Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Bad Case of the Block

This morning I opened the presents under the tree (which included a "certificate" for my parents to pay for my spring break trip to Florida!), went to the beach, played with the kids, and watched a movie. And I came to terms with the fact that the unwelcome present I've been brought this season is a horrible case of writer's block. Remember that time I wrote about writer's block? I wrote that when I didn't really have writer's block. But now I do. And it's super lame. I sit down at the computer to blog, or open my journal to write, or just pull out my legal pad to get some words down, and.... nothing. It's not even my bad writing habits. It's just that my brain is clean out of words right now. I can't explain that.

So I'm off for now. I'll start blogging again when I'm un-blocked. For now I'm going to enjoy Hawaii and read and tan. Perfect.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Apocalypse Survived

If I'm honest, I was a little bit nervous about the impending apocalypse. I left Swat Friday morning to sheets of rain and loud wind, and some part of me believed that the apocalypse was coming. But that's also because I didn't bother to sleep that night, so by the time I got on my plane I'd been up for around 24 hours. So my brain wasn't very happy. When they made me gate check my bag in Philadelphia because there was no room left in the overheads, I may have cried a little bit. Maybe.

But the apocalypse didn't happen, and I'm pretty happy about that. I'm in Hawaii with the fam, and it's great. It's the year that we fly the whole family here, so there's 20 of us. Which is busy and loud, but also kinda wonderful. I'm glad the every-other-Christmas in Hawaii is something we do. It's nice to have whole entire family time. It's important too.

I got to the beach yesterday. The sun was so fabulous. In winter, I don't think I miss the sun so much. Then I come to Hawaii and realize how much I miss it. I'm reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, and I kinda love it. And I'm playing with the kids. And my hair's perpetually salty and enormous, but it's alright. Salt hair don't care.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mission Accomplished

I made it! I've successfully completed my first semester of college! Wooooo!
Unfortunately, this means that when I come back, I will be getting real grades in my classes, instead of the pass/fail grades I was accustomed to this semester. But it's cool. I can handle it.
In a little over an hour, I'll catch my ride to the airport, board 3 planes, and in 17 hours I'll be in Hawaii! I'm the last one in my family (out of all 20 of us) to get there, but it's okay. Because I'm going to Hawaii. Hello sun, and reading for pleasure, and family time. A whole month off school can't come fast enough.
Sorta. Okay, I've been complaining a lot the past 2 weeks. As I'm sitting here actually thinking about this semester, it's been so good. I've really loved the stuff I have studied. Most days, I derived pleasure from going to class. And though I've only been here a month, I've made some really good friends, who I care about a lot. And I've learned that I'm actually half-decent at being an adult. I've figured a few things out that have made a big difference.
Yes, all things considered, I'm so grateful to have had this semester, and I the next one should be even better.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Things I forget

1. Normal sleeping hours. I forget that real adults go to work at 9, so they can't just sleep 3-11. Actually, this has only been aggravated by finals. At this point, I'm pretty much nocturnal  I've been going to sleep between 4 and 5 and getting up around noon. It's chill.

2. Cars. Today I walked to Target for like 3 things I needed to buy before I go to Hawaii. I reached the Pike and felt ridiculous jolted by all the cars going to fast!
2.5. Life before public transport. I get into Philly around once a week, so I take public transport like once a week. I forget what it was like to go where I wanted when I wanted, not dictated by the times of the hourly trains from Swat to Philly.

3. Wet feet. It's still t-shirt weather some days out here. It's funny to think that at home I would be trudging through snow across the quad and living every day with wet feet. I know I'm supposed to miss the snow, but I don't at all. I love my dry feet.

4. Food prayers. For the longest time, I had this compulsion to pray before eating if I was eating in a home. But I've very quickly adjusted to not praying before I eat here, because I never eat in a home environment  So it's good to have adjusted. But it also makes me a little bit sad, because it's a tradition - it's in my roots.
4.5 Thanksgiving prayer. The only moment during Thanksgiving when I was really sad that I wasn't home was when we said prayer over Thanksgiving dinner and it wasn't Lorin praying.

5. TVs. Yesterday I took an extra long studybreak and got a $10-manicure in the ville. It was really funny because they had a TV on the wall and it just looked so big compared to watching Hulu on my 11-inch computer screen.

6. Makeup. I've pretty much given up makeup entirely with finals. It's like my Sophomore year of high school, when I also bailed on makeup for a few months. But right now I can't believe I wore makeup every day this summer. Who has time to spend 10 minutes putting makeup on every morning?

7. Coloring my hair. I've officially quit coloring my hair. It's getting pretty grown out, but that doesn't matter so much. I'm kinda chill with letting it be it's natural color. I used to love coloring my hair every 6-8 weeks, but I don't mind giving it up. It's easier, and more low-key.

8. Busy work. One of my favorite things about college academics is that (almost) everything that's graded is about demonstrating a depth of understanding and analysis instead of proving you are capable of memorizing. Actually, that principle is one of my favorite things about English. Anyway, I don't mind writing all these papers because I think I do actually understand my course material better than I would otherwise.

9. Life before Sriracha. I now put Sriracha on all my food. How did I eat for 18 years without it?

10. Short nails. In May I decided to quit biting my nails and I did it! Breaking a habit like that is a pretty big deal for me. I love my longer nails, and I love painting them, (and I love biting the polish off instead of biting my nails when I get stressed). Why has this not always been a thing?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Work is stooooopid

All I want to do is listen to Les Mis on repeat.
And maybe read a little poetry.
It would be nice to be in Hawaii, too.

I guess I'll just order Chinese instead.

In other news, I got a ticket to see The Colbert Report live in February. Worth skipping two classes to go see it? I think so. Plus I can crash with Kat that night. And the bus ticket was only $10 round trip, so not too shabby at all.

I've checked off 5 things on my master list. Only a religion paper and a religion final stand between me and Hawaii. Come at me religion. I got this.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How I Write a Passing Essay

I've been in essay mode this week. I only have a stats and a religion final. My stats one is tomorrow, but I spent a few hours studying and I'm not too worried (have I mentioned that time I kicked ass and got the class high on the midterm?), and my religion one isn't for a week. However, I do have 4 essays due this week, so that's been keeping me busy. Remember when I wrote this post about the experience of essay writing? Most of it is still true, but after a semester of college writing, I have a follow up. We'll call it "How I Write a Passing Essay" because I'm not quite confident enough to suggest I can do much more than that.

How I Write a Passing Essay

1. Writing myself in.
I can't just sit down at a computer and write away any more than I can get on a treadmill and turn the speed up and run a 5K. I don't care how tired that analogy is, it's true. There has to be a little bit of warming up, some sense of getting going. So I write a little before hand. For me, this happens in two ways. If I'm just starting a paper from scratch, I write myself in via the introduction, which inevitably later needs revising, but it's a good way to get into it. If I'm in the revisions period, I'll write a blog post (this one started as a free write) or I'll journal or free write with a prompt, or just put what's in my mind on the paper. It doesn't really matter what it is, so long as I can get the words in motion before I try to write a paper. 

2. I can't just sit down with a blank document and expect to be able to churn out a paper.
This is something that I'm only recently learning I can't do. My problem is that when I write on a computer, I expect my words and ideas to be coherent and cohesive, which is not the way to get sufficient ideas and material to write a paper with. Lately, I've been loving the hand-written pre-write. I've gotten one of those awesome 8.5 X 13.75 legal pads. So I sit down with that and an extra-fine sharpie (I love the sharpie because it helps me feel reckless and informal, and it's so scrawly, and I even like the fumes for a pre-write) and write down ideas. Usually, there's some sort of rough outline, but sometimes it's just 3 pages of bullet points. And even when there is an outline, it doesn't become the structure for the paper. This is the process of just trying to think about what I can say in the paper.

3. I can't work forever.
I've realized that I tend to write truly fabulous introductions (if I do say so myself) and totally shitty conclusions (no shame in saying it). I think it's because I insist on sitting down and just hammering out a paper, but towards the end I'm tired and brain-shocked. My latest BFF is a google chrome app called "Strict Pomodoro". It works like this: when I start the timer, for 25 minutes all the distracting sites are blocked. I get this message
But then after that 25 minutes, I get 5 minutes of fun time before going back to a 25 minute work-session. I've found that I can last longer and feel more productive and write better stuff when I work in focus bursts like this.

4. Embrace the shitty first draft. 
I will forever love Anne Lamott for making shitty first drafts a thing. There's really no shame in a shitty first draft. Getting ideas on the page is really the most significant part of writing and caring about the quality of a first draft is one sure fire way to kill all my ideas. So I use the word independence 15 times in a first-draft paragraph if it gets me where I need to be. Later I go back and put in synonyms like "autonomous" and make run-on sentences into actual grammer. 

5. Show it to someone else.
This is something I started learning my junior year of high school when I began to my drafts to my teacher for feedback, and I realized that not only was I getting better grades, but I was actually writing better papers! Imagine! Since coming to college, I've been a crack whore at the writing associate program. The first time I went it was out of fear. Before coming to college, I'd been warned (threatened) that although I always got As in high school, I couldn't expect to do so in college. Rather than admit that was true, I went to the WAs with my first paper hoping to do better. It worked! I think getting feedback is important, because there's always at least one or two glaring errors in my paper's arguments and a fresh pair of eyes helps figure that out. I don't think decent papers come out of 12 hours in the library by yourself.

6. Revise.
I learned this one the hard way. On one of my earlier English papers, I turned in a truly bad paper. When my English professor met with me for mid-term assessments, she praised my earliest papers, then added "I haven't finished this one, but I can tell it's rough. So why don't we read it together?" She then commenced to read it aloud to me. It was slighly anguishing because we both knew how bad a paper it was, and we both knew I could do better. By the end of the first page we were both making fun of it and agreed to put it away until I had a real paper to turn in (a real paper, that, for the record, I got an A on). The biggest difference between that paper and my other ones was that I didn't spend any time revising this one. I didn't even print it out or read it aloud! The sad thing was that I didn't do that because I really didn't like the paper and didn't want to spend the time to read it through all the way. Talk about a red flag! So these days, when I'm revising a paper, I think about sitting in my English professor's office and hearing her read the paper aloud. I try to think if it's BS to make fun of or if it's something decent.

7. Takeout Chinese and giving a damn.
This is my final touches point. Takeout Chinese means that I can't write if I'm hungry, and I need to reward myself when I finish. Usually it's cheap takeout Chinese with my friends. (Because anything is better than Sharples). Equally important is caring about the paper. I've realized that English is my best subject because it's the one I'm willing to spend lots of time on. I (usually) am really invested in turning in the best essay I can write, and it makes a big difference. The difference between a paper I care about and one I don't is night and day.

So there we go! Now I'm going to Sharples for midnight breakfast

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Q: How do you not pass your finals?

A: Watch the first episode of Downton Abbey as a one-time study break.

You can't watch just one.

It's 4:30 in the morning. Oh well. YOPFO!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A year ago...

So the ladies over at Harley and Jane had an oddly perfect prompt for me this weekend:

Exactly one year ago today I got into Swarthmore. I reread that blog post for the first time in like 10 months. It made me smile, because I remember how ecstatic I was. I didn't see it coming at all, and it was some big time validation right when I needed it. It was the first step in a big time upward curve of my senior year.

It's funny to be sitting here wrapping up my first semester and studying for finals a year after I found out this was where I'd be going. There are lots of things everyday that make me so glad I'm here, and make me so sure I made the right decision. At the same time, I can't help feeling that I might have been happy anywhere. I think college is a really great time of life and if things had worked out differently I could have still been happy. It makes me feel good to know that things are usually okay.

So who knows where I'll be December 10 of next year. I'm throwing around ideas. I'm thinking this next year is going to be another really wonderful one.

I crossed off my first box on my things-I-have-to-do-before-I-can-go-to-Hawaii list! One down six to go. I think I'm going to make it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quote Sunday

I'm knee deep in essays. I've got four to write this week. This whole exam period thing is hard.

One of the essays is my final essay for my English seminar. I'm writing it about this prose poem that I read in the anthology and that I love. Mostly I love it because it does what I love poetry for doing: finding ways to take what's internal and flip it external, and finding ways to say the things you can't quite outright describe or state.

Marilyn Krysl

My body is too many children, they are all hungry at once. As I write this one of them bangs my thigh with a doll. I say, Stop that! But my body is headstrong. When it doesn’t get its way it throws a tantrum. One it kicked a wall and broke three toes. In winter it sulks because it can’t fly. And some days it won’t put on its clothes no matter where we’re going. It gets oily and sweats and sits in its mess, breathing, and I have to wash and comb it patiently and sing it little songs, and then it goes to the party

without me. I come later alone. I tell it it’s going to regret all that beaujolais. But my body is defiant, has another glass, and another, gets roaring. The next afternoon I have to phone and apologize. I say, Please excuse my body. There is no excuse for its conduct, but now it regrets the greedy gobbling of hors d’oeuvres, those lies about your gracious wife. Then I march it to the mirror in the bathroom and make myself stern and say sharply, I’m ashamed of you! When are you going to grow up?  And my body hangs its head. But I’m suspicious. Should I trust it?

When we have a dentist appointment my body hangs back. I am cheery. Be brave, I tell it. But my body is nervous, makes excuses. Then I have to say, At your age! This is disgraceful! It starts to sniffle, to grovel, to beg, If only, it says. In the end I drag it to the car. Slam the door and rev the motor. Some day I’ll wash my hands of you, I say.

Then one night it sits down on the bed, strokes the cat. Is anything wrong? The cat jumps off, my body lies down, stares at the ceiling. And now I understand that it is sad. The other body it wants to be loved by has flown off to Bermuda with the redhaired stewardess, and now my body says it wants to die. So I sit down beside it. Wouldn’t you like to go for a walk? I ask. Shall I get you a glass of cold water? Want me to brush your hair? But it turns away. Is it weeping?

It is weeping. Now it’s eyes are red, it’s face splotched, it is ugly. What can I say – it gives me pleasure and grief, and now it is weary, so heavy, its face sags, it doesn’t care about the mirror anymore. It doesn’t care about the public or the politics. It doesn’t love music or admire the plastic arts. It is tired, it has stopped pretending. I will go out quietly and let it sleep.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Schedule (Spring Semester)

Well, I've registered for classes for next semester! I'm taking an extra fifth course, for reasons which will be explained at a later point in time. But I'm really pumped about my classes. I'm taking:

-Hebrew Bible Religion course. I am so excited to learn about this. The professor is one I had this semester, and I think it's going to be a really good course with him. Also, there's 6 people in the class. So that'll be neat. (Too small?)

-First Year Seminar in History called Engendering Culture. It includes John Wayne movies. Enough said.

-Organismal & Population Biology, which I'm sorta dreading. But it's a W credit and a lab credit and a science credit. So with this course I will have successfully fulfilled every single distribution requirement I need to fulfill. So I can just take humanities and social science classes for the next 3 years. Also, I'm pass/failing it, so I only need to get 51% in the course. I can do that.

-Early and Native American Fiction. I'm interested in this, because I've never studied Native American lit, so that will be neat. Also, English majors have to take 3 pre-1880 course, and 3 post-1880 courses. I'm way more inclined toward the post-1880, so I'm taking the pre-1880 ones first. Because I don't want to be a senior taking English classes I don't love. But also, Native American fiction. Yes.

-Poetry workshop. I was so excited to get admitted into one. Creative writing, and especially poetry are good for my little soul. It'll be the most poetry-writing-intensive course I've ever taken. I'm a little nervous, but in a good way.

-Yoga, because bodies are for moving, and I like the way it works in my schedule. It's breaks up my class-intense days. I think that will work well.

So there way these classes fit in my schedule is a little awkward. Mondays and Wednesdays I have classs 9:30-4, then 6-7:30. But I don't have class on Tuesday. And Thursday I only have Bio lab. And Friday I just have 9:30-11:20. We'll see how it works out. I think it will be alright. I think I'm going to like having alternating work-days and class-days. I love college and that I can take such awesome classes. 

Delta's been temptin me with ads on youtube. Those bastards.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Goals this week

The semester is ending. Hello hail-storm of work. So here are my goals for this week:

1. Eat at least two real meals a day. Ramen can count as a real meal. Fruit snacks cannot. Take a break from working long enough to go get real food.

2. 30 minutes a day of free reading. I don't know when I started doing this, but I've been doing it for a while, and it makes a difference. Having time to free read de-stresses me a lot.

3. Do not let Grumpy Hannah emerge.

4. Work on the big projects due next week and the week after. Do not leave those until the last minute.

5. At 3AM, remember that all the classes are graded pass/fail, so it will all work out okay, and go to bed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Playing with poetry

I've been reading Gertrude Stein. Specifically, I've been reading "Four Saints in Three Acts". My favorite quote about Gertrude Stein is: The two things you never asked Gertrude, ever, were about her being a lesbian and what her writing meant. Today I wrote a mimic of sorts. I dunno what it is. But I had fun playing with language again. It's been a while. 

good grief good grief
there is no such good

grief no such thing
of the trees
of the angels no such thing
of my god         oh my god
oh my god oh my god why

hast thou forsaken
thy sun

sparkling in the snow in the sand
in the sad dark
sad dark pathways
in the sad dark moon

where language fails one
drowned in the sound of the distance
in a damn well-given
in thick

skin thick skin thick
will still will still still will suffer
skin protecting
protecting weak hearts sm
all minds 

PS. For the first time tonight I've been in the library until it closed at 2. Hello end of semester.