Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's conditional

I'm just beginning to fully realize how much work goes into writing a thesis. Granted, this thesis is slightly smaller than say a graduate thesis would be. I am working with an end goal of somewhere between thirty and sixty pages. Yet the time and consideration going into it is on the one hand a great learning experience and on the other hand completely exhausting.

The weekly schedule goes like this:

Monday is library day. Five hours or more at the least, must be spent sitting in a tiny cubicle going over research articles I gathered last semester. I transfer any pertinent notes that were previously highlighted to a notecard. These notecards are then organized by subject and relevance, color-coded and paper clipped. I then prepare any questions I have for Dr.Herman on my thesis writing and jot those down on the handy yellow notepad.

Tuesday is class day. I get up early for a morning does of coffee, strap myself on to the bicycle and hike it up to my first class. The first class of the day is an Honors Forum, called "The Body Politic". The subject matter is fascinating! We are focusing on the body as it has appeared symbolically throughout history. We began tracing it from Ancient Greek and are now into the exegesis of the Christian era. We examine such hot topics as power and sexuality. Accompanying each class is an article to be read of anywhere from 40 to 50 pages. We are suppose to read this before class, take notes, and then email those notes (every page must be cited) to the professor. The first few times I did this daily assignment, it took me six hours.
Next comes my noon-thirty meeting with Dr.Herman to discuss the progress of my thesis. This always invovles a slight moment of anxiety on my way up to the office, as I'm quickly racking my brain to make sure I have something intelligable to say about the research, or if I have unfortunately slacked off and have nothign to present, I go in with my tail between my legs and try to bullshit my way through the quick meeting with small talk. I hate when I'm not prepared. Tuesdays are my lunch alone days, then off to the library for a two hour nap cozied up in a corner somewhere along the fourth of fifth floor.
Phone alarm wakes me at 345 for math class at 4pm. Class ends somewhere around 515, where I will go grab some coffee and head to work. Work lasts from 630 until around 1am. Aaaand, crash.

Wednesday. Wednesdays are suppose to be a library study day, but generally, this days ends up being a half-breather and half-worker day. I wake up slower, take my time getting up to school. Sometimes I will break up the studying by doing an hour workout in the gym. Around 1pm I will spend four hours in the library, then peddle home on the bicycle and watch tv so that my brain does not have to function meaninfully for a while. Sometimes I have to work, and if so then it is a 330pm shift until around 1 in the morning. I like working on Wednesdays because Raj cooks me food, and I drink a lot of free wine.

Thursday. Repeat of Tuesday, with the exception of no metting with Dr. Herman. Instead, I will usually grab lunch with my dearest friend John. Gyros are our favorite. Pizza comes in a close second. Then there are the bbq burgers at that one place... I can never remember the name. It's smokey in there (ewww).

Friday. Friday is home day. This is the day I do laundry. Clean house. Get groceries. Take care of the animals. Jog the six mile loop that I love. And then go to work, again.

Saturday. Homework until work. Work until sleep. Sleep.

Sunday is completely spontaneous. I don't know what happens on Sundays. Sundays just happen. Dinner in the evening with friends, usually.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My God is good in the kitchen

Okay, so there's this woman who just had eight babies... at once! She also has six children already at home. What a greedy lady!! Seriously, what about the rest of us women who don't even have one?! Us so called "cat ladies" who just get another kitten when one of their friends gets to have a baby shower.

In seriousness, good for her. God bless, she's going to need one hell of a husband. Apparently, she plans to breast feed them all. I did the calculations. One baby needs to eat once every hour. She has two breasts. That means, if she feeds two at a time for fifteen minutes each, she will have babies on her boobies all day long. Wow! Now that's a strong woman.

Tracy Chapman's new album "Our Bright Days" is fantastic. Though there are certainly some Christian undertones (and in one song, I'd definitely say it's an overtone), the slow folk rhythms, delicious beat, easy-going hopefulness she sings with makes a terrific album to listen to while cleaning the house, doing laundry, and taking longer road trips. In short, I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And she has remained true to her original style, which I appreciate greatly in an artist. Unlike Tori Amos, who lately has been trying on such strikingly different outfits than what she is actually good at, that I'm left too confused to enjoy.

Another artist that deserves a second look these days is Ray Lamontagn. Specifically "Truly, Madly, Deeply." This song calls to mind some of Pat Methany's better work, though done less sentimentally it is deeper in a sense... in a good sense. This one has the ability to move you to many tender places.

In literary terms, I've been reading these few selections lately: "What I Know: Letters to my Younger Self" edited by Ellyn Spragins; "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel (much overdue); "Being Nobody Going Nowhere" by Ayya Khema (meditations on teh Buddhist Path -- it's not as nihilistic as it may at first sound. It's actually very, very good, if not slightly repetitive at times); "Gargoyle" (I do not have the author's name at hand, but it is a very well-written book; good reviews on NPR).

Finally, since moving the bed to the corner my dreams have been extremely vivid and telling. Perhaps I will begin keeping a dream journal and plumb the depths of my unconscious mind. Scary!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

We are restless things

My favorite rendition of hummus these days is a very classic Mediterranean. The seasoning I use is called Zatar. It's composed of thyme, sumac and sesame seed. Perfecting hummus has become one of my specialties.


I also decided I'd had enough of the squeaky futon with its wooden bars that I constantly hit my feet on every night. I took it away! And rearranged the entire room. This is where the futon use to be... it is now my meditation nook.


Sleeping so near to the floor will take some getting use to. There is a certain kind of comfort in it that I can't quite explain. Yet I do worry about the difficulties of getting up from the floor... as tall as I am, it's going to take some real energy in the morning!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Never gonna let you down

Ammendments are healthy, and if one lives their lives properly, they are inevitable necessities.

Being home feels not only serene, but full of strength. This is where I am most centered. It is a place to protect, always; it is one's most private place. Those who have come into my home would know, my energy is everywhere. All of the things I hold most dear are here, surrounding the spaces. There is color and fabric, there are a thousand charms from the earth, everyone of them tell a story. A rock, a petrified stick spit out from the ocean, a feather, a collection of the tiniest sea shells gathered in a miniature tin cup.

There is strength in these days. There is direction and purpose, and I cannot begin to say how much this has refreshed life. There is energy here, and movement.... directed movement. A place to pour one's passions. I am excited to make this move. I know I am going at it alone. Despite casually dating. I need to go it alone. This is going to need all of me, and I want to give it all of me.

I do not know where I will end up. I have submitted a list of preferences, Atlanta of course was my first preference mainly because Grandmom is sick and I want to be here for the family as she lives out her last days. My mother needs me right now. Though her and I have talked about the possibility of me moving elsewhere, she is okay with whatever turn out (though I know, secretly, she hopes for Atlanta too). Other places I could end up: Nashville, ST.Louis, Chicago, Eastern North Carolina, Baltimore, Bar Area California, and Pheonix Arizona.

The company will put me where I am most needed. And then the next two years will unfold, of hard and challenging work. Teaching children in low-income areas. I know the challenges they face, and I know how easy it will be for them to drop out of school. Looking back at my own experience, I know that if only I'd had a mentor, a teacher who beleived in me, took interest in my talents, I would have had a much easier course -- I would not have been another high school drop out statistic. I know that I am a rare case, in that I've put myself through college, earned a degree with research honors, and worked full time all the while. Doing this has taken a lot of serious drive, dedication, and discipline.

The future holds terrific prospects. I am ready for the next phase of life. And in many ways, I am ready to leave this city. So many inside transformations have occurred over the last four years of living here, that sometimes, this city feels like a glove too small, or ill-fit. There are strange memories around some corners, things I would like to leave far, far behind me.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My seeds will cross and then take root

Photograph of Granma (Barbara Anne Steck) on the mantle, when she was a young girl in the Adirondack mountains.

Revlon "Valentine". A beautiful color of red. Or, as a good friend so aptly joked, "my bloody Valentine." Inca in the background, glaring at me with her wild yellow eyes.

New porch hutch, waiting for spring. Her drawers are full of seeds and soils and miscellaneous tiles we plan to utilize for more mosaic tables and benches when it warms up.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grow old along with me

I've officially become an addict.... of coffee. I cannot get my ass moving unless I have at least one sufficiently full cup flowing through my veins, usually two. It's a surprise actually, because coffee use to give me the shakes really bad. I still can't handle it very strong. I guess I'm a bit of a novice coffee drinker. I've found that I enjoy it as soon as I wake in the morning, slowly sipping over the first hour of being somewhat conscious, and then in the evening around 6pm I like to have two cups to see me through the night. Two weeks ago I even sat out on my front porch and puffed on half of a Nat Sherman along with my coffee! That was a sweet little treat.

Lets talk about math -- the downfall of my final semester of college. Seriously, I'm beginning to actually have nightmares about it. Real dreams where I'm not graduating because of this ridiculous class. Thankfully, the professor is a native english speaker and not some guy who just came from China and has a lisp. He's an older southern gentleman who takes his time explaining things, but even still, there is an expectation that we have some form of prior high school algebra knowledge. Honestly folks, the last math class I consciously attended was in eighth grade. As soon as high school came along I made it a point to be asleep within the first five minutes class began. And then, I was simply not there at all... skipping to hang out in the library, or at Kennesaw mountain getting stoned with Jess and tanning in a Field of wild flowers in our underwear. Freakin hippies.

Today will be dedicated to teaching myself the first chapter of math, if I can stay away from household distractions like doing the dishes, painting my toenails (again), wasting time on facebook.

Neighbor Jenn and I are rearranging the porch later this afternoon. She put a new hutch out there for holding our garden toys and tools, which means we need to reorganize all the chairs and mosaic table and scores of pots. I love the hutch; it's absolutely adorable! And I'm already itching for springtime, or at least the beginning stages of March, when I can begin tilling the soil again, thinking out new flower schemes. Perhaps I'll put in a new bed in the side yard this year. We also need to discuss what veggies we want to grow this year in our big blue tubs out by the driveway. The tomatoes did great, the peppers were phenomenal, but the squash developed an unfortunate fungus. I would like to see us get into leafy greens this year -- some baby arugala for sure.

Finally, I had the phone interview this past Friday morning for Teach for America. I've been worrying constantly since then that I screwed it all up (yay for unnecessary rumination! damn capricorn woman). I probably did just fine, but I was nervous as hell, and when I get really nervous, I lack confidence in what I'm saying... which makes me in turn worry that everything I'm saying will come out sounding like bullshit. Then, I woke up late because I set my phone alarm but neglected to turn the volume back on. Thirty minutes before the call I woke up in a panic. There were three articles I needed to read in order to prepare for a few questions they were to ask me on the phone. I had to skim these in a foggy state, slurping down the coffee, trying desperately to focus. When there is a time pressure on me like that... where it may actually be impossible to get done what I need to in the time I have, I freak out. Focusing actually becomes totally impossible. This is becuase there's an element of fear blocking my brain. If I weren't afraid, I'd be sharp as a tack. Unfortunate turn of events that morning. I felt miserable after hanging up... but really, it's probably all in my head. I know that I also have this remarkable ability to perform professionally, even when Im suffering on the inside -- thanks to seven years in the restaurant industry.

This feels like a good morning to rediscover the musical talents of Minus Story. Also craving a bit of Tracy Chapman... two totally different artists. It's good to mix it up a little.

Today is Jess's birthday. I'm so glad we were born together into this life. What would I do without you? I cannot even begin to imagine that possibility.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What the Ocean Sets Free

Mangroves, in the autumn.

Low-sloping oaks, beckoned by the winds.

Starlings taking off in flight.

Boardwalk, empty and calling for the pitter-patter of naked feet.
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Should've Been In Love

The cold in autumn, alone, walking through the graveyard.

Real life sepia.

Love thy neightbor. She makes me fig preserves in the spring and autumn. Truffle chocolates for Christmas. I adore her; this woman of great virtue and excellent striving...

Solemn afternoon. November 11 of 2008. Witnessed a man gunned down in Woodruff Park. Saw an old lover face to face. Felt the ghost of ghosts this day.
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Diamond In the Sun

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I Shall Believe

As I get older, I've begun to realize that there are some things we should say, and others we should not. I'll admit to having been one of those painfully honest types, giving more than I ought to have given -- a real barrage of verbiage, often landing my ass in hot water when I should have kept my over-active mouth shut tightly. It's not some sort of manipulation one learns, some kind of secret-keeping or not telling the whole truth. On the contrary, it is actually still just as honest, only more tactful and gracious. Best put, it is the art of knowing when to speak, of thinking before speaking. And interestingly enough, the pauses taken, the considerations undergone in what to say and what to withhold, actually translates into the Self, becomes integrated into the personality. It transforms, slowly over time, how one thinks and behaves. Rather than racing to cover all the bases, spitting out all the truths inherent in a given situation, now I think first, and select what response is most appropriate, what words will create the effect I want to have for another person, myself involved, for our future prospects, our understandings of the past and hopefully, a comfortable present. Life is a skill. Living is a skill. We should always be looking for ways to sharpen it. Self-reflection, I have found, is perhaps The best way.

All things follow from this point. Communication becomes easier. Straining and struggling fade into a gentle confidence, a readiness to meet others on safe terms. There is protection in being mindful of our mouths.

Twenty five. What does it mean to be this age? How does it feel? Older, but not old. Significant, but not exceptional. I am amidst transformation, and have been for years now. In the past few months, it has finally been coming to fruition. But I remember all too well the first year of change, how painful -- the bloody knees, the scraped elbows, the broken hearts. I took two men down with me and devastated myself. I was a train wreck. I believe that's how complete transformations sometime take place. They require the death of ALL of our Selves, every last particle, down to the very first and last thought. When we get to that place, of not knowing which way is up and which way is down, every choice turns into some miserable mistake we cannot puncture our way out of... that's when you know, you're deep in the change.

I know somehow, that this will occur again and again throughout my lifetime -- deep, inevitable change. Only, the texture and the interpretation will be different at each stage of my life. For my early twenties it was full of uncertainty, lack of self-trust, and all things defined along the terms of black and white -- either or. A time when everything I said about my self, my situation, most likely seemed either a contradiction or a lie, simply because I myself did not know. This, in its most real sense, is complete and inescapable honesty. And it's utterly excruciating. Like being naked in that dream where you're in front of a large crowd -- there's nothing you can do, your ass is in front of the audience, bold, butt-naked, vulnerable and exposed and ruthlessly ashamed.

Still, it carries its own beauty. I do not look back and shudder. No, I look back with a sense of wonder, really, and forgiveness, gentle, graceful forgiveness, for that young, unknowing, brash and brave and terrified young girl. She was a total contradiction to herself, and yet... and yet she made sense, for where and what she was.

Now she is older. She is twenty five. She has lost the "love of her life." She knows there will be others. She is slowly starting to recover her sense and ability to start over. Resilience fades slightly as we grow older, but it does not disappear. Every moment is a new moment, full of opportunity and fresh choice. As the Greek epics so beautifully tell again and again, it is not the outcome we can control, but our response to each situation... it is this, that defines how great of a person we will be in this lifetime. And every moment that passes, gives a new moment to redefine that person. Yesterday I was not such a good lover. Today I am. Tomorrow I should strive to be again. And again. And sometimes I will fail, but how will I choose to respond to that failing? Will I define myself by it, will I check it and move on, will I laugh and grow in spite of it all?

Some things never change. Love, for instance, never changes. If you've loved someone once, you will forever love them. Love then, is similar to enlightenment. Once you've realized a deep truth, you are forever changed, you can never forget that truth. Love is the same. Love is truth. I have loved, and I will forever love. Once I thought this was a tragedy, because it meant every moment of not having that person was a moment full of anguish, pain, and regret. Actually, it is a gift. Perhaps, it is the most beautiful gift one can hope to receive... that I will forever have this love, this is what makes a person beautiful, what fills life with beauty, what blesses us with the breath of something close to God.