Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Historically Significant

My friends and I like to play this game called "What Were You Like In High School?" Since most of us didn't meet until college, we really like to guess at who was popular and who was a jock back in the day and see how accurate we are. The funny thing is, most of us fit into multiple cliques, so it can be pretty hard to figure out who we hung out with and what out interests were back then. For example, one of my friends is an amazing student, but is also a very competitive athlete. So was she a nerd or a jock? Was she voted most popular or most likely to succeed? It can be a pretty tough game. Except for me. I was undeniably and without a doubt a nerd. I made straight A's, I took the most difficult classes, I had more teachers sign my yearbook than students. Every once in a while one of my friends says, "But wait, you were popular though." And I have to inform them that the only reason people knew me was because I was the editor of the newspaper (nerd) and helped everybody with their homework (bigger nerd.)

It's okay though, because since college I have learned to embrace my nerdiness. I love history, particularly American history, and I have been lucky enough to see a pretty fair amount of artifacts and buildings that give me a real appreciation for living in one of the original thirteen colonies. I did go to the oldest public university after all. But sometimes I forget that everything has history. Everybody knows that Greensboro was part of the American Revolution and I'm sure most of you have been to see the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. But because we live in an area with so much well known history, we as residents sometimes forget that the city of Greensboro itself has an interesting story outside of famous battles and wars.

I work downtown and walk up and down Elm Street all the time. But it wasn't until recently that I started noticing how "classical" some of those buildings look. It reminded me of a book my dad has called North Carolina: Now and Then. It's basically coffee table reading that has various parts of North Carolina with a picture of the area one hundred or more years ago on the left and then a picture of that same spot present day on the right. The thing about Greensboro, is that if you look at a picture of downtown from the 1900's, you can easily recognize a lot of the buildings. All this time I knew Greensboro was a city full of history, but it never occurred to me that every day I was walking around in it.

Schiffman's Jewelry store has been downtown for over a century and the building is basically the same as it was then. Of course there is Woolworth's where NC A&T students famously started America's sit-in movement. And there are other less obvious landmarks like Hamburger Square Park that is so named because hamburger stands used to be at each of its corners. Even the building I work in used to be Hudson's Blue Bell Overall Company that made jeans for Wrangler. It's weird to think that when we go downtown for dinner or even for work, we are sitting somewhere that might have been a factory or a coffee house over a century ago.

So, obviously the big historic landmarks in Greensboro are important. But next time you head downtown consider that you are walking down a street that used to be lined with manufacturers and department stores. That when you are at the intersection of Elm and Market Streets, you are standing at the heart of where Greensboro first became a city. America itself is not all that old, but we are fortunate enough to live in one of the oldest parts of it, so take advantage of all the history available to you in your own backyard. Even if you aren't a nerd like me, I'm sure you will be fascinated by how historically significant your city is.

For more information about Greensboro, you can visit the Greensboro Historical Museum on Summit Avenue.

And for more about me and my nerdy tendencies, you can read my new blog 100 Books!

Monday, September 19, 2011

In this twenty-third year of my life I have started to get to know myself a little better. It makes me feel settled to know that there are clear cut lines about what I do and don't like and that I know what those things are now. There are also some things that I just love. I love sweaters, I love basketball, I love pandas. I have also discovered that there are a lot of things that I just hate. I hate the color green, I hate the band Owl City, and I hate carrots. But I have also come to realize that there are a lot of things in the world that try to trick you by making it hard to decided whether you like or hate them. I seem to find myself in this predicament very often. I start out liking something and then for one reason or another the relationship turns sour. Or there are moments of both love and hate all mashed up together so that it is impossible to distinguish which emotion it is that I am feeling. And on my journey to know myself better it is incredibly confusing and painfully annoying.

For example. High heels. I am 5'1," so I will take any opportunity to make myself look taller. I like to dress up and I like to put on shoes that say, "Look at me, I'm fancy and I'm tall." However, there is no doubt that an hour into wearing high heels, I will be cursing the things for making me want to amputate my feet. So I hate them, but I love them. Because I can promise you no matter what those high heels did to me, I will be putting them back on the next time I get dressed up. Another example. Exercise. When my alarm goes off in the morning signally time for me to get those sneakers on and get moving, I want to throw myself out of a window. I cannot imagine anything worse than missing out on an hour of sleep so I can instead sweat and pull muscles and induce the feeling of a heart attack. However when I am done I am wide awake and I feel like a ball of energy. And then when I look in the mirror while I'm brushing my teeth and see a little bicep bulge and I am so glad I exercised that morning. So I am confused all over again. These love hate relationships seem to be around every corner. They are completely unavoidable.

However, I feel like there is one that is absolutely one hundred percent the worst. Online shopping. The initial thought is, how can anybody hate the ease at which we can now purchase whatever we want from the comfort of our couches? But let me walk you through this.

You get online to buy something, anything. I am pretty sure you could buy a tiger online if you really wanted to. You go to your search engine of choice and type in the item you are looking for. Instantly hundreds of choices appear, often times in price comparison format so you are sure to get the best deal. You love it. You click on several options, you are very happy about the diverse selection. You finally decide on the site you want to use. While you are on this site you notice something at the bottom. Free shipping if you spend $50. Your item is only $20. You hate it. But then you see, also at the bottom, other items the website thinks you might like. You love it. You click on some of these items and find deals that you cannot resist and that you would never find in a store. You have to buy these things - to get your free shipping of course. You add these items to your digital shopping cart and click "checkout."

You are now getting free shipping. You love it. Your total cost is now $100. You hate it. You decide to proceed anyway. The website wants you to create an account full of your personal information just so you can buy this stuff. You hate it. You fill everything out and enter your credit card information. You hit "submit order." Just like that all your purchases have been made and will be hand delivered to your home or office. You love it. You check your email. In your inbox is a confirmation email thanking you for your purchase. You love it. Then you don't hear from this website for three days. In the meantime you are strapped to your computer clicking refresh obsessively in your email, hoping to find that your items have shipped. You hate it.

Finally, you are notified that your items have shipped. You are also provided a tracking number which you can use to find where your package is at any time. You love it. One day you track your package and it is in Charlotte, NC. So close! The next day you check again. Still in Charlotte. Same for the next day. You begin to wonder if your package was left in Charlotte. Your imagination begins to craft ideas about your package toppling off the delivery truck in some sort of horrifying package accident. You hate it. Then one day, you come home from work and find an nice brown package sitting on your porch. You love it. You take it inside and tear into it. There is the item you went online to buy. How convenient that something you need could be purchased, shipped, and delivered to you without you ever having to leave your bed. You love it. But, wait. What else is in that package? Ten packs of Hello Kitty pencil sharpeners? Why are there so many? How did they all get in there? You forgot how many you had to buy to get free shipping. What are you going to do with so many little pink pencil sharpeners? You hate it. The next day you realize you want some other kind of thing. You go to your search engine of choice and type in the item you are looking for. Instantly hundreds of choices appear, often times in price comparison format so you are sure to get the best deal. You love it.

And this goes on and on and on forever. It is like torture. I need a tranquilizer just thinking about. I have never experienced such an emotional roller coaster as online shopping. Do I love it? Do I hate it? Is it both at the same time? How is that even possible? I think I just have to accept that there will never be any clear cut lines with me and online shopping. I just have to take comfort in that fact that there are those few things out there that I really love or hate for sure. And that my new boots will be here in 5-7 business days.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Made Your Bed...

...now lie in it. Taken a little less metaphorically and a little more literally, this phrase is the main topic of a Real Simple article I want to share with you about how to make a perfect bed. This might seem a little off topic, but I assure you, after reading this you will see its importance.

I love making the bed. That is not a joke, it is serious. So serious in fact that it is a joke amongst my family members. They love to tease me about how I like to do chores. But to me, it is one of the best parts of my day. I like to get into a freshly made bed every night. I don't like when the covers aren't tight on the mattress and I don't like when the edges of the sheets don't match up to the headboard. I love pulling the sheets nice and crisp over the bed and I love to fluff the duvet so all the feathers are perfectly distributed. I love making the bed.

So when I started feeling really tired in the mornings, like I hadn't had a good night's sleep I was a little concerned. I have 400 thread count sheets and a real down comforter. I have a pillow top mattress and a fan that blows perfectly on me. Why, oh why was I not sleeping well?

Then I read this article on realsimple.com that basically says, your bed itself is what causes you to sleep well or not sleep well, and that there are three keys to crafting the perfect bed. I found it pretty interesting, and since we all sleep, hopefully on a bed, I thought you might find it interesting too.

1. The Mattress - I will be perfectly honest with you, when I first saw that commercial about how skin cells and bugs get in your mattress so that is doubles in weight over eight years, I freaked out. That sounds disgusting. But apparently, even more than buying the right mattress, caring for it is important. You need to flip and rotate your mattress every few months and vacuum out those nasty skin cells.

2. Bedcovers - Apparently, my expensive and fabulous down comforter is the source of my insomnia. Covers come in all sorts of fabric (I thought they just came in cotton and feather) and apparently down is hot. And when I looked back on it, I realized that I kept waking up in the night to kick all my covers off because I was too hot to sleep. So apparently it is important to take careful consideration, especially of the fabric, when selecting a blanket for your bed.

3. Pillows - I saw this commercial the other day explaining that your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball. Then the demonstrator dropped a bowling ball on a bunch of different types of pillows to show how unsupportive they were. First of all, how is my neck still working if it has to hold a bowling ball on top of it all day? And second, my essentially flat pillows were obviously not cutting it. So I got some bigger, fluffier ones. Real Simple gives a break down of the type of pillow you should choose based on how you sleep.

I have been sleeping better recently, so I guess all of this helped. You may have already known everything that article pointed out that I so obviously didn't, but if not and you have been feeling a little sleepy these days, it is an interesting read for sure. Then you will have tons more energy for hanging out around Greensboro, hopefully at our upcoming Festival of Lights!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 23rd birthday. I love my birthday because it is the one day of the year that is important because of me and only me. All the other holidays have to be shared with Santa or America or a leprechaun. Even my wedding day I had to share with my husband. But my birthday is all about me, so it is the best day of the year.

The funny thing though, is regardless of how much I personally love my birthday, as I get older it gets smaller and smaller. Which isn't a bad thing. It is just different. When I was younger I would take the circular for Toys R Us and write down basically everything in it on my birthday list, with the hope that some nice person would buy me all those things. This year I ordered a bunch of books on Amazon and opened them long before my actual birthday. When I turned six, my parents threw me a princess sleep over party and all my friends came over and we dressed up in princess costumes, got really hyper on cake, and then passed out in my living room. This year, I met up with a few of my friends for dinner and we laughed and ate corn chowder and then went home.

The point I'm trying to make is not that my birthday is lame now, but rather that my interests are so different from when I was six. Now obviously that is part of growing up, our likes and dislikes morph into distant reflections of what they once were. Although I still love princesses, I would rather have an intimate dinner with my friends for my birthday than plan any sort of party where people spend over 24 hours at my house. Which got me thinking, what other kinds of things in my life have changed as I have grown older and different from my six year old self.

And the main one I could think of is the answer to the age old question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'm not entirely sure what I wanted to be when I was really little. Probably something to do with flowers or plants. I used to draw roses on everything. Like in kindergarten when I had to decorate a paper ark with all the things I would put on it in case of a flood, I drew: 1. Myself, 2. A bunch of roses. Forget my family or pets or food. Just me and a beautiful bouquet. Then in elementary school, I wanted to be blonde. Whenever we had to do self portraits I drew myself with chin length, curly blonde hair. I also wanted to own a restaurant in my house. Meaning that I would cook food in my kitchen and my kitchen window would serve as a drive through for all my customers. I also wanted to be a teacher. I would play school with my stuffed animals and baby dolls all the time, including creating lesson plans and giving them tests.

As is going to be the case with all these career paths, I am uncertain as to when being a blonde restauranteur/teacher with a lot of flowers was no longer my dream. But by the sixth grade I wanted to be an interior decorator. And I wanted to save up all my money and spend it on a "makeover for my room." Or a laptop. I think I stuck to that choice pretty hard until late middle school when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. And I wanted to be a lawyer for a long time. So I could get paid to argue with people.

That phase lasted until about my junior year in high school when I decided I wanted to be a house flipper. I would go to Home Depot and walk the aisles, seeing what new tiles and hardware I could use for my brand new fixed up house. I am pretty sure this career no longer exists given the current housing market, so its probably good that dream was short lived. Because by my senior year I wanted to be a journalist. Then I wanted to be a band manager. Then I wanted to be an environmentalist. Then I wanted to be an event planner. And now, I kind of want to be a journalist/event planner/world traveler.

I bet if you think back to what you wanted to be when you were little, like me, you will laugh. But at the same time you will feel a little nostalgia for the paths that could have been. I would have hated being a lawyer. I didn't even want to go to grad school, so I can't imagine I would have made it through law school. But if I had, I bet I would have been pretty good at it. And that house flipping thing is still on the table for when the housing market picks up and I have a lot of spare cash laying around that I can use to buy dilapidated old homes in up and coming neighborhoods.

Which I suppose is probably the moral of this post. Just because we have completely different interests now, doesn't mean we are completely different people. Just because we have birthdays and grow one year older, doesn't mean that we aren't young at heart. We can do anything we want to do, and we can be anything we want to be. I think you keep growing up until you die. So there is always time to become what you want to be when you grow up. And always time to figure out what that is.