Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Story Request


As you are a woman already in years, and much older
than myself, you must have seen many things that I have
not seen, and heard much that I have not heard.

Now I should like to hear the story of our people, who
we are, where we came from, and what things you heard
from your mother and grandmothers relative to old times.

-Traditional Story Request
from a Daughter
to a Grandmother

[I love my Native American Literature class.]

Friday, January 25, 2013

Creation Myths: They Get to You

Being back at school has been rather over-whelming. I'm taking an extra class, so I obviously have more work. But I'm also just in harder classes. Last semester, I had relatively easy classes, and comparatively  I'm feeling like I'm under a mountain. I don't mean to sound whiny. One of my happiness project goals for this month is to not complain about my privileges, like getting to have such a good education, even when they're hard. So even though my classes are going to be challenging, the good news is that I'm so excited about them (except Bio). Every class is interesting and engaging and I literally cannot wait to learn all this stuff.

I'm also taking yoga, because it fulfills a PE credit, and it breaks up my Monday/Wednesday class block of 8 hours. Yoga > Napping for these purposes. So I walk into yoga the first day and the professor/Zen Master (yeah, I went there) starts talking about the principles of yoga. And I'm following him rolling my eyes only occasionally, until he starts talking about how yoga has no destination. The purpose of yoga is not to get anywhere, but to let the practice enrich your life. And internally, I started listing all the successes I was going to accomplish by being in the class. Which was probably not the way to react.

So later that night I'm working on my one-hour daily freewrite for my poetry workshop, and I start writing about that. And what comes out is, "I would describe myself as a "goal-oriented person", because I think that's the nicer way to say "achievement-oriented person". " And then I was like "dammit to hell", because being achievement-oriented is a recipe not to be happy. So I'm working on that. Yoga - with it's absence of destination - will help. So will the poetry workshop. I'm scared out of my mind to be there, but I've decided that I'm not there for the grade, or the praise, or the published poems. I'm in there to see how I can grow.

Tonight, between my Native American Lit class and my Hebrew Bible class, I've spent several hours reading creation myths. There was this awesome feminist criticism of Genesis that I'll probably write about some time. But all this creating myths have left me stuck on the concept of purpose. There's so much emphasis on how human were created, but not a lot of why. And though I realize there's a slew of answers to that question, I'm still wondering why. Maybe not even in the grander scheme. Maybe more on the minuscule scheme. What am I doing, right now. And why am I doing it.

Creation myths man, they get to you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quote(ish) Sunday

I feel quiet lately. Or at least quieter. It's a full kind of quiet that's flooded with all sorts of thoughts and feelings and plans and things. I feel like I can get lost in this quiet. But in a good way. I could sit here in the sun in my kitchen staring out the window at the snow and sink into this quiet for hours. It's an easy quiet, somehow more natural than the loud.

I feel like I'm in a flow. Right now life is simple and fun and brilliant and easy. That might be dangerous to say. It's not that I'm in vacation mode. I mean it is. But the flow is deeper than that. I'm just happy right now. A quiet simple happy. I feel grounded. Deeply grounded. Like I can lean into things that are uncomfortable and scary and unknown, because I'm grounded so it will work out. Maybe that's the best thing about being in a flow; a (sometimes) irrational belief that things are always okay in the end.

And I feel vulnerable these days. Every single day I feel vulnerable. But the beautiful thing is that I haven't been slammed for it. I've felt loved and supported and accepted. Which makes being vulnerable all the better.

And I can't get this poem out of my head. It's called "Happiness is a Hot Mess" and it's by Lauren Zuniga:

There are vegetables overflowing from every surface.
Growing from pots, saved from dumpsters, crooked
sculptures in bowls. The windows are open. Sampson
and Delilah are necking, frenzied black fur and growl.

Lemon Engine is learning the banjo. Cigarette perched
on bottom lip. Clumsy claw hammer. Occasionally,
she looks up to see if she is disturbing anyone. Even
the ceramic owls are tapping their feet. The ants two-
step along mean trails of cayenne. No one is going

The shower curtain keeps falling. The door is off its
hinges. This house is not used to such warm sirens.
Rising up smells like lavender oil and a pile of sweaty
girls. I fell off my bike yesterday; I’ve been admiring
the wound all morning.

Abundance is a handmade grail, filled with mulberry
mead. All these years, I had mistaken it for a clean
house and full bank account. When it came, I didn’t
even notice the casual spill. How it stained the linens.
How it made every crevice glow so loud and sweet.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

So Long Utah (for now at least)

Well, I'm packing up my life again for the East. And it's complex, but I'm excited. I'm going to be home the first weekend of March (that'll be explained at a future date).

At any rate, I've had the best week in Utah. Pretty much all I've done is hang out with my favorite people (and usually food was involved, so that makes it even better). I've spent hours and hours talking to people I haven't seen for months, and won't see for months more (for a two of them, it's years more, because they're headed off on missions in exciting places). And after all the talking and sharing and catching up (and maybe a little crying because as of late I cry all the time), I just feel so incredibly grateful.

There's this Razor's Edge quote that I'm sure I've shared before, but it's been on my mind pretty much all week: "Almost all the people who've had most effect on me I seem to have met by chance, yet looking back it seems as though I couldn't but have met them. It's as if they were waiting to be called upon when I needed them."

It may well be that everyone feels this way, but I just can't believe how incredibly lucky I am. There are lots of privileges and blessings I have to be grateful for, but probably the biggest is my support system. I feel highly undeserving of all these incredible people I get to be friends with. Every day this week, I got to spend time with such phenomenal people. And I just wondered how and why. Most of these people I got close to by random. And yet, I can't imagine where I'd be without my giant support system.

I am so fortunate. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I'm hanging around Salt Lake this week. By which I mean I'm going on breakfast/lunch/coffe/dinner dates with people this week. Which is lovely. What's not lovely is the temperature. When the plane landed on Saturday, the pilot announced "it's 14 degrees outside" and I was like that's literally 70 degrees colder than Hawaii. Which sucked. But what sucked even more is that it's continued to be cold. Not mildly cold. IT'S REALLY DAMN COLD. The temperature gage on the car has been in the single digits more often than not. I feel like a priss, but I swear it wasn't this cold last winter. Also contributing to me being cold could be the fact that my winter coat is in Philadelphia and I am not, but I think it's most that it's 5 degrees outside.

In other news, I've recently learned that having a ten-year plan is a thing that people at real non-liberal-arts colleges do (since most of the seniors that I know at Swat don't know what they're doing in June, much less 10 years). There are several things I find amusing about the idea of a ten-year plan. The first and I think most obvious is that no ten-year plan ever works out. There's an awesome This American Life Episode called Plan B that is basically about how no life ever goes according to plan. Another reason that I find ten-year plans strange is that I have no bloody idea where I want to go. There are vague graduate school ideas on the table, but I'm not planning on which kind in any regard. Could go any way. The final reason I ten-year plans boggle my mind is that they would seem to direct a life unnecessarily. I think it's easier to lean into something uncomfortable and unexpected and new if there isn't a ten-year plan it's throwing off. And I think those scary things end up being some of the best things.

The only things on my ten-year plan list are: be moderately to extremely happy and have good hair.

Also, I miss school and am ready to go back. I've had a really fabulously phenomenal break. I mean 3 weeks in Hawaii? Yes. But I miss school. I miss feeling like I'm accomplishing something and growing everyday. I miss independence  It's been wonderful to spend substantial time with my family, but it's also sort of infantalizing. I came home and was like "okay Judy, you can do my laundry" and "Lorin can I borrow your credit card for dinner" and just slipped into the normal roles of our relationship. Which is natural I think, but I'm ready to get back to the world of autonomy. And I really miss my friends. Snapchat just doesn't compensate for living together and ordering Chinese food.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Break Reading List

Since the two activities that have consumed most of the past 3 weeks of my life have been getting "skin cancer"  (still don't believe in it) and reading, I thought I'd do a recap. These are the books I read over break. Some were great, some were not. The really sad thing was that even though I read all these books, I still have 5 books I brought over to Hawaii that I didn't read. Maybe a kindle is a good thing for me after all. 

I'm not ready to go back to the real world where I don't get to spend every day of my life reading whatever I damn well please. 

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

This is a book that's been on my radar for quite a while. My last day in Hawaii, I was getting a bit worn-out by my history book, and downloaded this one (one more Kindle perk). And it was by far my favorite book I read all of break. It's a short story collection, and the stories are just awesome. I love the fable-like mystical elements of them, combined with plainness of life. Also, the writing is just so damn good. I wanted to underline everything, because the words were just so right. I love this book to the point of mild obsession. 

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

There is no denying the fact that Jeffrey Eugenides is a phenomenal writer, and I love how well-written this book was. I really liked reading it right up to the end, which was bad. Similar to Middlesex, actually, in that it was just a give-up kind of ending. Totally unsatisfactory, and yet I still really liked reading it. Probably it was because the protagonist is an English major who doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Goodness, I love that English major protagonist.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I absolutely loved this one. I'm kinda a sucker for the nonfiction discovering-self books. My favorite thing that I learned from this is the connection between happiness and growth. That's something that I totally believe in, and as I've been trying to incorporate it into my days, I'm already finding it to be incredibly true. I've started a mini Happiness Project of my own for the next 5 months or so. 

Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

This book was one that slowly and subtly got more and more sad. The good part was the absolutely heart-wrenching ending. The bad part was that getting there was, at times, very slow. I did really like the narrative style though, it was incredible in the emotional vividness and honesty. I love that I simultaneously loved, hated, pitied and wanted to punish Paddy.

Democracy by Joan Didion

I read this book in one sitting. Joan Didion's been one of my favorites ever since Year of Magical Thinking (even though I haven't worked up the strength to read Blue Nights). The amount of craft in this novel is amazing. Seriously I was reading it and just blown away at how talented Didion is. That being said, I was a little underwhelmed by the plot and characters. Yet I still liked the book. I can't entirely understand how I liked a book without liking the plot or characters, but there you have it. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This was another one I read in a single day. It's surprisingly compelling. And yet, once I'd finished it, I felt kinda meh. I understand why people would love it, but it wasn't the best book ever. It felt like Atwood was first and foremost making a feminist point (that I happened to agree with) and secondly writing a novel. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

My reason for reading this book was that someone recommended I do, because it's a good vacation book. And it definitely is a vacation book, because it's only worth reading for plot. The plot was nice and sad and yes. My problem was that it was so poorly written, it almost killed the plot. I'm sorry John Greene, you did not pull off writing a teen cancer love story. You just didn't. Also, your attempts at foreshadowing were pathetic, because I knew what was happening at every turn.

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

This was my only homework over break. I had to read it for my poetry workshop, because Hyde is coming to Swat in a few weeks, and he'd going to do a small discussion workshop with our class. So full disclosure, I haven't quite finished this one. But I've read most of it, and I've enjoyed it. It's very good analysis of art and the cultural role of the gift. And I think it applies to more than art. 

Bury the Chains by Adam Rothschild

This was my non-English major book, but it was stil awesome. It's the story of the abolition of the slave trade throughout the English empire. It's an incredible story. I think this was probably the most moving book I read all of break. I can't talk about it too much without starting to cry, because it's just astonishing how much good can be accomplished by a few people who follow their consciences. 

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving  by Jonathan Evison

This book was so bloody sad. Seriously, from the first page it's devastatingly sad, but not that poorly-written sappy sad. It's truly tragic, in that sense of unimaginably painful things that might happen to anyone actually happening to someone. And in that sense, it's nothing less than addictive. Basically I loved reading/crying over it.

Book of Mormon Girl  by Joanna Brooks

I've had this book on my shelf for around eight months. One of my fringy-Mormon friends (the great ones who vote for Obama and wear pants to church) recommended it to me. Granted, it's sold at Deseret Book, so it's not that fringy a book, but still. For the first half, I was a little exasperated, because I was just like "right, Mormonism's weird  Everyone knows that. Mormons are acutely aware of it. What's your point?" But the second half I loved. It was the kind of honest response to the church that I love reading. Brooks perfectly described the anguishing complexity of being a Mormon, and I kinda love her for it. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Kindle Conundrum

Our story today starts with Judy and her kindle. When kindles first got popular - when they released the Kindle 2 - Lorin and I got Judy one for some gift-giving holiday (I'm thinking Mother's day 2009). So Judy started reading on her kindle, and like many people she really loved it. She's actually gotten a little addicted to it. The other day, she was reading a real book (because someone gave it to her as a present) and she was complaining to me that "I can't change the font size and the pages are too hard to turn and it's too heavy and you have to hold it open." (Later that day, she bought the same book for her kindle).

Promptly after getting her kindle, Judy started bugging me to buy a kindle. Mostly because it would save money. My parents do generously fund my book-buying addictions, and it's true that it'd be way cheaper to buy books on a kindle. But I like real books, damnit. So for the last 3 years, I've been insisting that I don't want a kindle, which is not entirely accurate.

The truth is, though I love real books and would never give them up, there are some parts of having a kindle that appeal to me. But there are two inherent pitfalls to me having a kindle. 1) I will buy real books anyway 2) Without the physical presence of books reminding me that I bought them, I will download thousands of books more than I could possibly consider reading to my kindle.

So since Judy's been using her kindle for the last 3 1/2 years, it's gotten a little beat up, to say the least. So for Christmas, I got her a fancy new one. She loves it a whole lot. And she gave me her old one.

So now I own a kindle. Under somewhat favorable circumstances, because given that my parents didn't buy it for me, I can continue to buy real books guilt-free. However, I've already downloaded 11 books to it, so I'm going to have to get some control there.

The larger, possibly more confusing problem is that I really like having a kindle. I like that it's smaller and lighter than a book, and I like that I can organize all my books in one place. I also like adjusting the font, because with a big font, I can read while I run on the treadmill and not loose my place! I like that it will show me all the passages I underlined and notes I took in one place in sequential order. It's not a satanic evil.

But I also hate reading on a kindle. I miss having pages to flip through, and writing in the margins. I miss book covers! And I miss big pages. The kindle screen is small and it feels like I'm turning the page ever other paragraph. I feel removed from the books, in this funny way. The kindle is sort of impersonal.

So that's my conundrum. I don't know what I'll do. I'll probably just keep buying and reading real books and buying and reading kindle books. Maybe eventually I'll figure it out.
Submitted my essay to 4 lit mags so far. Almost halfway there. Yay for simultaneous submissions.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Soaking Up the Vitamin C

So I've reached this sort of weird impasse with my blog. The problem that the 3 or 4 biggest things in my life right now I'm not really ready/willing to blog about, for various reasons. Which is fine. But every time I sit down to blog, I end up writing something I don't want to post. So I've got about a billion drafts/journals/half-written word documents that I probably won't post for another month or two. So the blog's kinda gone to hell.

I'm trying to give myself a break though. I'm not feeling guilty about not blogging. I'm thinking about one of my favorite Sam Hamilton quotes from East of Eden. He says, "I'm having enjoyment. And I made a promise to myself that I would not consider enjoyment a sin." And the reverse is true too. Blogging has been, and still is, something that I love doing. But I'm not going to do it at the times that it doesn't bring me enjoyment. That's just stupid. This has always been a project more for me than anyone else, and I'm going to keep it that way
So that's where I'm at. I think it's just growing pains of having a life more complicated than can be cleanly delineated on a blog. So it goes. I'll find a way to make blogging work for me again. Or I won't.  But I'm inclined to think I will.

In the meantime, I'm happy in Hawaii. I've got a decent tan, and I'm trying to soak up enough vitamin C to last me through that awful month of February. I leave a week from today, and I'm grateful I get that time here. This is my longest trip ever, but it's perfect. I've been reading a lot, too. So far: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle, Democracy by Joan Didion, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Next I'm going to start a short story collection by Naomi Shihab Nye. I love reading.

I'm looking forward to a week in Utah to see everyone (namely a best friend named Kat - we're squeezing an entire winter into 3 days) and I'm also excited to get back to school. I miss my friends, and I'm super excited for classes to start.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 has arrived

Well, here we are, 2013. I was kinda sad to say goodbye to 2012. It was a really really good year for me, for lots of reasons I'm not going to innumerate here. Also I just like the number 12 better than 13, but it's okay, worse things have happened than odd-numbered years. Actually, I'm pretty excited about 2013. I think it's going to be another good one.

Since 2013 is here, let the New Year's Resolution's begin. I, like every other human being on the planet, suck at New Years Resolutions. But every year I make them anyway, usually making them up around 10:30 on December 31 (yeah, I take them super seriously). But here they are anyway:

1. Get my braided essay published or get 10 rejection letters, whichever comes first.

2. Run 1,000 miles.

3. Read some classics that I've avoided: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Lolita, Catch-22, and The Moviegoer. Plus whatever else catches my fancy.

4. Go somewhere I've never been and/or get a stamp in my passport.

5. Get involved with a long-term meaningful service project.

6. Recycle, for heaven's sake.

7. Get a 4.0 this upcoming semester (since 2 of my 5 classes are pass/fail and therefore don't go into my GPA, I think this is plausible.)

8. Keep off the caffeine.