Taking the Long Way

A celebration of late bloomers.

Archive for the ‘The Wonder Years’ Category

A letter to me

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I just love this Brad Paisley song and video that he wrote from his famous self to his high school self.

So, I thought I might just try my hand at writing a letter to myself and to share it with you. (I know it seems long, but it’s a quick read. Pretend it’s poetry.)

Verse 1:

If I could write a letter to me

I’d send it back in time when I was sweet 16

To prove it, I would say look inside the desk

There’s a journal of your writing that proves you’re one hot mess.

But then I’d say I know it’s tough to feel like you’re never enough

But trust me you’ve got heart and Mel just thinks you’re awesome

By sophomore year of college, you’re really gonna blossom

Chorus 1:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

You’re not thin like the other girls

You’ve got curves and boys seem to like heroin chic

You’ll make it through the wonder years and see

You’re still around to write this letter to me.

Verse 2:

When you get the chance to sub in that play

Don’t shut down, be your freaky self and unafraid.

And when Mike kisses you in Laurie’s pool, don’t get shy and swim away

Homecoming was coming up and you might’ve had a date.

Each and every time you have a fight

Let Mom think she’s sometimes right.

And you should really thank your teachers;

You were blessed with quite a few

Who saw beneath your holding back and knew what you could do

Chorus 2:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

You’re so unsure of yourself and if you’ll find true love

Don’t worry; you’ll make it through high school

And college then you’ll see

You’re still around to write this letter to me.


You’ve got so much to look forward to,

You’ve got the bestest friends

And you’re going to make a lovely bride.

And I’d end by saying, have no fear,

This life’s one joyful, wild ride.

I guess I’ll you in the mirror in about 25 years.

Remember to find the laughter even through your tears.

Final chorus:

And oh, you’ve got so much, so much going your way

But I know at 16 years it’s hard to see beyond today.

I wish you’d learn another language

And never be afraid to fly.

Open up your heart and you will see

It all falls into place eventually.

If I could write a letter to me.

To me.


Written by The Long Way

May 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Love, loss and what I wore

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A friend showed me a photo of a dress she bought the other day. It looked almost exactly like one I bought in college in the ’80s: shoulder pads, big sleeves, black background with acid yellow, green and orange stripes.

“Did you find it in a vintage shop?” I asked.

“Nope. It’s brand new,” she squealed.

Oh no. Like, gag me.

My formative years – middle school, high school and college – all fell within the “Greed is good” decade when designer jeans defined whether or not you were part of the “in” crowd.

Because there seems to be a resurgence of those years in the fashion world, I thought I’d share with you a few of the remainders that still hang in my closet, because I don’t care if ripped sweat shirts come back, I’m not wearing them.

1985 Winter Snow-Ball

Imagine me rocking the quintessential ’80s color palette – hot pink and blue – in the ultimate preppy plaid with a demure velvet cut into a sweetheart neck and waistline. But I subverted it a bit with an acid-washed Calvin Klein jean jacket (long ago stolen), that was covered in vintage costume jewelry brooches.

Danced with Kelly Abshire – the superintendent’s naughty son, who asked me to junior prom. We drank Seagram’s golden wine coolers out in the parking lot, because Bruce Willis looked hot singing about them in his Levi’s 501s.

1985 Junior Prom Dress

Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of Kelly Abshire and me in one of those awkward living room poses when he picked me up for prom that night in April 1985. If I told you that he wore a rented tuxedo with a tie and cumberbund that matched my dress, would that give you a clear picture? Oh, and I sported a Dorothy Hammill-style wedge at the time.

This pic was captured a couple of years later, when I repurposed the dress by having it cut from full-length to ballerina length for a sorority formal. Yes, I was in a sorority. Phi Mu. (Stop laughing!)

Look at those mall bangs?!

Look at those sleeves?

That magenta raw-silk is still stunning and shining today.

1986 Senior Prom

Kay Keyer’s daddy snapped this photo in his living room, where Kay, Rachel, Rhonda and I had gathered to tart up Mariz Hedary, our friend from Lebanon whose father forbid her to go to prom or wear makeup. He dropped her off at Kay’s place, where we put her in a beautiful dress, piled her lustrous hair on top of her head and painted her face so she could experience the night with us. Her brother – in on the gig – picked her up at the Worthington Hotel several hours later in the sweats she arrived in and no traces of Cover Girl on her cheeks.

I went stag that night. I also was up for Prom Queen, which I imagined as a cruel joke a la Carrie. Monti McKenzie won.

The blinding polished cotton of this teal dress hurts my eyes these days.

Member of Talking Heads or '80s Fashionista?

I don’t have a photo or even this ensemble any more, but it was my go-to get up for a night out on the town during college.

The night I looked my absolute best in this outfit was the same night I walked in on David Sanchez, my date for a night of dancing at Graham’s Central Station in Arlington, getting jiggy with Marianne Morrison.

Phil Dunkin saved me, though. He gave me a swig of tequila and kept me on the dance floor all night. Marianne dumped David a week later.

1990 Last Phi Mu Formal of the college years.

Say good-bye to the ’80s. Cheers to the ’90s!

Written by The Long Way

May 8, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Soundtrack of my life – part one

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SCAD’s District Quarterly magazine launched its music issue last night. I had planned to submit an article for consideration, but procrastinated to the point I missed the deadline. Still, it got me thinking: if I compiled a mix tape of my life, what would be on it?

This list isn’t even close to comprehensive, but it’s a start. In part one, we explore the early years from ages 3 to 13.

Let it Be by The Beatles

My earliest song memory: I’m laying in the front seat of the car with my head in my mom’s lap (this was years before seatbelt or car seat requirements), this song is playing on the radio, and the deejay is talking about how the band has broken up. I don’t understand any of it, but I do have a visceral reaction to the sound of Billy Preston playing the organ and George Harrison’s guitar. I gently weep.

Burning Love by Elvis

I am five years old, and I’m about to buy my very first album EVER! I have saved every bit of birthday and Christmas money plus the quarters I get here and there for helping around the house. I can’t even see to the top of the counter at Sanger Harris Department Store in Irving, Texas, but I carry the album and my change up to the cash register and count our five dollars for the nice lady. I take Elvis home with me. It’s almost as good as going to Graceland.

Run Around Sue by Dion and the Belmonts

My mom suffers from agoraphobia, so we don’t get out much. We do, however, dance around the house. She puts this record on and teaches my brother and I how to jitterbug and swing. I’m the only kid in first grade who knows that the slide isn’t just something on a playground.

Penny Lane by The Beatles

My older brother is in a school production, and his group is performing a marching routine to this song. I am mesmerized by Quentin Askew, one of his classmates, who mouths all the words. I am in puppy love for the first time.

Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones

Eighth grade and first school dance. Had my eye on Mike Jumes all night, but never got the courage to ask him to dance.

I was such an innocent, though. Homer Patino had to explain to me what the final lyrics of this song meant. At first I was appalled. Then I read Judy Blume’s “Forever” that summer and it became clear that this was something I would really like in the future.

Off the Wall by Michael Jackson

Karen Highfill’s slumber party. I fall asleep first. Bra is frozen solid by morning. My reputation as a complete nerd remain in tact. I’m hoping high school next year changes everything.

Written by The Long Way

April 30, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Soundtrack of my life – part deux

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Thriller by Michael Jackson

So it’s debatable whether or not I got any cooler by high school. In fact, it’s pretty evident I wasn’t. We were late getting to the football game that night, because we waited for the premier of the Thriller video. Revolutionary! That’s when I really learned how to dance.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

Who knew we were all the brain, the jock, the princess, the basket case and the criminal? I identified most with Brian the brain, with a dash of Allison the basket case thrown in. This movie and song remain timeless to me, lo these many years later, because – frankly – we’re all still trying to belong.

Like a Virgin by Madonna

For this repressed Southern Baptist who wore plaid pencil skirts, vintage bowling shirts, argyle socks and penny loafer, Madonna was a revelation and a liberator. I got into the groove.

Modern Love by David Bowie

Favorite outfit: black stirrup pants, white tuxedo shirt with costume jewelry brooch at the collar, Limited vest, vintage men’s jacket in blue and black herringbone pattern, mismatched earrings, spiky hair, white socks, black flats, and deep red lipstick. A spritz of Bill Blass. That’s how I rolled.

New Year’s Day by U2

I finally grew a social conscience.

Purple Rain by Prince

He could drive me Let’s Go Crazy in his Little Red Corvette under the Cherry Moon while I donned my Raspberry Beret. The most sublime hips in the universe. ‘Nuf said.

Long Time by Boston and Friends by Michael W. Smith

Graduation – 1986. Time didn’t wait for us, it kept on rolling.

Take My Breath Away  by Berlin

I’m working at the Texas Wesleyan library when a guy invites me to the Lambda Chi party. First frat party of my life. Toga (cliche in a very good way) and Andy Dunkin asks me to dance. Yea, college!

Your Song by Elton John

It was a little bit funny, that feeling inside, when I fell in love for real the first time.

Trouble Me by 10,000 Maniacs

Theme song for that first love, who turns out to be a delightfully fun alcoholic. But also, irresponsible and undependable. I learn that sometimes love isn’t always enough.

Call Me Al by Paul Simon

Senior year. I move into the dorm and am the first one there as an RA. Friend Laura comes over and we crank up my new stereo. This song plays and we dance down the halls, singing at the top of our lungs.

A Road is Just a Road by The Dixie Chicks

I worked for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., and we hired the original foursome to play during lunch hours. We discovered them playing for change in Dallas’ West End. I bought the band’s CD “Little Ol’ Cowgirl” out of the back of their van. It was a revelation to listen to these amazing talents full of spunk and sass. I still have the cassette case with their signatures all over it!

Changes in Latitude by Jimmy Buffett

I pack up the car and move to Miami for a one-year internship in 1993. I stay for the next 16 years.

Freedom by George Michael

South Beach was a mecca for the young, rich and beautiful. I had the young down, got behind a few velvet ropes, went for no tan lines on the clothing-optional beach, and began drinking cafe con leche.

New York State of Mind

How do you properly celebrate turning 30? You invite three of your best girls to NYC and live it up: peach bellinis at The Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center, “Rent” on Broadway, Wo Hop’s in Chinatown, Teresa i Mimo in Little Italy, walks around Central Park, bagels at Barney Greengrass – the Sturgeon King, shopping through Soho and Greenwich Village, where we stop for an Italian ice. I ran into the writer Spalding Gray at an intersection, then I’m waiting to cross the street near Tribeca and notice that the guy next to me was the bug expert in “Silence of the Lambs.”

I Can’t Help (Falling in Love) by Elvis

Elvis has always been present at the big moments of my life. The Hotel St. Michel in Coral Gables, FL. Chocolate souffle. Candlelight. A diamond ring. So I answer, “In a heartbeat, yes, Brian, I’ll marry you.”

All You Need is Love by the Beatles

I now pronounce you husband and wife. Love. Love. Love.

I Could Not Ask for More by Sara Evans

The first dance.

Not Ready to Make Nice by The Dixie Chicks

My boss at the time told me it was okay to tell little white lies if it meant getting the deal done. When I caught him telling one to me, he tried to dig his way out of it. This song got me through.

Always on My Mind by Willie Nelson

For my father.

The Long Way Around by The Dixie Chicks

Ally McBeal had her theme song. This one is mine.

“No, I could never follow. Well, I never seem to do it like anybody else. Maybe some day I’m gonna settle down, but if you ever want to find me I can still be found, taking the long way around.”

One-in-a-lifetime Love by Keith Urban

Pretty much how it still feels nine years later.

Short Skirt and Long Jacket by Cake

God, I hope I get a job.

Written by The Long Way

April 30, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Kickin’ it old school

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I majored in liberal arts. Would you like fries with that?

~Bumper sticker on car in front of me

Yesterday I attended a career fair for the first time in nearly 20 years. I haven’t actively looked for a job in almost that amount of time. I kind of fell into my previous positions. One was posted on the bulletin board where I attended graduate school. It led to a one-year internship that then led to a full-time position that then led to my being recruited by a national nonprofit.

After 16 years, I decided I had drifted so far away from what I really wanted to do and went back to school. Now, as graduation looms in the not-so-distant future, I found myself standing in an exhibit hall that was both airy and stifling.

I approached the day much as I had lo’ those many, many moons ago. I was prepared with my clean and neat resume (in hard copy), and a few writing samples. I used my orange highlighter to mark the firms looking for writers so that I could make the best use of my time and theirs.

While I was filled with anticipation, the hall was filled to the gills with fourth-year seniors and graduate students all vying for face with a potential employer in a market tighter than when I graduated from college the first time. (My timing must forever be off, because the week I received a bachelor’s degree in 1990, Time Magazine published an article that same week with a headline that read, “Graduating to Unemployment.” I stopped reading Time around then.)

As a non-traditional student (read: “mature”), I found myself standing in line behind fresh adults at the beginning of their careers while I was shape-shifting in the middle of mine. They had beautiful portfolios and laptops filled with innovative graphic designs, animation, industrial and product plans. They were ideating. I was trying to appear comfortable in a business dress.

I spoke to a few companies, but quickly learned that the skill set “writing” meant “ad copy.”

I was thisclose to leaving without going around the hall even once. Then I happened upon one organization that was seeking someone who could write strategic reports for institutional effectiveness. The face of the student standing next to me appeared blank and misunderstanding. I, however, had been around long enough to know that these were fancy words for annual reports, assessments and plans. I knew how to write those, and if the job could help me chip away at those student loans – also looming large – then I could do that while I freelanced elsewhere.

The recruiter and I had a good conversation. She was encouraging and not at all taken aback that I had both blemishes and wrinkles on the same face. She asked for my resume, and I handed it over…

…only to realize that I had a small typo (a misplaced hyphen) on the first line.

If only I’d had my laptop with me.

Written by The Long Way

April 9, 2011 at 8:13 pm