In Spec: A Highly Sophisticated, Appellationary Rant

I’ve always thought it a terrible crime that one might say “in retrospect” when looking back upon something that’s already happened, but cannot say “in spec” when referring to something happening at present.  Of course, one can say “at present,” but that’s an entirely different phrase.  No relation to this mysterious “retrospect.”  And anyway, “at present” is boring.  It’s as if your mother, perhaps wearing the pea coat and netted hat of her early days, is tapping you on the shoulder and telling you that at present, you are not behaving properly.  Spec implies something much more romantic.  Spec implies spectacles.  Implies, by extension, rose-colored glasses.  Implies, then, Edith Piaf, implies Paris, implies yellow lights on the river, dark-capped apartment buildings with balconies pushing out.  And since dear Edith is not with us at present (she was once), and since we are currently not in Paris (we have been before), but rather on the living room rug with a sweaty dog leaning against our right knee, “in spec” seems to imply retrospect.  So while “at present,” (and this is me blatantly ignoring all free access to the OED which my UMM alum status hath granted me) only implies the current, “in spec,” while referring to living room rug, sweaty dog, right knee, actually encompasses much, much more.  Therefore, “in spec,” from now on, must for all romantic souls replace the colorless “at present.”***

I will be contacting Andrew Clements immediately.

***Please note that I (most irresponsibly) watched Midnight in Paris before writing this post.

 

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Holly Graduates from College, Acts I-II

My goodness, I have such a graduation story to tell you!  It has everything: action, drama, ugly robes, copious hugs, celebrities, public speaking, a trip to the ER …

Obviously, then, it’s going to take me a while to write out such a saga.  Bear with me.  It’s a long story.

I’ll be publishing it in parts.  Both for my sanity and yours.

Act I. Prequel

About a month ago, I broke the overhead light fixture in the bathroom in the house I’m renting (with three housemates) from a former UMM professor.  This was bad for three reasons:

1. I’m renting the house.  And the former UMM professor is currently trying to sell the house.  And a bare lightbulb in the bathroom looks kind of sad.

2. I’m renting the house.  And that means I put down a deposit when I moved in to ensure that if I broke or otherwise damaged any part of the house, my landperson could keep the deposit and use it to pay for repairs.  The light I broke may not have been very expensive (not that I know much about lighting beyond my enjoyment of that glowing section of Menards), but it was probably enough to justify my landperson keeping my deposit.

3. The light fixture I broke (not the actual bulb, but the globe that fit over it) was made of glass, which is sharp, hard to see, and generally dangerous.

Knowing this, I swept thoroughly.  I made sure to get the corners, the sink (where the light initially landed and shattered to almost cinematic effect), the tub, even out in the hallway, where I suspected small pieces had flown and were lurking.  Throughout the next week, I swept a few more times, and picked up tiny individual pieces that I had missed.  But by the week after that, I had mostly forgotten about the incident.  There were no more random glitters as I brushed my teeth, no more ominous crunches underfoot.

Act II. Or So I Thought

It was the morning of Commencement.  I had slept fairly well the night before, due to the NyQuil I was still allowed to take because of a lingering cold.  I was mostly concerned with not thinking about my impending speech, and so I showered, washed my face, and brushed my teeth with almost zombie-like coolness.  On the way out of the bathroom, I took the same route as usual: I stepped over the threshold and turned immediately left, then left again around the low-walled stairwell, and then turned right into my bedroom.  Somewhere along that route–I suspect not far from the bathroom–I felt a sudden stinging in the bottom of my left foot.  I thought, as had happened before, that a small piece of gravel, tracked in from outside, was stuck to my foot, pressing its sharpness against it.  When I looked, I didn’t see anything but a small cut, which was bleeding profusely.  Strangely, that part of my foot hurt a lot when I put weight on it, which was what initially led me to suspect that there was something in my foot.  I was running a little late, and so didn’t have time to do much besides apply a band-aid and note with satisfaction that my fancy graduation sandals forced me to walk on the middle/inside of my feet instead of on the outside, where the wound was.

Commencement of Commencement

Want to watch me give the student commencement address/graduate from college?  Likely not (that’s okay), but just in case, the url for the live stream is here:

http://www.morris.umn.edu/events/commencement/

The ceremony is tomorrow (Saturday), and starts at 1:30 p.m. Minnesota time.  I should be giving my speech about 10 minutes in, give or take.

Awards

The reason why–in the midst of scrambling for meaning in To the Lighthouse, scrambling to find a job, and scrambling for enough sleep to get me (upright) through the next day–I keep plodding on, is because amazing things seem to keep happening, despite my frazzled mental state.

I am receiving three awards from the University of Minnesota, Morris:

Outstanding English Major

Curtis H. Larson (which means I’ll be my class’s student commencement speaker)

Allen W. Edson (for total contribution to campus life)

I’m humbled and excited and so, so happy that the school I adore seems to love me back.

Hello Again

Please listen to the provided Neil Diamond while reading.  It’s the theme song of this post.

The funny thing about this blog is that when I’m not posting, it feels like I’ve been cut off from an old friend who I’m used to chatting with regularly.  And all that’s complicated in my life, or hard, or sad, or unbelievably happy, seems to build up inside of me until I’m running around campus holding my chest as if it’ll burst open if I don’t.

What happened to make me stop calling and texting you were the MCSA (student government) elections.  I’m Election Commissioner this year, which didn’t seem like a very complicated job at the onset, but which escalated until I was spending all day every day policing Facebook and Twitter, planning debates, editing videos, sending reassuring emails to the student body, dealing with illegal spray painting incidents (still can’t believe that happened), and near the end, checking the online polls every ten minutes to see who was ahead.  The worst part was that MCSA doesn’t have detailed rules outlining the powers of the Commissioner, so when “disciplinary” situations came up, I had little guidance, and mostly had to wing it.  As is natural when a leader is “winging it,” there were quite a few shouts of “unfair!” and “dictator!”  It got old really quickly.

The elections ended last night at 11:59, and by 2:00 a.m. this morning, I had sent out emails to all the winners and losers.

The high point was that I got to call the winning Presidential/Vice Presidential team to tell them that they had won.  Hazen, who was running for president, is a dear friend of mine, and asked me beforehand to call her with news, whether bad or good.  When I told her last night that she was the 2013-2014 MCSA President, she didn’t believe me at first.  And then she screamed with excitement, and I could hear her running mate, Andrew, screaming in the background.  It was the best call I’ve ever made.

And how can you be bitter about a job that ended like that?

Besides elections, I’ve been spiraling toward my last month of college.  Lots of paper writing (I have two big ones to finish this weekend), graduation planning (bought my cap and gown and two dresses (one for the awards banquet and one for commencement)), and nostalgia.

You know, as sad as it’ll be to leave this dear place, I’ve been slowly realizing that I’m ready.  I’ve taken in Morris completely, I’ve had wonderful experiences and made wonderful friends and learned how to be a grown-up, analytical thinker.  But there’s not much more for me here, now, and that means it’s time to move on to the next big thing.

What is “the next big thing,” you ask?  I have no idea.  Does anyone want to offer me a job?

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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The Tempest

I am currently sitting on the third floor of the library.  I am smug because I managed to snag one of the comfy chairs.  I am full because I just polished off my lunch of orange and homemade chicken soup.  I am focused because I’m reading for Feminist Theory.  I am tired because I chose the Downton Abbey finale over sleep last night.  I am slightly uncomfortable because there is a woman I’ve never seen in my life taking pictures of me from a few shelves down.

This is awkward.  She just moved around to my left and is taking some more.

Okay, it’s all right: she finally introduced herself.  She’s part of the University Relations team, taking photographs for the UMM website.

Welcome to my life, friends.  And you thought Kim Kardashian has paparazzi problems?

In other news, Morris is under yet another blizzard warning.  Not knowing this, I walked to school this morning (not that there were other options had I known) through 33 mph winds. That was fun.

What was fun was that at one point in the walk, I passed my friend Andy.  Not bothering to peel the scarf from his face, he shouted through it a quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”