Bienvenidos and welcome to the blog of Manda Newlin, professional writer/copyeditor, amateur pop-culture quipper and perennial observer. I’m nuts about words, grammar, bookstores, foreign accents, DVR and iTunes. I enjoy one-on-one conversations, eavesdropping in coffee shops, learning other peoples’ life stories and discovering universal truths. Here’s what I know ….

Friday, August 31, 2007

I may not be invisible after all ...

There’s a great line in “The Princess Diaries” where the main character, in all her bad-hair, bespectacled blandness, laments to her friend, “Somebody sat on me again.” (It happens early on, before she gets a makeover and turns into beautiful Anne Hathaway.)

While I’ve never been sat upon by a stranger, I have had enough similar experiences to make me feel invisible at best, not worth remembering at worst.

Two recent examples:

  1. A woman at the YMCA, with whom I shared a 40-minute conversation, looked at me with ZERO recognition the very next week — and even stuck out her hand to introduce herself to me. I could recall her name (first and last), her kids’ names and ages and how she met her husband, but she didn’t remember speaking to me face to face for 40 minutes!

  2. The chick in a small-group meeting, who, after sitting across from me every week for 18 consecutive months, asked if I was joining the group for the first time.

Is it me? If I were more dynamic in conversation or more striking, or spoke with a cool accent, I’d register enough impact so people would at least remember my name, even incorrectly. Right?!

But now there’s some relief for me — and you, if you’re a fellow invisible — in the form of an actual medical condition called prosopagnosia. People who don’t like words with more than two syllables call it “face blindness.”

Essentially, the condition impairs a person’s ability to recognize faces. Prosopag…, er, face blindness can render the afflicted unable to identify even people they’ve known for years. According to a study published by The American Journal of Medical Genetics, as many as one in 50 people have some degree of face blindness. (And it so happens many of them are clustered in my township.)

Sadly, there’s no medical treatment. Those who have it rely on cues like hairstyle, voice or context to recognize family, friends and neighbors (or perhaps fellow YMCA or small-group members).

So the next time an acquaintance flashes you that offensively blank look of non-recognition, you can chalk it up to prosopag …, uh, face blindness.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Up and at ’em – it’s boot camp time!

I’ve always had this idea that it would be ‘fun’ to go through military boot camp training: tackling relentless obstacle courses, belly-crawling through mud, shouting out “sir, yes, sir!” to spiteful drill instructors and ultimately digging deep inside myself to discover some untapped well of energy, strength and endurance.

With this in mind, I signed up in July to participate in a boot camp exercise program at a nearby church. It’s a well-run, four-day-a-week regimen of strength training, cardio workouts and distance runs/walks, topped off with a bit of prayer and praise, all between the hours of 5:15 and 6:15 a.m. For the last five weeks, I’ve sweated more before 6:30 a.m. than most people do all day.

Alas, today was my final day – and just as military recruits emerge from basic training with new perspective and insight into their physical and mental capacity, so have I:

  • Mortal people aren’t meant to be out of bed at 4:30 a.m. If the sun hasn’t bothered to get up, then neither should we.
  • The definition of a ‘heavy’ hand weight is entirely subjective.
  • It takes about 12 times longer to sweat off the calories contained in a cookie-dough Blizzard than it does to consume one.
  • I was so much better at jumping rope when I was in second grade.
  • If I can do it, anybody can.

While I didn’t come out of boot camp in the form of Jessica Alba, I do believe I’ll enlist again when the program resumes next spring. But for now, I’m going back to bed ....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Relax, Cayman is waiting ....

The battered black suitcase had been taking up space on the bedroom floor since my husband and I returned from vacation two weeks ago. Tired of kicking, tripping and stepping over it, I decided yesterday to finally unpack the thing and return it to its rightful place in the attic. In so doing, I was rewarded with a sweet surprise. There at the bottom of the luggage, underneath some plastic bags, a pair of flip-flops and a stack of maps, was a small handful of sugary white sand I’d unwittingly imported from the pristine shores of Grand Cayman.


With sand in hand, I could practically smell the bougainvillea, taste the rum punch and feel the relentless rays we’d soaked up in July. Those crystals gave me the reminder I needed that, although my vacation (from work, from parenting, from Real Life) had ended, Cayman would continue on. The idyllic island will wait – tucked in the western end of the British West Indies, a piece of paradise on Earth – until the next vacation comes around. Until then, I’ll hang on to my sandy little souvenir.


God bless Cayman!