100 Things…

I know got this from others, but she's the person I got it from, although, after I started, I changed to the formatting used by .

100-91: Things About Infancy
100.) I was born in a military hospital in the middle of a heatwave, and other than the maternity ward, the entire place was filled with veterans from Viet Nam. I'm told they loved to see the new babies, because it gave them hope.

99.) I was born three years before the Roe v. Wade decision, and my mother who was single, and part of a Catholic family, had been planning to give me up for adoption. She later decided not to.

98.) The red leather wing chair in my guest room was the chair my grandfather used to sit in when he held me, as a baby. I remember it as it was in my grandmother's house, sitting in the red-carpeted living room, in the corner near the picture window, surrounded by stacks of National Geographic and Model Railroader magazines.

97.) Every cousin in my generation has some kind of chronic ear-nose-throat problem. My mother was the only cousin in her generation who didn't smoke, and who gave up caffeine while pregnant. Of my cousins, I'm the only one whose issues did NOT include having a cleft palate.

96.) The result of my e-n-t issues was that for the first year or so of my life, my ears didn't drain properly, and I couldn't hear correctly. When I was one, I had tubes put in my ears, and instantly, “Boppy” became “Mommy.”
95.) My first word, other than Mommy, was “beach.” This is appropriate, as my mother had been on the beach mere days before I was born.

94.) Despite the above referenced ear issues, I have perfect pitch. When I was two, my mother and other family members took me to Christmas Eve Mass, where I heard the opening bars for The Hallelujah Chorus, and started singing it. (The priest thought it was cute.)

93.) My favorite toy was a Fisher-Price car, which I loved to drive down the three steps from the dining room to the foyer in my grandparents' house. Typically, they hated this.

92.) When I was learning how to talk, and watching Sesame Street, and babbling back at the television, my grandfather made his first pledge to PBS because some of my babbling was in Spanish. They sent a plush Big Bird toy, which I still own.

91.) Among the ornaments in my Christmas ornament collection are a wooden angel from the mobile that was in my room when I was little, and a tiny ballerina, which was on my very first Christmas present.

90-81: Things About Early Childhood.
90.) I stopped watching cartoons when I was six years old, and ever since, I've disliked animation.

89.) With the exception of my husband, I've always had a thing for older men. When I was seven, I had a crush on Shaun Cassidy. The same year, I had my first “boyfriend,” Gil. He was nine.

88.) I remember being in kindergarten and thinking nine was /old/.

87.) I attended Palo Alto Pre-School, in Golden, Colorado. My teacher, Ray, was living with my best friend Ben's mother. Ray is one of the most influential men in my life, and probably the best teacher I ever had. He always challenged us. Snacks would be a handful of Alpha-bits Cereal, and we'd have to spell words of at least two syllables before we could eat them.

86.) I've been terrified of losing an eye ever since Pre-School, when one of the other kids had a plastic eye that didn't fit quite right. A couple of times it came out during nap time.

85.) As young as four, I would skip naptime and read instead.

84.) I was the only second-grader in the fourth-grade musical in elementary school. The play was Really Rosie, and I still remember most of the songs. But I was ten before I realized that the line “I can tap across the Tappanzee” referred to the bridge.

83.) By the time I was seven, I had already gone to two preschools and three elementary schools.

82.) Georgetown, CO, was my favorite place of all the places I lived as a kid. It had all the cutesey home-towniness of a small town, amazing mountains, a reservoir to ice skate on, and Denver was a relatively easy drive away. More than once, we'd arrive at school to find notes saying, “Go home, busses can't get through.”

81.) The most vivid memory I have from second grade is my mother's first husband lifting my baton over his head to hit her. I never touched it after that.

80-71: Things About Late Childhood.
80.) I started playing the cello when I was nine, which is really old for a string player. I'd actually wanted to play the violin, because my friend Jill was a violinist, but they had too many violin students, and not enough instruments. I didn't learn until much later that the instrument my teacher loaned me belonged to his daughter – it was the cello she learned on, before she became a professional cellist.

79.) When I was eight, my mother and I moved back to New Jersey, and my best friend was the granddaughter of a rather notorious mafioso.

78.) We rented an apartment in Ocean Grove, NJ when I was nine, and I could see the ocean from the tub when I took baths.

77.) I had the chance to skip fourth grade, but then we moved back to Colorado before it actually happened.

76.) In fourth or fifth grade, my best friend Cora and I both auditioned for the movie “Annie,” when they were doing their national search. Neither of us made it, but we ended up doing a bunch of commercials for the Denver Stock Show.

75.) My mother thinks it's amusing that I hired hit-men to handle a kid who was bullying me. I find it embarrassing that she brings these things up.

74.) I had my first unsupervised “date” when I was ten, and Jim L. and I went out for ice cream after our opening night in the school play.

73.) I gave up Girl Scouts and Ballet in favor of Cello, Chorus, and Drama, and spent an entire summer at riding camp, which my mother took a second job to pay for, because she knew I loved horses.

72.) In 1981 we moved to California, and it was the first time I experienced a school where the majority of the students were Asian and Hispanic, not Anglo. I learned to carry a switchblade in self defense, but skipped a lot of sixth grade because I was really unhappy. That school was my seventh elementary school in six years.

71.) I think the only reason I survived that school is that my test scores were always in the 99th percentile, and my English teacher was into my mom.

70-61: Things About Being A Pre-Teen
70.) The year I started seventh grade, my eye doctor put me in bifocals because my vision was so bad. He really wanted me in contacts, but was trying to avoid prescribing them to me that young.

69.) Because of Prop. 13, our junior high school didn't have a music program. We finally had to bribe a teacher to act as faculty advisor so we could start a chorus.

68.) Our volunteer chorus won so many local competitions that they made it a regular class with a real teacher in the second semester. The nine of us that formed the auxiliary performing group (Triple Trio) still keep in contact.

67.) I lost my virginity during the week between my thirteenth birthday and the beginning of eighth grade. It wasn't traumatic, and we used protection, and sometimes, we still email.

66.) My math phobia started to haunt me. The only reason I survived Algebra is that there was no well in hell I was going to let Michael or Patrick get better grades.

65.) We were the last class to go through our junior high school without having to take a mandatory computer class. Our computer lab, which was pretty innovative for then, was filled with TRS-80s and Atari 800 and 400's.

64.) After school, we'd go to the computer department at Macy's and leave all the computers running infinite loops that just said, “Prescott Jr. High Rules.”

63.) My mother married Ira the year I turned 12, and I went from being an only child to having an older step-brother. Avram is not quite a year older than me, and while we were only in the same school for one year, it was enough. To this day, the sum of our relationship is cards exchanged on birthdays and Christmas, and polite conversation if we're both at my parents place at the same time.

62.) When my mother and Ira noticed that Avram and I were NOT getting along, they initiated family counselling. Avram demanded that he be allowed to move back to his mother's place when it became clear most of the issues were his.

61.) The year I turned 13, my parents started the Modesto chapter of Amnesty International, and I met Joan Baez. The same year, I performed in “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf,” in a Reader's Theatre workshop at Modesto Junior College, and was part of a group of people protesting the construction of what is now Lawrence Livermore Labs.

60-51: Things About Being A Teenager
60.) I spent my first three days of high school depressed because we lived in Mariposa, which is a whole town full of Christian Fundamentalists, and the voice teacher only used religious music (and I don't mean like Bach and Handel), which I find inappropriate in public schools.

59.) My parents decided to move to Fresno, so I'm one of the few people for whom Fresno was an improvement over a previous location. I stayed with friends of friends for the first two weeks, after I auditioned for the performing arts magnet program at Roosevelt. My class was the first to go all the way through the magnet program.

58.) I reclaimed cello and voice and drama in high school AND because of the magnet program, got to take dance instead of P.E.. Because of this, I actually know how to do the polka and the jitterbug, and still own separate pairs of character shoes and tap shoes.

57.) The unofficial uniform of my high school was a baggy sweatshirt over a leotard and rubber jazz pants. Officially, the dress code said that mohawks couldn't be more than three inches high, and girls had to wear something over their dancewear. I was just thrilled to have contact lenses, instead of glasses.

56.) I completely fell in love with Shakespeare when my Freshman English class spent a week in Ashland, OR. I went back a couple of years later for Shakespeare Leadership Camp.

55.) The summer of my sophomore year, I went to cello camp for the first time. 700 people, all playing cello. It was amazing. Cello orchestra was pretty cool, too.

54.) I still have a stack of three hundred note cards, which represent the conversations between myself and G. during an entire year of Trig.

53.) The best part about doing props for the Fresno ballet was getting to watch Cinderella and Nutcracker from back stage. The worst was being flirted with by R.V. Ick.

52.) At RD's co-ed sleepover, we spent all night watching movies like Gothic while drinking pineapple screwdrivers. I can't watch Gothic without thinking about those cast parties.

51.) I remember really wanting to go to boarding school, and not knowing how to ask my parents. Now I really regret that I didn't ask.

50-41: Things About Family and Names
50.) My mother was originally going to name me after her brother Merrell. When she was in labor, he called from Canada, where he was AWOL, and told her she could /not/ curse another child with such a name. She found the name “Melissa” in the list of ingredients on a bottle of shampoo.

49.) My mother and I have the same middle name: Annette. In both cases, it's in honor of an 'affectionate auntie,' my grandmother's friend from the war, who was somehow connected to the Faberge family. While I usually only heard my middle name if my mother was mad (you know, in that parental tone?) I'm adamant about using my middle initial. I think it gives balance.

48.) I am not now, nor have I ever been, called “Missy,” and those who call me so risk violent reactions. On rare occasions, I allow people to shorten it to “Mel,” but I've never really understood why people MUST shorten names at all.

47.) Sometimes, Christopher calls me “Lissa.” My cousin Michelle (named after the song)used to call me “My Lissa” when she was little.

46.) I always swore I'd never get married, or, if I did, I'd never change my name. In the end, I changed it because “Bartell” is easier to spell and pronounce than “Klindienst.”

45.) The only thing I know about my biological father is his name, and that he used to be a DJ for a country station in Pennsylvania.

44.) I've always hated my birthday because it's in the last bit of summer and no one was ever – or is ever – around to celebrate with me.

43.) I'm extremely jealous of all my Natale cousins because they have these cool Italian names: Caterina, Nicolo, Giovanni, Giuseppi, Virginia, Annunciata, Anthony. On the other hand, they also have to put up with “cute” nicknames, even though the youngest is now 30: Cathy, Nicky, Johnny, Joey, Ginny, Nancy, and Tony.

42.) My cousin Ginny (Virginia) is really my cousin Cathy's mother, but I was always her “birthday girl” because I was born on her 31st birthday. She died of ovarian cancer a few years ago, but I always have rice pudding on or near my birthday as a tribute.

41.) Even though I joke that my dogs are enough, Christopher and I do plan to have kids someday. We already have names picked: Emily Suzanne or Anthony Christopher (because the tradition in his family is that the first son always has his father's first name as his middle name).

40-31: Reading Matter and Other Media
40.) I have an extensive collection of children's books leftover from my own childhood. Among my favorites are the Pooh books (and indeed, all of A.A. Milne's works), Where the Wild Things Are, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and Fletcher and Zenobia, which was illustrated by Edward Gorey.

39.) When I first read Harriet the Spy I /had/ to try tomato sandwiches. I still eat them once in a while.

38.) I am not a Seuss fan. By the time I was in an age group where Seuss was popular, I was already beyond children's books. However, I love Sidney Sheldon's stuff.

37.) I'm a total child of PBS and the 70's. The first album I ever owned was Free to Be, You and Me

36.) I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was ten or eleven, and haven't re-read them, and won't. I didn't hate them, and I'm quite enjoying the movies, but I don't think they're the be-all and end-all of fantasy the way so many people seem to feel that they are.

35.) Three of my all-time favorite books are Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Eight.

34.) I own the complete series of Anne of Green Gables and Little House…, as well as the complete Chronicles of Narnia. When I first read Narnia, I visited my grandparents shortly after, and was tickled to be sleeping in a room with an old wardrobe in it.

33.) One of the reasons I hated school was that we'd be assigned a book to study for a month, and I'd have read it years before, or, if it was new, I'd read it in two or three hours and then want to MOVE ON.

32.) One of the first books I owned was a childproof edition of A Child's Garden of Verses, and I still know most of the poems.

31.) When I was five, my grandfather gave me a complete collection of the albums to every Disney movie. They were a gift for buying gas at Gulf, I think. I have NO IDEA what happened to them.

30-21: Things About Me As I Am.
30.) It takes me a really long time to warm up to people. I'm really not shy, I just have to know people pretty well before I open up.

29.) I have absolutely no interest in camping. Yuck. Explain to me why this is fun? My version of “roughing it” is a hotel without room service.

28.) I never finished my degree. I have a zillion certifications, and a real estate license, and I read a lot. Someday, when I'm certain I'm doing it for the right reason, I'll go back.

27.) I love language, and playing with language. If I could take enough time off from work, I'd go back to France and do a French immersion course, just for fun.

26.) If I don't get alone-time, I get cranky and bitchy and edgy and mean. Being alone in one room is not enough. I have to have the house to myself for a couple of hours (at least) every so often. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't have bought two houses with communicating doors, or something.

25.) I love snailmail. Email is quick, and instant messages are convenient, but nothing is more special than a real letter. This ties in with my stationery fetish, in that I've often flirted with buying engraved stationery because I love paper so much. One of my New Year's resolutions is to write more letters.

24.) I miss singing so much that it's painful. I mean, I sing around the house, but it's not the same. I miss acting as well. But not as much.

23.) My ultimate fantasy job would be to write my own column.

22.) I'm not a morning person, and one of the things that most annoys me is when the people I work with pounce on me before I've had a chance to clear my desk and plan my day. I used to institute “quiet time” and I might have to go back to that.

21.) I can't sleep in a room that's too bright or too hot. I want cool air, and sheets that are crisp and clean and cool when I slip into bed, but warm up just enough. I'm usually most comfortable with one foot outside the covers, and I like white noise, usually a fan combined with a cd of Gregorian chant. Also, I can't sleep while wearing socks, and I don't like it if the blankets touch my toes. Sheets, yes, blankets no. (Yes, yes, I know, I'm neurotic.)

20-11: Things About Writing.
20.) I never spellcheck LJ or OD entries, just as I never spellcheck paper journal entries. I'm usually a very good speller, and any errors are typos not breeches in knowledge. So, why don't I edit? Because if I stop to edit for spelling and typos, then I start to censor what I write, and that sort of defeats the purpose.

19.) Sometimes, I break grammar rules on purpose, for effect.

18.) While I take most of the quizzes that I see the folks on my friends list taking, I don't generally post the responses.

17.) I suck at writing believable dialogue.

16.) Sometimes I write fanfic, but I almost never share it. The last story I wrote was a drabble for the 2001 Beauty and the Beast conzine. When I do write fiction, I like such challenges as “make it a drabble” or “use the following words” because they add an element of fun.

15.) My favorite writing tool is The Observation Deck. It's a deck of cards with things like, “Open a drawer” or “Make a memory.” Writing prompts, I suppose.

14.) The one writing activity I loved in high school was the five-minute mini-meditation we were were required to do every day in class. I wish I'd saved them.

13.) For my writing class in college, I wrote a paper called The Vampire and the Virgin, for which our professor, Allison, apologized for giving me an A+ because there was “no where to go but down.” I still don't think it deserved the grade, but the exercise made me love lit-crit.

12.) I do my best writing in bed, late at night, with the television on for noise, but not for me to pay attention to.

11.) I have a completely different writing voice when I type than when I write longhand.

10-1: Random Items.
10.) I don't drink enough water.

9.) I hate to practice cello when Chris is home because I don't like him to hear me when I'm not good. He finds this absurd, and he's probably correct.

8.) I am far too reclusive for my own good.

7.) One of my favorite forms of self-indulgence is to have my hair washed. I think it's the scalp massage that does it for me.

6.) I'm extremely ticklish.

5.) I don't feel awake in the morning until I've brushed my teeth. I think it's the mint.

4.) I detest milk chocolate and sweetened iced tea.

3.) I love eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and bell peppers.

2.) I tend to put my hair in ponytails because I hate having it in my face, and I don't know how to do anything elaborate with it.

1.) This exercise has only cemented the fact that I'm quite likely the most boring person on earth.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 100 Things… by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.