Saturday, December 24, 2011

My college major, for better or for worse

If you returned (or went, if you've never been) to college to study anything you want, what would you major in, and why? (This is another Reverb Broads entry.)

I often lament that I didn't go to college for something "practical." I jokingly blame my parents for not making me study something more practical, although of course, unlike the people whose parents really did do that, I'm quite glad that mine let me choose my own destiny.

I remember visiting both the career counselor at school as well as a private one my parents hired, so surely one of them touted the merits of studying something "practical." I keep putting that word in parentheses because in essence an English degree IS practical. How lucky I am to have the benefit of going through life seeing grammatical and spelling errors everywhere I look! And think of all the books I had the benefit of reading in a classroom that other people had to muddle through on their own. I didn't have to take any complicated math classes. So what if I have no idea what a quadratic equation is. Would that really help me in my life today?

In the event that someone had sat me down and said, "look, here, missy: You are welcome to major in English (with a side of French) if you choose. But do keep in mind that your major will shape where you wind up after college," I'm not sure I would have reacted favorably. I probably would have been even MORE likely to study English and French.

And, frankly, it's pretty neat that I got to get a bachelor's degree in reading, writing, and talking about what I read. It almost seems too good to be true, at least for someone who enjoys those things (which I do). And, since I did an interdepartmental major of French and English, I was able to spend my junior year in Montpellier, France, which was one of the most amazing years of my life. So there you have it. I would not change anything about my major. I'm glad we cleared that up!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I have used this photo on many websites as my avatar. I feel as if I should retire it since it is 10 or 11 years old at this point. But I just love the way I look in it. My face is thinner. My eyes are just the right amount of squinty. My hair is curling in just the right way. My hair is also the perfect length on me. My cheeks are a little rosy as they tend to be, but not full on red as they get sometimes.

I don't remember the exact occasion, but I do recall that I was out with some people who I have lost touch with who used to be my very best friends. We had a huge falling out that left a sour taste in my mouth for many years. But frankly, at the time, they were a bright spot in my life and we had tons of fun together. I was single and this group of friends (usually the 4 of us) would go out a lot and stay out too late and we were so incredibly silly together. It's hard to even explain it because I could tell you that we had all these hilarious inside jokes and you'd say, sure, all groups of friends have those. I'd tell you that we would create all these crazy characters and you'd just look at me weird and I'd say "never mind" because I could not explain it. And I don't even remember exactly. I just remember the feeling. It was fun. It was so fun. And this picture exemplifies that. The irony is that my friendship with them ended in a firey furnace, but I guess it had to burn out somehow.

(This is a Reverb post. Topic: Self-Portrait: Post a picture of you that you like, write about yourself, post a video - what do you want your self-portrait to say about you?)

Mumsy and me

How am I like my mom?

My mom and I look so much alike that if you were to meet a group of 72-year-old women you could easily identify which one spawned me. According to a coworker who met her last week, she even makes the same spastic gestures that I do and will launch into an amusing story without prompt. I'm not sure my mom would appreciate that comparison but I don't think he's wrong either.

Virginia Beach
I was recently working on a list of the ways in which she and I differ because when asked that question I couldn't think of anything. Of course we are different in many ways but I don't tend to concentrate on them. I have always considered myself just like her, for better or for worse. We are both sensitive, sometimes to a fault. But we are also attuned to the feelings of others because of this.

At first we both seem to be rather buttoned up and prim. Because the reality is not apparent at first blush, when people discover that we have a silly side they are often quite surprised.

We both love Prosecco, Bloody Marys and margaritas made from scratch. We love to travel with our husbands but we are also perfectly happy to spend time alone when they are away without us. We each have the tendency to stay up late after everyone else has gone to bed. In fact, she's probably also up right now. But we should both be getting to bed if that is the case!

Anyway, I could not locate a photo of us together as adults. Here are a bunch more of her.

(This is a Reverb post. Topic: How am I like my mom)  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Three things I'm good at

At first I whined about this Reverb prompt because I am uncomfortable with talking myself up. That's unfortunate because sometimes it really is necessary, like in mid-year reviews. But I managed to come up with these three.

1. I'm a great traveler. I can pack just the right amount of clothes, mixing and matching top layers and rarely taking more than two pairs of shoes. I keep a list of essentials to check off when packing. I have all sorts of tricks such as putting my purse inside my backpack when boarding the plane so that it looks like I only have two carry-ons (backpack and rolling bag). I take a water bottle and I have a perfect one now with a Brita-like filter built in. I also am not beaten easily by jet lag. If flying to Europe, I try to take an overnight flight and sleep if I can on the plane. The first day sucks but if I make it to 8pm I'm golden for the rest of the trip. I remain calm when flights are delayed or the customs line is long. There is nothing I can do about those things, so why get my panties into a bunch over it? I learned a lot of my travel tricks from my dad, who was a pilot for TWA.

2. I am good at making people feel welcome. This is not the same thing as being good at small talk, although I'm passable at that when needed. I look at talking to people I barely or don't know as an opportunity to learn some interesting stories so I ask questions to get them started talking. It almost always works out. They feel welcome and I don't have to do as much of the talking. On rare occasions I will encounter someone who is also a question-asker and then the two of us will have a bit of a power struggle because of course you can't be rude and not answer questions politely asked of you. And you can't turn every question into a reverse question.

Great. Now you know all my secret tricks! (I will admit here that I have not always been good at this business of making conversation, but I have gotten much better at it in recent years and still could be much better but I do consider myself fairly proficient at it. I have improved my skills in this area by listening to some very good advice on the matter by my dad and my friend Catie, who coincidentally, is responsible for today's prompt.)

3. I am a good listener. This goes along with point number 2. You can't ask people probing questions if you aren't going to listen to the answers. And since I'm interested in the answers, it's not hard. Sometimes when having a conversation I am concentrating so much on what the other person is saying that I forget to have a follow-up comment after they stop speaking.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I will never

See, I have this silly habit of declaring I won't do something and then I eventually do it. My friends just roll their eyes now when I say there is no way in hell I'll do something. This mainly applies to fashion.

Some things I said I'd never ever wear include: knee-high boots, capris, 3/4 length sleeves, leggings, jeggings (except I refuse to call them jeggings and I swear they are just really tight pants, mostly because the word jeggings is completely inane). I also said I'd never read the Harry Potter books or get a Mac.

So, I'm a little hesitant to say there are things I'd never do because saying I won't do something seems to a signal that I will be doing it within a couple years at the most. (It goes without saying that this list will not include things like murder.)

1. I will never get a tattoo. I'm of the camp that I could never pick one and feel confident that I'll like it for the rest of my life. I'm very interested in seeing what others choose for theirs, though. I maybe read too much into them and assume the tattoos are a little window into what makes a person tick.

2. I will never play the lottery. This doesn't really require an explanation, does it?

3. I will never go scuba diving. I am not a big fan of swimming in the first place. I mean, it's fine, I just don't adore it or crave it. I mainly get in the water because I'm hot. I don't really like putting my head under water and I don't feel completely comfortable being in the ocean, especially when it's murky.

4. I will never start drinking coffee again. I stopped drinking it when I was 23, switched to tea, and have never looked back. I like the flavor but not how it makes my tummy feel.

5. I will never have a job that requires doing a lot with numbers. I'm so terrible at math that it would be a truly horrible idea to even apply for such a job.

6. I will never be a fan of winter. There is nothing good about winter. I don't like winter sports, being cold all the time, having to wear closed-toe shoes, darkness descending practically right after lunch. Jeff will defend winter by saying that Christmas is in the wintertime, and that is certainly true, but what is also true is that no matter where you live, Christmas is still on December 25. Although I would have a hard time adjusting to living anywhere besides NYC, or at least the northeast, I would really, really like to live somewhere that is warm all year round. Or at least a place where it rarely drops below 60 degrees. There are some great cities on the west coast where it doesn't get that cold, but the other thing is that like I said, I feel tied to the east coast and also I love the sun. I'm no sun worshiper, mind you. I just love it when it's sunny and warm.

7. I will never wear running shoes for anything besides exercise. (I admit that I had to wear them recently for a whole day that included a hike/walk in the woods and I felt weird about it the whole time. I should have just sucked it up and worn my hiking boots, even though they would have been annoying to wear on a 2-hour bus ride before and after this hike/walk.)

8. I will never say never on this one, but I really can't imagine myself living anywhere besides a large-ish, walkable city.

9. I will never willingly become a vegetarian. Sorry, delicious animals.

10. I will never wear leggings as pants. No really. I'm serious about this. And yes, I'm totally judging others who do this.

I don't have any food items on my list because I'm open to trying any food item once. Maybe this comes from my childhood when my parents forced me to try at least a bite of everything I was served at mealtime. If it was something I wasn't wild about but had eaten before, I had to eat three bites. I don't think that ever caused me to admit that I had begun liking something nasty (like sweet potatoes), but it did make me realize that periodically a person should taste again something you don't believe you like. The first time this happened to me, I was 20 years old and I found out that cherries are an absolutely amazing fruit and I had spent my entire life up until that point believing that I hated them, probably because I had only ever tried those nasty pickled ones. I am now in the process of learning which mushrooms I actually like. I always thought I hated them, but now I'm learning that some of them are quite delicious.

(This is a Reverb post. Topic: 10 things you'll never do) 

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Terrible Twenties

Coming up on ten years ago marks the end of the decade I call my Terrible Twenties. I was a brat. The only person who mattered was me. Whatever was fun was what was most important.

My Terrible Twenties began in my late teens and ended on tax day, 2002, five months after I had met Jeff.

When thinking about my former self I really do see her as another person. When I made the decision to not be a brat anymore it was a finality. I never went back on my decision to snap out of my bratty phase. You'd think that it would have been easy to slip right back in but it was actually really easy to leave it all behind.

I have wondered if I could have lived my Terrible Twenties differently and if I had if I would be a different person now. I don't think that I would have stayed in and read more instead of going out if someone had told me that going out almost every night of the week until the wee hours wasn't worth it. At the time it was incredibly important to me. Looking back it seems SO obvious that it wasn't worth it, but younger me would never have bought that truth. And anyway, I think those years did help shape the current me.

Reflecting on those years in my early 20s leads me to wonder if any authority figure could have talked me out of being such a brat. I wish I could say it would have been possible but I'm not sure about that. I dare say that by the time I left for college it was already set in stone that it would take many years for me to learn to appreciate the freedom of being an adult. If I were a parent would I be able to steer my kid away from the Terrible Twenties? I don't know. But I resolve to try.

(This entry was loosely based on a prompt by the Reverb Broads group. The photo is of me at age 21.)