And in the interest of celebrating 21 years on this planet, I decided to share a memory from each year of my life...at least those I can remember.
(0-1) In the first year of my life, I did the same things other infants do. I don't actually have any memories of this year of my life, but I'm sure it was a total blast, for infants of course.
(1-2) I started to diversify my portfolio. I became less like a crying mass with limbs and started to gain my independence. Crawling, walking, whatever. I did it all. But I still pooped my pants all the time. What can I say? I was still young.
(2-3) Major birthday party this year. All of the neighborhood kids were invited and we had a blast. Slip-N-Slide, swimming, running through the sprinklers, and upside down ice cream cones that looked like clown heads. Arguably one of the best birthday celebrations I've ever had.
(3-4) At some point during the summer, my family only had one car. I'm not sure if the van was in the repair shop or what happened, but it was gone for at least a few days. One hot, muggy morning, my mom, brother and I walked from our home to the local Osco drug at the corner of 39th and Noland. That memory is quite vivid in my mind. I remember the morning was already hot and we were all sweaty by the time we had walked up the hill, down the street and under the railroad bridge to get to the store. I think we're not completely aware as children, but I can still recall this event with absolute clarity. I think it was the beginning of my awareness of the world.
(4-5) Hello preschool. The beginning of my educational journey was at Sycamore Hills Preschool on 39th Street in Independence, Mo. We had those permanent markers that are in the metal casing. You know, the ones that are really strong smelling? Now, I always think back to my preschool days when I catch a whiff of one of those. And let's not forget all the awesome songs you learn in preschool. I guess it was the beginning of my musical career too. Good year.
(5-6) The family moved from Independence to Buckner, Mo. My favorite toys were wooden blocks, and I also was addicted to coloring. I had a collection of coloring books to be reckoned with. My aunt & uncle got me giant coloring books for Christmas, and I would use these as platforms for my constructions. I also began to pick up writing. I remember my favorite restaurant was Taco Bell, and I wrote "TB" everywhere. I couldn't spell the whole name, but I knew the initials. It was like one of those middle school notes, but I would write to my mom: "TB Y N." I'm not sure I ever got an answer on my media (I wrote it everywhere, including inside my dresser drawer).
(6-7) Ah, kindergarten. I went to school in the afternoons. This meant I didn't have to be at school in the morning, so I could continue to watch Regis and Kathy Lee and The Price Is Right with my mom. Actually, she usually found something else to do during The Price Is Right, but Bob Barker had my complete attention. It was an odd year, and I think that was partly because my kindergarten teacher's husband died so we had a few different subs for awhile. This year also included the birth of my sister. I don't remember much about that time, but I did know I was no longer the baby of the family. I became "the middle child."
(7-8) In first grade, I was thoroughly convinced that I was smarter than my teacher. They tested me for the talented and gifted program, but they didn't actually explain why I was talking to the school counselor. I thought she was wasting my time and I didn't care about the questions she was asking me. I think I was somewhat spiteful because I was missing silent reading time to do the test. Nobody messes with silent reading time. I also didn't care from what direction the sun rose. I remember thinking my counselor was really wasting my time with that question. I wonder how different my school life would have been if I had actually committed to the test and joined TAG then. Oh well.
(8-9) D.E.A.R. Mrs. Gussman was the best elementary school teacher ever. Drop Everything and Read was preceeded by episodes of Reading Rainbow. I've never met a teacher who was so dedicated to literacy as she was. I remember lots of fun times in that class, including being timed to walk from the classroom to the office to get staplers. The classroom shared a corner with the entry, so you could look out the windows and see into the office. When I got there and asked the secretary for the supplies, Mrs. Gussman buzzed the office and they heckled me from the classroom. Good times.
(9-10) Sweetness. Mrs. Gussman moved up with the class and it was almost the identical roster. Tom Reese transferred to his aunt's class in third grade, but the rest of us were all there. We still had D.E.A.R. and we still watched Reading Rainbow. I remember learning some algebra in the class, and it was difficult, but I don't know many third graders who are good at algebra. However, we also worked on handwriting, cursive in particular. I hated that because I was left-handed and thus had more difficulty with it. My cursive is still horrible, so I developed my own form of print/script.
(10-11) Fourth grade. This was the year I first received actual voice training. You remember Mrs. Gussman from (8-9) and (9-10)? Well, her husband, Leo Gussman, helped with the choral programs at Fort Osage and William-Chrisman high schools. Anyway, he wanted to put on a production of Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," so he auditioned me for the part of Amahl. Well, he liked what he heard, so that started the training. I increased my range (I was a soprano 1 when I was that age) and I was hitting high D's and high F's in the music (the very high ones). Not many fourth graders receive opera training. Well, the high school student who was to play my mother had a nervous breakdown, so I didn't end up performing. However, I kept the training. It was like free voice lessons.
(11-12) Ah, fifth grade. Enter nerd-dom. Actually, I was just over-dedicated to school. I was quite the computer-savvy kid, and I went to school early every morning to help my teacher, Judy Oetting, with the computer and classroom maintenance. I also ended up joining the Journalism Club, which I actually wasn't a big fan of, but that was because I was pressured into joining. Fifth grade also included the living rainforest exhibit in our classroom. It was where we decorated the entire room with rainforest related cutouts and information and then led classes through the room.
(12-13) My first book was published at age 12...sort of. It was supposed to be, but my teacher lost all the materials. It was *actually* published the next year, but this was when I produced it. I joined the Artist/Author Club at Fort Osage Middle School, and I wrote a book about the rainforest exhibit as seen in (11-12). Did I mention I illustrated it? Poorly. I guess I could tell people I've been published, but this seems kind of like cheating. Sixth grade also saw the fad known as the "Macarena." The P.E. and music teachers had lessons in the gym to teach the entire school the "Macarena." Looking back, it was a waste of time.
(13-14) Remember TAG from (7-8)? Well, I read most of the books on the recommended reading list long before the class was even close to being done with their second book. My reading teacher knew I needed more of a challenge. She tested my reading level and I was reading at the 12+ level, so they tested me for TAG again. Now that I knew what they were doing, I actually answered the questions carefully. I made it in. Never actually heard what my score was on the test, but I remember word problems involving buckets of water. I did quite well on those. It was an oral IQ test. And thus I joined the Talented and Gifted Program. It was basically a slack-off class for the smart kids where we did a lot of logic puzzles and some independent research on various projects. Fun times.
(14-15) In eighth grade, I entered an area math competition. That's right, math. I entered the fractions category as well as a couple of others that I forget now. Anyway, I didn't do too shabby. Wasn't the top winner, but I did place. Despite my mathematical adventures (I wanted to be a math teacher at the time), I was still popular enough to win the election for Student Council Freshman Class Treasurer that spring. However, my high school schedule did not lend itself to the French, Spanish, Art and Choir electives I wanted to take, so I had to narrow it down to Spanish and Choir. I still kind of regret giving up the chance to be trilingual, but I guess it's never too late.
(15-16) My dad remarried in April of 1999, and (15-16) saw some of the most embittered family battles ever. The reason being that I hated my step-mother with a passion. This hatred was augmented by the fact that she wanted to move to Michigan and I had no desire to leave my life at Fort Osage. Luckily, this year also saw my involvement in the Fort Osage High School Freshman/Sophomore Chorale. We were a force to be reckoned with. Truly a great high school choir. At the Spring Pops Concert, I had a solo performance where I sang/played "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." My father came to the concert. He was the only one from my family who did. I didn't do very well, but I blame it on nerves.
(16-17) Major change in lifestyle. It's hard to believe how much happened in this year. I started out knowing no one in Michigan and I ended the year recovered from my depression and dating the woman who I will marry in (21-22). I traveled abroad. I got my first job (Walmart Pets & Live Fish). I began accompanying choirs. I really grew as a person this year. At Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (the camp they make fun of in American Pie - "one time, at band camp...") I became part of a posse. At some point, the four of us - Mike, Jamie, Emma and me - adopted names from the Wizard of Oz. I was the Tin Man. Mike was the Scarecrow. Jamie was Dorothy. Emma was Toto. That week before the international tour was quite odd, but it was kind of fun too. That week also included one of the counselors instructing the entire choir the process of the courtesy flush. "Poop. Flush. Wipe. Flush." Crude, but direct.
(17-18) I spent my 17th birthday in Flensburg, Germany where an entire German high school jazz band/choir sang a nice rendition of "Happy Birthday." I loved my time in Germany, especially Flensburg. Walking around downtown at night, I have a vision engrained in my head of everything I loved about Europe. Have you ever seen Van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night"? I saw that image. It was so awesome. That evening, some of the members of my group stolled down the red light district in Flensburg, but I was with another group that decided against it. From what I heard, it was just a bunch of hairy, middle-aged women standing naked in the windows. Not sorry I missed it.
(18-19) Varsity Singers, 7th Hour Concert Choir, 8th Hour Concert Choir, SSA Honors, TTBB Choir and the Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir. I was involved in one way or another in all of these choirs this year. When Melissa Risk, the accompanist, quit, I became the student accompanist for all choirs but the SSA Chorus. I also participated in the MSVMA Region B Honors Choir, the Southwest Michigan Vocal Festival and the SWMVF Honors Choir that year. Add personal piano lessons, an independent study in music theory, a role in "South Pacific" and teaching private piano lessons, and you get a music-filled year.
(19-20) Fresh-faced and freshman. An escape from Michigan and return to my home state was just what I needed. However, I was still burnt out from my music-filled senior year and the stress of working too much on my high school yearbook caused my to take a semester off from journalism and I only accompanied voice lessons to keep up on my piano. The year did grant me an opportunity to join the Residence Hall Association, and RHA quickly became my cup of tea. I was thoroughly involved and I received the First Year Experience Award at the regional and national levels. I thought it was kind of cool that I was judged the most involved leader in residential life for all first-year students at colleges and universities across the country, but no one else outside the organization seemed to care. Oh well. The final evening at the National Association of College and University Residence Halls National Conference, I did some hardcore dancing and totally got my groove on for a long time. It was there I showed my RHA friends that I do have some real moves. I have to be in the mood to dance though.
(20-21) Let's see. This year. Hmm. Became addicted to Tower. Joined Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Made a surprise visit to Michigan for Thanksgiving. Joined Tower Choir. Finshed my term as RHA President. Strengthened a lot of friendships and made quite a few new ones as well. During first deadline for Tower, we were all pretty pepped about the whole thing and deadline weekend was a total blast. That weekend included chair bowling and the ever-popular "qua?". I really got to know my Tower friends that weekend and I stopped being quiet around them. Hell, I was jumping on desks and yelling random things, usually "qua?" to keep things going well...I guess. Good memories of another year.
(21-22) Thus far, I've updated my Xanga. This thing took an hour and 45 minutes to write, so I hope you enjoy.