Monday 23 August 2010
It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, and I’m currently in a new apartment with no internet, no TV, and no books, and Colin has gone to bed, so I thought I’d sit down and write an update for awhile and post it for you all tomorrow.
For those of you who don’t know this already, I’ve just started my first semester as a grad student. I’m pursuing my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College. The college is in Plainfield, Vermont, but the program is LOW RESIDENCY, meaning: we go to the campus for one week each semester for intensive workshops, meetings with peers and professors, readings, etc, and then the rest of the semester, we just send in 40 pages or writing every three weeks. People always ask if it’s an online program, but it’s NOT! We actually don’t do anything online. The packets of writing we send in is through the mail, and the program was started before online programs were even a thought. Low res works really well for writing because you don’t need to sit in a classroom and listen to someone lecture you on how to write. You need to just WRITE! Our relationships with our professors is more like a writer/editor, and we have to build a habit of writing every day, so it’s definitely going to be a good transition into being a writer forever.
I attended my first residency in Vermont at the end of June. The campus was in the middle of nowhere Vermont, and it was so beautiful. I’d never been to Vermont before, and now I most certainly want to live there. We flew into and out of Burlington, and that’s where I went to get my tattoo (see previous blog entry), and I’m in love with that city. It’s adorable and exactly where I imagine myself living.
I was really nervous about going because I’d made a bit of a snap decision about going there. I had applied to three low residency programs because I was considering grad school for writing, but I didn’t want to be away from my Navy boyfriend any more (2 years of long distance was long enough), so the low-res thing seemed perfect. I applied in February and got rejected from the first two schools, so I just sort of assumed I’d be rejected from Goddard too and started making other plans. Then, in May, the week before graduation from Saint Mary’s, Goddard called and said they were missing two of my three letters of recommendation! I couldn’t believe it! I had given my boss/professors the info in FEBRUARY! When I said “take your time,” I meant take the next few weeks, not the next few months! I quickly emailed my boss and professor, they got my letters of rec in the next day (so it clearly didn’t take them long), and I got accepted the week after. I then had about two weeks to make a decision. I went back and forth for the two weeks and decided that if I was ever going to do grad school, it might as well be now. And with the low-residency thing, I’d be able to figure out other things in my life in the mean time. I could write from Florida where Colin was, or I could write from home. So I enrolled, figured out financial aid and housing, booked a ticket to Vermont, and prepared to leave in less than a month for Goddard.
It’s crazy how such a spontaneous decision turned out to be the exact perfect thing for me. Vermont was beautiful, Goddard was amazing, the people were fantastic! It was so wonderful and inspiring to be around so many other writers—people who knew what it was like to BE A WRITER. The students ranged from 22 to probably 80, and every age range in between was represented equally. In fact, I think I was one of only 2 or 3 people who were attending Goddard right out of undergrad. We’d all love to be published, of course, but at Goddard, the writers are mostly there for themselves. To these people who had families, other jobs, and other lives, writing was just inevitable—it was something we had to do. And Goddard is our way to make ourselves write.
I met so many fantastic people and so many amazing experiences including swimming in a stone quarry down the road in my underwear at 2am with 4 near strangers and getting my first tattoo in Burlington. I have a great network of writers now, and I’ve only been to one residency! I’ve continued a novel I started in undergrad, and we’re also required to read at least 45 books (of our choosing) and write 2-3 page “annotations” (kind of responses) to them. Additionally, we have to do a teaching practicum and a few other critical papers. The program is four semesters, and I’m so excited to see where the next two years will take me.
So since June I’ve been trying to get ahead in my work, reading books, writing critical papers, annotations, and working on my novel. Also, my job-life has been a rollercoaster.
Before I moved down to Jacksonville, I secured an internship with the National Association of Event Planners and the National Event Planner Institute. My boss also had an event planning company as well. When I got down here, I met with my boss, and I was super excited to be working with her. She’s a very strong and driven woman, and I realized I’d never worked for a woman like that before. The internship was to be on a 30-day trial basis, and after that, if she liked me, it would become paid. After two weeks of the internship, my boss decided she wanted to make a paid position for me. I started as Administrative Coordinator of the NAEP, and I was really liking it. I was working on a lot of administrative stuff, making lots of phone calls, working on the curriculum for the NEPI event coordinator class, and doing some marketing among other things. But, after just 2 ½ weeks, my boss told me she’d talked to her accountant and wasn’t going to be able to afford me.
I freaked out and started looking for jobs online that day. I really wanted to get into the wedding planning business, but I couldn’t afford to do another unpaid internship, so I had to find something that paid. But I also needed something part time so that I could also focus on my writing.
And that same day, a bridal store called me for an interview. I had applied a month before that and didn’t think I’d ever hear from them. I went in for an interview a few days later, and was offered the job that same week. I started training the following week, and I was very overwhelmed. There’s so much to remember! There are so many forms we have to fill out for various things, and the computer is very confusing. But I’m catching on. My favorite part is, obviously, working with the brides. It’s so fantastic to get to talk to them during this exciting time in their lives, AND I get to basically play dress up every day. I’ve only sold a few dresses so far, but it’s so exciting when I get to help someone find a dress they love and tear up over.
Our store is as reasonably priced, however, and since I’m in Jacksonville, Florida, we get a lot of lower income brides—I’ve seen people with no teeth. We get lots of very young brides, courthouse weddings, 2nd wedding brides, brides who’ve just had children, and brides of all different age and race. Although with my previous job with the NAEP it was great to sit in my apartment all day doing work, at the bridal shop, it’s great to get to interact with people all day, and it gives me a reason to shower, get dressed up, and get out of the apartment. Everyone I work with is so great and helpful, and I almost always have an interesting story to bring home to Colin.
I’ve also had quite the cultural experience at the shop. I had a bride from the Philippines who didn’t speak much English. She had just arrived to the US and was getting married as soon as possible in a courthouse. She needed something simple and cheap that was a perfect fit so she could buy it off the rack. We found one dress that almost fit and would just need a few alterations. However, to wait for the alterations, she would have needed to push the wedding back a week. So, she and her friend (who spoke English) put the dress on hold and went to another store. They found a dress somewhere else, but the friend who was with the bride is also getting married and ended up making an appointment with me for next week!
I also had a bride who was quite young and was engaged to an army boy. The woman’s fiancé had not yet met her mother, and her mother didn’t know she was engaged. You see, the bride was from an African family, and she required a dowry to be offered before she could officially become engaged. She said her sister went for $450,000 and she expected to be worth $500,000. Quite the price tag for an American soldier. Also, the girl’s fiancé was white, so she expected some resistance from her mother about that as well. I also found out that the bride was Mormon. She explained to me that the church planned the ceremony AND reception for her, so all she really had to do was choose a dress. The bride was there to look at bridesmaid dresses with her friend and decided she wouldn’t be ready to try on actual wedding gowns until her mother was with her in two weeks. She’s made a comeback appointment for next week, so I’m interested to hear the end of her story.
The other most interesting bride I’ve had so far was from Kuwait. She came into the store with three family friends who live in the US. The girl spoke little English, and her friends did most of the talking. She was covered from head to toe, and wanted to try on some very big, poofy, flashy dresses. We tried on the first one she picked out, and she didn’t want to take it off. It was the dress she had dreamed of. We put her in a veil and tiara, and she was in love. However, she had to bring her mother in the next day so she could see the dress and make the final decision. The bride (who was only 18), saw a boy in the back of the store, and with her head uncovered, exclaimed something I didn’t understand and disappeared into the fitting room. We wrote everything down for her, and hoped she’d return the next day (her purchases would have been my first big sale).
I called the bride the next afternoon to check on her. It turned out the number she’d given us belonged to her American friend. I reminded her that we were only open until 6:00 on Sunday, and if the bride wanted the dress, she’d have to come in soon so we could get it altered in the two weeks she would still be in the US. Every time the door buzzed that day, I turned to look, hoping they would return, and finally at 5:45, they walked through the door. I was helping another bride, but she was passed off to a manager so I could return to my Kuwaitian bride.
Her mother took one look at the dress and decided it was too “old fashioned.” She shuffled through the dresses, and we chose another designer gown for the bride to try. The mother loved it. It was an ivory trumpet silhouette, strapless, heavily beaded, with little ruffles every 4 or 5 inches all the way from top to bottom. It had a medium-length train, and was very beautiful. The bride didn’t like the color, but the mother did. We added two heavily-brocaded veils (a cathedral and an elbow-length), a tiara, and TWO slips because the bride wanted it poofier. Her friend told us it’s not what SHE wants but what she thinks other people want—what they will remember.
Finally, at 6:30, a half-hour AFTER our store closed, we rang everything up for her. A bra, two slips, two veils, a tiara, shoes, and of course the dress. BUT when we asked the bride’s mother how she’s like to pay for it, she said “oh, I just wanted to know how much it would cost. I have to talk to my husband and get the money from him.” So, a half hour after the store had closed and after we’d bagged everything up for her, the bride left the store with an appointment for the following Tuesday.
Tomorrow’s Tuesday, and if that woman doesn’t come in and buy EVERYTHING, I will be very… mad. I wasn’t even too broken up about it until my manager blew a gasket and got me all fired up. They KNEW each time they came into the store they would not be buying anything. Fingers crossed everyone that they make it in tomorrow! It would be a $1,800 sale!
So, working at the bridal shop has been interesting, and I’m getting better, I think. I’m not the greatest saleswoman out there, I know that, and I don’t think this is something I’d want to do forever, but I try to be honest, genuine, and just really nice, and I think that helps. I’m trying my best, and hopefully my sales go up as I get better. It gets more fun every day, although it’s actually quite tiring: running around the store carrying big heavy dresses. But I’m glad to get my foot into the door of the wedding industry, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to try out wedding planning someday soon!
So that’s work and school. In my personal life: I’ve been living with Colin for three months now, and I love it so much. It’s incredibly wonderful to get to see him every single day, and I feel quite spoiled. But now, even when I go a week or a weekend or even a day without seeing him, I get upset and miss him. I don’t know how I’ll ever survive another deployment. We both go back and forth just about every day about whether we think he should stay in the navy when his four years are up or not. I’ve even been trying to talk to anyone at the bridal shop that I meet who’s part of a navy family for advice. I’ll keep you updated on our decision.
Our roommate just left the navy a few weeks ago, so the past week we’ve been moving into our new apartment. It’s our first apartment just the two of us, and it’s the first apartment I’ve for which I’ve ever signed a lease! We’ve got just about everything moved over, and I’m loving the apartment. It’s much smaller, but we don’t really need much space. The apartment complex is a bit farther from work, but it’s very homey and feels more like a neighborhood. There’s a basketball court where kids are always shooting hoops, two pools, tennis courts, and a playground. And there’s lots of trees, unlike our old complex, which means we can park in the shade! The definitely helps keep the car cool.
We live on the first floor now, which is amazing. We have a very large patio outside the living room that overlooks the little lake, and it almost feels like we have a big yard. There’s even a weeping willow just a few feet from our patio, and a fan above it! I can’t wait to get some chairs out there so I can sit outside at night and write. It’s screened in, so once it cools down, we’ll be able to leave it open.
We also got a turntable, and I bought our first record last week: Johnny Cash. It’s a fantastic compilation, and we’ve been listening to it non-stop. It really is true that vinyl just sounds better somehow. I can’t wait to keep building our collection.
Aaand last weekend two best friends from home (Andy and Morgan) and my brother, Dan, came down to Florida to visit! We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios for a day, which turned out to be really cool, but there were only three rides and not much to do. The Three Broomsticks was my favorite part. It had great food, great atmosphere, and AMAZING butterbeer! The ride inside the castle was really fantastic, but the second ride we went on made me sick and gave me a case of vertigo for the rest of the day, so I had to take a break and didn’t go on any more rollercoaster-y rides after that. We did a few other things at Universal, got SOAKED on the bilge-rat barge, and then had dinner with my brother’s and my friend Emily from home who is working at Disney for the semester. It was great to see her and get the inside scoop about working at WDW.
The second two days we went to Disney, and it was absolutely fantastic. I said to my brother as we approached the Transportation and Ticket Center: “doesn’t it just feel like you’re coming home?” And it really did. I’ve been to Disney seven times now, and it never fails to be just as magical as I remembered it. This was my third time with Morgan, and we had a blast. We managed to hit all four parks in two days and got on every ride that we really wanted to at least once. Highlights of the two days in Disney: riding Splash mountain four times in a row during the parade, watching the fireworks from Thunder Mountain, and the new Yeti ride in Animal Kingdom—fantastic! And Tower of Terror never fails to be one of my favorite rides. It’s just so terrifyingly wonderful.
So after our three days in Orlando (and spending nearly all the money in my bank account), we returned to Jacksonville, shopped, had dinner at my favorite restaurant on the beach, Ragtime, took a stroll along the ocean, and played a few rounds of “Who? What? When? Where? Why?” to recapture all of our inside jokes. It was an amazing 4 ½ days, and I’m so glad I got to share it with two best friends, and especially my brother. We never used to get along when we were younger, but we’ve gotten closer over the years, especially after being in the musicals together. I’ve been surprised at how much I really really miss him when I’m gone. He’s definitely become one of my best friends, and I had a great time at Disney with him for our seventh visit.
I also managed to make it home for a weekend last month to see the summer musical at home. It was Cinderella, and although my brother was “only” a chorus member, I decided the week before the show that I wanted to come home to see it. My dad also built the pumpkin carriage, and he was so proud of it. My mom booked me a ticket, and only she and one of my sisters knew I was coming home. I surprised my other sister, my brother, my dad, the director, and the whole cast. It was great to be able to see the show, which was hilarious, and especially my brother in his gold metallic “Hammer” pants and blue light-up LA gear shoes. It’s so cool to see him on stage and see how far he’s come. I’d never have thought when he was a kid that he’d ever have the confidence on stage that he has now, and he’s so much fun to watch.
I guess that’s all the excitement of the summer for me. I’ve got to try to get caught up on some reading and writing tomorrow, and I have to be at the old apartment in the morning to let the movers in to get our old roommate’s stuff. I’ve spent way too much time writing this, so I’ll bid you adieu now.
Hope everyone out there is doing well!