Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
My favorite pair of socks have a cartoon picture of a dog and above the image is the letter I followed by a heart. Think of any shirt that you have seen from NY. Replace NY with a dog. And you have my socks.
Every time I put on those socks I smile because I think of my dog. I always have him with me. The socks themselves don’t nourish me, but the memories of my dog sticking his head in the snow and popping back up with a pile of flakes on his nose do.
My dog died last week.
I miss him.
My house is too quite.
There is an empty space below me as I type this.
But I have the memories.
My dog was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of September. He was given less than a week to live. Three and a half months later he passed away after fighting so hard. But I can’t be upset when I prayed to God, literally, that he keep my dog from suffering. This is the best thing.
It’s weird to see death as nourishment. But it’s the ultimate nourishment. His pain is over. Though my selfish desires would love to be petting him right now, I know that he is in the right place.
He is being nourished.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I don't even mind shoveling it. I find it calming, and even meditative. I used to walk barefoot in it to try and get the full "experience" of it. Many of my strongest memories are in the snow. I remember, years ago, having my first kiss with a soon to be girlfriend. It was night time we were under a street light, and the snow was whirling around us. There is some kind of magic in snow I cant articulate. I know it exists because I sense it every time i step out into the mystical frozen water crystals.
So when you're digging your car out of the snow, frustrated, and cursing under your breath, just remember the wonders of our planet, this one island in an ocean of stars.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
‘Tis the season to bake cookies. My Kitchen Aid (which my parents bought me while I was in high school, that is how much I heart baking) thoroughly enjoys working its Kitchen Aid magic—beating those yokes, fluffing that frosting. So I would like to run down my Christmas Cookie List with you.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Gingerbread Men Cookies
Chocolate Mint Wafer Cookies
Coconut Sandwich Cookies
Double Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
I know writing cookies after the majority of the cookies listed is a tad redundant since I told you it is my cookie list, but so is making twelve different types of cookies. Plus, I want to see how many times I can write cookies…we are at sixteen, seventeen if you include the use of the word cookie. So far Oatmeal and Chocolate are crossed of the list, which leaves me with ten different types of cookies to make before I have to leave out the milk and cookies on the big day. Yes, I still do the whole milk and cookies thing, I like to make my dad happy, and by dad I mean SANTA.
I know that after stuffing my face with the cookies I slave over a 375 degree oven to create, I will not be satisfied. There will always be one more cookie that I need to force feed myself with. There will always be one more recipe in my catalogue of Everyday Food magazines that is waiting for me to schmear dough all over it. If I felt nourished I would stop eating the heavenly treats that are produced by my nimble hands. But I can’t. My dad went on a liquid diet yesterday; apparently that is fun to him. Why not go on a liquid diet one day out of the month? Makes complete sense. When he told me what he was doing, I looked at him with a cookie hanging out of my crumb covered mouth, and informed him that I was doing the complete opposite.
My inability to show self restraint when it comes to cookies leads me to believe that I gain nourishment not from the cookies themselves, but from the process of sculpting a masterpiece. I become relaxed when I add my first stick of butter into Big Red. Rolling out sugar cookie dough fills me with glee—if you poked my tummy, I too would say “He He.” I find an immense amount of joy in watching my brothers scarf down a batch of Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies like it is their job. I don’t make cookies to nourish my physical body, though that’s probably obvious since only Santa can pull of the whole bowl full of jelly look. I make cookies to nourish my soul.
People get stressed out around the Holidays; you are probably biting your nails right now. Everyone has to find something that will fill their cookie jar. Try baking some S’mores cookies, I highly recommend them.
P.S. The total number of appearances made by the word cookies was twenty-eight, thirty-two if you include the word cookie. Sadly, that does not even come close to the amount of happiness I will be consuming by the end of this week. Dear Santa, please bring me a high metabolism.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This holiday season is one of my favorites especially because there is just a feeling of goodwill from nearly everyone I meet. It's cold outside and it gets dark early but most folks have a smile and a kind word to share. This season I always listen to one of my favorite songs. Dar Williams has been a favorite of mine since late high school and this song in particular shares my happiness for the season.
Christians and The Pagans- music and lyrics by DAR WILLIAMS
Amber called her uncle, said "We're up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay."
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, "It's Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style,"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and its been awhile,"
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.
The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian,"
"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere."
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic's in the learning,
'Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.
When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother."
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year,
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here."
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve, saying,
"Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave."
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.
I had been a somewhat geeky kid going into seventh grade. I was labeled as "smart" only because I liked reading and history. I certainly didn't get the best grades in my class. I enjoyed doing theater, not only because it was fulfilling, which it was don't get me wrong, but it was one of the few co-ed activities. I went to an all boys school with a girls school just down the hill so we shared some classes and the arts center. So my friends and I got to hang out with the girls who did theater, and our circle of friends expanded.
Now it's annoyingly cliche but yes we got beat up by the lacrosse jocks for being "theater fags". The irony wasn't lost on us, while we were in theater rehearsal with girls, we would hear stories of the jocks locking each other naked into gym lockers... I know we didn't get it either. Anyway we didn't like this deal we were getting. So, being the rational and forward thinking preteens we were we decided to beat these guys up. Unfortunately we won. I say unfortunate because of the change it spurred on.
We had recently got into oldschool punk rock music like the sex pistols and the Ramones, I had found this sweet leather jacket similar to what they wore in a thrift store and putting it on made me feel powerful. Again being really cool we would start to drink heavily when we would hang out. Disgusting, cheap alcohol we got from our older siblings. This too would make us feel invincible and dangerous. I got my ears, lip, and eyebrow pierced much to my parents dismay. I began pushing the schools dress code (yes I was that cool). I started smoking cigarettes just to complete the cliche I was. We continually got into fights for no real reason. It wasn't until years later I saw my own irony. My response to people looking down on me was to write them off and assume I was better than them. Well I guess all this was part of growing up. Thank goodness the only constant is change.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
And so I feel good when my friends realize I’m not wearing a mask and not being a flake or anything like that. They know that I’m real and that I will tell them how I feel, what I mean, because it’s who I am. And so that trust I love so much I love to give to others. To trust that people are their own genuine light. To say I believe in you. And sometimes I see that they may not be themselves 100% of the time, but they are there waiting to burst out and shine. People are good people I believe and so I spread that love, that trust in humanity that we are all wonderful authentic people.
Yes, I have gotten hurt. But the amazing opportunities I get to have when I sit down with people and discuss their lives outweighs the times when I get accused of being gullible or too open or too trusting. It’s a mutual respect I feel with human’s that they are beautiful people and good people.
I just recently had a conversation regarding a girl who told me she had been beaten by her father and had fake teeth and developed anger and eating issues because of all the awful things that happened to her. I immediately opened my ears and my heart to this girl, gave her my love and my trust, and thanked her for sharing that story with me, for sharing with me that side that many do not see. Now I know it’s not her whole being, but it’s an important part of it that shaped her life. My friend told me one day that she didn’t know if she believed her. My friend thought the girl just wanted attention. That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’m not saying she is wrong or right in thinking that. And I’m not saying my way of thinking is wrong or right either. But if in fact she was telling the truth and I would have brushed it off as her being fake, I may never have made the friendship with that girl I now have. We will be forever bonded because I stayed vulnerable to her words and she was just as vulnerable to my thoughts. They were both true, authentic, and beautiful.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Alright, I am going to be most authentic since I am writing about authenticity: Two years ago I was at home getting intensive therapy because I contemplated committing suicide enough that I taped the screens onto my windows to deter myself from doing something that I didn’t really want to do. I don’t usually go into detail about this time in my life for two reasons: it upsets the shit out of people who love me and no one really wants to talk about suicide.
Here is why I am talking about it and writing about it anyway: I have come to realize over the course of the past two years that this was a life changing, defining, cathartic, motivating, inspiring and traumatic time in my life. So much happened and therefore so much of my life has been shaped by the falling into and climbing out of depression.
First, when I think back to those months of my life, I couldn’t really imagine ever being okay again. It just didn’t seem possible. Would I ever go to bed at night thinking about anything else besides jumping out of my window? Would a day go by that I didn’t feel the need to lay in fetal position and cry? Would I be able to function in my life (or even graduate) when deciding which homework assignment to work on first or what to eat for dinner was such a complicated and difficult decision that I had to have a major mental breakdown before I could choose and act accordingly? Would I ever feel joy that wasn’t inextricably connected to pain? I couldn’t imagine living, which is why dying seemed awful, yes, yet simultaneously easier.
Today, it takes a lot for me to try to get back inside that mindset because I am so far from it. I don’t wonder these things anymore because I am well aware that no matter how shitty things get, I am resilient and I will always be (better than) okay eventually. I have eternal hope in healing and in growing.
It is equally difficult for me to get inside the mindset that I had for the twenty years prior to this life-altering depression. I forget sometimes because I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin than I ever thought I could, but really, I am so much happier. This isn’t to say that I am completely authentic every moment of every day or that I don’t still have a long and challenging journey ahead of me, but knowing how far I have come brings me endless motivation and anticipatory excitement! I get to keep learning about myself and keep growing into that person! Best of all, as I learn and grow, I get to love myself every second along the way.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I have gone through many phases in my life: prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telephase. But perhaps the most important phase change is the evolution of my musical tastes. Let’s go on a ride, a mind ride.
Phase 1: The first CD I remember buying/asking my mom to get me (the latter seems closer to reality), was sadly a Hanson CD. I know that this adventure into my past isn’t starting out very well. In fact, I would like to take this time to apologize to you and little Ponyboy, circa 1998. I am going to justify my purchase by saying that I only bought it because every other girl in my class had it. I felt out of the loop. When you are in third grade, it is essential that you are IN the loop. I don’t think I ever actually listened to the Hanson CD. Although that may be a lie, how else can one explain knowing the words to MMMBop? The influence of radio? Please say yes.
Phase 2: I am going to refer to phase two as humiliation. I became what you might say is “ghetto” from 1999-2001. Yes, that would make me a fifth grader “getting low.” How adorable. I’m not saying that being “ghetto” is humiliating, but thinking you are “ghetto” because you have timbs and a song called “Izzo” is. Apparently I believed that owning the Save the Last Dance soundtrack and wearing my hair in a bun on the top of my head, with hoop earrings (straight up JLo style) made me thug—or at least a rap aficionado. I had a fifty dollar bill, and I put my hand up. I would just like to point out after my years of wisdom: If you too have a Lil’ Bow Wow album, then you are automatically disqualified from being “ghetto.”
Phase 3: This phase will be called “let’s pretend we are British.” Note to self: buying a compilation CD of The Clash does not make you punk. Nor does buying black nail polish, which has only been used once to this date. The third phase of my musical taste is where I became punk, in case you haven’t already guessed. I did get “all lost in a supermarket” looking for a special offer, “guaranteed personality”. And by supermarket I mean myself. And by guaranteed personality, well, I do actually mean guaranteed personality. Pretending to know information about Joe Strummer was just a way for me to hide from the fact that I was unhappy. I thought punk music would make me different, unique. I wanted to justify not fitting in with the girls at school (remember Hanson? This time I did the opposite. No more popular music for Pony).
Phase 4: Whole Lotta Love. That should be enough explanation.
We are finished with our ride. I know, this makes no sense. Kinda seems pointless. But don’t fear there is a point…there is always a point.
I was talking about the different phases of my musical life to a friend. Everyone should know about the change from Lil’ Ponyboy to classical-rock-I’m-gonna-learn-all-the-lyrics-to-Jungle-Love Pony. My friend asked me what phase I was in now. My response: “This is it.” This is no longer a phase, this is me. I am most authentic right now. I am a functioning cell…no more divisions, no more changes . I have found things I enjoy. I don’t limit myself to labels of classical rock, alternative, indie, punk, hip-hop—although I do draw the line at Hanson. I have stopped worrying about fitting in.
I’ve become authentic.
Friday, December 10, 2010
So I found this song that may or may not sum up my friends and I. The first thing I heard and instantly fell in love with the song was “I like that we are kinda strange,” and we are kinda strange and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My roommates and I formed our own singing group (unofficially) and we just sing with our friends randomly anytime we hang out. We even have our own songs (you can’t touch our version of Build Me Up Buttercup). My roommate comes home one day with a deer skull he bought off eBay and a giant piñata that just sat there all year. What?! We have board game and card nights, when we go out we karaoke hard core and dance like we are literally the only ones there (god I love the looks I get). We have a room playlist called RAGE that has My Girl, Uncle Kracker, and Michael Bublé (wow do we know how to rage). And we just started playing robot unicorn attack on Facebook (if you don’t know it don’t look it up…it will take over your life). We are so so strange.
“Johnny puts the whiskey on the table/Calling out to everyone who's able/…/So won't you stay near?” We love people and could care less what they think about us. One of my roommate’s lines is “Gives a shit” whenever he gets a weird look for being absolutely off the wall (I’d like you to know Word thinks I should change “off the wall” to bizarre…meh…). And we invite people to join in our craziness cause sometimes is just so freakin fun to let go and rip it up on the dance floor or run around and chase your RA when they’re on duty after they ring your door bell (I’ve got a little game going of who can beat who…totally winning).
“She makes her mark; it's clear,/Checks herself, feeds the fear/Of the one tonight, the one with the light/That keeps shining.” Yeah it is hard to be yourself sometimes. For me it’s looking at others and knowing they are judging. Checking myself to see if I split ice cream all over myself or something (I am the messiest eater). And I do feed my own fear of bringing out that light in me that I want to shine to the world. I want to be reserved at times and not show my inner beauty that I know I have. But I’m able to push through. And it’s with the help of some amazing people…
“The taxi's is filled with 5,/He thanks the world he's alive,/Alive tonight, the beauty is honestly blinding./So take a look around,/Almost lost, we've finally found/The ones tonight, the ones with the light,/That keep shining.” And wow do I love to be alive. It’s just amazing being me and I love being with and around people that are themselves too. You see a pure side of a person when they just let go that sometimes I tear. When I see someone let go and go crazy I cry cause they shoot beams of light that I finally find and capture so I can go crazy to. It’s contagious. It’s utterly beautiful. I love being the one with the light. I love being with the ones with the light. I love being with you.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
One Friday, while doing service at a neighboring High School after-school program, I was working with a student who was writing a poem about Baltimore. His assignment was to pick a place in Baltimore that he had visited and complete a worksheet that asked him to write about specific sensory details of the place including smell, sight, sound, season, time of day, weather, temperature and what he did while he was there. He had picked the Inner Harbor, a place he had visited a few years prior with his family and was having trouble picking out exact details of the place. Once the worksheet was complete, he was supposed to write at least ten lines of a poem, inspired by the details he had written down, so the fact that he couldn’t remember details was impeding the process that had been set out for him.
Oddly enough, I had recently been given an assignment to write a poem about rain. In a dance class, we were to lay back and listen to the sounds of the rain, list all the sounds we could think of, let our minds exist fully in memory of rain, feeling, seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing. We were then to fill our lists with these sensory details and rearrange the things we wrote into a poem. I don’t remember the last time I wrote a poem, but for some reason, this was simple for me; in fact, it was enjoyable. I used some of the tactics we used in dance to help the student, and I completed the assignment alongside him so that we would both construct poems from our own memories.
First, I gave him one minute to create a word dump of everything he thought of when he thought of his trip to the Inner Harbor. We wrote furiously for sixty seconds and then I told him to use these words to create phrases, sentences, and more full ideas that could be crafted into lines and there we sat next to each other molding our lists into poetry. I know this may come as a shock (not), but mine was overly sentimental and emotional. It was about one of my very best friends and the fact that, because I met her upon my arrival to college, I associate her with Baltimore. I wrote about our excursions to the Inner Harbor and how grateful I am that we could escape campus for a little while together. (The looming thought of graduation had transformed me into quite the basket case.)
When I was finished writing my poem I went to the bathroom and when I came back the student had gone off to chat with some friends since his once seemingly impossible assignment was complete and I stole the opportunity to take a peek at the finished product. It was hilarious. I wish I could have written it down so that you could experience for yourself how funny it was, but I will try to give you a taste: he wrote about the whirlwind of sensory details; he wrote that on his visit to the Inner Harbor, he was overwhelmed by the plethora of smells emitted from food and from cars, the lights of the stores and their reflections in the windows and in the water, the yelling, honking, tires screeching, talking and walking of the crowds of people hurrying through the city. But he also wrote about his family and the meal they shared. Towards the end, he described the nauseous feeling he had after eating, describing the city as if it was a smorgasbord (he literally got out a dictionary in order to use this fantastic word). Reading it, I felt like I was on a dizzying ride at a carnival, constantly being hit in the face with something else to hear, feel, do, see, smell or taste. He ended with a warning to his audience to avoid vomiting because of the dizziness of his experience. It was incredibly well written and entertaining due to his excellent use of humor, but more importantly, it was exciting because the two of us had sat next to each other crafting our poetry and had created shockingly different products.
I chose to do service at a high school specifically in order that I might better make a decision about my own career path. Considering teaching, but not really knowing which age group I would prefer to work with, I wanted to try my hand at both building relationships and facilitating academic conversations with high school students. I was expecting something serious; basically, I was expecting to fill some sort of adult-like (and absolutely zero fun) role as if I would suddenly stop being enthusiastic or energetic, as if I would grow up into someone other than me. I also thought if I pursued a teaching career, I should have all the answers. I felt so unprepared, so young, so not ready because I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do, how to do it, what to say or how to say it. Guess what! I still don’t have the answers, but here is what changed: I don’t want to or need to.
Reading (and giggling at) this particular student’s poem made me realize that the answers matter so much less than the questions. By asking him what he remembered, what words came to mind, how his memories could fit together, he created his own answer, his own response, his own artistic creation to express something that I could never have imagined. I loved it so much because it was his, not mine, because it was honest to his experience, not mine. I want to teach because I want to ask questions and I want to be there to witness the creation of each student’s own answer. I want to teach English because literature has the power to ask questions within the context of someone else’s perspective. We immerse ourselves into text but we’re still us. We bring into everything we do our ideas, our lives, our passions, our joy and our pain and we come out changed as we integrate another’s story into our own. No one that enters into a particular book will come out the same as another person who reads it, but we all come out with new dreams, our own individual responses, and a changed perspective on the world around us. I don’t need any answers; I just need to keep challenging myself and those around me to ask all the questions we can possibly ask.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Would you rather eat a Double Cheese Cheese steak from your local franchise (cough, cough—Quiznos)?
Or one whiz, without from Pat’s?
You are gonna go for the whiz, without (if you like onions then go with a whiz, with. Problem solved). You need that greasy mess to feel satisfied. Don’t put that real cheese on my steak, I only like the best…cheese whiz. The point is, you want something authentic; the warm toasty sub isn’t a substitute for a Philly Cheese steak. It’s not called Quiznos’ King of Steaks; it’s called Pat’s King of Steaks. Things are better when they are real (and if you are trying to tell me that cheese WHIZ is not real, then you have another thing coming).
The question is: how do I become one whiz, without? I don’t want to be a Double Cheese Cheese stake, even if it is toasty.
It’s hard to be authentic in a world controlled by franchises. If I can’t even define who I am, then how can I be authentic? I suppose the answer is that if you don’t feel comfortable in your gut (much like when you eat a Double Cheese Cheese steak) then the action is not authentic. If you have to pause before your first bite, knowing it will not be a pleasant experience, then it is not an authentic experience.
Authenticity comes with years and years of practice—you don’t just have the food network knocking on your door to interview you after one day of business. It takes time. All you can do right now is listen to your gut: get the whiz, not this so called “double cheese” (which even sounds fake).