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bad news, emily!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Nadia... I Wish!

I wish I could have been fearless longer.
I didn’t start gymnastics until I was 13, so not only was I a head taller than all the other girls in my class, but I seemed to be the most cautious of them. I think little kids can excel so quickly because they’re not afraid of the effects of that little thing called gravity.

I still relive my old routines in my head. More often than that I perform routines that I could never actually do in real life. Amazing giants on the bars with a double layout dismount. Back-handsprings on the balance beam. Sukaharas on the vault.
When I play out these daydreams in my mind I can almost feel my body doing them. Which muscles I’d have to focus on to do a giant, how I’d have to keep from arching too much on a layout. Having perfect timing on every movement in a tumbling run. How hard I’d have to punch the springboard. How tight I’d have to stay to land square on the beam after a front tuck.
If only I had started earlier. Maybe I could have done all these things. But at least I can be a Nadia in my dreams.

It’s kinda like Uncle Rico living too much in ‘82. “Oh, man! I wish I could go back in time. I'd take state.”
If I could go back to ’82, I could start my gymnastics career at age 4.

I (sort of) Feel Like Chicken Tonight

I don’t know why, but I really hate cooking meat. I mean I really hate cooking meat. (Sorry, to all you House of Raeford reps.) My sister can attest to my displeasure in all my dealings with raw meat, as well as many forms of cooked meat. I’ve cooked chicken twice in the last 8 days and I must say it puts me in a foul mood.
(Get it? Foul…fowl?)
I’m not anywhere close to being a vegetarian. I love bacon way too much. And I like chicken a lot too, but I like it when other people cook it. I hate that weird nasty other slimy stuff you have to cut off. So I’ve come to the point that whenever I do buy meat I will be willing to pay someone $5 to cook it for me.
I’m only 80% joking about that.
I guess mathematically that means I’d pay someone $1 to cook it for me.

The Great Equalizer

Sometimes I think about how there are certain basic human needs & functions that don’t vary between cultures and socio-economic standing or any other variations in lifestyles. A CEO of a major corporation has to pee. He has to eat, drink, and he has to do his business (no pun intended).
I think about this when I’m in the ladies’ room at work. I always feel awkward when I’m in there at the same time as my boss, more so than with other people. It’s just a weird thing – to be two feet away from someone when you’re both peeing or whatever. I’m VERY thankful that in America we believe in stalls. (Sorry guys.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Family Ties

Recently, when I was with my family in Oregon, I had a strong realization of just how wonderful my relatives are. I hadn’t seen them in years; I still pictured my cousins as middle-schoolers, but in reality they are finishing high school or already graduated from college and working as engineers or in AmeriCorps. We were all in a room together and I looked around at my siblings and cousins and the obvious struck me as profound. We’re all grown up. We’re adults. We’re no longer playing with Lincoln Logs in our grandparents’ basement or getting all seven of us wrestling/sliding down their carpeted stairs in one big pile. And even though, as the generations go, we would now still sit at the “kids’ table” at Christmas, we have outgrown the name, not to mention the chairs.

The feeling I felt most strongly was a draw to the women in my family - to my two aunts, and also my two great-aunts. We were saying goodbye to my grandma, so maybe that affected how I was taking time to appreciate everyone there. The women in my family are very special, very loving, and very fun. I feel a renewed connection to my aunts and a pull to grow closer to them now. It’s strange that I hadn’t felt this way before. I always really liked them and enjoyed the time we spent together, but this was different. Maybe it’s because I’m an adult now and so we view each other differently. Maybe it’s all just a new perspective on my part.

There was one thing that especially touched my heart.
My aunt Julie mentioned a time when I was 18 months old and my parents brought us up for a visit. She said that when it was time for us to leave she didn’t want to let me go, and she remembers that moment. When we were saying goodbye this last time I held my hugs longer and I didn’t want to leave them. As I walked away down the hall I heard my aunt saying “it’s just like she’s 18 months old again.” I almost cried. That was such sweet moment to me, and I don’t think she even knew I heard her. I don’t really even know how to describe how I felt, knowing that she felt that attachment to me, even though the gaps between visits seem to, unfortunately, grow wider and wider as the years goes by.

I resolve to deepen these relationships.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What have we always said?

Michael: What have we always said is the most important thing?
George Michael Bluth: Breakfast.
Michael: Family.
George Michael Bluth: Oh, right. Family. I thought you meant of the things you eat.

The Courageous Uncareered

There was a time when I thought that my father was secretly disappointed that none of his three children had careers. Not that he would ever be disappointed in us (because he’s not that kind of person at all), just sad that none of us were involved in anything that resembled an actual career. He got his own civil engineering job straight out of graduate school and he’s been working for the same company ever since. I talked to him about it once, about whether he was disappointed that our lives weren’t as steady as his. I told him that I simply couldn’t imagine what it’s like to work at the same job for so long.
Then my dad said something that surprised me. He told me that he respected us and he wished he had had our courage when he was younger. He said he had taken the safest route – not wanting to risk anything. He said he admired my brother for choosing a lifestyle of spotty employment in the pursuit of a writing career. He said he envied my brother's courage.
That totally caught me off-guard. I hadn't expected that to be his perspective.
It’s funny how you can assume things about a person, how they view things in general or how they view you specifically, and then you find out you’re totally off the mark. In my experience, sometimes all it takes is one single conversation to start to really understand a person.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kidnapping Skillz, Coffee Drinking Skillz...

In her gigantic bag o' tricks my dear friend Super Sarah (1 of 2)
has some mad Kidnapping-(the other)Sarah-From-Work skillz. And I ain't complainin' none. Especially on a slow Friday.
Today I'm getting kidnapped from work for a few hours to go to a coffeeshop to chat, laugh, and hear more about her experiences in Mexico.

Our dialog from Monday...
Me: On Friday you're welcome to kidnap me in a serious way from 8am-5:00pm, so long as you write a ransom note addressed to my boss.
Her: Umm, since today is Talk-Like-a-Pirate day, couldn't I just storm into your office on Friday and say, "Avast, boss-matey, this here's a pirate's-choice rain-check kidnapping, and if ye don't like it then talk to me blade, ARRRRRR!" And then we could run out together to go for coffee and wouldn't have to waste paper writing a kidnapping note.

She's not only sassy but environmentally conscious.


I said I like playing Scrabble. I didn't say I was good at it.
Especially in the company of 3 of my coworkers.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


My precious grandma left this earth on Sunday, August 28, 2005. Her name was Ellen, but everyone called her Trudy. I was blessed to call her Grandma.

I went to Portland, Oregon to be with my dad's family for her funeral. We all gathered to share our pain, and to show our love and unity as a family celebrating her life.

The last time I saw her she didn't even know who I was. I had never felt that kind of sadness before. It tore my heart and I cried my eyes out that night. Alzheimer's is a cruel disease.
But then on the day when we gathered together to say goodbye one final time I couldn't even picture in my mind the way she had been toward the end of her life. A hundred mental pictures I have of her from throughout my life came rushing back, stumbling over each other until they were just a blur of smiles and laughter. She was joy. She was comfort. She loved like it was breathing.

We stood under that small cemetery shelter on a beautiful Thursday morning and I struggled with my emotions and my comprehension of what I was experiencing. The moment suddenly became very real to me. From where I was standing on the side I looked around at the people she had loved so dearly. My heart broke then and I cried for my grandma's sisters, for her children, and for her husband who was saying goodbye to the love of his life. Then I cried for myself.

The air was thick with a strange mixture of pain and love. Our hearts silently joined one another's in our sadness. Our individual memories collided with each other's; the memories of joy and laughter and her famous blueberry coffeecake. We were family and she spent a lifetime cherishing every one of us.

Funerals are strange things. There's all the external formality and compulsory composure and script for the ceremony, and then there's the swirling thoughts and emotions flying wildly around inside you. It almost made me dizzy - the contrast.
At a funeral, a person might really just want to curl up in a ball on the ground and cry, or they might want to lean on the casket and put their arms around it as though they were giving the person one last hug, or they might want to dance and sing and praise God, knowing that their loved one is with Him for eternity. But people usually just stand there, silent or crying softly, absorbed in their thoughts.

I wanted to curl up in my grandpa's lap like a child, and cry with him and for him. How does a man say goodbye to the woman he has cherished every day for 56 years?

She was a beautiful, beautiful woman.

I am so thankful I was able to be there for her funeral because it felt so good to be able to say goodbye while I was with family, not just from a corner of my room 3,000 miles away. It was so good to be able to hold my grandpa's hand. A stroke he had a number of years back made it hard to understand him when he speaks, but the firm squeeze he gave me as I held his hand said a lot. It said he loved me. It said his heart was hurting like it never had before. It said he was glad I was there. It said he was thankful for such a loving family. It said he was afraid of the lonely nights ahead, but that he was glad his wife was singing to God with the choir of angels.

God blessed us all with her life.

Tickle Fights

My dad, brother, sister and I used to have "tickle fights" all the time when we were little kids. These events consisted mostly of my dad tickling us until we laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. All three of us would be jumping all over him trying to tickle him, and he pretended for our benefit that it was actually working. (Anyone who has had a little child try to tickle them can attest to the fact that they have underdeveloped tickling skills.) So, with his arms swinging around wildly and alternating between us, our dad would rapid-fire tickle us while we screamed with delight. "Stop! Stop! Stop, Dad!...... Do it again, Dad!" I don't know how he kept up with us. It must be one of those special Daddy Skills.

But when I was older, maybe 9 or 10 years old, I developed a valuable skill: I could, at times, control my ticklishness when threatened with unwanted tickle attacks, or if I just wanted to frustrate the person. But I have to see it coming in order to prepare my defenses. I'm still quite ticklish by nature, but if I set my mind to it, I can thwart any attack.

Tickling is a funny thing, if you stop and think about it. (You'd have to stop, because it's hard to think clearly when you're being tickled.) It would be interesting to read some sociological research on the topic: "The Role of Tickling in the American Family", "Ribcage vs. Foot: Sensory Differences in the Tickling Experience", etc.

What made me think about this? KTaber tried to tickle my foot the other night and she got frustrated because she wasn't getting anywhere.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tihs Is Aewsmoe!

"Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe."

Tihs qotue/dmeontsariton has awlyas fscanitaned me.

Russians and Pudding

We got The Hook Up today at work. A friend who helped host some Russians on campus brought over leftover snacks from their visit. He hooked me up with a blast from the past: Jell-O Pudding Snacks. Whooohoooooo!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

SOMEone Is Looking Out For Me

Last week I was informed that it was extremely important that I get new tires right away. I looked and realized that I was an idiot for not having checked sooner. My tires were in really bad shape, but I wanted to shop around for the best price so I didn't replace them right then.
This morning as I turned onto the road leaving my apartment I had the sudden overwhelming feeling of "you need to go get new tires NOW." It was totally impractical because I didn't have a ride to work if I went to the dealer at that point. But it was such a strong urging that I couldn't NOT do it. So I called Will (my usual dealer-to-work morning ride) hoping that he wasn't already on the road to work. He wasn't. He could give me a ride to work. So things went smoothly in the morning.
The afternoon was a little more stressful, as I needed to pick up my car by 6:00pm. Eddie (my ever-faithful ride to AND from work whenever I need one) and I both work on campus, so we were going to meet at the park-and-ride lot where his car was parked. But on this fine afternoon the busses we have to take are all caught up in traffic and running 20-30 minutes late. Stressful, very stressful. I even cut in front of some gals who were hesitating about whether to take the last spot on the bus that finally came. You snooze, you lose, girls! So Eddie showed folks what a Protege can really do, and we pulled into the dealer's at 5:59. They let me in, but just barely. I got my car and headed off to job #2, which I was already very late for.
Okay, so by now you're thinking this is the lamest story EVER.
But I'm sitting here at work at 8:45pm and there is a torrential downpour on the other side of this office window. If I was out there driving with my old tires, I would surely have slid off the road and gotten hurt.

Someone has certainly got my back. Thanks DAD.

I Speak Not Good English

I can’t imagine moving to another country and having to work a menial job just because my language skills aren’t very good. I know a guy from Ukraine whose degree is in biomedical engineering and he’s currently working the graveyard shift cleaning a mall because that’s the only kind of work he could get because he couldn’t speak English. It’s also interesting how – and confess to having done this – people will have skewed perceptions of people’s intelligence and skills because of language limitations. When I was in Germany, I could always tell when people thought I was just stupid because I wasn’t able to communicate well.
The Babelfish idea (see “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) is brilliant, though disappointingly fictional. Noting, of course, that along with the fantastic experience of being able to understand everyone’s language through instant translation, we would then also be able to understand all their really horrible poetry.

Grumble Grumble Grumble

I’ve been feeling grumpy a lot more frequently these days. My main job is currently giving me little joy, save for the coffee & bagel breaks I take with my fave coworker K. Granted, I don’t drink coffee, but it’s good to get out of the often-frustrating office to chat with a friend and update each other on our lives. She leaves her lab and comes over to me at the front desk and says “Do you want to…” and before she finishes her sentence I blurt out “YES!” It’s pretty much a daily thing.
If you’ve ever seen the British version of “The Office”, I feel a lot like Dawn, sitting at the front desk, losing her mind from boredom and having to interact with annoying people. Like me, she keeps her sanity by crafting mischievous moments with certain coworkers. At least I have good rapport with most everyone in the office and enough of us share a similar sense of humor so that we can have some sarcastic fun with each other.
But so many of us here are in funks. There are some awkward & strained relationships among the people I work with and it can just be so… energy sucking to be in the middle of it. “Is it 5:00 YET?” we ask each other, some days as early as 10am. Heck, even our associate director asks me that same rhetorical question! The days drag. There’s busywork, but nothing interesting or challenging. Blah, blah, blah.
I know it’s no fun to read someone’s rambling complaints, but I guess it’s slightly less annoying than actually having me whine in someone’s ear. This way people have the option of skipping over this entire post. Which, in retrospect, I'd recommend.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ahoy! Today be "Talk Like a Pirate" Day

(This post is dedicated to Commodores Will & Joyce and most especially THE BEST PIRATE I'VE EVER SEEN... Commodore Shallcross.)


Arrr, me hearties! This day be not fer ye lily-livered, land-lubbin' privateers, but fer all ye scallywags an' buncanneers with scurvy an' a right fear of Davey Jones' Locker. (An' I don't be talkin' bout the Monkees - tho I be takin' a monkey o'er a sprog any day.) Avast! This gentlewoman of fortune be ready to commandeer ("it's a nautical term") an' plunder a beaut o' a ship an' go in search of booty.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Speech Pathology?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Big Break... TBA

If I were to ever make movies, I’ve already picked out some actors that I’d want to have in them:
The amazingly talented Adrien Brody is one (The Pianist, Dummy, The Village).

Dakota Fanning is another (War of the Worlds, I Am Sam, Man on Fire). She's just a kid, but she’s an unbelievable actress.

Then there’s the always hilarious Parker Posey (Party Girl, Clockwatchers, Josie & the Pussycats).
Now all I need are some phat connections, a script, a producer, a couple million dollars, a key grip and best boy, and... some skills.

"Na-BIS-co!" *ding*

We have 2 crates of Barnum's Animal Crackers sitting in our office - leftovers from a campus-wide event we hold every August. We try to err on the side of caution and order plenty, which means there are always plenty left over. We eat animal crackers for the next 6 months.
There's nothing cuter than seeing a man with 30 years working at the University carrying one of these little boxes around by the string.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Clay, Moss, Dreams and Failure

This post is inspired by something my friend Edwin wrote the other day.

As far as our jobs go, we have these things in common: We both work at the same university (but in different offices) and we have both been at our current jobs for five years now.
To quote E-Street: “Five years! Good, but also a sobering reminder of the fact that I have to be brave and reject the passivity to settle for what I'm dealt, instead of blazing my own trail. I'm thankful for my job. It's given me priceless experience. Nonetheless, I'm responsible for the course of my life, not the organization that I currently work for.”
And I concur.

I am the poster child for passivity and getting stuck in grooves of my own making. My job is very predictable and I have no doubts of my job security. It’s easy. But moss grows fat on a stone that ain’t rolling.

I have had a number of career ideas roll through my mind in the last five years. I seriously considered enrolling in a nearby community college to get a degree in sculpture and become a “professional” artist.
I have also seriously considered getting a graduate degree in Speech & Hearing Sciences to become a speech therapist or audiologist. I also had a brief stint of seriously considering taking architecture classes at a local community college to see if I’d be interested in that field.

And so it seems that for me to “seriously consider” something means to get really excited about the idea, dream all kinds of big dreams about what it would be like to pursue it, and then freak out about all the ways I could fail, and then fall back into my rut of the same-old things. After which I would use language like “yeah, it would be really cool to…” without having any serious commitment to the idea. Dreams get demoted to shorter day-dreams which then get filed away in the It Would Never Work box.

Ceramics is the artistic medium I am, by far, most passionate about. I feel alive in the studio, creating something from a simple lump of clay. But I haven’t done it in 2 years. Linguistics is fascinating to me – in a way that few other things are. I think it would be incredibly interesting to work in speech pathology or audiology, where the methodical, scientific work meets the personal, one-on-one work with patients.
So why am I still Here and not There?
Fear of failure.

My flakiness is almost embarrassing, and so I hesitate, a lot more now than I used to, to mention my dreams to other people because then I just might have some sense of accountability to step out into the unknown.

A few years ago, Pastor Perry challenged a room of us with this question:
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
My heartbeat quickened during the silence that followed.
I felt a new and unexpected twinge of fear and self-consciousness.
I realized I was afraid to answer that question, because it might just mean I’d have to let God roll me out of my rut.

Celebrity Watch

As we speak, Andy Griffith is upstairs in my building.

Now... there are parts of southern culture that I just haven't caught on to yet. (Note that my usage of the word "yet" in this context means "I don't expect to.")
Grits, for one. That gravy stuff that people put on biscuits is another. Sweet tea. Nascar. And, I confess, Andy Griffith.

North Carolinians are crazy about Andy Griffith.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No Taxation Without Representation!

I'll test the photo link tool with this gem: Two Sarahs dumping tea in the Boston Harbor.


There are phrases that we all pick up over the years that stick with us and we let them slip fluidly into regular conversation. For me, and a lot of my friends, these tend to be witty or goofy movie quotes. Or they are phrases we pick up from friends & roommates we've spent a lot of time with.
"Bad news, Emily" came from an experience I had, which became a story I told, which became a phrase I use often, which became a phrase my mom, sister, brother, and a number of friends use (my brother even made me a t-shirt with the phrase on it for Christmas!). It's really amazing how language travels. (I almost named this blog "Language is Dynamic" because that's a phrase I adopted in college, declaring my linguistic credo, and have since passed on to friends who have passed it on to others. I confess there's a bit of pride involved, but it's also just plain fun.)

Now back to Emily...
When I was in high school, I spent summers working as a teacher's aide in K-1 summer school classes. The 4- 5- 6-year-olds were a source of endless entertainment. I came home with funny stories about them almost every day. One year at Escondido Elementary I was the primary "Yard Duty" for the class, as in the threat "I'm going to tell the Yaaaard Dutyyyyy!" This meant that I not only had to keep the kids from killing themselves or others, but I also got a front-row seat to the silly things they said and did. Now, there was a boy named Andrew who had a girl who chased him around trying to kiss him - every single day. Her name was Emily. He'd run away from her, screaming at the top of his lungs for her to leave him alone. Apparently her cooties were the worst of them all and she was bent on giving them to him. One day, during recess, he approached her as she was swinging on a swing. He was six years old, which meant he was not only taller than the other boys, but he thought he was a pretty cool cat. He folded his arms, leaned against the pole of the swing set like the Fonzz, gave his head a shake to toss his thick, mushroom-shaped hair back, and looked at her as though he owned the world. In an arrogant tone he says to her "Bad news, Emily. I'm not going to be here tomorrow, so you won't be able to chase me."
It was classic.