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Two Hundred Eighty Nine.

Yesterday I was reminded of a funny time in my childhood.

I should clarify that I find it funny now. It cracks me the hell up to think about now. At the time, it was a little bit heartbreak-y and whiny and mopey.

When I was in grade one, my mom started working again. I don’t remember being worried about this change or anything. It all seemed pretty normal. I was fine with it. But the one major thing that changed is that instead of dropping my brother and I off at school a few minutes before the bell rang, we had to be there a lot before the bell rang. Because my mom was also working at a school, and she had to be there before her school started.

My mom had a chat with the principal to let him know what was going on. From what I remember/am making up, I believe the verdict was that it was fine if my brother and I were on the school premises early, but that no one would be responsible for us. Basically, we had to keep ourselves safe and out of trouble.

Step right up, big brother.

I never really thought about it until yesterday, but as the baby of my family, I will never know what it’s like to feel that sort of nurturing, parental thing older siblings feel for their younger siblings. You know, once they get old enough to feel nurturing and parental and they’re not just annoyed by the fact that they’re obligated to keep some other person alive, because what a drag.

On the flip side, I guess my big brother will never know what it’s like to look up to an older sibling like they’re a super hero, like they totally know their shit, and want to impress them and make them think you’re cool, etc., etc.

That’s life!

SIDENOTE: My lucky brother. His coolness was like, built-in. I’ve worked so hard for almost 27 years to be cool and it still hasn’t stuck!

Anyway, so my poor brother was totally stuck with me before school.

Again, I say “poor brother” now, but at the time, I was like, overjoyed that he was forced to hang out with me. Because I liked him.

SIDENOTE: He liked me too – we’ve always gotten along really well – but I was an annoying little kid.

I’m not sure how long we lasted hanging out before school started, but I remember one day very distinctly.

It was definitely winter, because I feel like I was wearing some very swishy waterproof snowpants and I know for sure I had a toque and mittens and boots. It was a huge challenge just wearing all of that clothing and carrying my backpack. My mom dropped us off at school and told us that since it was so cold, we were supposed to wait inside.

SIDENOTE: When I think of children in snowsuits, this is always the first image to come to mind…

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So we waved goodbye to her and went into our school. But after a few minutes, some of my brother’s friends arrived, or he thought they might have or something. He turned to me and said, “Andrea, just sit on the stairs here for a second, okay?”

I complied, grateful to not be standing in snowpants, boots, the whole bit.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a while – I’m going to see my friends.”

And off he went.

And there I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

…….And sat.

It felt like time had slowed down completely. Like I’d just be sitting there until bedtime when my mom noticed I had never gotten home. I sighed, staring into the inside of my toque, which was falling over my eyes. I hugged my backpack against my knees. This was boring and lonely and sad.

Eventually, the principal noticed I was alone and came to check on me. I buried my face into the collar of my wintercoat and responded, “Yes.” when he asked if I was okay.

And eventually the bell rang and school started.

My brother never returned for me.

That was the day I learned that little sisters can be a huuuuuge style cramper.

xA

P.S. Little sisters can also totally rat you out when they get home. I’m not saying that’s what I did, but that’s exactly what I did.

Sorry, Bryan.

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Two Hundred Eighty Five.

STORY 1:

About eight months into my 12-month Master’s degree, I got a phone call from my dad.

It wasn’t the first call I got from my dad while I was living in Scotland. You just needed to know it was eight months in. And that my Master’s is in Playwriting and Dramaturgy.

We were having a perfectly normal conversation – how are you, how’s the weather, how are your classes, etc. – when a silence fell between us for a moment.

“So…what is Dramaturgy, exactly?” My dad asked me with his most bashful of tones.

I did the best I could to explain, though at that point, he probably could have just waited until I had finished my degree and moved back home to ask.

STORY 2:

Last week, I took part in an event called the Slow Flash Mob. It was a very cool all-day event that offered a variety of free activities and was targeted at multiple generations and getting seniors involved in park life in Edmonton. I was honoured to be asked to teach two Zumba workshops.

Photo by Mack. D. Male, @mastermaq on Twitter.
Photo by Mack. D. Male, @mastermaq on Twitter.

Because it was a free, family-oriented event, I decided to invite my parents. My mom is an avid Zumba participant who comes to almost all of my classes, but my dad had never seen me teach before. I thought it would be a great opportunity for him to catch a glimpse of one of my jobs.

After one of the sessions, I was on a break and having a wander around the park. I crossed paths with my dad, who approached me very seriously.

“You have excellent dance moves.”

“Thanks, Dad!”

“But seriously.”

“I appreciate it. I love teaching. I have a lot of fun!”

“You should be a professional dancer.”

“Haha! Yeah, totally, right?” I laughed, “I think I’m as much of a professional dancer as I’ll ever be – I teach Zumba and it’s one of my jobs, right? So I’m a professional.”

“No, but you could pursue this professionally. Like in music videos or something.”

And then my heart melted a little.

Lesson learned: Dads. They say the darndest things. (Thank goodness.)

xA

P.S. If I were ever going to be in a music video, I would want it to be Run DMC’s “It’s Like That” vs. Jason Nevins. I understand that I can’t turn back time. I’m just saying.

Two Hundred Seventy Three.

Two nights ago, I was at the movies with a friend and decided to flip through one of those magazines they have at the cinema.

I got to a page of upcoming movie previews and stopped on one called The To Do List.

Here’s the blurb from IMDB:

“Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.”

The blurb in the magazine shocked me, I’m not going to lie. Because it drew repeated attention to the fact that this is a movie about a high school senior trying to get more sexual experience before college.

When I started university, I was 17.

I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong age to become sexually experienced, okay? But should we really have movies written all about it? IMDB states that all of the actors selected for the movie were specifically chosen because they’re older than real high school students…but does that make it better? Maybe in the context of the movie itself, it won’t seem so bad, but based on the blurb alone, I wouldn’t want my teens watching it.

photo

I just hate to think of all the high school girls seeing the movie and thinking there’s a list of things they should know how to do. It scares me. Guys, I’m old.

Lessons learned:

(A) I may be a prude in this specific context (but I don’t really care).
(B) I should probably not have children until this sexy teen thing chills the fuck out.

Remember in the 90s when holding hands or making out was a big deal on TV shows? Oi vey.

xA

Two Hundred Sixty One

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m not one for traditions. I don’t have anything against tradition specifically, I just don’t happen to participate in many.

So when I got invited to an American Thanksgiving during my first year in Glasgow, I was both intimidated and excited.

We did a potluck style feast, and since there were some other veggies/veg-curious people coming, I made a vegan haggis (yes, it exists, and yes, it’s really delish when well seasoned!) with roasted veggies. I packed a couple bottles of wine in my purse, which clinked and clanked during my taxi ride (pure class), and off I went.

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I have to say, American Thanksgiving was probably one of the funnest nights I had in Glasgow. There were like, 15-20 of us gathered in one flat, all hanging out in the kitchen, laughing, drinking wine, and telling stories. There was a bit of a fiasco when the oven broke down at my friends’ flat, but the neighbour across the hall was kind enough to lend us theirs. We all sat down around a massive table (or tables, pushed together) like a family, even though some of us had just met and had an amazing meal, and afterward, we were all back in the kitchen, chatting while we teamed up on dish duty and clean up.

When I think of American-ness, that Thanksgiving night is one of the first things I think of. That was the night I learned that Americans really are serious about their traditions, in a good way. I felt lucky to be welcomed into such a wonderful celebration with friends.

Happy Fourth of July!

xA

Two Hundred Forty Seven.

When I was like, six, maybe seven, I had a friend named Katie. We were super tight, and I played at her house a lot. She lived in a really old, really big character house in one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, and I loved going over there because it was so big, I felt like I was in a fairytale when I stepped through the front door.

My favourite part of the entire house was this really narrow stairway that went up to a loft/attic that Katie got all to herself as a playroom. All to herself. That lucky bitch.

Anyway, this one day when I was over there, Katie’s mom made us lunch. She made us grilled cheese sandwiches and canned tomato soup.

Now, I know that probably sounds like a pretty “normal” meal, but I never really ate either of those things. I was raised by a mom who is (A) from Mozambique, and (B) a healthy hippie, so canned foods weren’t really on our menu. Neither were things like butter and white bread. I was raised on homemade, wholegrain breads (Seriously, who does that? My mom’s a superhero…), lentils, garlic, olive oil, things like that. Weird things.

SIDENOTE: I’m not saying that to sound superior to anybody. That’s just what we ate. The point is that I had never eaten canned tomato soup.

p_tomato-soup_1744921c

I looked down at the soup in front of me. It was a weird, overly bright red colour and it smelled really strange, kind of tinny. I honestly wasn’t even sure what to make of it. Katie started eating right away. I felt out of place.

“Eat your lunch.” Her mom looked at me, waiting for me to start. I panicked and decided to try the grilled cheese.

It wasn’t bad, but the butter left a funny taste in my mouth. I tried to focus on the cheese. I was never a big fan of cheese, but I forced myself to enjoy it. Mmm, cheesy. (Ugh, cheesy.) But at least it wasn’t tomato soup, which was all I could think about. Surely if I finished my sandwich, Katie’s mom would be satisfied.

“Eat your soup.”

Nope.

Well, shit.

I looked at her with my big brown eyes – filled with fear, I’m certain – trying to mentally will her to back down. I’ve always been way too nice. I would have never said, “I don’t want to.” I was petrified.

Eat your soup.”

Katie’s mom was kind of scary to start with. I should have mentioned that. She wasn’t the nicest. And she was blunt (as you can tell).

I scanned the table and found the salt and pepper shakers. I grabbed one on a whim. It was black pepper. I started shaking it furiously into my bowl. Katie looked at me funny.

“You eat pepper on your food?”

I nodded enthusiastically, buying myself time.

“Hey, me too. I want pepper, too! Give it here!”

Katie grabbed the shaker and added pepper to her soup. Within seconds, her mom snatched it away from her.

“Quit it – that’s enough. Finish your lunch, both of you. You’re not leaving this table until your bowls are empty.”

What can I say? I was totally trapped. I wanted to cry. I wanted my mom. I wanted out of that nightmare house.

I choked back the fucking soup and tried to play with Katie afterward, but I was battling an instant tummy ache. I feared I may see that tomato soup again much too soon.

When my mom came to pick me up, I told her the horror story.

“Andrea, why didn’t you just say, ‘No, thank you.’??”

“She made me eat it. Mom, she wouldn’t let me leave until I ate it!”

I probably cried.

To this day, I have never eaten canned tomato soup again. Just the smell of it makes me feel queasy.

tomatosoup

Lesson learned: Force me to eat something and I will hate it for the rest of time, because apparently my authority issues are very far-reaching. (Also, I just think canned tomato soup disagrees with me.)

xA

P.S. What’s your childhood “EAT IT!” food horror story? I feel like we all must have one. My mom’s will probably be about this weird condensed milk/Ovaltine thing her parents made her drink all the time, for example. Gag.

Two Hundred Thirty Eight.

The other night, I came upon an episode of Vikings on TV. It’s a show I’m totally interested in watching, but haven’t gotten a chance to properly start yet. I got kind of sucked into it (so now I’ve seen an episode out of order – heaven forbid!*), mostly because of the blood and gore…and the very attractive (albeit hidden under a lot of dirt and blood) men.

24VIKINGS1-articleLarge

Before long, I found myself thinking about Beowulf.

You may not guess this about me, but I’m a bit of a Beowulf nerd. How did I get this way?

Let me tell you. (This is how blogging works, right?)

In the second year of my undergrad degree, I decided to sign up for an Old English Literature course. Honestly, I didn’t know much about what I was signing up for, aside from the following:

(A) I am a language lover, and I wanted to know more about Old English and just how different it is from what we speak now, and

(B) It sounded like an epic – and potentially soul-crushingly difficult – adventure.

SPOILER ALERT: My soul is fine. And happy! And it sort of understands some Old English!

The course was a full-year, the first half being primarily devoted to learning the language, and the second half to actually starting to read text in Old English (we always had translations as well, of course – I’d have been pretty lost otherwise). The text we were focusing on was Beowulf, though we read a lot of other poetry and another full-length saga as well.

Old English was one of the most challenging courses I took during my English degree, but it was also one of my favourites. Yes, I loved the stories we were reading, but also, I loved our professor.

Professor Fox (yes, that is his real name, and yes, as a matter of fact, he is a fox, but shut up, that’s not what I’m here to talk about) was – is – the biggest Old English nerd I’ve ever met in my life. On the first day, he looked like a five year old in a candy store while he explained to us that we were about to have the best year ever learning about Beowulf.

“It’s great! It’s amazing! It’s EPIC! There’s blood and guts and MONSTERS! MONSTERS, you guys!”**

I was sold.

It was soon apparent that the twinkle in Professor Fox’s eyes on the first day of the course was no act. Every single class, he was just as excited about Old English as the day we started. And every single class, there was at least one point in the lecture where he would stop and – with an ear-to-ear grin on his face – say something along the lines of, “Seriously, guys! How COOL is that?!” or, “How NEAT! Right?!”

And he was right! Old English is super interesting stuff! Beowulf is an amazing story – one that can be read and re-read and interpreted on so many levels. Its language is like Shakespeare in the sense that one word can change everything depending on the reader and how they see it. And don’t even get me started on Old English poetry! There are feminist poems from like, the 9th century, guys. Seriously, how cool is that? It’s cool!

Sometimes – a lot of the time – Professor Fox would run out of time at the end of his lectures. When this happened, he would glance at the clock and literally start panicking. He’d start pacing the room going, “Oh no! Oh no! Five more minutes and I have so much cool stuff to tell you guys! What do I do? What do I do?!”

Also, on Halloween, he came to class dressed as a hobbit/viking sort of thing. And he taught the entire hour dressed like that.

I learned so much from my Old English class, but the thing I learned above all else is this: passion is contagious. When you love what you do so much that you are genuinely excited to do it, it not only shows, it spreads. You intrigue, excite, and inspire.

I think we should all strive to to do that in life, no matter what our field of work is.

Now, go read Beowulf. Don’t watch the movies – they’re terrible. The Seamus Heaney translation, while a bit wacky (he’s Irish, what do you expect?), is super accessible and fun.

xA

*Inside joke with myself – I am so totally unconcerned with “spoilers,” I can’t even tell you.

**I paraphrased that, and in doing so, I think I toned down the excitement a bit, but you get the point.

Two Hundred Thirty Five.

So, I’m noting the date, because 2013 is the year I definitely got my reading groove back.

Yeah, it probably should have never been lost, because I’m a writer, and writers read, but let me tell you something: doing seven years of university degrees in English and writing can take a lot out of a person.

I’ve been obsessed with books since I was born. Yesterday I even told you about the private library I ran as a preschool-aged kid. When I was in kindergarten, I got to write, illustrate, and bind my own book at school. That was when I decided it was going to be my job to write books. (I didn’t consider how to pay the bills – I was five. My mom bought me toys and juice boxes. Life was good.)

One of my first jobs was working at a bookstore, and if it weren’t for all of the customers, it would have been my dream job, because I just liked being around the books. When I quit, I distinctly remember chatting with one of my co-workers and saying, “Yeah, I’m not gonna miss the people, but the books.” (Loner? I don’t know what you’re talking about…)

SIDENOTE: One day, I will own a used bookstore like Bernard Black and not actually sell anything because I don’t want anyone to actually be in my bookstore.

Bernard-black-books-8377002-580-325

In university, I used to spend my free time at the library, not in one of the common quiet areas, but literally sat on the floor between shelves of books, just hanging out. I loved being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of books. I also loved the looks on people’s faces when they came upon me, totally silent, in the middle of a huge library.

Then university sort of broke me.

Remember when I said, “if it wasn’t on a syllabus, I didn’t read it“?

That’s true. And also, if it was on a syllabus, I did read it.

So, the average English class had me reading approximately 6-10 novels, plus other short readings and theoretical essays, etc. The 400-level English courses had me reading approximately 10-20 novels (20 was for the crazy professors, but it happened, oh, it happened), plus the other stuff.

Let’s just say 10 novels per class, just for fun. (“Fun.”)

And 10 novels multiplied by approximately 18-20 English classes in my undergrad degree is 180-200. 180-200 books read in a five-year time period.

Okay, I just need a minute, because I’ve never actually done that math before.

Jesus.

Okay.

Then there was my second degree, which was even more intense than I could have expected, and which left me on the floor of my flat, having in-depth conversations with my ceiling about all of the Derrida I was reading. Basically, it fried my brain.

(I still love you, Derrida, but what were you on about?!)

After that, I needed a break. Because like I said, I was broken. My brain was on overload. I was tired of reading.

That’s not to say I didn’t read anything between 2011 and now. But I did notice a distinct lack of focus on my part. It was as though I was physically unable to read a page and retain it for more than 30 seconds. For a while, I freaked out about it and worried that I was literally broken for the rest of my life.

Also, I made the mistake of reading 50 Shades of Grey so that I could properly make fun of it. So that probably definitely did some damage.

When 2013 hit, I set myself the small – but important – goal of reading at least one book a month. I’m happy to say that I have almost surpassed my goal of 12 books in a year in not even six months.

And damn, it feels good.

I finally remember what it’s like to just sit back and enjoy, to read things that are genuinely interesting to me, and not just things I’m being told to read. (That’s not to say I didn’t read some incredible books in university, but I read a lot of books I hated, and also, I have authority issues, so sometimes I hated the books on principle.) I’ve rediscovered the beauty of curling up on my couch and disappearing into a beautiful story, or getting under the blankets in bed and staying up late because I’m totally enveloped and have to get to the end of a chapter. (Thanks, Kobo and attachable reading light!)

I’ve rediscovered what it feels like to relax. And it feels really, really good.

Guys, reading for fun is THE BEST. I’m so glad to be back.

xA

Two Hundred Thirty Four.

I did this annoying thing when I was a kid.

Well, okay, first of all, I did a lot of annoying things when I was a kid, and secondly, it (hopefully) started out as a cute thing and just gradually became (mild to intensely) annoying.

I ran a library out of my home.

library_by_vladstudio-d5mfjau

What does that mean, you ask?

The first step was to clear the actual library out of library books. I LOVED the library. We went to the library as a family every Saturday, and every Saturday I would take out the maximum number of books I was allowed to borrow on my library card. (Having my own library card is something I was very proud of.) Then sometimes I would make my mom and dad use their library cards, too. You know, in case I really needed those extra five books or whatever.

Then I would bring all of the library books home, pile them into giant stacks in the living room – along with my own books, of course, because I needed as many books as possible – and open for business.

Business wasn’t booming, though, so basically, I had to force my family to play along.

I would make my victim family member choose a giant stack of books, and then I would check the books out for them. I used a pen (with the cap on – heaven forbid I damage an amazing book!) as my scanner, because they had a pen-shaped scanner thing at the library in my brother’s school, and I would make everyone use their real library cards, too.

I’m not entirely sure why this was so fun and exhilarating for me. I think my favourite part was running the pen along each book’s bar code and going, “BEEP!” Regardless, I would work my way through the giant stack of books, thank my guest, push the books off to the side, and make my victim family member start all over again.

The game would have never ended if it were up to me. But eventually my library would get shut down by a parent who was sick of hearing me go, “BEEP!”

Reflecting on this game taught me that I am definitely on the right path. Based on the kid I was (OBSESSED WITH BOOKS AND STORIES AND EVERYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH BOOKS AND STORIES!!!), it only really makes sense for me to be a writer now. Either that or a librarian, I guess.

Wait.

Maybe I should have been a librarian. It probably pays more than nothing.

Oh shit.

xA

P.S. Thinking about scanning all those bar codes got my blood pumping a little bit today, at age 26, so clearly something is wrong with me.

Two Hundred Thirty Three.

Remember these?

barbie-doll-music-spice-girls-vintage-Favim.com-84253Ah, the Spice Girls Barbie dolls. I had them all. I collected them in grade six, while I was also training to be a replacement Spice Girl, should the need arise. (Sadly, like Tobias waiting on the Blue Man Group, I never got the call.)

At first I think the plan was not to even take them out of the box. But COME ON. Like that would ever happen. I wanted to play with them! I wanted to touch their hair! I wanted to make Baby Spice wear Scary Spice’s clothes just to see what would happen! I was living on the edge!

(Oh, to be a 12-13 year old in the late 90s vs. now…)

Then I guess I got either extra bored with the Spice Girls Barbie dolls, or extra bold with them. Because I decided it was time to give them makeovers.

Yes, I eventually “destroyed” all of the Spice Girls.

Look, there’s no reason to even ask “why?” at this point. I don’t remember what was going through my head. I was a dumb kid and I had an obsession with cutting every Barbie doll’s hair. Also, the seventh grade really sucked for me, so I was probably working through some issues, too. Regardless, I did it. It’s done. The Spice Girls Barbie dolls are no more. I’m over it.

But my mom is not.

At least once a week, when I’m brainstorming blog posts, or even just sitting at my computer, my mom turns to me and says – in an overly casual tone – “Have you blogged about how you destroyed your Spice Girls dolls yet?”

“No,” I say back, “And you’ve got to stop asking me about it. My god. I get it! I GET IT!”

Lesson learned: If you destroy a collectable, your mom will never let you live it down.

SO THERE. I ADMIT IT.

It’s not like they’re The Beatles!

xA

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