Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reading Between the Tines

I've been thinking a lot today about perspective and distance, and also about whether small, random acts of kindness really matter. "Of course they do," we would almost all say hastily, and the whole "pay it forward" ideology/theology has been the subject of several movies (one of the same name) and at least one commercial. Honestly, I thought the movie was stupid and the whole idea frankly seems a little self-serving (i.e. we're always thinking about how our "deposits" will be returned). At the same time, like anyone else, I spend a lot of time trying to assess whether or not I am a good person and how I would know that. But the patterns just don't "make" up any quilt-like sense to me. Sometimes I feel sort of exhausted at trying to follow these lines to understand my own life (which I don't, let's be clear).

This morning I was reading through a journal called The American Scholar, mainly because I am supposed to be writing a book review about a novel whose main characters are a swimmer and a wrestler, and there is a GREAT article about swimming literature in it. But I digress. As I was reading through the magazine, I found an interesting poem called "It Cannot Be Said For Certain" by Kay Ryan.

It cannot be
said for certain
that imagining
a pattern is
Our acts could
matter. At some
unfathomed distance
the random
could condense
to something -- say
a fork -- against
the velvet dark.
The silver shiver
that we get from
time to time
somewhere adding
up to silver. The
vacancies we suffer
the necessary black
between the tines.

I really like this poem because:
1. I would like to believe that even the random dark is a part of necessary design.
2. Sound is essential to the poem's way of making meaning (try reading it out loud!)
3. I spend a lot of time trying to "understand" life, and sometimes I need to be reminded that I can't necessarily have the perspective I would like.
4. It's short.
5. I think even a fork can be being meaningful (or not meaningful). This made me think of a particular random moment in Paris when I picked up a pen for a guy and he said something to me that I couldn't understand.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

August 1987

This is a picture of my brother (blue Hawaiian get-up), sister (front row), and me (take a wild guess) with some friends of ours from St. Louis. I put it on here for no other reason than it makes me laugh. Cross-dressing, anyone?!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hope Was Here, And Left When Things Got Stale

Shelly's Self-Indulgent Book Review #1 (in which I make no attempt to really convey the plot or meaning of the novel, but instead write a poorly written and shamelessly meandering rant about the state of young adult novels in general. Also, I don't use but a few quotes to back up my argument, which would then give me a barely passing grade, if one were to think those things important).

I just read Hope Was Here, a Newbery Honor Book written by Joan Bauer and published in 2000. I bought it at The Conference on Christianity and Literature in Grand Rapids, MI, off a long table full of books, some with "Christian" themes and perspectives, some without. This, unfortunately, finds itself somewhere luke-warmy in the middle. I'm not glad I spent 7.99 on it, but I do like the front cover (go look it up yourself). It's a story about Hope, a spunky 14-year-old who moves with her aunt Addie to Mulhoney, Wisconsin, to work in the Welcome Staircase diner (which, of course, has two staircases leading up and down from the front door. Cue the symbolism). Her aunt is a goddess at the griddle, and Hope is the kind of waitress I fantasized about being when I was a teenager: able to think on her feet, chit-chat with customers and carry four plates of pancakes on one arm. Instead, I was more suited for lazing in the lifeguard's chair and occasionally dumping ice from my Sonic super-sized drink on the pool rats who irritated me. But I digress. In this book, the word hope (Hope, like I said, being the main character) is so over-used -- it's literal AND symbolic, get it?! -- I almost forgot what the plot centered around... oh right, the diner where Addie and Hope work is run by a man named G.T., who has terminal cancer and has just made the decision to run for mayor against the corrupt incumbent, Eli Millstone. Millstone has ties to the big, bad dairy plant that has been milking the town for centuries.

More importantly, hope is also blossoming in the form of romantic relationships between Addie and G.T., not to mention Hope and the line cook named Braverman, who apparently is very sweaty and dark-haired. But Braverman knows how to shake hands and solicit votes, so he's a real catch. Now, Hope has not always been hopeful, as one might guess. She was basically abandoned by her mother, Deena, who is also a waitress of the genius variety, and who sends her bits of insight (the best part of the novel, let's be honest) about waitressy things like keeping lemon wedges under the counter, a bottle of Tylenol in your pocket, and mentioning new salad dressings so customers will try new things. Now, some of you might know that I have a slight obsession with waitresses, especially those of a particular species, so these reminders were very helpful for my dream job, if I ever decide to leave the ivory tower (note to self: research the phrase "ivory tower").

In closing, the rest of the book is similar to a Hallmark Special. The Hope-isms and insight this 14-year-old delivers are overwrought with double-entendre and hokey observations like: "The rest of the morning went down like cold rolls with a hot meal" or this little gem of a conversation:
[I gave him the short-order truth (Hope to G.T.). "You look like a plate of cold fried eggs. No offense."
"Lost my appeal, huh?"
"It's best the customers don't see the food in that condition."
"You don't mince words."
"Just garlic," I reminded him and led him to the truck.]
Now, I am a fan of the well-placed metaphor, as well as creativity in description. But why the Newbury Honor committee decided to serve up the award for this cup of overbrewed coffee is beyond me. It's as if Bauer just let it sit too long, thinking, "I know I could come up with something better than this... hey, I could compare it to chicken fried steak." If there's one thing young adults cannot stand, it's forced sentimentality or preciousness disguised as "spunk." I will leave you with this quote from Hope's negligent mother to summarize the most important truth that comes early on:
"No matter what happens in the world, from war breaking out to computers taking over our minds and bodies, there's always going to be a need for a good waitress who can keep the coffee coming and add up the check in her head" (p. 29). Well, maybe that's a bit of wisdom I can say Amen to, as long as the coffee you're serving is fresh.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bruce Almighty

Here's something new with me: In addition to Top Chef, Stephen Colbert, swing dancing, my traveling pants and the talkative little boy named Alan who lives next door, I'm in love with Bruce Springsteen's music. I'm not an expert by any means; please don't ask me to list random facts about his concerts, covers or album marginalia. I only started to listen to his music about a year ago (thanks to all my friends who have sent me songs and encouraged this investigation), but I feel like I am having an awakening to what music can really DO and MEAN in people's lives. I guess I was waiting for the right kind of music to come along.
In my freshman English class, we ended the semester by talking about argument and story-telling in music, and I had them bring in their own music, and we read the lyrics and talked about boring Englishy things. My choice was to listen to this song ("Thunder Road" from VH1 Storytellers). I have to tell you that I cannot even watch the first couple of chords without my eyes filling with tears. The first stanza kills me every time. Have any of you ever felt that you didn't want to listen to someone's music because you would never hear that next song for the first time again?

My students' feedback: "That's creepy. Why would you want to get in the car with that guy?"
My reply: "Um, because it's Bruce. You'll understand when you're thirty."

Here's another really great recording from 1978, "Prove It All Night" (thanks Nathan's friend Jeff C.). And a list of some semi-cliched but still relevant lessons about life and writing I've learned from Bruce Almighty:
1. Do everything with passion.
2. Don't worry if your stories are simple. They're yours.
3. It's all about the details.
4. Be real.
5. Wearing bracelets can be cool for men and women.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Writing Boston

At first there is no reason
to describe
a vacation in Boston,
no reason to recite lists of dishes
served at dusk
and carefully recorded in your notebook:
strip steak
artichoke hearts
tangerine flan.

No reason to relate a meal devoured
across from your brother
in a strange but familiar town
you lived in for just two years
(he says it like that, just…)

You try to forge stories from meals and memories,
and you drag him to that theater
with your name carved in the seat
and the magician’s dirty yellow robe
under plexiglass in the lobby.

But no amount of sitting
on the public garden bench
by the white gazebo
can transport you back
to those two years,
place the subway card in the reader,
conjure the smell of beer and newspaper
for the cuff of your sweater.

On the plane ride home, though,
storyless as a shopping list,
you think about tangerine flan
and waking up
on your brother’s busted air mattress
to children in blue hoodies
suspended on jungle gym bars.

Then suddenly you reach up
to push the tiny round button
with the light bulb in the center,
flounder for a pen
because you’ve remembered
the little blonde girl
with a crooked smile
who stood at the fence with a stick,
peeling back the layers
of leaf and stem
like so many words.

Friday, April 4, 2008

#5 in a series on Young Adult literature

"Then I must have slipped into a sort of sleep for a few minutes before I was standing on a starting-block, then swimming around in the sea and between me and the shore was this gigantic surf, not the rolling kind which you could, with luck, ride to safety, but the evil dumping kind, which makes a point of hurling its victims head-first into the sand, breaking every bone before washing your body ashore, and now I have to choose between the surf and a school of sharks, I am Tinman again, crumpled silver tossed ashore, but look what else the surf throws up on to the moonlit sand, Miss Macrae in full costume as a witch from Macbeth, with blacked-out teeth, more skull than face, Andy in school uniform, but covered with blood and his handsome face set in a smiling death mask, terrifying in its smoothness and perfection, and a female body, broken and twisted by the force of the sea, which I recognize as myself..."

-- from Tessa Duder's In Lane Three, Alex Archer, pg. 235-236

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

#4 in a series on Young Adult literature

"Right," Brother Leon answered, making the check against the name. Looking up, he called, "Renault."
The pause. The damn pause.
The Goober felt as if his eyes were the lens for a television camera in one of those documentaries. He swung around in Jerry's direction and saw his friend's face, white, mouth half-open, his arms dangling at his sides. And then he swiveled to look at Brother Leon and saw the shock on the teacher's face, his mouth forming an oval of astonishment. It seemed almost as if Jerry and the teacher were reflections in a mirror.
Finally Brother Leon looked down.
"Renault," he said again, his voice like a whip.
"No. I'm not going to sell the chocolates."
Cities fell. Earth opened. Planets tilted. Stars plummeted. And the awful silence.

-- from Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War (1974), pg. 89

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh, is that ha-ckey?! *

So, I'm off to Boston tomorrow for a week of revisiting Emerson College haunts and hanging with my twin bro, whom I know is just chomping at the bit for me to unpack my gigantic suitcase in his living room. The green boots are ready to go! I wish N. could join me (tax season, etc. is preventing it and by etc. I mean his illness called March Madness -- ha!) but I'm looking forward to ordering lots of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and the donuts to complete, watching people doing something v. strange called "reading" on the T, sneaking into the Emerson library to fondle the New Yorker (nerd alert) and celebrating my Irish roots (not really) in Southie on St. Patty's Day. I also want to know if my initials are still carved in the movie seat in that old theater in Beverly by the beach and if the grocery store where I worked for a day (frightened by memorizing numbers associated with produce) is still in business. It will also be wicked cold so I plan on saying that alot. Look for photos and stories to come!

*Paige, that one was for you.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

#3 in a series on Young Adult literature

I thought this was particularly relevant today...

"And he could see, though his eyes were closed. He could see a bright, whirling torrent of crystals in the air around him, and he could see them gather on the backs of his hands, like cold fur.
His breath was visible.
Beyond, through the swirl of what he now, somehow, perceived was the thing the old man had spoken of -- snow -- he could look out and down a great distance. He was up high someplace. The ground was thick with the furry snow, but he sat slightly above it on a hard, flat object...
Comprehending all of those things as he sped downward, he was free to enjoy the breathless glee that overwhelmed him: the speed, the clear cold air, the total silence, the feeling of balance and excitement and peace."

-- Lois Lowry, The Giver

Sunday, March 2, 2008

that darn comment

At church Sunday, a friend of mine commented, "Hey the other day I was watching That Darn Cat! with my daughter, and Hayley Mills kept reminding me of you. I'm not sure why, but I think it was the facial expressions." I have to say that this really made my day. I have loved Mills' movies since I was a little girl. Though I'm not quite sure that I bear any resemblance to her, I now have a renewed interest in watching The Parent Trap, That Darn Cat!, Pollyanna and my absolute favorite, a lesser-known 1964 Disney film called The Moonspinners, a murder mystery set on the island of Crete. I've posted a little montage of Hayley moments below. Any thoughts?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Antarctica, here I come...

So, we're moving! Monday! And here I am, Sunday night, blogging instead of packing. In my opinion, the least amount of time spent packing, the better. This, admittedly, does not always work out well for me. When it comes to travel, whether across town or across the globe, I tend to do one of two things: overpack or underpack. My theory has always been that opening a box or a suitcase should be a surprise! (Quick sidenote: When I was little, I used to spend a LOT of time going through the L.L. Bean catalog, hypothesizing what would happen if a person was only given 5 or 6 things -- say flannel-lined jeans, a down parka and 3 dog beds -- and sent to Antarctica. This memory may not seem related, but I assure you, it is.) So when a person has to pack everything in his/her entire house into boxes, and label those boxes, I get a little overwhelmed. But instead of Antarctica, we are moving to a great house 2.7 miles from our current one.

You know how lists make me feel better. So here are 10 things I would rather do than pack (also called The Packing Procrastinator's Checklist):

1. Watch Emeril fondle a lamb shank.
2. Drive to Austin. Revel in sunshine, Amy's ice cream and great friends.
3. Ogle at the Oscars.
4. Practice the Boston accent.
5. Sing/dance with drapes like Julie Andrews in "Sound of Music."
6. Mourn absence of girl scout cookies.
7. Staring contest with pet.
8. Watch lunar eclipse.
9. Organize email inbox. (1,919 and counting!)
10. Plan a trip to Antarctica.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The State Swim Meet

This weekend N and I are going to Austin to meet some of our great friends, Hope and Chris, and Hope and I will attend the UIL State Swimming and Diving Championships. I am looking forward to going because Kingwood High School, my alma mater, always does well, and I love to watch competitive swimming. Anyway, the last time I went to the State Championships was two years ago, and I was deep in the midst of writing my dissertation. I thought you might like to read a little bit of it about that experience. I know this time it will probably be different and yet much the same. I'm glad Hope will be there to share it with me.

The State Meet

My husband Nathan and I went to the UIL 5A State Swim meet in Austin, Texas, during a weekend in February, a couple of months after the miscarriage, to get away from our sadness. I wanted to see if I could connect with that part of my life, if I could feel the same excitement of my youth, cheering for someone racing fast into the wall. On the way to the swim meet, my husband asked me how long I wanted to stay (he was looking forward to going to the UT basketball game against Kansas that night). I said a couple of hours, and that I was sure I would be ready to leave. I was excited about seeing the Kingwood team and knew that there was a good chance that my old coaches would be there. I wanted to find the rest of the parents and supporters in navy and white, our school colors. However, most of the seats at the Jamail Natatorium were filled long before the doors opened, and there were no open seats in the Kingwood section. Nathan thought it would be important to see the end of each race (the fingers actually hitting the touch pad at the end of the lane), so we sat at the top of the middle section next to some rival Houston Cy-Fair fans, whom I immediately disliked. I felt a surge of protectiveness towards the Kingwood swimmers and their families, as if I still belonged in their clique, and cheered quietly, although inside I was ecstatic whenever a Kingwood swimmer took a medal. The chlorine stank and the air was warm and muggy. It felt like home.
Popular rap music played loudly as we found our seats, and the lanes were full in all three pools (the 50-meter pool was divided into three 25-yard pools). The competitors swam in concentric circles, one almost on top of the other, and looking down on it from such a great height made me a little dizzy. I immediately felt a tightening in my chest, a pull towards the water as if a rope connected me down there. I felt nostalgia but also a very present sense of excitement, as if I were one of them and would be swimming a race in a couple of hours.

After we squashed ourselves into our white plastic chairs, I looked through the program to see where Kingwood’s swimmers were seeded. How they had swam in the semifinals would automatically place them in their lanes for the final race – in descending order – lane 4 being the fastest, followed by 5, 3, 6, 2, 7, 1, and 8 being the slowest-seeded time). For each race there was a consolation heat and a final heat. I went through my program in excitement, checking all of the names and looking for pool records set by the Kingwood team in the past. At the top of the page, where the records were listed, I saw many names I recognized – Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin from California, Dana Vollmer from Granbury, Texas, and even a Janet Evans record from the 1980s still stood in the 500 and 1500 free. I also found that the 200 free in the Boys section was still unbroken from 1993, during my years at Kingwood. I remembered those boys, their bodies lean and tan and smooth. One of them committed suicide a couple of years ago. With that recollection, I suddenly felt like an impostor. I had never made it. I was never good enough to swim with the elite. I had gone to the State Meet in 1994, and it was the last thing I ever did in my swimming career, but the fact remained that I hadn’t qualified. I just rode the bus with the team. My 200 free time was close but not good enough. I swam the best 200 free of my career at the Regional meet at Humble High School, a 2:12. These swimmers were all qualifying in under two minutes. Not much had changed.

I looked down and saw my old coach, Lanny Landtroop, in the stands. I wanted to go talk to him, but I felt fat and insecure. What would I say to him? Would he remember me? I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want him to recognize me. He looked older; instead of a flat top of white blond hair, he was bald. His hands looked exactly the same, though – thick and white, with deep creases in the knuckles. I remembered his hands. I could imagine his feet, the light hairs crowning his toes. I felt nauseous. I had to get out of there.

On my way to the bathroom, I saw a girl I recognized from high school who swam on the Kingwood team with me. I remembered her name immediately -- Tanya. She was standing with a bunch of high school swimmers under the stairs. Maybe she was a coach. She looked exactly the same, too: permed hair, glasses, even the shape of her thighs – like Vienna sausages. I wondered if I looked very much the same, too. I felt a lot older. I wanted to be. Since we used to get ready for school in the locker room, I remembered that we used to make fun of her. I felt like I was back in high school again. I was old and then young, aging again and again. I remembered posing for our Varsity team picture my junior year. We wore men’s dress shirts and ties over our Speedos, creating three rows of magician’s assistants, smiling strangely and cut in half.
As I reminisced, I watched the bodies on deck as much as the swimming. I yearned to feel in shape again, to take the strength of my body for granted. These are the images that stay with me: a girl whipping her arms back and forth, shoulder blades swinging like a seesaw. A boy in a Speedo and white cap hunched over an I-Pod. Four girls with wet hair on a podium, smiling into the flash of light.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

#2 in a series on Young Adult literature

When they were all gathered and Bridget stopped aerobicizing, Carmen began. "On the last night before the diaspora" -- she paused briefly so everyone could admire her use of the word -- "we discovered some magic." She felt an itchy tingle in the arches of her feet. "Magic comes in many forms. Tonight it comes to us in a pair of pants. I hereby propose that these Pants belong to us equally, that they will travel to all the places we're going, and they will keep us together when we're apart."

"Let's take the vow of the Traveling Pants." Bridget excitedly grabbed Lena's and Tibby's hands. Bridget and Carmen were always the ones who staged friendship ceremonies unabashedly. Tibby and Lena were the ones who acted like there was a camera crew in the room.

"Tonight we are Sisters of the Pants," Bridget intoned when they'd formed a ring. "Tonight we give the Pants the love of our Sisterhood so that we can take that love wherever we go."

-- Ann Brashares, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, pg. 20-21.

Friday, February 1, 2008

etiquette, or my new favorite reading material

Recently, at an antiques store, I purchased a copy of Emily Post's (Mrs. Price Post) Etiquette, the New and Enlarged version, published in 1931. I can hear some of you laughing already at the thought of me poring over "The Blue Book of Social Usage," considering my tendency to treat animals like people, trip, awkwardly drop things, and, generally, make a gigantic fool of myself. My parents may have had a similar thought when they enrolled me in Modeling school when I was 13 (But that is a post for another time -- I seem to have misplaced my "portfolio").

Anyway, I would just like to say: this book is delightful. Amusing, yes. Sometimes ridiculous, yes. But I can't tear myself away. And many of the lessons on manners are really quite profound, in a nostalgic sort of way, though I am glad I don't carry a parasol in Abilene winds. The weighty tome, comprising almost 800 pages, and smelling a bit like moss, includes chapters on everything from Introductions, Greetings, Conversation, Cards and Visits, Dinner-Giving, Balls and Dances, Weddings, Funerals, Business and Politics to a very ironic last chapter called "The Growth of Good Taste in America." The word "etiquette" itself, by the way, is French, and it means "Keep off the grass."

So I tried to pick a few of my favorite gems I wanted to share. Thoughts?

Courtesy is especially necessary toward those whose hospitality you accept, and toward those to whom your hospitality is extended. Mrs. Climber, eagerly lunching with Mrs. Greymouse because she knows Mrs. Worldly to be there, and then having eyes and ears so obviously focused on Mrs. Worldly that she never addresses a word or an interested look in Mrs. Greymouse's direction, might as well have a placard "I am an upstart" hung around her neck. It is not only rude, but, from a purely worldly and calculating standpoint, a losing trick."

Do not snatch at it. Let it go for a little while. Conversation is not a race that must be continued at break-neck pace lest the prize be lost. Far, far worse than the longest, most awkward pause, is the tongue which, without a thought to urge it, rattles ceaselessly."

This was quite a long section that I won't type here, but I personally think "bungled" is a hilarious word.

Sport shoes are naturally adapted to the sport for which they are intended. High-heeled slippers do not go with any country clothes, except organdie or muslins or other distinctly feminine "summer" dresses, such as are seen only at weddings, lawn parties, or at watering-places abroad."

The perfect secretary should forget that she is a human being, and be the most efficient machine that she can possibly make of herself -- in business hours."

I will skip THE COST OF BEING A BRIDESMAID, VULGAR CLOTHES, PRESENTATION AT ROYAL COURT, and FOR WHAT SHE REALLY IS, but I can tell you right now, that they are fascinating.

Friday, January 25, 2008

shelly's scrumptious skills, and samoas

I think that when you are feeling the slightest bit intimidated, you should make a list of everything you are good at. It makes you feel thankful, no matter what. The best thing about making this list is that you don't ACTUALLY have to be good at the things on the list, you only have to THINK you are.
So here is a recent list I made on a Chili's napkin. I would have written it on my hand, but I was eating a tiny hamburger on a stick. (This is by no means all-inclusive or in order, btw. I'm not including "giving,""recycling," or "loving Jesus" because that is just obnoxious, and hopefully, obvious.) If some of these are repeats from earlier posts, I apologize.

Things I am Good At:
1. Writing on My Hand
2. Name That Girl Scout Cookie
3. Stealing Pens
4. Flip Turns (swimming)
5. Spying a Left-Handed Person From a Mile Away
6. Mocking Food-Network Hosts
7. Making Pancakes and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches While Wishing I Paid More Attention to Food-Network Hosts
8. Napping
9. Creating Interpretive Dances Using Sports Equipment (This requires explanation. My middle school gym teachers didn't actually TEACH us hockey or tennis -- we had to make up dances to "She's Drives Me Crazy" and "Jump" using cones, balls, hockey sticks and tennis rackets; also, there was a lot of flailing, bouncing and jazz hands involved. Not surprisingly, the gym teachers were also the cheerleading sponsors).
10. Incorporating "Seriously" and "Whatever" into everyday conversation.
11. Feigning Interest/Listening
12. Passing Shots (tennis)
13. Changing Hair
14. Using Dog as Pillow
15. Forgetting Directions
16. Thinking Up Funny Titles for Things, Namely Other People's Fantasy Food-Network Shows
17. Tripping Up Stairs
18. Revising Everything I Write
19. Inspecting Teeth
20. Embracing Silence and Respecting Vulnerability (technically two, but I don't want to go overboard).

I won't be sad if no one responds to this post; I just want you to do it for yourself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

#1 in a series on Young Adult literature

"Why do daemons have to settle?" Lyra said. "I want Pantalaimon to be able to change forever. So does he."
"Ah, they always have settled, and they always will. That's part of growing up. There'll come a time when you'll be tired of his changing about, and you'll want a settled form for him."
"I never will!"
"Oh, you will. You'll want to grow up like all the other girls. Anyway, there's compensations for a settled form."
"What are they?"
"Knowing what kind of person you are. Take old Belisaria. She's a seagull, and that means I'm a seagull too. I'm not grand or splendid nor beautiful, but I'm a tough old thing and I can survive anywhere and always find a bit of food and company. That's worth knowing, that is. And when your daemon settles, you'll know the sort of person you are."
"But suppose your daemon settles in a shape you don't like?"
"Well, then you're discontented, en't you? There's plenty of folk as'd like to have a lion as a daemon and they end up with a poodle. And till they learn to be satisfied with what they are, they're going to be fretful about it. Waste of feeling, that is."
But it didn't seem to Lyra that she would ever grow up.

-- Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass, pg. 167-168

Monday, January 14, 2008

doppelgangers of the world, compete

In what can only be described as a funny coincidence (okay, I was googling myself to avoid work), recently I came upon my (or one of my) doppelganger in The Tuscon Citizen. I don't know about you, but I rarely think about the fact that there are probably many people out there with my name. But when I do (don't try to pretend you haven't googled yourself), I wonder what kinds of lives those other "Shelly Sanders" are living, what they are doing, and what types of things they say. (I try to go with the most current version of my name, but I guess the possibilities are endless if I look for Michelle Weed, or Shelly Weed or Michelle Sanders or whatever). Anyway, it kind of cracks me up when I read quotes from these ghosts of myself. So, in case you were wondering, there is another Shelly Sanders out there who apparently loves her dog WAY more than me, is definitely more flexible and makes a lot more money. Sigh.

From "They're Dogged in Hunt For Perfect Gifts" by Ryn Gargulinski in The Tuscon Citizen, 12.22.07

"They have a whole wardrobe with all kinds of festive things," said owner Shelly Sanders. "Easter dresses, Halloween costumes, Christmas sweaters, biker wear. They have University of Arizona cheerleading outfits they wear to tailgating parties."
She said all the pampering is worth it to see the smiles in every eye that spies the doggie duo.
One of the most extravagant items Sanders bought was a $150 hand-knit sweater embroidered with Stella's name. That - and first class airplane tickets.
"They travel everywhere with us," said Sanders, a certified yoga instructor who makes frequent trips to Los Angeles and New York.

So... does anyone out there have any interesting "second self" stories?

a new semester

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

one of the best last paragraphs EVER

"Where language touches the earth there is the holy." -- N. Scott Momaday.

I recently reread House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday, and I am just in awe of his writing. It is almost unbearably beautiful to read. If this last paragraph doesn't make you want to read the preceding 184 pages of Pulitzer-prize winning prose about an American Indian named Abel, then I don't know what you are doing reading my blog (Just kidding! Thanks for reading!). And THANK YOU, Mr. Momaday. You challenge me to be a better writer.

"The soft and sudden sound of their going, swift and breaking away all at once, startled him, and he began to run after them. He was running, and his body cracked open with pain, and he was running on. He was running and there was no reason to run but the running itself and the land and the dawn appearing. The sun rose up in the saddle and shone in shafts upon the road across the snow-covered valley and the hills, and the chill of the night fell away and it began to rain. He saw the slim black bodies of the runners in the distance, gliding away without sound through the slanting light and the rain. He was running and a cold sweat broke out upon him and his breath heaved with the pain of running. His legs buckled and he fell in the snow. The rain fell around him in the snow and he saw his broken hands, how the rain made streaks upon them and dripped soot upon the snow. And he got up and ran on. He was alone and running on. All of his being was concentrated in the sheer motion of running on, and he was past caring about the pain. Pure exhaustion laid hold of his mind, and he could see at last without having to think. He could see the canyon and the mountains and the sky. He could see the rain and the river and the fields beyond. He could see the dark hills at dawn. He was running and under his breath he began to sing. There was no sound, and he had no voice; he had only the words of a song. And he went on running on the rise of the song. House made of pollen, house made of dawn. Qtsedaba."

p.s. Oh, sorry to "ruin" the ending, but I figured it was worth it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

some thoughts about listening, and telling

For the past couple of months, I have been given the opportunity to be a part of a church-sponsored group that meets once a week to talk about, well, let's just say that we talk about how we can help more people in our day-to-day interactions. We are attempting to talk to our church about helping people and developing relationships with people we wouldn't normally even look twice at. There are lots of acronyms involved and words like "missional" and "intersection" thrown about, but that's not really important, nor what this post is about. The thing is, I was hesitant about joining this group, wary of why I was being asked to be a part of it, and frustrated at the seeming initial lack of organization. I was thrown into a group of people of varying ages and asked to work together with them. I could see from the beginning that I would need to do a lot of listening in order to find my place, or to be in any way helpful to them.

Let me digress a little bit here to say that honestly I have been trying, for the last couple of months, anyway, not to think too hard about God. Thinking about God or talking about God inevitably made me sad, because it made me think about all of the unanswered questions that I have, and the grief that has been following me like a lost dog for the past couple of years.

What am I trying to say? Tonight's meeting made me think about God. And it was okay. I was thinking about how amazing it is when you really listen to people, though you may or may not agree with them or even understand them. I've just been reminded of the staggering multiplicity of stories that are out there, on people's tongues and unfolding in people's lives. I am not just talking from my "writer's" platform, either. The sheer enormity of stories, anecdotes, lessons, whatever you want to call them, were reflected to me in the stars on my drive home. Maybe that is cliche -- stories are like stars -- and suddenly I'm remembering the Bible verse that talks about how God knows each hair on our head, each grain of sand, each star in the sky, and I'm thinking about the giant web of intersection that is life. Yes, we never know who we are helping, and the ripple effect that kindness can produce. But what I want to say is this. I was humbled and comforted to know that my stories, the ones that have been told and cried and laughed over a hundred times, and the ones that are never told -- the stories that I will never tell and that I will never hear from others' lips -- those stories are still important. Those stories are, somehow, being reflected in what has happened in the past, and is happening in the present, and will happen in the future. Even stories about people who died too young, or were never even given the chance to take a first breath.

When this group I am meeting with finally comes up with a "game plan," that will be wonderful. But some of the amazing work that is being done is in that little conference room with a group of people that may or may not understand each other at every moment. Stories don't have to be ABOUT God or about faith to BE God or to BE faith. There is faith in each story that we start; to me, there is an element of the divine that we open our mouths or hold out our hands, and words are shared that SAY something. So maybe the most important thing is not necessarily that we are understanding everything, but that we recognize that the telling, or even the potential for telling, is enough.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

samson by regina spektor

I would just like to say that moving origami is always cool. Also, a little known fact about me is that I am not half bad at origami. Definitely plan to include it in my music video debut.