5 shelves per section. Boxes were lined up on the floor in front of the shelves.  Video tapes and cassettes had been thrown together in several piles on the shelf.  Class sets of The Great GatsbyRaisin in the Sun and a few literature books were randomly placed on the center shelving. Other books from drama, speech, and pleasure reading were roughly stacked on shelves all different ways. In the very back, looking straight ahead, there were two windows of which both were broken and could not be opened without some extra work getting them closed. Two huge rolling carts were placed in front of the windows and both of those had boxes of papers piled on them along with inches of dust. 

While in the process of cleaning in the six months, I decorated the almost bare bulletin board the way I had wanted. I had found a few posters in the room so I hung up a huge poster of a blue sunset with a message and two cat posters. I had also pinned pictures, remote control sound key chain, a Philadelphia postcard and a locker poster. 

By the end of May, I had cleaned and dusted almost everything in the room and bags worth of trash had been thrown away every day. I had accomplished the major task of dusting and organizing all of the objects on the huge oak shelves. I had also organized all 200 or more VHS tapes on the oak shelves, all boxes were gone, textbooks were neatly lined up on the dusted shelves, the computer was gone, desks were empty and had very few items left on the top. It looked very clean and everyone was impressed with the work I had done. 

Room 220 was mine for the time being and it was my home away from home. All throughout the six months of holding the key, I was there from 1 p.m. to after school hours almost every day. I was the only one, other than Momma, who had ever seen and read through all of the papers that were not supposed to be seen by anyone other than her. I had kept secrets, literally, behind closed doors. This was the place I went to be alone, if I needed to think about a lot of things. People knew of room 220 being mine and I always had people dropping by saying hi. This was some experience that no other student had ever or will ever have. 

June 4th was my graduation and I still held the key to my office. Holding the key for six days over graduation set a good feeling within my soul—it was a proven fact that I was trusted. I was no longer the student but a mere adult holding the key. On June 10th, Momma and I came back to the high school to finish up cleaning in her room, the neighboring room and my office. I had the choice to either keep the key and never use it again or give the key up. I held back tears and gave the key to Momma. 

If I had of kept the key, knowing I’d never be able to use to again, I would always wonder what was on the other side; I would still be clinging onto the past. But, because I gave it up, the memories and secrets will always remain locked up behind closed doors and forever in my memory. I wanted to leave high school knowing that I should not have regrets, and if I did, I would not be able to travel to the past to change them. In the end, I did the right thing by proudly handing back the key (of 6 months worth of trust), ending six wonderful years of aiding, and closing the first chapter of my life. 

2014 added note: 

When the first day of school in August 2004 rolled around, Momma and I sat out in front of the school greeting everyone as they arrived, while holding signs with “retired” and “graduated” on it. Both the students and staff at WJHS got a kick out of it. Momma returned to school to sub and I continued helping out in the office there on days I didn’t attend college. 

In 2005, I had yet another season of “Packing Up the Memories.” I helped Coletta, the choir director at the middle school and original teacher I first started teacher aiding for, clean out her room because she was leaving for another position somewhere else. 

Yet another chapter closed, and the permanent end to my teacher aiding days. 

My Way (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby 

There are some memories from high school that I just cannot let go of or forget. Such as, one day in my freshman year, a teacher played Leann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” telling us to never give up on our dreams. Or when I met a very special teacher for one semester in junior year, got to know her, and had many memories, before she permanently left Earth a few years later. 

Or the time when Momma and I formed some sort of permanent understanding that we were two people who would always do things our way, reflecting the Frank Sinatra song, “My Way.” 

I also found out about Robert Frost’s “Road Less Traveled.” Ever since then, I’ve been following his words. If I am given a choice, I take whichever is better for me, and mostly, the road less traveled. 

I have never been one to follow what everyone else does. Who really wants that? Don’t you want to make your life a unique one while you’re here on Earth? One where you will be remembered even long after you’ve passed on. 

High school was also the time that I discovered Jimmy Buffett. There isn’t one song that I don’t relate something to in my daily life. He has certainly been such an inspiration for me, as a fellow Pirate, and for helping me form my life over the years. A lot of my book has been written while listening to his music in the background. 

As I get older, I compare certain moments in my life to that one journey on the water. 

As you launch the boat, to go out on the water for a couple of hours, you really don’t know how many waves you’ll hit or what direction you’ll have to take. You never know who you’ll see or meet; you never know if you’re going to see magic – like a dolphin show or a fish jumping up and accidentally landing in your boat. That’s just like every day life. You just never know what the day will be like. You can always be prepared for something, but most likely, you won’t always be ready. 

I think of my life’s path as a giant treasure map. I go along in my life, collecting treasures to put in my treasure chest. Every “x” on my map is where I’ve been, and it stands for a memory. Every moment has a reason, and everything happens for a reason. Maybe this is the philosopher in me talking, but I think that I know. Life is the road that my feet take me down, and I am confident in doing life my own way. 

Kim Aucremann / Kim Charles (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby 

About a year and half ago, I finally bought a record player. I had always wanted one of my own, and after having been to several thrift stores to see just how cheap albums were nowadays, I wanted to go that route for discovering older music. 

One day, after receiving my record player in the mail, I went to one of the places in search of nothing in particular…but came home with 20 albums, 10 cents each. I felt as if I won the lottery. 

After listening to some artists I knew and some I didn’t, I came across this local artist in St. Pete. While at the thrift store I had seen “St. Pete” on the bottom of the album cover and thought, “Well, why not. I like local music, let’s give this person a try.” 

Best decision, ever

When I played Kim Aucremann’s album (The one recorded at The Breckenridge Hotel in St. Pete), it instantly became my favorite.

After discovering how much I really liked this guy – I had to look him up online. I found nothing until I did some serious digging deep online. I did a lot of research to find a few different newspaper articles from the 1970s about him playing at The Breckenridge Hotel in St. Pete. 

There was something very unique about this guy. He was a one man act and was so talented. I laughed at his 1970s jokes, and I actually understood them. He mentioned the CB – do you remember the CB? I do. I think I was in single digits when my dad had one in his truck; then the pagers started taking off, larger cell phones and later technology started getting more complicated and changing all the time where it now has become a rat race just to stay up-to-date with everything. But I digress. 

Digging into the newspaper articles online about Kim Aucremann, I found out that he was a part of the US Navy Show Band where he traveled around the country entertaining sailors. .. which was amazing because.. this book is about sailors and all that jazz. Odd, right? Coincidental? Maybe. Especially since I decided that he deserved to get his own piece in my book. 

In my opinion, he was certainly one of the best hidden discoveries; such a gem and a staple to my music listenings as I’ve written this book. While doing research, I was sad to discover that he had passed away quite some time ago.. back in 1988, at the ripe age of 40, when I was barely 2 years old. 

One of the final articles I read was the famous one where he changed his name from Kim Aucremann to Kim Charles. Under Kim Charles, he recorded a hit song called “I Want to Thank You.” In that same article, he talked about earning his personal key to success and which door it would open for him. Having read that, I knew what exactly what he meant, as I am just steps away from mine. I hope. 

2019 UPDATE: For several years, I made it a tradition to listen to this album on Sunday mornings. You can actually find this album on YouTube now. Just put in his name and someone uploaded the whole thing. It’s worth a listen.

But Wait! There’s More! (Non-Fiction)

Written for my book, In Love With a Sailor + The Captain in Me, 2013-2014 © Karen Maeby

June 28th, 2009 I was back in Kentucky for a short visit to tie up loose ends from having moved to North Carolina. I had just woken up and was looking at my social media sites like I did every morning. I came across a message from Billy May’s son, he mentioned that his dad didn’t wake up. This struck me with disbelief and it was so hard to grasp. 

The show Pitchmen came on TV in March of 2009. It showed the lives of both Sully and Billy and the entire direct response industry. It was one of those life-changing TV shows about entrepreneurship, products and business. You work hard for the results that you want and the success follows. I fell in love with the direct response industry because of Pitchmen. 

Every time it was on, we’d all have a “date” on one of the social media sites. I’d host online parties to discuss the details during the show and later have write-ups on my blog about the episode. I got to know several of my current friends because of this show. I also became close with a lot of the ones who worked with Billy. 

Not too long after it had reached the end of the first season when Billy died. It was an incredibly hard time for all of us, but at least we had a huge support system. And, if there was anything to be said, we all met because of Billy. 

In November of 2009, I was one of the lucky ones who, while in Florida on a short vacation, got a chance to hang out and meet them. I felt so very lucky—it was and still is one of the best days from my past. 

While in Florida, I woke up to an episode of the MJ Morning Show where they were discussing Pitchmen and products that were sent to their office. Some of that footage was in an episode for season two. 

After the show was over, it was time to go meet them.

I remember walking in the old building to their office that was shown on TV, and when walking in, I could feel Billy’s spirit. There was this warmth that he left when he left this world, and I felt so lucky to have felt it! 

I just couldn’t believe that I was shaking the hands of celebrities, the ones from my favorite show. They knew me as the talker, but I was just as quiet as can be.. trying to soak in what was going on! We hung out for quite some time and had lunch together at the big conference table that was shown on the show. Meeting them was such an amazing opportunity. 

The rest of the time that trip was spent hanging around at the boat docks, getting together with a couple more friends and enjoying Florida in a winter month. 

• 

Season two of Pitchmen was heading back on early the following year, but they had severe issues on marketing and getting it out there. It just wasn’t the same without Billy, unfortunately. I felt honored that they looked to me to help get the word out in the open. I continued to host parties and do next-day write-ups about the show, but it all soon ended. 

I came back to Tampa in the summer of 2011 the week of my birthday. I met up with most of them once again and had a great time as always. 

In March of 2011, I couldn’t stop thinking about the area and how I just knew in my heart that my future was in Florida, so that is when we made the voyage here. Still to this day moving to Florida was one of the best things I’d ever done.  

Even though my Pitchmen family and I don’t really speak much anymore, they’ve never left my heart, and I still love them very much. I often think about our conversations and what brought us together in the first place. Life just has a funny way of moving people in all directions, including away from one another, even if you’re in very close proximity. 

June 28th, 2014 marked five years since Billy passed away. I wanted to share my new story that provoked this story to come full circle.

I needed a short getaway trip to finish my book, so I stayed at the Banyan Bed & Breakfast House in Venice, FL this weekend. I arrived Friday evening so I didn’t see anyone else that stayed there until breakfast the following morning. 

At breakfast, there were five of us. One couple and their friend’s daughter, another guy (I didn’t get to see his wife that day) and myself. 

The couple that brought their friend’s daughter had been coming to the Banyan House for years. I felt so lucky to have met the three of them. They were absolutely great to talk to, so I asked if I was going to be able to see them before they headed home. 

For me, the entire day was spent trying to focus on finishing the poetry for my book. When it hit later afternoon, I was asked to join the three of them for dinner. We went to a place downtown and talked about everything, just getting to know one another. 

When dinner was over and we arrived back to the Banyan House, the couple and I said goodnight and goodbye. Their friend’s daughter and I spent some time with the innkeepers at the pool house and that is where I finally finished the poetry portion.  

I got up early the next morning so that I could properly say goodbye. We talked about when we’d see one another again and that was it. I had one last breakfast with the remaining couple, hung out for a while, talked to the innkeepers and then left.

I am just amazed at lovely this trip was and how I made new friends…over breakfast! We were strangers with an instant connection! I definitely believe it was a meant to be meeting by chance, and I have to say, it was a remarkable gift from Heaven. (Thank you, Billy.)