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Hello again!

August 6, 2010

So, it has been quite a long time since I’ve done this.  I read a post by a friend today, and decided to get back on the wagon.

This has been a summer of extremes and escapism for me.  I’m not terribly proud.

But I’ll start with the good.

At the Moulin Rouge!

Looking out from the Eiffel Tower!

The trip to Paris was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget.  Getting to live in a city with such history and beauty was a true privilege, one that has both changed and inspired me.

For three weeks, I lived in a sort of apartment/hotel in the Place d’Italie in Paris, France.  Few people spoke English very well, so I got to learn some French while I was there (J’aime le Paris!), which was really fun.

Mostly, I studied Hemingway and Joan of Arc.  Now, I love Hemingway, but the Joan of Arc story is just depressing!  No matter how you spin it, no matter if you hate her, love her, or are completely indifferent, she ALWAYS dies at the end.  Burned at the stake, publicly humiliated, etc.  Depressing.

BUT the trip was intensely and unmistakably one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Me kissing Oscar Wilde's tomb!

Lots of huge, beautiful Gothic churches.

So, for today we will conclude with the intensely amazing and enlightening.  I’ll share funny stories occasionally, maybe more pictures later.

But for now I feel good sharing just the beginning, just the hopeful and beautiful parts.

Next time will be a little different.

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On Growing up (Or, It’s okay to take your time)

May 15, 2010

I think one of the hardest things about being a teacher is going to be constantly dealing with people while they are in the process of growing up.  I hope that I always remember how hard it is to make decisions when you are unsure of yourself, when the opinions of other people seem to matter more than your own, when your body gives you conflicting signals, and when adulthood and escape seem very, very far away.

I remember the institutional feel of the hallways and classrooms of my high school.  That time in your life is a sort of limbo, between being a happy child and a potentially happy adult, and the decisions you make there affect the rest of your life.  It’s a lot of pressure to put on people who are just making real life decisions for the first time.  There are many, many mistakes made, good intentions gone wrong, hopes crushed, lives ruined, on as many different paths as there are people paving them.

Many people in high school want to speed up the process, the transition period between childhood and adulthood, and so they choose to act according to their interpretation of what it means to be “adult.”  For some, it’s as simple as cursing or getting a tattoo or piercing.  Others get involved with relationships and sex.  Still others go for alcohol and drugs.  There are so many people drinking very early in life, having sex very early in life, having multiple partners early in life, that those who do not feel as if they are weird, wrong, inadequate, uncool.

This is from the Big Bang Theory, I LOVE that show!

But I cannot stress this enough:  YOU ARE NOT.

Every person has to make choices according to their own feelings.  Some people feel like having sex and drinking early and often is right for them, and it is their right to explore that option.  BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY OPTION.  In fact, most of the people who choose that kind of lifestyle would not find satisfaction in it, if they were really honest with themselves.

My point is not that I think abstinence is the way to go.  I think expecting all teenagers to be abstinent is like expecting all teenagers to get straight A’s all the time–it’s unrealistic and unseeing of everyone’s unique personality and circumstance.  Nobody’s perfect.

Michael J Fox from Family Ties, he's this adorable little Republican.

Aaaaaand of course, the "perfect" Zac Effron.

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But I think it is important that people realize that even though on the surface getting around, getting that experience, trying to bridge that oh-so-awkward gap between adolescence and adulthood may feel like the only way to relieve your confusion and stress, YOU HAVE OPTIONS.  The hype of sex is absurdly disproportionate to the reality.

If you would like to have sex early, have it with someone you actually care about, and use protection.  If you don’t feel ready to have sex, that’s okay.  Most people in high school (hell, most people in college too, from my experience) a not ready for it.  Waiting will not make your life any more terrible, and it will not make you an unsatisfying lover when you do decide to have sex.  Most people are really bad at it for a long time before they get any better.

When you do make that decision you are exchanging one kind of stress for another:  the uncertainty of trying to find your adulthood changes to the uncertainty of feelings, heartbreak, pregnancy, even disease.   But when you are ready, you can handle that stress like an adult.

My plans for summer!

May 7, 2010

I am so excited, I have so many things that I’m going to do during this break!

Now, let me preface this by describing what my usual summer vacation is like.  The last three summers of my life have been spent thus:

Summer 2009- Ruby Tuesday

It’s not as glamorous as the picture might lead you to believe.  If you’ve ever been a server you know.

Summer 2008- Shell Station

Dear God, what a horrible summer, though I made decent money.

Summer 2007- Sitting at home doing nothing.

Needless to say I need a little excitement in my summer.

However, because of my unexplainable good fortune, I have an incredible opportunity this summer.

Paris!

For three weeks in June I get to go away to Paris and live and study and learn… I am incredibly excited.

However, since I will only be in Paris for a month, and summer is three months, I have compiled a list of things I would like to do before the fall semester.  I am a very goal-oriented person, and having a list of things to do, and then actually getting that list done, makes me feel like a happy little geek.

So, here’s the list!

1.  READING!  I have books to read not only for the classes I’m taking in Paris but also for my own soul.  I want to read something for FUN.  I have been reading for class for so long that I almost forgot what it felt like to breeze through a book just because I love it.  I’m already planning on rereading a Harry Potter book or two, then onto something absolutely ridiculous and fun that I’ve not quite found yet.

2.  WORKOUTS! I have a yoga tape, a new big bouncy exercise ball, and I’m going to buy hand weights so that while I’m watching my favorite episodes of House, Glee, Frasier, Family Guy, and Bones, I will be able to work my arms and core and not feel like a fat kid.  Plus, there are some advantages to being stuck in the middle of nowhere:  great scenery.  So I’m going to explore some of my natural territory and go walking or jogging.

3. FRENCH! Oh, dear.  This one is going to be hard.  I have to practice French so that when I get to France I don’t sound like a complete moron.  Plus, apparently to get into graduate school you have to know a foreign language.  So I’m going to be doing that.  Je ne voudrais pas etudier francais. I’ll try to make it fun though, and watch Disney songs and Sesame Street in French on Youtube.  I’m a little excited about that part 😉

So that’s it!

It’s cool to be smart. It’s not cool to be serious.

May 1, 2010

Here is something that has to be said:  Fun is more than just fun… it is important.  It is valuable.

Something that I love about the study of literature and art is that I get to use my intelligence without having to be terribly serious all the time.  There are moments when the sadness of a piece can move me to tears, when the tone of a work moves me to deep contemplative thought…

But there is also a playfulness that gets overlooked.  A fun, sexy awesomeness that comes with reading stories.

Take this for example:

Doesn’t that just look like it was fun to make?

Or this:

‘Bard Bracy! bard Bracy! your horses are fleet,
Ye must ride up the hall, your music so sweet,
More loud than your horses’ echoing feet!
And loud and loud to Lord Roland call,
Thy daughter is safe in Langdale hall!”

This is Coleridge, describing a man in a great hurry.  Read it out loud–can you hear the horses running?  So playful, so fun, all in such a simple (however brilliant) form.

And how about this:

If you think this painting is boring or serious you must have a very exciting life.

Or This:

“I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.”

This is Keats, describing an incredible love affair (which admittedly later turns rather sour).  But isn’t the description just wonderful?  “Her eyes were wild” and she “made sweet moan.”

Whoever said literature was boring had NO idea what they were missing out on.

Why do you think Troy was so awesome?

Oh, yeah.  That’s literature.

Art and literature kind of play with your mind, they lead you to incredible moments that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Reading and observing should inspire you to be creative and active in the world, should inspire you to stretch out your emotions and consider other perspectives and be an overall better person.  I have books upon books upon books in my apartment, and if I could I would have paintings everywhere too.  Every book, every painting has a story, a gem of truth that wants to be seen.

…but at the end of the day literature is expressive and beautiful and, most importantly, fun.  And art is the same way.  At least for me.


Living life… (Or, the world of a Teacher)

April 21, 2010

As a potential teacher facing college graduation in a year, I must ask myself quite a few questions.

Where am I going to graduate school?  How am I going to pay for it?  How hard will it be to start over in a brand new place?  Will I lose touch with my family altogether, or will I come back to Arkansas?  What if I find someone where I go, and they don’t want to live here?  What if I never see any of my friends again?  Will I even be a good teacher?  Is this going to be worth it?  What is going to happen to me?

Amidst all of these questions, I find myself still going to class, still living the college life that I’ve grown accustomed to, and among these daily activities I am studying American writers like Thoreau and Emerson.

If you’re not acquainted with these guys it’s totally cool, I’ll give you the scoop.  Basically they were writers and thinkers that loved Nature and wanted people to live better than the money-grabbing, materialistic life that is so common in America.

You gotta admit.  We Americans really like our stuff.

But beyond that, the idea of living your life for what you want to do, rather than what is expected of you, is an idea that we have close to our hearts.  As a culture which celebrates the individual, we are always asked:  What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

Unfortunately, the answer is expected to fit into a certain mold, a certain suitable career, a certain college, leaving little room for creativity.  The path to success is long, hard, and uncertain, except that you must keep to the path.

But…  What if I want to take a better look at the present?

Here’s what I’m afraid of:

I’ve been in school since I was 5 years old.  I graduated High School at 18 and went straight to college.  I’ll graduate from college when I am 22.  I’ll go to graduate school until I’m about 25.  I’ll become a teacher by the time I’m 26.  I’ll probably move around, go to different schools, but essentially I will teach until I can retire (which by the time I’m that old will probably be about age 150).

This all sounds wonderful to me, the kind of person who has always excelled academically and hated summer vacation, because I will get to spend the rest of my life in school.

But the thing is… I will be spending the rest of my life in school. Will I ever know what it is like in the real world?  Will I ever get any real experience?  If I don’t, can I possibly ever have the chance of being a good teacher?

I don’t want to settle into my comfort zone and be just another kind of closed-minded.

What else could I do, though? ……. This question has been haunting me for weeks, ever since my class first started covering these writers.  I’m not really good at anything else, I’ve never really tried anything else.  I wouldn’t know what to do with myself without school.

The more puzzled I am by this question, the more compelled I feel to answer it.  So that’s what I’m working on now.

Something to think about.

April 3, 2010

On some Saturdays like this one, I find myself thinking.  This is always dangerous, because it usually precedes some sort of adventure.

Oh yeah.  You know you love it.

What got me thinking was a 3 hour night class spent on feminism, as well as a serious contemplation on my dating life and a viewing of the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

Something about a man who can be a sweaty boxer and still give off a cocky British aura… Delightful.

Anyway, I began my observations by considering whether or not I am indeed a feminist.  My initial response was an automatic yes, equality should be shared by the sexes, women and men are able to do most things equally (excepting of course the obvious, physical, sexual differences).  But then I thought again.  What particularly captured my notice was this character in the film played by Rachel McAdams:

Irene Adler.

A true femme fatale, this character embodies everything that a woman probably shouldn’t be by “normal” social standards in the real world.  As a fictional character her beauty, mystery, and power give her a sexual appeal which intrigues the viewer and compels him to watch.  In reality, however, this woman would be elusive and intimidating, making finding a real companion rather difficult.

It was at this moment when I realized the flaw in my reflections upon this character, and upon myself.  I had been thinking of myself and Irene in terms of our potential for compatibility with men.

Imagine my shock.

Immediately I began rethinking myself, my thought processes, my abilities, my actions and motives, and found much to be desired.  I felt suddenly torn between two versions of myself, the one I wished to be, and the one I feared I was.

Was I the businesswoman,

or the stepford wife?

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Fortunately, I reined in my panic and remembered a couple of key ideas:  1) that I am an educated woman, working towards her degree, single and happy, with friends, and no plans for marriage anytime soon; and perhaps more importantly 2) even if I were to choose to be a wife and mother, that is a legitimate role in society that deserves no less respect than any other.  The question that remained was this:  Am I leading the kind of life I want?  Am I living up to the standards and expectations I generally advocate?  How could I be a good teacher if I could not live by example?

After a fairly thorough search of self, I naturally found a combination of quality and error, but with one flaw I found particularly ugly.

Intellectually, I am independent.  Physically, I am not.  I cannot defend myself.

I was raised watching the news, America’s Most Wanted, and basically any kind of Crime television that my dad could find on basic cable.  He always taught me to be careful, because the victims on the shows (was it just me, or were they always women??) are people just like me, and I could be one of them.   I always took from that a sort of victim mentality, that if I kept myself safe then I wouldn’t have to defend myself from harm.  I never developed my physical strength or stamina, depending instead on my intellect to keep me out of harms way rather than my body to defend me if I did.

This thinking has led me to determine that, although my mental capacities have heretofore protected me, I cannot live in fear.  I must take initiative and learn, somehow, to strengthen myself so that I can give myself a fighting chance.

This is the challenge I take on for myself.

I don’t know how successful I will be, but I think this is definitely worth trying.  Being able to assert yourself is an invaluable quality in a woman trying to survive in this world, and I want to do more than simply survive.  I want to thrive.

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So wish me luck.  If you have any suggestions about what kind of class I should take or a similar challenge that you have faced yourself, let me know!  I’d love another perspective.

In the meantime, whether you are a mother and wife, a professional MMA fighter, or a little of both, have a great day and be proud of who you are.  We are all valuable in our own way.

Throwback!! (or Ladies 80’s Night).

March 13, 2010

Okay, so my friend Jenna and I are kinda of nerdy about certain films from the 1980s (check out her blog, she’s a much better film critic than me).  We were both 90’s kids, to answer your question, but there’s something really fun in looking back at something and making it feel new.

So here’s our lineup:

Of course, The Breakfast Club.

I actually didn’t see this movie until a few months ago, when I had to spend a LOT of time in front of the television being sick.  HBO really liked this movie at the time.

The only problem that I have with this movie is that the guy they chose to play the jock, Emilio Estevez, is not only short, but not very attractive.

He has a sort of clean-cut look going for him, I guess, and I might just be projecting my tastes instead of being objective.  But the poor guy has to stand next to JUDD NELSON.

Tall, dark, and totally hot, this guy has the look AND  the mental problems to be EXACTLY my type.  I’m obviously not a relationship expert, but you can’t deny that kind of raw appeal.

Moving on.

Say Anything

This movie I discovered recently as well, I saw a couple of scenes while flipping through HBO and knew I had stumbled upon greatness.

Two words sum up the adorable, wonderful, hopeful feelings that this movie makes you feel:  John Cusack.  With his disarming shyness and can-do attitude, he is one leading man who will have any lady swooning to run off to London.  He reminds me of one of my good friends, which makes the movie even better for me because I get to cheer for him as he gets the girl in his oh-so-adorable manner.

“In your eyes, I am complete…”  Siiiiiiigh.

By the way, if you ever catch the Death (what I call any flu /sinus /achy /runny /hot /tired disease), HBO is definitely your friend.  Fortunately my stepdad has a way with the machines that answer when you call to  complain, so we frequently get a few months for free.

Next up-

St. Elmo’s Fire

Oh, the 80’s.  So shiny and poofy.  What were you thinking?

I saw this movie for the first time when I was a young teenager, after my mom saw it in the $5 bin at WalMart and bought it.  We watched it together, and I said, “Mom, why are all of their shoulders so poofy?”  And we laughed together.

This movie makes me feel good to be in college, making the kind of friends that will last the rest of my life.  I hope one day we can look back on all of our pictures and look just as ridiculous and laugh just as much, because being ridiculous when you’re young is part of the spice of life, right?  I mean, when I’m old and crusty I’m going to want proof that I wasn’t always that way.  That at one point in my life, I did something crazy, sparked some change, rattled the Establishment, broke hearts, kicked ass and took names.

Although I must give a shout out to the STILL beautiful Rob Lowe, how does he do it??

Oh, Rob Lowe.  How can your jaw be perfectly square and your smile be pleasantly round at the same time?

Anyway, Jenna and I will be partaking in some old school awesome sometime later this evening.  There is a new one that I apparently have to watch:

Some Kind of Wonderful.

From what I can gather in this picture, the blond boy and the hot guy are probably in love with the redhead, but she wants the hot one because the blond one looks about 14.  But I’m not entirely sure, we shall see.

So what’s your favorite movie throwback?  Film Noir is another of my favorites, all dark and mysterious and thoughtful, but that will be for another day. This should be a fun night of love and geeks and hating on the parents.  Woo!