expressions, funny stories, lessons learned, music, nostalgia

“You really don’t need to put a bow on that load…”

Greetings, blog fans. I decided to take a day off from blogging yesterday. Well, I did post something on the travel blog, but it was short and kind of sweet, because I’m still experiencing our current excursion and I’m not quite ready to write about it yet. So far, it has been an interesting trip, though…

For instance, today’s post title was contributed by Bill. It was inspired by a disgusting song on one of Red Peters’ compilation albums. Bill and I both enjoy off color humor. If it involves body functions, so much the better. Red Peters specializes in that kind of humor, whether it’s in one of his original songs, or a song he puts on one of his compilations, done by another artist.

Some years ago, I went looking for the song “Poo Poo, Pee Pee” on YouTube. No one had uploaded it, so I did, using pictures and video of our recently departed Arran and his old buddy, Zane, who died in 2019. I was probably inspired by one of Arran’s messier indiscretions. By the way, I can play this song on the guitar, now. Maybe I’ll redo it and sing it myself… and play along, too. Why not?

“Poo Poo, Pee Pee” by Bunkum… a classic!

Arran never really did get the hang of housetraining 100 percent. He was about 90 percent reliable. I think he did know better than to go in the house, but for some reason, he just didn’t think it was important enough to avoid having accidents. I had to be very vigilant about making sure he went out and actually did his business. Otherwise, I might get an unpleasant and stinky surprise.

Anyway, the above song has a line that goes “Put a bow on that load…” or something like that. When I was talking to Bill about the post I wrote two days ago, about the high school senior who applied to 70 colleges and got into 54 of them, Bill quipped “Right. You don’t need to put a bow on that load.”

I laughed, because it seemed like sort of a backward way of calling what the young lady did “gilding the lily.” I remember when I was in college, finishing up my bachelor’s degree. I had two minors– one in speech, and the other in communications– and could have taken just one more course for a third, in journalism. My advisor, the wonderful and departed Dr. Massie Stinson, said in his very courtly, gentlemanly, southern accent, “I think that would be ‘gilding the lily.'”

“Gilding the lily” refers to the practice of trying to decorate something that is already beautiful. One doesn’t need to paint a beautiful flower with gold, because it’s already magnificent. Putting gold paint on a beautiful flower would turn it into something garish, tacky, and gaudy. Let the flower’s virtues stand alone…

Of course, if I had wanted to take the journalism class, that would be something else. In retrospect, maybe I should have taken it. If I recall correctly, it was taught by the recently departed Mr. William Woods (although people called him “Doctor”– he didn’t actually have a doctoral degree). I took two classes with Mr. Woods, and found him to be very entertaining. Journalism class with him would have, no doubt, made my GPA a little better. Certainly, it would have helped me with my GPA in English. I was a pretty mediocre English major.

But, at the time, I didn’t want to take that class. I took journalism in high school and was actually pretty good at it. I like writing, as you can see. I think I was put off by the prospect of having to talk to people, especially after a tragedy. Isn’t it funny that a few years later, I would earn a master’s degree in social work? Which… as you can also see… I don’t use. If I had actually launched my career as planned, I probably would have aimed to use the public health degree… and I don’t know how successful I would have been, because it probably would have meant working with scientists or hospital administrators a lot. I likely would have been fired.

Fortunately, I found my husband, who finds it advantageous to keep me around, if only so we can laugh at our many private running jokes and enjoy scatological humor together. Otherwise, I might be living in a van down by the river… or a box under a bridge. And instead of going to our high priced dentist today, I could be sporting “summer teeth” (summer here, summer there… ūüėČ ). I’m kidding, of course. I have absolutely no doubt that if I needed to survive, I would, and my survival would neither involve homelessness, nor poor oral hygiene.

Sometimes, I just like to stop and muse at the complete absurdity of my life and how it’s turned out. Quite a lot of it is, frankly, ridiculous… Like, for instance, how I met Bill in the first place. It was not the kind of scenario that I’d want to tell my mother the truth about… although his mother knows, and has no issues with it. Bill’s mom isn’t like my mom, though. She’s more of a woman of the world. Actually, my mom is also a woman of the world, but she has much less tolerance and patience for my bent toward vulgarity. Certain topics are off limits. However, she doesn’t mind when I cuss. I think that’s interesting. She will fuss about cursing at my eldest sister, who is 64 years old, but I can drop an f bomb in from of my mom, and she truly doesn’t care. She probably figures it’s a lost cause… “sigh”.

Every old sock needs an old shoe, though, and I guess I’m Bill’s. He likes me, and he comes up with funny lines, often based on nonsensical things in our lives. And instead of “gilding the lily”, he said “you don’t need to put a bow on that load…” which is sort of like calling what the high school student did “bullshit” and saying that a load of bullshit doesn’t need a big fancy bow on it to make it “prettier”. I don’t know that I would necessarily describe applying to that many schools as “bullshit”. To me, it seems more to indicate issues with compulsion or anxiety… or maybe it’s just a statement that our higher education system is complete bollocks.

The book I’m reading right now kind of addresses the phenomenon that a lot of young people think they HAVE to go to some big name college. They put all their eggs in one basket, and ignore less famous places that can give them a perfectly good education. That means the lesser known, but still excellent (or adequate) schools struggle to stay alive, and the really big ones are inundated with applications from way too many qualified students. And then we have wealthy people paying huge “donations” to athletic departments, falsifying records, faking credentials, and winding up in minimum security prison camps for fraud.

I look forward to reviewing the book, so I think I’ll stop here and finish it. I think I have about 30 percent to go… You can look forward to more of a rant about this subject in the coming days.

Hope you have a good Monday. Ours will be punctuated by a nationwide transportation strike and a date with the dentist. Joy of joys… but we’ll go home tomorrow; I’ll write up this trip; and maybe post a new book review. Ciao!

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first world problems, work

I would not want to be 18 years old in 2023…

Good morning, Krusty Krew… Bill and I woke up bright and early in our suite at the Wald Hotel in Stuttgart. It’s a very nice hotel and we have a lovely room, although the bed is a bit firmer than we’re used to. But, no matter. I realize this is a first world problem, and we’re damned lucky on many levels.

As I was regaining consciousness this morning, I took a look at the news. First, I read about Gwyneth Paltrow’s legal woes. She’s been sued by a retired optometrist who apparently crashed into her on a ski slope in Utah seven years ago. The guy, name of Terry Sanderson, initially sued her for $3 million, but a judge threw out the case. Now, he’s suing for $300,000. I’m no fan of Gwyneth’s Goop, but it does sound to me like the guy who crashed into her is trying to cash in on her fame and wealth. She’s countersuing him for $1 and legal fees. Frankly, I hope she prevails.

Then I read a story in the Washington Post about an 18 year old young woman named Daya Brown from Atlanta. I don’t have any more free articles to share this month, so here’s a link I found to another paper. Brown is a fine student, and in 2020, when she was 15, she “had some extra time on her hands.” She started researching colleges she thought she might like to attend. When she was finished, she had a list of about 70 schools.

Then, when the time came for Brown to apply to colleges, she spent about three hours a day for over four months, filling out applications and researching scholarships. She took advantage of the pandemic rules, as many schools waived their application fees during the height of the COVID-19 era. In the end, she got accepted to 54 schools and scored about $1.3 million in scholarships. Ultimately, she decided to accept an offer to attend Duke University. No doubt, that is an excellent choice, and she obviously has a great work ethic. She’ll probably do very well at Duke.

Personally, I think that applying to that many colleges is ridiculous on many levels. But ultimately, Daya Brown was rewarded for her efforts. She can tell people that 54 colleges accepted her. Anyone who has ever filled out applications for institutions of higher education knows that successfully gaining admittance to selective schools is challenging. However, I think the time Daya Brown spent on filling out those applications could have been better spent on other things, like enjoying her final year of high school. In other words, when she’s in her 30s or 50s, I wonder if Brown will still think the hours she spent applying to so many schools was time well spent.

Also, I once had the “privilege” of working in a college admissions office one spring. It was my job to file all of the stuff prospective students sent in to the College of William & Mary, a very selective school in Virginia. I saw, with my own eyes, the endless deluge of documents from hopeful students the admissions office dealt with at William & Mary. Some of it was absolutely insane. I know the college admissions process has changed since those days. For one thing, a lot of schools use the same application. Still, there are human beings at those schools who have to process each application. As I read Daya Brown’s story, I thought of the people working in those offices who had to process her application, even though she probably had a much shorter list of schools that she was actually considering attending.

I can excuse Daya Brown for applying to all of those colleges, though. She probably got a lot of local praise for working so hard on her applications. And she is obviously a good student, and one that most colleges would happily welcome to campus. Maybe she felt encouraged or pressured to apply to so many schools from her family, or maybe she’s simply a bit compulsive. Whatever her reasons, she’s getting highly commended for it, which is valuable in and of itself. She’s even getting fifteen minutes of fame, as thousands of people read her story, and people like me blog about it.

In our warped American society, people who have insane work ethics are praised and rewarded. Most people never stop to think about how, actually, it’s kind of a self-absorbed thing to do– applying to so many schools, when you can only attend one at a time. It’s also not a trend I would want to see catch on, as more students might feel pressured to do what Brown did, when they already have a lot to worry about and think of during college application season/senior year. Not everyone has the time or the money to apply to so many schools. I realize that Brown didn’t have to pay application fees for all of the schools she applied to, but I don’t expect that trend to continue, as the pandemic hysteria seems to abate.

Naturally, I had to read the comments… and I have to say, some of them were really surprising. I wonder… do people ever really stop and think about the big picture when they react to news stories? So Brown got into 54 colleges. That means it’s likely that students who actually wanted to attend any of those schools she applied to, but had no intention of ever attending, were rejected or relegated to a wait list.

Most people who commented on Daya Brown’s story seemed very impressed. Those who were not impressed by her extremely ambitious college application operations were roundly criticized. One person, name of Cherie, wrote that she thought it was “nuts” that Brown applied to so many schools. She wrote that this was not a trend she’d want to see continue. A number of people left Cherie very rude comments, even after she explained that she, herself, has a doctorate and teaches college courses. Another commenter, who claimed to be a physician, called Cherie (a youngish looking woman, based on her Facebook photo) an “old hag”, and berated her for daring to criticize Brown’s actions.

I took a look at the doctor’s profile. She appeared to be pretty long in the tooth, herself. Cherie didn’t need me to stick up for her, though, as she wrote that she hoped the physician had a better bedside manner than her online personality. That’s a separate issue, of course, but I wonder why people simply can’t be civilized when they comment on things? Why start off an exchange by calling someone a mean-spirited name, as you try to qualify your comments by saying you’re a physician? I can see getting “nasty” if someone is nasty to you, but why immediately address someone with such piss and vinegar? It really makes me think that a lot of people are just unkind.

But mostly… I just think that if you’re already a very hardworking student who has done well in high school, you should just try to relax and enjoy the fleeting days of youth. Daya Brown has the rest of her life to work. She’s 18 years old, beautiful, smart, and presumably healthy. Seems to me she could have whittled down that list of colleges by two-thirds; people still would have considered her a hard worker, and she would have still gotten into a great school and scored scholarship money.

In this age of excesses, I just don’t think this trend of students applying to dozens of colleges is something we ought to be promoting. Being resourceful and hardworking is certainly commendable, but there’s a hell of a lot more to life than trying to impress others. And “workaholism” is not really something that Americans need more of, because there’s a hell of a lot more to life than work, branding, and self-promotion. At best, it ends with frenzied people who are bitter and burned out by their time they’re 30. At worst, it ends with people who die sooner than they should, having spent all their time working, instead of being with loved ones, serving others, and enjoying being alive.

Anyway… just a thought from a 50 year old “hag”. The doc didn’t actually call me that– yet, anyway– but I stand with Cherie, the college professor, who clearly knows of what she writes. And I’m really glad to be 50, and no longer feeling the pressures of being 18, with my whole life ahead of me. I’m sure it’s a lot scarier now than it was in 1990, when I was Daya Brown’s age… Fortunately, my own college choice was easy. I applied to four schools, and only got into one… and yet, 29 years post graduation, I still have a pretty enviable lifestyle. I guess that just goes to show you that, in the grand scheme of things, even if you aren’t a super achiever in high school, things can turn out fine.

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book reviews, true crime

A review of Click Click Click: From the Say My Name Series, by Karen DeVanie and Anne Varner…

A couple of days ago, an old college friend of mine sent me a private message on Facebook. Initially, I was a little concerned, because the message began with the words “Click Click Click,” and an unfamiliar link. I was afraid she’d been hacked. It turned out my friend had sent a link to Amazon.com, where a book titled Click Click Click: From the Say My Name Series was for sale.

This book, written by sisters Anne Varner and Karen DeVanie of the Sugar Coated Murder podcast, is a “true crime” account of a notorious murder that happened in my friend’s hometown in February 1990. I have written about this murder a couple of times in this blog. My old friend wanted my opinion of the book. She wrote that she found the writing “amateurish”. She hoped I could offer an unbiased opinion, since I’m not from her hometown and don’t know the people involved.

I already had big plans to start reading Prince Harry’s book, Spare. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been hitting my two links about the murder of seventeen year old Raymond Trent Whitley, perpetrated by Whitley’s classmates, Frederick “West” Greene and Michael Jervey. Click Click Click, only consists of 133 pages and promised to be a fast read. I told my friend, who had also been a high school classmate of Trent’s, Mike’s, and West’s in tiny Franklin, Virginia, that I would read the book and write a review. True to my word, I’m now working on the review, as the book was a very quick and easy read. I’m sad to say, my friend was right about the writing.

First thing’s first…

I am not from Franklin, Virginia. Although I am from Virginia, I have never so much as visited Franklin. I don’t have a connection to the city or this case, other than knowing my friend, and meeting West Greene once, when my friend brought him to visit our alma mater, Longwood College (now Longwood University). At the time, West was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute, the military college my father, uncle, and several cousins attended. The fact that he went to VMI is probably the main reason I remembered West Greene. I remember my friend really liked West. Indeed, he’d seemed like a nice enough person when I briefly met him that one time.

It later came out that West, and his friend, Mike Jervey, had murdered their classmate, Trent Whitley, over an insult. My old friend was devastated when she heard about it. I remember her being on the verge of tears, saying over and over again, “How could he do that?” She was absolutely gutted.

In 2013, I randomly decided to write a blog post called “Crime blasts from the past“. It was a post about several cases from my youth that I recalled. I remembered West Greene and wrote about him, never dreaming that my old friend would find the post and comment. Then, we hooked up on Facebook, and she told me more about how this case had affected her hometown, a place where “everyone knows everyone else’s business.”

Now, Jervey and Greene are out of prison, which has rattled many people from Franklin.. That’s probably why I keep getting hits on my blog posts about this case. Obviously, there was interest in a book to be written about Trent Whitley’s murder so long ago. Enter Anne Varner and Karen DeVanie, two sisters who happen to be from Franklin, Virginia, originally. The sisters host a true crime podcast that marries murder with their love of baking sweets, and have decided to expand their true crime interests into writing.

What happened?

According to Click Click Click, back in 1988, 16 year old Michael Jervey was in a bad way. His father had not been well, and in spite of visits to doctors, the cause of illness was elusive. Mr. Jervey finally went to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, where he received a cancer diagnosis. Mike’s father spent a few weeks hospitalized. He never made it out again. Mike blamed his mother for not telling him about his dad’s illness. Her reticence caused Mike to lose precious time with his dad before he died. The young man was angry and reclusive, until he paired up with West Greene, a popular classmate whose father had been a prison warden.

West Greene and Mike Jervey reportedly became obsessed with the idea of killing someone. Based on Click Click Click, the two had an unwritten “list” of people who had crossed them and could be candidates for killing. They would strike names from the list if a person unlucky enough to be on it sincerely apologized. If they didn’t, they were “fair game” for murder. Say someone made a joke at the boys’ expense, or somehow embarrassed them in another way. They might end up on the list. But if they somehow made amends, they would be safe… at least until the next perceived slight.

Supposedly, no one else was any the wiser that these two guys were planning violence, but my friend tells me that actually, there were a few people who knew about the plot. Evidently, no one chose to do anything about it, or take the warning signs seriously. Then, on February 23, 1990, Jervey and Greene lured Whitley to a construction area and shot him in the head.

Varner and DeVanie include graphic details about Whitley’s brain matter splattered all over Jervey’s pants, and the blood stains in the trunk of his car. They had wrapped Trent Whitley in a stolen tarp and used the car, a gift from Jervey’s mother, to take Whitley’s body to Jervey’s family’s farm. That was where Greene and Jervey buried him in a shallow grave. For two years, no one knew what had happened to Trent Whitley. It wasn’t until Jervey had an attack of conscience and confessed, that the authorities finally found his body. Then, Trent finally got a proper burial.

My thoughts on the book…

I think Click Click Click could have been a much better book than it is. It appears that Mike Jervey contacted the sisters after they did a podcast about “his case”. More than once, they write about the email. Below is a screenshot.

Yikes!

Apple describes the sisters’ podcast as “comedy”, and it gets very good ratings. At this writing, Sugar Coated Murder scores a 4.9 rating out of 5 stars. Personally, I have a hard time with the idea that murders can be considered comical, but I will admit I haven’t listened to their podcast. I got the sense that Varner and DeVanie tried to frame their book the way they do their podcast. I don’t follow Sugar Coated Murder, so I was confused.

The book starts in a dramatic way, as if it were more of a novel than a true crime book. Honestly, at first, I felt like I was reading the script for a very watered down Lifetime movie version of a true crime case. I have nothing against using an evocative style in a true crime book, but it wasn’t immediately clear to me who these women are, and what their connection to Franklin is.

The sisters mention their “momma”, and the locals in Franklin, writing in the first person plural, as if they’re part of the story… which they kind of are, since they’re from Franklin. They write about their “daddy’s” pharmacy, the paper mill, the community college, other crimes from the past, and how Franklin is a little town where everyone knows each other. Those details aren’t totally useless, but the sisters initially failed to connect them to the crime story.

Because I am not familiar with the sisters’ podcast, I was confused about why “they” were in the story, initially writing as if they were directly involved. Especially since they wrote that they’d left Franklin by the time this crime occurred. I was expecting a book only about the crime, not the authors’ personal connections to Franklin. Now I think they were simply explaining that they’re from the tiny community, and what life is like there.

As the book continued, it became more obviously about Mike Jervey, and it seemed to be mostly from his perspective. Mike Jervey’s perspective is valuable, of course, but it’s just one perspective. My friend assures me that Trent Whitley was no angel, but he certainly didn’t deserve to be murdered. Other than a somewhat sympathetic description of Whitley’s yearbook photo and graduation cap and gown, I didn’t get a sense that the sisters gave his perspective much thought. Trent Whitley was the victim, but the book really seemed to more about Mike Jervey. I didn’t understand why I, as a reader, should have sympathy for Mike, other than the fact that he lost his father at a young age.

Other issues…

Although the book credits Michelle Morrow as the editor of Click Click Click, I spotted a number of proofreading errors. Below is a screenshot of one that immediately comes to mind.

Do you see what I see? This bit was about an unrelated crime, as someone tried to steal the STEEL cash register in the authors’ father’s pharmacy. Not sure what it really had to do with Trent Whitley’s murder.

Later, they refer to the South as “the south”. The South is a specific region, making it a proper noun. Proper nouns are typically capitalized. But then they refer to a “Southern” county, capitalizing the adjective, when it should have been styled lower case. There are numerous little glitches like this, even though this book supposedly had an editor.

The authors also refer to Frederick West Greene as “Fred”, rather than “West”. I happen to know that “West” was the name he went by in school. I don’t know if there was a specific reason for using the different name, but based on the Amazon reviews, I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

But… I did learn some new things about this case…

First off, Trent Whitley was born June 19, 1972, which is the day before I was born. He was born in Franklin, which is a mere hour’s drive from my birthplace. Like me, he was a Gemini, a fact the sisters mention.

Secondly, I liked that the sisters wrote about the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, popularly known as The Body Farm, a term coined by crime fiction novelist, Patricia Cornwell. After Jervey confessed to the crime, he told investigators where to find Trent Whitley’s body. They weren’t able to find it based only on Jervey’s description. They contacted an expert at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, who told them to consult a botanist– a person who is an expert on plants. The investigators contacted a botany professor at the local community college, who spotted differences in the vegetation on Jervey’s family’s farm. With the professor’s help, investigators found Trent Whitley’s body, and his family was able to properly and respectfully lay him to rest. I wish the sisters had commented more about that process.

And finally, Discovery Plus contacted the sisters about presenting this case on television. They were excited about the prospect of going on TV, but the deal never came to fruition. After reading this oddly titled book, I think I can understand why the show never happened.

Again… maybe I should listen to their podcast. Their storytelling abilities might come across better in that medium than it does in this book.

Anyway…

Based on the number of people who continually hit my blog posts about this case, I have a feeling that Karen DeVanie and Anne Varner will sell a lot of books. Obviously, Trent Whitley’s murder is still interesting to many people. I probably would not have read this book if not for my old friend’s request for my opinions. However, I can see that people who are from Franklin, especially, want to know more about this trio of young men whose lives were tragically and irrevocably altered (or ended) by a violent, gruesome true crime.

I do think this book could be much better than it is. It really needs better editing. I also think the sisters should have collected many more facts about the case and presented more of them, rather than endless minutiae about life in Franklin. “Comedy podcasts” about murders, combined with baking sweets, seems like a bizarre concept that wouldn’t appeal to me. But… I also admit I haven’t listened to the podcast. I might change my mind if I ever did take the time to listen to it. It’s hard to imagine that I’d want to do that, though.

I’ve written about true crime cases myself. Some people related to victims have left me angry or distraught comments. None of my posts were “comedic” in nature. I wonder how a “comedy” podcast comes across to family members of murder victims. I guess people have conceived stranger podcast concepts than that. In any case, I don’t think I would recommend Click Click Click, except to those who want to read all there is available about Trent Whitley’s murder. But, at least it’s not a super expensive title on Kindle.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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funny stories, memories, nostalgia

Repost: “You want a bun with that?”

Here’s a repost from August 2018 as I wait for my stomach to settle.

Today, I think I’ll write something silly as opposed to something depressing or controversial.  It may not seem like it in most of my posts, but I actually have a pretty great sense of humor.  When I was younger, I had a male friend in college with whom I used to spend a lot of time.  His name is Chris.

I’m still friends with this guy, by the way. ¬†I just don’t get to see him anymore because he’s in Virginia and I’m in Germany. ¬†When we were in college, though, we were kind of inseparable. ¬†We spent hours hanging out and, when he was a drinker, we often got drunk together. ¬†He quit drinking when we were juniors in college.

Anyway…  located right next to our campus was a McDonald’s.  I didn’t eat there very often because I never had any money.  But one night, my friend went there with some of his buddies.  I believe they were all inebriated and likely pretty obnoxious, too.

This wasn’t Chris and his crew… but the idea is kind of the same.

Chris went up to the counter and ordered a cheeseburger. ¬†The guy who took his order apparently got an attitude and said, “You want a bun with that?”

Chris, who was likely feeling no pain, said, “What kind of a question is THAT?  Of course I want a BUN with that!  Who the hell orders a burger without a bun?”

The guys who were with Chris were gently trying to extricate him from the situation, but he was still cussing as the dude handed him his order.

Actually, I can think of a few funny situations involving Chris and fast food.  One of his favorite things to do when we were in college was act like he was going to throw up.  He’d make a fist and sort of hesitantly place it to his mouth, then start fake hurling.  He said he’d always wanted to try that at a fast food restaurant.  He wanted to go up to the counter and act like he was going to puke, then sort of settle down and say, “Can I have another burger, please?”

The funny part of this scenario is that he’d then revert to acting like the no nonsense female worker behind the counter.  Her eyebrows would be raised, unbelieving, and her eyes would be downcast.  And she’d say, her voice laced with attitude, “Do you know how to work a mop?”

Then Chris would revert back to his fake puking self and say, “I just want another burger, please.”

Chris, acting as the female worker, would say, “Do you see anyone else standing back here?  Who you think gonna clean up the mess if you toss your cookies all over my clean floor?”  With a wag of her head, she’d continue, “Now, you know how to work a mop, I’ll give you another burger.”

The little scenario would usually kind of end at that point.  Sometimes, I’d join in and play the fast food worker.

Chris also told me once about how he and his mom went to a McDonald’s once and saw some woman cleaning with a toothbrush.  Chris’s mom, who died in 2009, said, “Chris, I think that woman is a halfwit.  Why is she cleaning like that?”

This isn’t to say, by the way, that I think people who work in fast food are halfwits.  I don’t think that at all.  There is no such thing as truly unskilled labor.  I just laugh when I remember the way my old friend would do these imitations and act out these scenarios, especially in places like McDonald’s, where you’re liable to run into anyone…

This topic comes up thanks to the hamburger meat in our refrigerator that needs to be consumed. ¬†I probably ought to go vegan, but I don’t see it happening at this point in my life.

LOL… that woman says what my mom used to say to me all the time when I was growing up.

Yes, kids, this is what we did in the 1990s, when Internet for everyone was still just a pipe dream.  I kind of miss those days.

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music, musings

Repost: There’s life beyond your senior year… confessions of a C student

Here’s a repost from the original blog, written March 28, 2018. It appears as/is. I know it’s not currently college application season, but I think this post could be useful for some people.

Yesterday, my alma mater did a fundraising drive called #LoveYourLongwood.  This is apparently a new development.  For many years after my graduation in 1994, Longwood University was rather relaxed about fundraising efforts.  I’d say in the past ten years or so, they have become much more assertive about pushing alums to donate money.  I usually ignore the pleas, although I did donate during the holiday season.

I probably would have made a donation yesterday, had I not looked at our rather paltry bank balance.  March still has three days left in it.  Still, as I get older and our finances have improved, I have given some thought to donating more money to my college.  The truth is, I owe a lot to Longwood.  Maybe my time there didn’t lead to a smashing career, but it did leave me with a lot of intangible gifts like wonderful friends, some excellent experiences, and the opportunity to study music simply because I love it.  It was a warm, nurturing place to go to college.  Today, almost 24 years after I graduated, I still reap the benefits of my four years there.

I have¬†written about my college admissions experiences¬†before, but I’m going to briefly repeat the tale for anyone out there in Internet land who is currently experiencing the pain of rejection from college. ¬†I’m inspired to write about this after¬†reading an article in the Boston Globe¬†about the immense pressure high school seniors are dealing with at this time of year. ¬†It takes me back to the spring of 1990, when I was myself trying to find a place to go to school.

I may call myself “The Overeducated Housewife”, but the simple truth is, I was a very ordinary student.  I didn’t earn great grades in high school and didn’t have super high SAT scores.  I did do well on standardized tests, particularly in writing.  However, I was a singularly unimpressive student in high school, even in English class.  I would get praises for my writing, but I didn’t care enough about the books we were reading to put a lot of effort into my papers.  Consequently, I earned average grades.

My parents, who had already raised my three sisters, didn’t really care too much about my performance.  I got through high school pretty much on my own efforts, with lots of Bs and Cs and the occasional D.  I remember working hard in school, particularly in my math and science classes, but not as hard as I probably should have.  I didn’t have any extra help, nor did I have anyone pushing me to excel.  I was also completely unmedicated, which isn’t a bad thing, but I think if I had grown up ten years later, I probably would have taken meds for depression or perhaps ADD.  I was encouraged to get good grades, but it was entirely up to me to accomplish that.  I didn’t really know how. 

In high school, I spent most of my free time riding horses.  I did do well in that activity, although I wasn’t particularly talented.  My success in riding was mainly due to my fabulous pony, Rusty, a dedicated riding coach, and a lot of dogged hard work.  I was definitely not “born in the saddle”.

When it came time to decide on a college, I had sort of a beer budget and champagne tastes on every level.  I didn’t have the money to consider attending private schools.  I didn’t have the grades or impressive resume to consider trying to get scholarships or applying to super competitive schools.  My mother, ever the pragmatist, told me I shouldn’t bother applying to the one school I really wanted to attend.  She didn’t think I’d get in there.  She was right.  In fact, Longwood was the ONLY school out of the four I applied to that accepted me.

Looking back on it, I think I would have had more choices if I had applied to a couple more schools.  The other three that I’d applied to, besides Longwood, were in a slightly higher league– too high for me at the time.  I do think I would have ultimately succeeded if I had gotten into any of the other three schools, but they were very popular choices among my peers.  My crummy grades and mediocre test scores were simply not competitive enough and I got the dreaded rejection letters.  Even Longwood accepted me conditionally, mainly because I was struggling in math.  Fortunately, I had a wonderful math teacher my senior year who made sure I got through with the required C.

My trend of mediocre academic performances mostly continued at Longwood.  I never once made the Dean’s List; however, I did blossom in other ways.  It was at Longwood that I finally started doing what I was probably born to do.

People who knew me when I was growing up didn’t know that I could sing. ¬†My mom knew that I had absolute (perfect) pitch, because I took piano lessons when I was very young. ¬†My piano teacher noticed I could name pitches without a reference note. ¬†But I would never sing in front of anyone because I was (and still am) very sensitive to bad singing. ¬†I knew I could sing on key, but didn’t think I sounded particularly good. ¬†So I wouldn’t sing in front of other people, and was never encouraged to try. ¬†My parents were both musicians, though, so it makes sense that I’d have a knack for music.¬†

To earn a bachelor of arts degree at Longwood, I needed to take a course in one of the fine arts.  I chose music appreciation and a one credit voice class.  I ended up excelling in the voice class and my teacher invited me to study privately.  Before I knew it, I had joined Longwood’s Camerata Singers, which required an audition.  I was soon singing with people who had been in choirs all through high school.  That experience was truly life changing for me.  Making music is now something I do most days, even if not many people hear my efforts.  It’s made me a much happier person.

It may seem like a minor thing now, but that one voice class opened up a whole new world to me.  I only wish I had taken it sooner.  I might have majored in music instead of English.  I both excelled in and loved my music classes.  I got straight As in them, with the lone exception of that one music appreciation class I took.  By contrast, I was a mediocre English major, except when I took writing classes.  In my writing classes, I excelled like I did in music.

It was an adjunct music professor at Longwood who cared enough about me to encourage me to study music, even if she couldn’t persuade me to change my major. I can’t help but wonder if I would have gotten the same attention at any of the other schools I had considered.  Looking back on it, it seems as if I was destined to go to Longwood.  Maybe I wasn’t a superstar student, but I think I flourished there.  Even today, I communicate with professors who knew me in the 90s.  My husband, Bill, attended much more prestigious American University and he hasn’t seen or spoken to any of his former professors since the 80s.  Sometimes, the less famous college offers a better value.  I know I’ve often mused about how much more I got out of my time at Longwood than I did the University of South Carolina.

After Longwood, I joined the Peace Corps kind of on a whim. ¬†I was soon exposed to people from other parts of the country and then the Republic of Armenia, a place that had been mostly off limits to Americans only four years prior to my arrival. I used my music skills a lot in Armenia. ¬†Then I went to graduate school and earned those two master’s degrees that I don’t use… which became the reason I call myself “overeducated”. ¬†Still, I recognize that I was able to compete with people who went to “better” schools, both as a Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate student. ¬†I don’t regret any of those experiences now, but sometimes I wonder how in the world I ended up here. ¬†In some ways, I have been extraordinarily lucky. ¬†I often feel kind of like a fraud, but I know deep down that I’m not one. ¬†¬†

I empathize with high school seniors who are now dealing with the hell of trying to get into college.  I don’t envy them at all.  They’re dealing with so many things that I didn’t have to deal with.  Life has gotten super competitive on many levels.  I thought it was bad in 1990, but my generation had nothing on their generation. 

It’s harder and more expensive to go to college these days. ¬†So many young people are racking up huge debts, and competition for well-paid work is stiff. ¬†Young people are having to worry about gun toting lunatics invading their schools and killing random people. ¬†We have a total buffoon in the White House who doesn’t care about anything but making rich people even richer (ETA: Remember, I am writing about Trump, not Biden).¬†

I don’t envy you young folks at all, although I am very impressed by how young people are standing up and making their voices heard.  And young people today are doing such incredible things… things that perfectly average, mediocre people can’t conceive of doing.  I would imagine that the pressure to stand out must be insane… and yet it gets harder and harder every year.

I’m impressed by that insane drive to succeed that some young people have, but I have a heart for those who were perfectly average folks like me. ¬†It’s true that life is not a dress rehearsal, but most people end up okay, even if they aren’t stars. ¬†These years on the brink of adulthood can be tough going, but eventually, most people come to a place where grades and test scores no longer matter. ¬†So take heart. ¬†There’s life beyond the spring of your senior year. ¬†You just have to get through it and keep your eyes on the prize.

A musical project I completed at the time I wrote this piece. Lately, I’ve focused more on playing guitar than singing. I’m better at singing than guitar playing, though.
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