Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hotter Than a (Sgt.) Pepper Sprout

Yes, the title is incredibly dumb.

This weekend marks the birthdays of some pretty amazing people: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Jack Handey (yes, he is a real person), Victor Hugo, and Christopher Marlowe.

And so, in honor...

“If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying’. And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.” ― Jack Handey

“To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kinda scary. I've wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.” ― Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts

“If you're in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it'll make everyone think how stupid war is...and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them.” ― Jack Handey

“To me, it's a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, "Hey, can you give me a hand?" you can say, "Sorry, got these sacks.” ― Jack Handey

“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. 'Oh, no,' I said, 'Disneyland burned down.' He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.” ― Jack Handey

“There should be a detective show called "Johnny Monkey," because every week you could have a guy say "I ain't gonna get caught by no MONKEY," but then he would, and I don't think I'd ever get tired of that.” ― Jack Handey

“If there were two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins more? I bet you'd say Flippy, wouldn't you?

But you would be wrong. It's Hambone.” ― Jack Handey

Deep Thoughts webpage.
I'm not gonna lie, I've never read Hugo's classic, Les Miserables. The stage adaptation, however, is one of my favorite musicals.

For all of you Taylor Swift fans (i.e. Adrienne Turner), I'm sorry to report that she is no longer going to play Eponine in the soon-to-be released movie.
Because I like Brandi Carlile more than Johnny Cash...

Saving the best for last...tomorrow we celebrate the wonderful Terry Staley!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Five Things I Will Never Say to a Cancer Patient or their Loved Ones

This has been a long time coming. Although I thought this stuff well before Dad died, I have not had the nerve, nor the unemotional impetus (because I did not want it to simply be a rant by someone who just lost their father), to type it. A few days ago at the Library, however, the staff was discussing an article that basically amounted to, "15 Things Not to Say to Someone Suffering From [a particular illness]." This inevitably prompted me to revisit some of the various statements I myself never want to hear again (the title explains it all) as well as some of the subsequent conclusions I've drawn as to how I will forevermore bite my tongue.
Watching someone you love experience pain or illness or death is tough enough in and of itself. It makes it worse when those who could not possibly know how or what you feel, try to relate, or offer advice, or proclaim some seemingly sage words of comfort. Even if the recipient understands that the giver's intentions are noble, the words can be frustrating at best, cringe-worthy or anger-inducing at worst.

I understand and respect that people have certain beliefs that help them cope. To have an outlet that allows for explanation and comfort is a wonderful thing. And thus, this is in no way a critique of faith in general. Instead, it is a suggestion that context needs to be considered. Lofty, yet oddly detached, statements are not exactly what those in the throes of struggle want to least this was the case for me. My reality was, and remains, this: I believe in coincidence. I believe in randomness. I believe that we all look back on hurtful or sad events and find "meaning," primarily to make ourselves feel better. I believe some "words of comfort" should be replaced with silence.
And, I believe the following things should never be said unless you know the person well enough to be unequivocally certain they would appreciate them in the context in which you choose to offer them:
1. "Everything happens for a reason." Great, please share it with me then.

2. "When my [insert any friend/relative/random person you once heard about from somebody that one day] battled that same thing, they [insert any illness, side effect, date of death]." Just a word of advice: I don't know one person who appreciates this. Seriously, what in the world is the listener supposed to do with this kind of statement?

3. "Really? Huh. That reminds me of when I [insert any sickness, random pain,or injury and then proceed to talk about yourself for five minutes]."

4. Any cliche about doors closing and windows opening.

5. Any phrase that involves "a better place." In the moment of loss, this is a hard statement to swallow, especially when you know how much the person loved their life.

If you feel the need to say something, maybe try one of these:
1. "I'm sorry you're going through this."
2. "If you need to vent, I'd be honored to listen."
3. "What are your favorite places to eat and/or what are your favorite foods/drinks?"
4. "That sucks. I respect you/you give so much to others/thank you for making me better; I imagine none of this seems 'fair.'"
5. "I respect the dignity/strength/humor/practicality you consistently show."
We don't have to be overtly philosophical or pious when we see struggle. Just be kind, folks.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

“We were raised to believe in books, music, and nature.” - Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

There's no one else I would rather hang out with in Chicago, Knoxville, Louisville, Seattle, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Prague, Salzburg, or Lucerne. Happy birthday, dear friend.

Because this might be the most random video on Youtube and because C and I may have spent more than one evening drinking and dancing to Dolly Parton. ...

Because you should know what a good writer my best friend happens to be...
Centrepiece, Summer 2009
Gift of reading lasts a lifetime
By Caroline Kraft ’02

As a little girl, I had lots of books. Books wrapped in indicative packaging and given to me as gifts, books covered in crinkly cellophane wrap from the library, books I picked out myself from our local, family-owned bookstore. I loved the smell of the shop. I loved walking slowly along the rows and rows of books, looking for Beverly Cleary’s name and hoping that they would have the new Ramona book I wanted.

I cannot say that I remember even the very basics of a number of those stories. However, I remember the feelings they left with me. Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji, with its haunting game of animals come to life and eerie sketch illustrations, still frightens me to think about. If I see a copy of Roald Dahl’s The Witches or Matilda, I can still picture the back of my dad’s head as he sat with his back resting against my bed, reading to me each night. I was not allowed to read ahead on my own; he may have liked Roald Dahl even more than me.

But as I grew up, it became clear that English was not exactly “my” subject. Almost to my chagrin, math was. And when the time came to choose a major, Centre offered so many opportunities, it was hard to decide which way to go. Maybe I was pushed by my history.

For despite my penchant for numbers, I chose to pursue a degree in English. Readers can always carry on a conversation. Readers have interesting and informed topics to discuss. Readers know how to tell stories. Readers can relate. Readers know something about everything.

I wanted to be a Reader.

I decided to become a Bachelor of Words. Dr. Rasmussen helped me realize the richness of reading Shakespeare. Dean Ward made the challenge of memorizing publication dates and recognizing quotes an energizing triumph. Dr. Lucas taught us all to love Faulkner. And after working for a publishing house for a few years after graduation, I decided to become a Master of Books (actually Writing, Publishing, and Literature).

By interning and working at Boston-based publishing houses such as Candlewick Press, Da Capo, and Houghton Mifflin, I had the opportunity to get to know some of the most brilliant storytellers. I got to spend my days with Readers. Not only that, I got to help nurture and support the careers of Writers! I spent a day-long conference with Chris Van Allsburg, and in his free time we talked about his books and the magic they brought to my childhood (namely the fear-invoking Jumanji). I traveled to New York to go from one Barnes and Nobel to another with a first-time young adult novelist while she signed copies of books. I picked her brain about what it was like to write, to dream up an imaginary world, to get that first bound copy of her book in the mail. To spend my professional life surrounded by beautiful words and stories and pictures—and the people who love these things with the fervor that I do—was simply amazing.

And although I (full disclosure) did leave the publishing industry, this year I am finding myself going back to my childhood roots. I spent many cold winter evenings in Chicago on the couch, reading my mother’s copy of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. It has her notes in it—the thoughts it stirred in her, the feelings it evoked. This book, a collection of thoughts on faith told in both a reverent and irreverent tone that is solely the author’s, was my friend. The author’s voice, my mother’s thoughts, all tucked into sheets of paper and held in my hands—I felt as though I was part of a community.

Years down the road, I may not remember many of Anne Lamott’s anecdotes from Traveling Mercies. But I know that I will remember the feeling of togetherness and fulfillment. And for those feelings—be they fright or fun or family—I choose to be a Reader.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bet Woody Allen would've liked my outfit, too.

I actually started this yesterday morning after reading my daily Awe-Manac entry...

February 3 commemorates the birthdays of Norman Rockwell and Gertrude Stein. I imagine you are all familiar with Rockwell and his Americana-styled magazine covers, posters, and art images. Stein, perhaps not so much. She was an American (but French transplant) art critic, collector, and writer whose storied and somewhat scandalous-for-the-time life was often weaved into the novels and poems she penned.

Aside from recognizing the name, I knew little about Stein before sitting in front of my fireplace with my favorite coffee mug and daily journals this morning. I'm so glad I made time to explore. After doing a little research, I discovered that although Stein seemed to have lived a life of confusion and repression and contradiction, it was also one replete with intrigue and travel and intellectual stimulation. She interacted with artists and writers and philosophers. She was surrounded by beauty. She was in the social circles of geniuses. Thus, while I don't necessarily admire some of the political and social beliefs attributed to her, I, in Owen Wilson~Midnight in Paris~style, find her complete engagement in life completely admirable. *If you haven't seen this Woody Allen film, I definitely recommend.

"I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it." Gertrude Stein
This quote reminded me of a picture that was taken of me in Montego Bay, Jamaica in January of 2002. I, along with seven other Centre students, spent three weeks living in Kingston and taking a class (The Economics of Poverty) at the University of the West Indies. What an amazing experience.
I remember really liking my outfit this day. I had on a black tank top, Carhartt overalls (that I bought because I liked my Dad's so much), Teva flip flops, and a bandana I rolled and used as a head band.
"If a picture wasn't going very well, I'd put a puppy in it." Norman Rockwell

Instead of providing a recipe for you today, I have a suggestion. Go visit the Martha White Cooking Challenge website, peruse this year's top five entries from around the country, and vote for our very own Kelly Claywell's, Easy Blueberry Muffin Mix Dessert recipe! Let me repeat...TOP FIVE NATIONWIDE. What an honor! Congratulations, Mrs. Kelly!
Question to think about: If you could live in any historical era (not to suggest that your life isn't completely lovely), what would it be and why? I plan to answer this in the next post.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

News You Can't Use

Keys to a good morning:
Coffee, Chocolate Banana Smoothie in a martini glass, and Willie Geist.

I finished my "Draw a tree everyday in January" project yesterday. I should probably consider becoming a full-time freelance sketcher.

My three favorites:

Lessons I learned:
-I'm not as much of a perfectionist as I thought. I consistently cut myself off at ten minutes, even if the tree looked like crap...and, I was okay with that. I got satisfacation out of little things that I considered to be progress. I simply enjoyed finishing a small project every day; it kept me disciplined.
-Contrary to sketching logic, I preferred using an ink pen (well, this wasn't yo mamma's plastic BIC; this sucker (a gift) was nice).
-I was better when I committed; when I half-assed shadows or texture it just looked silly.
Tomorrow begins a wonderful, wonderful opportunity that I am honored to have the chance to do. I will be teaching two days/week at Centre (I love my job at the library and I'm not going anywhere; this is just a part-time second job in the spring), my Alma mater, the school that made me a better thinker, citizen, and friend. I will be teaching GOV 351: Women and Development (my favorite course I took while a student) for a professor who has influenced more than nearly anyone in my life. Truly humbled.

Here is a description of the course...
"Focusing on both theory and practice, this course provides an overview of the topic of women, gender, and development. We will analyze the cross-cultural understandings of development that have historically and theoretically impacted political, economic, and social policies. We will then examine women’s perspectives on, and participation in, development. This will include such themes as: the nature of women’s work, women’s health and reproductive issues, gender-based violence, legal issues, the effects of structural adjustment on women and families, cultural relativism v. universality, women’s rights as human rights, vernacularization, and environmental issues. We will also study various obstacles to women’s progress and development including the feminization of poverty, inappropriate technology, and cultural/religious norms. Finally, we will turn to ways in which women have organized to improve their condition locally, nationally, and globally in international organizations such as the United Nations, via political office, and through non-governmental organizations."