For so many years I kept my feet under tight wraps. I was of the mindset that the thicker the socks the better. I can pinpoint a couple of reasons why feet were a distress-filled trigger for me: my step-sister was missing a couple of toes and traumatized me deeply with her left-over raisin-like nubs. She would invoke her most spooky sounding voice and say “they’re coming to get you…,” much like the opening scene from “Night of the Living Dead.” I would run for my life around the tiny confines of the bedroom that I was forced to share with her on my rare sleep-overs at dad’s house until I collapsed, searching for breath, as her toe-nubs victoriously made contact with my sensitive skin. It wasn’t her fault that she didn’t have toes, but she certainly didn’t use her lack of toes for GOOD.

Then there was the fact that the paleness of my skin made me so self-conscious. Honest-to-Pete, I didn’t willingly wear sandals until I was around 25. I hated the sight of the tops of my feet. My first pedicure took place when a girlfriend plied me with wine and FORCED me to allow her to paint my nails. I was 30 years old. I know it’s weird, but that’s a special skill of mine: weirdness.

My mother was from South Carolina and we would travel there for a family reunion every August. It was always sweltering. Again, due to my issues with being pale, I would wear sweatpants and tennis shoes despite the ridiculous heat. One of my cousins encouraged me to take off my shoes while we were swinging outside. Eventually, I did. I allowed my feet to skid through the silty sand and within seconds they were completely filthy. I was so bothered by how foreign the dirt felt on my skin that I would run inside every five minutes to rinse off my feet. My relatives thought (and probably still think) that I’m completely nuts.

Now that I’ve entered into my middle-aged years, I’ve learned that it feels good to step on soft grass warmed by the sun or splash in a puddle with a child-like enthusiasm. My feet are still wildly pale but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’d rather kick off my shoes and experience the pleasures (and occasional pain – like stepping on a Lego) than deny my senses of what’s waiting out there just for me.

It’s funny that my friend, Paula Wagner, gave me the word Barefoot on a day that we’re being plied with many inches of snow. I’m sitting on my couch (with my socks off) only going outside to let my dogs relieve themselves. Yoshi loves his barefoot status where Princess is more of a “You want me to go WHERE?” I should really get her some boots. It’s funny to watch her find a way to go potty using as few paws as possible.

I don’t wanna talk about feet anymore. I want to talk about Paula Wagner because she’s awesome! I met her at Ohio University in 1986. I was still painfully shy, which came off to others as abrupt and rude. She was walking by my room as we were moving in Freshman year. I was hanging up a poster of Jim Morrison on my wall. She said, “Hey! Do you like The Doors?” Apparently, I muttered a simple “Yes” and closed my door. I was so happy that someone spoke to me but just didn’t know how to handle it. I had very poor social skills. 🙂 Regardless, she kept at it. Tenacity is certainly a good descriptor of my dear, sweet friend. Eventually, thanks to her, we became life-long friends. We roomed together in my very first apartment. We’ve had a bazillion adventures together. We even have secret passwords. She was the friend I’d been waiting for. A sister. A social skills mentor. Paula had a sense of confidence in herself that I sorely lacked. I admired her for it.

Honestly, I could write a book about how I perceive our friendship and some of the adventures we’ve had. Her ability to embrace life showed me that I could (and should) do that myself. Paula, your friendship was the beginning of my awakening as a human being. And I’m so grateful that all these years later, we still know each other. I’m not just saying that because you live in Hawaii and I wanna come visit. 😉 But you really and truly are a beautiful piece of my life. Remember that day you called me (about 15 years ago) and I’d just made myself a Bloody Mary? We talked for so long that I went through nearly a whole bottle of Bloody Mary mix and by the end of it I was sloppily baring my soul about what an incredible friend you are and how you’re the best friend I ever had? Well, I know that is the most cliche thing a drunk person can do – and I did pass out in the bathroom after our conversation – but I’m sitting here on my couch, barefoot and 100% sober, and I’d like to say the same thing. You were a game-changer for me. I owe so very much to you and your friendship. Without you, I’d have no paprika. And that’s the spice of life.

If you don’t know Paula Wagner, you should. Besides, she lives in Hawaii! I think we should get a big fat group together and go crash her wonderfulness. That would be the perfect remedy for a snowy day. Who wants to go? I’ll drive.

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  1. You are far too kind to me, Sarah Brewer. And I love you for it. I am blessed to count you as one of my dearest friends. I’m so glad you’ve overcome your foot self-consciousness because when you come visit, it’s barefoot all the way, baby!! XO


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