23 December 2008


a few months ago, my friend jana posted a photo mosaic meme that i loved.  and then a few days ago another friend posted hers.  and i remembered that i hadn't posted mine yet.  so i spent a few minutes this afternoon and made my own photo mosaic.  i think it's lovely.


1. Amelias Flower, 2. Goat Cheese Making 101, 3. Descanso dos arreios, 4. Walking on Glass - Pismo Beach, California, 5. Self Portrait, reflected. San Miguel de Allende, 6. a new school year, 7. April Showers, 8. October kitchen windowsill, 9. White flock, 10. Yellow ribbon, 11. Olé !, 12. Untitled

if you want to play, here's how:

type your answer to each of the questions below into a flickr search. using only the first page, choose your favorite image, then copy and paste each of the URL’s into the mosaic maker (3 columns, 4 rows). leave a comment if you play, so i can have a peek.

The questions:

1. what is your first name? (amelia)
2. what is your favorite food? (cheese)
3. what high school did you attend? (estancia)
4. what is your favorite color? (red)
5. who is your celebrity crush? (johnny depp)
6. favorite drink? (dr. pepper)
7. dream vacation? (european tour)
8. favorite dessert? (pumpkin pie)
9. what do you want to be when you grow up? (happy)
10. what do you love most in life? (peace)
11. one word to describe you. (passionate)
12. your flickr name. (laughtear)

23 November 2008


two months ago, i couldn't sleep more than three hours at a time.  most nights i'd get between three and five hours of (disrupted) sleep.  six hours!!  that felt like heaven, even if it was disrupted.  six weeks ago, i was  getting between four and six hours a night, but it remained disrupted because i'd wake up every single night at 4:30.  a month ago, i was dependent on sleep medication to get any sleep.  which also meant that if i didn't go to bed early enough, my day the next day was a bit of a disaster.

and now?  now i sleep eight hours easily with no sleep meds.  it feels beautiful.  but it's a problem.  because i sleep my eight hours and then turn off my alarm and sleep another two.  or three.  i've never slept so much in my life.  i blame the sun.  or the absence thereof.  i get no sunlight in my new room, so it's easy to slide back into sleep in the mornings.

damn sleep!  it's stressing me out.  but i think i found the solution: an $8 alarm clock from ikea with a progressively more annoying alarm located underneath my loft bed so i have to actually get out of bed to turn it off.  so far it's worked wonders.

20 November 2008


one afternoon a couple years ago, i stopped short on my walk back to my car after teaching.  as i had walked up the stairs, this had caught my eye:
i was so struck by these simple words that i stopped, dug out my camera, and snapped a picture.  i ran across the picture tonight and again the phrase's simple power struck me.

this is what i want of life--love.  i want to be loved.  i want to love.  romantically, yes, but in so many other ways, too.  it's such a simple desire, really.  but it's so elusive.  and looking at this image i think i understand part of what makes it elusive. because this phrase functions doubly--it's both an imperative and a request.  a statement of what others must do and an asking for what one needs.

i think it's the double nature of love that makes it so difficult.  being able to put down fear (even well-founded fear) and ask means making ourselves vulnerable to another person and simultaneously making that person vulnerable to us.  because to ask for love of another is to request, but it's also to require.  i believe it's worth it.  because i believe that love which not only requests but also requires is adequate to any challenge.

13 November 2008


yesterday i was called 'sir' for the first time in a long time.  which is not at all surprising, since, at the moment, i look like this:  
a friend gave me a fresh buzz on tuesday.  buzzing my hair started as a form of silent protest, but continues beyond the election because i like it.  i like the $60/haircut it saves me (that's nearly $200 in savings in the last five months).  but mostly i like the way it feels and looks.

there's an honesty in buzzing my hair off.  on some level, i'm saying, 'what you see is what you get.  and you know what?  i like what you see; i'm not going to try to hide it.'  that's incredibly liberating for me.  after starting college, having perfect hair became, for me, a means of compensating for my face.  when i have hair of any length, i get a bit obsessive with making sure it looks just right.  and that it doesn't get mussed over the course of the day.  buzzing it off means i couldn't worry about my hair's perfection if i want to.

of course, i do wonder if buzzing my hair isn't just another way of making sure people don't notice my face.  i am noticed when i buzz my hair.  some of that notice makes me laugh.  like when i get called sir.  or when a sweet old lady in the temple asked me if i was glad my hair was growing back in; and then, when she noticed my confusion, added, "or is it just a cool, easy style for summer?'  i laugh about such notice.  i kind of enjoy messing with people's perceptions about gender.

but the notice i get isn't all comic.  both this week and the last time i buzzed it (about two months ago), i have noticed more men looking at me than usual (this could be a factor of my noticing their attention more; but j(wh) trained me to recognize flirtatious interest so i don't think it's that).  some of the looks are questioning.  buzzed-head-as-oddity.  but some of them are flirtatious--as if a woman with the confidence to buzz her hair is sexually intriguing.

i don't really know what to ultimately make of the increased notice--whether it's just curiosity or whether it's attraction; whether it's only focused on my (lack of) hair or focused on my face; whether it's really about depriving myself of a hiding place or making that hiding place even better.  what i do know is that i like the way i feel when i buzz my hair.  i think i'll keep doing it.  at least for now.

11 November 2008


last night i went to target.  target is wonderful.  a haven.  i can take any problem to target and find some distraction.  so when i found myself sitting around, feeling a bit glum (isn't that a lovely word?), i decided to get out of the house and go pick up a few required items for my new apartment (i moved--yay!).  and you know what?  i'm proud of myself for going to target.  that's right.  proud of myself.  for going to target.

i know, i know.  target isn't much better (if at all) than those other big-box stores.  consumerism is bad.  retail therapy is bad.  yada yada.  but i'm still proud of myself.  because i could continue sitting on my rear end, wishing somehow my computer would connect me to a real live person (which i'd already been doing for well over an hour); or i could get off my rear end and engage.  with something.  anything.  even if it was just going to target to buy a trashcan with a lid on it so my new kitchen doesn't stink.

you know what else i'm proud of?  when i was at target, i resisted spending $65 on the only wireless router that looked reliable just because i want wireless at my new place RIGHT NOW, not in a few days.  instead, i put it back on the shelf and, when i got home, did a bit of research about wireless routers and where to get the best prices (any suggestions? i'm still figuring this one out).  and i'm proud of myself for buying a compact fluorescent lightbulb because it's good for the environment.  even if i dislike CFL's because the light they generate feels cold to me.  and i'm proud of myself that the biggest indulgence of this trip to target was a compact surge protector with a built in USB charger so i can charge my phone while having my computer, lamp, and printer plugged in all at once.

this is what i hold on to right now.  small things.  i've done a lot of small things in the last couple of months of which i'm proud.  sometimes it's as simple as calling someone--just connecting to another person.  sometimes it's working--having actual ideas about actual literature.  sometimes it's eating.  i'm proud of myself for eating.  how's that for a window into how bad things have been?

things have been bad enough that i have, in many ways, not been myself.  i don't know what i would have done had i not had such incredible people loving me, helping see me through.  but i haven't made it only because of the people who have helped me.  as a friend pointed out , i am also one of my sources of support.  i'm proud of myself for more than just little things.  i'm proud of myself for big things, too.  because in the last two months i've done more to change my life than i have in the last two years.  i'm not happy about how things are right now.  i'm not happy that my relationship with j(wh) is over.  or with the outcome of the prop. 8 ballot measure.  i'm not happy in my relationship with my church.  there are a lot of things that could be much, much better.  but i can say this much--i'm happy with myself.  i'm happy that, with my family and friends' love, i have made significant changes in my life that have brought me greater peace now and which, i have no doubt, will bring happiness in the future.


if you've followed my blog for any long amount of time (and i doubt many have), you may have noticed that i disappear sometimes.  every single one of those disappearances has had to do with depressive episodes.  or, as i now think of them, mixed episodes.  mixed because my depression manifests itself through some manic tendencies--not needing sleep; not needing food; aggressiveness; irritability; etc.  my recent disappearance has been no different.  it has several causes, this episode.  the most clearly defined is j(wh) breaking up with me.  which has been horrendous.  i won't put that specific word in his mouth, but i know it's been very hard on him, too.  it's not a pretty thing, ending a relationship.  of course, that's not the only cause of this particular episode.  there's been the recent election, with accompanying emotional extremes--elation over obama's victory and discouragement over prop. 8's success.  and all of the ways my relationship with the church and friends and family are caught up in that.

i've refused to write because i knew i would be tempted to write about all of that.  breaking up.  the church and prop. 8.  being sad.  my family and prop. 8.  being angry.  ad nauseum ad infinitum.  and i didn't really want to do that to anyone who reads what i write.  plus i wasn't sure what, if any, of that i want out in the ether.  so i've avoided blogging.

so why am i here tonight?  apparently talking about the very things i said i didn't want to talk about?  i'm here because i decided to add blogging back into the schedule of activities that has helped keep me a little sane the last couple of months.  and it has been a schedule.

there are the scheduled interactions with other people:
  • lunch with the thai tuesday crew almost every tuesday
  • lunch with grad student friends every wednesday
  • dinner with george almost every wednesday
  • talking to JP every week
  • attending quaker meeting once a month
and the scheduled minutiae  
  • waking up early to plan a lesson before class every MWF
  • organizing my medicine every monday into a little pill case so i can take it every day
  • planning my week every sunday
  • weekly appointments to take better care of my health
  • walking to and from campus MWF (and occasionally in between)
  • crying (which has happened with unfortunate frequency; so much so that it sometimes feels scheduled)
and there's the things that should join the schedule:
  • tea with J.  because we've done it twice in the last couple of weeks and it's such a pleasure.
  • dancing.  which i haven't been able to do because of the side effects of new medications. but i'm getting a handle on those, so i should be able to dance again.
  • bike riding.  because i know it would be good for me, body and soul.
  • going to the grad student knitting group.  because i have projects to work on.  and talk is good.  and new friends are always a good thing.
  • baking my own bread.  mmmyummy.  i'll even have my own sour dough start soon.
  • blogging.  because i miss writing about my world.
so look for more posts soon.  tomorrow a post about the things i've done in the last couple of months of which i'm proud.  because there's enough of which i'm not proud that i want to remind myself that i haven't been a complete loss.

and finally, if you've been involved in any of the above, god bless you--you have no idea how much it's meant to me.

06 October 2008


this morning, i almost cried in front of my students.  it's been a bit of a rough weekend.  george helped see me through it with kindness and love and food and shopping and even some laughter.  and i was feeling okay this morning until i had to talk to someone about it again right before getting to class.  so i showed up in class a little emotional.  and had to apologize to my students for distributing some information late.  and before i knew it i was tearing up again.  i hate such things.  it's only happened once before--last spring when i was so sick that i got lightheaded and felt like i was close to passing out while i was teaching.  i don't mind showing a weakness i can laugh about--like throwing up on the first day of class.  but the other ones--the ones that scare me a bit--those are harder.

after class was over, one of my students asked if she could talk to me apart from the other after-class hangers-on, so i asked her to wait a moment while i answered the others' questions.  once they'd all left, she surprised me.  instead of asking about our current paper or the homework, she said, "you seem like such a beautiful person.  and i can tell you're not feeling up to your best.  i'm sorry things are hard right now."  and she gave me a hug.  if i were feeling particularly cynical, i suppose i could attribute this to brown-nosing.  but her eyes glossed over with tears while she was speaking and i have no doubt it was sincere.  this evening i checked my email only to find a message from another student expressing sympthy.  and i find myself feeling comforted by these simple gestures of kindness and support.

02 October 2008


caveat (always fun to start with one): the first couple lines of this post might make it sound like a downer.  it won't be. 

the last five weeks have been hard.  downright horrible, to be honest.  but i'm not going to explain that any further here (those of you who deserve to know either already do know or have contact info you can use to ask me).  i'm not through the horrible stuff.  i'm not sure when i will be.  but i've discovered that when life gets yucky, it helps to consciously identify the good things.  so here are a few things that have brought me peace in the last few weeks:
  • warm baguette with butter in the company of friends.
  • an hours-long film adaptation of a victorian novel which stars beautiful men. also in the company of a friend.
  • the love of a woman who hardly knows me but noticed my pain and hugged me while i cried.
  • home-cooked meals, decadent ice cream, all my favorite treats, and a refuge offered by still other friends.
  • making the acquaintance of a hummingbird who hovered a foot and a half in front of me for an endless moment when life felt dark.  and then a similar encounter with a bumbling-buzzing black bee.
  • my mama hugging me and crying with me.
  • planning another roadtrip to the bay area--wonderful company sharing wonderful food, music, and bookstores.
  • an afternoon spent wandering a beautiful garden and perusing old books followed by singaporean food for dinner and a girls' night out to the movies.
  • weekly lunches with fellow grad students.
  • finding myself a new apartment and planning my move.
  • trying to live with more integrity.  no matter how painful it might make some situations.
  • laughing at tina fey's brilliant riffs on sarah palin.
  • thai therapy on thai tuesdays.  trust me, it's amazingly effective.  
  • letting myself dance even if i have felt rather miserable.
  • letting myself vent all the emotion through tears and rage.
  • sharing meals and conversation with george.
  • a new batch of students who seem eager to participate and succeed.
  • knowing that i'm taking care of myself.
  • crazy bunnies playing chicken with my car at night.  they made me laugh and i figure laughter adds to peace.
life kind of sucks at the moment.  but the world is beautiful.  and people are wonderful.  and i am loved.  and that certainly brings peace.

09 September 2008


a few weeks ago i wrote that i wanted life to be simple. and last night i found simplicity. i texted j(wh) late yesterday afternoon and, instead of the stereotypical dinner-and-a-movie, i proposed dinner and a bookstore. so we ate delicious food. and then we wandered through the aisles of borders, browsing through books about everything from politics to birds to hippos-with-glued-on-shoes and relationships. and, when the music on the loudspeakers got a bit bluesy, we danced in the aisle.

and there was my simplicity. two hours in the company of my love. and, when he had to go back to work and i drove home, i took joy and peace with me.

22 August 2008


i've been keeping late hours the last couple of weeks, thanks to the olympics and being on vacation with my family. last night my sister J and i spent our evening playing with her girls and watching the olympics (or at least i was ogling the beautiful men on the U.S. track team). which meant bedtime wasn't until well after midnight.

i climbed into bed about one in the morning but found myself tossing and turning a bit. so i pulled out my computer to read a few of the blog posts i'd not had a chance to read (due to excursions to the park to have a picnic and ride the horsies [i.e., carousel], playing princess dress up, swinging small girls by their ankles, etc.). maybe it was a mistake to try to pass a bit of time that way, because it got my mind whirring. again.

all day yesterday, my frustrations and tension and pain over the church's position on california's proposition 8 (which would amend the state constitution to prohibit any marriage but that between a man and a woman) bubbled under the surface. let me be perfectly clear: i find this proposition repugnant in every way. i believe it originates in bigotry. i believe it attempts to deny citizens of the state liberties that the government should protect and preserve, rather than remove. there is no question in my mind that every citizen should have the opportunity to enter into a civil marriage contract with another consenting adult and to therefore receive the protections and privileges governments grant to married couples.

the day i heard the news that the california state supreme court had overturned prop. 22 (passed nearly ten years ago) and therefore declared marriage legal for all california adults regardless of sexual orientation, i celebrated. and the day i learned the church planned to join in the effort to pass prop. 8, i mourned. on the day (coincidentally--coughcough--gay pride day) the letter from church headquarters regarding prop. 8 was read in church, i went to church wearing a rainbow ribbon and with a freshly buzzed head--two visible attempts to declare my disagreement with the church's actions without being too confrontational.

since then, i've continued to display my rainbow ribbon when i go to church. and i'll keep my hair buzzed through the november election. but it's not enough. last fast sunday, in the midst of incredible spiritual turmoil at least in part caused by this issue, i bore my testimony about what i believe is the true miracle of christ's atonement--that it teaches us to look past people's problems to recognize their beauty; to step outside of ourselves and extend love and compassion and understanding to all people, regardless of their gender or their race or their religion. for me the gospel of christ is a gospel of love and acceptance—one that requires that we stretch ourselves to understand how and why people think differently than we do. for me, the gospel of Christ is not one of imposing our own beliefs on others or of believing our job is to make everyone else like ourselves. but while i think i made that point fairly clearly, i did not specifically mention prop. 8 and gay marriage, in spite of a powerful desire to do so.

then last week a member of my ward called to confirm i'd received an email about the "prop. 8 walk." i hadn't, but rather than mentioning that, i immediately spoke up to explain my position. the conversation went something like this:

me: i think i should clarify that i will not only vote no on prop. 8, but i will also do everything i can to make sure it does not pass. and i will certainly not do anything that could be seen as support.

him: so you're going against the brethren on this. {definitely a statement, not a question.}

me: no, i’m going with my conscience on this.

him: but you’re going against the brethren.

me: no, i’m going with my conscience, which is what i believe god expects of us.

him: hey, i don’t want to argue with you—i’m just kidding around. {trust me, there was no hint of humor in any of this exchange.}

and that’s where the conversation ended. when this man’s committee chairperson—an old friend of mine—called a few days later to ensure that the first caller hadn’t said anything inappropriate, i explained what he had said. my friend apologized. i asked him for clarification on what the “prop. 8 walk” was and clarified my own belief on the issue. because i’ve decided that i can certainly speak up in one-on-one conversations with other church members, even if i haven’t quite figured out how to speak up in institutional church settings.

i still feel that what i've done is not enough. and last night that was causing me a great deal of angst. so much that in spite of being very tired, i could not sleep. so when i was still tossing and turning after three in the morning, i called j(wh) and we talked through some of what i was feeling. not only about prop. 8, but about the church more generally. i won't go into that here. i'm not sure it's something i want to put out into the ether. we'll see. but it was good to talk to him, to name my fears to someone else and receive in return unqualified love and concern.

and best of all, when we were about done talking he read me a bedtime story and encouraged me to hope for something that seems nearly impossible--because maybe, just maybe, the horse will sing. another reason i love my j(wh).

03 August 2008


sometimes all i want is for life to be simple. very simple. if you know how to find simplicity, do share.

01 August 2008


nearly ten years ago i graduated from BYU and moved to virginia to get a masters degree at UVA. i remember sitting in the welcome meeting for new graduate students and feeling a bit of culture shock. the most memorable catalyst for that culture shock was the DGS (director of graduate studies), a very hip man who taught african american studies and late 20th century pop culture--a man with long hair (a definite no-no at the Y) and colorful language (another no-no). i think he had a goatee, too. i wonder if he had a beard card signed by his medical provider...

that first semester at UVA was full of all kinds of new experiences. my first party, by which is meant a lot of people getting together to drink and talk with loud music playing in the background. my first wine & cheese gathering. my first outing to a bar for drinks. my first attempts at explaining mormon peculiarities to drunk people. my first whiff of pot. my first taste of thai food, vegetarian food, and cooked spinach. my first cocktail party (at which i was dubbed the 'mormon alice cooper' for reasons that remain entirely unclear to me).

i embraced every new experience that presented itself so long as it didn't require that i do something that contradicted my own standards. i made a very conscious choice that i would welcome any advance of friendship. for the first time in my life i lived far away from family (only two hours from my oldest brother, but without a car that was a fairly insurmountable distance). i was starting a new educational venture. and i knew that if i didn't build a supportive network for myself in charlottesville i would be miserable.

i didn't end up miserable. i ended up so happy that i wanted to never leave. i made wonderful friends at church. and i made wonderful friends at school. some of my friends from virginia remain among my dearest friends. i wouldn't trade the experiences we shared for anything.

once in a while, when i've described my experiences in charlottesville to other mormons, they've been surprised that i would go out to a bar on a friday night as a regular social activity. or that i would go to what was essentially a slightly grown up version of a kegger. that i wouldn't immediately leave a party when i smelled marijuana. that i laughed about the cross-dressing that i witnessed at a "shock your mom" party (one of the funniest nights ever) rather than being horrified. that when my boyfriend in virginia said 'f*** you' to me, i usually laughed at him because it was never said in anger but rather as part of a teasing that helped make our relationship happy.

i don't want to simply condemn people who would have refused to participate in such activities. i know that different people have different tolerance levels for different things. i respect that. but i think that a lot of people also create their own offense by focusing on something they consider unacceptable rather than looking past it. in my mind, it's far better to hear someone swear without it ruining my day or foreclosing the possibility of knowing that person, and the happiness that friendship with them might bring, than to try to shut myself off from all sources of behavior i deem inappropriate for myself.

what it boils down to for me is this: i want to know and love my world. all of it, not just that part that fits my preconceived notion of good. and focusing on the things i do not like so much that i fail to see wonderful new things or old things in new ways--well, that strikes me as the best way to refuse to know and love my world. and it seems to me that when we're so tuned in to potential sources of offense, we actually grant them much more control of our minds and spirits than they would have if instead we let them roll off our backs and instead we looked for the beautiful.

15 July 2008


for anyone who's looking for a gift idea for me, i'd love this:

and it's a double gift--something i'd love to listen to and support for NPR. and we all know i'm an NPR junkie.

29 June 2008


i think i'm becoming lactose intolerant. and that, my friends, is a nightmare. i do love my cheese and my ice cream and my yogurt and my milkshakes. and did i mention my cheese?

if i have a woebegone look on my face when you see me next, you'll know why...

23 June 2008


i've been busy. and that always manifests itself in my blog. i've been meaning to respond to a meme my sister-in-law C hit me with for nearly a month now. so with no further delay, the view from my house:

from my bedroom window. a rare rainy, rainbow-y day in southern california.

from the back patio window. one of my favorite views in the world.
if you want to join in, please do.

18 June 2008


when i went to d.c. a couple years ago to take care of my nieces and nephews, my brother took me out one day to ben's chili bowl for a wonderful lunch. a chili half-smoke--a half-pork, half-beef smoked sausage topped with mustard, onions, and chili; an order of chili-cheese fries to share; and a chocolate shake. it was divine. i loved it so much that anytime i hear someone talk about visiting d.c., i tell them all about ben's and what to order. so far, i haven't heard a single negative review.

so when i went to visit again a few weeks ago, i requested ben's. and S happily took me there for lunch the same day we made our visit to the library of congress. talk about a perfect day: a morning full of rare manuscripts and early editions and then a lunch that consisted of this:

and my portion of this:

and then of course there was sharing it with the best possible company. my visits to d.c. to see S started when i was 15 and my brother J and i took advantage of cheap airfare (thanks to gulf war I; and technically it was my parents who took advantage of it, since they bought the tickets) to spend a week there. i didn't visit again until '98, but i've been there almost every year since (including two years living down the highway in charlottesville) and i always look forward to my visits. S and i look like siblings. and more importantly, visiting him always reminds me of how close i am with my siblings, even if they do live far away.

if you ever find yourself heading to d.c., let me know. and i'll point you to the best chilidog you'll ever eat. and i might be able to give you a few other tips, too.

16 June 2008


some good cheer for jana:
because her pictures of flowers always give me
a surge of simple pleasure, no matter how i feel.
i hope mine will give a little of the same back to her.

12 June 2008

this is my nephew S:
if you think he looks a bit mischievous--well, he is. he comes by it rightfully. his dad (my brother) had a hand in all kinds of mischief (along with our other brother) when he was a kid. but S is also a sweetheart. and he has just about the cutest smile known to man.

today, a memory from christmas flashed into my head, and i thought i'd tell the tale. because it's hilariously wonderful. in addition to being a cutie-pie and a mischief-maker, S was a key player in my favorite child-fight ever. it went down like this:

S sat on L (his older brother) and refused to get off.

L hit S in the head with a laser gun.

S started crying. loudly.

L started running down the stairs.

S ran to my bookshelf, picked the biggest book on the shelf, ran to the top of the stairs and threw the book at L's head. he has very good aim.

it was all i could do not to bust up on the spot (i was on my way upstairs to referee by the time the book-throwing happened) and instead make them apologize to each other.

hilarious. S definitely gets points for creativity in coming up with ways to get back at someone who hurt him. and i look forward to being able to tell the story when he's an adult and can perhaps understand the irony of throwing an ayn rand book (atlas shrugged) at someone's head...

11 June 2008


j(wh)'s birthday was monday. he and i have talked a few times about gift-giving in the abstract--meaningful gifts, rather than gifts given for form; not letting gift-giving turn into a circus of materialism and competition; how wonderful the various handmade gifts we've received are (he got a particularly wonderful gift for christmas from J&J&kiddoes). at christmas we didn't exchange gifts. instead we spent christmas eve morning together and j(wh) made me funny eggs.

so when i thought about what to do for his birthday, i decided i'd steal an idea from my friends brooke and john. so j(wh)'s gift is a day full of whatever he'd like to do. within limits (see below). and a little handmade book that explains that, which will also be used to remember the day when I fill it with photos and notes after the day of j(wh).

{on a side note, it was a sheer joy to sit and make something. it's been far too long. i think i'll keep at it. and i think i'll stick to small books for a while. i've always loved them and making them seems ever so much better than buying them. addendum: tonight i bought myself a bookmaking book at borders (love those coupons) and discovered this book is called a 'star accordion' book.}

08 June 2008


sometime in november, my brother S called home and reported that he and his colleagues had been taken on a tour of the library of congress. as part of that tour, they had seen various rare books, including a first edition of some blake poetry and books exchanged between whitman and thoreau, among other things. ever since that conversation, i’ve been filled with booklust. there’s something magical about seeing books that old—books that would have been read by an author’s contemporaries; books that show me what the texts i love were like when they were originally published; books with the original supplementary marketing material inside their covers; books with interesting provenances.

when i went to d.c. for a friend’s wedding and S suggested he could set up an appointment at the library of congress for me to see some books, i immediately jumped at the opportunity. so the first day i was there, i made my list—whitman, thoreau, hawthorne, and dickinson from my American interests; eliot, collins, and charlotte bronte from my british interests—and S sent it off in an email asking if it was possible for us to visit the library the following monday. and within half an hour or so we had our answer: monday morning at 11:00 for a visit to the rare books and special collections room and to the manuscripts division.

so that monday morning, S and i made our way from his office through the network of tunnels that runs under capitol hill to the library of congress for our visit. we started in the rare books and special collections room, where we were shown into the rosenwald room to see the books they had pulled for me. the room was beautiful—the furniture, shelves, and décor an exact replica of the benefactor’s private library in his home, most of it in art deco style. we sat at a table and the librarian started a grown-up version of show-and-tell:

an original 1830 edition of the book of mormon. i have a replica of this book that my dad gave me, but i’d never stopped and looked at the note from joseph smith to the reader trying to explain the circumstances of the 116 pages lost and the various rumors spreading about him. looking at the original edition made me think about the contemporary readership of that book, which put the note in a context that made me take note. they also presented us with the title page and clerk’s record from an 1829 attempt to copyright the book. apparently there had been intentions to publish it in that year in a slightly larger format, but it never happened.

books exchanged between thoreau and whitman. thoreau paid a visit to whitman in 1856. during that visit, whitman presented thoreau with a copy of leaves of grass and thoreau gave whitman a copy of a week on the concord and merrimack rivers. whitman made a rather extensive note in the front flyleaf of the thoreau recording the visit and the exchange of books. the two books came to the library in two separate gifts and it was only discovered afterwards that they had been exchanged at that 1856 visit. i was a little surprised by the format of leaves of grass. i had been told in a seminar that it was a larger than normal book—something akin to a coffee table book—, but this book was the same size as all the others we saw. maybe my professor was referring to one of the many revised editions whitman published.

dickens’ walking stick with an ivory handle that had a dog’s head carved into it. apparently dickens carried this stick with him regularly. it was very short—probably for someone closer to 5’6 than my own 6’.

the first American edition of wilkie collins’ armadale, which included marketing material inside its front cover. they also had a copy of collins’ play the frozen deep. the cover page attributes it solely to Collins, but has dickens’ name inscribed in pencil below Collins. dickens was heavily involved in editing, writing, and producing the play.

a manuscript copy in kipling’s hand of the first chapter of the jungle book.

lewis carroll’s scrapbook from his college years, in which he collected clippings from newspapers and popular magazines.

a first edition of charlotte bronte’s Shirley. apparently the library doesn’t have much by bronte, which i suppose is not very surprising since she’s british rather than american. the librarian explained that most of the non-american items in rare books and special collections are at the library because they were originally collected and then left to the library by a prominent american.

a first edition of george eliot’s silas marner, which was a lovely example of a Victorian triple-decker.

hawthorne’s house of the seven gables, which i’ll likely be reading in the next few weeks.

poe’s “murder in the rue morgue” in pamphlet form, which left me wondering how most of his stories were originally published.

the first book of dickinson’s poetry published following her death (few of her poems were formally published during her life). i loved flipping through the book to see how mabel loomis todd (dickinson’s brother’s mistress) and thomas wentworth higginson (dickinson’s mentor) edited dickinson’s punctuation, capitalization, and rhyme schemes.

a 19th century American penny press literary newspaper which they just happened to be processing that morning in the rare books room.

after an hour spent perusing rare books, S and i and our host left the Jefferson building for the Madison building, which houses the library’s manuscripts division. we were met by the library’s literary manuscript historian, who took us into the manuscript “ranges” to see what the library had of dickinson, hawthorne, thoreau, and whitman’s manuscripts.

their holdings of dickinson, hawthorne, and thoreau are relatively minor, as most of those author’s original manuscripts are held in ivy league libraries in new england. however, they did have a handful of items for each—some random diplomatic records hawthorne kept while employed by the government; a short essay on education by thoreau, in which he calls for the government to provide universal education; a commonplace notebook in which thoreau recorded passages from books.

my favorite of the small collections was dickinson’s—unsurprising given my fascination with her. they weren’t original manuscripts; they were holograph images of four poems (one with an accompanying transcript) and a letter. but it was wonderful to see her poems in her own hand and to show S how she used dashes rather than standard punctuation and erratic capitalization in her handwritten manuscripts. and the letter had been written significantly earlier than the poems, so we could see the evolution of her handwriting (which is how they’ve dated her poems).

after seeing these small collections, ms. birney took us further into the manuscript ranges to look at the library’s much larger whitman manuscript collection. apparently they have received three or four gifts, leaving them with one of the largest (if not the largest) collections of whitman manuscripts.

she started by showing us manuscripts of several whitman poems, including his most famous poem “o captain! my captain!” which he wrote on the occasion of lincoln’s assassination. it was interesting to see multiple examples of whitman’s poetry, as “o captain! my captain!” differs rather drastically from the poetry he typically wrote in that it uses a fairly standard verse form and rhyme scheme. ms. birney also explained that whitman came to dislike that poem as he was always begged to recite it throughout the remainder of his life whenever he made public appearances.

as she showed us the poetry manuscripts, ms. birney called attention to whitman’s tendency to use any scrap of paper he could. for instance, one poem was originally written on the back of an envelope. she pointed out in one of his commonplace notebooks how he went back to the beginning of the book and wrote information in blank spaces—information dated much later than other information on the same page.

after showing us the samples of poetry and the commonplace notebook, ms. birney told us a tale of bibliographic intrigue. early in the 20th century—something in the twenties or thirties—the library received a gift that included 24 whitman notebooks. and a cardboard butterfly (more on that in a moment). during world war II, the notebooks (and the butterfly) were moved from the main library buildings to a military base for safety purposes. when they were brought back, ten of those 24 notebooks—and the cardboard butterfly—were missing. for more than 50 years those ten missing notebooks and the cardboard butterfly were the American manuscripts directors' mystery. the fbi even had a hand in the investigation.

until one day in the mid-90s when sotheby’s called the ms. birney and explained that they had some whitman notebooks to auction and they had reason to believe they were similar to notebooks once held by the library of congress—were they missing any? to which ms. birney responded: ‘yes, we’re missing ten notebooks and a cardboard butterfly.’ it was the cardboard butterfly that made the sotheby’s representative sure their four notebooks belonged to the library of congress. so ms. birney and the fbi agent made a trip to new york to bring the notebooks—and the butterfly—home.

she showed us one of the notebooks. it used to be called the ‘albot’ notebook, until they realized there was a ‘t’ in front of that. the ‘talbot’ notebook (if you're interested, you can flip through the entire notebook on the LoC webiste). the first few pages had been cut out. the edges of the pages that remained were lined with numbers, so scholars speculate that it had initially been used for bookkeeping. whitman, being a paper conservator (as most people at the time probably were), re-used the book. the early pages were fairly similar to those in the other commonplace notebook. notes jotted quickly. appointments. then he skipped a page or two (remember, he used paper so carefully that he wrote on the backs of envelopes). and after those blank pages came prose writing that was more philosophical and introspective. then two more blank pages. and after that—poetry. lines from ‘song of myself’ immediately recognizable to anyone who’s every spent much time with that poem. seeing those lines of poetry and recognizing them was a magical moment--understanding that this notebook contained the evolution of a brilliant man’s thought and style.

and then there was the cardboard butterfly. it was brilliantly colored on one side. and on the reverse there was an easter poem (not whitman’s). if you look closely at the butterfly, you’ll find a thin wire that runs through its body. that’s because whitman, being the rather eccentric man he was and being a bit obsessed with self-portraits, used the wire to attach the butterfly to his finger and pose for a picture.

my day in the library was wonderful. i couldn’t have asked for a better excursion. even if you can’t make private appointments to meet with librarians, take the time to go there next time you’re in d.c. the building and the public exhibits are well worth the visit.

21 May 2008


i've been working. in the library. all day. 8 hours in the same seat with a short break after 5 of them for some food. and the thing that's kept me sane is public radio. which is completely unsurprising given my addiction to it. mostly i've been listening to this american life. if you've never listened before, you should. you can listen to any episode for free online (which is what i've been doing). or you can download. or you can podcast for free.

do yourself a favor and listen to act v. the first time i heard it was one friday night when i left home on a 15 minute errand to the grocery store for the requisite i'm-home-alone-on-a-friday-and-i'd-rather-not-be ice cream. i was so engrossed within the five minutes it took to get to the grocery store that i sat in my car and listened for nearly an hour so i wouldn't miss the few minutes it would take to run in and get my ice cream. it's that good.

{if you want other suggestions for wonderful episodes, leave a comment.}


17 May 2008


yesterday, while sitting in my office on campus allegedly working, i felt something move on my foot. and when i pushed back from the desk and looked, i discovered a huge black beetle crawling on my foot.

i naturally followed the appropriate procedure for responding to such a situation: i screamed, while kicking my foot violently to expel the alien.

but, you say, how do i know this is the appropriate procedure? because it has manifest itself through three generations (my mother, my sisters, and my niece) without explicit instruction. complete with violent foot kick, screaming, wacky arm-flailing dancing (as i was seated, i didn't take that step), and subsequent laughter. because i of course laughed at myself as soon as the bug was gone.

but my ability to recognize how ridiculous my reaction was (i mean, how hard would it be for a giant like me to destroy that beetle, regardless of his hideousness?) did not allay my fears. every little movement against my skin could be another beetle. and the fact that i couldn't see where my expulsion had landed the invader left me a little worried. so i quickly vacated my office (which really was a good thing, as i was too distracted by the internet there). and before i got into my car, i shook out my skirt. just in case the kick had inexplicably left the bug clinging to it, lurking until he could make another foray against my peace of mind...

08 May 2008


this morning i was sitting in the senate cafeteria, working. and i happened to glance across the room and saw a strange scene. there were four senate staffers sitting at a table together, food in front of them. one was talking, hands gesticulating. one was looking at her. and the two sitting across the table from them were clearly praying—hands clasped in front of them, heads bowed, perfect respectful stillness. it was such a strange situation—government employees praying so publicly and right across the table from two people in animated conversation—that i watched for a minute to see how the dynamic shifted.

and then i realized they weren’t praying. they were absorbed in their blackberries. which, i suppose, may be its own form of worship…

07 May 2008


i’m sitting in the salt lake airport, on a layover on my way to virginia for a friend’s wedding. the last 18 hours went perfectly smoothly. grading at j(wh)’s house all afternoon yesterday, munching on yummy cheese and baguette. a quick errand on the way home. more grading—at the amazing rate of 10 minutes per paper. another quick errand to procure cold medicine (yes—i am unfortunately flying with a cold). which errand turned into a jaunt to atomic for a handful of dances with j(wh) and a kiss goodbye before i actually ran my errand. i walked into the pharmacy precisely one minute before it closed at 11. packing my bags. to bed by 12:15. awake (and alert!) by 6. an hour and a half spent recording grades, nipping a potential plagiarism problem in the bud, and planning a lesson. a quick shower. last minute packing. rush off to campus to take care of a couple of clerical tasks. teach a successful class, complete with a break while my students did peer review so i could call my mom and ask her to bring me the meds i forgot to pack. and my mom dropping me off at the airport with plenty of time to spare. and—bless her—my sweet mama made me a lunch to take with me.

having every single thing go smoothly last night and this morning was a wonderful release from yesterday morning’s anxiety and fear and emotion. reflecting on the number of tiny things that clicked to make life just a little less stressful fills me with gratitude. if things hadn’t gone as smoothly, i would have handled it just fine. i’ve had my share of stressful traveling and things have usually worked out in the end. but i’m glad that the stars aligned and life was easy for a little while. and tonight i’ll be in beautiful virginia. and friday—friday i’ll be in charlottesville, which is one of this world’s perfections.

and now i’m looking out at utah’s beautiful mountains, a faint silhouette against a stormy gray sky. it’s raining outside, but i’m warm in my soft sweater. the overwhelming gray makes the brilliant yellows and oranges and reds and greens of the airport stand out in stark contrast. and the world is vibrant.

27 April 2008


if you know me in real life or if you've read this blog for a while, you'll know that grad school has been something of a rollercoaster for me. i've decided to drop out of the program at least four times in the last five years. i've taken time off twice. i surprised the program administrator by actually returning after taking time off. i usually doubt my ability to do what needs to be done so i can finish the degree. and i've experienced far more depression in the last five years than ever before in my life.

the experience has not been wonderful. so why do i keep coming back? that's a legitimate question and one i've not always been able to answer myself. i've often joked that i must be masochistic on some level. but when i'm not in the throes of depression, when i'm thinking relatively clearly, i know that i keep coming back because i love it. i love getting excited about teaching. i love the literature, which is magical. and most of all i love teaching. i can't imagine anything else i'd rather do than teach university. so i'm back. and i intend to finish.

the problem is that having been on that rollercoaster--especially the twists and turns that took me out of the program--i've lost much of my focus. and i've developed bad habits. i'm trying to get myself focused and working more diligently. one tool i've decided to use in that effort is a new blog where i'll track my work, record notes on my reading, and identify goals to be met and tasks to be accomplished. you can read more about how i envision that blog working there. and i'd love any contributions you'd like to make to my effort to keep moving towards my goal.

25 April 2008


being with j(wh) makes me feel like this:
can you blame me for wanting to be with him every minute i can?


so today i left campus intending to go to barnes & noble, curl up in one of their cushy chairs with my ipod and a cup of tea and my book, and read for a few hours. but as i walked across the bridge from the parking lot to the bookstore, i noticed that the new DSW shoe store had opened right next door to B&N. now if you know me, you know i have a thing for shoes. and that's putting it mildly. so naturally i had to wander into DSW and check out the offerings. and when i saw a pair of rocket dog flats with an orangy red and turquoise blue print (brooke you will love these shoes), i naturally had to try them on. and when i spent twenty minutes walking around the store in them and they proved to be comfortable and i loved their funky print even more--well, i naturally had to buy them. {on a side note: i did resist the gorgeous peep-toe winter white pumps in a distressed patent leather with a wide strap across the top of my arch with a funky big buckle and three-inch stacked heels; damn they were hard to leave behind!}

so buy them i did. and then i felt guilty. because i'm supposed to be paying off my credit cards and trying to do a better job of living within my means. i'm not supposed to be indulging my love of shoes.

i didn't return them. i brought them home with me. and when i got home and looked at all the delicious shoes in my closet (and there are a lot of lovely shoes in my closet), i decided that i needed to be better. so i'm resolved:

resolution the first: i'll not buy any new shoes for a year. the only exception is if a legitimate need arises (like i magically start exercising and my tennis shoes are worn out and hurt my feet; this is unlikely to happen because 1. i don't exercise, except dancing; and 2. i got a new pair of tennis shoes last fall; i can conceive of wearing out my dancing shoes and i'm allowed to replace those if necessary).

resolution the second: in order to actually realize resolution the first, i'm not going to go into a shoe store or a shoe department unless i'm with someone else who needs to look at shoes (then i can help them spend their money on scrumptious shoes, which is almost as much fun as spending my own money on shoes).

resolution the third: although all of my shoes are wonderful, the reality is that there are some i simply don't wear any longer. mostly because my tastes have changed. it's time to purge shoes and let someone who can actually use them have them. if you wear a size ten, let me know if you want to take a look before i send them off to good will.

i'll report periodically so you know if i've slipped up. but i swear i'm not going to. no shoes for me for a whole year.

16 April 2008


another reason j(wh) is so wonderful: he makes me put my hands in my hair.

a bit of explanation: when i was an undergrad, i would get myself into long, provocative conversations with friends. and as i got more and more excited by the ideas we were talking about, i'd run my hands through my hair, giving myself a lovely puffy halo of hair. during the last several years, one of the effects of depression has been losing my interest in ideas. i've very rarely found myself impassioned by a discussion with friends. and i've mourned that loss of intellectual excitement. i can't remember the last time i got excited enough to muss my own hair (i'm a little obsessive about it not being fluffed up--i hate fluffy hair).

well, a couple of weeks ago as j(wh) and i were reading the botany of desire together, stopping occasionally to follow tangential trains of thought generated by the book, i found myself with my fingers buried in my hair, excited about ideas. and while that was the first time i noticed my old habit of messing with my hair when discussing fascinating ideas, j(wh) has always lured me into long, interesting conversations. it was sitting in a parking garage for three hours talking about various and sundry things at the end of our first date that made me know i wanted to go out with him again.

and that is one of many reasons he's so wonderful.

09 April 2008


last week, i looked in my closet and i thought to myself, 'i'm sick of looking at a closet full of clothes i can't wear.' over the course of the last two years, i've slowly gained 20 pounds. my being nearly six feet tall makes it hard for others to notice my weight gain. but when i pull a dress over my head and shoulders and then it sticks at my hips or i can't get a skirt up over my hips--well, it's noticeable to me.

my body doesn't bother me. i don't think i'm fat. most of my aspirations regarding my body have to do with being in better shape. more endurance (for all those long nights of dancing). more strength. not finding myself short of breath. being ready for a long bike ride or a backpacking trip. but looking at a closet full of clothes that i can't wear has a way of re-focusing my body-image on weight rather than on health. so i decided it was time for a purge.

i was (mostly) ruthless. always in the past when i've purged my closet, i've kept items that i haven't worn (for whatever reason) recently but that i still love. this time if it didn't fit, it was out. into storage. when the season for whatever item it is rolls around again, i'll try it on again. and if it doesn't fit, it goes to charity. even if it's something i simply love.

i took over 50 items out of my wardrobe. yes, i know. that's a lot, especially given how much is still in my closet. i'm a bit of a pack-rat. and, because i'm a bit fastidious about caring for my clothes, i keep them (and my shoes) forever (the oldest item i got rid of was 13 years old). it's only when i realize that an item has simply slipped out of favor that i get rid of it. but this time it was about fit, not favor. and it felt wonderful to purge.and yes. i am slightly OCD. why do you ask?

07 April 2008


the makings of a perfect evening:

a walk in the park, holding j(wh)'s hand, contemplating waterfowl, and luxuriating in the beauty of a spring evening.

random errand running which results in buying cheap gas (relatively speaking, of course) and superyummy soft peanutbutter cookies from costco, of which i promptly ate two. because i get cranky when i'm hungry.

wandering through the fullerton market, perusing vendor stalls, inspecting produce and fresh flowers, conversing with strangers, and laughing at little dogs in sweaters.

chatting with a produce vendor about dancing.

eating delicious roasted sweet white corn slathered in butter and sprinkled with garlic pepper salt.

sampling garlic basil hummus and whole wheat pita bread.

discovering vegetable ivory jewelry, made from the tagua nut grown on palms in the south american rainforest. so beautiful. i indulged and bought myself a funky yellow pendant.

dancing to the music of the blues band playing live.

going back past the dancing vendor's produce stand to buy a bag of strawberries and another of snow peas, which he sold us for $1 each since he was packing up for the night.

feasting on hummus, pita, snow peas, and strawberries while reading michael pollan's the botany of desire (a must read; so fascinating) out loud.

sharing it all with j(wh).

04 April 2008


if you know me, you may know that i have a little problem--a small addiction, you might even say. to outrage. and this week i seem to have found more than a handful of sources. so i thought i'd share them, just to get it off my chest.

the very thought of a mother taking her eight-year-old daughter for not only an eyebrow wax but also a bikini wax had the outrage mounting instantly. a bikini wax?!! what exactly was to be removed from the pubic area of an eight-year-old?! i wanted nothing more than to sit these women down and smack them, demanding that they wake up and let their poor daughters grow up seeing the beauty of their bodies as they are. and i realized again how very lucky i was in my parents' attitudes about beauty.

speaking of artificially achieving the ideal, i was horrified to discover that there's such a thing as a 'G-shot' to enhance the G-spot (if you're sensitive about treating genitalia casually, don't read that one). really!? i mean, i'm all for women enjoying sex. but the idea of trying to augment something like the G-spot strikes me as more about imposing ideals from outside than truly enjoying one's body.

and then there's this little gem from the london leader of the british national party (admittedly a far right, all white party which looks to me like it's racist, sexist, and extreme nationalist. but still):

Rape is simply sex (I am talking about 'husband-rape' here, for those who deliberately seek to misunderstand me). Women enjoy sex, so this type of 'rape' cannot be such a terrible physical ordeal. To suggest that rape, when conducted without violence, is a serious crime is like suggesting that force feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence. A woman would be more inconvenienced by having her handbag snatched.

another candidate for a sound smacking.

these were moments of outrage that, although genuine, were not very personal. i mean, i care deeply about each of those issues--the immense potential for psychological harm our society's beauty myths hold; women's sexuality not being an object to be manipulated, but rather being a source of natural pleasure; and rape being taken seriously, whether it's the kind of violent encounter we most often imagine or the much more common acquaintance rape this politician makes light of. but while i care deeply, this was the kind of almost-pleasurable outrage that comes with conviction of one's moral superiority. it's a distant kind of outrage.

my most recent moment of outrage was much more personal. this afternoon i logged into google reader (something you should all use if you read blogs as obsessively as i do), and found fmhLisa's post about being young and mormon and pregnant. and what i felt was less outrage and more sorrow. and i know that such stories should be taken with a grain of salt. but still it made my heart hurt that a girl could ever be so outcast at a moment when she needs to be loved. and that there could be policies in place (even the more benign one quoted from the church handbook in comment 22) that mandate this kind of treatment. i know the realities of the church are much more complex than could be captured in one anecdote or in quoting a policy. but i recognize the truth in the anecdote and the potential for serious harm in the policy and i want to weep.

but to end on a lighter note: i was taken in so completely by the IRS policy of sending some rebates in the form of goods instead of money to ensure people didn't 'waste' their rebate by paying bills instead of shopping, that my outrage didn't let me remember the date. until the host of marketplace reminded me. at which point i had to laugh at myself. a healthy reminder that my outrage is often fed by my own gullibility coupled with my obsession with pet issues (i hate that our government encourages spending rather than fiscal responsibility as a means to deal with our current economic problems).

02 April 2008


a couple weeks ago at atomic, i overheard a friend commenting about her upcoming 80s birthday party and didn't think much of it until j(wh) mentioned we'd been invited. so it sat on a backburner in my mind as i graded papers and put up with back pain (yuck!) until the night before the party when, again chatting with friends at atomic, it came out that they were all dressing up for the 80s party. K mentioned molly ringwald, which got the wheels turning in my head. i've been told more than once that i look like her, so i thought it would be fun to play that up. here's what my molly-focused brain cooked up:

a green straw hat which i bought about 12 years ago and which i still have kicking around my wardrobe.

to which i added some bright pink and white silk flowers and a pale green ribbon i picked up for $5 at joann's.

bright pink and purple double-disk earrings found amidst the retro accessories target's selling these days.

my little brother's white, long-sleeved dress shirt, which is (of course) way too big for me.

a bright pink, wide elastic belt, also kicking around my wardrobe for the last however many years.

a green cotton double skirt with big bucket pockets and eyelet on the underskirt.

incredibly bright pink fishnet stockings i found on clearance in portland, oregon about three years ago.

clear plastic shoes i found on a sales rack at t.j. maxx and picked up just for a purpose like this.

and let me tell you--add up those elements, and you'll channel molly ringwald circa pretty in pink perfectly. take a look for yourself:

so i threw together my hat, donned my duds, applied my face (a truly special occasion--i actually wore make-up), and headed off to a local japanese market where i was meeting j(wh) for a bite to eat before heading to his place and from there the party. i naturally got a few looks on the way in. all the effort was worth it when i caught sight of j(wh) and our friend T. j(wh) was expecting me dressed up, but he was still surprised. and T--T didn't even recognize me.

after a dash up the freeway and j(wh) cleaning up, we headed off to the party where our friends greeted me with laughter and praise for the outfit. and i thought that was it. the party was tons of fun. great food. L (birthday girl) and a few friends dancing ballroom to some classic 80s tunes. lots of dancing (not the best idea in the clear vinyl + fishnets combo), including a soul train line. but i thought the fun of seeing each other in costume was the sole purpose for dressing up.

much to my surprise there was a contest. and to my even bigger surprise, the prize was two tickets to the police (and elvis costello) concert in may. so i was excited to be one of the three finalists called to the stage, but a bit apprehensive when it was audience choice who would win. but i was having fun that night and decided, what the hell--may as well ham it up. so when the emcee asked for applause for 'molly,' i pulled the pose in that picture and blew the audience a kiss. and when it was narrowed down to our friend F (who came dressed as flavor flav, complete with an enormous clock hanging around his neck) and me, i kissed him on the cheek. and blew more kisses to the audience before L and her two friends picked me as the winner.

so much fun! it's been ages since i had such a good time at a party. well, maybe not ages, but at least since new year's. i shouldn't be surprised. life's been much more fun with j(wh) at my side. can you see why?

31 March 2008


so today was the first day of a new quarter. i stayed up a little too late last night, given that my class started at 9:00 this morning. but by the time i was walking from my car to my classroom, enjoying the bright sun and brisk air of a california spring day, i was feeling good. excited to start a new quarter. resolving to work harder, to be more responsible to myself and others for the work i need to do.

and class started out swell. i introduced myself. i had the students introduce themselves and bantered with them a bit. they were visibly loosening up within the first ten minutes of class. things were peachy.

and then, fifteen minutes into class, i started feeling warm. at first i thought it was because i'm wearing both a button-up shirt and a sweater and the room was warm. but then the skin on my face started getting clammy. and i felt a bit light-headed. and i knew it wasn't good. so i aborted. no more syllabus review. 25 minutes into class, i skipped to our last activity--a ten-minute diagnostic freewrite.

so my kids start writing. i sit down and hold my head between my hands, breathing deeply. and i seem to be doing better. i cool off a bit. i'm not so woozy. but after about eight or nine minutes, i just know i'm going to throw up. and there's no bathroom anywhere near. here's how it went down:

me: {scanning room to find trashcan, which is all the way across the room right next to the door} ok, go ahead and wrap up what you're writing.

students: {dead stare at teacher, who is obviously in physical discomfort.}

me: just go ahead and put your papers on... {duck head and hold it between my hands as i fight off sickness}...on the empty desk on your way out.

students: {start packing up and leaving papers at front.}

me: {stand quickly and begin walking towards trashcan} and if i throw up {pass gas while walking} as you leave... {reach trashcan, lean over and vomit} i apologize. {lean over trashcan and vomit more.}

students: {shuffling out of the door, mere inches from me leaning over the trashcan, vomiting repeatedly; trying not to stare too much.}

one considerate student paused on her way out to ask if she could do anything for me and to offer me her water. the rest fled as quickly as they could. for which i do not blame them. because, after all, "what to do when the teacher vomits in class on the first day" is not really standard classroom etiquette.

i've been laughing about it since the moment i leaned over that trashcan and ralphed. absolutely hilarious. it does make for some lovely irony that my assert-authority-and-scare-students-just-
enough-while-still-reassuring-them-that-the-class-will-be-fun shtick got derailed by unavoidable bodily functions. at least i can't be accused of boring my students on the first day.

07 March 2008


one last call: if you haven't had a chance to donate to the 24-hour cancer dance-a-thon and you'd like to, make a quick trip to my profile and give whatever you can afford--$5, $10--any little bit will help. as of tonight, the dance-a-thon is less than $20K from meeting it's stated $150K fundraising goal. help us meet that goal!

04 March 2008


sometimes i read in barnes & noble. if luck is with me, i find a big cushy armchair and settle in for a few hours of reading. my view from those chairs looks like this:i like looking up and perusing book titles on occasion. it's interesting to see what people write about. how they represent that work to readers. how the title and the cover art work together.

lately i seem to find my cushy chairs in the current affairs section. and i've been struck by some of the titles. a few examples:
  • by ann coulter how to talk to a liberal (if you must): the world according to ann coulter and if democrats had any brains, they'd be republicans. on the covers of which coulter does her best to look sexy.
  • another conservative commentary: conservative comebacks to liberal lies. touted as a 'national best seller.'
  • a liberal approach of the same stripe: the GOP-hater's handbook: 378 reasons never to vote for the party of reagan, nixon & bush again. with a picture of an elephant's backside with a target on it.
these are all relatively amusing when seen for what they are--trash. they're less amusing when you realize that people might actually believe what's written in them.

the one that caught my eye the most--and the reason i'm writing this--is i don't believe in atheists, by chris hedges. take a look at the cover:

this book, like the others, aims to shut down conversation rather than open up opportunities to learn and understand. the title reminds me of a scene in kushner's angels in america. harper--the agoraphobic, valium-popping wife of kushner's gay mormon--encounters prior--the AIDS patient who sees visions of angels--in a hallucination or a dream or some alternate reality. she tells him that in her church, they don't believe in homosexuals. now, i've been raised mormon and i don't think i'd ever come up with that statement on my own--mormons don't believe in homosexuals. but i understand how someone could make that statement. and it bothers me. because to dismiss someone else by saying you don't believe in one of the groups they belong to--you don't believe in their professed identity (whether sexual or spiritual or whatever version of identity)--well, it's a neat way to avoid any real engagement. and it's an assertion that you understand the other person's reality and experience better than they do.

i was also struck by hedges' title because of its graphic design. the white words 'i' and 'in' easily disappear against the gold background, especially when the book sits on a shelf under bright lights. and when they disappear, an imperative remains: 'don't believe atheists.' with the picture of god's enormous hand pressing down against puny man. opinion becomes dictate--and one with divine sanction.

the imperative and the image made me think of how easily religious believers attempt to dismiss atheists as immoral, anchorless, lost human beings who may deserve our pity, but who certainly don't deserve our respect. of course, this response isn't reserved for atheists. i know believers who respond similarly to those of other faith traditions--especially traditions that do not resemble their own. i've also encountered a few atheists who react this way towards believers.

i don't like the reaction no matter where i encounter it. it's too self-assured. too convinced that i am right and they are wrong, end of story. i don't like it because when argumentative amelia emerges, she's willful and adamant and articulate and passionate but she's usually not listening. i don't like that when i'm convinced i'm right and 'they' (whoever they are) are wrong, i stop making the effort to understand. to think in new ways. to recognize the realities of someone else's life.

i'm not always good at keeping argumentative amelia on a leash. but i've been trying. if she's reared her ugly head in your direction, do accept my apologies. and know that i'm more interested in understanding than in being right. so give me another chance. because i don't want people to walk away from me feeling like the title across my forehead reads 'i don't believe in X' or 'don't believe x.'

29 February 2008


just because book memes are fun (look for another one in a day or two). and because i don't really feel like grading at the moment.

to join in the fun, copy the list and then:

Bold the ones you’ve read,

italicize the ones you want to read,
cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole,
put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf,
and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. +Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. +To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind(Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien)
8. +Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. *A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. +Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. +Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. +Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
17. *Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. +Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
20. +Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
22. +The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. +Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. +The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. +Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. +Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. +East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. +Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. +1984 (George Orwell)
35. *The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. *The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. *I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. *The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. *The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. +The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. +Bible
46. +Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. +The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. +The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. +A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
53. +Ender's Game(Orson Scott Card)
54. +Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
55. +The Great Gatsby (Scott Fitzgerald)
56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. +Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. +The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. +Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. +The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy) {i read half of it, anyway; and that's got to count for something with a 1500 page book.}
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. *Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. +One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
70. +The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. +Bridget Jones' Diary (Helen Fielding)
72. +Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. *The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. +A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
83. +Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. +Emma (Jane Austen)
86. +Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. +Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. *The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. *Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. *Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. *In the Skin of a Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. +The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. +Ulysses (James Joyce)