• Remembering Selena

    Today marks twenty years since singer Selena passed away. Though I was only four years old at the time, I remember it vividly. I had been a fan of Selena since my father first played her cassettes for me on the way to preschool. I loved the sound of her music, but even more I loved the natural music of the Spanish language. In an effort to learn what Selena was singing, I began to eavesdrop on conversations between my teacher’s aid and Miguel, a boy in my class who only spoke Spanish. I remember gleefully relaying to my father the translation of the phrase, “siéntate aquí.” This meant “sit here” and was the first Spanish phrase I learned. Because Miquel was a rambunctious boy, many of the phrases I picked up were disciplinary in nature—“that’s enough,” “stand still,” “be good.” Still, I was content just to learn.

    When I heard on the news that Selena had been shot, I couldn’t process what had happened. It was my first experience with death, let alone murder. Being a sensitive child, it affected me deeply. My brother and sister didn’t fully understand why. I kept going over it again and again in my head. How could someone just take another person’s life? I kept telling myself that it had to be a mistake. The news had to be wrong. I ran into the bathroom to cry but instead became overwhelmed with anger at her murderer. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and feeling that something inside me had changed. But at that age, I couldn't place the emotion.

    Eventually I came to terms with her passing and continued to listen to her music. My dad even bought me a Selena T-shirt, which I wore with pride. Years later when my father’s car was stolen and abandoned in a field, the first thing I worried about were the Selena cassettes. Had they been stolen too? Thankfully they were not, and I still have them to this day. Selena ignited in me a love for languages, something that has stayed with me all these years. To some she was just a singer, but to me she was an inspiration.

  • What's New

    It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here, so I have a lot of catching up to do. This summer has been absolutely crazy. It began when a rival grocery store’s workers went on strike. Having few other options, all their customers came to our store, which meant we were serving twice as many customers. Of course, this was great for our store in terms of business, and even better for me personally, as my hours doubled. The downside to this was that it left me with less time for blogging. So, in light of all this, I’m going to give you a quick update about what’s been happening since.

    Healthier Me

    At the beginning of May I was in a bad place. I wasn’t overweight, but had developed some terrible eating habits. I felt like a loser because I still hadn’t found a job, so I turned to one of my favorite things (food) for comfort. What’s worse, I wasn’t getting any exercise to counteract all those extra calories I was consuming. After one night of eating way too much fettuccine alfredo and feeling awful, I decided I needed to do something.

    I started by getting in the habit of exercising every morning. Although it was tough at first, I really started to enjoy it. Now, I look forward to it. I also started eating healthier. Over the summer I’ve learned a lot of tricks about how to make my favorite recipes healthier. I look forward to sharing those recipes soon. I have to say, I feel better than ever. I know everyone says that when they start working out or eating better, but it’s true.

    When I think back to how I felt in May when I first started, I think the thing that kept me going was the feeling of control. At the time, I was unhappy about my job prospects, but I knew that there was nothing more that I could do to improve them. It was out of my hands. I funneled all that frustration into my exercises. It felt good to see my hard work pay off. The progress I made in my health gave me me a boost I didn’t know I needed, and it helped me to not get so down about my rejected applications and unanswered cover letters. I couldn’t change my job prospects, but I could change my health. And I did!

    Vacation Firsts

    This year I joined my boyfriend and his family on their vacation to Las Vegas and San Diego. Since it’d be too much to list everything I did, here are a few things I did for the first time while on vacation:

    1. Played black jack 
    2. Ate three new foods: elk, spätzle, and ceviche 
    3. Bought a Kate Spade purse 
    4. Fed and played with a dolphin 
    5. Saw California 

    New Job

    It all started while I was on vacation. I got an e-mail from a recruiter who thought I’d be good for a technical editing position that had opened up. He had found me through my LinkedIn, had seen my blog, and was a fellow Mad Men fan. After a phone interview and some e-mails back and forth, I had an appointment for an interview on August 27th. The interview seemed to go really well, and I felt that I did well on the editing test.

    After calling my recruiter to let him go how the interview went, my boyfriend and I headed to Panera for lunch. While we were waiting for our food, I got a call from my recruiter. To my surprise, the first thing he said was, “If you want the job, it’s yours.” I was incredibly excited, but, being in the middle of Panera, I tried to keep it together.

    When I got off the phone, Ryan didn’t even have to ask what my recruiter had said. He knew. I couldn’t stop smiling for almost an hour. After a year and three months of job searching, I finally had found a real job. The next day, I gave my two weeks notice at Hannaford. My first day as a technical editor will be September 15th, and I can’t wait!

  • Five Jokes That Everyone in the Service Industry Has Heard A Million Times

    My years in the service industry have taught me many things, like don’t call someone “sir” or “ma’am” based just on their voice and don’t expect customers to listen to reason. The people you come across in the service industry never cease to surprise you, except in one particular area—their jokes. As if working for minimum wage weren’t bad enough, you also have to listen to customers regurgitate the same tired jokes again and again and again. If you’ve worked with the general public, I’m sure you are well aware of the following five jokes.

    1) When a price tag won’t scan: “I guess it’s free then!”

    2) When you check a large bill to see if it’s counterfeit: “Just printed it this morning!”

    3) Whenever you’re mopping or washing a counter/window: “You missed a spot!”

    4) “Are you working hard or hardly working?”

    5) Whenever you ask “Anything else?”:

    “A million dollars!” 

    “A beer!”

    “Your phone number!”

    As a customer, if you’re ever set up for any of these jokes, JUST SAY NO. I know you think you’re going to cheer us up by lightening the mood. I know your intentions are good. But please consider coming up with something original. Trust me, it will be much appreciated.

  • Writing Chapter One

    When I was younger, I never hesitated when I had an idea for a story. I just furiously wrote whatever was in my head. Obviously, this didn’t produce the best results in the long-run, but I still miss being able to write with such abandon. After studying writing for so many years, I often let my perfectionism get in the way of writing my story.

    This has been the case with a project that’s had several incarnations over the years—my novel. I’ve had this story in my head since high school, and I’ve reworked it and improved it so many times that it barely resembles what it first was. Of course, that’s a good thing, because whenever I read the earliest version of it, I can see how far my writing has come since high school.

    I’ve recently decided that no matter what, I am going to finish my novel this year. And step one is to write the first chapter. In my experience, the first chapter is often the most daunting. There are so many questions to answer beforehand. Questions like, “Where should the story begin?” “How am I going to grab and hold the reader’s attention?” “How do I keep backstory to a minimum?” “Will the readers be willing to follow this character through the rest of the story?”

    Yet, despite these questions, the thing that hinders me the most is fear. Will I be able to accomplish all these things? Being a perfectionist is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it’s a great motivator. It forces you to try to outdo both yourself and others and to give your all, no matter what. But it’s a curse when you can’t finish anything because it hasn’t yet met your crazy-high standards. Perfectionism is rooted in fear—the fear of being mediocre. And that’s my biggest hurdle as writer.

    As I worked on chapter one the other day, I was full of doubt. That naysayer in my head was telling me that I’d never do it. I’d never meet my expectations. I’d never finish my novel. What it took for me to push through those doubts was to repeatedly remind myself that this was my first draft. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to need some work. But before I can go about the business of perfecting it, I need to get the words on paper. When I finished that first chapter, I felt so relieved and refreshed. Since then, I’ve felt so much more inspired. I can’t wait to keep chipping away at this project!

  • My Losing Essay

    Every year the magazine Real Simple runs an essay contest. This year's theme was bravery. I wrote the following essay, which did not win. The essays that did win were great, and their success was well-deserved. You can read those essays by clicking here.   

    When I graduated college in May, I felt a tremendous amount of relief. Finally, I would get a job that paid me more than eight bucks an hour--one that didn’t require dealing with belligerent customers complaining about our lack of apple fritters or demand I scrape curdled cream from the crevices of our dairy dispenser. I had accepted long ago that my dream of becoming a writer would not happen overnight, that I would need a day job to pay the bills. Now that I had a bachelor’s degree, that would be easy, right? On my first day of job hunting, I sat at my desk with my Mylar “Congrats Grad” balloon by my side, ready to search. Coffee? Check. Notepad? Check. But after hours of scouring job websites...job that I was qualified for? Not so much.

    Every post, even for a simple secretary job, demanded years of experience, and I just didn’t have that. When I finally did find a posting for an entry level job I was qualified for, I was thrilled. I applied, certain that the job was mine. I began to plan my new adult life--where I’d live, how I’d decorate my apartment, what I’d cook when friends came to visit. A month later, I finally got an e-mail. I thought the company would love me, but instead they had decided to “concentrate [their] attention on other (read: better) candidates.” I was so frustrated and dejected. By the end of July, my balloon sat deflated in the corner of my room.

    It was about this time that my boyfriend, Ryan, invited me to go to Six Flags New England. When I agreed to go, Ryan asked, “Are you gonna ride the Bizarro?” I shuddered at the thought. Before I began dating Ryan, I had ridden exactly one roller coaster--a horrifying wooden one that did not seem structurally sound--and had vowed never again to do so. However, with some gentle prodding from Ryan, I had slowly acquired the courage to ride a handful of them. However, one roller coaster--the Bizarro--had always terrified me. It wasn’t so much the 77 mph speed or the 5,400 feet of track, but the first hill--a 221 foot drop--that kept me from riding it. In my mind, my petite body would never make it down that drop without passing out or having a heart attack from anxiety.

    Years ago, the last time Ryan and I had visited this Six Flags, he had tried to convince me to ride it. I rode several smaller coasters that day, thinking I’d work my way up to it. When the park shut down temporarily due to a passing storm, I thought maybe this was a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. But then, after many patrons left the park, the ride reopened and there was no wait. “Let’s ride it now!” Ryan said, grabbing my hand. We ran toward the coaster, and the closer we got, the taller and taller it grew. When we reached the entrance, I stared straight up the twenty-stories-tall hill. Was it my imagination or was it growing by the second, like the Christmas tree in The Nutcracker? I froze. Ryan gestured for me to follow him, but I couldn’t. Instead he bought me an ice cream. As we sat in silence, I felt like a Little Leaguer after a tough loss.

    Now, here I was, three years later, squinting up at that first drop with the confidence of a pimply seventh grader at her first dance. My feet felt as if they were stuck in tar. I was ready to run away again, but then I thought about the last few months. Nothing had gone the way I planned. I was still peddling overpriced coffee for minimum wage. I was still living at home. I was too depressed to work on my novel. I was a loser. “No,” I told myself. I was going to do this. I had to do this.

    Suddenly, I felt a burst of courage. I followed Ryan to the entrance. We put our belongings in the lockers and took our place in line. At the beginning of the line, I was rather optimistic. “I’ll be fine,” I said to Ryan, mostly trying to convince myself, “I’ve ridden other coasters like this. Like that one in Vegas--how tall was that one?”

    “About half this size,” he replied casually.

    “But, see, that one was on top of a building, so if you count the building’s height...”

    “Still not anywhere near this one. But you’ll be fine. Trust me, you’ll love it.”

    By the time we were nearing the station, I was still pelting Ryan with questions. Exactly how long that first drop last? And that weightless feeling? Will it make me sick? What kind of belt do they have? No belt? Just a bar? Won’t I fall out?

    By the time we took our seats, my heart was racing. I tried to compose myself by taking calming deep breaths, but due to my frenzied state, it sounded more like the slapstick Lamaze pregnant women use on sitcoms. We pulled the bar over our laps and watched as the operator checked the lap bars for the right side of the train. I waited for the other operator to do the same on my side of the train, but she was distracted by a passenger at the front of the train. I watched in horror as she returned to the booth.

    “She didn’t check our side! She didn’t check our side!” I panicked. Soon other right-side passengers got her attention and she began to check the restraints. As she yanked the lap bar to test it, I wondered, was this some kind of omen?

    As I considered calling the whole thing off, the car began to slowly move forward. After a few feet we began to move up the towering first hill at an ominously slow pace. “Look at the view, Erin,” he said, hoping to placate me.

    “Nope. Not looking down.” I sat as still as I could, clutching the lap bar as tightly as my fingers would allow.

    After what seemed like ten minutes, Ryan announced, “Okay. We’re halfway up.”


    No amount of soothing from Ryan could pacify me now. I could do nothing but wait for the car to reach the top of the hill. When I could finally see the peak, I knew there was no turning back now. This was happening. A voice inside me suddenly began to drown out the illogical voices that were telling me I would most certainly be ejected from my seat and fall to my death. You’ll make it to the station it said. I allowed myself to look down at the Connecticut River for a brief moment. I imagined dipping my feet in the cool water and feeling that beautiful thing called the ground that I had left a minute ago. I tried to grasp that feeling of calmness as much as I could as our car reached the top of the lift, but as our car began its descent, that feeling was torn away as we plummeted down the track.

    The next two minutes are still a blur to me--a terrifying, exhilarating blur. But what I do remember is stepping off that ride with my curls blown back, feeling like I could do anything. Later as I nibbled on fried dough, I realized how much time and energy I spend imagining these worst case scenarios and how much I let these scenarios snowball. (Oh my God--a spider on the ceiling! What if he lands on my head and crawls in my hair? What if he bites me? Or lays eggs in my skin while I’m sleeping? I don’t want to die now--not in this bathrobe covered in yellow ducks! That’s it. I’m sleeping on the couch instead.) How many good things in my life have I missed out on because of my foreboding?

    Yes, there was the possibility that everything that I planned for my life could crumble, but why dwell on that? Isn’t it more likely that someday I’ll look back on this time in my life and wonder why I spent so much time fretting? Because, like spiders or the Bizarro, underemployment is probably not going to kill me. And if I stop listening to my doubts, I might hear that optimistic voice inside me that reminds me in its gentle, reassuring way that no matter what, I’ll make it to the station.

  • Three Songs From When I Was Three

    I recently made use of the awesome “complete my album” feature on iTunes and now own The Essential Billy Joel. I’ve been listening to it for several days now while driving and doing laundry and washing dishes. I’ve liked Billy Joel my entire life, but I didn’t know it. When I was little (pre-Internet) and I heard a song on the radio, I might catch the DJ mention the name of the song or who sang it, but I didn’t really care about that. All I knew was that I liked the song. I had no other frame of reference. If I liked a song that was the beginning and the end of it. I didn’t sit there and examine the lyrics or read a detailed biography online of the singer. I just enjoyed it.

    When I think back to my earliest memories of music, the first thing I remember is my grandmother singing to me. When my siblings and I were born, my grandmother always picked a song for us. Most of the time they were songs she’d heard long ago. For example, my brother’s was “Peanuts” by Rick and the Keens from 1961 because his nickname was Peanut. My sister Katelyn’s was “K-K-Katy” from 1918. Mine was slightly less obscure: “You Are My Sunshine.”

    To this day, every time I hear this song I’m reminded of my grandmother and her love for me and it makes we want to smile and burst into tears simultaneously. A few years ago there was a Johnson and Johnson commercial that featured a montage of adorable babies dubbed with a whisper-sung rendition of “You Are My Sunshine." Every time the advertisement appeared on the screen I had to change the channel or (if I was in someone else's company) manage to hold in my blubbering for the whole 45 seconds.

    It wasn't until I was three that I started noticing the songs on the radio. I can distinctly remember three songs in particular that I became obsessed with at that time.

    River of Dreams- Billy Joel

    I wasn't able to understand all the words, but I could make out all the nature references (mountains, river, jungle, valley, desert, streams), and I remember imagining a man traveling the world on this sleepwalking adventure and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. My sister and I were especially fond of the "I go walking in the--in the middle of the--" bridge. My mom remembers my sister and I singing that portion again and again, plus whatever lyrical substitutions sounded best to our toddler ears.

    I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)- The Four Tops

    I remember associating this song with my mom for two reasons: 1) I thought sugar pie was a dessert and that maybe my mom would bake it for me and 2) my favorite line of the song was “I can’t help myself/I love you and nobody else” and the only love that I fully understood at the time was my love for my mom and family.

    Do You Love Me- Contours

    Most people my age relate this song with Dirty Dancing, but I do not. When I was three I referred to this song as the Mashed Potato Song because of one line in the song when they sing, "I can mash potato." I really thought they were singing about mashed potatoes, and it honestly didn’t even occur to me that they could be singing about anything else. Even back then everything in my life somehow came back to food. It’s a wonder I didn’t resemble a tiny Jabba the Hut as a child!

    I think as we get older we get so hung up on what liking certain music “says” about us. I remember freshman year a boy scrolling through my iPod and laughing at my music. As much as I wish it didn’t, his laughter hurt me. I find music to be very personal, so when someone belittles my taste in music, it feels like they’re belittling me. It's nice to recollect a time when none of that mattered.

    Obviously there is no way to go back to the time when nothing else influenced my taste in music, but I have been making an effort in recent years to try to take in music with as open a mind as possible. I love hearing new music and especially discovering older music that is new to me. So if you want to recommend some new music to me, please feel free to do so in the comment section!

  • Meeting David Sedaris


    This week has been so packed with work, a show, and an unexpected interview, I’ve been a slacking with my blogging. So I'm going to backtrack for a minute and talk about this past Tuesday. On Tuesday I attended "An Evening with David Sedaris,” a reading and book signing by one of my favorite authors. I arrived at the Hanover Theatre a little frazzled (due to the half-hour I spent trying to find the correct parking lot) but excited. After sitting down in what I wrongly believed to be my seat, I listened to the theatre's organ player.

    I've been a fan of David Sedaris for two year now. It all started in my creative non-fiction class when my teacher had us read “Consider the Stars.” It was by far my favorite essay that I read for that class. We ended up reading two more stories by him, and by the end of the semester I was hooked. That Christmas I ended up receiving copious amounts of iTunes giftcards. I was running out of CDs to buy when I realized that I could buy books too. So I bought his book Naked. I sped through the book, laughing aloud the whole time. When I finished that one, I wanted more, so I bought two more of his books—Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Me Talk Pretty One Day

    Aside from entertaining me, David Sedaris also inspired me. He showed me that I actually loved writing non-fiction. The thing that I admire most about his writing is his ability to write about anything--and I mean anything-- and weave it into a wonderful story full of his intriguing observations and fantastic wit. 

    So as I sat listening Billy Joel songs played on an organ, I couldn’t wait for the show to start. Then who should I see but my creative non-fiction teacher who introduced me to Sedaris’s writing? As it turns out, I was in her seat (F 114) instead of my seat (F 14). It was such a nice surprise and a rather amazing coincidence. 

    After I took my correct seat, the show began. He started by reading an essay from his B.B.C. show “Meeting David Sedaris,” one that had the audience in stitches throughout the reading. Then he read a new essay that explored the more somber subject of his sister’s suicide. The rest of the show included readings from his book, readings from his diary, and current projects, all of which had the audience howling with laughter. He ended the show with an equally entertaining Q & A. 

    After the show everyone began to line up for the book signing. Having known ahead of time how he likes to talk briefly with every person he meets on tour, I knew we were in for a bit of a wait. Suddenly a secondary line began to form and merge toward the middle of the line. Those that didn’t have the patience were soon weeded out. I talked for awhile with a really nice woman from Groton whose name I wish I knew. She sells lenses for glasses but not frames and loves NPR. 

    After almost three hours, it was finally my turn to get my book signed. He asked me if I was in school and I told him how I had just graduated with a degree in professional writing. He asked what that was, so I explained. I mentioned that I was still looking for a job but that in the mean time I was working at Dunkin Donuts. One of the jokes that he made in the show revolved around Dunkin Donuts, so he inscribed, “Erin, do you want a munchkin to go with that?” in my book. 

    When I mentioned that I had an interview the next morning he wished me luck. As I left, the woman behind me in line who sells lenses wished me luck too. And David Sedaris added, “She’s gonna nail that interview!” When I started to get nervous before my interview the next day I heard that sweet, Southern voice of his say that again, and I’m not going to lie, it definitely gave me a boost.