Thursday, February 25, 2010


I was having a conversation with my friend the other day about love. Her point: there are a lot of emotions we conflate with love, and they change as our relationships deepen or we get older or whatever. The thing that caught my eye/mind though was the tie between love and gratitude.


God. What does is mean to love God? How does God show his love for me? I've been really troubled and perplexed by this lately: uncertain, uncertain, uncertain.

Gratitude: I don't know, I've been working (really hard) to be grateful for what I have. I know that it, like, makes life easier and happier and more hopeful. I'm terrible at this.

And just love in general. I have a group of friends I love and know and talk to regularly, but beyond that what does it mean to care about people? (I've mentioned this: I may be mildly sociopathic. ha ha.)

So. This friend of mine mentioned that she's been just overwhelmed with gratitude for her husband lately, and that that's what love means to her. I related in this: my best of friends are the ones who surprise and delight me with how fabulous/smart/thoughtful/perfect they are. I am constantly reminded how grateful I am for them. The relationships of mine that have died I've smothered with ingratitude: compared the object to others, overlooked strengths, taken the relationship for granted.

There's probably more here to be said. But. For now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Last year I wrote designed my curriculum loosely around the idea of storytelling, and my classes and I came to some pretty interesting conclusions:
1. We got to just bathe in archetypes. I should probably be over how cool these are, but we talked the "are these stories from one original source or do their similarities illuminate something important about being human" issue to death. To no definite conclusion of course. Self-indulgent and lovely.
2. We talked about stories as culture. I think I came to a greater appreciation of Judaism's reverence for the book...the compilation of the old testament started in earnest after the Babylonian scattering of the ten tribes. Putting together a story was a defense against getting lost. I love this idea.
3. I made them read Aristotle and we discussed catharsis--not only personal, but communal emoting and its importance. Moreover, I started thinking about the point of story. We learn that stories have a beginning, middle, and end, so that in the midst of hard times we can look forward to resolution and closure. We read events in our lives this way and it allows us to find meaning in the chaos. The form gives us hope.

In class lately we've been discussing Whitman. Particularly I want to talk about Whitman's mourning poetry. So Whitman was all for the poet-as-prophet figure. He imagined himself as a seer of sorts, that his job was to interpret events for the rest of us, right, and to create a new American consciousness. What I'm wondering is if that's true or even possible. I guess I'm reevaluating the conclusions I came to about stories, or trying to understand the underlying principles.

I was always taught that Christ taught in parables so everyone could understand the truth he was trying to present on whatever level they were ready for. We all read fairy tales when we were little, too, and maybe took some sort of wisdom from them (did we all learn to be the rescuing prince or passive princess at the knees of the Brothers Grimm? I'm not sure...). And I read "Understanding Comics" last year--it has this interesting insight into non-representational comics, that the fewer details a character's face has, the easier it is to insert ourselves into the story, the more universal it becomes (I'm not sure where McCloud was coming from, I'm sure he has a more authoritative theoretical background somewhere...).

So we take for granted that stories teach, that we insert ourselves into stories...but, I don't know, do they? Can someone else's narrative bring meaning into our own lives? And I suspect it's more complicated than this (I just finished reading Lord of the Rings and I definitely related to the characters and imagined myself in the story, but was I absorbing/reaffirming values? Were the emotions I was feeling anything more than entertainment?), that stories are doing something more/different than explicitly teaching point a or value b. But what?

Have you ever had a discussion with someone which you thought went really poorly: that they didn't agree with you at all, that you made no difference in their thinking, but then they end up doing just what you asked them to? Or, on the flip side, gave someone advice thinking they would do precisely what you suggested and that their lives would change, and they seemed to be amenable to your suggestion, but ended up doing not a thing, not changing at all? I wonder if sometimes adults tell stories (particularly didactic stories, parables and fables and things) thinking they're having some sort of influence when actually kids resist the moral, though enjoy (or not) the story?

I don't know, I guess I've always assumed the power of story, the power of the word, but wonder, finally, how to understand it best.

Whitman might have created a new Lincoln, but might not have. I don't know that I feel a need to tell/hear the story of 9-11 (though, to be fair, I might be sort of a sociopath). I do keep telling people/myself the story of, like, failed relationships, trying to find some meaning there.

And. And, in an effort to come to terms with my early life, I've been asking my mom to tell me the story of my childhood. This is important: my family was never one for storytelling. There are entire years of my childhood shrouded in shame and secrecy. And I think I feel the loss. In Gilmore Girls, Lorelai wakes Rorie every birthday with the story of her birth day. Part of me thinks that it's the responsibility of a parent to give their children a consciousness of their childhood through storytelling: this is who you are. This is your story.

The other part of me wonders, still, about the lasting power of any story. (Something in me is feeling resistant to the idea. Not certain why.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Your opinion please:

So Annie and I are having a little debate I'd like your help settling. We both think that the music of the 90's was pretty awesome. I think we feel this way because that's when we were coming into our own so it's in our marrow. Annie thinks the music was just empirically better (her very thoughtful argument: most of the best music was available on the radio. Then crappy crappy late-90's pop came into play [sorry to those of you who came into your own a couple of years later than me, so said pop abides deep in your heart], good music had to hide in underground enclaves to be dug out by music lovers and so the indie boom of the early oughts which continues sort of today. So 90's music was both great and popular=better. [Not sure I did that justice, but you get the idea.]

What do you guys think: was 90's music empirically more awesome? Was it just us? For to jog your memory:

(A note on the playlist: I know. These are songs I loved mostly. :) )

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wuthering Heights and Werewolves

Heathcliffe was a werewolf.

On the weekend

Remember the time I offered to cook dinner for my ward? And I spent like 16 hours doing it? And it came off smashingly? (At one point there was applause and the chanting of my name which I guess leads me to the conclusion that I don't want to be a caterer, but a celebrity caterer, because who applauds the ordinary caterer?)
The success of the meal was the cream cheese mousse and berry coulis. We used them to dress up Costco brownie bites and cream puffs, and also to snack on all weekend long. (Cream cheese mousse: cream cheese and powdered sugar, whipped, fold in whipped cream. Go. Coulis: a back of berries, some lemon juice, sugar, corn starch. Boil for 1 minute. I blended it at this point and strained it. I was drinking this stuff. Thanks Diane!)
It was soo fun. It kicked me out of the gross depressed malaise I've been wallowing in the last couple of weeks.

Which makes me think: my bossiness and crisis addiction have most certainly ruined parts or elements of my life. But. Is there someway to embrace them? Because, as far as I can tell, they're not going anywhere. Doesn't somebody, somewhere, need someone who's neurotically efficient and loves pressure? Doesn't that sound marketable?

Fun fact: if you've slept too much on Sunday because, like, you lay down for a sec at 4 and then it's8 suddenly, and then you watch "To Catch a Thief" right before you go to bed, you will still sleep restlessly, but it will be Cary Grant who shakes you awake in your dreams, pulling you to urgent champagne parties and dips in the Mediterranean. I.e.: do it. (Also, and this isn't original, can I be Grace Kelly when I grow up?)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Something I'm bad at

is keeping things in perspective. Like for instance right now I'm grumpy and unmotivated and downdowndownering. And I've spent the last couple of weeks certain that this, finally, is who I am. That I've ruined my life forever, that I will never recover, that I will spend the rest of my years failing at insignificant things and lonesome.
I draw these conclusions regardless of the fact that I draw them every year (Dear February: what did I ever do to you?), and every year, when May comes around and I'm dazzled by the brilliance of Utah in spring (it is waaaay greener that I ever remember and unrelentingly beautiful) and am suddenly highly motivated and all kinds of friendly. Regardless of the fact that everyone hates graduate school. That graduate school is, in fact, a hell on earth, the firey gateway to a very lovely (if competitive, I know) profession and no one likes graduate school. Why I thought I'd be different I'm not sure.

My impulse here is to give me a pep talk/kick in the pants: you are better than this! You can do it! Work your way through it! What the hell are you doing!? But I'm not really in the mood and usually anyway that sort of thing is the opposite of motivational. Instead, I'm going to get another donut, dowse my sorrows in Diet Coke, work on getting the couple of things I have to get done today done, and maybe, you know, read another 250 pages of The Lord of the Rings tonight. (I'm thinking I'm going to skip over most of the Frodo bits. Could he be more dramatic? It makes me want to light myself on fire.)

So. An icy fountain drink toast: to SAD. To May. To me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

On hope.

Stuff you are worse at without hope:



(More eloquent.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On poetry. Agency in. Me and.

Do you like how I forgot to finish yesterday's post? I think there was supposed to be another sentence or two in there, and I forgot them.

The complainy part (it's short and there's pay-off): It's getting to the point when my days seems heavy--so much time to fill before I get to go to eat lunch, go to bed, etc. I should be filling days with, you know, putting together annotated bibliographies and charming professors into chairing my thesis. Or something. But instead, they drag. I'm avoiding. I hates it.

The (cryptic) resolve: a poem I wrote--


I knew, when I closed the door,

(we’d just painted it the color of a hershey’s bar

and it stuck a little

and was built heavy anyway)

Turned the deadbolt,

Walked straight into the sun,

That the hummingbird I left in the shed

Wouldn’t last the weekend,

Not even the day, probably—

Panicked and shut up in the dark.

According to Wikipedia,

Hummingbirds are continuously hours away from starving to death,

Which is a thing I kind of knew already

(but the internet puts it better than I could).

This morning, gathering sand

and grass clippings

from the corners with a push broom

I found and swept its body (it dried out like a moth,

To almost nothing)

Into a metal dustpan.

I wasn’t surprised. But was—


Felt like I should mourn

A little.

Before I sifted the lot into the trashbin.

It got caught, was the thing.

Our shed’s facing rolling doors—

The springloaded ones,

With chain-pulleys—

Were open all day:

I was driving the mule in and out,

Loading and unloading trash,

Loading hoses, the leaf blower, the air compressor

(we kept our pavilions clean)

It must’ve flown in and up,

Toward fluorescent lights that weren’t the sun,

Buzzing up near the cinder block ceiling.

I tried shooing with a broom,

Tried bright orange sprinkler flags near the doors

(this works with bigger birds)

Even climbed up the ladder

And interfered till I worried for the poor fellow’s heart.

(My sister once scared baby quail to death with a plastic grocery bag).

But birds are dumb,

And my day was through.

So I put the flags and ladder away,

Left a half-dozen wildflowers on a wheelbarrow

And turned out the lights.

I don't love this poem. Later it will be richer, poetically, and shorter, and the tone will be consistent. But the thing is, the criticism that cut deepest because I know it's true and haven't the slightest idea how to fix it, is that the speaker isn't implicated. S/he isn't an agent in this poem, doesn't act. My classmates wished the speaker would've killed the bird outright or something.

And. I've been thinking about poetry and memory: about memory as a defense mechanism (children often accused of lying develop this, no? A preternatural capacity for detail? As if remembering that my mom was wearing her green silk jumpsuit on the day I tripped on a seam in our marble floor and chipped my tooth would prove that I didn't feed the dog purple crayon...). About poetry as a repository for detail/memory. About poetry, then, being a defense, an alibi. Closed and furtive. Passive.

So. I take "I" out of my poems? I look back toward nature (all of my best poems were nature poems. Some biography poems were also good), focus more on observation of detail?

Plan my day, find a project, do the hard thing?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

things i like

Quiet, the most. I'm in the grad lab right now with no one (mmm, Dave just came back in and is tip-typing, but a minute ago, and otherwise) and I've just gotten to campus and I love the sitting in the quiet. It's the kind of thing that slows me down and calms calms me.

Anthony Bourdain. So, I was watching Anthony Bourdain last night. For a couple of hours. He was in Vancouver (smooth, The Travel Channel) where he met up with three good friends/chefs. They fed him delicious things which he described in detail. They bantered. They barbecued together. Then he went to the Hudson River Valley which is so beautiful. I never knew. My favorite part was when he was sailing up the river (or something) and found a floating hotdog stand/boat and giggled like a little girl. Also the bantering, also the amazing food. He's a lush and a total bastard, which I also kind of love.

When I go to interview for jobs and the interviewer was in classes with me. Was, perhaps, one of my Inscape staff. Had, I remember because it's amazing, a denim jacket with a fabric print of Morrissey safety pinned to the back.

That's all for now. My life needs a soak in bleach and a vacuum and several hours of sorting. I'm keeping disorder/chaos/panic at bay tenuously

Monday, February 8, 2010


I sort of love stereotypes. I know they're kind of mean, but there's something very satisfying about being able to put people into categories. Really putting anything into categories makes me happy.

The English grad lab sits between the Swedish-Italian-French lab and the Asian languages lab. I noticed the other day that I have never left before the latest Asian languages students. And I've left plenty late. On the other hand, I've never seen the Swedish-Italian-French lab's lights on after, say, 7.

Kind of warm and fuzzy, right?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grateful finally

In all the muss and tumble of this last several months, I have been reminded again and again to be grateful. Because I don't get everything I want all the time. But I get a lot a lot of great stuff.

To wit:

I am consistently surrounded by incredible people. My 10 years at BYU (we'll be celebrating our tin or aluminum anniversary in September--bonfire, anyone?) and beyond (Manna, Jenn and Kristin, sireli hay, I'm looking at you) have been wonderful for collecting really topnotch friends. Really topnotch friends who, out-of-the-blue just-in-the-nick-of-time, reappear with just the words (or handmade prints or pictures of their babies or photocollages or late-night chats) I need. This growing collection is one of my favorite things about getting older.

My family is amazing. Brilliant and funny and hardworking and creative. Unimaginably patient and forgiving and understanding. I'm not sure what I did to get so lucky, but I'm honored to be associated with the lot of them.

I'm learning the value of a good healthy fight. Not so much those cruel ones where you're trying to prove that you're right (if our words were swords we'd be dead) or whatever (though even those I think are something) but of really fighting it out. Caring enough to argue. Being willing to cry in front of someone. I feel like this is the best thing I've ever learned to do.

Heavenly Father is really patient and nice. (On a related note this project is taking off and I wonder sometimes if it might not be/become one of the most important things I'm involved in ever.) This might turn into a bigger post, but I'm coming to see more clearly that waaay more people than look it are questioning big questions of God and are ultimately being disappointed and feeling abandoned. This is hard stuff, any way you look at it and any way you eventually reconcile yourself with it. I like my relationship with God for the most part, I'm so grateful that I get to see him there, but I'm also really grateful for the people in my life who've chosen other paths. I'm grateful for their strength and their perspective.

My students, almost without exception (this semester without exception), are smart and interesting and involved. I haven't read their first papers yet so maybe I've been mislead, but classtime is interesting and they're so nice to each other. My being their teacher notwithstanding I feel so lucky to be a part of this supportive little (tiny. I have 10 students this semester) community.

The world is sort of magic. Spring is coming (it starts in our hearts!). I know there'll be another flurry or two before it's official, I know that March is a terrible awful abstract idea personified, but I smelled mud and grass! Winter will be over! Also: carrot soup. Also: lemon-garlic broccolli. Also: snowshoeing in the canyon.

My body is fabulous. (Don't worry, no more details about my menstrual cycle.) I ran something like 9 miles last week, next week I'll do more. I don't get sick (knock on wood) or tired, much. I am, right now, running on like 3.5 hours of sleep. Which, I think, I'll