Tuesday, May 29, 2012

memorial day

I wanted to share something beautiful on Memorial Day. I am grateful for those who are courageous, for those too young to have a family before they left this world, for those who stood for integrity, for bravery, for a right and a good and a God, and for those who still stand for those things today. I wonder quite often if I would be courageous enough to leave home and love and comfort to defend the idea of freedom I've been raised under, the idea of freedom I don't fully understand and undoubtedly take for granted too often. I hope I would be courageous.

Below is a letter from Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the Civil War, to his wife.  These are some of the most beautiful words written in American literature.  Enjoy, be grateful, have courage, and hold fast to things bigger than yourself.

July the 14th, 1861
Washington DC

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the most embarrassing

Well folks, here it is.  My most embarrassing moment.  I alluded to it a couple of days ago, and figured if I didn't (wo)man up and tell it now, I never would.  So let this absolve me of it.

It was a Friday night, three years ago.  My roommate and I had nothing going on.  We heard there was going to be speed dating up on campus, so we thought, "Heck, we've never been speed dating.  They have gongs.  Gongs are cool.  Let's go."  So we dragged two neighbor boys away from their X-box long enough to take them with us.  

Now, I was already a little embarrassed at being there because...well, it's speed dating.  I mean, it has certain stigmas.  I also happened to be on this kick where I wasn't letting boys get the best of me (I'd recently told my nearly-boyfriend that if he wasn't going to date me already, I was going to date other people.  Take that!).  So I go in there, guns at the ready, but secretly a little embarrassed I was there.  (This is not a combo I would recommend, by the way.) 

So we sit down.  Girls on one side, boys on the other.  They start ringing the gong.  I have ten 2-minute conversations with ten different boys that all go exactly like this:
"What's your name?"
"Where are you from?"
"What are you studying?"
"How many kids are in your family?"

That last one is particularly annoying to me.  As if anyone is going to A)remember that info or B)care.  So every now and then I'd make up fake answers because I was tired of having the same conversation over and over again.

...And then he sits down across from me: an incredibly beautiful boy with dimples and sparkly eyes.  First thought?:  "There is no way he's here for serious.  He's here with his buddies to mock people who are here for serious."

We start talking.  He seems nice enough.

But then something weird starts happening.  He keeps looking at my forehead while he's talking to me.  He'll look at my eyes to ask me a question, then will look up at my forehead and start giggling.  Now it's important to note here that I'd recently watched an Office episode in which Jim passes an entire workday staring at Dwight's forehead every time they talk.  It of course makes Dwight terribly uncomfortable ("Meet my eyeline, Jim!") and eventually drives him nuts (more nuts than he already is, at least).

So my thought?  "This kid is trying to mock me! He's deliberately trying to make me feel uncomfortable. HOW. DARE. HE."

I refrained from saying anything at first because I didn't want to look like a fool.  Oh no, I was going to catch him in his little game before I said anything.

And then he did it again.

So I sit up all straight and snarky and say, "Is there something on my forehead?"

He goes serious, pauses.  "What?"

"You keep looking at my forehead, is there something on it?!"

To which he turns bright red, covers one eye, and says, "No, I'm so sorry, I have a lazy eye."


Now, I could have recovered very gracefully, if I'd had my wits about me.  But typically when you're focusing on one-upping someone, you don't.  See, when I was little, I had a lazy eye that would always turn in, and I went through years and years of glasses and eye doctor visits to get it corrected, so all I needed to say to the boy was, “No way, I do too!” 

Instead, I sheepishly asked, "So...how many kids are in your family?"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

baby baby baby


Just kidding, I'm not having a baby.  Not literally at least.  (All those of you who actually know me and actually thought I was pregnant, this is a sad commentary on our friendship.)  

BUT very soon I'll be launching (or birthing if you're into extended metaphors) a blog about backpacking Europe! ("Backpacking" in the most ladylike sense of the word, of course).

But, dear blog reader, I have a very important question for you.  How important is it to you to have the option of "following" the blogs you read?  If there was no such option--if every time you read a blog, you had to go straight to the website instead of using Google Reader or the like--would you still read websites that you like?

Also, what kinds of things about Europe would you like to read about?  (Gotta make sure I give the people what they want...)

That is all.  Here's a cool song to listen to while you think and comment below.....  ("What's in it for me," you say?  "Why should I comment," you say?  Because if you do, I will reply with one very nice thing about you.  That's why.)

(Thanks team.)

Just in case anyone's still confused, I am NOT PREGNANT.  Clear?  Good.  :)

EYE UPDATE: After draining my eye last night (sorry for the graphic detail), it's looking pretty good.  At least that's what my good eye tells me.  Kinda hard to know when you have such a biased authority.  I used bright pink blush this morning as eyeshadow so my good eyelid would match the sick one.

Monday, May 21, 2012

what a not so lovely

This is what I woke up looking like this morning.  (In case you don't know, this isn't what I normally look like when I wake up.  Or ever, really.  Actually that's not true.  One of my eyes is smaller than the other and it is especially pronounced when I wake up.  It is the same eye that used to be lazy when I was a little girl.  More on that in a future post.)

So I got out of bed, went upstairs to get ready to go to The Job that I Love So Much, and promptly passed out.  Apparently my body says no, which is probably for the best seeing as I can only see out of one eye.  It'd make The Job that I Love So Much extremely difficult, as writing and editing mostly require eyes. So now the conundrum: what to do with a day when you can't see.  I think I'll practice being blind, which happens to be one of my favorite activities.  

(A little fun fact: I tried parting my hair on the other side so there'd be less emphasis on the eye.  Rosie said I looked like Dwight Schrute.  Perfect.  Then I said, "Fine, get me an eye patch."  She did.  It has a skull and crossbones on it.  Perfect.  I will be wearing it all day.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

under the boardwalk: a summer party

A  M O N T H - O F - M A Y  P A R T Y 
{the invites}

{the decor}
a carpet of mint bushes under a window
a narrow sidewalk between balconies and townhouses and gables
striped straws
rainbow bunting and white lights
vintage masks

{the snacks}
carnival treats, what else!
caramel popcorn

{the games}
a ball toss to win a fish
a fortune teller

{the people}

{the music}
pandora's "That Thing You Do" station until sunset
pandora's "Quelqu'un Ma Dit" station once it's dark
...and perhaps a little accordion music at some point from the balcony.

(can't you just hear the music)
**video coming soon.  stay posted**

Thursday, May 17, 2012


 So there we were, the seven of us, in a blanket fort in a loft apartment, drinking cane-sugar ginger ale and eating berries and cinnamon dip and thinking the birds outside were part of the tracks that Sigur Ros was streaming across the world, a global listening party.

I live in a world where there isn't much time for thinking or for watching or for listening.  But tonight I thought about how my life has let me live every one of my dreams, the big ones and the little ones.  I thought about how it has been nothing but a forth-flowing of grace upon grace.  I thought about the magic and the sublime that I sometimes forget is inside me, and that I sometimes forget is inside others. Tonight I traversed the landscape of my heart and found there mountains and gentle valleys and all as it should be.

I watched the sheets of our little blanket-fort ceiling push back back and forth with the wind through the open windows.  

And most of all I listened.

This is something I feel strongly about: 
Find space in your mind to be quiet, to let thoughts come and go as they please, to do nothing more than watch a sheet get teased in the breeze.  Make a blanket fort and turn out the lights and drink ginger ale, or at least do those things in your heart and mind.  The world is invading my world and I won't have it.  I'm going to lay down my stakes and trace a circle around myself and think and watch and listen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

on the (clipped) wings of love

Okay let's be honest.  All anyone really wants to read about is people's love lives.  There's a great little part in Eat Pray Love about a psychologist who went to help a group of Cambodian refugees talk through the horrible things they'd suffered--genocide, torture, starvation.  And you know what they all wanted to talk about?  LOVE.  Who they were in love with, who they couldn't stop thinking about, who they were crazy for (156-57).  So here goes:  my love life lately.

My love life lately just can't get off the ground.

When my sister Rose was four, she got a canary for her birthday.  Mom took her to the pet store, they looked through all the canaries, chose a pretty little one, and brought it home in a box.  In a moment of utter benevolence and awesomeness, as soon as they got home, sweet little Rosie (animal lover that she is) bounded out of the car, put the boxed bird on the driveway, squatted next to it, and opened the lid so it could get a little fresh air before being caged for the rest of its life.  

The bird then flew away.

Smart bird.

And this is precisely what my love cannot do.

The question is: why ever not?  

Laying in bed several nights ago, I wondered why I'm so frustrated about this whole LOVE garbage.  To melodramatically quote Fantine, "There was a time when love was blind, and the world was a song, and the song was exciting."  I yousta feel that way about love. What has happened to me?!! 

Then I realized it might have something to do with the fact that in the last two years, I've had 10 failed relationship attempts.  Note: not failed relationships, failed relationship attempts.  "Attempts" because said relationships never in fact got off the ground.  We'd start out pretty good, and then for one reason or another, chosen boy would fall off the face of the earth.  The whole thing looks a little like a kid riding a bike up a hill...starts out with a lot of gusto, but inevitably the hill wins and the kid slows down, and then halts...and then starts rolling backwards.  Yep.  That's what it has looked like.

Let me illustrate:

Typical (and I might even add healthy&happy) relationships tend to go something like this:
1) You notice someone, maybe because they're handsome, or witty, or wear sweet kicks, or are incredibly kind.
2) You have a conversation with this someone and realize that they are in fact all of the above.
3) You start to form a friendship--you find excuses to go to things together, you send witty text messages, you somehow always find each other at parties and can't stop talking to each other.
4) You go on a date or two.
5) You start to really really like each other. (*Cue butterflies, almost-holding-hands encounters, etc.)
6) Some moment of drama where you both have to decide whether or not you really want to be in this thing.
7) The kiss!
8) You decide you do really want to be in this thing, which leads to...
9) Full-fledged investment: you start really relying on each other and trusting each other and falling in love with each other.  You fall in love and hold nothing back.
10) *b l i s s  a n d  h a p p i n e s s*
11) Dreams of marriage and lovelovelove
*12) Twelve is asterisked because this has been a part of every relationship I've had so far, healthy and happy though they've been, so for full disclosure, I feel I have to include it.  Ahem: the breakup.  You know, something sad happens like someone moves or someone feels not-so-good about the relationship, and then you breakup and cry a bunch and listen to For Emma Forever Ago.

So my relationships of the past two years?  They've only gotten to somewhere between #3-5.  The point: We're not talking a series of breakups here.  We're not even talking a series of boys I've dated.  We're talking a series of boys where we came really close to liking each other.

I think that's pathetic.

Yes, breakups are terrible.  I've had my share.  But the nice thing about them is you can at least walk away thinking, "I gave that thing my all.  I know what it felt like to love that person and have them love me in return!  Bam!"  All these false starts?  Not so awesome.  They leave me feeling deflated.

So as a form of therapy or to appease my list-making craziness, I present 


I will give them all nicknames in the form of the vegetable I think they most resemble because, let's be honest, that's so much more fun than numbers.

First there was Artichoke.

Okay, I take back the vegetable idea.  It's too weird.  How 'bout I give them all names of literary characters I love.

1.  So, Artichoke, who we will call Jake Barnes. I really liked this kid a lot.  He had good hair and we liked all the same things (namely Top Gun and cooking and midnight runs to 7-Eleven).  I bought him Big League Chew during finals week and he kissed me on the cheek before I went home for Christmas break.  Come January I asked, "Please can we slow down a little?" to which he smiled and said, "Yeah."  Then proceeded to evaporate.  It was kind of a Runaway Bride thing: you know, where Richard Gere (me) looks away for one second and then Julia Roberts (Artichoke) bolts.  This is where I learned what it means to shamelessly throw yourself at someone.  I tried every trick in the book.  None worked.  So embarrassed, I relegated myself back to the wide world of dating.

2.  The next guy to enter the scene was Jay Gatsby.  I liked him because he was a real man who could grow a full beard and had a real job that he wore a suit and tie to everyday.  He wasn't afraid to stand up for right, for honor, courage, valor.  He is those things embodied.  I liked that about him--his shiny integrity.  This is the boy I learned how to slackline for.  I cancelled my carpool (rather awkwardly, I might add) so I could carpool with him.  And then somehow the Carolyn+Jay carpool never materialized, nor did our initially promising slacklining relationship, so I was left driving to work all by myself every day for the rest of the semester.

3.  Then I moved across the country, where I met Finny.  Finny was the bomb and here's why: he danced like nobody was watching, he went on walks in thunderstorms, he liked hamburgers like I like hamburgers, and he had a sick collection of bikes.  And his hair could make you go weak at the knees.  We went out a bunch...spent a lot of nights riding around the District on our bicycles.  We even drove back across the old US of A together.  And that was the end of it. I still have no idea what happened here.

4.  But it was okay because I came back to the sweet sweet friend-love of Edward Rochester.  I like so many things about Edward.  We've been friends for oh-so-many years, and I just like him more and more every day.  He's smart and mild-mannered but surprisingly and delightfully feisty when you get him alone.  Everything about him smacks of classic gentleman.  Every time I think maybe we could date, he disappears--sometimes to across the country, sometimes to across the world.  And then out of nowhere, he'll take me out and I'll think, "Well maybe this time we'll like each other at the same time..." Still hasn't happened.

5.  Henry David was a breath of fresh air.  He giggled nonstop, and I think he still holds the record for making me laugh harder than anyone else.  He has a way of seeing the best in people, and of being real about things.  When I first met him, he was tossing a football and wearing a baseball hat backwards.  I thought, "Oh please.  Too-cool-for-school-jock."  Then he shows up at my desk one day and we talk about books for an hour.  I was done for.  He's one of those magical people--the ones who is not only incredibly cool on the outside, but incredibly brilliant and beautiful on the inside too.  He lived on a lake one summer and grew a beard, for Pete's sake.  When he left for the summer, he may or may not have sort of held my hand (???) one magical night involving hot chocolate, a Russian hat, and a swingset...

6.  I met Peter in Paris (romantic, magical, serendipitous?!  Yes.).  This one was admittedly my bad.  We dated real fast then undated real fast.  Timing maybe?  Different personalities maybe?  All I know is when I first saw him I thought, "Daaaaaang, what I wouldn't give to date that boy."  And the crazy encounter in Paris (of all the places in the world to run into someone!).  He worked hard to make me feel comfortable and happy, which I liked very much.  He also was giving and unselfish and quietly confident in a way that was incredibly stabilizing to me.  Good man, that one.

7.  Then there was Oskar Schell.  This kid can pun better than anyone on the face of the earth.  Which is sometimes terribly frustrating and sometimes terribly endearing.  He is more or less a walking encyclopedia.  We'd gone out a bunch, and more than that, we spent a good chunk of every day together--lectures on campus, book readings, dance parties...  I got super gutsy one night and told said boy I wanted to keep going out with him.  He nodded and said okay.  The next date we went on, he escorted me everywhere we went--we're talking extending his arm so I could wrap mine in his.  Good sign, right?  Apparently not.  Never heard from him after that date.  Which is weird considering the next mancounter (yes, man+encounter=mancounter):

8.  Come January, I got set up with Kubla Kahn.  Immediate adoration.  This may or may not have  had something to do with the fact that he was a graphic designer, which means I wanted to pin everything in his apartment.  Oh, and all his outfits too.  Apparently I'm a sucker for style.  (Shallow?  Probs.)  But the not-shallow things endeared me even more to him: he could strike up a conversation with anyone, and he always tipped, even when we just went and picked up pizza.  He really cares about people I think.  And I like that.  I also think he's the kind of guy who wouldn't be afraid to float the Nile or learn astronomy so we could sail the Pacific.  I liked most of all that he was always smiling.  Then came that fateful night, when he started extending his arm so I could wrap mine in his.  (Deja vu?)  Yep, never heard from him after that night.  (What is it with the escorting, boys!?  Is that the kiss of death or something?!)

9.  Then there was the run-in with the boy that one of my best friends is convinced is my soulmate.  We'll call him Nick.  Kind of an ongoing saga here...it goes something like I don't actually know him, but said friend is always extolling his virtues and telling me to date him, and then I run into him weirdly at the same time every semester, like clockwork.  Really creepy clockwork.  His eyes sparkle like he has a secret, and there is something deeply good about him.  He texted me one day to give me his number...sure I was a little excited if for no other reason than to at least get to the bottom of this whole soulmate thing!  Annnnd then he never talked to me again....soooooo..........

10.  Which brings us to the most recent fail: Norman.  One night I made him laugh so hard he fell over.  All I can say about him is that his kindness is unsurpassed.  But, as luck would have it, he was also only sporadically interested.

One evening at ballet (back when I was a teenager and doing things like ballet), I was having a really hard time getting the floor combination down.  This wasn't anything new, I always had a hard time with floor combinations.  I stood, about to do a pirouette turn.  Prepped, shook it out, prepped again, halted, waited for the music to come around, prepped again......and did one measly little pirouette turn.  It was pathetic.  Kinda like my current love history.  My teacher thought so too: "Wow Carolyn, that was a lot of prep for one little turn..."  Yeah.  I know.  I'm pretty tired of all the winding up for not much turning.  But I will say this: if I've gotta be winding up while I wait for the real spinning, you 10 boys are the greatest windup a girl could ask for.  Thanks for being kind and for making me laugh and for having awesome hair.  And that's all I've got to say.

(Please note that I did not use a single Jane Austen character.  I win.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

throwback summer {the clothes}

When I was in London last summer, I was totally enamored of all the throwback style: big tee-shirts paired with leggings, floral print denim, jelly shoes.  It reminded me of my childhood (brilliant marketing technique, btw: make the consuming generation nostalgic and they will buy anything.  Just to illustrate, if I came across a tee-shirt with Pretty Pretty Princess, Pogs, Tamagotchis, GigaPets, or Littlest Pet Shops on the front I would buy it without even thinking.)

It's taken the good US of A a year to catch up to London (-expected-), but I'm finally seeing all the throwback styles here as well.  So here's to a summer of early 90s childhood swag!

Other awesome 90s trends I loved:
playsuits (we called them jumpers)     boys parting their hair down the middle+bowlcuts+bleached     ankle socks--the kind that fold over     neon windbreakers     adidas track jackets     slap bracelets     stick-on earrings     stuff with yellow smiley faces on it     stuff with yin-yangs on it     mood rings     lace-up boots     fishtail braids and rope braids ...

Nostalgic sigh.  I vote we bring back all of the above.  Particularly the bowlcuts and bleached hair.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the evolution of the summersault

They're one of those things I can't do.  (Other things I can't do include rollerblading, skiing, iceskating, any sport involving a ball, and drinking milk.)

I used to be embarrassed of this.  Embarrassed of all of it, really, because not being able to do these things makes you "weird."  So I avoided things involving large groups of people throwing balls around (aka: sports).  I insisted that I preferred bicycle-riding to rollerblading so that I didn't have to try the latter.  When we'd go ice-skating, I'd latch on to the person who'd never been before so I could "teach" them, but mostly to mask my fear of embarrassment!  And because the only way I could eat cereal was if I ate it with chocolate milk, when I'd stay at friend's houses I'd avoid cereal altogether, lest they think I was weird.

I like to think that all these ineptitudes have made me more empathetic to timid, uncoordinated people like myself.  This is what I tell myself at least.  If nothing else, those poor people can at least rest easy knowing they won't be the only one falling on the skating rink.

Now, the embarrassment I've felt is, of course, thanks to societal constructs of what counts as "fun" (thanks society!).  Things like rollerblading and skiing and iceskating are fun and therefore if you do them you are fun and if you don't then you aren't fun.  I remember two days in particular, three years apart, with two boys.  First instance was when Boy One asked me if I'd ever had an adrenaline rush before.  My already self-conscious-about-if-people-perceived-me-as-fun little self was maybe a liiiittle overly sensitive to this--I laid awake all night feeling bad that I wasn't good at "fun" things, and that he'd perceive me as timid.  (The next day I realized where my adrenaline rushes come from--writing papers two hours before they're due.  NERD.)

The other moment was when me and the homies were suiting up to go jump off diving boards.  Boy Two said, "You're coming, Carolyn?!  I didn't know you liked to have fun!"  Now, he was just trying to be snarky, but man--if he had known that perceived funness (or lack thereof) is The Big Self-Consciousness I carry around, I don't think he would have said it.

And so I set out to make myself into a more socially-acceptably-"fun" person.  I bought a longboard.  I ice-skated on dates (see footnote 1).  I joined an intramural team (read Coach's recounting of the disaster here).  I taught myself to eat cereal without putting chocolate in my milk.  And when people asked what I did on the weekend, I learned to say things like, "Oh, I went to a football game," or "Oh, I went hiking," because those are the things People have agreed upon as Fun activities.  And heaven forbid anyone think I'm not fun!  (I make no mention to them of the weekend things that were actually fun to me--browsing used books at DI for two hours, making myself crepes and listening to "The Passion of Paris," sneaking into bed at ten o'clock and squealing with excitement for having a quiet room to read in until I fell asleep.)

All this embarrassment changed when I started watching Gilmore Girls.  Rory owns the fact that she hates sports, that she'd rather be alone in her room reading than skiing down a mountain.  I found a kindred spirit in Rory, and that turned upside-down how I think of myself.

The word summersault itself got turned upside down a little too.  It started out as sombresault (French: over(sobre)+jump(saut).  Sombre is an iteration of sobre ('over'), so the etymology makes sense: when you summersault (or sombre-sault), you sort of jump over yourself.  But sombre has a second definition: in common language, it doesn't mean 'over' at all---it means 'somber' or 'dark' or 'to sink.'

The French sombresault is now obsolete.  It has evolved, over 500 years into somersault, and then summersault, which I find so much more fitting--'summer', the two m's like your two hands, fingers spread wide.  I can feel the grass between each finger, this word is so carefree.

Sombresault.  Sobresault.  Summersault.
Somber turned over to summer...
...and turning things over to get rid of old habits, old fears, old somberness, darkness, or sinkings.  Old embarrassments.

Two years ago, my eight year old sister pulled me out to the backyard.  She said, "Come on Carolyn, if I can learn to do it, you can do it too!"  And with that she showed me how to plant my hands, how to kick my legs up straight, how to land.

And thus I learned to summersault.

1.  I ice-skated even when one time we got to the rink and an old man fell and split his head open on the ice and was carried away on a stretcher and they closed the rink temporarily so the fifteen yr-old on duty could scrape up the blood-stained ice, scoop it up into a dustpan, and tell us we were all clear to skate now (!).


BONUS QUESTION (ten extra credit points!): Tell me one thing you never learned to do and probably should have.  Winner gets Otter Pops.  Or to watch my sad summersaulting attempts.  Your choice.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


For the last week--WEEK!--my right lower eyelid has been struggling.  Twitching, to be precise.  WebMD tells me this is called myokymia.  Delightful.  It lists things like lack of sleep, lack of nutrition, overconsumption of drugs and alcohol, overwhelmtion of stress, and staring too long at computer screens as main causes.  As I'm sleeping fine, nutritioning fine, still've never touched drugs or alcohol (except for in making chicken marsala...mmm), and feel significantly less stress than on all other days of the past year, I think WebMD is bunk.  Maybe the computer screen thing holds some merit.  But ehhhh.  I'd rather come up with my own list of dramatic changes in my life to which I shall attribute said affliction.

Causes of Myokymia (according to WebCC):
         1. sudden dropoff in chocolate consumption
         2. sharp incline in strawberry consumption
         3. sleeping with windows open every night and waking up happy every morning
         4. pent-up anticipation of any of the following:
                  --finishing thesis
                  --return of family member from foreign country
                  --return of friend from distant state
                  --owning a fishing license
         5. a snowless winter (thank you Utah!)
         6. learning how to make paella which thing I've always wanted to do and which thing brings me happiness every
             time I think about it.
         7. not drinking milk for two weeks oops
         8. giggling all day because the people I work with say funny things
         9. excessive gratitude:
                  --for clothes that match each other and that don't wrinkle
                  --for an editor that double-checks my work, so I never worry too much if what I write is perfect or not.
                  --bus rides that carry me more or less from the street corner where I live to the street corner where I work
                  --for waking up knowing that in 20 minutes I'll be on an hour.half bus ride and can sleep the whole time (it
                      makes getting up at 6am on a summer day so much easier)
         10. accordion.  duh.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


this is what i woke up to this morning,
a fresh breeze and my lace curtains breathing in and out, 
the watery sun in long lines through the balcony fence, 
and i laid my feet against the screen and for a long time felt the cool clean morning.

(for a real treat, open your windows, turn off the sound on the computer, and let the music outside be the video's soundtrack)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

an imploration for summer reading lists

"Writing is being murdered.  But the solution isn’t [writing] blogs, the solution is more reading. We don’t pay taxes so kids can talk about themselves and their home lives."  
--William H. Fitzhugh, on college students' increasing inability to write long term papers

S U M M E R E A D I N G :

Give yourself permission to read,
to be "unproductive" for a minute,
or two,
or many,
and read exactly what you want to read without worrying about yet-to-be-done "to-do"s.

Give yourself permission to write,
to spend hours alone with a pen or a keyboard.
Let your thoughts carry your words,
and for heaven's sake don't worry about who will read it or if your spelling is correkt.

The world (and your task-oriented self) would say reading is unproductive:
you aren't making money reading,
you aren't creating a product,
you aren't cleaning.

THIS is the grand lie.
The grand lie of our generation specifically.

These things: money, products, cleaning:
they're all mirages anyways.
Perhaps mirages for happiness,
but most especially mirages for fulfillment.
When you begin this endeavor, you will find this.

You will find that reading, writing, aren't unproductive at all.
You will find, actually, that you do not have enough time to think about all the things you want to think about,
to write about all the things you want to write about,
to read about all there is to know.

Your mind will be filled with interesting problems,
interesting words, richer words,
new ways for looking at old things,
and deep deep channels of thought.

Become a person of more substance.
I'd say that's pretty productive.

What are you reading this summer?