Leggi questo post in: Italiano
Hey, nice to meet you!
My name is Lisa Neri. Here’s the geography: born in California, raised in Massachusetts, university degree-d in New York state, expat-ed in Naples, Italy. Married, two bombtastic kids. My Italian ID card states my official profession as “teacher” (isn’t that bizarre, that you have to put your profession on your ID card here?!). You already know that I love sewing and crafting and knitting and crocheting and embroidering and pretty much anything else that I can do with my hands. But here are seven hilarious, bizarre or at least somewhat interesting things I’ll bet you didn’t know about me:
1. I am 40 years old and have 30 years of work experience in the most disparate of fields.
I started delivering newspapers when I was 10 and around the same time started babysitting. (Now that I’m a parent, I would never trust and PAY a random 10 year old to watch over my kids!) Since then I’ve done all sorts of totally normal clichè student jobs, including but not limited to waitressing, scooping ice cream, making sandwiches and door-to-door canvassing.
(Funny story. I got attacked by a dog on my first day on the canvassing job. I was alone in an affluent neighborhood with houses far from one another, my group’s meetup time was still hours away and this was before the age of cell phones. So I limped to a home where I had just 10 minutes earlier been refused donation to the ecological fundraiser I was working for to ask for a bandaid. When the man saw the carnage on my leg, he instead drove me to the emergency room of the closest hospital. The skin was shredded, so I couldn’t get stitches. I was on workman’s compensation for a week because I couldn’t walk. A week after going back to work, I got fired because I am pretty much the worst door-to-door canvasser that you could imagine.)
I’ve had some cool jobs, too, like organizing vacations for Americans travelling to Italy and driving a car full of cameras and lights around Boston for MTV. Then I’ve had weird jobs, like pouring beer at concerts (it’s actually pretty hilarious to see a bunch of drunkards in cowboy hats when you’re 100% sober and covered in spilled beer), working in high security offices filled with millions of euros worth of jewelry (I actually had two jobs like that) and the one people love hearing about most, dubbing porno movies. I used my regular voice, I faked accents, and I did, um… sound effects. I am just sorry that I don’t know the titles of the movies I dubbed, because that would be such a big laugh to see them!
2. I feel like a secret agent when travelling.
I was born a US citizen and became an Italian citizen in 2009. My children were born Italian citizens and became US citizens as infants. When the four of us travel internationally, we have a total of seven passports. One nice thing about this is that we get to choose our nationality according to the shortest lines at passport control!
3. I have a totally pointless university degree.
I graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with a dual bachellor’s degree in Italian language, literature and culture and Television/Radio/Film. Sounds like the perfect combination for working in communication production in Italy, right? Maybe, but that never happened. After spending a semester abroad in Florence during my junior year, I realized that I didn’t care about my TV/Film studies at all, however I was so close to getting that degree, that it seemed a shame to just give it up. So I turned my Italian minor into a second major and just finished up what I’d already started. And that leads me to…
4. I am a very unconventional English as a Foreign Language teacher.
Before going to Italy for the first time, I’d already studied Italian intensively in the United States. I read classic literature and wrote many long, complex essays. But upon arriving in Italy, I soon realized that in real life, I couldn’t even order a sandwich. Despite my excellent grammar and literary skills, I had no practical skills and couldn’t hold the most simple of everyday conversations.
This had a massive effect in my style when I started teaching English as a Second Language to immigrants in Boston a couple of years later, and then when I moved to Italy and continued teaching English there. I teach grammar when necessary, but I don’t really care too much about it. What I focus on is communicating in some way, shape or form. All I ask of my students is to speak and make themselves understood, even if it’s totally incorrect grammatically, and to understand the gist of what others say to them, even if they don’t understand every word. Not everyone agrees with this style of teaching, and I do make exceptions for example when preparing students for a specific official language test. However my philosophy is that the amazing linguistic grammar, vocabulary and rules that a person knows are totally and utterly useless if he/she doesn’t know how to actually use them in a practical context. (Which is why I made the decision to create a practical tutorial for a real project to practice each specific technical lesson in my “Learn to Machine Sew” course for beginners.)
Thus, in the 18 years since I started teaching English, I’ve gotten to be pretty well-known for my game and conversation-based strategy for language acquisition. Stand up, sit on the floor, jump, dance, move. Turn everything into a game. Talk about everything that happens in your life. Use everything around us as topic of conversation. Talk, laugh, ask questions, laugh some more. Not only do students learn to actually use the language, but they have fun. It’s a win-win!
5. I love cats, dinosaurs and swimming. (Not necessarily in that order.)
My famous quote from when I was about five years old was “I want a kitty that goes meow all by itself.” I got my wish, and have had cats ever since. I’ve also always really loved dinosaurs, though I’ve never actually had one as a pet. My kids are also totally obsessed with dinosaurs and people think that I just go along with them. They don’t realize that I was just as obsessed when I was little and have never stopped loving them. Actually, one of my college-aged sewing projects was a bedsheet from some dinosaur fabric I found in a Salvation Army.
And swimming. I’ve always been dramatically bad at all sports. I couldn’t kick the soccer ball. I couldn’t hit the softball. I couldn’t hold the tennis racket straight. I got smashed to bits in high school dodgeball. I was always the last one picked for teams in gym class. Then in the summer of 2012 I made a deal with my daughter. She didn’t want to take swimming lessons, but I insisted on her learning how to be safe in the water. So I said that I would also take swim lessons. I already knew how to swim, but wasn’t very good. What I learned after a year of that swim course is that I was actually not too bad at swimming and really enjoyed it. And I haven’t stopped since. Last summer I swam my first long distance race, 1 mile, which isn’t that big a deal and is less than what I swim during a regular swim session in my pool, but it was still pretty freakin’ cool. I’m hoping to swim the 2-mile version of that race this coming summer.
6. In a previous life, I was a classically trained musician.
At the beginning of 5th grade, I decided to take up the flute and I excelled at it. I learned other instruments, too (piccolo, piano, clarinet), but the flute was always my strong instrument. I participated in numerous bands, ensembles and other groups and won competitions. This is a picture of me posing on my 18th birthday (which was also the day I graduated high school. Important day, that was!) for a newspaper picture following my performance of some Mozart concerto for a competition I had won first place in. I wasn’t actually playing here. I remember wondering if I should smile for the camera or actually look like I was playing.
I was good, but the thing was that I didn’t actually enjoy it. Being a serious musician is a LOT of work and it wasn’t fun at all. When I got to university and signed up for lessons in the music school, I was aghast at the practice rooms. Students closed up for hours every day inside those tiny rooms with no windows. My new teacher was strict and insisted that I practice a minimum of two hours per day. I rebelled. I quit then and there and never played again. Since then, I frequently have dreams of going on stage with a band or orchestra and having to perform a solo and getting totally overwhelmed by anxiety because I haven’t played in decades. And that (sort of) brings me to:
7. I have suffered from mental health issues for 25 years and counting.
I had a difficult upbringing for reasons that I won’t get into right now. There are other people in my family with depression and/or anxiety. I started having issues with depression when I was 14 or 15. I recognized it a couple of years later when I happened across a Reader’s Digests article about depression with a quiz. I tried to get help, but didn’t get it. I got to be so badly off that my mother was begging me to get professional help in my final year in university because she was afraid of getting a phone call that I’d killed myself.
Since then, when I was 21, I have been on and off medications, therapy and all sorts of “alternative” treatments. I tend to go through one or two particularly bad depressive periods per year, each lasting usually a couple of weeks. Anxiety had always been my Achille’s Heel, frequently jump starting depressive nose dives, until it came out in center stage in August 2017. I had been having the occasional panic attack, though I hadn’t realized at the time that that’s what they were. But that summer things had gotten to the point where I developed full-on anxiety disorder with multiple panic attacks per day and debilitating fear between them. I was pretty much paralyzed and unable to function. If you have never had the displeasure to have a panic attack, I sincerely hope for your sake that it stays that way. You have to understand that a panic attack is nothing short of outright and utter terror, often exacerabated by the fact that you can’t even understand WHY you’re so terrorized. There are also many physical symptoms, among which convulsions, racing heart and nausea. I could barely eat for weeks at a time and I was a total wreck.
I do plan to write about these struggles at some point (I have in my Newsletter, and my heart nearly exploded with the outpouring of love and support that my beautiful readers gave me), but what I want to say right now is that mental health disorders such as, but not limited to, depression and anxiety, are VERY common, but the worst thing about them is that there is a terrible social stigma attached to them, meaning that frequently people don’t want to talk about them, get help, or even admit that there is a problem at all. And they’re invisible, therefore too often overlooked or considered insignificant.
Please, if you think that you might be suffering from depression or anxiety or any other psychological difficulty, please, please, PLEASE talk to someone you trust about it and seek professional help. If you don’t feel like you can (I know all about being so deep in depression that you couldn’t care less if you just sink into the floor and disappear, never mind looking for a therapist, social worker or doctor to help you), ask someone who loves you to do it for you. Please. If nothing else, do it for me, because it breaks my heart every time I hear of a person who suffers in silence. Seriously. If you want to reach out, write to me at [email protected]
Nice to meet you, too!
Wait a sec! I can’t meet you until I know something about you, too! I would love to hear how you discovered Cucicucicoo, if we have anything in common, or if you have any funny/bizarre/interesting stories to tell, too! Send me a quick email at [email protected] so that we can finish our introductions!
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