Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book of Wonders 2

The weight and thickness of some letters, the thinness and lightness of others, on a typewriter page. Like a lawn of grass. A page of grasses. Serifs moving and beckoning and retreating in the slow pulsing, in and out, of the boldness or shyness of each subsequent letter.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book of Wonders 1

I haven't much time to blog these days. I'm writing a lot, just not here, and I'm thinking a lot, just not here, and I'm loving a lot, just not here. These holiday-days are some of my favorites, and so I'm using every moment I can to do things like play games and drink cocoa and snuggle with the people I love.

But I do have time to wonder.

'Tis the season, after all.

Last year, author Melanie Rae Thon came to my creative nonfiction class and shared with us her writing. She told us each to begin a "Book of Wonders," a place to daily record some of the marvels of this world, the things you encounter in everyday life that are astonishing, beautiful, transcendent, disturbing and spectacular--whether that be something in nature, in the grocery store, or in human interactions. She said her goal is to put every beautiful thing she's ever seen in that book. She said that day's entry would be our beautiful mountain range.

So in this harried busy season of finals and festivities, this will be my offering: small pieces of wonder from these my last December days (at least for a few years).

The cool and well-worn silk of grandma's hands clasping mine, while she says to me softly the things between a grandma and her granddaughter.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

an autumn picnic

Thanks to Ben and Elisa for being so fun to photograph!
(And yeah he really does play the accordion.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

moments of joy, matters of gratitude

"Joy is the simplest form of gratitude."
--Karl Barth

having a whole night to myself at the Art Institute of Chicago
the great prank of 2012
nights under the big tree out front, listening to This American Life


a bright warm home with quilts and fireplaces and mangoes on the counter
sisters who love laughing and cuddling
brothers who are endlessly cracking jokes, and who care so much about their silly sisters
parents that protect and advise and love love love
roommates who listen and laugh and are always on your side
the ability to read, the ability to write
friends who celebrate
a country where people care about political outcomes
a God who is patient, who is kind, who is good

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Today I was parked in 30 minute parking for 6 hours (accidentally) and didn't get a ticket.

Today someone recognized me by my perfume. She was standing in front of me in line and smelled the DKNY and thought, "Carolyn," and turned around and there I was, reading, not realizing she was in front of me or else I would have said hi already.

Today my students all aced their last paper which means I either am a bomb-diggity teacher, or I have the best students in the history of the world. (Hint: it's the latter.)

Today I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild and cried for not knowing what to make of it all. The music is beautiful.

Today I learned "Poison and Wine" at a piano with a honey-voiced boy.

Tonight I sleep until the morning sun, because tomorrow I have no class and will spend the entire day becoming a scholar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

music monday

Some music to dance to. Or wake up happy to. Or drive through the canyons in the snow to.

1. "All Eyes on You" (St. Lucia)
2. "Take It Slow" (Good Old War)
3. "Bright Whites" (Kishi Bashi)

Sunday, November 11, 2012


"If you observe a really happy man, you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his child, growing double dahlias or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that had rolled under the radiator, striving for it as a goal in itself. He will have become aware that he is happy in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of each day." 
-W. Beran Wolfe, 1900-1935, Author and Psychiatrist

When I was in middle school, I decided to learn the guitar. I think I'd envisioned being cool. Instead, my mom signed me up for classical guitar lessons. Not cool. (Until later in life when you realize there aren't many things hotter than flamenco. Alas.)

Classical lessons lasted a year. Sixth grade. I'd walk over to my teacher's house every Tuesday with my guitar and have a lesson for an hour or so. She was a good good teacher.

Then I quit and didn't pick up the thing until ninth grade, when I learned about these things called "tabs." I taught myself. First it was "More Than Words." Then Third Eye Blind--"Motorcycle Driveby"--and Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven."

In high school, I would spend hours sitting on my bedroom floor figuring out songs. Tabs were my greatest friend. My Ben Harper phase was simultaneous to my Jack Johnson phase (thanks to a particularly inspiring youth counselor I had one summer). I knew a little Weezer, a little Ataris, a little Cyndi Lauper. I could lose myself in those songs. And slowly the fingertips on my left had grew thick and padded and I actually could play for hours without having to take fingertips-on-fire breaks.

Now looking back, it seems some of my happiest phases in life were ones I spent with the guitar. I'm not sure if this is because when I'm happy, I play, or if because playing makes me happy. Either way: the symbiosis is lovely.

I haven't played my guitar for something like 3 years. I mean really played. The kind where you're alone and you lose track of time and you come out a changed person. The guitar has kind of been phased out with things like photography and writing and reading and the general busyness of life in this here century. And I've decided that's okay--you grow out of things, your hobbies change, the things you lose yourself in change.

And so I don't play anymore.

Until last night with Glen Hansard and Damien Rice and Bon Iver and Iron & Wine and I remembered how supposed-to I feel when I'm holding a guitar.

Welcome to my Sunday night. Couldn't be happier.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Internet Dating*

I'd like to place an advertissment:

One temporary (2-3 months) boyfriend needed to:
+ study with me in the library
+ text me funny things sometimes
+ have adventures in the evenings
+ hug me lots
+ tell me I'm a rockstar and really smart, even though Thesis is taking me so-dang-long.

That's it. Anything more is optional.

Preference will be given to men who:
+ like laughing
+ smell nice
+ are handsomely groomed
+ like driving the canyon with the windows down.

Check yes or no,


* My dad brings up internet dating to me every now and then. Ha. Dad, this one's for you. ;)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Presidential Election, 2012...

...according to my Facebook feed. This patchwork of opinions (and juxtapositions) is really beautiful to me (and at moments poignant, and at moments hilarous).
Well, luckily I'm not graduating soon and needing a stable job.
Can't we just try an experiment and let the different areas of the country be lead by those they voted for and compare results in 4 years?
Quick! Unsubscribe to everyone on Facebook! 
Cute how everyone at obamas celebration are practically in sweats, and at Romneys they are in suits and ties. I'm glad the un-working drug smoking people living off my hard working money won.
America will be fine people, please.
23 years ago, my best friend popped outta the oven. happy birthday McKay!!
Even if your candidate of choice did not win tonight, have faith in your country, support your president and be more mature than saying you're going to running off to another country. Come on, America. The future is as bright as your faith.
I think we should just have royalty and give all the money that would be spent on campaigning to the starving children. Think of the future royal weddings! And who doesn't want to save the children?
So does this mean I get my Obama-phone now?
When in doubt vote for debt and higher taxes. This is something to be excited about.
I ate a lemon cheesecake bar. And it was sooooo delicious. In other news, I turned in my finished zombie paper today.
WHY AFTER 12 Years can FLORIDA still not figure out how to VOTE!
When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. ~ Benjamin Franklin
I find it interesting that less than 50 years ago our nation was willing to go to war to stop the spread of extreme socialism from filling the earth. Now, as a nation, we are embracing it. What happened?
I didn't vote for him, but let's all be respectful.
Time for Americans to start studying places in Western Europe like Greece, Italy, Spain and others for a preview of coming attractions for our formerly great nation.
"A vote for Obama 2012 is a vote for Jesus 2016."
Romney wins most states and yet still looses?!! Dang electoral votes...
Now that we know that the male-white vote isn't worth much, can we finally get rid of affirmative action or at least title IX?
Gotta get to work early in the morning, I have a lot of food stamps and contraceptives to party for.
Well, I hope President Obama does a fantastic job, because although I disagree with a lot of his policies, I love America and want it to be the best that it can be.
Cue the end of days predictions....
holy fantastic! OBAMA! a hugely important victory!
The worst day ever!!
I am grateful for our political system. While I am upset with the outcome tonight, I love the county we live in. Hopefully there will be changes that benefit ALL Americans not just the 50% who supported Obama. These are scary decisive times we live in.
Looking forward to 6 dollar p/g gas prices. Anyone want to trade my jeep for a Prius ?
FLORIDA! You're killing me! I feel like its like this EVERY. FREAKING. ELECTION!
It's too bad they don't give electoral votes by square mileage... Texas would choose the President every election!
America has survived as a country for over 200 years, through all kinds of leadership. We've had presidents resign among scandal, challenge political rivals to duals, be investigated for criminal acts. As no man is flawless, neither can be one office. Whether "your" candidate won or lost, be proud to live in a country where you have the right to exercise your opinion. It doesn't matter who you voted for, support your President, because I can guarantee that he needs it.
Well, may the next four years bring lower gas prices, better foreign relations, increased entrepreneurial spirit, and lemon cheesecake bars for us all! And perhaps more important, in the spirit of our great Declaration of Independence, may we each commit to more actively pursue the things that really bring happiness.

Monday, November 5, 2012

music monday

1. "Red" (Taylor Swift) A disclaimer: I'm not what you might call "a Taylor fan" and I lose interest in this song once it gets to the chorus, but man that first verse? Gives me chills.
2. "Hanging by a Thread" (Nickel Creek)
...And now a dancing song...
3. "Houdini" (Foster the People)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How to Choose Friends

 (from Christmas 2009's Black Tie White Christmas)
A few things I've realized:

This world is chockfull of exceptional, loving, beautiful people. All of whom I want to be around 

A few weeks ago, two friends from other lifetimes (it seems) called to congratulate me about going on a mission. These are friends that I only get to talk to every once in a great while, but people who are very important to me, people who shaped me, people who I very deeply care about, maybe because I sense they care deeply about me too.

So here’s what I’ve learned: life's kind of too short to be spending it with people who don't really care about you. So a few words about choosing friends. These are things I've learned from those who care about me the very most--lessons from some of the greatest people in the world (okay so maybe I'm a little biased). Anyways, these speak volumes about the kind of people they are, and teach me volumes about how to shape up and start being awesome like them.

How to Choose Friends:
  • Choose the people who, even though miles and years have diluted the frequency of your friendship, write you letters sometimes and meet you for lunch when they come into town.
  • Choose the people who make you feel good about who you are.
  • Choose the people who are trying to become better people.
  • Choose the people who consistently show they know what’s going on in your life.
  • Choose the people that see you and smile at you and acknowledge you.
  • Choose the people who laugh at your jokes.
  • Choose the people who seem genuinely interested in your life.
  • Choose the people who inspire you. 
  • Choose the people who want your input on things.
  • Choose the people whose lives don’t depend on yours.
  • Choose the people who bring you Ben & Jerry’s ice cream when you have your wisdom teeth out.
  • Choose the people that hug you.
  • Choose the people who, when they know you’re going on a mission, tell you not to go because they’ll miss you too much.
  • Choose the people who want to talk about you first, not themselves.
  • Choose the people who don’t get offended when it takes you a few days to call them back.
  • Choose the people who let you talk.
  • Choose the people who believe in your dreams, sometimes even more than you do.
  • Choose the people who see you better than you yet are.
Choose these kinds of friends and you'll have a very happy life.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

happy halloween!

I've spent the majority of my weekend with paint on my face. There was some of this:

And some of this:

And best of all, some TRICK-OR-TREATING (which has nothing whatsoever to do with paint, but is still best).

The story is long and belabouring (but delightful, so I'm telling it):

I really wanted to go trick-or-treating this year. Like I do EVERY YEAR. But I'm old and tall (the latter being the biggest deterrent, if we're being honest). So I don't go, in order to preserve my dignity and such.

Well this year, the desire for that pillowcase full of Butterfingers and Smarties and Tootsie Rolls (to say nothing of the candy-trading) outweighed the dignity factor. So Paige and Sam (partners in all best ideas) and I decided we were going to go trick-or-treating. And thus began our afternoon concocting (please note ghoulish diction there) strategies for successfully trick-or-treating, despite our age and average height of 6'.

We went through various costume ideas that would mask our height (ET in the bicycle basket, wheelchaired old people, a horse) and various door approaches that would most likely ensure candy. Ultimately, we decided that the only way people would give us candy instead of turning us away with spurning looks would be if we offered some sort of entertainment--a "trick" for the "treat," as it were.

And what we came up with was truly a stroke of genius: three gondoliers, in a cardboard gondola, singing Italian love with my accordion, Paige with her guitar, Sam with his gondola oar.

We bought striped shirts, we planned our route...

and then tonight, at the last minute, we bailed. Turns out our dignity (but probably more the apathy of being in your mid-20s) won out.

I went home to my house-home-family-home instead, for a haunted dinner.

Which is when the magic happened. After dinner, the youngest of my sibs went trick-or-treating. Being the youngest, she had no one to go with, so she begged us older kids to at least walk with her. She's cute, so we did.

After three houses, she comes back and more or less says that trick-or-treating is lame when you have to go to the door alone.

Say no more, sweet child.

My other sister and I ran back to the house, put on the bird regalia, and were off to trick-or-treat (for our sister's sake, of course) for the evening. We had a ball. I may be sans dignity, but guess what I do have: a stash of Halloween candy.

The stash is small, but oh so perfect.

And we even traded candies after.

Christmas-wish: that it'd be cool for adults to trick-or-treat.