TROUBLE(F)AKER

Growing up, I was only sent to the principal’s office once. I don’t know the average, but it feels like a bragworthy fact.

I’ll admit, I spent a chunk of time in after school detention throughout high school. But only because I didn’t like the idea of waking up in the morning. And I didn’t see the importance of wearing matching socks the way my teachers did. And I didn’t care if my shorts were peeking out of my skirt because I craved to sit cross-legged in class despite the constraints of a uniform (#allgirlsCatholicschool).

But my trip to the principal’s office was in the fourth grade, so it counts about as much as an expunged underage drinking citation (which I would know nothing about because I’ve never been caught drinking under the age of 21, and I’ve never had to call my parents to pick me up from a party to be released from police custody, and I certainly did not have to go to a three-day course watching videos about the dangers of alcohol with my boyfriend-of-the-time and his best friend – but hypothetically if any of this were to have happened this may or may not make an interesting blog post topic in the future).

Give or take a few moments, I was a good kid.

I know I liked to challenge authority. Not in a delinquent way, but in a kid-who-always-asks-why kind of way. And if I had an opinion or a witty comment, I more times than not felt inclined to say it out loud (and still do). Especially if I could get a laugh. Moments of silence were moments of opportunity to me.

I remember one day my class took a field trip, and for some reason that is even less clear to me as an adult, we left our backpacks back in the classroom. When we returned about 30 minutes before the end of the school day, we were greeted by our Language Arts teacher who let us know she had taken the liberty of taking our composition notebooks out of our backpacks so she could grade our assignments that were due that day. Despite the school-planned field trip (pause for reflection).

Immediately, I turn to a classmate and whispered just loud enough for the whole class to appreciate my comment (without thinking about how that would also include the teacher), “doesn’t she need a search warrant?

You would have thought I had whispered that she erotically fondles pears before falling asleep every night. Zero-to-sixty, “Elizabeth, could I speak with in the hallway NOW?”

I zoned out while she dished me a lecture (mild-to-moderately deserved), but I snapped back into focus when I hear this come out of her mouth:

“Your ideas are crapola.” 

Here I thought I had made a relatively intelligent remark for a fourth grader (one I still predominantly stand by today). But she thought it was crapola. There was some pride in riling up a teacher enough to come at me with a pseudo-swear word. But that wasn’t even my intention. I truly wanted to know.

Should I have kept the comment to myself? Maybe.

More importantly, could I have kept the comment to myself? Less confidently, maybe.

Still this isn’t what led me to the principal’s office.

It was after recess, when adrenaline is high. One of my classmates, whose personality could best be described as like sweet-and-sour chicken, decided to stretch her leg out to trip a not-so-popular classmate claiming it was an accident. My fourth-grade self called bullsh*t.

I still don’t really know what my thought process was during these next few moments, but what I do know is I lifted my leg, swung back, and gave her a solid kick in the shin.

Before I knew it, sweet-and-sour and I were headed out the door, down the long hallway to the principal’s office. I was starting to get a little sweaty-nervous. Sweet-and-sour (not a first time offender) picked up on this, turned to me and said, “if you don’t say anything, and I don’t say anything, they can’t prove anything. Do you promise you won’t say anything?” I nodded.

Okay, I thought, I can play it cool.

The problem? I couldn’t play it cool.

As soon as my body crossed the threshold, from the hallway into the front office, I broke down sobbing, and erupted like a volcano of emotions, “I’M SO SORRY I KICKED HER BUT IT WAS ONLY BECAUSE SHE TRIPPED SOMEONE AND CLAIMED IT WAS AN ACCIDENT, BUT I KNEW IT WASN’T, IT WAS BULLYING, AND BEFORE I KNEW IT I HAD KICKED HER IN THE SHIN BUT I KNOW I SHOULDN’T HAVE. I JUST DIDN’T WANT HER TO GET AWAY WITH IT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING. AM I GOING TO GET IN TROUBLE? ARE YOU GOING TO CALL MY PARENTS? I’VE NEVER EVEN BEEN TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE BEFORE. I’LL NEVER KICK ANYONE AGAIN, I PROMISE.”

I looked over at sweet-and-sour and she was furious, with a capital F.

Looking back, I imagine her calling me a little B-word. But I grew up fairly sheltered, and I don’t think we were introduced to that kind of language yet. I vividly recall getting scolded by my bus driver for telling a classmate to “shut up” so I doubt little b*tch could’ve flown under the radar.

Once I finally closed my mouth, I looked up at the principal not knowing what would happen next. I tried to make eye contact with sweet-and-sour, but she wasn’t having it.

The principal sighed, opened the door leading back out into the hallway, and said I could head back to class. She didn’t have to tell me twice. I hustled right back down the hallway to my classroom. There was a part of me that felt that was easy, but there was a larger part of me that felt I don’t want to experience that again.

But that was the day I realized I wasn’t about that lifestyle. A few weeks later, I joined the Math Olympiad team (and came in first place that year, trophy and all).

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IT’S EITHER LOST, STOLEN, OR BURIED IN MY PURSE.

If there’s one thing I could work on as a person, it’d be organization. I don’t have the need to know where things are at all times (which is extremely concerning to my mom). I know they’re somewhere, more times than not. That’s why my studio apartment is ideal. There are only so many places I can set things down.

Bag checks are my nightmare. On numerous occasions, security professionals have gone out of their way to give me feedback on the state of my purse.

At the security checkpoint entering a Justin Timberlake concert (FutureSex/LoveShow, just to clarify) at the Verizon Center, the guy checking bags looked inside of mine, and chuckled, looked me in the eye and said, “You need to get yourself a wallet.”

I was stopped at the Gatwick Airport leaving England last summer because I had too many loose coins floating around in my purse. (My friend, defending me, thought the best way to diffuse the situation was to yell, “It’s because she doesn’t know how to use them.” While it was true, it did not stop the security lady from sifting through my bag.) My irresponsibility with my belongings had turned me into a security risk.

Usually this is the turning point for the protagonist, but I did not, have not, and most likely will not suddenly care about the organization of my purse.

Just yesterday morning I was attempting to buy an iced coffee, and I reached in my purse to find it was literally empty except for my keys I used to lock my apartment door behind me. Thankfully I had a loose five dollar bill wadded up in my jacket pocket (normal). I had left my wallet and purse accoutrements in my backpack, which I had carried to and from work on Sunday.

And why check your purse when you leave the house to make sure you have everything? I’m slightly concerned I didn’t notice the change in weight (from something to nothing); I was carrying an essentially empty bag during my entire commute to work.

But before you judge me, let me tell you, sometimes (one time) it just might work in your favor.

A few months ago, I was enjoying some happy hour beverage discounts at, let’s call it “MOUNTAIN CITY”. The layout of the restaurant makes it so in order to get food, you have to leave your table, get-it-yourself style. After so many Yuenglings, a girl is going to get hungry (please see: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, similar chronology).

It never crossed my mind to bring my purse with me. I know that breaks like six rules of Girl Code and ten rules of Adulthood, but I can’t go back. I didn’t bring my purse. I left it on my chair UNDER my jacket.

I get back, I’m eating mac n cheese, life is good.

I’m reaching for my purse to pay. I put my hand in my purse to reach for my wallet. There is no wallet.

I was gone for like 5-7 minutes (complete after-the-fact estimation). I had assumed being surrounded by tables of other people would dissuade any thievery or  mischief. There was a security camera on the ceiling two feet away from our table.

I had taken my cellphone with me because #millennial, but I quickly checked my purse to see what else had been taken.

As my hand makes contact with the items scattered in my bag, I start to laugh. The growing kind of laugh that might occur right before a mental breakdown. My friend who’s been watching me the whole time on this emotional roller coaster is just waiting for the fallout.

But instead, I start placing items from my purse on the table. Credit card. Debit card. Driver’s license. Health insurance card. Access card for my office building. Dollar bills. Coins.

I hadn’t put anything back in my wallet correctly.

The pilferer had stolen an empty wallet.

I felt tickled at the thought s/he would open the wallet to find nothing but a Starbucks gift card with probably around $6.00 left (hey, that’s a beverage) and an empty Dave & Busters Power Card. But I also felt a tinge of sadness for them. All that mental preparation and dedication to committing a crime just to get caught on camera stealing a near-empty wallet.

But we all learned a lesson that day. Don’t ROB a SLOB.

THAT’S AMORE.

As most of you reading this should already know, my love life is (and always has been) thriving. [Please read as: I’m single AF.] I actually have a theory that I peaked in the fifth grade, but we’ll save that for a rainy day.

Sophomore year of college I met a guy. I don’t want to character paint this guy too much, I’d prefer we go into this story with as few preconceived notions as possible. Let’s just say, we had a mutual interest: each other; and in this story, we were on a date.

Have you ever had an experience, or phrase, or word, so embedded in a memory that every time you experience, see, or hear this experience/phrase/word, you can’t help but think back to that moment? I have, and I heard it today.

For this particular memory, it’s triggered by the mere mention of the word AMBIANCE.

[FADE IN] It was a Saturday night in Clemson, South Carolina, where date night location options were limited. Most restaurants were bars. Or fast-food restaurants. So we chose a place with this description on Yelp, “Homemade pasta, plus mix-&-match options, are found at this buzzy spot with vintage Italian posters.” Not Italian cuisine, Italian posters.

Despite it being a fast-food Olive Garden, they decorated well. The tables all had salt and pepper grinders, candles, water glasses with a carafe for refills, a basket of toasted baguette slices. I was impressed (enough).

This wasn’t our first date, but awkward conversation with me is a relationship-long experience (as I was told by a recent date, I’m awkward “in an endearing way”). I end up rambling to fill what I think are awkward silences and in this instance, I commented on how the food wasn’t great here, but I did like the ambiance.

He gazed at me with a mixture of concern and affection I’ll never forget, and he responded in the most sincerest of tones,

Then why didn’t you order the ambiance? Why did you get the rigatoni?” 

In the split second afterwards, I was forced to decide how I wanted to react. I could (as rationally as possible) explain why I didn’t order the ambiance, I could hysterically laugh with such vigor and for such a long period of time that the entire restaurant would begin to stare, or I could leave. And I’m not entirely proud to report, I chose option #2.

The intensity of my laughter eventually died down.

I explained to him what caused it.

He said he knew. I think he said something along the lines of “I was just kidding” or “I misheard you.” I let it go. I’m forgiving. And I liked going on dates with him.

As in most developing relationships – platonic or romantic – this turned into an inside joke. Combined with my love of extending the lifespan of a joke to the point of beating a dead horse, I brought this up at most likely every restaurant we ever ate at following. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

I

always

remembered

to

order

the

ambiance.

RENT-TO-OWN

It has been one year since I’ve written a blog post (and my last post was my first).

Growing up, my mom used to tell me that if I haven’t worn a piece of clothing in a year it was time to donate it. Donate it or wear it. That said, I’m going to try on this blog one more time, see if it still fits and attempt to make it a more fixed part of my wardrobe.

I have a tendency to be drawn towards shiny objects (hobbies) but lose interest in them just as quickly. It’s not something I’m proud of. I have a closet full of yoga mats, crocheting needles, instruments, tennis rackets, and workout DVDs telling me to break the cycle. So let’s (re-)kick this blog off with how I fell in (and out of) love with the idea of learning to play the clarinet.


In elementary school, learning to play an instrument was a rite of passage. And more importantly, a right to leave science class twenty minutes early (because that was the “only” time they could squeeze an extracurricular into our busy fifth-grade schedules).

When choosing my instrument, I don’t think I really cared. I probably wanted to do what’s popular, because #elementaryschool. I switched school districts mid-year in the fourth grade, and I think it took me longer to feel like I had lost the ‘new girl’ title than it should have.

Push came to shove, I selected the flute.

But according to the instructor, I wasn’t suited for the flute (fluited, if you will). “Your fingers are too fat, and it’s only going to get worse.” He was right. It did only “get worse” – my fingers today are larger than they were in the fifth grade.

And what’s the solution to fat fingers? A clarinet, clearly.

For a while I was really enthusiastic about that clarinet. I liked missing twenty minutes of science class, just due to the feeling that came with having two places to be. I liked carrying around the instrument case that gave the impression that I had a skill. I liked when the song ended and the teacher praised us. I even liked when we were all told it we needed to practice more, because we were working towards something, together.

What I unfortunately did not like was practicing.

And even more crucial, learning to read music.

Instead of learning, I just spent hours drawing a diagram of the clarinet below each note and coloring in the holes I needed to cover, or keys I needed to press, to play the right note. My sheet music looked like a hot mess of misaligned priorities.

In my defense, this method was fairly sustainable.

What this method wasn’t was good enough to get me a spot on the Maryland All State Band. Technically, I did get a spot. But that was because there were four spots and only four students auditioned. And apparently not playing the entire song and crying wasn’t enough to be disqualified as a candidate.

I passed on the opportunity.

But this didn’t break my stride.

The night had come for the biannual band concert. Let’s just say I was as prepared as I needed to be for the circumstances in which I was anticipating for that evening. It’s not like there’s a way to ‘steal the show’ at a band concert. Showboating seemed frowned upon, it was more of a collaborative exhibition. We either all sounded good or we all didn’t.

I was ready to autopilot through this concert until the curtain came up and my instructor made an announcement. “We are so fortunate that our principal is an advocate for arts education at this school, and since she is a clarinetist, we’d like to invite her to the stage to join us.”

Okay with me.

The more the merrier.

Let’s do this.

Why is she walking towards me.

Why is she pulling a chair up next to me.

“Excuse me, would you mind if I shared your sheet music?”

I’m not sure I played one single note that entire concert because I couldn’t wipe the shocked-mortified-concerned-dumbstruck look off my face as my principal used my pathetically doodled sheet music. I just sat there holding my clarinet staring at sheet music, then my principal, then my sheet music, then my clarinet, then the audience, then the principal.

I figured that if after a year of “practicing” and playing I wasn’t convinced to learn to read music, it probably wasn’t in the cards.

I was over it.

My parents and I took the clarinet back to the music store to let them know we no longer needed to rent it.

“Ma’am, you’re actually two payments away from owning this clarinet. You’ve been on our rent-to-own plan this whole year. It’s practically yours.”

Fourteen years later, that clarinet is standing upright, still assembled (reed and all), in between the piano and the bookshelf in our living room taunting me.


Just like the clarinet, this domain name is mine and I might as well use it.