23 April, 2009

Some of my favorite poems AKA I can't sleep

Quid Pro Quo 
Paul Mariani

Just after my wife's miscarriage (her second
in four months), I was sitting in an empty
classroom exchanging notes with my friend,
a budding Joyce scholar with steelrimmed
glasses, when, lapsed Irish Catholic that he was,
he surprised me by asking what I thought now
of God's ways toward man. It was spring,

such spring as came to the flintbacked Chenango
Valley thirty years ago, the full force of Siberia
behind each blast of wind. Once more my poor wife
was in the local four-room hospital, recovering.
The sun was going down, the room's pinewood panels
all but swallowing the gelid light, when, suddenly,
I surprised not only myself but my colleague

by raising my middle finger up to heaven, quid
pro quo, the hardly grand defiant gesture a variant
on Vanni Fucci's figs, shocking not only my friend
but in truth the gesture's perpetrator too. I was 24,
and, in spite of having pored over the Confessions
& that Catholic Tractate called the Summa, was sure
I'd seen enough of God's erstwhile ways toward man.

That summer, under a pulsing midnight sky
shimmering with Van Gogh stars, in a creaking,
cedarscented cabin off Lake George, having lied
to the gentrified owner of the boys' camp
that indeed I knew wilderness & lakes and could,
if need be, lead a whole fleet of canoes down
the turbulent whitewater passages of the Fulton Chain

(I who had last been in a rowboat with my parents
at the age of six), my wife and I made love, trying
not to disturb whosever headboard & waterglass
lie just beyond the paperthin partition at our feet.
In the great black Adirondack stillness, as we lay
there on our sagging mattress, my wife & I gazed out
through the broken roof into a sky that seemed

somehow to look back down on us, and in that place,
that holy place, she must have conceived again,
for nine months later in a New York hospital she
brought forth a son, a little buddha-bellied
rumplestiltskin runt of a man who burned
to face the sun, the fact of his being there
both terrifying & lifting me at once, this son,

this gift, whom I still look upon with joy & awe. Worst,
best, just last year, this same son, grown
to manhood now, knelt before a marble altar to vow
everything he had to the same God I had had my own
erstwhile dealings with. How does one bargain
with a God like this, who, quid pro quo, ups
the ante each time He answers one sign with another?

In the Desert
Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter", he answered,
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Making Love
Rebecca McClanahan

Why make ? I used to wonder.
Is it something you have to keep on
making, like beds or dinner, stir it up

or smooth it down? Sex, I understood,
an easy creaking on the upholstered
springs of a man you meet in passing.

You have sex, you don't have to make it,
it makes you—rise and fall and rise again,
each time, each man, new. But love?

It could be the name of a faraway
city, end of a tired journey you take
with some husband, your bodies chugging

their way up the mountain, glimpsing
the city lights and thinking, If we can
keep it up, we'll make Love by morning.

I guess it was fun for somebody,
my grandmother once said. By then
I was safely married and had earned

the right to ask, there in the kitchen
beside the nodding aunts. Her answer
made me sad. In her time, love meant making

babies, and if I had borne twelve
and buried three, I might see my husband
as a gun shooting off inside me, each bullet

another year gone. But sex wasn't my question.
Love was the ghost whose shape kept
shifting. For us, it did not mean babies,

those plump incarnations the minister
had promised—flesh of our flesh,
our increase. Without them, and twenty years

gone, what have we to show
for the planing and hammering, bone
against bone, chisel and wedge,

the tedious sanding of night
into morning—when we rise, stretch,
shake out the years, lean back,

and see what we've made: no ghost,
it's a house. Sunlight through the window
glazing our faces, patina of dust

on our arms. At every axis, mortise
and tenon couple and hold. Doors
swing heavy on their hinges.

Love Song: I and Thou
Alan Dugan

Nothing is plumb, level or square:
the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh I spat rage's nails
into the frame-up of my work:
It held. It settled plumb.
level, solid, square and true
for that one great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it I sawed it
I nailed it and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand cross-piece but
I can't do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.

Making a Fist
Naomi Shihab Nye
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

"How do you know if you are going to die?"
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
"When you can no longer make a fist."

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not

a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

The edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far

we are learning to make fire.

Sonnet XVII
Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

If I Could Tell You
W. H. Auden

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose all the lions get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Some regionalisms.

Here are some things you won't understand unless you live in Provo or have lived in Provo:

1. In Seattle, whenever I saw a large group of girls wearing all black, with really short/spiky/multicolored etc. hair, I always thought to myself, "Oh look, punks." If I were at a Rasputina concert, I might walk up to them and strike up a conversation about how awesome it is that a band exists which consists of only three electric cellos and a drum kit. Otherwise, though, depending on what time of night it was and whether or not I was alone, I might cross the street to avoid them. I have noticed that large groups of women can sometimes be more threatening than large groups of men. Sometimes.

However, in Provo, when I see large group of girls wearing all black, with really short/spiky/multicolored etc. hair, I always say to myself, "Oh look, hair school girls." All black is the look de rigueur of all the hair schools in Provo. I think there are six.

2. I have never seen a Civil War reenactment. I imagine that they are like Renaissance fairs (faires?) but louder and without women. Despite the fact that I have never been to one, however, as soon as the weather gets nice, I cannot walk around BYU campus without thinking it looks just like a Civil War reenactment. Bodies bodies everywhere, splayed in various positions. Sometimes on top of one another. Ha!

3. Last week when I was working in the temple, a group of cute sister missionaries came and stood near where I was sitting in the hallway. I smiled at them and said, "Hey sisters, where are you going?" I think they were going to Virginia or someplace like that. No! Canada. Anyway, while I was sitting there and they were waiting for the last girl to come out, at least FOUR other people came over to them and said the same thing. "Hey sisters, where are you going?" Inwardly, I cursed myself for my lack of originality. Next time I see a group of sister missionaries, I am asking each girl what her favorite color is.

4. Speaking of that, I sent out a resume today along with a couple of references. I listed Ashley as a reference and said that she was my "personal friend and former mission companion." Because I was sending the resume to a family in Provo I didn't really think about it, but after a while it occurred to me that might not make any sense to someone who was not Mormon. It occurred to me that they might think I had a past career as an astronaut. As I thought about this I wondered if anyone would think I seemed like the sort of girl who was smart and cool and all-American enough to be travel in a rocket ship. I reached the conclusion of "no."

5. I love holding hands. I mean I really love it. With men or women. I went on a few dates with a boy who claimed he liked holding hands better than kissing. I don't know if that is true, he might just have been trying to seem impressive, but you have to admit that's pretty adorable, right? He had beautiful hands, by the way. They were big and masculine and handsome. But I've said too much already.

In Seattle, I would often hold hands with my friends while walking down the street. I still do this, although not with straight men I am not interested in (or my lesbian friends, if I had any of those), because I don't want to expose their film.* Anyway, in Seattle I found that people would often do a double take when they saw me holding hands with another woman, but then they would sort of smile indulgently and move on with their lives. However, in Utah, when someone sees me holding hands with a woman, they do a double take and then either glare or look away embarrassed. I find this absolutely hilarious.

To bring a little more balance into the world (you're welcome), here is something people of all regions can understand and agree with:

1. Now that finals are over, I am reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time. I think it is a great book.

And here is something NO ONE in ANY region will probably understand:

All day today, I was craving pita bread with horseradish like we ate at Passover. I don't know why.

*This is a Portuguese phrase that roughly means "to give out an untrue impression of someone's availability." For example, when I go out to dinner alone with my brother, people generally assume we are dating, which is gross. He exposes my film.

20 April, 2009

The WORST feeling

This is, officially, the worst feeling in the world.

1. Thinking of a book I want to read right this very minute.
2. Looking online to see if it is at the library.
3. Finding the record of the book!
4. Finding out that the book is available!!
5. Writing the call number of the book on my hand/in my planner.
6. Driving/walking/biking to the library intensely excited to check out said book.
7. Finding the call number where the book should be.

and then

8. The book is not there.

No man on earth has ever broken my heart like that.

Ode to John-Ross Kegans Boyce

Among those that know J.R. Boyce, many of them might say that he is a vulgar, abrasive curmudgeon. Some might even take it up a notch and say that he is an asshole. But I say unto you, nay. Or rather, he may be a curmudgeon, and a vulgar one, but he a terrific guy nonetheless. I will defend J.R.'s honor to the death for two reasons:

1. One night last January, I got into a fight with a boy over the phone. I came out of my room at about midnight, crying my head off. J.R. happened to be at our house, and he not only brought me water, he sat on the couch with me and told me jokes, then watched the Muppet Show with me until I felt better. It was probably until about four in the morning.

2. This morning, once again at about four, I was up working on a stupid paper and feeling extremely sleep-deprived and frustrated. John-Ross sat across the table from me and kept me company. We listened to Tom Waits and Jay-Z. He kept me sane. For about five hours. He wasn't trying to impress me, and there was no one else around to impress. I know for a fact he isn't trying to date me either (this lack of interest is, in fact, mutual). No ulterior motives were to be had. He is just that cool.

In conclusion, if anyone out there has a problem with this kid, they got ME to deal with.

17 April, 2009

My Summer Goals

Finals are so close to done I can taste it. It tastes like mint. I am really looking forward to four months of freedom. But don't worry! I won't stagnate! Not with these as my summer goals!

NOTE: None of these are jokes. Not a single. One.
NOTE II: If any of you would like to join/be involved with any of these goals, holler @ me.

1. Build a model volcano and induce an eruption (that's right, THIS is the summer).
2. Teach Vilja and Red how to do family history research.
3. Go to the dog park in Salt Lake with Gheybin.
4. Read all of the books Alisha recommends.
5. CLEAN OUT our frickin' garage with Pamela.
6. Study astronomy with Brooke, Gordon, and Ashley.
7. Visit the library in Salt Lake. The one with all the fireplaces.
8. Visit Ashley and her baby (sorry, Grant) in Chicago.
9. Travel to Phoenix and meet my soon-to-be stepfather.
10. Visit my brother at his new stomping grounds (either Gonzaga or SUO).
11. Do a session at the new Draper Temple.
12. Watch all three Lord of the Rings movies in a row. Regular, NOT the extended editions.
13. Garden.
14. Wrangle goats.
15. Finish memorizing "the Lady of Shalott."
16. Go to this Star Trek convention in Las Vegas the first weekend in August.
17. New X-Men movie!!!!!
18. New Star Trek movie!!!!!
19. Finish reading the Book of Mormon in Hungarian.
20. Host some good shows at our house (suggestions welcome).

16 April, 2009

Formicidae and First Days

So there are lots and lots of dishes that need to be done, but I am not doing them--and not for the reason you might think, but rather because our dishwasher is infested with ants. I hate ants. I don't mind them outside, I just hate opening up a cupboard or dishwasher and seeing them crawling everywhere. It freaks me out. I would take one thousand spiders outside in a glass before I would co-exist with ants. Blegh.

Anyway, yesterday I was the one unfortunate enough to discover our little ant problem when I opened our dishwasher. I screamed really loud and scared Pamela to death. Anyway, we tried to create an ant trap using honey, but it doesn't work. So I (and I still don't understand why I had to do this) sprayed cleaning fluid on them and drowned the little bugs. I felt bad about killing the ants even though I'm not crazy about them, but as Amalia so logically pointed out, "What else can we do? Sing to them and lure them outside?" Then I (shudder) wiped off the little ant corpses so they wouldn't get on our dishes the next time we ran the machine. I really don't like ants.

Today I opened the dishwasher again today and they were back!!! Perhaps reincarnated. Perhaps the other ants smelled their dead family members. I think ants have a really good sense of smell. Is that right? I know they have superhuman strength (superant strength?). They are pretty cool creatures. I just wish they would stay outside. Anyway, I killed those guys too.

I wasn't planning to write about ants today. I was going to write about my first day of junior high. Taylor, Brooke and I were brainstorming about the latest draft of our pilot, which is about a girl starting her freshman year of high school. Then this memory came back to me, and I am pretty sure I had forgotten about it until today.

So I went to a charter school that was really awesome, and it only had about seventy kids K-6. We had our own salmon hatchery, graded ourselves, and called the teachers by their first names. I don't mean this in a corny way, but it's true: we were more like a family than a school. My graduating class in sixth grade was only eight kids, and we were like siblings. We fought like siblings even, but generally got along really well. Anyway, everyone except me and one other girl lived on the other side of the district divide, so I only knew one girl when I started my first day at this junior high of several hundred kids. As luck would have it, she was enrolled in some special program, so we didn't have any classes together.

The two things I remember about my first day of junior high was that I answered a question correctly in my science class (it was a really easy question) and everyone in the class looked at me askance, because apparently only losers answer questions on the first day of school. Also, I remember that at lunch, I had no idea where to go, because I didn't know anyone. Finally I saw a girl I knew from girls' camp, although she was in a different ward. I was so happy to see someone I knew, so I went and sat with her and her friends. She didn't talk to me or even look at me, which at the time I found really embarrassing, but now I find sort of funny. Anyway, I never tried sitting with her again.

The next day, this other girl who had recently moved to Seattle from Palestine walked up to me and asked if I would be her friend. Just like that. She turned out to be really cool. Her name was Zaynab, and she and I and this other immigrant girl from Vietnam (Thuy Nguyen) sat together every lunch until Zaynab's family ended up moving a few months later. Those girls even got me a present and sang to me on my birthday. They were so nice. Thuy and I were friends (though never super-close friends) throughout high school. She had a baby sophomore year and kept it, but she stayed in school and graduated with all sorts of honors. Her daughter's name was Eden and she was incredibly cute.

The really funny thing about the initial memory of having nowhere to sit at lunch is that I totally forgot about it. I was never good friends with that girl, but it's sort of ironic because I moved up the social ranks pretty successfully in high school, to the point where I knew pretty much everyone and was considered fairly "cool" (this was mostly because of Cori). By high school, this girl had decided that I was someone she wanted to be seen with, and because I had totally forgotten about the incident in seventh grade, I didn't have any reason not to be nice to her. I could have totally gotten revenge by rejecting her, but I forgot I had any reason to.

I wonder if I would have gotten any pleasure out of that. Probably not. She was mildly handicapped, I think, or maybe just not very well socialized, so it would have felt sort of unfair. Like killing ants outside, as opposed to inside, when one has no other choice.

14 April, 2009

Things I've never done before, week 3

Remember how I said I would be blogging a lot this week? You probably thought that was a joke, didn't you? Boy, you must feel like an IDIOT right about now.

Truly, though, I am going to be quite busy for the next three days, what with finals, study groups, and working at the temple twice (not because of my exceedingly great righteousness, but rather due to an unforeseen scheduling snafu). Anyway, I will be completely preoccupied with things I have done before, which is why I'm getting my goal out of the way early this week. Tonight was a really cool opportunity to do something I have not done before, though had it not been for this goal, I probably wouldn't have gone. Fact: I'm glad I did. Thank you, Preach My Gospel. And thank you, Gordon Rees. Though I doubt he'll ever see this.

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I went to a Shape Note Singing group. What is that, do you ask? Basically, it's singing out of a hymnal from the 1600s (like the Puritans used) which consists of four-part a capella harmonies that are sung unfathomably loud.

Here is more information if my summary wasn't enough:
An NPR (woooo) piece about its history and preservation efforts.
What looks to be one of the preservation efforts.
The first hit for "sacred harp singing" on google.

Here is what this shiz sounds like:

I know, right? No, seriously. You MUST click on one of these links and listen to this stuff. It's INSANITY. My friend (G.R.) has been going to this singing group for a while now and earlier this week he posted information about the group, which meets once a month, on his facebook status. It happens to meet two blocks from our house, at the local Episcopalian church, which is nice and convenient. I decided that if I had a sufficiently productive day today, my reward to myself would be satisfying my curiosity by showing up to the group after I had dinner with one of my girlfriends. My plan was to sneak in the back and keep a low profile. My further plan was to listen and see what was so great about Sacred Harp Singing that kept people coming back.

There were a few problem with the realization of my goal, namely:

1. Apparently, no one goes to listen to Sacred Harp Singing. I noticed this when I arrived and entered the room. There was no audience. The only person there who wasn't singing was ten months old.
2. Related to this, it is impossible to keep a low profile, both due to the participatory nature of the music and the fact that everyone sits in a circle. There was no back row to sit in. There wasn't even any space to sit outside the circle. I walked into the chapel and sat down in the first chair I saw, between the Catholic-style baptistery and the door. I was a very conspicuous fire hazard. I was also an hour late. Additionally, I stuck out like a sore thumb, because I was not singing.

For the first twenty minutes or so I sat and listened to the music and tried not to feel self-conscious. I liked it. If this kind of music sounds cool on the internet, that's nothing to what it sounds like live. It was really, really cool. I don't understand how they get it to sound like that. Probably has something to do with acoustics that would be way over my head, so after a while I stopped trying to figure it out and just enjoyed it. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love people-watching, and so I also amused myself by craning my neck around and checking out what kind of folks (because they are for sure "folks" rather than plain old "people") attend something like this. There was about an even split between women and men, with the same age range for both genders (my age to early fifties), and everyone looked very "non-denominational." I don't know how else to explain it.

Maybe what I mean by that is the folks there looked like the sort of people who weren't out to impress anyone. Does that make sense? Everyone was singing incredibly loud and some were stomping their feet or conducting to themselves with their hands. Some were doing both. The only person who looked even remotely self-conscious was this one girl who looked about nineteen. She was fidgeting and sang the way one does when one doesn't want to make it obvious one is singing. Little pursed lips, singing out of the corner of her mouth. And she kept looking down and to the side as if she were ashamed. If we had been in some sort of environment like an LDS ward choir, she would have fit right in. But because she was the only one who acted self-conscious, she stood out. How about that?

At one point, it came my turn to pick a song, because they apparently go in a big circle with each person picking a song in succession. Don't ask me why but it seemed very Quaker. Anyway, someone asked me to pick something, and I was so embarrassed I just blushed and said, "Oh, I don't know anything." To which an older man who appeared to be one of the guys in charge quipped, "Oh, and you think we do?" See what I mean? Good people.

Anyway, the group took a 15-minute break and by the time it was over I decided that an important part of trying something new is making a good-faith effort to fit in instead of sitting in the corner and taking notes like a creeper. So I sat down in the alto section even though I am usually a soprano, because there was a girl who was willing to share a book with me.

Quick tangent: I cannot sing. Well, I am capable of singing, but I am not confident in my singing abilities the way I am confident in my ability to, say, learn a language, or extract a favor from a customer service representative over the phone. The only reason I developed any singing ability is because of my mom. Directly. One, she sang to me a lot when I was little. Two, she made me participate in school choir until sixth grade, when I rebelled. However, by then I had unfortunately garnered a reputation as a singer in my ward, I was asked to give special musical numbers in sacrament meeting fairly often throughout my teen years. I think I would have started refusing to do them eventually, had I not noticed that singing in sacrament meeting was a remarkably effective way to get my mom to come to church. And that was that. I sing to dogs and kids, and I sing in the car, and that is as far as I am willing to let that little light shine.

Anyway, I was nervous about singing alto because I am not so great at reading music, but luckily the girl with whom I was sharing a book was also new, and very nice, and made me feel better. Nevertheless, I tried my best, and I will say that I was no worse than anyone else there. Or perhaps I was, but everyone was singing too loud to notice. The lyrics to the songs in the hymnal are beautiful. They were particularly meaningful to me because I love the Early Modern English period. It occurred to me as I was sitting there that had I done this right, I probably could have weaseled some extra credit out of Dr. Chapman had I gone sometime during the semester. Alas, it is now too late.

I would say this has been the most interesting new thing I have tried so far. Not as educational as going to a pawn shop, nor as delicious as homemade pasta, but by far the most fun. Once I stopped being self-conscious. Perhaps that is the point. Something tells me the puritans weren't socially sophisticated enough to be self-conscious about singing. They just did it to worship God. Which is surely something that requires preserving. A sense of making joyful noises unto God without giving a damn about what you sound like. One more thing: the word "alleluia" was written on the south wall of that Episcopalian chapel. I can't imagine anyone being embarrassed and shouting "alleluia" at the same time. That's one of several reasons why it's my favorite word.

13 April, 2009

2015 is fast approaching STRESS TEST

So for my Early Modern English class, one of our final assignments was memorizing 20 lines from Macbeth and performing (well, reciting) these lines in the original pronunciation. Click here if you want to hear what that sounds like.

I definitely should have been working on this assignment all semester long in order to be really successful at it. But I didn't. I had read through them a few times but not studied them carefully. Instead, I got up really early this morning and started reading the lines to myself over and over. I did this right up until I came into my classroom for the presentation, and by then my brain felt just a little bit fried.

I sat next to my friends Alisha and Aethlflad and told them my woeful tale of ill preparation. By the way, I should mention that a lot of the girls in my EME class have really cool names. Besides Aethlflad (whose name is Old English and means "noble beauty") there is another girl name Aesalina, which is Icelandic for "heavenly woman." Cool huh? Also, a disproportionate number of girls in this class have names beginning with the letter A. I notice things like that. Anyway, Alisha is a very kind girl, and she also hates cinnamon bears. For whatever reason, her boyfriend gave her a giant bag of cinnamon bears today (although it being Easter, they were in fact Easter bunnies) and she didn't know what to do with them. So, seeing my emotional state, and being the sweet girl she is, she offered some to me.

Cinnamon bears/bunnies are actually my favorite. My true favorite is technically chocolate-covered cinnamon creatures (generally bears) but beggars who have been muttering to themselves in what sounds like a bad Scottish accent for four hours certainly cannot be choosers. Am I right? I ate some of the bunnies and they were delicious.

After the professor walked in and was milling around doing class business, I looked on my desk and saw a bunny with its ears bitten off sitting on my desk. It looked decapitated and gross. it also looked like the kind of thing Aethlflad would do since she is kind of a trickster. So I said to her:

Me: Who put this here? Aethlflad! You jerk!
A: No, I didn't! I was just sitting here! I didn't take any cinnamon bears!
Me: Whatever dude.

And I picked up the half-bunny and put it on her desk. I think she threw it away after that. I can't remember. So then a bunch of people performed their lines, and then I performed my lines, and sat down again. When I did Aethlflad turned to me and Alisha and said:

Aeth: So seriously, who put that bunny on Elisa's desk?
Alish: (laughs and points at me) She did. She was just messing around.
Aeth: (laughs) Seriously? That was awesome Elisa. You totally had me.
Me: (laughs)

Here is the scary part: I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. I had no memory of biting a cinnamon bunny in half and putting it on my desk. Why would anyone do that? What a gross thing to do! But because Alisha is very sweet, and also not wiley enough to come up with a scheme like that off the cuff, I am convinced she was telling the truth. I bit a cinnamon bunny in half, set it on my desk, then wrongly accused my friend of putting it there, all because my brain was so damaged by Early Modern English.

The moral of the story is: I performed my lines, and I totally sucked. Serves me, right, though. Really.

12 April, 2009

Things I've never done before, week 2

This week, as Vilja wrote, my "new experience" was going to be snowboarding for the first time, which promised to be both hilarious and humiliating. An excellent blogatunity. Alas, the weather was so darn nice this week (Not that I'm complaining!!! No sir!) that the slopes were closed, so Vilja, Lori and I missed our chance to fall on our butts on the bunny hill and possibly get beaned in the back of the head by a ski lift. I am positive that would have happened to me.

Anyway, since my plan fell through, I was conscious of my need to do new things this week, and possibly went a little overboard. Here are all the things I did this week for the first time:

Monday: nude modeled (at the Bridge Art Academy)
Wednesday: participated in a Passover Seder (I have been to them before, but I was always working so I didn't really participate)
Thursday: wrote a 15-page paper in less than 24 hours

I bet you want me to write about what happened on Monday, don't you? Too bad. It wasn't even that interesting. It was exactly like modeling at BYU, except instead of a bikini, I was wearing nothing. I underwent no psychological changes, felt no new feelings, and had no weird experiences. So there. Although afterwards, when I was at a party on Friday, I actually ran into the teacher of the class, while I was with my roommate who also nude models at the same art academy. While we were sitting with him on the couch and chatting, he at one point smiled and said, "Hey, I've seen everyone on this couch naked!" It wasn't that funny.

Anyway, today I did something really cool and awesome for the first time: I made homemade pasta! This was an especially neat milestone in my life because this was one of the many items on the list of "things to do before I die" that I made when I was 19. Other items include:

1. Be an extra in a disaster movie.
2. Learn a language spoken by less than one million people.
3. Build a model volcano and induce an eruption.
4. Have sex outside.
5. Memorize all the hymns in the hymnbook

There are others, but I am too lazy to look them up. Plus you know too much already.

Anyway, "make homemade pasta" was like number 27 or something like that on my list, and today I did it, thanks to my friend Joe! I love you Joe! We used his pasta making machine, which looks like this:

Cool, huh? Apparently they only cost like 20 bucks. Once I have a job I might go buy one. All you need is flour and eggs to make the dough, then you run the dough through that little machine guy a dozen times, cut it into the desired shapes, and voila! Delicious homemade pasta! Joe and I actually got kinda fancy and made ravioli, which was good even though it was a little thick and took forever to cook. The ravioli was stuffed with asparagus, ricotta cheese, mint, and parmesan. It was delicious. Also, the machine was fairly easy to use even though every once in a while one of us would run the dough through incorrectly and it would get torn up a little bit. My point is, making homemade pasta is extremely fun. I highly recommend it.

See you next week! Except I will so totally blog next week before I blog about this goal, because it is finals week. I blog a lot during finals week. I also get lots of chores done.

11 April, 2009

Poor people like me should not window shop on the internets.

If the internet were my home and ebay my closet, this is what I would wear to church tomorrow.

10 April, 2009

Two lists.

Rice Krispy treats? Check.
Tonic water? Check.
Smeared eye make-up from rubbing my eyes so often? Check.
Disney Princess fruit snacks? Check.
Staying up all night to write a paper? PRICELESS.

I am normally a pretty good student. I promise. I also get quite a healthy amount of sleep, for a college student. Especially considering how many credits I am taking this semester. However, I don't like literary criticism. Never have. This is why I changed my major from English to Linguistics. Anywway, I have been putting off this 15-page paper for my Shakespeare class for days now, even though I thought I had a decent topic. Wrong! I spent hours trying to write today and I could barely squeeze out one paragraph. If I don't feel like writing about something, I simply cannot write about it.

I think this is why my grades in college do not really reflect my intelligence. I hate writing about things that do not interest me.

So anyway, I'm writing my paper about rock music now. It's a gamble, because my teacher might not like it. But a good 15-page paper that Dr. Fullmer hates is better than a 15-page paper of crappy lit crit, right? Certainly it's better than no paper at all.

More throughout the evening as the story (and the paper) develops. This may well be my first all-nighter since my sophomore year.

Red vines? Check.

07 April, 2009

Genocide? I'm against it. Definitely.

I am attempting to write a four-page paper about atrocities committed against the Hungarian Gypsies during World War II. It's pretty interesting/horrible to read about, but I don't really know what else to write except a long, long list of the horrors that went down, and then a blanket statement of disapproval. Nothing too revolutionary. I mean, everyone disapproves of the Holocaust, right?

On a related note, I got invited to a Passover Seder tomorrow night by a cool kid in one of my classes. He warned me that he has his own style of Seder, but I'm cool with that. I'm actually really excited because I wasn't planning on doing anything for Passover at all, seeing as how celebrating it alone would have been really depressing. Though I would have enjoyed all the latkes I might have made for myself.

I know latkes are not traditionally eaten at Passover. Shut up.

Funny story: last week I was talking to the this guy in my screenwriting group, who is a really cool kid, I really like him. He reminds me of a version of my brother, like maybe the version David would be if he had grown up in Utah. Or if he weren't related to me. Anyway, I have no memory of how this line came up, but Taylor at one point turned to me and asked, "Isn't it kind of crazy that of all the students at BYU, in our 15-person writing class there are TWO JEWS?"

I laughed quite a bit at that. I also shared it with James (he of the Passover Seder, who is also in my screenwriting class) via facebook. Social networking is such a convenient way to share jokes and compliments with others. It means I don't have to remember the funny or kind things I hear about others for very long before I can report them. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Yes.

Sego is in my car in the Law Building parking lot. I ought to go check on him, seeing as I have another paper to write before I can go home.

Today I discovered that at BYU, I can get away with pretty much anything if I act like I know what I am doing. Today I took Sego into the JFSB, milled around in the hallway with my Middle English acting class for about twenty minutes, walked to and through the Maesar Building, and then practiced our play on the front steps. All with a dog. Upwards of one hundred people, I would estimate, saw me doing this, but because I held my head high and acted confident, no one questioned me.

My plan, if someone were to question me, was to say he was a trained theatre dog. But like I said, no one did.

This tempts me to begin a life of crime. Just walking into buildings, picking up expensive things and walking out with them, all the while swaggering like I own the place. I would never do that. But it's neat to think that I could.

I can do anything if I pretend I have permission. I suppose there's a lesson in that.

05 April, 2009


Today is one of those days in which I feel more human at the end of the day than I did when I began it. An ontological day. I am reading A Circle of Quiet for what may well be the one hundredth time, and L'Engle, my hero, uses that word a lot: ontology, the study of being. Today was absolutely an ontological day. This could partially be related to the fact that this weekend was General Conference, but I don't think so. I had various questions running circles in my mind, but the fact that General Conference addressed them was incidental. Conference addressed them, but Li-Young Lee answered them.

Don't try to interpret the above paragraph as meaning I did not get a great deal out of Conference. I most certainly did. The prevalent themes all related to me in some way: adversity, the Atonement, strengthening families, missionary work. Each one quite excellent. However, the one line from Conference that is running through my head even now is one I've been thinking about for quite some time.

In every arena of life there is a playing field, for better or for worse. Don't bother arguing with me about this because I have already made up my mind. The fact that there is a playing field does not by definition mean that those on said field are competing against each other, rather that they are all there, participating in a certain activity. Let's now imagine that Mormondom is a playing field.

For reasons I am still trying to figure out, I am in a giant hole in the middle of this playing field. I have always felt that while most everyone else on the field is running around, kicking balls or whatever, I must spend most of my time digging myself out of said hole, and filling it with dirt that so that one day, I will be on the same level as everyone else. This had yet to happen. Moving to Utah didn't do it. Serving a mission didn't do it. I like to think that getting married will even out the playing field for me, but something tells me that is wishful thinking.

I am unsure as to how I got in this hole in the first place. I used to feel it was because I had not been a member of the church for very long, which is no longer true. It could be because my family is unusual, or because something about me is strange, or because of choices I made in the past. I have honestly never figured it out. It bothers me, but obviously not the point where I am going to give up and stop trying. I even get some sick pleasure out of busting my butt trying to fit in and be good when everyone else seems to fit in so seamlessly. Well, they fit in or they get out. And then there's me, digging, ever digging. Always trying to make up for/punish myself for the bad things I've done, while keeping myself from doing more bad things, while remembering to do good things. It's exhausting and often feels like a losing battle.

At the same time, though, I don't know who I would be if I were not in this hole. Part of me feels that I wouldn't exist at all. That being on a different level than anyone else somehow defines me. So then, why do I keep digging? Am I going to be one of those characters in Dante's Inferno who keeps continuously striving for something without ever reaching it?

Anyway, today one of the apostles gave a talk which included this very line: "Those of you who feel that you have missed out on something because you have not been a member of the Church long enough, do not despair! The Church has need of you." The text of these talks is not yet available online, so I may be paraphrasing a bit. But that was the main gist. This brought me some comfort, but like I said, herein lies my main problem: I don't know who I am without that part of myself. The part of me that's a hopeless misfit. I can't say if it's nature or nurture, but I do know for sure that nothing I do seems to change it. I always thought that eventually I would fit into the Church without any effort, but if it hasn't happened by now, I don't think it ever will.

To name a minor, unrelated-to-salvation example, I try not to eat coffee-flavored ice cream, because I am afraid of how much I like it. Same thing with alcohol: I love it, and that terrifies me. I try to stay as far away from it because I am convinced it wouldn't take much to make me into yet another Koler alcoholic. Trust me, more of those we don't need. No one else seems to fear how far they could fall like I do. Everyone obviously has dark aspects to their personality, but not in the same way I do. Maybe they do and I just don't know. But being good and normal seems to come easier to others than it does to me.

It terrifies me, this infinite capacity for darkness. Yet at the same time, I feel drawn to it in others. Sylvia Plath's poetry is a good example. Tonight I was with some friends and we were sharing poetry that we liked. I shared "Daddy" and realized too late that this was a bad choice. The subject matter and language was too dark, too angry. They were filled with hatred and despair, which I why I love that poem and identify with it. But as soon as my friend was finished reading it, there was a long pause indicating no one else knew what to say. The subject was quickly, mercifully changed. To Li-Young Lee, in fact, which provided my answer to this dilemma. I am convinced that this man saved my life a few hours ago.

Li-Young Lee gave a forum address when I was a freshman in college, which I remember only vaguely. I remember enjoying the forum, but this speech did not have any crucial impact on me until I listened to it again with my friends earlier tonight.

Li-Young Lee talks of how breathing in, acquiring oxygen, relaxes our bodies, and exhaling ultimately leads to physical stress. He says that poets want to put as much meaning and depth as possible into every exhalation they make, which is why they write poetry in the first place. Packing meaning into every word, like Emily Dickinson (another person I identify with ... uh-oh). Nothing I heard in Conference today made as much sense as that one line, right there. Then he read one of his poems and I felt myself quietly crying. Because Li-young Lee manages to be sad and deep and ever digging out of some dark hole ... and yet beautiful, which is exactly how I want to be. He acknowledges that sadness without succumbing to it.

"Living With Her"

She opens her eyes

and I see.

She counts the birds and I hear

the names of the months and days.

A girl, one of her names

is Change. And my childhood

lasted all of an evening.

Called light, she breathes, my living share

of every moment emerging.

Called life, she is a pomegranate

pecked clean by birds to entirely

become a part of their flying.

Do you love me? she asks.

I love you,

she answers, and the world keeps beginning.

This poem made me believe that I can not only be forgiven continually, but that I can be good without losing who I am. That being familiar with darkness does not mean one has to submit to it, like Sylvia Plath did. That even those of us who are picked to death by birds actually become more than the results of what others have done to us. Maybe even that someone could have need of me because of (rather than in spite of) who I am.

This poem saved my life. That's all.

02 April, 2009

Things I've never done before, week 1

My goal for April is to do something I have never done before each week, and then write about it. Because for me, there is no point in doing something interesting if I can't write about it later. I am pretty sure that's why I felt no need to take lots and lots of photographs on my mission: although I feel an occasional pang of guilt that I have a less-than-comprehensive visual way of representing my experience in Hungary, I know that the real record of my experiences are the thousands of pages I wrote about them.

Rules about this goal:
1. The experience must be interesting enough to write about for more than one paragraph.
2. It can be something I have seen done, but never done myself.
3. It cannot be against my personal moral code.
4. It cannot be a sin.
5. However, it does not have to be something I am proud of.
6. In reading this, you agree not to judge me harshly either for my experience or for my reaction to it.

Are we all on board? Excellent.

Today, for the first time, I pawned something. I sold my grandmother's wedding ring.

Please allow me to explain before you go ape on me (particularly you, Mom, if you're reading this). In context, I think you will find this was a wise and mature decision.

When my grandmother died in 2006, I inherited her engagement ring and her wedding band. The story behind the diamond ring is quite sweet: my grandparents got married during the First World War, and my grandfather told my grandmother that she could have either a diamond ring or a house. She chose the house. Smart lady. Then, when my mother was fourteen, my grandfather bought my grandmother a diamond ring for Christmas. And I must say, I am not really into expensive jewelry, but this is a ROCK. I really really love it. For years, I had planned for my parents to keep the rings until I brought someone home who wanted to marry me, and he could ask permission to marry me, get the ring, and generally be precious and kodak moment-y. However, when my parents got divorced, something inside me died, and so did this dream. I told my mom I wanted the rings, and I still plan to give the diamond ring to my future spouse so he can propose to me with it. I have grown quite attached.

I don't want my future husband asking permission to marry me from a man that abandons his wife on a whim. I still feel this way.

Anyway, the ring. Like I said, there are two rings: a diamond engagement ring and a wedding band. I love the engagement ring and would likely save it from my nightstand if our house were on fire (assuming my dog were already safe). The wedding band, however, is a different story. It's pretty boring. It also doesn't fit any of my fingers. I have kept it all these years for sentimental reasons, but I never had a plan for it. Now I don't have to make one.

I lost my job in January, and though I was able to live off my savings for quite some time, I am now flat broke. I was thinking of creative ways to make money to get me through the next few weeks, and a few things came to mind. I will be selling some less-valuable things in the future (stay tuned!) but the ring was pretty much the only thing I could think of besides my car that was actually worth anything. Bonus: I would never miss it.

So I took it to a pawnshop today. I have many memories of going to the pawnshop with my mom as a kid. I don't remember what all we sold: a few of my mom's guitars, some electronic equipment, jewelry. I chose this specific pawnshop for two reasons: 1. It had kangaroos painted on the sides of the building and 2. They had a big sign that said "WE PAY $ 4 GOLD!!!!" I like kangaroos, and it sounded like the kind of place with straightforward people. I was right. There were kangaroo vinyl decals inside as well.

I was a little nervous walking inside because I was wearing high heels (high heels make me feel vulnerable for some reason) and the only people I could see inside were scruffy-looking men with goatees. However, I discovered once I was inside that those men were not the owners of the pawnshop. Just the customers.

The inside looked kinda like DI, only sparser, with kangaroos. Their main stock seemed to be electronics: video game systems, TVs and the like. The woman at the counter was cute, Hispanic, with long curly hair and gold jewelry. She couldn't have been taller than five two.

"Are you the guys that buy gold?" I asked, just to make sure I hadn't misread the sign.

"Yup." She said with a surprising lack of attitude. I took the ring out of my wallet and set it on the counter. I wonder if she thought it was MY wedding ring?

"I'd like to sell this."

She asked for my ID, my address, my phone number, my signature, and my fingerprint (which was pretty cool). She took a picture of me with a webcam and logged it into some sort of database. I assume this was because so many people sell stolen goods at pawnshops. I wonder if I had a criminal record, if the database would have told her? She weighed the ring and told me how much it was worth. I also learned that the ring weighed 1.3 ounces. Then she handed me a wad of cash and wished me a nice day.

Thank you. I am having a nice day.

I feel a little guilty, I'll admit. Not because I pawned something I inherited. I am generally in favor of pragmatism over sentimentality when it comes to physical objects. I mean nothing has intrinsic value, right? Only worth. The worth I ascribe to something, or the worth the world ascribes to something. Either way it's completely nebulous. So if something has worth to the world but not to me, there isn't any logical shame in taking advantage of that.

I really do not want to be one of those people that ascribes undue worth to stuff that doesn't matter. My dad in particular saves everything. It's obnoxious. I am definitely benefiting more from the money currently in my wallet than a ring I would never wear. I suppose I am more bothered by the concept of pawning something. Isn't that something only desperate, pathetic people do? It makes me feel trashy. Or maybe it just reminds me of growing up in poverty. None of my friends' moms sold stuff in pawnshops. I don't think they even shopped at consignment stores.

Anyway, what's done is done. I will be able to eat for another week, and I got rid of another object that was taking up unnecessary space in my life. However, unless I am truly desperate, I don't think I will ever pawn something again. It feels not so much morally wrong, just something I don't want to see myself doing. I can't think of anything to compare it to, but I can say that I did not enjoy it. Which possibly means that this was, in fact, a violation of my personal moral code in some unforseen way. In which case I already broke one of my rules.