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Posts Tagged ‘college’

The “Do One Thing” series chronicles my yearlong effort to tackle one project every day to organize my life and home.

Day 11: You would think that being trapped in the house by snow and ice would provide the perfect opportunity to organize, sort and clean. You would be wrong.

I managed to figure out the state of several magazine subscriptions, however, so we’re in no danger of losing our monthly/weekly music/technology/cooking news fix. Note: Print is not dead yet.

Day 12: Third snow day of the week. I managed to help some class handouts that had been taken out of their notebooks find their way home. With a high of 25 degrees, that was really all that anyone could expect of me.

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My college roommate and lifelong friend Jennifer has always been the crafty sort. Whereas we could both always visualize how we wanted a project to look, she could actually make it happen, whether it was by sewing, painting, or just moving stuff around.  She can choreograph a color guard routine or a complete house redecoration with little stress.

We rented a house together for 1.5 years, and we had the coolest Christmas tree of all time. Jennifer procured a dead, leafless sapling that we decorated for the holidays.

We were all about the avant-garde.

(We were apparently also all about the not-taking-pictures-of-our-own-stuff. While others took photos of our tree of awesomeness, we don’t seem to have any visual records of it.)

Given her creative flair, it wasn’t surprising when she broke out the arts and crafts supplies one night and informed me that we were going to make scrap angels for our tree – one for each of us.

She also broke out the wine.

We were, at the time, given to purchasing the largest bottle of Riunite Lambrusco that we could find for our parties, drinking as much as we wanted during the festivities and saving the rest for wine spritzers (made with Sprite, if I recall).

I don’t precisely remember the scrap angel-making process, but I do remember a lot of pouring and giggling, an exhausting amount of pouring and giggling, and at some point one of us said something along these lines: “Why don’t we just make one angel with two heads instead of two angels?”

Genius, right? One angel, two heads – one for each of us.

It certainly seemed like a good idea until the next morning, when we awoke to discover a TWO-HEADED ANGEL ON TOP OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE.

I think Jennifer quietly made two angels to replace the polycephalic messenger we mistakenly manufactured – no need to involve the craft-averse again – and all was well and much less weird in time for our Christmas party.

I miss those days of wine and giggling. I even kind of miss the creepy two-headed angel. Maybe I have some old pillowcases I can cut up  tonight …

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A co-worker complimented me on my paperclip holder this morning.

It’s an ashtray.

My grandmother (father’s side) LOVED to smoke. She loved it like some people love their pets. It was her hobby.

When we were children, my brother and I would argue over who got to flick the Bic to light her Chesterfields, secondhand smoke be damned.

After her diagnosis of lung cancer/heart disease, she halfheartedly tried to quit. I remember looking outside one Thanksgiving and noticing smoke drifting up from the open driver-side door of her K-car. She may have sort of tried to take her doctor’s advice to quit, but she wasn’t taking any orders off of anybody.

After she died, I found secret stashes of Chesterfields all over her house, in handbags, dresser drawers and cabinets. They seemed like dirty secrets, and finding them made me wish that everybody had just shut up and let the woman smoke after her condition was diagnosed as terminal. Instead, she seems to have spent her last couple of years sneaking cigarettes only when she could get all the caretakers out of the house.

This is only one of the entirely awesome collection of ashtrays that I inherited from her. Most are very evocative of the ’60s and ’70s, and there’s not a plain one among them. Like her, they’re colorful and weird, and they don’t really go with anything.

She died in the fall when I was a college freshman. Every year about this time I realize that I’m becoming more like her as I get older (sans the smoking and multiple divorces), and we could have some great conversations if she was still around. We could have spent the last 20 years taking those crazy guided bus tours that she liked, smoking our way around the continent.

She would have been a blast on a cruise ship.

Instead, I’ve got the grooviest ashtrays you’ve ever seen. They may never see another cigarette, but they’re great reminders of a majestically weird lady that I wish had been around longer.

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I’m planning a trip to New York City and I am PSYCHED. People who grow up in the rural South usually have one of three reactions to urban life:

  • They are annoyed by crowded sidewalks, brutal traffic and the intricate layout of city streets.
  • They are terrified by the city’s sheer vibrancy.
  • They fall in love with said sheer vibrancy and begin plotting their way to a high-rise office and studio walkup.

I’ve loved city life since moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the early 1980s. My family’s home was an easy 20 minutes from the Louisiana state line, which was a mere 40 minutes from downtown New Orleans.

The Crescent City is a troublesome example, because it runs on its own rhythm. All cities do. But it introduced me to a world of close quarters, where strangers lived literally feet from one another, rode buses and streetcars, and many times, heaven forbid, WALKED. It was a world in which people ate dinner at 9 p.m., not 6 p.m., and they certainly didn’t call it “supper.”

It was a world of sophistication far removed from my home in Kiln, Mississippi, where I literally had to drive across a defunct cattle gap to get to school every morning.

I truly fell for city life when I was 21 and went to London for four weeks to take a World War II history class. I barely slept the entire time I was there because I didn’t want to miss a minute of action.

Between the Underground and an extremely well-run (read: on-time) system of buses, I could be anywhere in the city within a half hour. The crosswalks required traffic to come to a standstill for pedestrians to cross busy streets – and we’re not just talking crosswalks at red lights and stop signs.

After a lifetime of being accused of walking too fast, I was a welcome addition to the People in a Hurry on the city’s sidewalks. I learned the true people-moving potential of escalators, and I’ve been uncomfortable standing completely still on moving stairs ever since.

The restaurants, the shopping (note that my favorite destination in any foreign city is a grocery store, and a must-visit destination in any large American city is a foreign grocery store), the population’s ethnic mix … there’s just too much that I love to list it all.

New York has it all: subways, buses, foreign grocery stores, fast-moving sidewalk crowds, world-class restaurants, even non-stationary escalator-riders. And not a cattle gap for miles.

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After completing my latest exam this past weekend, I gave serious thought to stopping my pursuit of a master’s degree in English. I have, after all, completed the graduate certificate in technical communication that I returned to school to pursue. I signed up for the master’s program on impulse, the way other people get tattoos, only I wasn’t drunk and this sure is costing a lot more.

I plan weekends and vacations around school, and I don’t even have kids. Years ago, I managed to get a undergraduate degree in journalism and history while taking only ONE upper-level literature course, meaning I have to take a few undergrad courses now.  I obsess. I ponder. I worry. I wonder why I’m doing this.

Then, the fall schedule makes an appearance. I glance at it in spite of myself, and of course see a class that I would love to take. Coincidentally, the company I work for will pay most of my tuition starting this fall.

So now I’m feeling all Clash: Should I stay or should I go? I guess if I have to ask, then I already know the answer.

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