Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rituals

Seeing as it's New Years Eve (and, if you listen to the Mayans, the last one), I think it's appropriate to talk about rituals. I really love rituals. I'm not talking about virgin-sacrificing rituals or rituals like the changing of the guard, I'm talking about personal rituals. I happen to think that having individualized personal rituals is really fulfilling and worthwhile and important.
Rituals are similar to joy-triggers, but, as I see it, they're not the same. Joy-triggers are things that go in my gratitude journal - little things that make me happy. Rituals are things I do because I like the continuity in my life. I like having little things that are always the same, that I am in control of. I'm a big fan of control. And, I like the place they put me in mentally. They serve as grounding forces so I can put away whatever it is I need to put away and move on and focus on what's in front of me.
The ten minute drive to school is some sort of ritual. Since my parents took my car away, that ten minute drive has been the thing I missed most; I never knew how important it was. Having a little bit of time to be all by myself and just let my mind graze as NPR plays in the background is exactly what I need to handle a day. I think it serves as a kind of meditation. Sure, maybe actually meditating would be better, but I love my drives as an alternative. It helps me have some sense of tranquility and inner-calmness.
Perhaps my most uncompromising ritual is blessing the food. No, I am not that crazy girl who prays at restaurants. But I've been blessing dinner my entire life. It's what we do in my family. It's gotten to the point where I have a really hard time eating dinner at home, mine or someone else's, without praying. It's a ritual. And even though it's rather ironic, and a little embarrassing (I have more than once insisted on praying at someone else's house), I love it. I love taking a moment to feel grateful for the food that I am incredibly fortunate to have. I like that it's not just a "dinner is on the table everyone devour it now because we all eat like teenage boys" thing, that there's a pause to be grateful and come together. I think that a moment to focus brings unity to meals. I really love blessing the food.
Another teeny tiny ritual is burning candles. I have three candles on my nightstand and when I come home from school, the first thing I do when I go in my room is light my candle. Then I change and open up my backpack and watch Colbert Report and start on the homework. But I like having a few moments to light the candles and take a little break from the world. To do something just because it makes my environment a little nicer and a little more peaceful.
My favorite part of my morning ritual is listening to my morning playlist the consists mostly of the Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and U2. It makes getting out of bed and getting going that much more fun, and I love the tone it sets for my day. It helps me have a good outlook for the Stats test I won't pass or the disgrace of a Hamlet paper I turned in. Things will be okay because Bono and Jerry Garcia say so.
          Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry any more, 
          'Cause when life looks like easy s
treet, there is danger at your door.
          Think this through with me, let me know your mind.

          Woh - oh, what I want to know, is are you kind?
The other really wonderful part of my morning ritual is putting on mascara. The rest of my makeup I do as quickly as possible, sometimes I just skip it. But I always take my time with mascara. My Diorshow Blackout mascara is one of my favorite things on this planet. It's the queen of all mascaras. I love taking a few extra minutes and taking slow sweeping mascara strokes, making sure each lash is tinted and there aren't any stickies.
Bed time ritual is also really lovely. I read 10 pages or so in whatever book I happen to be reading, even if it's homework reading. Then I turn on some music (lately it's the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss album), but I turn the volume down and I write in my journal. I write with Pilot G2 pens, which happen to be my very favorite (I have a whole Godiva chocolate tin full of them), and I write it all down. I can't go to sleep without writing. Somedays I lay everything out on the page, some days I just put a quote in my quote journal, and somedays it's five things I'm grateful for that day. Whatever it is, I need to put words in my journal in order to feel like the day has passed and I can move on to the next one, whatever it happens to hold.
I even like Sunday morning ritual. I like getting out of bed with lots of time to get ready, so I can shave my legs and deep condition my hair and take extra long to put on my mascara. I like dressing up.  I like wearing my Joan and David heels and my Urban Outfitters pencil skirt or my Tracy Reese dress. I like that I have one day a week when I get myself all dolled up.
My very favorite ritual is cleansing. I run the warm water just a little, so it's a thin steady stream, and wash the day off my face. Lately, my favorite face wash is the Philosophy "purity made simple" cleanser that I got for Christmas. Sometimes, I use Cetaphil, and the smell takes me back to my summer in Europe, because I took one very large container of Cetaphil and with that humidity, I was using it like six times a day. Whatever it is, I love massaging the cleanser into my skin and I love the smell and I love rinsing it away with warm water. I love patting my face dry and enjoying the moment when my skin is entirely clean. It's like no matter what mess I am dealing with in the rest of my life, I have that one moment of purity a day.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Limits

I know I post a billion videos, but TED lectures make my life way better and consequently I like sharing them. One of the most entertaining ones I've seen was Caroline Casey's talk on limits. She's wonderful to listen to - she starts out by talking about how surprised she was when, on her 17th birthday, her parents told her she was legally blind and had been since birth - but she's also a really really good message.

http://www.ted.com/talks/caroline_casey_looking_past_limits.html

My experience has been that I put limits on myself because I get horribly terrified of failure. I like to pretend I always win. Which is stupid. Because I don't. Because no one does. But it is still really terrifying to want something that I may not be able to have. So, more often than not, I have to very deliberately force myself to push my boundaries. To submit that essay to the lit mag. To take on that giant project. To try not to make enemies out of people I wish I could banish from my life. And I don't always succeed, big shock. But after there's been a little time for dust to settle, I rarely regret trying. I suppose looking past limits, as difficult as it is, is a valuable pursuit.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by all the valuable pursuits in life.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Shrimp Eater

When Samuel and I were little and spending time in Hawaii, I loved to swim and snorkel. It was kinda my thing. Samuel liked to fish. He and his friend Jacob spent their time with their little fishing rods in the ocean. They started off just catching little reef fish, mostly wrasse, but then they moved on to eels and flounders and the like. But, before they even caught wrasse, the boys would take little fishing nets, crouch on lava rock walls and catch the little paleolithic "shrimp" that swam around the shallow parts of the reef. I say "shrimp" because they're  creatures that are an opaqueish white (I think they have no pigment), about an inch long and about as thick as a flower stem with bug eyes and very long antennae that we for some reason called "shrimp".
Jacob's dad, who grew up in Hawaii, taught them to catch "shrimp". I remember the day very distinctly, it was the first time he brought a fishing net to the beach and told the boys that they were going to go catch things. The boys followed him like puppy dogs, and naturally, I was curious too, so I came along. He swiped the net in the shallow water and it came up with a "shrimp" in it. He pinched it between his forefinger and thumb, held it out to us and said "who wants to eat it?" And for some reason, the same strange compulsion that once led me to put a snake down my shirt for $20, I said I would eat the "shrimp". 
So I grabbed the thing from him and put it in my mouth, still jumping. I crunched down and swallowed as fast as I could. It jumped as it went down.
Since I was keeping up with the boys, I couldn't grimace or shriek so I smiled. "That wasn't too bad." And so I became The Shrimp Eater. And for years and years to follow, on days when the wrasse fishing wasn't good, Sam and Jacob would grab their little nets and go catch "shrimp". I ate them, fresh out of the sea and still jumping, until I grew up enough to decide that it was gross and I was going to stick to smoothies. 
Next Christmas, when all the little kids are here, I'm going to pass on the crown. I'm fairly confident Lizzy will eat shrimp.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Green Hair and Blue Eyes

One of the things I was most horrified to find as I started my creative writing class was that there is lots of "here, imitate this piece". I don't know why I was so horrified by that, maybe because it felt like it didn't require talent. But I'm coming to terms with the fact that imitation is like training wheels for writing. If you're going to learn to write, why not learn from the master.
In one of my classes, we're reading John Dos Passos's U.S.A. trilogy. In the trilogy, he has sections called the camera eye which are both brilliant and terrifying. One of our assignments was to imitate that. I had so much fun doing it. Which was funny, because I was expecting to hate it:

~~~~

it starts at 100000 and it keeps going up but the girl with blue eyes and green hair takes no notice because she is looking out from the lanai at the water that is making waves as big as the mountains she knows back home the important number was nine which was my age the year before so it seemed small like a younger child and i seemed big and more important and more powerful because i could breathe underwater

and i didn't know what it meant to lose everything when everything is nothing

but 100000 was 300000 and i was not more important than 300000

the girl with blue eyes and green hair sports her purple suit and informs the Father that it is time to go and the Father who loves her and knows she wants to go and knows she thinks she can do it will not crush the spirit of the girl with blue eyes and green hair and gets the keys and off they go

when they go it is not 300000 it is 100000

i got there and saw first the emptiness the unmanned tower the empty sitting places the lines that looked silly without cars the clouds that hid the sun the people that were not there then i saw the peaks made out of water

the Father sees danger

you run towards the water which is feels like home and you are not afraid because you can breathe underwater and you are not sure if it is real your feet touch the bottom and you are tossed all around and there is water in your ear and you do not think about the 100000 that will become 300000 you have fun and later you are not sure if it is socially responsible to have had fun

but the girl with blue eyes and green hair did not care if it was socially responsible to have fun and the Father cared more about me than socially responsible

~~~~

Here's the "gloss" that explains it:

Breaks have always meant trips to Hawaii. I was always that kid who came back from winter break with hair turned green from to much chlorine. I was snorkeling around the bay by the time I was 6 and I was certified for scuba diving at 10, boasting I could breathe underwater. In December 2004, there was a size 9 earthquake in the Indian ocean which caused a tsunami that killed approximately 300,000 people, many of whom were impoverished. We were in Hawaii, I was 10, and didn’t really understand that it was a mass tragedy. What I did understand was that there were giant waves at the beach. So I convinced my dad to take me to the beach. When we got there, it was the emptiest I’ve ever seen that beach. There were big waves crashing on the shore, four or five feet high. I stayed where I could touch, as promised, and laughed as the arms of the ocean embraced me. I dived under the waves, rode them into shore, got pulled under a few too many times, and enjoyed the rollercoaster the ocean had turned into. It was the best day I’ve ever had at the beach. I look back on it and I am kinda horrified at the irreverence of the act (you're not supposed to go to the beach when there is natural disaster that kills hundreds of thousands of people), but I'm also really glad I did it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Auto Correct

Kat and I are genius at texting.
For example, one day, I was having a bad day. We had the following conversation.

Kat: Yo, my mom might lose her hand
What I read: your mom might lose her hand
Me (after calling my parents freaking out, having come to the conclusion she was just screwing with me): What the hell? You give me that after the day I've had?
Kat: You're right, I'm so so sorry. That was so insensitive of me.
I don't reply. 5 minutes later I realize what I've read.
Me: I AM A HORRIBLE BEST FRIEND. I read it wrong. Sorry about your mom.

Somehow, she still speaks to me.

Better yet, my phone autocorrects "hurrying" as "birthing". This had lead conversations straight out of Damn you autocorrect. It doesn't help that when I'm hurrying I'm usually multi-tasking/texting at red lights so I don't read my text before I send it. It's happened several times, but Kat always goes along with it.

Me: Hey, sorry I'm late, I'm birthing. Should be there pretty quickly. I'm almost done.
Kat: When were you going to tell me you were pregnant?
Me: Are you talking about those damn baby dreams? I'm not actually pregnant.
Kat: If you're not pregnant, then how are you birthing?
Me: Damn spell check
Kat: Who's the father?
Me: God.
Kat: That only works the first time. You're about 2000 years too late.
I don't reply
Kat: I'll support you thorough all the consequences of your bad decisions.
I don't reply
Kat: You're getting out of control. First the party and now this. I'm going to stage an intervention.
I don't reply
Kat: If you really want me to, I'll tell everyone it's a virgin birth. I'm that good a best friend.
I don't reply
Kat: Can I be the God-mother. Get it? God-mother. Because it's "God's" child.
I don't reply.
Kat: Please name it after me.
I don't reply
Kat: Where the hell are you? How long does this take?
Me: I'm birthing as fast as I can!
Kat: Hahahahahaha you did it again.
Me: I WANT A NEW BEST FRIEND.
Kat: Good luck with that, whore.
Me: I'M NO WHORE I'M A SACRED VESSEL.
Kat: Like I said, only works once.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

I don't know why today is called Boxing day. Funny enough, it's become the Brits version of Black Friday, but it seems even more gluttonous, because you've just gotten presents and you can't shop under the guise of buying Christmas for the rest of your family. Those crazy Brits and their holidays. In Ireland, because the Irish cannot have the same holidays as the Brits, Boxing Day known as the Day of the Wren, which I think is much prettier. Germany calls it Second Christmas Day, which is just stupid, because then you've got three days of Christmas (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Second Christmas) and you've made a whole bloody weekend out of it. And in South Africa, after Mandela took the presidency in '94, it became Day of Goodwill, which is very much in tune with Mandela, who I love.
More importantly, today is my half birthday.
I happen to have the best birthday in the world. See, it's almost exactly six months away from Christmas, which makes present-getting nicely spread out throughout the year. I mean, if you're going to get presents twice a year for no real reason, they might as well come at nice intervals.
The only downside of my birthday is that it always got skipped when I was little. Since my actual birthday is in the summer, they would normally celebrate it on my half birthday, which was always over Christmas break. So I didn't get a good in-class birthday celebration. I feel cheated.

Well, Christmas over here was good. We didn't go to the beach, which made me sad. But it was Sunday, and God forbids us to go to the beach on Sunday, so we hung around the condo. I started As I Lay Dying, which I got for Christmas. It's a beautiful book, but it's also a little overwhelming. I find I have to stop and reread parts over and over again to figure them out. But I think they're worth it.

My back is sunburned. Horrible. I hate sun burn. But I'm also getting a moderate tan elsewhere. It's always nice to have a skin tone that does not look sickly pale.  Maybe I'll go back to Utah and be miserably cold all the time, but show off my tan.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Emma: Merry Christmas Guest Post

Here is my Christmas present to you, dear reader.
The last week of school, Emma told me she would guest post on my blog. This is a huge treat for all of us. Emma is a writer. She can make words beautiful in ways no one else can. She's also a really wonderful debate partner, club co-founder, event attender, off-roading-over-medians adventurer, and occasional confidant. Emma is that friend who I don't spend a lot of time with but who I can talk to about anything. And she has beautiful Tongan hair that is not straight and blonde, which is always a nice change in Utah. She's going to be at Columbia next fall, where I am sure she will do wonderful lovely world-changing things. If nothing else, she will be kind to everyone I she meets (she's that kind of person), which might be the most radical thing you can do as a freshman at an Ivy League college. I know I am very lucky to have Emma as a friend.

~~~~~

A good jacket, flour, Ms. Powers, and Microsoft Word are just a few examples. In their respective spheres (wardrobe, a Western diet, a Waterford education, computer programs), each is integral. Irreplaceable, and frankly, necessary. A staple.

I first heard the term “staple” thrown around by my dietician aunt, and then thrown around even more by Stacy and Clinton on TLC’s What Not to Wear. Staples have always been secretly fascinating to me. They’re mundane things, made incredible simply by the fact that we cannot seem to function properly without them. For instance, peppermint tea. Insignificant in and of itself, but I don’t know if I’d survive each dreary, polluted Sandy winter without it. Another example: black flats. They’re the cure-all to any fashion dilemma. Formal, casual, comfortable, simple, classic – I swear you could survive off black flats alone. They’re the rice and beans of the footwear department.

As I look back on them, my family’s Christmases all revolve around a few key staples. And really, that’s what I love about Christmas. Not the novelty, but the tradition. The holiday season is like one big play we perform, year after year, and the lines are sacred in their familiarity. We sing the same songs and say the same things and smile the same smiles and go the same places and make the same mistakes.

My Christmas staples are simple. They are insignificant, and mundane, and holy. They’re important because they’ve happened before, and will, without a shadow of a doubt, happen again again again.

So here they are. A few of them, at least. The Uluave-Miller Christmas staples.

The Clauses

I don’t remember when exactly, but one year my parents decided “From Mom” or “From Dad” wasn’t enough when it came to gift giving. So they started putting different names on the tags. Last year, I received presents from “Ms. Rands”, “College Board”, “Buddy and Spike” (our two pet doves), “Hanukah Harry”, and “Future Dwight”, as well as a variety of Clauses: Jammy Claus, Foodie Claus, AP Chem Claus, Mickey Claus, and even Obama Claus. Apparently Santa has quite an extensive network of gift bearing relatives.

This year I’m holding out for something from Tiffany Claus, but Harmon’s Claus is known to be a much more frequent visitor. 

BNL

In true Miller fashion, I consider myself a Christmas music aficionado. And “Barenaked for the Holidays” is definitely my favorite Christmas CD. It lives in my car from about mid-November till December 26th, classic carols with some interesting twists. My favorite song has got to be “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlement/We Three Kings”. Sarah McLachlan even shows up about a minute into it, and I’m totally confident that it’s the best Sarah McLachlan song there is, and the only one that would not go well with a Humane Society commercial. Have a listen

Food Storage

Every year, under the tree, I find at least six very heavy, carefully wrapped cylindrical gifts. I don’t have to open them to know what they are: freeze dried, nutritionally dense, expiration date free cans of food. My parents don’t often stock the food storage closet in our basement, and Christmas seems to be their time of redemption. And there’s something really practical about turning groceries into Christmas presents. For one thing, it extends the present opening period by about fifteen minutes. And it certainly beefs up the haul under the tree a decent amount.

Geeky Movie Marathons

What film to watch after Christmas dinner is a pivotal decision. In fact, it’s arguably the most important choice you’ll make post-feast. In years of making bad decisions, my family has finally come to realize that nerdy sci-fi/fantasy series are really the way to go. They don’t require much effort on your part. They’re fun. They’re geeky. And the “series” part guarantees up to nine hours of entertainment (because let’s face it, at the end of a long Christmas, 137 minutes just isn’t going to cut it). Movies of Christmases past include Star Wars (never the prequel though – Hayden Christensen single handedly ruined II and III, and the Phantom Menace, while there was some potential, couldn’t hold a candle to the originals) and Lord of the Rings. This year I think it’ll have to be Firefly.

Moment of nerdy fangirling: Firefly is the greatest TV show that ever has existed or ever will exist. Like, really. I mean it. Seriously. Here. The pilot will be on hulu for another week or two (they rotate through the 14 episodes, five at a time). Damn you, Fox for canceling. Damn you.

Penny

Every year, in the toe of my over-sequined stocking, I find a shiny penny, because that’s what they got in Little House on the Prairie. I get a Clementine for the same reason.

Silent Night

Living in Germany for two years on an LDS mission, my dad picked up the tradition of Advent. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas we light a candle and read parts of the nativity story. It’s really a lovely tradition. When I go to college, I think I’ll be taking a copy of our Advent binder with me, and lighting candles in my dorm when the RA isn’t looking. We sing songs and read the familiar words. We listen to the Messiah, and everyone is under strict orders to conduct with both hands the “Unto Us a Child is Born” segment. It must be quite a sight, the five of us flailing wildly in the living room, belting Handel at the top of our lungs.

One night of Advent we always sing Silent Night. We begin with the first verse, followed by a verse of Silent Night in the language of your choosing. My dad opts for German, my mom for Spanish, my siblings for some variation of pig Latin and gibberish. It’s become my favorite hymn. Not Silent Night itself, but the version we sing. “Stille Nacht Noche de Paz Sirentonaitu Sillafailelefent Naillafait”.

Also, if you sing Silent Night to our doves, Buddy and Spike, they laugh. They don’t do it for any other song.

The Present I Bought for Myself

Some call it a perversion of the holiday to buy things for yourself, but I think it’s important to buy one gift for yourself each Christmas. For one thing, it’s fun. Christmas shopping for yourself is different from regular shopping. It’s special. You buy less and look harder for that one perfect thing. For a self-gift to be done right, you have to choose it carefully. You have to purchase it as carefully as you purchase gifts for the people you love, and you have to wrap it and not use it until Christmas morning. No peeking.

This year, I bought myself a ring. It looks like this



and I love it. Though I did realize about halfway through my fourth store that what I was really after was this:




It’s light blue for Columbia, and the card is affectionately signed, “From Self-Congratulatory Kate Middleton Wannabe Claus”.

Christmas Films

I hate re-watching movies. I can’t handle it. There’s no point in watching a film if you know how it ends. My exception to this rule, however, is Christmas movies. Three of them. Elf, A Christmas Story, and Love, Actually. All are brilliant. The first two are entirely family friendly. Downright heartwarming. The last one is not. But it’s got Collin Firth. And it’s really, really funny. One year, my parents both got it for each other, so we own two copies. I think I love the fact that, of all the Christmas movies in the world, they both decided upon the irreverent, vulgar, R-rated British comedy. It’s heartwarming too.

This is how I want to be proposed to:



By now this blog post is way too long. So I’ll go away. Thanks for reading and all that. I’m leaving you with a quote from the above-mentioned movie. It’s fitting, I think, because the final, insignificant, wonderful staple of my family’s Christmases is, without a doubt, simple love.

And in all honesty, I just really love that movie.

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.”

Much love, and merry Christmas to you all.

-Emma

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is Ron Carlsons's "The H Street Sledding Record"
"How do you like it?" Elise says to me. She has selected a short broad bush which seems to have grown in two directions at once and then given up. She sees the look on my face and says, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Besides, I've already decided: this is the tree for us."
"It's a beautiful tree," Drew says.
"Quasimodo," I whisper to Drew. "This tree's name is Quasimodo."
"No whispering," Elise says from behind us. "What's he saying now, Mom?"
"He said he likes the tree, too."
Elise is not convinced and after a pause she says, "Dad. It's Christmas. Behave yourself."
Go, dear reader, go and read that short story. It will be the best thing you read this Christmas eve. I promise you. It's wonderful and heart-lifting. Carlson is, after all, the master of the happy ending.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mary

So one of the best parts of Christmas is seeing This Bird. It's a production put on by the theater teacher at my school, and many of my good friends are in it. Also, it's just amazing.
I think my favorite scene is called "The Birth". The poem that goes along with it is "Mary Keeps All These Things" by Susan Elizabeth Howe, it reads

Each cramp I feel the pain can grow
no more, O Lord, no more. And yet
I have given my word and will
to bring this child. My body
opens and opens its passage between
my womb’s constraint and the chaotic

clash of life. I will, in my extremity,
remember I have a name. Mary is
my name. I will split open, part
the shadow that keeps this child
from light. He must come, is coming,
comes. At last, his brash infant cry.

Meanwhile, this is going on onstage:



I can't stop thinking about Mary. (this is perhaps related to the fact that I am having reoccurring baby dreams and they're freaking me the hell out. I don't know how to tell my subconscious that it can't go all baby hungry for  at least 15-20 years). Mary, who represents the best of woman, in a stunningly beautiful way. But there's also something super sexist about the whole "worshipping virginity" thing. I'm still figuring out for myself how the femininity and feminism go together. I know they can coexist. But I'm having a kinda hard time figuring out how these two parts of myself go together. But isn't that what being 17 is all about?
About little while ago, I made a list of reasons I love being a woman. Because being a woman is really really wonderful. But, I want to publish this with the disclaimer that this is what it means to me, and I know this list is not true for all women. I'm not trying to make blanket statements here. Women are complex.

Things I love about being a woman:

1. Women are strong and women are fighters. Women are resilient and persevere, but women still allow themselves to be taken care of.
2. I have a quiet fiery temper that is entirely feminine.
3. Girls smell better, their skin is softer and their hair is silkier.
4. All cultures have traditions that bind women together.
5.  I can say it like it is. And that does not mean I'm a bitch.
6. Women communicate. We say what we're thinking, what we're feeling, what is going on. Conversation is what women do.
7. Women’s devotion is a force to be reckoned with. We think about those we care for, cry for another’s pain, laugh when the world is a happy place, and feel protective over those we love.
8. The title mother belongs to women. We can create life. This amazes me.
9. Women's emotions are potent. And even though it sucks when they are discounted as hormonal or over-reactive, it is infinitely better to have violent emotions than be numb.
10. I can cry freely and fully and vulnerably. Tears communicate sadness and joy and empathy and the things I can’t say.
11. Connections with children strong enough that they trust me to show their discoveries of bugs and flowers, to ask me to tell them a story, to crawl up on my lap. The feeling of holding a crying child until they calm themselves and rocking a baby to sleep while singing a lullaby.
12. Women have a sensitivity to things that are beautiful.
13. The connections I feel with other women. The instant intimacy that can exist among women. Women are supportive of and rally for one another.
14. The female intensity. Because women are leaders. Women cause change. Women are important and few things on this earth can match the female intensity.
15. Women can bring people together. Women recognize the hidden softness in people. And women can nurture; there are always things and people to nurture. Nurturing makes me feel peaceful and fulfilled.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This Time Is Different

There is an age-old idea that traveling makes you different. That somehow, you'll get somewhere new and you'll be different. Or you'll come home from that trip-of-a-lifetime an entirely different person.
Generally speaking, I don't agree with that myth.
My experience has been that I get somewhere new and I'm excited, scared, overwhelmed, thrilled and I'm feeling about a million and one emotions all at the same time. Eventually, I learn to find my way around, and my emotions restore to their normal level and then, when I take a second to look at myself, I find that I'm the same old me. Same old flaws and tendencies, same point of view, same fearlessness except when I'm scared. And that's a little disappointing, but it's also a little bit comforting, because I like knowing that I am who I am. It's a kind of twisted integrity.
That being said, Hawaii is the exception.
Because when I'm in Hawaii, I'm different.
When I'm in Hawaii I put the book down and go swimming in the ocean. I don't care that my hair will be salty later and I will be washing sand out of my scalp for a week. I don't care that I look like a child. I go running toward the ocean and I play. My favorite moment is just before my head breaches the surface, when there the sky and the ocean reflect on each other like a mirror and it's hard to tell which is which. I love diving down deep and grabbing handfuls of sand. I can open my eyes underwater in the ocean. Really. I can. The salt stopped hurting years ago. And sometimes, I just like to float on my back and stare up at the clear blue sky.
When I'm in Hawaii, I let my nails be naked, because I like the way they look underwater. I like the naturalness. And I let my feet go bare, because I like the way the hot pavement and spongy grass and silky sand feel on the soles and between my toes.
When I'm in Hawaii, I don't treat my phone like my other half. As a rule, I only check it when I'm at the condo, because I want my time. I want my time to love the moment. And I can always call back later or text back another day, but I will never have this moment again. So, sometimes I play phone tag for days, but I think that stepping back from my life and spending some time in the moment is entirely healthy. 
When I'm in Hawaii, I don't do my hair. I braid the bangs out of my face in a thick french braid and let the rest hang. And it's windblown and messy and I couldn't care less because it no longer matters.
When I'm in Hawaii, I go to bed early. Like before ten. I don't remember the last time I went to bed at ten back home. It just never happens. But going to bed early in Hawaii feels good, because it means I can get up early and run and then be at the beach by 9:00, when the sun is still perfect for tanning.
When I'm in Hawaii, I almost always have a swimsuit under my clothes. I wear Target eight-dollar cotton V-neck shirts, because they're the softest things on this earth. And I wear skirts, because I like the way they swish as my hips sway. And, when I do wear shoes, I wear Locals flip flops because it doesn't matter if they get beat up on the lava rock.
When I'm in Hawaii, I watch the sunset. I walk down to the beach and sit on the lava rock wall so that my feet dangle over the sea and I watch the sky turn pink and the ocean turn purple or maybe it turns blue with an orange surface. I watch the giant red circle as the horizon slices it into segments and I wonder at the marvelous world I get to live in. I like to have moments for reflection. And, in a very dark way, I like that if I drown in the ocean the next day or there is a tsunami or an earthquake or I just drop dead, I will have watched the last sunset of my life. 
The Hawaiian sunset doesn't last as long as the Utah one. But I like watching the sun disappear behind the horizon instead of just fading away behind the mountains. I like the closure. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cloudy With a Chance of Luxury

The good news is that today is the shortest day of the year. So it's all uphill from here.

Yesterday, it was cloudy and windy. It wasn't cold, but it was too chilly to go to the beach, even though it was in the 70s. The beach is miserabe when there is no sun and the wind is blowing.
Missing a day of tanning has really hurt my routine. Today was supposed to be SPF 23 so that tomorrow I can go down to 12. Now I'm a whole day behind on my tapering. If I don't get enough sun to tan I will throw a fit. Because I'm an adult. And adults are allowed to throw fits when there isn't enough sun to tan.
So I got up and stayed in my pajamas until noon. Lorin and I decorated the condo for Christmas and put in a new router, so the wireless is working again! Then I browsed trips online. Because that is what I do in my spare time. I'm thinking that for graduation/18th birthday, I would like to either go trekking in Afghanistan or take the train from Beijing to St. Petersburg. Anyone want to be a travel buddy?
So, anyway, around noon I was getting bored, having looked at every trip on the National Geographic, Mountain Travel Sobek and Wilderness Travel sites. I suggested to Lorin, jokingly, "well, let's go get massages." He was all, "no way, I'm not paying two-hundred bucks for you to go get a massage at some nearby resort." So I had goldfish for lunch and started browsing the Rick Steves site.
Finally, he said, "well Han, if you want an early Christmas present, I guess you could go get a massage, with the quid pro quo you talk to me after." (sidenote: I wasn't giving him the silent treatment, he just likes me to talk with him more than I do. I AM NOT A BAD DAUGHTER) So anyway, lucky me, gets a massage.
So I went over to the Hilton that happens to be just across the street. The Hilton where, when I was little, we would go on "outings" to ride the boat or the train that runs around the hotel. The Hilton where, when I was six, I swam with the dolphins. The Hilton where we would sneek in to the pool, using the plastic bracelets Judy saved up over the years. The Hilton where a sea turtle once snuck up on me, inspiring a lifelong fear of sea turtles. The Hilton where the ice cream shop used to give full-scoop samples. The Hilton is a resort paradise.
I got down to the spa, half an hour early, as they told me to, and soaked in the hot tub. Normally, I don't like hot tubs because they smell like cooked chemicals. This one was salt water, which made it acceptable. Finally, the time came for my massage and I put on the robe that was way to big and followed a woman named Cat who wore all black and had red hair into the room.
The spa music was playing. Spa Music is for cheap spas with masseuses named Lola giving fifteen minute massages. I assumed they would have something better. So Cat left and I got on the massage table and within a few minutes I was enjoying the spa music, which, as it turns out, is much more relaxing than I thought it was. Maybe spa music is for one-percenters too.
She started massaging and I'm pretty sure I reached the state of Nirvana. As it turns out, massages are one of the greatest things in the whole wide world. Massages make cloudy days better. I should have hopped on this train years ago.
So go, blog reader, go and get yourself a massage.

PS.
We had a nice dinner last night. My glass slipped out of my hand.



Somedays, I think it's a miracle my parents let me out in public.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Journals

I filled my journal!
I started my journal on March 13. And I just finished it. I wrote all over all 76 pages of the 11x9 inch journal. Remember it, it was pretty. The Wanderlust Journal.


My next one is pretty too. It's also from Anthro, called "golden prose journal". What a lovely name. I love the unlined handmade paper. It reacts just right to ink. And it feels soft, like conditioned hair (unhealthy obsession?). This one is 8.5x6 inches and only has 76 pages. I'm excited about it. It's smaller, which means I will probably end up writing more frequently but with less depth. With my big journal it turned into half an hour a couple times a week. I'm ready to go back to ten minutes nearly every day.




I'm hoping to finish it before I go to college in August.
I like starting a new journal with starting a new chapter. Sometimes, when I need things to change, I get a new journal. It's very therapeutic.
Someday, I would like to be the girl who carries her journal around with her everywhere. But I'm not ready to do that quite yet, because it's too scary. If it got out of my possession, I would have a meltdown bigger than 2008.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sundays in Hawaii

Church in Hawaii is so much better than church in Utah. Maybe that's because eating nails is better than church in Utah. Or maybe it's because church in Hawaii is really quite remarkable.
Sundays in Hawaii start with a trip to the Hawaiian style cafe, where very little money buys mountains of food. Well, of thick pancakes, bacon and spam. The cafe opens around eight and closes when they run out of food. This is island living. And its a lovely go with the flow attitude. It also gives me an icky feeling in my stomach because there's no control. I like to have control.
So after Hawaiian style cafe comes church. Church where men wear jeans and white shirts and sometimes ties if they're feeling really formal. Church where the women wear traditional muumuus and pull back their thick long hair in in intricate knots. Church where most of the congregation has tattoos that peek out from under their collars.
The organ plays. This would not be remarkable, except that the boy playing the organ does not have a hymn book in front of him. He appears to play from memory. The prelude ends and he feels his way to his seat. He's blind. All of a sudden, the organ music is incredibly remarkable. Music played by a blind teenage boy who decided teach himself to play the organ, because he wanted to contribute to the church he loved so dearly. What music could be more holy?
So church goes on and in many ways it is like church back home, but each speaker starts his talk "brothers and sisters, alooooooHA" and the congregations calls back "alooooooHa" and the blind boy accompanies five songs and each time it is so stunning it could bring tears.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quote Sunday

Today's quote comes out of C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves.


"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."

I love this because it's so true. (I feel like I say that every Sunday? The greatest literature is true). When I read this, I can hear my therapist saying it. We talk about feelings and he always says (with the brilliant sarcasm of a therapist), "but do you really want to feel? If you feel, you will get hurt very very deeply. Unbelievable hurt. Is it worth it?" And then I get to argue that feeling is important, because it makes life richer. There's something a tad funny about me arguing that, because, God knows, feelings really aren't my forte. I'm semi-pro at steeling myself, which is a lovely short term strategy, but a shitty long term one. But I think that feelings, especially love, make life richer and beautiful and worthwhile. Accomplishments aren't worth shit, but relationships really matter. One of my deepest fears is that I live to accomplish not to love. I would hope I measure my life not in successes but in love. Because even though love leads inevitably to heartbreak, without it, life is meaningless, "a difficult birth astride of a grave".

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Break!

I'm off to Hawaii.
I got home last night after 11. So I spent about 20 minutes throwing things into a suitcase, an hour cleaning and finally went to bed. I'm not sure what I'm going to have when I get to Hawaii. I'm sure I'll be fine. I packed in an extra large suitcase so that I could just throw tons of stuff in. I'm pretty sure I have about 12 Target V-neck shirts. Those things are my favorite. They're so soft. Like clouds.
I needed this trip. I haven't been to Hawaii in a whole year. I realize that sounds spoiled, but we go to Hawaii a lot. Looking at pictures of my childhood, you would think I grew up in Hawaii and visited Utah on occasion. Hawaii is the place that makes the world perfect. Hawaii and college admission.
Anyway, my favorite part of Hawaii was always the ocean. I was the little girl who spent hours and hours in the ocean. Once, I even had to be rescued by a lifeguard because I was convinced the waves were no match for me. But that's a story for another day.
The past few years, I have a new favorite part of Hawaii. Close second, I love waking up early and going for a run. There's this wonderful 3 mile loop by our condo that makes for a great morning run. But best of all, since it's lower elevation, I feel like a God. Nothing can stop me. I can run forever.
My real favorite part is sitting for hours in a lounge chair and reading. I love putting on my big sunglasses and tanning oil with SPF 6 and reading. I love the way my books get crinkled from my damp towel. I love the sand that gets stuck in the binding. I love taking 5 minute breaks to take a quick dip before continuing on. I love that I spend my vacation in Hawaii lost in books.
I've got a part school, part pleasure reading list for this break. Last Christmas, I spent too much time doing school work. So I'll (probably) do the required, but I'm into college, I'm going to read what I want. So here's my reading list. I hope I'll get to read all of them. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by the amount of great literature there is to read. I just want to read everything:
Sula, Toni Morrison
The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
1919, John Dos Passos
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (Maybe. This one depends on how brave I'm feeling)
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery

I'm going to come back well read and well tanned. And relaxed. And probably well fed, because Lorin and I love eating good food.  But I won't be too well read. There are books I'm glad I'm not reading:
Ulysses, James Joyce
War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
Guilliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Ludicrous Invention

Germaine Greere was the sixties feminist who said "bras are a ludicrous invention". Not everything she said was awesome (women should taste their own menstrual blood and give up monogamy, for example), but she nailed that one.
I would have been a bra burner.
I know it didn't happen all that often, and that the role of bra burning in feminism is greatly exaggerated, but I totally would have done it. Bras and I have a complicated relationship.
See, a pretty bra makes a bad day a little better. Days when I skip doing my hair or putting on makeup, it's fun to wear a pretty bra. Not in a "everyone look I'm wearing a pretty bra and I'm probably a whore" way, but in a "little secret, I've got something pretty and no one else can tell" way. Anthropologie has the prettiest bras of anywhere.
But at the same time, I hate bras. I hate that women feel obligated to wear bras. Things like this story about an employer requiring women to wear bras, make me really angry. The idea the women who don't wear bras are indecent, this obsession with modesty, I find infuriating. How is it that a giant push up bra that basically screams "look I have boobs" is okay, but not wearing a bra is considered foul? Why the hell was their an entire Oprah show about how 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra size? So women walk around wearing the "wonder bra" pretending they have perky perfect boobs. And occasionally we catch a celebrity going without and the media cries "strap them in". Props to the ones who do it anyway. I'm pretty sure Jennifer Aniston went braless in the majority of the Friends episodes.
The only thing I remember learning in AP Euro was how to take a bra off while leaving the shirt on. I did not learn this from my history teacher. I learned it from my best friend who, more often than not,  ended up taking her bra off halfway through the class. So I learned how to slip my hand out of one sweatshirt sleeve leaving it hanging like a third appendage, pull the strap over my arm, do the same on the other side, unclip, pull out from shirt and stuff into backpack. I'm not sure what it was about AP Euro that made bras so unbearable. I guess she just didn't like wearing a bra. Who does? Who really wakes up in the morning saying "I'm just so glad I can put a bra on now"? No one. Because bras are one of the least comfortable things to wear. Which is another reason I hate them. Maybe, as far as female undergarments go, a chastity belt would be the less comfortable. Maybe.
Yesterday, I was in class, because I do have to graduate in order to go to college. You know how some people have seasonal depression? I have seasonal A.D.D. I can't do school anymore.  Somehow, my frustration got directed to my bra. I was just so done with the damn thing. So I ever so subtly took it off when the teacher's back was turned and put it in my backpack. I think it was the best decision I made all day. 
Maybe I'll host my own bra burning over break.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The 15th

My best friend got into Duke last night. NBD. It's just an amazing school. And she totally deserves it.

I thought I was going to hear back from Swarthmore today. So, in honor of the day when I thought I was going to hear back, here is my college essay. I'm pretty proud of it.

I value myself beyond my ovaries. My capacity to bear children is only one in a much larger range of capabilities. Yet in my Utah culture, that gets the most attention, because for generations femininity has been defined by the potential for motherhood.
 My great-grandmother, who turned eight the year women first voted, embraced pink to symbolize her femininity: pink roses in her garden, pink etching on her china, a bathroom pink right down to the toilet paper. As a fifties housewife married to a local politician, femininity meant having her hair done twice a week, hosting the best parties, wearing pearls and furs and having dinner on the table every night at 6:00.
 As a little girl, I loved the Laura Ashley dresses Grandma bought me, and refused to wear pants until the age of six. I distinctly remember a family outing, when I threw a fit, crying and screaming, insisting that I could hike in my dress. I could do anything in a dress that a boy could do in pants.
 Couldn’t I?
 As a girl growing up in the Mormon Church, femininity has been defined as inextricably linked to motherhood and marriage: a woman can do whatever she pleases with her life, as long as it doesn’t conflict with her responsibilities as wife and mother. Mormon culture is a marriage machine; I have three good friends in college, and two of them were married before they turned twenty. The other, now twenty-four, jokes about being an old maid. Marriage is not seen as an if but a when. During my first college tour, the only question my father asked was, “Where do the married students live?”
 I began to seriously question this cult of domesticity when I stumbled upon Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography, This I Remember, in a used bookshop. I was drawn to the old blue cover and the yellowed page. I bought it, and finished it that night. Eleanor intrigued me. She, like Grandma, had been a wife and a mother, had worn pearls and furs, had hosted parties, had been a politician’s wife. Unlike Grandma, Eleanor changed the world, despite a culture that wanted her to stay at home. I realized that I too was entitled to choose my life’s direction. The culture may insist that I become a wife and mother, but I have the right to decide for myself.
 This has led me to an interest in feminism. I gathered some writings, wrote a proposal and syllabus and arranged for an independent study in feminist literature. My mother was supportive, but my father was angry. My dad is seventy and to him a feminist is a man-hating, bra-burning, promiscuous woman. Good girls aren’t feminists. My father’s reaction surprised and scared me, but it didn’t stop me. I love my father, but chose to do what I felt was worthwhile, even though it meant ignoring his wishes. I am embracing the truth that I can be a feminist and a good girl.
 If her pink toilet paper symbolized my great grandmother’s femininity, then I suppose my journal, full of dreams, hopes, and aspirations that reach beyond a future marriage and family, symbolizes mine. I unapologetically insist that I can do whatever I want with my life.
 Occasionally, I still browse the Laura Ashley website where I see images of mothers and daughters in matching dresses. I wore those dresses as a child, but now I will not wear the dress that matches my mother’s.
I will choose my clothes. Probably pants.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fish Dish

Someone recently asked me what I will, without question, take to college. My answer without hesitation was not clothes or pictures or journals. It was my fish dish.
My best friend made the fish dish in a ceramics class 2 years ago. It's awful. It's ugly and poorly made and you couldn't pay people to take it. So, naturally, once the class was over she was going to throw it away. I couldn't bear to have her throw away all the hours of work she'd put into it, so I said I wanted it. I brought home the fish dish, and it's lived in my bathroom since, sitting on my Italian Marble counter, holding all the things that would be a mess otherwise.
So my item is my fish dish, because as ugly as it is, it reminds me of my best friend. It makes me smile whenever I think about it. I love the stupid thing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Post for Feminism

First, I've now blogged every day for a month. Props to me.

Sonya Renee is a national poetry slam champion.
"What Women Deserve"gave me goosebumps.



I've been watching one TED lecture a night. I'm working through the category "Celebrating TEDWomen". It makes my life a little bit better.
1) Eve Ensler's TED lecture "embrace your inner girl" made me incredibly proud to be a woman.
http://www.ted.com/talks/eve_ensler_embrace_your_inner_girl.html
2) Sheryl Sandberg's lecture "Why we have too few woman leaders" was really great; things I've never thought about, but that I am really grateful I will be aware of going forward in my life.
http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders.html\

I also LOVED Terry Tempest Williams' article "The Moment I Became A Feminist".
http://www.progressive.org/williams0411.html
The whole article is genius. I posted part of it last week. I think that part is the most beautiful and moving description of why women deserve choice I've ever heard. And here's the other highlight:

"Shortly after the publication of my book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, I was called into the office of one of the General Authorities of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City. I was young and unsure of what he wanted to discuss. I feared I might be excommunicated for what I had written, which ran contrary to Mormon doctrine.
But what troubled this church leader was not that I had mentioned a Mother in Heaven alongside a Heavenly Father, or asked the question, “If there is a Godhead, where is the Motherbody?” Or that my mother and I had given each other blessings without holding the priesthood reserved only for men. What disturbed him most was that my husband and I had chosen not to have children. This was the threat I posed. I had a voice. He asked me if I realized that by not becoming a mother, I, too, would become an endangered species leading future generations of spirit-children down the path of extinction just like the wild birds I so loved and championed.
The phrase that my religious leader uttered that I have never been able to forget was this: “Just as a mother bird has no choice whether or not she will lay her eggs, she must, God insists. So the eggs you possess, over which your husband presides, must also come forth. Will you choose to become a Mother of Zion, or will you allow your womb to become empty and barren, defying the faith of the women who came before you?”
In that moment, I became a feminist. In that moment, I realized that to control a woman’s body and deny her the choice over her own reproductive health is to silence her individual voice and rob her of her innate power, which is the power to choose her own life’s path. To control women is another way of controlling nature."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Vacuum

I'm still not sure why I got a job.
I think it was, in some ways, another step in my battle for independence. The one I've been waging since I was a little girl insisting I could wear my Cinderella costume anywhere I was going. I think it was also because I was out to prove I wasn't spoiled and entitled; I could work a minimum wage job. I think I just needed something new in my life.
So I got my job. And for the most part, I've really loved it. It's super flexible, I'm more than competent, and I get to hang out with pretty fun people. Having my job has been a really good thing in my life.
Except for one aspect.
The vacuum.
The vacuum is an old black Bissell. I'm pretty sure one of the owners got a new vacuum at home and just dumped their old one at work. It has horrible suction. Like I sometimes wondered why I even bothered vacuuming, because it didn't look any better after. But, I could get over that if it weren't for the smoke. The vacuum smoked. Not on occasion. Every time I used it it smoked. It was that chemical, electrical smoke. The one where you're worried something might actually burst into flames, because you don't know what's going on inside the machine, but you know it's not supposed to smell that way.
So, as I haven't worked for about a month, the one thing I haven't missed is the vacuum. 
Last Saturday, was my first Saturday in a while. It was a pretty good day. Then I opened the closet to pull out the vacuum and I was met with the most beautiful surprise I've ever gotten.
A new Bissell.
I plugged it in. It sucked like a seasoned prostitute. Honestly, the carpets were so clean. The lobby actually looked better. It didn't smell at all. AND, the cherry on top, it has one of those button cord wind-ups. When I was done I just hit the green button and voila! the cord was all wound up.
So, maybe, buying a woman a vacuum for a present isn't the worst thing that could happen. I've always said the best present anyone can give me is a trip or the right book. But maybe a good vacuum would be a nice alternative.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quote Sunday

Today's quote comes from Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. I read it like 2 weeks ago, and I loved it. Like I said, Morrison is pure genius.
The scene occurs where two boys see a peacock sitting on the roof of the hospital in their town in Minnesota. They have no idea how on earth it got there. They watch as it fails miserably at flying. One boy asks why it can't fly "better than a chicken". The other explains why.

"Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can't nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down."

I love this because it's important. And it's secretly complicated. The concept is fairly straightforward: live simply. Get rid of all the unnecessary shit in your life. But I think there's another dimension here, because it's about letting yourself fly. It's the idea that you control your own life, and that many limits are there only because you placed them upon yourself. Sure, there are things each of us can and can't do, and there are circumstances that we can't change. I'm not okay with saying to people "well, if you only worked harder you would be okay", because things are so much more complicated than that. But I do think that we have capacity to examine our lives and understand how much of those limits are self-imposed. I think that what Morrison is saying is that flight (and freedom) only comes when you allow yourself to get rid of those self-imposed limits.
For me, it means doing things like staying in my calc class even though I failed the final, because I'm not willing to say "I failed it and clearly I'm not capable of passing it" . It means I see it and say "I can do better." It means doing things like apologizing, even for small things, which really is not something I do naturally. But I'm working on doing it more frequently, because I'm learning that humility is actually pretty damn important. And it means doing things like sharing my feelings, little by little, with my mom. Because even though I generally keep her at arm's length, she is my mother and I love her and I want a better relationship with her.
So, that's my two cents for the week. But I want to tell one more story.
When I was in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, they had us fill out this spotlight survey. I distinctly remember the question "if you had 3 wishes what would they be?" I answered "to fly, to fly, to fly", because the real answer was to have my parents back, but I knew by then not to put that down, and the only other things I could think to want was to fly. Anything else I could get. Maybe that's why I dream of flight so deeply, because it's the thing I can't earn or buy. And I don't think I'll even ever be able to put all the shit down. But I'll be damned if I don't try my hardest.

Admitted!

This is a story of admission.
Kat came over to tweak a few things before she and Alex and I went to dinner before she and Alex went to the dance. I walked in the door and said hi to the parents. Lorin handed me a letter. It was from Swarthmore and I said, "how dare they?" because I figured it was junk mail. I was planning on hearing back from them on Thursday and I was convinced I wasn't getting in. So I opened the letter feeling like they were taunting me by sending me mail days before they rejected me.
I opened it and saw "Congratulations! It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Swarthmore College class of 2016!" I started jumping and screaming. And I hugged Kat like 30 times. Judy started crying. We were all surprised and ecstatic.
So I called Alex and freaked out. She was moments away. Which was wonderful, because all my favorite people ended up there.

So we went to dinner and I was so happy. Cloud freaking nine. I love my best friends. I love them more than anything. I dropped them off at the dance, and went home. Judy and I ate dark chocolate gelato and peach champagne gelato, because champagne is what you celebrate with. And we watched The Polar Express.
I think I will answer the phone for the next week "Hello, I got in to my first choice college. Congratulate me." I'M GOING TO SWARTHMORE. I want to walk around singing it. I'm so glad things worked out. What a wonderful world to live in.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Presents

'Tis the season to give gifts.
My friends and I are really good at giving gifts to one another. For my birthday, Kat got me and autographed Bossypants and Alex got me the best perfume I could ever ask for. I've got super great Christmas presents for the two of them this year. I love getting people things you know they're going to love.
Anyway, I recently found the tumblr the books they gave me. I have a secret affinity for it. Except this one. which is sad and pathetic and ridiculous. What kind of man does that? Anyway, I think I love it so much because I love loving books that people give me. Because then I love the book and every time I think about it, it reminds me of someone I love. Like I love the Chronicles of Narnia series because it reminds me of Lorin reading it to me and telling me stories about Puddleglum and Reepicheep, Or like Travels with Charley reminds me of Kat, and it makes me happy because I think of all the adventures we'll never go on and I think about our love of Steinbeck and I think of how much I love that she wanted me to read it. I secretly think that English teachers are remembered the longest because students, 40 years down the road, will see a copy of Catcher in the Rye and remember their freshman English class. No one ever looks at a fish 40 years down the road and remembers their freshman bio class.
I have always said I'd only ever marry a man who bought me books instead of jewelry. I think this is an inherited trait. When my parents got engaged, my mom said she would rather have a sleeping bag than a ring because a sleeping bag is practical, and she liked camping better than jewels anyway. It was a battle, but she finally consented to a gold band. So she and my father had the same wedding ring. I love that story.
Anyway, I want books not jewelry. Because jewelry is pretty, but expensive and impersonal. I don't like the idea of setting up a relationship based upon how much money you can spend on each other. I hate that a diamond symbolizes marriage, because it's so petty. Diamonds don't mean anything. And the other thing is, you have to legitimately try to choose the wrong jewelry, and it's way too easy to pick the right jewelry. Like, look it's shiny and expensive and ornate and unnecessary. How better can I show you I love you?
But books, books are wonderful. Because you have to know someone to buy them a book. Sure, you can give a book you liked to anyone. But buying just the right book for someone else means you know some of their soul. It means you know what they love and why they love it, not just in literature, but in life. For that reason. I think that the right book is the most intimate gift that can be given.

I talk to much about literature. I give up. I'll major in English.
There goes any hope I ever had of having an apartment bigger than 200 square feet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The biggest vice

"Bye Hannah, have a good night alone. Don't throw a party or I'll give you a lobotomy."
Judy, walking out the door.

My hair is my biggest vice.
When we talk about poverty and such, I generally feel like I can do better. Sure, I donate to charity here and there, but I can do better. Maybe I didn't need the new dress or new shoes. Maybe I can go to the library instead of buying all my books. But when it comes to my hair, I feel absolutely no shame.
My hair is my biggest vice.
I unashamedly spend obscene amounts of money on it. Cut and Color every 5 weeks (6 if I can't get an earlier appointment), 3 different shampoos/conditioners that I rotate throughout the week so I don't get buildup (I think purple pureology is my favorite), Sundays are for deep conditioning my hair (Kevin Murphy born again is the bomb), and the last friday of every month is detoxifying rinse day, and, of corse, the everyday products (the leave-in spray conditioner, the matte texture paste, the finishing serum, etc.)
My hair is my biggest vice.
But I think that's okay. I think we all need a few vices here and there. The joy trigger vices, that make even the worst days bearable.
So what's yours?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I need an adventure

I spent last night working on my creative writing piece. It's a continuation of the "questions my therapist never asked", but I dropped the serious tone. It's turned into all the quirky things that make me smile because they make people interesting.
But here's the thing. By working on my creative writing piece, I really mean I spent my time from 5-10 like this:
Open google docs, write a sentence, try to fix sentence, delete sentence, watch Colbert report, write new sentence, give up on having a decent first sentence, go upstairs to get water with ice, sit down, write a second sentence, look for my missing right mitten, sit down with determination, write a bad sentence, write more bad sentences, read bad paragraph, curse like it's the apocalypse, delete paragraph, retype paragraph, try to fix paragraph, decide it might not be that bad after all. Repeat.
Somehow, sometimes I get good things. I had an idea when I was eating dinner last night. I didn't want to write it on my hand, so I wrote it on the inside of my wrist. Now it looks like a teenage angst tattoo. Except that it says "Blood type" and "Believing Santa" instead of being a cross or a swastika. I kinda like the placement though.
I love writing. I love it even when nothing good comes out. Because even though I may be the least spiritual person alive, writing makes me feel spiritual. So does being a woman, actually, but I'll talk about that later. Writing is probably the most spiritual thing I do. Not blog writing. Real writing. Writing when I open the veins. Which has gotten easier lately, because I've been so emotionally fragile. Writing when I finish and I've learned something. That's the best moment. To realize I learned something, because I let out something that was hidden deep inside. I guess writing is spiritual because it's personal and it's vulnerable and it matters. I can take down my armor when I'm writing in a way that I can't in my real life. And that's important because even though it means I'm giving people permission to judge me and think I'm stupid and laugh, I'm also giving them the opportunity to know me a teensy bit better. And I think that, the intimacy and vulnerability, is what being a spiritual being is about.

In other news, I think it's time for me to go on another adventure. Time to get out again. T-9 days until I'm in Hawaii.
Here's some pictures from the last adventure. They make me happy. What a life I have.
Dancing with Samburu Warriors

Petting a Cheetah


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dance

It's my senior year. The winter formal dance is on Saturday. The theme is "it's a wonderful life". I've only gone to one winter formal. It's the girls choice dance. I never had a choice. I would have liked to have gone to this one.
But I can't.
The girls around me buzz about dates, dresses, hair appointments, who is doing who's makeup, the activities surrounding the dance. The boys feign indifference to their status. We women know they care that they've been asked.
People ask me if I'm going. I tell them, simply, I can't. Few ask me why I can't. When they do, I lie. I'm grounded. Everyone knows why I'm grounded. Or why I would be.
The dance's venue is a greenhouse, pretentiously named "Le Jardin" as if there was anything French about a greenhouse in Sandy, Utah. I drive past that greenhouse every day. I've seen it every day since it's construction. I could leave my house and be there in 4 minutes.
Except that I can't.
I can't because the greenhouse is attached to the Larkin Cemetery, which didn't allow vertical headstones until 2009. Statues of Jesus are scattered among the headstones that lie flat in the ground, hidden by the grass like predators. The mountains stand as a backdrop. As if we needed a reminder how insignificant our lives are.
Among the 76 acres is a headstone, not particularly interesting or unique or prominent, with the names of people who died on August 2, 1997. Across the bottom is written theirs was a joyous life filled with love for each other and their children, Hannah and Samuel.
Me. Hannah. Me.
I can't.
I can't because it's a place more than a school dance. It's the place I called "the loving place" when I was little, and it's the place that taught me the world can be hideous. It's the place where, every so often, others leave flowers. I find comfort in those flowers because others still remember and care and hurt. It's a place that's part of me; the part of me that I don't bring out.
And I can't because sometimes tears inexplicably start streaming.
I just can't.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Femininity

I'm feeling incredibly feminine tonight. Not feminine as in I like pretty dresses and pearls, but feminine in the almost spiritual feminine way. I can't explain it. I think any woman could understand it. It's the feeling you get when you think about what it really means to be a woman, not just the petty stupid things, but the really important ones. The things you feel and you know you feel them because you're a woman.
Sometimes, I feel too childish to be a woman.
It all started with an essay I read by Terry Tempest Williams. It's a pro-choice essay, and my very favorite part reads:

"What anti-abortion activists within Congress or those standing outside health clinics intimidating women and their doctors fail to acknowledge is that no woman wants to terminate a pregnancy. No one who has ever felt the life inside them move can negate that power. It is never a decision made lightly, without love or pain or a prayer toward forgiveness.
Because what every woman knows each month when she bleeds is that I am not pregnant.
Because what every woman understands each time she makes love is that life could be in the making now.
Which is why when a woman allows a man to enter her, it is not just a physical act, but an act of surrendering to the possibility that her life may no longer be hers, alone.
Because until she bleeds, she will check her womb every day for the stirrings of life.
Because until she bleeds, she wonders if her life will be one or two or three.
Because until she bleeds, she imagines every possibility from pleasure to pain to birth to death and how she will do what she needs to do.
Because until she bleeds, she will worry endlessly, until she bleeds.
If a man knew what a woman never forgets, he would love her differently."

That's the kind of feminine I'm feeling. It's the connection I feel to those words. It's the gentleness and sensitivity and connections and intuition and nurturing. It's real. I know it is. I feel it as strongly as I feel anything.
I wrote a list of 23 reasons why I love being a woman. I think I'm going to turn it into a creative writing assignment. Maybe someday I'll post it. Or I'll just leave it in my journal.

Family Motto

Family mottos are big deals.
There is a whole eHow website on Family Mottos. I think it's hilarious, because a motto should come naturally and organically. You shouldn't have to decide upon it. I think a family motto is something every member of the family knows and believes and lives by.
The Kennedy family motto was "avise la fin" which translated means "consider the end". When considered with the Kennedy family curse, it's a poor motto. Hell, when you have an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to your family tragedies, maybe it's time to reconsider your motto. I think they should have gone with "bene decessit", which translated means "he has died well (a natural death)". That could have helped them big time.
In our ward, there is a really popular family motto. I'm not sure who started it, but there are a few families that subscribe to it. It's "We're [insert last name here]s. We do hard things." It's pretty cool and deep and stuff, I guess. The whole mass family motto thing was kinda a turn off.
Historically, people with the last name of Pugh have had the motto "sic itur ad astra" which translates to  "such is the way to immortality". LAME. I'm not interested in immortality. I'm quite fine with the state of my soul, I'm really not looking to have it saved. Thanks though.
Lately, Judy has been trying to change our family motto to "we share our feelings." The other three of us, who don't share our feelings, aren't okay with it. We could possibly consider "Judy shares her feelings", but the whole "we" thing isn't working out for us.
The actual family motto, which I will cling to until the day I die, is "it could be worse". I love it so much, because it makes me laugh and reminds me that things are going to be okay. We've gotten through lots of bad things, we can get through lots more. And things could always be worse. If all else fails, we go to Hawaii, because that way, things could be worse; we could not be in Hawaii.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I haven't laughed enough lately

Today I woke up feeling like I haven't laughed enough. I need more laughter in my life. Too many books that break my heart and too many moments wallowing.
So naturally, I turned to Tina Fey.
Tina Fey is on my black list because she left 30 Rock to have a baby. I miss 30 rock.
But, she's also one of my favorite human beings ever. I want to be friends with Tina Fey too. Less than I want to be friends with Toni Morrison, but I still think she's a worthwhile person.
When I needed to laugh, I went straight to the best part of Bossypants, "A Love Letter to Amy Poehler", which was pure genius, but in a different way than Morrison's genius. Let's agree not to compare them anymore.
Anyway, this makes me terribly happy.

“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy ‘comedy bits’ going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except that it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it!” Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn't there to be cute. She wasn't there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys' scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you liked it."

What a woman.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Quote Sunday

Yesterday, I was at work and it was super slow. I asked to go home, like I usually do when there's nothing going on, but my manager said to stay. I told him I felt like I was wasting money because I was just sitting there. He said I should stay anyway. So I had several hours, relatively uninterrupted by customers, to read. So I started Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge.
I should have known better than to read a book about the process of losing a mother on my own mother's 70th birthday. It prompted the release of the feelings I've stuffed very deeply down. The reality that my mother will, at some point, cease to be a middle-aged mom who happens to have been born in 1941. At some point she'll actually get old.  And she'll probably be gone by the time I'm 40. And that just sucks. Because there is so much that will be missed.
So I was reading this book at work, and to make matters worse, I've been fairly emotionally fragile this week. I came across the line part where Williams' grandmother talks about losing her own mother.

"I'll never forget that telegram my sister Marion sent. I could't believe it. It was so final. Suddenly, the world seemed very dark. I couldn't imagine how I was going to live without her, and I grieved deeply that she was never able to see her first grandchild. But I will tell you this, Terry, you do get along. It isn't easy. The void is always with you. But you will get by without your mother just fine and I promise you, you will become stronger and stronger each day."

And, at that point, I burst into tears. So I locked myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes until I could get control of myself. I put the book aside until I got off work. I went home and finished it. I know I've found a good book when I read the whole thing in one day. That being said, it was one of the most painful books I've ever read. Not because it was beautifully written, or because of the intricacies of the characters or even because of the actual plot.
It was so hard to read because it was a confirmation of what I had, deep down, been fearing: that losing your mother is horribly painful and the absence is always felt no matter how old you are and how many times it happens. I'd avoided that feeling until this book, that passage in particular. I hadn't assumed I wouldn't feel anything, but I'd never allowed myself to believe it could hurt as much the second time. Because if I was older and we'd had a relationship and she'd lived her life, it wouldn't hurt so deeply. I'm all of a sudden haunted by a deep and helpless fear, knowing that it's going to hurt and it will happen too soon and there's nothing I can do. There is so much life in my future that I don't want my mother to miss. And, I will never be able to escape that feeling she would have loved this so much.
But for now, my mother lives, a thriving seventy-year old. I'll work on enjoying that relationship, because I love my mother very much.
I love that she's a little bit ditzy, and we never know if it's a senile moment or she would've done it at age 20. [She dropped Lorin's first paper for the MBA program at Harvard in the USA federal mail mailbox instead of the official Harvard turn-in-your-paper mailbox. That was 1966]
I love that she and I have gone on a trip, just the two of us, for the past 7 years, and we've had a great time whether it was Idaho or Paris.
I love that she sincerely cares about relationships more than anything and lives by putting others first.
I love that she is so frail (In September, Sam broke her hand by giving her a high-five) but also so incredibly strong (she's climbed Kili, the base camp of Everest, plus trekking in New Zealand, Peru, Patagonia, Kenya, and the Pyrenees).
I love that there are watercolors she painted 15 or 20 years ago scattered about the house (including one of little-me and the dog at the cabin that hangs in my room), and I love that she still goes to art classes once a week.
I love that she's like me in that we both relish in solace to read, and that we only take trips that include some built in reading time.
I love that I'm her only daughter and she appreciates the femininity and communication and sensitivity I bring back into the family.
I love that she wants to communicate, wants to know all the intricacies of who I am. And I love, probably most of all, that she shows me she loves me better than anyone else in my life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The 70th

Today is Judy's 70th birthday. My parents are old. But I love them.
I've been threatening to throw Judy a big birthday party for months now. A party where we'd rent out a huge building and invite her two or three hundred closest friends. It's so funny, because she freaked out about it. She did not want a party.
So instead of having a big party, we had a small one. We got a big table at a restaurant, and had her 15 best friends come, and all her kids were there. When we told her what we'd planned we first gave her the birthday present. (It was a Rolex. It was beautiful.) Then we told her she could have it on the condition that she come to the party. She didn't even throw a fit! She was actually fairly excited.
So we had the party. And I got to sit by the wonderful Louise. The highlight of the night was when they brought the food out. With all the people, it took a while for the food to come out. Tom was the last one to get his food. After about ten minutes, Louise looked at him and said, "well Tom, didn't you order anything?" And he looked at her and said, "No, I guess I didn't. I guess that's why I was having such a hard time remembering what I ordered." The waiter put a rush on his order, and it was wonderful to make senile jokes for the rest of the evening.
All and all, it was a great night. I think it made Judy happy to be around all her dearest friends. I think it makes anyone happy to be around their dearest friends. That's the thing about friends. They make the world a slightly brighter place, and they make smiles come just a little bit easier.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I want to be best friends with authors

I've always wanted to be best friends with Steinbeck.
I would live outside for a year if it meant I could spend an evening at the home of Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss.
Going across Europe with Somorset Maugham would be then only experience I need for a life time.
But lately, I have a new literary crush.
Toni Morrison
That woman is a genius. Pure and Simple.
at her 80th birthday party

Nobel Lecture by Toni Morrison - Media Player at Nobelprize.org
"We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives." She's old now. I don't think that makes her any less awesome.
I finished Song of Solomon on Monday. Between that and Beloved, Toni Morrison is my new hero. She's such a genius because she writes so the reader has to feel. It's this interesting mixture of things that are horribly painful and realistic, like a slave woman being raped, and things that are mystical and spiritual  like a woman without a navel and a man who can fly. Combined, I read her literature with feelings, not with my intellect. I don't give a shit that the rain represents baptism, because my heart is being changed as Hagar's dreams are soiled.
I want to have lunch with Morrison. I would give up my first-born to have lunch with her.
I think I'm going to invite her to speak at Commencement. She won't, but I want to invite her, none the less. Because it might be my only shot at meeting her. And she's my only living literary crush.