Once Upon My Childhood: Random Crap that Really Happened

Dear Readership,

For lack of better things to do, I have been taking a walk down memory lane recently and, without meaning to, have stumbled upon a number of memories that I had pretty much forgotten. So, for your reading (dis)pleasure: vignettes of weird, mostly unpleasant stuff that really happened.


We first moved to NC when I was nine. We were moving into a house that sat right off of a really busy road and even before we arrived my mom would worry loudly and often about living so close to a road with that much traffic because she had so many young children. Our move consisted of a three day trek across the country and we were all SO SICK of being in the car by the end that we thought we would kill one another if we didn’t get out soon. We pulled into the driveway of our new house and everyone jumped out. We were so grateful to stretch our aching legs and say hello to our grandparents who were waiting for us that we stood in the driveway for a few minutes. We literally had not even gone inside the house yet when all of a sudden we witnessed a semi-aggressive car crash. Everyone was okay, but they had been going very quickly, one of the cars was in pretty bad shape, it had been SO LOUD, and it literally happened right in front of our driveway where we were all standing not three minutes after moving in. Never has my mom ever had a bigger I TOLD YOU SO moment in my living memory. Funny enough, it was the only wreck we ever saw in the five years we lived there.


A number of years later we were pulling up after co-op one afternoon and a car that no one recognized was sitting in our driveway. It immediately started to back out.

“Oh, that’s awkward” I said, “They pulled in to turn around right as we got home.”

Just then some guys came running out of the garden (where my dad’s truck was still parked from dumping manure) and jumped into the car. It sped off. After a little investigation we realized they had sawed the catalytic converter off of his truck and stolen it. If we had hit fewer red lights on the way, would we have gotten home in time to stop this from happening? They hadn’t even tried to go into the house as far as anyone could tell, but it had us all solidly rattled and feeling vulnerable for several months after.


That same house had a big, open, two acre yard right in the middle of the city. The yard didn’t have any fences and I guess for a while the neighborhood kids had been using the biggest part of the yard as an empty lot where they would meet up to play football. Turns out, even after we moved in, they still felt like it was their right to meet up in our yard and play football. They never invited us to play. They didn’t ask for permission to be there. They just played. After it happened a few times my mom went out to talk to them about respecting other people’s property, but in the end she told them it was okay to keep playing IF they asked for permission next time and made sure to be respectful. After that they would sometimes ask before playing, sometimes they wouldn’t. Then, one day, we didn’t realize they were out there and we let the dog out to go pee. She weighed all of five pounds and her big pointy ears comprised 2/3 of her body mass, but she was a fierce protector and ran out into the far part of the yard to bark at the intruder. She wasn’t a biter and I guess in the kid’s defense, he didn’t know that. But also he would have known if he ever bothered to befriend the dog of the yard he felt like he was entitled to play in. Either way, she spooked one of the kids and he yelled at her and then reared back and pretended to kick her across the yard. He made a big show of punting her. Oh boy, that was a mistake. My mom saw and gave the kid an earful and told the boys that if that was how they were going to treat our dog in OUR yard, they were no longer welcome to play in the field.

It’s probably unrelated, but all of the trees in our front yard were TPed like two days later.

And then a little while after that our car got egged (no great loss in value there, though. It was a bright red fifteen passenger van that still had the faint outline of a removed stencil that read Faith Presbyterian Church on the side of it).

A while after that our tires got slashed. That one hurt a little more.

A while after that someone slingshotted — that’s the real past tense of that word, by the way, I looked it up — they slingshotted a rock through my mom’s second story bedroom window while she and I were watching a movie in there. At first we thought someone had shot the window (lol we had clearly never heard a gunshot up close before) but the rock came through with such force that the glass shards flew the full length of the room. Afraid, we crawled out and hid in the windowless hallway for a while until we felt like it was safe to investigate what happened. That’s when we found the rock in the room along with a small pile of similarly sized rocks sitting in the driveway below the window.

Obviously there is no way of knowing if all of that stuff was the result of my mom scolding one kid who was a dick to our dog, but it doesn’t seem too far fetched. Who else would have it in for us?


The fire place in that same house didn’t work. Something about it being too shallow, I don’t remember. So we closed the flue and used it to store a big, open tub of blocks instead (when you have a lot of kids and not a lot of space, everything becomes a place to store toys) . One summer, the living room positively stank. I mean it reeked. We cleaned, we hunted for the source of the smell, we cleaned again, we aired the room out, but nothing was helping the gag-worthy odor and we couldn’t figure out for the life of us what was causing it. Then one day my mom instructed us to go grab the tub of blocks from the quarantined living room and bring them to the kitchen to play with while she read aloud to us. We dumped the blocks out on the floor and after a few minutes we started to notice little white things mixed in with the toys. Upon further examination, they turned out to be maggots. Big time gross. My dad went and opened the flue and out fell the mostly clean skeleton of a little animal (I can’t remember now if it was a squirrel or a bird) that had fallen down our chimney and died there. I still get goose bumps on the rare occasion that the memory comes hurtling back into my mind.


The house we lived in from the time I was born until I was seven was entirely carpeted, including the kitchen and bathroom. That’s it. That’s the whole memory. Terrifying, right? Dropping food or overflowing the toilet were big frickin’ deals with gross, long-lasting consequences. Whoever designed that needed slapped.


When I was eight or so we lived on this little farm in the middle of nowhere that honestly was the literal worst and probably the source of most of my hatred of nature to this day. Even as a kid I was a diva (hard to imagine, I know). Early that summer there was some kind of plague-like moth infestation, not just of our house, but of the entire countryside. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them (or so it seemed). It was all we could do to kill them and it was impossible to keep them out. I don’t know if you’ve ever killed so many moths with a fly swatter that you could distinctly see and smell their guts and the powdery stuff on their wings smeared everywhere, but it is a super unpleasant experience. Not to mention the horror of getting them caught in your hair.

We needed a more efficient way to kill them. One day someone had the idea to leave water in the kitchen sink and leave the light on above it overnight. The moths would be drawn to the light reflected in the water, fly to it, and drown themselves (it was some siren/sailor bullshit, but we were desperate). It actually worked! It must have killed hundreds of them the first night. You couldn’t even see the top of the water through all the little moth corpses. Which, of course, meant someone had to then stick their hand into the pool of dead moth bodies and pull out the drain. I don’t want to throw my parents under the bus here or anything, but it was rarely mom or dad who drained the moth massacre each morning to clean the sink and, yes, it has come up in therapy.

Side note about that little farm house, it ALSO had carpet in the kitchen (fortunately not the bathroom though). Once again, terrible design.


While on the farm, we and the neighbor kids (the family who owned the farm and let us live in the little house next door) were responsible for collecting dry cow patties for kindling every now and then. Our house didn’t have central heating and relied mainly on a wood burning stove for warmth (ask me sometime about wearing seven pairs of pajamas and a hat to bed to stay warm in the winter). Often while out in the field, we would toe a patty to make sure it was dry and not stuck to the ground, and then we’d kick it around while we worked. It was gross but fun.

We could go pretty much anywhere we wanted, but weirdly, that field also had this giant mud pit that never seemed to run dry and we had been instructed to never go into it. It was such a big, beautiful pit of mud though, it looked perfect for stomping through. One day, despite the instructions not to, I decided I would stomp through it instead of around it. Who would know? It’s not like my mom could see me from the house. About halfway across the pit, the mud proved stickier than it had originally looked and it suctioned my little boot off of my foot. I wobbled, I waved, I tottered (enjoying the thrill and drama of making a big show of almost falling so the other kids would worry for me) and then I lost my balance for real and fell all the way in. I was absolutely covered from head to toe. I realized then that it seemed likely that mom would know I had gone in the mud after all.

I returned home contrite. When mom saw me she had plenty to say about it. She scolded me thoroughly for my disobedience and stripped me to my underwear while standing in the mudroom. Once I was naked, clothed in nothing but dry and caking mud and my shame, she decided to inform me that a good portion of that mud was actually cow shit and she hoped I remembered that the next time I wanted to disobey.

Well played mom, well played.


As a child, I once spent an afternoon with my siblings and a few friends picking crab apples from the tree in my grandmother’s yard. I had climbed pretty high up when something heavy hit me in the head. I looked up, surprised and hurt, to yell at whoever had kicked me, but no one was there. Weird. A few minutes later a rather cross and very tubby squirrel jumped on my hand, ran up my arm, and leapt off my shoulder again. It happened so quickly I barely saw it and almost wouldn’t have believed it had actually happened except he left me with two deep, long scratches up the back of my hand and extending onto my wrist/arm to remember him by.


Growing up we always checked out mountains of library books at a time on a nearly weekly basis (the librarians actually removed the checkout limit on my mom’s card because we always had more than we could get and they got tired of telling us to put books back). We were each responsible for keeping up with the books we borrowed and had to pay the fines if we racked up a late fee. One summer my mom told me an American Girl book I had borrowed was missing and I needed to search for it. I told her we had returned it. She told me there was a mounting fee on her card, and I must have overlooked the book so I needed to stop what I was doing and find it. I tore apart (and then had to put back together) every room of the house and still the book was nowhere to be found. I was in big trouble.

Where is the book, Sierra? You need to take better care of your stuff (totally true, but I was sure I had returned it). I was grounded from checking out more books until it was found (lol what a little nerd punishment) but weeks passed and it still didn’t turn up. Finally, my mom and I went to the library so I could purchase the book I had clearly lost forever, that way I would be able to check books out again. While explaining that the book had been lost, my mom happened to mention that I still maintained that the book had been returned. The librarian offered to double-check for us and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT Molly Saves the Day was there on the shelf where it belonged, it just hadn’t been scanned when it was returned. Boy was I smug. But the librarian just laughed it off while she removed the fine from my mom’s card. She said it was a “silly mistake” that “just happens sometimes” as though she could flippantly dismiss the fact that her sloppy check-in skills had caused me weeks of torment and gotten me grounded from the library for half the summer.

In the years that followed, whenever a book went missing I was always quick to accuse the librarians, but as it turns out, it was always genuinely misplaced in the house somewhere after that (ask me sometime about the twenty-something dollar fine I had to pay once because my baby sister got creative with where she stashed a Fancy Nancy book for the better part of a year).


There are more stories, I’m sure, but these are the ones I’ve been ruminating on. It’s funny to think of all of the little traumatic moments that seemed so big when they happened that are now a small pieces of the larger blur of childhood. They are memories that only leap into focus when they are deliberately called to mind now. Then they swirl back into the indistinguishable mass of what was.

I hope you enjoyed.

Until next time,


Love in the High Country: In Which Two of the World’s Most Awkward People Stumbled Their Way Into an Epic Romance

Dear Readership,

This is a saga — I’ll apologize in advance for the length. I have shortened it in every way I can, but like any story worth telling, our lives and love were formed in the details. Our story is one of repeated near misses, bad timing, and conveniently crossed paths that could give any decent Rom-Com a run for its money. So buckle up and enjoy!

Bryce and I first met when we were little Freshman babies at Appalachian State University back in the fall of 2014. He started talking to this girl who lived on my dorm floor, and once they began officially dating, he became a regular “lobby kid” (which is what those of us who bummed in the public space on the 5th floor of Coltrane unofficially called ourselves). I very vividly remember the day Bryce asked my floormate out because I bumped into him in the elevator just before he did it. He had bought her a box of gourmet cookies and written an adorable pun in the lid of the box. My friend and I wished him good luck and went on our way. Once Bryce was out of earshot I told her, “Man, if someone asked me out with a pun like that I would say yes in a heartbeat!” 

This, of course, was some pretty crazy cosmic foreshadowing.

Fast forward a little and Bryce and I happened to join the same campus ministry (he joined because a friend from high school was already a part of CCF and had spoken highly of it. I joined about a semester later because this girl who lived on my floor — and would later become my roommate, one of my best friends, and eventually a bridesmaid — kept nagging me about trying it and I wanted her to leave me alone).

Through the mutual space of our campus ministry, he and I kept in touch and began to become friends. When Bryce returned Sophomore year freshly single, my interest was officially piqued. I didn’t realize it though until he started talking to someone else and I became outrageously jealous. Not being much of a seductress, I settled into the comfortable distance of casual friendship and continued to admire the man of character that he is from afar.

Then, in the spring of Sophomore year, fate threw me a bone by sending me Hannah (Bryce’s sister) who transferred from ECU. When Bryce first told us his sister was transferring to App, I decided I wasn’t going to like her on principle (aren’t I evil? I had grown up with a dear friend who got regularly befriended by girls who were crushing on her older brothers. I knew how much it hurt her to be a tactical vantage point instead of a person with friends, and since I am nothing if not a woman of delusions and extremes, I decided to spare Hannah that fate by simply not liking her at all).

This, of course, went very poorly. I think I managed to dislike Hannah for roughly 2 hours? Maybe less… Her vivacious personality and raw endearing humor quickly flagged her as a kindred spirit and someone who I was incapable of avoiding. As our friendship blossomed, I remained determined to never ask about Bryce or bring him into our friendship. And yet, there he was. She would mention an endearing detail about him from their childhood, or would invite me over to his apartment where she was hanging out with him (since I lived across town and she still lived in a dorm with a somewhat weird and unnerving roommate, his place was the easiest meeting point). I found out from her that he was once again single and I tried to not get excited about it. But the more time I spent with her, the more time I seemed to end up spending with him, and the harder I fell.

I started to send out flirtatious probes (yes, probes. What an un-sexy word… once again, seduction is not my strong suit). I pulled out all the stops that my sheltered self could think of: the occasional brushed arm or bumped knee, regular texting, teasing, deliberate eye contact… I even tried the age old eye contact bounce between his eyes and lips when he spoke. Nothing. I couldn’t tell if he was picking up on any of it.

Then, at the end of Sophomore year, I drove him back to his apartment on the last day before the summer. It was just the two of us in the car and I thought maybe this would be the moment something finally happened. All my hopes were dashed in one cruel moment, however, when he reached out and gave me a goodbye fist-bump (not even an awkward in-the-car side hug). It was then that I was sure he didn’t like me.

Momma didn’t raise no quitter though, so I gave it another try over the summer when I texted him to see how he was doing. Despite my best efforts to keep it alive, the conversation quickly died. It was the final nail in my fragile ego’s coffin. Now I was sure that not only did he not like me, but maybe he didn’t even want to be my friend. I was Hannah’s friend who was around sometimes. That was all.

So I started dating someone else.

Little did I know, Hannah had been name dropping for me over the summer (even though Bryce had never picked up on my interest in him, she certainly did). She even went so far as to ask him if he would consider me as someone viable to date. That off-handed question managed to plant a seed in his head that all of my best attempts at flirting had never been able to do: Bryce started to notice me, to think about me, and to consider me as an option. As the summer wound to a close and we headed back to Boone for Junior year, Bryce began, for the first time, to really like me.

Just a few days into the fall semester, Bryce and I both volunteered to work the CCF table for the club expo (where new students could learn about/join clubs) and we found out that we had been assigned to work the same shift at our ministry’s table — just the two of us. He was elated when he found out. This would be the perfect chance to spend some time one-on-one with me. I, on the other hand, was devastated — I hadn’t stopped liking Bryce, I had just given up on being liked back. I couldn’t spend time with him like that. It would be awkward, not to mention unfair to my new boyfriend.

I told myself to put on my big girl panties and do it — we were in the same small ministry. It’s not like I could avoid him. Besides, we were there to do a job. I went in planning to be cordial but distant and instead ended up having a wonderful time. Our table had been placed in a back corner that didn’t get a ton of foot traffic so we spent most of the time talking, and Bryce proved to be a wonderful conversationalist.

He went home and told Hannah (his now roommate) that he was going to ask me on a date — and she told him that I had a boyfriend. Crushed, he resigned himself to our sudden role reversal and decided to continue to be my friend and like me from afar as I had done the year prior. With these intentions, he and Hannah invited me over a few nights later to see their new apartment and watch a movie. Once again I had a lovely time so naturally I decided by the end of the night that I would need to avoid Bryce in order to remain emotionally faithful to the guy that I was dating.

Despite my best efforts, he and I kept getting thrown in together — we joined the same support group, ended up at the same table for our campus ministry’s Thanksgiving (it was the first and only year they enforced assigned seating for the meal and I bet you can just guess who I got seated next to), and we often times ended up in our friend group’s hangout spots on campus at the same time. Even with all of our elbow bumping, we spent very little meaningful time together that semester and he was far removed from my mind when I ended my relationship during finals week that fall.

In fact, I really didn’t give Bryce a ton of thought at all until I returned to school for my spring semester Junior year and we started chatting at our campus ministry’s kick-off meeting. The conversation spilled over into text and we began to banter flirtatiously. All of my feelings from the last several years came rushing back out of the deep dark corner that I had hidden them in, and for the first time in a long time, I started to have hope that maybe he liked me. It all came to a screeching halt (again) when I jokingly threatened to hold him to a promise that he was making and he responded with, 

“10-4, good buddy.”

I died on the inside. Absolutely died. Good buddy?? The stinging shame of being blatantly friend zoned burned so hot in my chest that I couldn’t stand to bear it alone. I took a screenshot of it, blacked out his name, and sent the picture to several of my nearest and dearest friends (one of whom was obviously Hannah). I captioned the image with something along the lines of, “When you’re trying to flirt and you get friend-zoned so hard you get whiplash.”

In a matter of minutes she responded with, “who friend-zoned you?”

This was a question I wasn’t ready for (because I’m an idiot) so I said the most incriminating thing possible — “Don’t worry about it.”

She then did the most low-down dirty thing that I will forever be grateful for: she screenshotted my message and asked Bryce, “Did you recently tell Sierra ’10-4, good buddy’?” He admitted that he had and she showed him the message in which I confessed to feeling friend-zoned. He insisted that that wasn’t his intention, that he had been joking.

Sometimes I wonder how long Bryce and I would have been trapped in our cycle of missed opportunities and bad communication if Hannah had never intervened. Because even though I didn’t know at the time that she had shown my text to him, it changed Bryce’s intentions. He had confirmation that I did, in fact, like him. That I had been flirting with him. It gave him the final push he needed to make his first move — he invited me over to watch Futurama. After a few episodes we switched to Stranger Things (because I had said that I was too afraid to watch it by myself and he kindly offered to watch it with me and protect me from the scary bits). This, of course, led to some low-key cuddling which led to another planned date to finish the show later that week, and this time some unashamed high-key cuddling.

Then, on February 13th, 2017 I asked him if he would like to join me at the library where I was writing a paper. To my surprise, he said yes! It was already pretty late and Bryce didn’t tend to prefer the library as a study space, but he said he had a test to study for and could use somewhere quiet to work on it. Unbeknownst to me, at the time of my invitation, he was furiously drawing a Stranger Things themed Valentine’s Day card to give me. On the front was a drawing of Eleven holding a box of Eggo waffles along with the pun, “Leggo out?” written above it. Inside the card were several more ST-themed puns asking me to be his girlfriend. He brought it with him to the library and as the clock struck midnight he slid it across the table and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Naturally, finally, inevitably, I said yes! Or rather, I nodded yes to being his girlfriend. I had, unfortunately, not known I was going to be asked out that night and had set up to study on the “no talking” floor in the library (my favorite place to get work done). So, having lots of things to say to one another in a space where we weren’t allowed to talk (and me still having a paper due in 6 hours), we continued to work in silence. However, I could barely stop smiling and I can say with confidence that that was probably the worst paper I have ever turned in.

As it got late, Bryce finally stood up to go. It had been my intention to stay later than him to finish, so I figured I would walk out to the car with him so I could finally say something and kiss him goodnight. Much to my surprise, he hugged me goodbye and before I could think to say anything, he walked away. I stood there torn for almost 30 seconds before frantically texting him not to leave yet because he had forgotten something and then raced down the stairs after him. I caught him in the lobby and (before I could have time to think through how much I hate PDA) I reached up and planted a big, breathless kiss on his mouth right there in front of God and the library staff and every procrastinating student on the first floor. “There” I said, “You forgot to kiss me.”

And from there, things were always pretty simple. Our relationship style has always been quirky and a little out of sync, but I have learned to love us that way.

The first time we said “I love you” I sat in silence for a long time trying to build up the courage to get the words out. Finally, feeling like I would burst, I managed to force out the question, “Guess what?” as an awkward transition from silence to professing my undying love for him. Instead of responding with your conventional “What?” my precious man didn’t miss a beat before replying “Chicken butt!” I spluttered for a minute, my brain unsure how to proceed before sheepishly saying, “Noooo… I love you.” Shocked, he hugged me fiercely and whispered in my ear, “OH! I love you too!”

Our off-beat style continued through the ups and downs of dating and almost a year after our first “I love you” we began to discuss marriage in earnest. We had talked about a lot of different timelines to get engaged, but never set something in stone. Unfortunately, I’m not a terribly patient person, so when each of the mile markers I had suggested came and went without a ring, I bought an engagement ring of my own. It was a simple wooden ring (because Bryce has such a deep love for all things rustic and wood grain) and I began to lay plans to ask him to marry me. He and I planned a picnic for the weekend after I got home from my study abroad and I figured that would be the perfect time to ask him. I’ll never forget telling my brother my plans and him cutting me off, “Wait, did you plan the picnic or did he?” he demanded.

I thought for a second, “Well, he did” I finally said.

“You stupid idiot!” he shouted, “He’s planning to propose to you that day!

“Not if I beat him to it” I said.

But as the picnic drew nearer, I decided to give Bryce the chance to ask first — it was his picnic after all. Then, if by the end of the day, he didn’t ask me, I would give him my ring instead. 

On the day of the picnic we drove up to Boone and headed for Howard’s Knob — an overlook of the mountains that also gives a stunning view of App’s campus. We set up our blanket on a nearby rock and enjoyed a delicious lunch (unsubtle plug — it was from Kindly Kitchen on King Street. It is one of my all-time favorite restaurants and everyone should go eat there). The day was gorgeous so there were a lot of people around us, also enjoying the view. Bryce kept commenting how he wished everyone would go away. Finally, they did.

“Everyone’s finally gone,” he said, “Let’s go look at the view from closer up while it’s just us.”

“Okay” I said, pretty sure I knew what was going to follow, but giddy nonetheless. We walked over to the edge and surveyed the little kingdom that had contained the entire length of our love story so far.

“Look,” he said, “You can see Coltrane from here. I can’t believe we met there four years ago. It’s so cool how we’ve come full circle becau–” he cut himself short. Just behind us a hiker had come over the ridge and was making his way down to the edge of the overlook where we were standing. Bryce let out a nervous and exasperated sigh. He turned back to me and reached into his pocket, “Before that guy gets over here” he said, pulling out the ring box, “Will you marry me?”

“YES!” I gushed as he put the most beautiful ring I have ever seen on my finger. “As it happens” I chuckled, reaching into my own pocket and producing the ring, “I have a ring for you too.”

He agreed to marry me back.

“I hope it’s okay that I didn’t kneel” he said, as we stood admiring our new bling and all the promises they held, “I wanted to ask you to marry me while I was standing beside you. You know, to ask you as my equal.”

This, of course, earned him a kiss. If I hadn’t been sure that I wanted to marry him before that statement, I was now. And I continue to be. Every day since then — good, bad, and ugly (and there have been some very ugly days) I have become more and more certain that despite our rocky start, Bryce is my perfect match. I continue to realize that I could never have asked for or even imagined a better happily ever after than the one I’m living with him. And in 144 days, I get to become his wife.

Until next time,