Inaugural Friday Favorites

When I’m not writing blog posts–that is, when I’m not slaving away in a garret with only a stubby candle to light my laptop and a small mouse for company (A Little Princess style)–I am often reading other blogs.  And what I have noticed over the past few months is that many “other blogs” have a feature called “Friday Favorites.”  Friday Favorites is typically a pictorial-with-captions list of some of the blogger’s favorite products, techniques, memes, recipes, etc. from the week.

I’ve explained before how much I love information in blurb form when it comes to the internet and magazines (funnily enough, since I am a rather long-winded blogger myself), so needless to say, I am a fan of Friday Favorites.  I am also a fan of having a weekly tradition.

Therefore, I have decided to start a kind of Friday Favorites of my own.  I can’t promise anything cute or crafty or delicious, but I can promise you a pictorial representation of my week.

Here goes:

This book

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I’ve been eyeing The Pillars of the Earth for years.  Every time I passed it on the shelf in library or bookstore, I would pause briefly, sometimes pick it up, but always eventually put it back.  For some reason, it never seemed the right time to dive into such a massive volume.  But last week I was finally finally in the mood for a real story.  A story that wouldn’t be over quickly.  Now I’m almost 300 pages in and entirely hooked.  I plan to write a real review once I’ve finished the thing, but if you’re another TPOTE (pronounced tee-p-oh-t) stalker, I advise you to give it a chance now.

This song

Can I like Taylor Swift now?  Now that she’s pop and punk and all grown up?  Because I’ve been listening to this song all week.  What can I say?  I swoon for acoustic duets.

Writing at a desk

Hemingway_at_his_writing_desk.

Yeah yeah, it’s a little presumptuous to choose a picture of That Crazy Genius Bastard Hemingway* to accompany this post.  But to get back to my point, I have only recently begun to write at a desk.  Before, I was in the camp that believes that in order to truly focus on creating, one can’t be distracted with the discomfort a desk chair often provides.  Now, I’m in the camp that believes that in order to truly focus on creating, one needs to get their rear out of bed and into the kind of chair that screams NOW WE’RE GOING TO WORK.  And you know what?  I’ve never been so productive.

This Brand

imagesLike most high quality outdoor outfitting brands, Patagonia is ridiculously expensive.  But they also make the kind of comfy, fleecy, that-girl-could-climb-a-mountain gear that I could quite easily live in.  In fact, Patagonia fits perfectly into this daydream I have about living in the North Woods of Wisconsin and rolling out of bed each morning for flannel, coffee, and writing.

This child

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There were some fiery Facebook posts this week concerning young George Alexander Louis.  Apparently, it’s a terrible sin for people to stop and pay attention to the birth of a baby when there are so many “more important”–and much more sober–things happening in the world.  I say, the world would be a terrible, terrible place if we couldn’t take a break from tracking violence and death and injustice to celebrate something joyful.  I certainly admit that I will likely never actually meet George.  Nor do I live in the country which he will someday preside over as king.  But I think it’s silly to pretend that the small family in the country above doesn’t impact the world at all, or to pretend that the way they live and dress and speak to the public doesn’t say a great deal about the modern times and the modern monarchy.  This is culture happening, and I think it is deserving of our attention.

Road trip planning

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I will not at this time disclose the destination of the road trip, nor the date of departure.  But you’d better believe I’ll document every sweaty, touristy, awe-inspiring bit of it.  For if any family can match the Griswolds, it is surely mine.

*A literature professor called Hemingway this when I was a sophomore.  Since then, I haven’t been able to shake it.

Summer Enjoyment

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of moping around the house.  A fair amount of job hunting.  A decent amount of neatening the large amount of stuff which is the culmination of 22 years of residing in the same room in the same house.  A satisfying amount of going out to enjoy summer.

Since I don’t really want to talk about the moping (more of a private journal topic), and I shouldn’t talk about the job hunting (in case potential employers find me here and wonder why I’m bragging about my prospects online), and I would be wise to leave the home organization talk to those who know what they’re doing (the fine folks on HGTV and TLC), I’m going to talk summer enjoyment.  Enjoy:

An oriental poppy from my mother's garden.  I like to claim that these flowers grew from seeds I planted years ago, but it's much more likely that they were bought, fully grown, from the Home Depot garden center.

An oriental poppy from my mother’s garden. I like to claim that these flowers grew from seeds I planted years ago, but it’s much more likely that they were bought, fully grown, from the Home Depot garden center.

Is anyone else more than a little disturbed by the Old Navy mannequins that "greet" you as you enter?  Luckily, two sisters wearing matching (I was dressed first, I swear) denim outfits were there to complete the group.

Is anyone else more than a little disturbed by the Old Navy mannequins that “greet” you as you enter? Luckily, two sisters wearing matching (I was dressed first, I swear) denim outfits were there to complete the group.

Como Zoo afternoon.  I can never decide which animal I like best.  Not the zebras (I just couldn't resist posting a zebra butt photo).  Probably the orangutans.  My anthropology professor used to tell fantastic stories about orangutans who learned to do laundry with village women in Borneo, and would go out every morning with the women to scrub and wring.  I suppose it's a little sad to think of a wild animal doing human laundry, but I can imagine how lively the event would be: women chatting, laughing, splashing, orangutan right in the midst of it all, washing a pair of pants.

Como Zoo afternoon. I can never decide which animal I like best. Not the zebras (I just couldn’t resist posting a zebra butt photo). Probably the orangutans. My anthropology professor used to tell fantastic stories about orangutans who learned to do laundry with village women in Borneo, and would go out every morning with the women to scrub and wring. I suppose it’s a little sad to think of a wild animal doing human laundry, but I can imagine how lively the event would be: women chatting, laughing, splashing, orangutan right in the midst of it all, washing a pair of pants.  Sorry for the long saga on the zebra butts photo caption.  

My endlessly athletic mother completed the High Cliff Triathlon last weekend.  We had to leave the house at 6 p.m., but even at that hour, I could appreciate Lake Winnebago.  And the comfort of my lawn chair and sweatshirt in comparison to the athletes' hard bike seats and wetsuits.

My endlessly athletic mother completed the High Cliff Triathlon last weekend. We had to leave the house at 6 p.m., but even at that hour I could appreciate Lake Winnebago. And the comfort of my lawn chair and sweatshirt in comparison to the athletes’ hard bike seats and wetsuits.

Hiking by the St. Croix river.  The Gentleman Caller and I did some illegal climbing so that we could sit on mossy boulders and dangle our feet in the water.  Well, I dangled my feet in.  Truthfully, I think the G.C. was more concerned about the spiders that were flying through the air, trailing gossamer strands of web behind them.  I will say no more.

Hiking by the St. Croix river. The Gentleman Caller and I did some illegal climbing so that we could sit on mossy boulders and dangle our feet in the water. Well, I dangled my feet in. Truthfully, I think the G.C. was more concerned about the spiders that were flying through the air, trailing gossamer strands of web behind them. I will say no more.

Marble Memo

I think I’ve missed my window to blog about UMM’s third annual Prairie Gate Literary Festival, held on campus last weekend.  Maybe I shouldn’t admit to my short interest span in this department, but I find when I don’t blog about something right away, I lose the desire to blog about it, even if I know it should be blogged about and deserves to be.  This event really, really deserves it.

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If you can hear a common inhalation of breath after a poem is read,

If you can wear a real, plastic name tag that identifies you as somebody important,

If you can chat with a published poet and blogger while attempting to gnaw spiced beef off a stick with as much grace as you can muster,

If you spend a whole weekend steeped in the literary,

If you’re invited to your college’s librarian’s house for beers to celebrate a successful weekend,

Then you should probably blog about it afterward.  At least a little bit.

Here’s my little bit:

I had the chance to take a 75 minute workshop with Patti See.  At one point, she pulled a little notebook out of her bag.  It was black-and-white marbled, cloth spined, and filled with writing.  She explained that she’s been carrying around notebooks like this for years.  In them, she scribbles ideas for future stories, whether they be in the form of quotes, names, imagery, etc.

Later that night, I sat on a couch, clutching a beer and trying not to giggle at the fact that my professors were doing the same.  (The whole “teacher must sleep at school” illusion never goes away, does it)?  I chatted with the winner of the festival’s short story contest, a middle-aged man who had attended UMM once, and now drives a UPS truck and freelance writes on the side.  He had been in Patti’s workshop as well, and noted casually that the kind of notebook she had used to be called a Marble Memo.

Being someone who couldn’t ignore advice from established writers if she tried, I googled “Marble Memo” when I got home.  It took a while, but eventually, buried in Amazon, I found them.  Little marbled notebooks, just the right size for a pocket.  It cost $3 for two of them, but because Amazon didn’t think it made sense to ship something so cheap, I was forced to buy Michael Perry’s Coop and the film Blue Valentine just to get the notebooks.  $30 total.  Don’t laugh.

They came today: the notebooks (one red, one green), the book, the movie.  I’ve been meaning to start a writer’s notebook for years, but this is the first time I’ve encountered one that is small enough and convenient enough to be habit-forming.  I hope someday I’ll have a drawer full of them.


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What Went Down

I want to talk to you about Wednesday and Thursday, as I’ve been building up those two days since the dawn of time (or since last week, at least).

Wednesday was my senior seminar presentation.  Basically, having cut down my twelve page research paper about fortune’s role in Pandosto down to eight pages, I proceeded to read those eight pages to an audience of professors, classmates, friends, and (bless them) my parents.  It sounds boring, doesn’t it, to read an eight page literary analysis to a crowd of people (many of whom were not, nor had any desire to be, English majors)?  Well, it sort of was, but I tried to use everything that I learned in high school speech.  I stood up straight, I used my clearest, loudest voice, and I tried to put feeling into my words.  I care a great deal about my topic, and I viewed my presentation as a chance to make the audience care as well, at least a little bit.

My legs were shaking for the first few pages, but then I began to enjoy myself (as I always do), and when I would look up from the page, I would see my advisor listening carefully in the back, or my friend Ben grinning, or my Dad enduring nobly.  It felt a great deal like my birthday party in that I felt supported and celebrated and (I’ll admit only to you) a tad teary.  Then there was applause, and it was over.

A few days later, I got an email from my professor containing my presentation rubric: I got a 99%.  The 1% deduction, she explained, was because I had pronounced a word wrong.  I’m not overly upset about that one, however, as it was spelled strangely in the citation I read it from, and thus I didn’t recognize it to be the word it actually was, and thus pronounced it the way I saw it, and not the way I knew the word it actually was should be pronounced (whew).

Thursday was my Teach for America final interview.  I’m not going to go into detail about this one, as we’re under an oath of confidentiality, but I think I can tell you that I rocked it.  That sounds arrogant.  I know it does.  But honestly, there’s no other way to describe how well I feel I did.  Despite having gotten five hours of sleep both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and despite having had to navigate to/through Minneapolis at the crack of dawn, I was at the absolute top of my game.  I was confident and energetic in every step of the interview, and am now even more convinced that Teach for America is what I want to be doing a year from now.  I won’t find out until early January if I got into the corps.  If I got in, further, the same email will also tell me which region I’ll be teaching in, and which grade/subject I’ll be teaching.

It’s a long wait, but I’m not anxious about the results.  I’ve done my best, and have sought to represent myself accurately and positively throughout the admissions process.  It’s nice to know that if I don’t make the cut, then there must be a qualification or trait that I don’t possess.  It won’t be because I didn’t perform as well as I could have.

Those were the “biggies,” if you will.  I still have one five-page and one ten-page paper to write, my senior seminar paper to turn in (after some fairly minor editing), and two final exams to take.

I also want to mention that I’ve noticed more and more people have been following my blog lately.  Thank you!  I get excited with every single new follow I see, and I encourage you to comment on a post if you have a question/opinion or want to say hi.

Trucking

It’s been a shaky day.  I’m overtired and stressed and feel generally that my mental health is hanging by a thread.  I’ve also been struggling to write that darn Woolf paper, and when I went to talk to my professor about it, he was so kind (he told me that he knows that I’m responsible, and that I want my paper to be good, and that he’d give me more time if I needed it) that I almost burst into tears.  I had to make a quick exit and cry in the stairwell because this has been such a hard week, and there are two more hard weeks ahead, and frankly, I don’t see how I can possibly get everything done.

I’m sorry that my last few posts have been so piteous: I know that everything will be fine, and that I’ll manage in the end, as I always have.

It will be another late night tonight, but tomorrow I’ll be attending the UMM Concert Choir’s annual Carol Concert, which is held in the Catholic Church in town, and which is always festive and candlelit and beautiful.  And I’ll probably forget, temporarily, about all the above.

Drafting

Senior seminar seven page draft complete!  I emailed it to my professor, who will be reading it over tonight and talking about it with me tomorrow at our meeting.  I can’t wait.  I know it’s dopey, but I cannot wait.  This draft is the first time this professor will get to see what I can do as a writer and as a researcher, and I am obnoxiously proud of it.  Christmas comes twice a year, folks.

Additionally, my room is clean and my laundry done.

All that’s left to do is to workshop two peer papers, read The Waves, and do the pile of dishes that I (clearly not of sane mind) volunteered to wash.

I apologize about the study-centric posts, but you see, studying is all I seem to do these days.  That will change, of course, come Thursday, when I will be running a 5K, and promptly gorging myself on all sorts of delightful Thanksgiving foods.

Written from a Humanities Classroom

I am currently perched atop a desk on the second floor of the Humanities building.  A whiteboard, scrawled with my notes, is behind me, shining with promise.  I swing my legs and peer out the window to my right.  Immediately across the way is the Student Center.  I see Isaac working his Higbies shift (it has to be him; no one else is that tall), I see unwatched TVs broadcasting TLC and football, I see scattered students unwrapping their packed dinners atop Turtle Mountain Cafe tables (they don’t bother to close their laptops while they eat).

And I’m in here, and my gentleman caller (is this getting ridiculous?  I still think it’s funny, but you tell me) is in the next room.  I had to leave because sometimes I need to sit atop the teacher’s desk and talk myself to a thesis, as if I were teaching a class:

“Now, you may think that Fortune is a simple entity, but actually, she’s a dichotomy, as evidenced in Greek and Roman texts…”

I worked my Writing Room shift from 3-5, and I was reluctant to go, as I often am on Sundays when schoolwork has piled up and I know that it will be a late night.  As always, however, I had more fun helping students to brainstorm theses and gather evidence and arrange outlines than I have at any other time during the week.  Sometimes I think that I should be a teacher after all; I derive such great joy from helping other people learn and improve.

Anyway, I walked out of the Writing Room, having crafted three theses for peers, and feeling confident that I could now craft my own.

And I did.  I’m currently sitting on a decently solid thesis, and a ten-paragraph outline.  I’m sitting on it because my goodness what a jump there is from outline to paper, from planning to executing.  I’d like to bask in the complete before I move on to the daunting.  At least for a while.  At least until Isaac finishes making one drink, until the girl in TMC finishes her slice of reheated pizza, until I finish my own meagre dinner of apple and Kashi crackers.

It has been a lovely weekend (I think as I bask and creep): The G.C. (is it too, too weird to abbreviate?  You tell me) and I finished watching season two of Game of Thrones.  I think we both just about sobbed at the end, not only because it’s a dramatic finish, but because what will we live for until Spring, when season three premieres? What is our relationship without weekend Game of Thrones watching to ground it?  Winter is coming, my friends, and I suppose we’d best start preparing for it (major GOT reference, don’t worry if you’re confused).

As I mentioned in my last post, Friday night was also the Anne Panning reading on campus.  What I didn’t mention was that Butter sounds just like Minnesota, and that even though I didn’t get home until 2 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning, I stayed awake for another hour blazing through 86 pages of that wonderful book.  It’s written from the perspective of pre-teen Iris, so the true intrigue stems from the fact that she can’t figure out what’s going on with the grown-ups, and by extension, neither can we.

Last night, G.C. (maybe I’ll just ask him if I can use his name in here.  Or make up a fake name.  That might be more fun) and I went to see UMM’s production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.  The play dealt with the murder of Laramie, Wyoming resident Matthew Shepard (a hate crime; Matthew was targeted for being gay), and its effects on the town of Laramie and its citizens.  It was fascinating and inspiring and relevant, but mostly very sad.

After Laramie I attended a birthday party.  Theme?  Drunk authors: guests were asked to dress as their favorite alcoholic writers.  We had a Hunter S. Thompson, two Oscar Wildes, a Bob Dylan, a Sylvia Plath, a Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf, a Stephanie Meyer (pretty sure that one was a joke), and a Truman Capote.  I don’t think I need to tell you who I dressed as.  Hint:

And now, I plan to stop procrastinating and to start drafting the darn paper.  At least until 8, when our entire Woolf Lit. class will pile into our professor’s living room to watch the movie version of Orlando.  He’s buying us pizza and cutting up veggies and letting us sprawl on his living room rug and enjoy the hominess that just cannot exist in a college house.  Only at UMM, I tell you.