Monday, February 17, 2014

30-Week Blog Challenge Week 24: About Your Childhood

I'm back with the Monday blog challenge! The lady in charge is Marie at Mom Gets Real. The questions are right here:


And Week 24's prompt is . . .


Well where the heck do you start with a question like that?

Oh, I know.

Newborn Julie

I was born on January 17, 1978, in Summit, New Jersey. I had hair even then! My mom was snowed into the hospital when she was having me. Maybe that's why I still hate the cold?

I was a happy oldest child but I don't remember being an only child because my sister was born about a year later.

Yep, perfect 1970s family.
We moved to Kernersville, North Carolina, in 1980. I was a precocious reader and late walker (probably because everyone was always carrying me around and reading to me). I learned to read at two years of age and had a really big vocabulary for my age. I liked reading to my sister and with adults.

With Grandma and Grandpa
I also liked coloring and art.
We moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1982. My mom sent my sister and me to a nursery school some of the time, where I learned songs and read books and enjoyed company with other kids. My dad was working in low-level banking jobs and my mom did various things--waiting tables, managing apartments, etc. My mom spent a LOT of time with us and fostered my creative leanings. I started writing little "books" and illustrating them myself, and they actually made sense.

My first "book," maybe

Soon enough my mom had another baby. Yet another sister!

Mommy with Big Sisters Julie and Pattie--and baby Lindsay!
Shortly after the baby was born I got to go to kindergarten. My teacher wasn't exactly sure what to do with a kindergartner who was reading on an upper elementary level so she didn't bother with putting me in a reading group and just sent me to the computer lab with the fifth graders during reading time. I got a ten-year-old buddy who taught me how to program in Logo. I liked that little turtle. I preferred hanging out with older people and wasn't very good at getting along with kids my own age. Oh, and I was obsessed with The Smurfs and Woody Woodpecker for some reason.

Smurfs lunchbox! Can't get cooler.
In kindergarten I was the youngest participant in the Young Authors Conference after I wrote a book--sort of--about colors, and illustrated it. I got to go around to different classrooms in the school and read my book out loud to other students in the upper grades. It was a lot of fun. I'm sure it was around that time that I started telling people I wanted to be an author when I grew up.

In kindergarten I had a party for my birthday and got to invite the entire class. It was pretty awesome. I didn't have another party like that until I was a teenager.

We moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1984. I fixated on the Ewoks cartoon even though I hadn't seen Star Wars and enjoyed dressing up as an Ewok. Haha. In first grade I started getting sent to another school for the gifted program a couple times a week. I mostly seem to remember a lot of free play, geometric blocks, and brain teasers. Also, my dad got a piano and he was a great pianist so he would practice and play and my sisters and I would dance. He started giving me piano lessons when I was about seven. My sister also got piano lessons but wasn't very interested. I kept going with it for a long time and enjoyed playing duets with my dad.

Predictably, I continued to enjoy reading, writing, singing, and art. My family had a lot of artsiness in it--my aunt was a painter, my dad could play several instruments, my grandfather was a cantor, my grandmother was a professional singer and had even been on Broadway--so I had a lot of support and inspiration. I liked writing little poems and of course my teachers and parents enjoyed the heck out of that. In second grade I won a county-wide poster contest and won a savings bond. It was in the newspaper and everything!

I didn't have a whole lot of friends, but my first best friend was a girl called Grace. I don't really remember us having a whole lot in common, but we had fun together. She wasn't into cartoons like I was, though. I started a several-year obsession with The Popples on television and wanted to collect all the toys, and managed to get a pretty impressive collection. My second best friend, Ellen, was my younger sister's age and liked Care Bears, so we had some fun playing with our toys and making up games. Sometimes we'd record us making up stories on a tape recorder, or have dance contests in the hallway playing our Madonna cassettes.

As an older elementary kid I began to go to Hebrew school; my dad's side of the family was Jewish. I was always a language geek so I took to it very well, though I was kind of irritated that I couldn't even spell my name in Hebrew. (The language doesn't have a J. I was using my Hebrew middle name, Rachel. Oddly enough my Hebrew first name is Shira. I don't know why I wasn't using that.) My sister and I also entered Brownie Girl Scouts. It wasn't very fun for me, but occasionally something was enjoyable. I just didn't connect with any of the kids there and didn't like our leader. To tell you the truth I just liked the uniforms, and enjoyed drawing pictures of all the pieces of the different uniforms. I was convinced I was going to go on to Junior Girl Scouts, Cadette Girl Scouts, and someday become a leader. I did actually go on to Juniors, but didn't stay long. It probably would've been different if we actually did the stuff you could earn badges for. Another extracurricular thing we did was gymnastics lessons--my sisters and I did that together, plus our friend Ellen--but other than that I wasn't really an active kid. It was still mostly reading and writing and whatnot.

I joined the fourth grade chorus when I was allowed, and really enjoyed learning multiple parts for the songs or creating harmony for them. I struggled to use my double-deck tape recorder to make harmony recordings but I just couldn't get it to work. Beyond that I began to be very focused on documenting and organizing information, and just loved creating a cataloging system for my books, making lists of favorite songs, and paying attention to various routines. I'd always had a messy desk until fourth grade, and my teacher in that classroom turned me around and helped me get organized. (I thought she was mean at first but she really helped me.) Our family got an Apple II (a cast-off from my computer genius uncle) and we'd play games on it and I learned to program a little, too. I was forever making games and quizzes about my own life. I also started a novel when I was in fourth grade. I never finished it, but it had maybe seven chapters when I got tired of it. I also wrote a funny short story called "Wendy West Saves the World."

Fifth grade brought a "big buddies/little buddies" program and I got paired with an adorable kindergartner. I liked reading with her, and since my youngest sister and my little buddy were in the same class, our families became friends.

I stayed in the chorus for fifth grade and my sister entered it in fourth grade. I really liked singing but I think it wasn't challenging enough for me at that point--the most we ever tried was two-part harmony, and I'd been introduced to music so early in my life that I found it boring--plus we were singing Christmas carols for the holiday concerts and I didn't really relate to it because I wasn't raised with Christmas. My sister and I got photos taken when we were in the same holiday concert and we were both kind of weirded out by posing in front of Christmas trees.

My family took a Disney World trip in 1988 on my grandpa's dime, and we had a family reunion. And weirdly enough, shortly after that we found out my dad's job was transfering him to Florida and we were going to move there. It was really hard on me to leave my best friend. I remember seeing her mom driving her away after our last playdate and running after the car. I was very melodramatic about how I was never going to see her again, and though my mom insisted that we would visit, we never did. That really was the last time I saw her.

My family moved to Sarasota, Florida, in 1989. That was a pretty weird summer: the bank was putting my dad's entire family up in a swanky condo while we house-hunted, and we literally lived on the beach for two months. I got my ears pierced, got a tan, started wearing makeup, and felt pretty oddly grown up.

Yeah, I was eleven.
Middle school was a pretty crap time for me. I didn't adjust well--it was probably some combination of being in a new state, being in a new school, changing classes, and hitting my awkward years. I dealt with a fair amount of bullying, felt directionless, and thought I was ugly. My hair got fried from too much swimming in chlorinated pools--when you have very light hair, it can absorb the chlorine and turn green, which mine did!--and so I had to have it cut. And then I got braces on top of that. I kind of hated everything.

Seventh grade brought joining the orchestra, and I enjoyed learning to play violin and kind of being a music geek. I was still of course very into reading and writing, but I was also pretty depressed and lonely. I took some tennis lessons around age twelve and enjoyed doing that, and my grandparents moved to the area so I started spending more time with them. I also played a lot of video games because our family got a Nintendo system. And I still liked watching cartoons.

In eighth grade I took some jazz dancing lessons and enjoyed them. I had a couple friends from strings class or through school--mostly other people who didn't fit in well--and I stayed with the orchestra through the end of middle school. My parents began to send my sisters and me to an after-school place called Girls, Inc., and I became a junior staff there and supervised in the art room. At age fourteen I started the first novel I would actually finish, entitled Double Vision. It was a silly science fiction book about teenage twins who solved a creepy mystery at their school. I was pretty excited about finally getting to say I wrote a whole book, even though it was of course terrible. My art skills improved a little because the art room staff leader took me under her wing and gave me some pointers.

Before and after lessons with the art teacher

When I graduated to high school I joined the chorus and quickly found out that I was sort of exceptional there, so I threw my whole life into singing. I made friends, won awards, made the All-State chorus, and came out of my shell a little. During that year, I started in beginning all-girls' chorus, but got switched halfway through the year to the more advanced mixed chorus after getting the highest musicianship scores in the 9th/10th grade division in my school. It was all pretty great.

I also got my first boyfriend, Peter, but didn't care for kissing him, so that was pretty weird. Anyway, sadly enough, after I'd auditioned and been accepted into the school's exclusive show choir, I found out my family was moving, and it was pretty devastating. I almost wanted to petition my parents to let me live with my grandparents so I could continue with the chorus, but I still ended up moving to Tampa and finding new friends and new chorus-related accomplishments. I also wrote another book while in high school, and dated another guy, and found my first long-lasting best friend, and still loved cartoons (especially Animaniacs, probably mostly because of the music). I wrote silly stories and made a movie out of one of them with a friend and my sister. I even went on to major in music. But that's not really "childhood" anymore, so I guess that's where I'll end this ramble.

Me, age 15

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