liz newks

I laugh. I cry. But mostly I laugh.

Life Update: I Moved To France and Wrote Things

I haven’t written any new posts in awhile because I’ve been uber busy with several different things. For example, last week I moved to France. Okay, maybe that’s the only thing I’m busy with.
I hope to continue posting regularly here, but it will depend on whether or not I get Wifi where I’m living. In the meantime, there are 2 things you should check out:


1. ChezNewks is the blog I created just for my (mis)adventures in France, where I will be posting the majority of my writing for the next 7 months (though I may include select posts here as well).


2. PostMasculine– my favorite blog- just published a guest post I wrote about finding a career! Check it out here.


The past few weeks have been quite busy but very exciting. Hopefully the next time I post I’ll have something more interesting to say, but for now this will have to do. Au revoir!


Is The Pen Mightier Than The Keyboard?

I love to write and always have. When I was younger I always kept several pens and empty notebooks in case creative brilliance decided to strike. These days, however, I seldom write with pens and paper. After I got a laptop, I began to use them less and less.

It didn’t happen overnight. Part of the reason I stopped used pens is because I can type with more speed and accuracy than I can write. My ideas come fast and furious, and it’s hard for me to keep up when I’m writing with a pen. Also, I frequently change my mind about what I want to accomplish with my words. It’s much easier for me to organize my jumbled thoughts in a Word document than to jot them down with a pen. Typing gives me peace of mind; at any point in my writing I can change my mind and start over- and I don’t waste any paper or ink in the process.

I also prefer my laptop because I’ve made some poor investments in pens in the past. More than once I bought a pen that was flashy and attractive, but so much time and effort went to the pen’s appearance that the manufacturers forgot to add ink. Sometimes I bought pens that were fun to use (e.g. some feathery thing with purple ink) but unwise for a long term commitment. I even bought those boring, dirt cheap pens that barely eke out a scribble; I was so desperate to write that the quality of a pen didn’t matter.

This screams “I was desperate and it was available!”

Every now and then I’d find a pen that was functional, practical, and relatively stylish. For a while things would be great. I would create some beautiful writing, pen in hand. Sooner or later, however, the ink always runs dry.

I finally decided my writing shouldn’t depend on a pen. I began using my laptop more and more, and now I love it. At times I want to kick myself for spending so much time and energy on crappy pens, but that would be pointless. Instead I use those experiences to evaluate my needs in a writing utensil.

While I may not need pens, I still like using them. I don’t rely on them like I used to, but sometimes it’s just nice to have them around. Carrying my laptop everywhere can become cumbersome, so it’s a relief to occasionally set it down and write with a pen and notepad. Also, I feel more connected to the words I write when I use pens. Typing is great, but it never feels as personal as something handwritten.

I feel your pain, bro.

Now that I no longer consider pens a necessity, I’m much more selective about them. My first priority is a pen that writes well; that is, the ink flows smoothly and freely. Again, my mind moves fast and I need a pen that can keep up with it. I also want a pen that’s reliable. I can’t have a pen that keeps running out of ink just when I need it the most. Finally, I want an attractive pen that doesn’t go out of style with time. Call me shallow, but I believe the aesthetic quality of a pen should match the aesthetic quality of my writing. I may be a naturally gifted writer, but I still push myself to make good writing great. I don’t need a pen that’s fancy or expensive, but it should catch my eye and hold my interest.

A lot of people tell me I’m too picky about pens. Maybe I am, but screw societal pressure; I’m in no rush to find the perfect pen. I have my trusty laptop, so I don’t actively shop for pens. I simply keep my mind open and my eyes peeled.

That being said, everyone has different experiences and preferences when it comes to writing. It’s perfectly fine to say, “Pens just aren’t for me.” What’s not fine is going off on a belligerent tirade about how much pens suck, or that pens are a recipe for writer’s block, or that it’s stupid and impractical for people to try and find one pen to use for the rest of their lives. Your anti-pen crusade doesn’t make you look like an enlightened guru; it makes you look like a condescending asshole.

My advice? Stop worrying about the tools you use and focus instead on writing something that makes you proud.

You see, Stephenie Meyer, it’s not about Team Pen or Team Laptop; it’s about quality writing… which your books notably lack.

Adventures in Blasphemy: Third Grade Self Strikes Again

A few months ago I posted a story I wrote in third grade about magic and dinosaurs. I’ve been busy working on several upcoming posts these past few weeks, but none are quite ready for the Interweb yet. In an effort to retain the readership of the tens of bloggers who follow me, I’ve decided it’s time to share another glorious story from my Third Grade Self’s creative writing journal.

My third grade teacher once gave us a partner writing assignment in which we were to write about Jesus as a teenager (I don’t have to tell you I went to Catholic school, do I?). As you can clearly ascertain from my previous post, I was a literary genius in my prime. My partner was a lazy grade-moocher, so of course I did the entire assignment myself (an unfortunate pattern that continued all the way through college). Working solo gave my wild imagination unlimited freedom to explore the trials and tribulations of an acne-riddled adolescent Jesus. The result is hilarious blasphemy (or blasphemous hilarity, depending on how you look at it).

Jesus at 12

Once upon a time there lived a quiet boy named Jesus. He was quiet until one day Pius Pilot was riding through the woods and stopped when he saw Jesus praying.

Pius Pilot? Wait, you mean Pontius Pilot?! As in the guy who sentenced Jesus to crucifixion even though he felt kind of bad about it?! What the heck is he doing in Jesus’ childhood??

His eyes were closed. Closed tight. Pius Pilot was very angry. He took a sword and stabbed him in the right leg.

WHAT?! WHY?! Such senseless violence, Third Grade Self!

“How dare you sit there and pray things!”

Alarmed, Jesus stopped praying. He woke up just in time to see Pius Pilot disappear. Jesus howled in pain. He yelped out “Help me!” It was the first time he had been so loud! Then Pius Pilot remembered part of his plan. He rode back Jesus. He tied a rope around his hands tightly. From the end of the rope he tied around an oak tree.

So “Pius” Pilot premeditated his attack on Jesus? He almost butchered it because he left his victim bleeding on the ground without securely binding him to a tree? Criminal mastermind, this guy.

Now he just happened to be very lucky. His friends Daniel and Jonah were walking in the woods and found him. Daniel and Jonah called out for help.

So, when you stumble upon your friend crying for help because he’s been stabbed and is bleeding profusely, you just stay put and start yelling? Not, you know, actually running to get some help? Great plan, guys.

Soon a stranger named Rita walked in the woods.


She saw Jesus. She ran away. She came back with 2 men. They had a cot too. “I’m Fiona and this is Tewfik.”

I distinctly recall picking out Hebrew names in a baby book so that at least some of my characters appeared legit. Unfortunately I didn’t realize Fiona was a woman’s name, so that kind of backfired.

On the other hand, I also discovered Tewfik Jallab, an actor who conveniently lives in Paris. Legitimacy restored.

Tewfik and Fiona picked up Jesus. They layed him on the cot. Tewfik cut the rope around Jesus’ hands.

I often forget to untie bound strangers before placing them on cots as well.

“Some men just finished building a hospital,” said Rita. Tewfik carried the front of the cot and Fiona took the back. Jesus started moaning and groaning when they started walking because the cot was made of wood.

Yea, that’s why he’s groaning in pain. Not because Pius Pilot freaking stabbed him in the leg.

“Don’t worry,” said Tewfik, “The hospital is very soft.” Tewfik and Fiona carried Jesus to a small brick hospital. A woman ran out. “Fiona we only made 12 rooms and we only have 4 doctors and 6 nurses. Oh help!”

I think they need desperately need some new city planners and hospital administrators in Jerusalem.

Fiona smiled. “Here is your first patient. She smiled. “I am Nurse Colleen. Come to Room 3. Your leg needs a rest. Maeve please come and fetch me the AID cot.”

Third Grade Self, what on earth is an AID cot?! Why are the letters capitalized?! WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?

Maeve had long black hair and pretty blue-green eyes. She wore rags that were brown and dull red. They were faded. She had sky blue sandals and had a sweet smile on face.

Something tells me Maeve is a love interest in this story.

Maeve walked away.

Or Jesus gets Friend Zoned. That was my second guess.

This is what shows up when you type “Jesus friend zone” in a Google image search.

Colleen turned around. “Who are you and you?” asked Colleen. “We are Jesus’ friends. This is Daniel and I am Jonah,” answered Jonah. Jonah filled out Jesus’ hospital papers and Daniel ran to get Mary, Jesus’ mother and Joseph, Jesus’ father.

[I ramble on a bit here about the mysterious AID cot again and throw a few more Hebrew names- Fatima and Orit- into the mix.]

Meanwhile, Jesus had just lied down for a minute and a man walked in. “I’m Dr. Ehud and I will bandage your leg.” Jesus’ leg was bleeding like heck.

Jesus has been bleeding like heck for the last three pages, how is he still alive?! Oh… divinity. Right. Touché, Third Grade Self.

Finally after two months Jesus was out of the hospital and walking on a crutch.

Just one crutch? Jesus was Tiny Tim-ing it?

Jesus seen here modeling his favorite look from the Hipster Fall Collection.

He missed Mary and Joseph, and his six year old sister Ruth, one year old brother Samuel, and ten month old brother Elijah.

Apparently my Third Grade Self wasn’t buying into that immaculate conception bullshit and decided that Mary and Joseph got it on like Donkey Kong. Blasphemy aside, Jesus’ childhood is way more interesting to write about if he has siblings.

One week later Mary told Jesus they were moving to Virginia.


Since Jesus broke his leg he got to ride on a donkey named Gal.

Can’t… stop… laughing…

When they finally reached Virginia–

(By donkey)

–a girl stood there. Soon we were great friends.

We? When did I get throw into the mix, Third Grade Self?!

Jesus feel deeply in love with the girl.

As twelve year old Sons of God are wont to do. Wait, am I the girl that Jesus falls in love with?? That’s kind of awesome, I always felt that—

Her name was Maureen.

I just got Friend Zoned by Jesus.

Fair enough.

When Jesus’ birthday came up he had to pick only one friend to invite to his party. Right away he said, “Maureen!” His mother frowned, “How about Aziza, honey?”

You know, Third Grade Self, now that Jesus’ family has relocated to Virginia you don’t need to keep giving random characters Hebrew names.

“No, I want Maureen! I love her!” Jesus blurted out.

And Catholic Church thought The Da Vinci Code was bad?

Ruth came in chanting, “Jesus has a girlfriend! Jesus has a girlfriend!” Jesus’ face turned as red as a cherry. Mary gave her a stern look.

And he wept.

[I then babble about how 13 year old Jesus and his sister get home-schooled by Mary. I make a point to say Jesus is a straight A-student while Ruth sucks at spelling and multiplication, “especially with 7×6=42.” Really heavy-hitting stuff.]

Religion was his best subject. He now thought more about God. He practiced preaching in front of his mirror. His dad gave him ten pieces of wood and he carved the Ten Commandments on them. The title of his book was “Obey God by: Jesus.”

So now Jesus plagiarizes too?! Well, at least he’s not scamming anyone.

His dad cut him 50 more pieces of wood. He made more booklets and sold them for 50 cents each.

COME ON! Seriously, Third Grade Self, you’re making this guy less and less likeable, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the point of the assignment. Although now that I think about it, I have no idea what the point was at all.

After they were sold he gave his $12.50 to the poor.

So he’s… Robin Hood? And terrible at math, despite being a straight-A student.

He did many more good deeds after that.

Okay, okay, he’s back on my good side.

He still limps on a crutch until he is fourteen. But that’s another story!

The End

God bless us, every one!

P.S. Jesus married Rita when he grew up!

Rita?! The random lady who found him bleeding in the woods and took him to the overstaffed hospital with AID cots?? What happened to Maureen?? Why did they break up?? ANSWER ME!!


5 Surprising Life Lessons I Learned from Lacrosse

As a kid I was always active, but I was never great at traditional sports (basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, etc.). Up until high school I ran cross country, and along the way I also tried dance, kickball, cheerleading (don’t judge me; you can’t hate me any more than I hate myself), karate, ice skating, and nose-picking (technically it was soccer, but I was four years old and always stuck in goal, so I usually focused my attention on the art of booger hunting instead of the game).

Soccer at its finest.

Finally, in high school I was introduced to lacrosse, and I fell in love with it. I played for all four years of high school and for three years at my university’s club team. I didn’t play during my senior year of college, and I miss it terribly. Unfortunately I haven’t found any post-collegiate teams close to me in the Midwest, and lacrosse in France is practically non-existent.

This gentleman has offered to pantomime throwing a lacrosse ball back and forth with me. Merci bien, asshole.

Although I’m not playing lacrosse these days, I’ve realize that I’ve learned a number of life lessons simply by playing the game. I’m not talking about the obvious things that you learn by playing any team sport (the importance of communication, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link”, etc.). I’m talking about lessons that apply in a much broader context. For example, lacrosse is how I figured out:

1. Sometimes you’re going to be treated unfairly. Deal with it.

I played defense for seven years, so it didn’t take long for me to learn this lesson. In women’s lacrosse, there are approximately 57,000 ways you can commit a foul, and about 144,000 ways that players on offense can make it look like you fouled them. Hyperboles aside, if you have played defense in any sport, I’m sure you can attest this verity of this statement.

Here are a few examples:

– I once got called for “tripping” a player, even though she tripped herself and I was at least three feet away from her.

– In lacrosse “checking” is when you hit the head of another player’s stick with the head of your stick to knock the ball out of her pocket; however you can only do this if the player has the ball. I once checked the ball out of a girl’s stick, and the referee whistled me for “empty checking”… even though she was on the other side of the field and we were facing away from her.

– Checks to the head are not allowed (for obvious reasons), and they are rewarded with a nice shiny yellow card. I’ve witnessed my fair share of players get hit in the head through no fault but their own… and yep, the defensive player got the Golden Ticket to the sidelines.

[Note for aspiring lacrosse players: when you accidentally run into an opponent and/or her stick, the trick is to immediately grab your head, wait for the ref to blow her whistle, then fall sobbing to the ground in a crumpled heap. Pathetic, and highly effective.]

Your face should look like this.

Again, when you play defense your entire life you get used to unfair accusations of foul play. You know what doesn’t help? Arguing with the referee.

One time my teammate was given a yellow card, and she was so pissed she threw her stick to the ground. The referee immediately apologized for his error and gave her possession of the ball.

Just kidding. The ref changed upgraded her yellow card to a red card and she was sidelined for the rest of the game.

You will NEVER see a referee take back a call in lacrosse. Sometimes it’s an honest mistake, and sometimes the designated arbitrator of your game is Ray Charles.

Justice is blind, and so is your referee.

And that’s fine, because sometimes in life you will be treated unfairly, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Accept it and move on.

2.  You don’t have to like someone to respect him/her.

During my junior year of college, my team drove three hours to a school in the Midwest commonly known to all as “JCrew U”. When we first saw the JCrew U club, we rolled our eyes; they were sporting high ponytails with ribbons, faces caked with thick black makeup, and Jersey Shore-style orangutans (not actual orangutans; I combined the words “orange” and “tan” because I honestly don’t know what color Snooki is).

Snooki, Jionni, and future offspring.

The JCrew U lacrosse team kicked our asses to next Tuesday.

Seriously, it wasn’t even a close game; the final score was 0-19. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than getting a sound butt-whooping delivered to you by a pack of beauty queens. I know many people consider lacrosse preppy (and they wouldn’t be totally wrong), but the women who play lacrosse are not princesses. Yes, we wear skirts; no, we’re not afraid to get them dirty. At least that’s what I used to think, before overhearing JCrew U’s players gabbing about their pre-game team tanning sessions.

Just imagine this girl whipping you and you’ll understand my crippling depression.

Alas, as much as it sickens me to say this, I respect the game they played.

Okay, maybe I’m a teeny bit resentful they scored 19 times when our offense touched the ball about three times the whole game, but still, I have to admire their intensity. Sometimes, your opponent is just better than you, and I’ve learned to humbly respect the players who kick my butt, even if I’m seething on the inside.

3. Men and women are different, but neither gender is superior.

I don’t know much about men’s lacrosse. I know that players wear helmets and pads, and defensive players have sticks that are 6 feet long. Men’s sticks also have deep pockets (women’s do not). I don’t know the rules of men’s lacrosse, but after watching a few games hearing it referred to as “football with sticks” did not surprise me much.

Despite having virtually no knowledge of men’s lacrosse, I spent the majority of my playing years telling anyone who listened that “playing men’s lacrosse didn’t require talent, just the ability to beat the crap out of other players”. When others would suggest that women’s lacrosse was too boring, slow-paced, or complicated to enjoy, I was immediately defensive. In fact, I would even argue that it’s not our fault that we have so many rules and penalties, and lament that we weren’t allowed to be as aggressive as male lacrosse players. You know, even though being aggressive is just beating the crap out of each other and requires no skill whatsoever (sheepish grin).

It only recently dawned on me that men’s and women’s lacrosse shouldn’t be defined by their contrasts. In men’s lacrosse, the game is pretty simple, and a lot more brutal. In women’s lacrosse, there are a lot of rules, so instead of just “playing the game”, a whistle is blown every thirty seconds so that we ladies can all analyze the situation at length, and discuss how to prevent it in the future. Does that mean male players are just brutes looking to break some hearts skulls? Does that mean women’s lacrosse players are weak, so they need a thousand rules to protect them from getting hurt?

Women’s lacrosse may have a thousand rules, but not helmets. Goggles are basically the same thing though, right?

Of course not. Regardless of gender, any athlete who plays lacrosse has to be tough (Also, you really shouldn’t drop the ball). Beyond those two things, the overlap between men’s and women’s lacrosse is slim. But why does it matter how the game differs? I wasted a lot of time bashing men’s lacrosse- something I knew very little about- because on a subconscious level I felt that if I supported men’s lacrosse, it would devalue women’s version of the game.

That’s ridiculous.

Being proud of your womanhood doesn’t mean you have to burn your bra (kudos if you do, I guess). In the same vein, being honest about your manhood doesn’t mean you’re misogynistic. I’ve finally learned that it’s healthier to accept and embrace our differences than to claim inferiority or superiority. Duh, right?

Guys, don’t deny it- I know you’ve made WNBA jokes. Knock it off unless it’s hilarious.

4. Passion is more important than natural talent.

As I said before, I was never very good at popular sports. I think part of the reason I kept trying new activities was my wishful thinking that I would discover my own untapped talent. For a long time, I had a negative attitude about my athletic ability because I didn’t think I had any natural talent, and I had started some sports too late to play catch up (in grade school if you hadn’t started playing volleyball or basketball by fourth grade, you could kiss any hope of making a decent team goodbye).

The beauty of being introduced to lacrosse in the Midwest is that the sport had only recently gained serious popularity in the area. I didn’t go into my first practice with fantasies about being an all-star (my parents wisely bought the cheapest lacrosse stick available because they weren’t sure I would stick with this sport any longer than ballet or karate). For the first time, however, I didn’t feel self-conscious about how “bad” I was because everyone was starting at square one.

[Note: You can always spot a rookie in lacrosse because frankly, they just look awkward. Cradling- the art of keeping the ball in your stick without dropping it or getting checked- is something that takes a lot of practice and patience to finally do right.]

Definitely a rookie; the head of her stick is facing the wrong way.

Letting go of my insecurity that “I’m not athletic” allowed me to not only fall in love with lacrosse, but get pretty damn good at it, too. Lacrosse taught me that if you want to get good at something, practice your ass off and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Once you give yourself an honest shot at success, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

For example, last year my friend begged me to play a soccer game as a substitute for her intramural team. I laughed in her face but finally agreed to do it on the condition that I would play defense. I had a blast that game, and remembered feeling shocked at how well I played (I didn’t even pick my nose!). I was no Mia Hamm, but I didn’t let my shortcomings affect my attitude. I played for the same intramural team this spring just for the hell of it.

5. If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point?

The ultimate reason why I quit lacrosse was because I wasn’t having fun. Sure, there were other issues (I needed to get a job; I resented my role as a club officer; the team dynamic was shifting and I didn’t see a future with the new group), but ultimately it came down to the fact that I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore.

I don’t regret my decision. I still love the sport and would pick it up again in a heartbeat, but at the end of my junior year I was burned out. I decided I’d rather opt out than commit half-heartedly. That wouldn’t be fair to my teammates or to me. Besides, I had a blast learning how to ballroom dance and play racquetball during my senior year.

So there you have it; lacrosse has taught me how to shrug off petty injustices, appreciate a good ass-kicking, value gender equality, work my butt off, and enjoy life. What lessons have your activities and hobbies taught you?

Here’s an unflattering picture of me playing lacrosse (photo courtesy of Paul Gitelson). As you can see, I did not partake in pre-game tanning sessions.

The Roots of My Wanderlust

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

For the majority of my college career, my plan was to join the Peace Corps after graduation. In fact, it was my main motivation for changing my major from business to international studies. To this day, I’m not sure what exactly triggered my strong desire to travel. My honest guess is that the thrilling and unpredictable lifestyle attracted me more than the actual work involved (I’m commitment-phobic, resent office jobs, and am terrified of “settling down”). Fortunately my academic studies also nurtured my love of languages and cultures, which is a far more suitable reason to become a globetrotter.

I’d rather live in a straw hut in Africa than work in a place where people ask me if I have a “case of the Mondays.”

For nearly three years, I shaped my academic career, extracurricular activities, and work experiences around becoming a competitive candidate for the Peace Corps. I continued taking Spanish classes and began learning French. I volunteered as a tutor in multiple afterschool programs, acted as a conversation partner for international students, took on leadership roles in my lacrosse club, and completed a certification program to teach English as a second/foreign language. My ultimate advantage would be the two months I was about to spend in Peru (previous international experience is highly regarded by the Peace Corps).

At the end of my spring semester last year, I slaved over my Peace Corps application, wrote my essays, and asked for recommendations. I finally submitted my application, and a few weeks later it was approved for the next step. Since I was about to leave for Peru, the recruiter put my application temporarily on hold so I wouldn’t have to worry about doing any follow up while I was in South America.

Then I went to Peru for two months… and faced without a doubt the single most challenging experience I’ve ever had in my life. The tolls of culture shock, language barriers, and digestive system rejection (read: the food and water regularly made me sick; I’ll spare you the unpleasant details) alone were enough to break me. However, the real kicker was the work I was doing: teaching English at an elementary school.

Not only was this my first real experience managing a classroom, but I was teaching in a completely unfamiliar school environment. For example, it took me nearly a month to arrange a realistic teaching schedule because the original one the school gave me did not correlate to reality (i.e. my first class was supposed to start at 7:45 am, but school didn’t start until 9 am… and by 9 am, I mean 9:30 am. Ah, Latin American time…). Even more stressful was the lack of discipline that I had grown accustomed to in my little 12-years-of-private-Catholic-school-bubble. My classes were constantly interrupted by students’ incessant chattering, roughhousing, and wandering in and out of the room. As my patience grew paper-thin, my propensity to shriek in exasperation skyrocketed.

Not pictured: me. Also not pictured: devilish Peruvian children wreaking havoc.

Eventually I learned to not to take personal offense at disrespectful behavior (it dawned on me that I was working with kids, duh) and re-adjusted my expectations. Unfortunately, I also adopted a pretty negative mindset as well (“These kids will never learn anything in two months anyway, so why bother getting upset?”). My tears of frustration transformed into stone-cold apathy; I just wanted to finish my internship and get the hell out of there.

Upon my long-anticipated return to the U.S. (I nearly wept when the last flight on my trip home was delayed), I was hit with a nasty realization: every experience, ailment, and obstacle that I experienced in Peru would be magnified ten-fold as a Peace Corps volunteer. More importantly, I had chosen to go to Peru and had only been there two months. Peace Corps volunteers serve 27-month commitments in locations they do not choose. Cue the alarm bells. Hear that sudden little rush of wind whip past you? That’s the sound of me running for the hills.

I passed this guy on my way to the hills.

My application status eventually became “inactive” and I didn’t bother to reactivate it.

Fall semester arrived, but my panic didn’t settle. Sure, I was proud of myself for making the tough decision to not pursue a goal I had worked toward for the past two and a half years. Afterwards, however, I was left frantic about my options. I was so convinced that the Peace Corps was right for me that I had spent virtually no time researching other career paths (stupid, I know; you live and you learn, right?). I still wanted to travel, but I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to teach English or work with kids.

I should probably add that as the months since summer have passed, I’ve begun to miss Peru. That’s right; I actually miss the country I couldn’t wait to leave. I miss my host family, I regret not staying there longer (two months is not enough time to adjust to a new culture), I long to speak Spanish on a daily basis, and I wish I had traveled more while I was there. I’ve already decided that I’m going back at some point in my life, and the sooner the better. I’m sure I’ll write more on that in a future blog post.

Fast forward to last November, when I received an email from my university’s French department about an opportunity to teach English in France. Previous traumatic experience be damned; I applied for the program in January, and in April I was offered a 7-month teaching assistantship in Dijon, France. Words can’t describe how excited I am to go to Europe, and I’m equally thrilled at having another opportunity to teach English (this time in a high school- HALLELUJAH).

This aspect of my life- right here, right now- is where I’ve pinpointed the root of my wanderlust. Before this very precise moment in time, I was the type of person who wouldn’t dare travel anywhere without a roundtrip ticket, hotel reservation, and a trip itinerary. Ah, how moving to Europe changes things! A few weeks ago I booked a one-way ticket to Paris and decided not to buy a train ticket to Dijon in advance (look at me living on the wild side). I have just over a month to figure out where the hell I’m living in Dijon, yet I find myself unconcerned about potentially being homeless. Best of all, I’m getting lost in my daydreams about the places I’ll go, the people I’ll meet, and the schedule I don’t intend to keep.

Right now marks the beginning of an exciting adventure for me; for the first time, I have the opportunity to satisfy my chronic wanderlust to my heart’s content. I have no idea where I’m going after my teaching contract ends next spring, but I’m determined to make it one hell of a ride. Stay tuned for future posts; I promise to share my funny, crazy, and/or interesting stories (and keep my whining about culture shock and language barriers to a minimum).

This is EXACTLY what a language barrier feels like! Kudos to the troubled soul who created this unfortunate image.

Dear Sixteen Year Old Self: You Nauseate Me

A few weeks ago at my internship our boss gave us a horrifying assignment: partner up with another intern and see what “dirt” you could find about them on the Internet. The idea was to better prepare ourselves so that future employers wouldn’t find any unpleasant surprises when reviewing our Facebooks, Twitters, etc. Still, the whole thing made me feel sick, because I knew when I was younger I hadn’t been as careful about what I put on that darn Interweb.

Being the lucky person that I am, I was partnered with someone who had a beautifully clean record. No profanity, no inappropriate pictures, no racy content whatsoever- hell, I actually found a story about her being in her high school’s band and winning some championship. Fanfreakingtastic. You know what she found on me? My freakin’ MYSPACE PROFILE.

As she shrieked with laughter at the horror that was my sixteen-year old self frozen in cyberspace, I turned crimson and figuratively assumed the fetal position. I immediately tried to regain access over my account, but I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to; I couldn’t even remember what email address I used because I had used my friend’s address instead.

Well, good news, folks! I regained access to my account today (only took 3 weeks… Myspace must be busy?). My strategy is to clean up my profile, and then attempt to delete it; since social media accounts are virtually impossible to permanently delete, I figure at least I’ll have a squeaky clean image floating around the net.

Before I do that, however, I’m going to do something far more terrifying: share the contents of my profile here in this blog. Why? It’s simple; in every frustrating or humiliating situation in life, you have two options: you can laugh or you can cry. I always choose laughter, so in this case that means sharing my mortifying hilarious teenage perception of myself.

I wanted to dissect my Myspace profile for another reason; like my third grade journal, it was essentially a frozen portrait of my being at a particular age. Third Grade Self was awesome. Sixteen Year Old Self was such a raging phony that had I met Holden Caulfield at the time, he would have punched me in the face. And he would have been justified in doing so.

So, without further ado, I present to you the best of what my Myspace account has to offer:

About me

im liz

And hearts ;… how I loathe you
im a junior; i WISH i was 21

Why am I not surprised?
crew&&lacrosse = MY LIFE

&&? Did you ****ing stutter?! “Crew and and lacrosse!” IDIOT
i absolutely LOVE to cook–ask ANYONE who knows me!

You know what you’ll be eating in 6 years? Ramen. It tastes exactly like poverty.
im loveee my girls;;
they are MY LIFE!<33

So now you’re using extra semi-colons and 3’s on our hearts are you? You are so grammatically EDGY!
i <33 beaches

Please make up your damn mind! Is it <3, <33, &hearts;, or &hearts;&hearts;???
i LOVE the outdoors

I hate you.

R they? Yes summer and and spring break r.
chicago&&ohio&&atlanta&&texas are my faves


Cleveland: At least it’s not Detroit.

cant live without
greys anatomy
dancin craazily

*Dancing **crazily. Because it would just be so lame to say “dancing”- ALWAYS add crazy! I can’t even talk about “greys anatomy” and “hollister” because bleeeeurghhh [I just threw up in my mouth]
kate winslet is my fave actress

This honestly puzzles me. I don’t think I watched any of her movies at the time, so I’m not sure why she’s my “fave.”

OMG you should TOTES write for TeenBeat, LOLZ!
whenever i need a laugh, i watch monty python and the holy grail -> hands down, best movie EVER made

I’m impressed you actually got something right.
i hate bitches&guys who use girls

i dont take shit from anyone

I bet you wrote this when you were grounded, didn’t you Sixteen Year Old Self?
if u gossip a lot, im probably not friends with you

Probably? Shouldn’t you be a little more certain about this?
♥♥♥ to laugh so hard my stomach hurts!

So ironic, because THAT’S WHAT I’M DOING RIGHT NOW!


Status: Single

Some things never change.

Height: 8′ 11″

OMG LOLZ! You were NOT 8 feet 11 inches! LMAO you are SOOOO FUNNY!!!

Ethnicity: Black / African descent

ROFLMAO!!! Just when I thought you couldn’t get any funnier/more ironic!!


[Note: this is the absolute worst part. I eliminated the boring crap like my shoe size and favorite color, and kept only the bits I thought were particularly nauseating entertaining. You’re welcome.]


[Number] 69 ;]

I have no words.

[Animal] ooh pandas!

This honestly boggles me. I didn’t realize I had such an affinity for pandas.


[Have Piercings?] just 2…for now

I assume my strategy here was “crap only 2?! What a lame answer… I should allude that I want to pierce the crap out of my face and body so that people find me more interesting!”

[Write in cursive or print?] print i cant do cursive for shit

Everything does sound more badass with “for shit” added to the end of it, doesn’t it?

[Know how to drive?] eh, my parents would beg to differ =]

Maybe because three months after you got your license you totaled your car?

[Own a cell phone?] durrr

Durrr. This is the 21st century and I’m supa fly.

[Ever get off the damn computer?] noo

Well… again, some things never change.


[Been in a fist fight?] haha what?

The answer is no. No Liz, you have not been in a fistfight. Just answer the damn question and quit trying to be cool.

“Liz, how can you know what kind of person you are if you’ve never been in a fight?” I don’t know Tyler Durden, but I suggest you stick around with your shirt off until we figure it out.

[Considered a life of crime?] oh yes

I assure you that will not end well.

[Considered being a hooker?] when im thinking about why i dont need to go to skool…haha

I don’t need to tell you how revolting this is, do I? “Yea lolz I totes would be a hooker so I don’t hafta go ta skoooool lmaoooo!” Blerg.

[Been in love?] hmm

The answer is no, Sixteen Year Old Self.

[Been in lust?] =]

Ah yes, high school… those were the lustful days. I was totally into hand holding and making out and shit (it DOES sound more badass!).

[Held a gun] no!!

Update: You held and shot your first gun in Podunkville, Alabama 2 years ago. Congrats.


[Last book you read] scarlet letter.. ok, spark notes

The Scarlet Letter is one of the worst books I’ve ever had to read, and I stand by my decision to use SparkNotes.

How can a book about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll be so tremendously boring? (I really don’t remember the details because I kept falling asleep on page 3.)

[Last thing you ate] fruit loops or brownies idk

I find it pretty upsetting that you can’t remember whether you were eating breakfast food or dessert, Sixteen Year Old Self.

[Read the newspaper?] bahahahhaha

STOP LAUGHING! Stop scoffing at being educated and informed you twat!!

[Do well in school?] yes

I always did well in school. But why would anyone believe that after reading my profile?!

[Have an obsession?] with hot hott ex-soap opera stars? yeahh…

I forgot how much I drooled over Jesse Metcalfe.

Hideous, isn’t he?


[First kiss] too embarrassing

I was playing spin the bottle and it landed on a ginger. Of course it was embarrassing.

[Do you believe in love at first sight?] noo

Atta girl.

[Do you believe in “the one?”] yess

*Yes. Durrr!

[Are you a tease?] 0=]



[Bitch/Asshole] no im nice

The nerve! You made it very clear you “hate bitches” earlier didn’t you, Sixteen Year Old Self?

[sarcastic] no! ok yes i am

You are freaking hilarious!

[Angel] psh

Because nice girls are lame LOLZ!

[Devil] heheh

Heheh? Creepy internet guffaw…

[Talkative] me talkative? well yeah i guess you could say i like to talk, talkings good, talking’s fun, i like to talk, does that make me talkative?..

Please stop talking… just STOP. TALKING.

And that’s why I am nauseated by my Sixteen Year Old Self.

Put your tongue away, stop trying to be sexy, and don’t show off your Starbucks. Believe it or not, in a few short years you will drink Fair Trade coffee and read newspapers.

I’m Sexy and I Know It

What comes to mind when someone tells you that you look:

  • Nice
  • Beautiful
  • Cute
  • Pretty
  • Hot

These words are all intended to make us feel attractive, but in various ways depending on the social context. For example, if I’m decked out in my fancy pants for a big-girl meeting, my mom usually compliments me on my cute outfit (thanks, Mom!). On the flip side, it would be hilarious wildly inappropriate to tell your grandmother she looks hotter than Jamaica in her Sunday best, but saying she looks pretty would be music to her hearing aids.

Make sure the batteries are charged before you butter her up and ask for an advance on your inheritance.

At the same time, each of these words is can be attached to negative connotations. Some women may be offended by being called “hot” because they find it degrading. On the other hand, teenage girls may resent being told that they’re “cute” because it makes them feel childish and all they want at the moment is to grow up. “Beautiful” is such a ubiquitous descriptive that the word hardly carries any weight; we dub everything from material goods like boats and houses to intangible experiences like childbirth “beautiful” (I’m not squeamish, but that is not the image I want in my head when I’m told I’m beautiful).

That’s why I love the word “sexy.”

What is sexy? If your answer was Victoria’s Secret merchandise, then my response is, “Well… to each his own.” Everyone has their own definition of sexy; it’s just as subjective as the words I mentioned earlier. The only real difference that I notice is that no one resents, dislikes, or is offended when someone calls him or her sexy.

If you believe I’m horribly mistaken and that being called sexy is the worst thing ever, feel free to stop reading here. If you’d like to inform me of my ignorance, please direct yourself to the comments section below. For the rest of you, allow me to explain my personal view of sexy:

To me, it represents that blissful combination of confidence in myself and the absence or irrelevance of my insecurities.

Sexy is about feeling desirable regardless of my inhibitions, and my outer appearance may have absolutely nothing to do with it. For example, I feel sexy after working out because exercise is a physical and mental challenge and I conquered it (the kickass endorphins don’t hurt either). I feel sexy regardless of how disgusting I look drenched in rancid-smelling sweat. I feel sexy right now as I type this because writing makes me feel good. The fact that I’m sporting my reading glasses, zero makeup, leggings and a tank top covered in cat hair are irrelevant.

Cue the Rocky montage music! Dun-dun-duuuun…

I believe being sexy comes from within, but others will certainly pick up on your confident attitude. When someone remarks that you look sexy, chances are it has more to do with how you carry yourself than the little black dress you’re wearing (not that it’s not totally cute- er, hot, uh, I mean… it looks phenomenal on you in a totally non-objectifying way).

So why am I blogging about my personal definition of and affinity for the word sexy at midnight on a Friday night? Well… I guess the short answer is that I’m super duper lame. But there’s a little bit more to it (not much I admit): I worry that others don’t realize “sexy” is subjective. In our culture, women in particular struggle to fit into society’s mold of what is considered desirable. I say that’s balderdash. Ladies (and gentlemen), there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all model for being sexy.

If any of you reading this are feeling out of touch with your inner sexy: first, I want you to listen to this song and imagine it was inspired by you and your sexiness. Next, I want you to get up, look at yourself in the mirror, smile, and say out loud, “I’m sexy and I know it.” Did you feel silly doing that? Of course you did. What kind of weirdo talks to herself in the mirror?

For the record, I’m sexy and I know it. How about you?

These two gentlemen are also cognizant of their erotic appeal.

5 Annoying Things My Dog Did (And Why I’ll Miss Them)

Ten years ago, my siblings and I received what we refer to as “the best Christmas present EVER”:  our beloved dog, Cami. Last Saturday, Cami died at the tender age of 12 when her mild heart murmur unexpectedly went south in a matter of hours.

I certainly haven’t recovered from the shock and grief yet. The first 2 days were unbearable, and the only reason I’m somewhat coping now is because I was so busy this week that I was distracted from the pain. Earlier this week I felt compelled to write a little tribute to Cami. While this blog is partially for closure, I also wanted to share my loss with fellow bloggers, many of whom have undoubtedly experienced the heartbreak of losing a pet.

At first, I felt clueless about what to blog. I didn’t want to write some sob story about what a hero my dog was. She wasn’t. She took a lot of naps. She liked Milk-Bones. At times she was honestly a pain in the ass.

In fact, Cami could be fairly obnoxious on a daily basis. It took me about sixty seconds to remember some of her many bad habits that drove me crazy (and I’m sure I could think of more). For now, fellow pet lovers, I present to you my list of the 5 annoying things my dog did:

1.      Barked like a maniac

My dog barked at everything and everyone. Barking was the singular way she expressed herself. When Cami was excited to see people, she barked. When she was upset at being denied table scraps, she barked. When she felt lonely sleeping in her cage downstairs, she barked. When she felt threatened by pesky chipmunks or a suspicious-looking leaf, you guessed it, she barked.

I’ll be honest; her barking was pretty frustrating at times because it simply didn’t cease until she got what she wanted (and I found it quite difficult to forbid leaves from crossing her threshold). I’m fairly certain the root of her incessant howling was in her blood; she was a mix between beagle and cocker spaniel, two breeds born and raised to bark. All the same, it’s hard to be understanding of genetic predispositions when you’re awoken by a dog barking bloody murder at 2 am.

+ =

2.      Dragged me around on “walks”

A man in our neighborhood has seven golden retrievers. Seven. Just to clarify, seven is that number between 6 and 8. This man takes all seven dogs on walks together and they couldn’t be better-behaved. They respect the leash and bark at nothing and no one.

Then there was me, panting and yelling at my beagle spaniel mutt to slow the hell down as her 25-pound body dragged my helpless ass along for the ride. There were no “walks” with Cami, only sprints and runs. She was so excited by every sight and smell she encountered that it required every ounce of patience I had to keep her relatively focused. My family took her to obedience school when we first got it, and she barely passed (we always joked that she was the “C student” of doggy school, but even that grade was inflated).

3.      Begged like her life depended on it

My dad always joked that when it came to food and affection, Cami was a bottomless pit. He was only half kidding; that dog would do just about anything for a Milk-Bone or a belly rub.

Obviously that’s very normal dog behavior. But what’s different about Cami is I honestly believe she knew exactly how to manipulate me. When I was younger I used to give her table scraps because I didn’t think it was a big deal. Even though I eventually stopped, the begging never did. She would actually bark or growl at me if I didn’t share my food with her! That drove me nuts! Sometimes I just want to eat a sandwich in peace and without feeling guilty, you know?

For the record, I realize it’s my own fault that I caved to her whims. In my defense, just look below at those big brown eyes. Now imagine them sad. Goodbye, resistance.

So… are you going to finish that sandwich?

4.      Terrorized my cat

One of my favorite childhood movies was Milo and Otis. When Cami joined the family, I already had a cat named Fiddle for two years. At the time I was ecstatic about the prospect of experiencing firsthand the feline-canine camaraderie that I had witnessed growing up.

This picture has to be real, because Photoshop wasn’t invented yet.

Oh, the sweet naiveté of being twelve years old. Not only did Fiddle and Cami not embark on countryside adventures with wild animals, but they also couldn’t stand to be in the same room with each other. I desperately wanted them to snuggle together and be BFFs. Instead, Cami chased Fiddle away any time he approached me or anyone else in the family. In turn, Fiddle would sit with us on the couch (which Cami wasn’t allowed to do) or drink water out of Cami’s bowl when she was stuck in her cage. Over the years their relationship slightly improved from “estranged” to “civil as long as you don’t come too close”.

I later learned that getting a cat first and a dog second was the deal breaker. Fiddle had already established our house as his territory (and assumed his role of “alpha pet” by terrorizing my sister’s poor rabbit). So when Cami arrived and established herself as the queen of the hill, naturally things did not end so well. Despite accepting this reality, I was still irritated whenever Cami chased Fiddle away, because the twelve-year old in me just wanted them to snuggle.

Fiddle and Cami, captured here in a rare moment of civility made possible by a shared affinity for bird watching/spying on the neighbors.

5.      Panted for breath

This panting was a recent development. Last December we found out Cami had developed some health problems common among older dogs. She had some back problems (typical of breeds with long bodies) and a heart murmur. Her murmur, though not acute, steadily worsened this summer, and as a result she started panting heavily.

It’s not that her panting was terribly loud, obnoxious, or distracting. The real reason I couldn’t stand her damn heaving was because it forced me to see that she was getting old and sick. Whenever the panting got louder than usual, my family assumed solemn faces and spoke words laced in grave sympathy for “poor Cami.” I hated that. I didn’t want to get misty-eyed and forlorn about her dying while she was still alive. I wanted to treat her exactly like I always had, and deal with the grief of losing her when the time came. Her incessant panting didn’t let me do that.


As I mentioned before, this isn’t a complete list. Even while writing this I also remembered how Cami hogged the bed, shed like a Rottweiler, licked dishes in the dishwasher, scattered the contents of our bathroom trash cans, chewed up our family photo albums, and bolted out the door at every opportunity.

I didn’t outline my poor dog’s worst habits to show what a terrible pet she was. Her annoying tendencies are the things I miss the most. I miss her barking because the house is now eerily quiet. I miss her company on my runs. Worst of all, I miss her obnoxious panting because it was a constant reminder that she was still alive and sitting close to me.

These pesky nuisances were the things that made Cami so endearing, just like John Grogan’s dog Marley in Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog. I didn’t love my dog because she was perfect. I loved her because she was a loyal companion, a sweetheart, and yes, a bit of a goofball. Saying goodbye breaks my heart, but I have to trust that I’ll see her again in a better place.

I miss you, Cami. You’re still the best Christmas present I EVER had.

RIP Christmas puppy. Enjoy your dirt nap, because when I see you again we are going for a LONG run!

Dear Friends in Relationships: We Need to Talk

Dear Friends in Relationships,

Hello, dear friends! I hope everything is just peachy down at Lovers Lane. Since I have your attention, there are a few things I need to discuss with you.

1.      Stop setting me up with your single friends.

I hate when my friends decide they’re Yenta the Matchmaker just because I’m single and they know a guy who is too. First of all, my matchmaker friends almost never ask me if I’d like to be set up with Single Guy. The answer is no, by the way.

I hate blind dates because they feel like a job interview… that your mom forced you to go to. The worst is when friends try to hook you up with someone who has nothing in common with me. “He’s single” and “he’s cute” do not qualify him as an appropriate match, because if he doesn’t get sarcasm or hates puppies, we’re just not going to have chemistry.

Exception: If you happen to know a single guy with similar interests as me, cool. I still don’t want to be set up. Instead of putting me on the spot, just invite both of us to the next party you host and introduce us. Don’t project your own fantasies of our whirlwind romance, double dates, and weddings onto either of us- it just makes things weird.

2.      If I wanted to be in the middle of your fights, I would throw a punch.

This especially goes out to my friends who are dating each other: I’m not your psychiatrist, and I’m sure as hell not getting paid. I beg you, stop expecting me to diffuse your drunken bar fights. Stop coming to me and saying, “Don’t tell (name) I said this, but…” and then dive into a rampage about your significant other. It’s awkward because no matter what I say, I feel like I’m betraying the other person just by talking behind his or her back. I don’t want to be a third wheel in your relationship. If I did, wouldn’t that be a huge red flag?

3.      Don’t ask for my advice if you don’t really want it.

It’s your life. I’m not going to tell you who to date, love, or marry. At the same time, don’t ask me for my opinion if you don’t want it. I’m not saying you have to agree with my opinion (again, it’s your life), but don’t get angry or defensive when you don’t like what I have to say.

If you text your boyfriend or girlfriend 60 times a day, then sob to me that he/she called you “needy and jealous,” then ask me what I think, don’t expect me to laud your unhealthy behavior.  I’m a big supporter of tough love and brutal honesty, but I also am careful to avoid criticism that isn’t constructive.

Also, don’t mock my advice because I lack “experience” in relationships. It doesn’t change the fact that you text your boyfriend/girlfriend 60 times a day.

4.      Please don’t gush about how excited you are to double date with another couple.

Maybe this is just me whining, but I think it’s a little tactless to be prattling on about something I obviously won’t be a part of. It’s not that I want to be invited to tag along as a Fifth Wheel- believe me. It just never feels good to be automatically excluded from an event or activity based on something as trivial as whether or not I’m dating someone.

I know you’re just excited. I’m not asking you to abstain from double dates. I’d just appreciate a little discretion.

5.      Don’t feel sorry for me because I’m single.

Don’t feel sorry, because I’m not sorry. I love being single. I love my independence and freedom. I love being able to focus on my own personal growth. And most importantly, I don’t equate being single to being alone. One day I may be ready for a relationship, but I’m not now. So please, dear friends, don’t set me up on any more blind dates, because the guys you pick are just terrible.

Me, Myself, and the Pevensie Sisters

The Pevensie sisters in the beloved series The Chronicles of Narnia represent a classic character foil. Lucy Pevensie is adventurous, curious, and loyal. Her unwavering faith is often challenged by her siblings, from the very existence of Narnia to sightings of Aslan in Prince Caspian. On the other hand, Susan Pevensie is practical, unimaginative, and responsible. In the final book The Last Battle, she is notably absent. The reader learns this is because she now refers to Narnia as the “silly game we used to play” and has based her life on superficial things, such as “nylons and lipsticks and invitations.”

Lucy Pevensie.

Susan Pevensie. Not pictured: nylons and lipsticks.

The Lucy-Susan character foil feels like déjà-vu to me, as their personalities represent a constant battle in my mind. The Lucy Pevensie part of my brain encourages me to try new experiences, follow my dreams, and think positively in times of doubt. Unfortunately, the Susan Pevensie part of me has often been the much louder, more dominant “voice” in my head. This is the part of me that thinks, “How am I going to pay for travel?” and “I need to be networking and looking for jobs for next spring when I return from France.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being pragmatic like Susan. However, I’ve slowly realized that this thought pattern has impacted me in a profoundly negative way. Until very recently (read: last week), I experienced severe anxiety and stress on a daily basis. Here are some of my things on my mind that triggered constant misery:

  1. I’m currently unemployed and thus not making any money.
  2. I have about 1,001 things to do before I move to France.
  3. My French conversational skills are terrible, and culture shock sucks.
  4. I want to keep traveling and living abroad, but that’s not practical.
  5. I don’t want to go to grad school, but I’m probably not going to get a job without one (and the odds of being employed with a graduate degree are still slim).
  6. My liberal arts degree is worthless in terms of finding a reliable job.
  7. I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

And so on. Honestly this list could be much longer, but most of my anxiety stems from #7; a general sense of anxiety about the unknowns in life. I want to address some of these issues in separate blogs, because every “twenty-something” I know is experiencing this on some level, especially my fellow graduates in the class of 2012.

My point is, all of those worries I mentioned above are from the Susan Pevensie part of my brain. And I’ve had enough. I had a little epiphany last Tuesday: I’m miserable 90% of the time about a) things I have no control over and b) things that matter very little in the context of my daily life. The only legitimate concern listed on my list is #2, because those 1,001 things I need to do before moving to France will happen between now and October. At the same time, even though that may be a “legitimate” source of stress, that doesn’t mean I should let it overwhelm me. It’s far more productive to make a to-do list, then divide and conquer each task one at a time.

In addition to muzzling the practical-minded Susan Pevensie in me, it’s time for the inner-Lucy Pevensie to start speaking up. Now that I’ve acknowledged my fear of the unknown, my next step is to relax, embrace it, and plunge headfirst into my next adventure, whatever it may be.

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