Where are you from?

I was born in Florida but I didn't live there long enough to remember any of it. My mother's family is from Knoxville, TN and my father's family is from Canton, NC. I grew up moving back and forth between the two after they divorced. I live in Asheville, NC currently, but have also lived in California and Nashville, TN.

Is that why you don't speak with a Southern accent?

Pretty much. 

Why did you major in English?

It seemed like a good idea at the time, much like all the other bad decisions I made between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. (Seriously. Don't major in English unless:
  • you really want to teach middle/high school literature,
  • or you are 100% sure you're going to post-secondary in something that's actually lucrative [hint: this does not include master's or doctoral programs in English, or anything else in the humanities], 
  • or you are independently wealthy and won't, you know, need to support yourself later, 
  • or you really, really like waiting tables, folding shirts, or other similarly demeaning career paths.
If you like to read, get a library card. If you like to talk about books, start or join a book club. I don't consider my lit degree a waste of time, but it was definitely a waste of money and resources that could have been better spent elsewhere. To paraphrase Good Will Hunting: all of the books I read were in the library.)

Seriously, though, I was originally planning on going into a doctoral program or publishing after I graduated. I just didn't count on hating every moment of the Honors Colloquium at Vanderbilt University, which was a program designed for high-ranking English majors to test the waters. I didn't like reading criticism, theory was far too abstract for my pragmatic sensibilities, and writing a thesis was torture. I knew that there was no way I'd ever make it through a dissertation, so I quit while I was ahead. As for the publishing thing, I wasn't counting on the market crashing and burning less than a year after I finished (2007).

Is that why you read so fast?

More or less, though I've always been a fairly quick reader. I'm not a speed-reader, though. I never took the classes and don't use the techniques. I find reading a lot less enjoyable if I try to do it at an artificially fast pace.

I also don't watch much television (I follow three one-hour shows, and only watch if the episode is new). I kicked the habit between my last two years of high school and all four years of college when I didn't have time to do my schoolwork, sleep, have a social life, AND spend my afternoons watching repeats of Friends. I never really got back into it. The average American watches over four hours of television a day, so that's a lot of productivity lost spent glued to the tube, and since I read at a rate of 100-200 pages an hour, depending on what I'm reading, it's easy for me to read a novel or shorter work of non-fiction in a day.

I do watch old episodes of shows I like and documentaries on netflix while I'm knitting. I need the background noise to keep from getting distracted.

What about the women's and gender studies minor? Do you hate men or something?


Why didn't you go to law school? I remember you taking the LSAT and contacting schools.

Because I had already learned my lesson about getting worthless degrees the hard way, and it was going to multiply my loan debt by a factor of ten (at least). I also have several friends who are lawyers, and the lifestyle and workload didn't square with what I would consider to be a healthy work/life balance.

So what are you going to do now?

I am currently working on my Master's in Social Work at Western Carolina University. I'll be done in May 2013. Hopefully, I will be able to acquire gainful employment after that.

I am also attempting to learn Spanish, taking classes at AB-Tech whenever my schedule allows. It's my third language, and I'm pretty excited about being able to 1) effectively communicate with Spanish-speaking immigrants and 2) read Spanish literature in its original form. One day, I will conquer Don Quixote.

So...knitting. That's kind of a weird thing for someone in their twenties to do, isn't it?

I guess? I've never had a whole lot in common with people my age, so most people who know me well see the knitting as yet another Kinda Weird Thing Lauren Does. I can also sew and crochet.

I learned how to sew when I was a little girl. My grandmother was a seamstress who made costumes for local theatre productions. She's the one who taught me the basics on an old-school treadle machine. I learned how to cross-stitch and needlepoint when I was in elementary school. I've never really been into decorative stitching, but I have recently (with the help of my stepmother, who is amazingly talented at quilting) gotten back into sewing. I have my own machine and everything!

My little sister taught me to crochet when I was nineteen. I was pretty obsessed for a while, but don't do it as much anymore. For some reason, the motions I use to do it really kill my wrists.

I taught myself to knit when I was twenty-one. That I continue to do more or less obsessively. I LOVE knitting, and never leave home without something to work on.

Where did you learn how to cook?

Mostly from my parents and other family members. Where I'm from, being able to cook is A Big Deal if you're a girl, and my mother had my sister and me cooking as soon as we were tall enough to reach the stove (though I'm not sure how much of that was her reinforcing gender roles vs. her not wanting to get up at 7 AM on Saturday mornings to prepare breakfast. Scrambled eggs were the first thing I learned how to cook for myself). She comes from a very large family, and gatherings often found her, my grandmother, and my aunts in the kitchen preparing the meal. I would sometimes be conscripted into potato-peeling or other tasks. While I was in there, I'd pick up on how everything else was made. Later, in high school, my mother instituted the house rule that if you cooked, you didn't have to clean, so that was an additional incentive for me to acquire cooking skills.

My dad, for his part, is an avid cook and would often show me how to make things when I visited him. While my mom's cooking repertoire involves your standard Southern/American/Tex-Mex fare, my dad is all about learning new techniques and mastering different types of cuisine. His food background comes from working in restaurants for many years (as opposed to picking it up from family members), so his tastes and skills have always run in the opposite direction to my mother's. Between the two of them, I learned quite a bit.

Beyond that, I worked in restaurants more or less continuously between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, and I picked up a lot of skills and recipes by watching the cooks work and reading the recipe books. When you work in a kitchen for as long as I did, the process of cooking becomes a lot less mysterious and intimidating, and you get good at recognizing which things work and which ones don't, both in terms of technique and ingredients. That being said, I primarily cook from recipes, not from memory. I own several cookbooks, and am constantly expanding my collection. I try to cook one new thing a week. Sometimes new things come out really well. Others...don't. I plan on documenting both my successes and my failures here.