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I Love College

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

You’ve missed me, right?

My smile…the way I toss my hair…No? Not even a little bit?

No? Not even a little bit?


Well, if you’re one of the few people who have missed my posts this fall (Hi, Mom!), I apologize.

The truth is, I’ve been extraordinarily busy in school. This is one semester where I got waaay more than my money’s worth of wisdom from Montgomery College.

In marketing, we created surveys and developed pricing strategies and learned all sorts of new words like slotting fee. (And no, it has absolutely nothing to do with slot machines or Vegas.) My hands-down favorite project was the radio ad that my classmate Noriko and I worked on together. In a flash of pure genius, Noriko came up with the idea to create an ad for Professor Gentile's law practice. (Who even knew that he has a law practice? I thought Montgomery College was his entire life.) 

In SP 112 Business and Professional Speech Communications with Professor Johnson, we learned so much about how people behave in organizations that at one point I thought my head might actually burst. I now possess an almost uncanny ability to reduce anybody, myself included, down to a series of  amazingly accurate stereotypes.  If you’re trying to figure out what makes your snarky boss tick, this class is for you.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s even more revealing than visiting a psychic for a full Tarot card reading. (Unless you actually enjoy the incense, weird music, and fur-shedding cats.)

In English 240 The Organization and Development of Technical Documents, I put in a lot of hours creating a business website. I learned that writing and designing documents for the web is both a science and an art form. Creating the website was the fun part of the project. The slightly less fun part of this project was developing the charts, schedules and budgets for the actual 25-page production plan. But somehow, Professor Davis managed to make even that part pretty ok.  (Useful tip #27: When estimating any budget or timetable in a production plan, multiply your initial guess by 9.5. This nifty little mathematical trick is guaranteed to bring you closer to your actual number. In that way, it's fairly similar to estimating the calories in an Applebee’s chocolate brownie.

Friends, I hope your semester has been as good as mine and that your are wiser, happier, and that much closer to reaching your goals in 2012.




Goodbye, Summer

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

When I awoke this morning, I tiptoed to the front door of our cabin.  A  burst of cool, fall-like air rushed towards me when I opened the door, and I shivered, closing the door quickly. Already?  Through the window, I could make out the neat formation of a flock of birds flying in the distance, following the shoreline south.

There have been signs that it’s time now to pack up the van and go. Our travel size tubes of toothpaste are squeezed flat and empty. We’ve tired of the same old rumpled t-shirts and shorts in our suitcases and the way they hold the cool, musty dampness of the ocean air. We’re weary of the grains of sand that have found their way into everything— our clothes, our books, the skin between our toes.

And they say there's a chance of a hurricane making it's way up the coast next week. 

Friends from home have begun to call and leave us messages: Where are you guys? Aren’t you coming home soon? When do your MC classes start? Did you get into that class you wanted? Is Will excited about starting middle school?

Seasons come, and seasons go.

After Will woke up we walked down to the main building to find Scott, who owns and manages the cabins. He is a worried-looking man in his early 50’s, tall and thin. Around his neck he wears an unusually large, heavy, wooden cross that hangs from a leather cord and dangles low on his waist. There is an air of sadness that surrounds him. For this reason, it always comes as a surprise that when Scott speaks, he smiles easily. And when he smiles, his entire face lights up, like the sun breaking through clouds on an overcast day.

Now, though, Scott is sad to hear that we’re leaving.

But he is used to this. He knows that this is the way it has to be.

People come, and people go.

We spend our last afternoon down at the beach, watching the ocean waves, listening.  We breathe in deeply, filling our lungs with ocean air. We close our eyes and listen to the surf, wondering how long we’ll be able to hold it in our memories.

We stay late, neither of us wanting it to end. Families slowly drift off. They pack up their umbrellas and beach chairs and blankets and coolers, and then trudge wearily towards their cars. The seagulls return, circling low before landing in the sand.

When we take our final walk along the beach, it is almost empty. We don’t bother gathering beautiful pink shells and lovely smooth stones in our plastic bucket. The shells and stones don’t belong in our cluttered desk drawers at home, mixed in with broken pens and smudged, dirty erasers and paper clips–we know that.

They belong here, with the waves tossing them up on the sand, then sucking them back in, over and over and over again.

The Lost Art of Conversation

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

Finals are over. Summer is here. My nephew wants a puppy.

No, he’s not in 2nd grade. He’s in college. In truth, what he really wants is a girlfriend. Yet he has somehow convinced himself that adopting a puppy is the easiest way to achieve this goal. A girl is simply incapable of resisting the charms of a puppy, he says. His theory is that it has something to do with the female instinct to nurture. He claims that it power shifts into high gear at the mere sight of a cuddly, three-month-old, golden retriever puppy. And--here comes the part I don’t quite follow--somehow by extension the guy walking the puppy is included in this bubble of warmth and love.

I can hear my nephew in the next room discussing his theory and his plans for pet adoption with some guy friends. They all agree that puppies are the fastest way to a girl’s heart. That is, unless you’re willing to fake a physical injury. The panel of 21-year-old dating experts in the next room all seem to believe that the ultimate, number one method of attracting female attention is to receive some kind of bodily injury, especially one that requires crutches. The obvious downside being that hobbling around on crutches might limit one’s ability to actively participate in sports and fun activities. However, the guys agree that they’d be willing to forgo this temporarily if it means hooking up with a girl.

Then I hear one of the 21-year-old experts say that his older, married boss has confided in him that there is nothing that attracts women more than the sight of a guy carrying a baby. In an act of generosity, this older, married boss has even offered to lend him not only a Snugli baby carrier but a baby, his baby, to place inside the carrier. The boss has been encouraging him to take the baby out for a spin in the Snugli some afternoon, just to test his luck. 

As I think about this, it occurs to me that my nephew is missing the point. While it may be true that many women are drawn to cuddly puppies, guys on crutches, and cute babies, that’s only part of the story. I think what really appeals to my newphew and his friends is that by using these props they are relieved of the painful burden of approaching a girl and beginning a conversation: they run no risk of being shot down. After that first step has been taken, puppies, crutches, and babies supply instant, friendly, no-brainer topics for conversation. It's something that even the shyest 21-year-old guy can handle.

So, ladies, if you, too are looking for love this summer, this might be something to think about. It doesn't take more than a friendly smile and a quick hello to get the ball rolling.

Let me know how it goes.

Glitter and Glue

(Anne Schott) Permanent link

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. My day. Or at least it should have been my day because I am a mother. But I've had final exams to worry about. All weekend long they've hung on the horizon like dark, threatening storm clouds. Instead of celebrating, I spent the day studying.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why my Mother’s Day looked nothing like the one portrayed in the many jewelry store TV commercials that have been airing ad nauseam for the past week: I did not enjoy a day of contented bliss while reclining on the sofa in an immaculately clean, sun-dappled living room surrounded by three beautiful children and an adoring husband. Nor did I fight to hold back tears of joy when opening my children’s handmade cards decorated with pink hearts and glitter. And, thankfully, I was never called upon to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance of feigned surprise while slowly unclasping a velvet jewelry box and discovering, nestled inside on a tiny pillow of white satin, a dazzling diamond ring.

Nope. Not for me. Nothing like that at all. I spent Mother's Day hunched over my computer in a cold sweat trying to remember how to calculate a mortgage with MS Excel.

These jewelry store commercials make me tense. For the seasoned caregiver it’s fairly easy to see that Perfect TV Mom is only a heartbeat away from freeing her handmade card from its envelope. And with that she will unknowingly release a fistful of excess glitter which will scatter into the folds of her cashmere sweater and into the creases of her designer sofa. Within minutes, the glitter will make its way up to her $200 haircut. Perfect TV Mom will be vacuuming glitter for the next six months.

I know this because the one thing I do have in common with Perfect TV Mom is that I’ve been lucky enough to receive a boatload of handmade cards from my own kids over the years. They’re safely tucked in a cardboard box at the bottom of my closet. They are all in there--the cards with the googly eyes and the dried macaroni and the plastic shapes and the shiny sequins and the bent pipe cleaners and the neon stickers and the misspelled words--every last one of them.

In a way, these cards represent my life’s work, what I did before I came to MC and began worrying about Excel. They represent the time I’ve spent with my kids when they were young teaching them to color, to paint, to glue, to share the scissors, to make rainbows, to form letters, and to stay within the lines. They also represent the times when everyone has run off to play, those seemingly endless hours spent vacuuming glitter off of floors and scratching glue from table tops and removing marker stains from clothes.

As my kids grew up, their cards changed and the work shifted. It became more about talking with them, helping them figure out what to write inside their beautiful cards: which knock-knock jokes are funny and which ones are mean, what makes a good “Roses are red” rhyme, and why it is important to remember to write “Reasons Why I Love You.”

My kids are older now; they’ve outgrown the glitter. The cards they gave me yesterday for Mother's Day were sweet. They were store bought, and some of them play music. In a week or two I will grow tired of hearing them, and I suspect they will be tossed before too long. The box at the bottom of my closet is almost full now, anyway. There really isn’t room for much more.

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