When I was born in 1976, my mother wanted to name me Alison.

But my father, an engineer, worked with Alison Tranmissions, and decided he didn't want a transmission for a daughter.

I got Marissa instead.

My older sister (by 9 years) Michelle was named for the Beatles song. I'm not sure if it's better to be named for something, or unnamed for something.

My parents emigrated to America in the 1960s, leaving behind all my family in England. My sister and I were granted dual citizenship of the US and the UK, and I can fake an accent with the best of them.

I grew up in a neighborhood teeming with trees and perfect streets for rollerskating. I played killer games of Statues, House, Bank, Monopoly and hopscotch. I did have to walk to school, uphill, in the snow more often than not.

But I never minded when I got to ride my bike.

Every few summers, my parents would ship me off to England the day after school got out, and fly me back the day before school started. It was there that I realized I was independent, creative and had entirely too much imagination. Having to entertain yourself for three and a half months with no other friends the same age will do that.

I had imaginary friends.

I was a geek in high school, but (I think) a loveable one. I was in every activity, though I excelled when it came to Speech Team, newspaper staff and golf.

I used to be skinnier. Must have been all the walking and swinging of golf clubs.

My first car was my parents first car in the United States - a 1967 Chevy Malibu.

It was white, and it was gorgeous.

And fast.

When I was 18, I broke both my wrists rollerblading. I had two casts, tickets to Lollapalooza, a patient boyfriend and a lot of trouble washing my hair. It was a memorable summer.

I struggled with where to go to university, but not what to study. I was set for a career in journalism, and eventually decided on Indiana University.

As it turns out, the uni choice was easy but the major decision wasn't. I switched to English and Political Science after a spirited 3am debate about what to do with my life.

This while playing Dr. Mario on the Nintendo.

The first summer after going away to school, I came home to my parents, worked in a plastics factory that permanently injured my back, earned as much money doing overtime at 3am as I could, barely had enough energy to see my friends and fought continually with my parents.

I never lived under my parents roof again.

I was active in student government at IU, and served the longest term to date as a student body senator. One of my best friends became the student body president - he gets an FBI file for that, but I don't think I do.

I worked at the IU Main Library as a shelver, and on quick approach to senior year, decided to figure out what to do with my life. Libraries beckoned me, and I figured it was something I could do.

I never had a dream job. Most people do, but I never did. Unless you count being a famous novelist...

I worked in the IU Libraries throughout my graduate studies, paying every dime of school and taking longer to graduate to take advantage of the free credit hours.

Putting myself through undergraduate and graduate school is something I'm still most proud of.

I knew I wanted to work in public libraries, but I didn't know where. With a relaxed interview and a flip of a coin, I ended up at my first professional librarian position, and there I still remain, but now as the director of the whole enchilada. I may grouse about my job, but it's taught me everything I ever needed to know about librarianship, and I get to do something fun and interesting every day.

Of course, there were some things school didn't teach me - like how to fix a urinal, throw unruly kids out of the library, or valiantly explain that I don't know anything about medicine, though I play a doctor on TV.

When I was 22, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. That changed my life profoundly, and forever.

I'm involved in Relay for Life because of her.

My sister is my father's daughter, and I am my mother's. Ironically, Michelle looks more like Mum and I look more like Dad.

I was in Prague visiting my grandfather, along with my sister, on September 11th.

For days we were trapped, out of touch, terrified and alone in a country of non-Americans. The Czechs are my favorite people, and Prague my favorite city on the planet, but I would have given anything to be back home on that fateful day.

The ordeal forged a bond between my sister and I that will never be broken, and for that, I'm grateful.

It seems my days are never empty, but I don't lead a jet set, jam packed life. I'm sometimes happiest watching NASCAR, quilting, gabbing with friends on the computer, and noshing on a Sunday afternoon recipe.

I'm a Taurus, born in the year of the Dragon.

I seem to have a zen for rock stars who wear leather pants and a lot of eyeliner.

I can recite all the dialogue from The Hunt for Red October, The Sound of Music, Bridget Jones's Diary, Pride and Prejudice, and Ocean's 11.

I miss my Cabrio convertible.

I read a lot.

I'm sometimes more lonely than I admit, and sometimes I can't wait to be alone.

I'm left handed.

I want to learn how to ride a motorcycle.

I vote Democrat.

I have phone fear, fish fear, and a fear of heights.

I believe woman *can* live on pizza alone.

I'm an atheist.

I'm a trusting soul, and I want to believe what people say. I've been told I'm a good listener, an even better writer, and a good hugger.

I can live with that.