Thursday, March 5, 2009

25 Things

This list, slightly modified for the blog, came from a tag I received from my cousin Kathy on FaceBook. It’s been a strange week full of symphonic coughing and aching heads, not at all conducive to coherent thought. I prefer to think of this post as a literary version of an atonal improvisational jazz piece…just because I need to feel smart right now and pretending to know something about music suits my very strange and heavily medicated mood.

If, perhaps, you were thinking I’m normal or something, this list may convince you otherwise.

1. In high school, I fully expected to be a scientist of some flavor, perhaps a biochemist or marine biologist.

2. Item 1 came to an end when I took Organic Chemistry my first semester at Duke. The Gross Chemistry Building, hidden by a screen of pine trees, was an ugly edifice of white concrete, black marble, cold lighting, and surly people walking around with hunched shoulders, glowering. The third floor of Allen Building, on the main quad of West Campus, housed the English department. Allen Building was an elegant campus-Gothic edifice of gray stone, pointed arches, fabulously warm lighting, and professors who smiled at you even if you weren’t in their classes. This friendly environment, combined with the fact that I almost flunked Organic Chemistry, led me to major in English.

3. In college, I knew how to use every single button on a scientific calculator. Within five years of graduating college, the only button I could remember how to use on the top half of a scientific calculator was the square root key. I still can use the bottom portion of a scientific calculator pretty well, though, which really isn’t saying much, is it?

4. I am legally blind in my right eye. Fortunately, it’s correctible to 20/20, so it’s really not a big deal. Besides, Christmas lights look especially beautiful to me without corrective lenses.

5. I am terrified of snakes. Even knowing this, George took me to the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Round-up in Texas many years ago because he wanted to run a race with some friends. I forgot my glasses (just brought prescription sunglasses that were too dark for inside), so the world looked fuzzy and indistinct, which heightened my fear enormously. It didn’t help when snake handlers put a couple of big rattlers ON A TABLE and annoyed them until they rattled, but of course I couldn’t see them until I was within striking distance, at which point I had a mini heart attack and ran screaming like a little girl. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get away from the sound of rattles because someone was selling rattles on sticks, and hundreds of kids and adult male rednecks were running around shaking the damn things. My ears kept hearing that terror-inducing rattle everywhere we went, and uncontrollable surges of adrenaline kept telling me to FLEE BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!

6. During a recent “Come up with weird or gross band names” game at the dinner table, I came up with Toe Jam, which can’t possibly be original because it seems so obvious, but I swear I never heard it before and am really, really proud of myself for thinking it up. As you can tell, I live in a testosterone-rich environment that considers these sorts of topics polite table conversation.

7. If you stacked all the cardstock I have in my craft room, it would measure about 25 inches tall, which is not enough. I’ll let you know when I’ve reached enough. Don’t hold your breath.

8. I cannot tell you how many rubber stamps I have. The exact number is classified. In the case of rubber stamps, I utilize the following equation to determine the proper number to own: x + 1 = e, where x = the number of stamps I currently own and e = enough. George uses this equation for bicycles.

9. I rarely have “favorites.” There’s just too much in life to love and be enthusiastic about. So no favorite book, no favorite dessert (how do you choose between apple pie and brownies?), no favorite movie, no favorite color…. You get the picture.

10. Prayer is important to me.

11. I’m a first-born pleaser who wants everyone to play nicely and get along.

12. Hello, my name is Susan, and I’m a Coca-Cola addict. As of 3/5/09, it’s been six months and 26 days since my last drink. I really, really want one. Right now.

13. I hate my nose.

14. I am dangerously incompetent in three languages: Italian, Latin, and Spanish. I’m not entirely incompetent in Old English, but I read Middle English like I was born in 1360 in London. I wish I were as fluent in Italian and Latin, but this flaw in my education doesn’t keep me up at night.

15. When I received my first USAF Officers Club card in 1988, it showed my name as Mrs. George Raihala and sent me into my first true feminist snit. The memory of it still makes me mad.

16. My first work-study job was ordering and filing cards for the card catalog at Perkins library at Duke—a job which is now obsolete. This makes me feel really sad…and old.

17. I helped organize a graduate student conference at Wichita State for area universities so graduate students could get practice in presenting papers and participating in the profession. I also read a paper on Beowulf at another conference. A version of this paper received an A+ from my Anglo-Saxon Literature professor because it was really good and an A- from my poetry professor because it was “too long.” The poetry professor was annoyed he couldn’t grade it lower because he totally disagreed with my theoretical approach but knew the Anglo-Saxon lit professor had already given it an A+. I disliked the poetry professor intensely and enjoyed watching him squirm. I am not proud of this. But I am proud of the paper.

18. I hate to cook and love to eat. This combination has taught me a lot about putting up with necessity, whining about it only a little, and being really grateful for a husband who wishes he were a chef and for living in a country where food is good and plentiful.

19. When I taught at Troy University’s Ft. Benning campus, the Army Rangers referred to me as the Mussolini of the English department. Oddly, they meant this as a compliment, and, even more oddly, I took it as one.

20. During my twenties, I really despised children. Some of them feared me. I was happy about this.

21. One day in early 1999, at the age of 32, I was putting away laundry and spontaneously started humming the theme song to Winnie the Pooh. That’s when I knew I was pregnant. A week later, the pregnancy test confirmed it. Children no longer fear me. I am gloriously happy about this.

22. My first kiss happened on a dark beach on Kiawah Island when I was sweet sixteen. The boy’s name was Schuyler Sweet, and he was a gentleman.

23. I like the classical Greek philosophy of moderation in all things. I cannot always live that philosophy, especially when faced with chocolate or Coca-Cola, but I like it.

24. I’m generally comfortable with ambiguity, but only after I have looked for answers. If none pans out, I’m okay with not knowing something “for sure.” This contributed significantly to my success in literary studies, where ambiguity works like fertilizer for the mind. It also makes me relatively tolerant of religious and political views that differ from my own.

25. My house is a mess. At this moment, I truly don’t care. Maybe I will care tomorrow. Maybe not. All I know is that ten years ago, it would not have looked like it does right now.


  1. From the "Questioning my Intelligence" fact-checking department (aka Susan's husband, George), we just want to note that Susan was never, ever, even close to being within "striking distance" of a rattlesnake at the Roundup, although with her snake phobia, I'm sure she thought so at the time.

  2. I am absolutely entitled to phobic exaggeration. Besides, you KNOW that snakes can fly through the air to get me if they want to....

    And if you EVER bring a 20-foot cobra home with you from a deployment again, I will divorce you. (My goodness, that dream was so REAL!)

  3. What a great article. I don't believe George on the snakes by the way. Even in the same state is too close for me!

    BTW, you do NEED damask designs!!

  4. hehehe, Now I feel like I know you even better...and George too!! Hehehehehehehe, laughing so hard at you guys :-)

    And yes, you need Demask Designs ... and so do I!!!!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!